Erbe, Fritz (d. 1548)
Fritz Erbe, an Anabaptist of Thuringia, who suffered a tedious martyrdom in chains with steadfast loyalty. He owned a large farm in Herda, a village in the Eisenach district. Early in October 1531 he was arrested because he had been baptized on his faith, and taken to Eisenach. At the end of January 1532 he was released by Philip of Hesse, perhaps as a result of recanting (Wappler, 210). When he took the Anabaptist Margarethe Koch, die alte Garköchin, into his house and refused to have his child baptized on the ground that baptism would not benefit it as long as it could not desire it, he was again arrested in January 1533. John Frederick, the elector of Saxony, insisted that he be put to death, basing his verdict on an opinion of the Wittenberg theologians and jurists recommending death by the sword for rebaptized persons. But Philip, who had joint jurisdiction over Hausbreitenbach, to which Herda belonged, did not give his consent. He hesitated to execute a man for his faith, since faith is a gift of God; and if it is an erring faith it is accepted out of ignorance, not malice. He favored expulsion from the country. A long correspondence between the two rulers followed, as well as lengthy negotiations with courts and officials.
Meanwhile Fritz Erbe lay in his dungeon in a remote tower of the city wall. His friends and the Anabaptists were moved by deep sympathy and honored him as a martyr. In the depth of night they came to him to talk to him and to give and receive strength of faith. Two visitors were seized and executed in November 1537. In 1539 three other Anabaptist visitors were arrested; after cruel torture they recanted and were released. When people approached the tower by day and requested to be imprisoned with Erbe, he was taken to a tower in the Wartburg. His unhappy lot stirred the sympathy of the bailiff, Eberhard von Tann. Though Tann was a decided opponent of the Anabaptists he brought it about that an attempt was made to convert Erbe. To this end Erbe was taken to the monastery in Eisenach and kept there in chains for four weeks (1541). His long imprisonment ruined his health, but his spirit remained firm. At the close of the fruitless attempt at conversion he was returned to a back tower in the Wartburg. On 8 June 1544, lightning struck there, setting the tower afire. Erbe’s cries of alarm summoned the men of the castle and the town to extinguish the flames. After an imprisonment of 16 consecutive years, the sorely tried martyr was released by merciful death in 1548. He was buried in the Wartburg near the chapel of St. Elisabeth.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: I, 601.
Wappler, P. Die Stellung Kursachsens und des Landgrafen Philipp von Hessen zur Täuferbewegung. Münster, 1910.
Wappler, P. Die Täuferbewegung in Thüringen von 1526-1584. Jena, 1913.
Wiswedel, Wilhelm. Bilder and Führergestalten aus dem Täufertum. 3 v. Kassel: J.G. Oncken Verlag, 1928-1952: I, 84.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 241. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Neff, Christian. "Erbe, Fritz (d. 1548)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 22 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/erbe_fritz_d._1548.
APA style: Neff, Christian. (1956). Erbe, Fritz (d. 1548). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/erbe_fritz_d._1548.