Donaumoos (Freistaat Bayern, Germany)
Donaumoos (Danube Moor) was the site of the first Mennonite settlement in Bavaria (1802). It was a moor southwest of Neuburg on the Danube considered dangerous to humans and animals. It was not until the reign of Karl Theodore in 1777 that any attempt was made to cultivate this infertile district. But in spite of the duke's desire to develop it in the interest of his own finances, the project failed.
Under Max Joseph (1799), however, who acted on the advice of experts, a more advantageous settlement of the Donaumoos was begun. He was interested in acquiring the right kind of people to achieve this end, and therefore found it necessary to break into the hitherto jealously-guarded Catholic unity of the Bavarian state. Thus the area of Bavaria proper was also made accessible to the Mennonites, and especially to them, in addition to the Palatinate, which had just been acquired by the Bavarian monarch. The elector was no doubt familiar with the reputation of the Mennonites in agriculture, and his agricultural director Kling was a native of the Palatinate. About 120 Mennonite families came to the moors of the Danube (and also the Schleissheim and Rosenheim moors) upon the invitation issued by the elector on 6 and 12 March 1802. Among these the first eight families were given waste forest land in Grünau, later called Maxweiler. Kling expressly states that he selected a Mennonite of Grünau to be a member of the Agricultural Society composed of expert farmers. In this society agricultural reforms were to be discussed which had long been the practices of the Mennonites of the Palatinate. Mennonite farming techniques were to become a measure of the arability of the Donaumoos. The permission to settle at Rosing states, "The Mennonites are known to be not only very industrious, but also have the best understanding in the economic management of field and house, hence hereby an experiment could be made to determine to what extent the moor could be developed with the settlement of more families."
The settlers were to be granted the tax-and rent-free use of the land for 10 years, and were given substantial subsidies for their buildings, and also temporary freedom from military service. The first eight families were first lodged in the hunting lodge Grünau. By the end of two years they had built four houses, and the colony showed every sign of becoming a thriving settlement. That it ultimately failed was not the fault of the colonists. On the 30 Tagwerk allotted to each they made astounding progress. Their religious unity was an important factor in their achievement. Elder Heinrich Zeiset of Willenbach, Württemberg, ordained the first preacher of the settlement in 1803.
The official records also reveal the untiring efforts of the settlers to set up their own schools. In 1807 they were already presenting an urgent petition to the government for permission to erect a church and school. Again and again their petition was rejected with excuses of all kinds. Finally, on 9 December 1832 they were able to dedicate a church and school built by the labor of their own hands. (The opinion that King Ludwig drew the plan for the building is false. On the contrary, negotiations were needed to induce the king to grant a sum of 684 guilders in 1833 to defray building costs; it is also true that he made the final choice from among the various plans presented to him.) Not until 1850 was the "extremely defective corner school," as it was designated officially, supplied with a trained teacher. Meanwhile the Mennonites had supplied their own teachers. Among them were Johann Dahlem and "the aged Dester," and also a 16-year-old youth. Considering that their economic circumstances were becoming more and more difficult, this was indeed a notable achievement.
By the middle of the 1850s unfavorable economic conditions induced the Mennonite settlers to leave for other settlements, such as Eichstock near Dachau. In 1854-1855 most of them left Bavaria for America. This was the end of the first Mennonite settlement in south Bavaria. Maxweiler, as a settlement of Knöpfler, i.e., Mennonites rather than Amish, became the center of that first migration into the Swabia-Neuburg-Bavaria region, which spread further to Münster, Mittelstetten, Illdorf, Heinrichsheim, Marienheim, Langlohe, and Doseshof. Little is known of these Mennonite localities after the great emigration, nor what happened to the settlers at Giglberg, Gietlholz, Hardt, Kreut, Dittenfeld, Seehof, Furthof, Probfeld, who were Amish. Maxweiler was later occupied by members of the Reformed Church. After that time (and after the disbanding of the Eichstock settlement) the Mennonites in Bavaria lived on single farms rather than in colonies.
Correll, E. H. "Mennonitische Moorbauern," Mennonitischer Gemeinde-Kalender (1922).
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: I, 459-461.
Müller, D. "Entstehung der Kolonie Maxweiler," Mennonitische Blätter (1885): 34, 48.
Ringenberg, Richard. Familienbuch der Mennonitengemeinde Eichstock. München: Bayerischer Landesverein für Familienkunde, 1942.
Wismüller, Fr. X. Gesch. der Moorkultur in Bayern. Munich, 1909.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 82-83. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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To cite this page:
MLA style: Correll, Ernst H. "Donaumoos (Freistaat Bayern, Germany)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 19 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/donaumoos_freistaat_bayern_germany.
APA style: Correll, Ernst H. (1956). Donaumoos (Freistaat Bayern, Germany). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/donaumoos_freistaat_bayern_germany.