Poettker, Isaak Johann (ca. 1895-ca. 1937)
Isaak Johann Poettker: evangelist and minister; born about 1895 in Wernersdorf, Molotschna Mennonite Settlement, South Russia, to Johann and Elisabeth (Braun) Poettker. He married Luise Wolf, only daughter of Kornelius Wolf. Isaak and Luise had three children, the elder two being Magdalena and Paulina. Isaak was arrested in March 1937 and exiled to Siberia. Soon after 1937, all communication between Isaak and his family ceased, and he was never heard from again; he likely died of the hardships he experienced in exile.
Isaak likely attended the village school in Wernersdorf and probably also a Zentralschule in the area. Quite early in his life, he felt a call to work for the Kingdom of God. He supplemented his early religious education with studies at a Bible school in Berlin and then also took a medical course in England, learning homeopathy, which he continued to practice as a secondary pursuit later in life. After his return to Wernersdorf on completing his studies, Isaak established a youth choir and married one of the choir members, Luise Wolf.
Evangelism was of particular interest for Poettker, especially in the Molotschna Mennonite Settlement and the surrounding Russian villages. Together with Johann Becker and other preachers, he participated in the Molotschna revival, which included Bible conferences, prayer meetings, special youth events, and other activities run by the Mennonite and Brethren churches in the region. Isaak was closely involved in the conferences and evangelistic meetings, despite once being attacked and severely beaten by several youths with sticks.
In 1928, Isaak and his family moved to Leningrad, where he spent the winter at a Russian Bible school, likely as a teacher. In 1929, the village collective farm, Nadezhda, was formed in Wernersdorf, and at least nine families were forced from their homes, including Isaak and his family. His status as a minister may have influenced the urgency of the expulsion. The Poettkers moved to the Caucasus region, where they lived in the Mennonite village of Kalantarovka. The family’s finances were strained by the move away from Wernersdorf, and Luise took up work as a midwife to help ease the burden.
Likely in March 1937, 32 men from the Caucasus were arrested as part of Stalin’s Purge, Isaak among them. He was incarcerated for three months before being brought to trial. Luise visited her husband periodically at the jail and found that the difficult circumstances had greatly aged him. At the public trial that followed, Isaak and three other men were sentenced to death. Luise pled for mercy for her husband and the other men, sending letters to the officials involved in the trial process. As a result, the sentences were commuted to ten years’ exile in Siberia.
For a time, Poettker was able to write to his family, describing his work as a dentist at his place of exile. However, all exchanges of letters eventually stopped, and there was no further news of what happened to him. He presumably died in exile. In 1941, Luisa and her daughters Magdalena and Paulina were deported to the Kustani region and never heard from again.
Isaak Johann Poettker was a dedicated evangelist, committed to spreading the Gospel and to change people’s lives. Through his work with the Molotschna Revival and other evangelistic efforts, he greatly influenced the people around him. Although he experienced many hardships in life, he remained faithful to his calling and was a good example of enthusiasm and determination for future generations to follow.
Huebert, Helmut T. 1937: Stalin's Year of Terror. Winnipeg, MB: Springfield Publishers, 2009.
Huebert, Helmut T. Molotschna Historical Atlas. Winnipeg, MB: Springfield Publishers, 2003: 196-197.
Toews, Aron A. Mennonitische Märtyrer: der jüngsten Vergangenheit und der Gegenwart, 2 vols. North Clearbrook, BC: Selbstverlag des Vefassers, 1949-1954: v. I, 220-222, 292-294.
Toews, John B. “Revival and Mission in Early Communist Russia (1917-1927). Direction 31 (Fall 2002): 206-219. http://www.directionjournal.org/article/?1266.
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MLA style: Huebert, Helmut T. and Susan Huebert. "Poettker, Isaak Johann (ca. 1895-ca. 1937)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. September 2009. Web. 25 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/poettker_isaak_johann_ca._1895_ca._1937.
APA style: Huebert, Helmut T. and Susan Huebert. (September 2009). Poettker, Isaak Johann (ca. 1895-ca. 1937). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/poettker_isaak_johann_ca._1895_ca._1937.