Hege, Christian (1869-1943)
Christian Hege, outstanding German Mennonite historian, coeditor of the Mennonitisches Lexikon 1913-1943, was born 20 December 1869, at Bonfeld, Württemberg, the son of Daniel Hege and Magdalena Schmutz, moved with his parents to Munich in 1880. After completing the Realgymnasium in Munich, he studied at the University of Munich 1890-1893 in the fields of history, economics, and trade, and at the age of 24 in 1893 was appointed financial editor of the outstanding Frankfurt newspaper, Frankfurter Nachrichten, a post which involved daily attendance at the stock exchange and which he filled for 40 years with distinction until his retirement in 1933. In the 1890s he also founded and edited for a time a successful monthly, Frankfurter Frauenzeitung. He was married to Christine Fellmann on 22 September 1895.
But Hege's real lifework was the service of his church, which he loved with all his heart. This work he carried out chiefly in the field of historical research and writing on marginal time along with his profession. After his retirement he spent the last ten years (1933-1943) of his life in full-time research and writing, with the aid of a Stipendium from the Badischer Verband. He lived all his adult and married life, after the completion of his studies, in Frankfurt a.M., except the last four months, which he spent in Eichstätt, Bavaria, after fleeing Frankfurt because of the incessant bombings. Of five children, only his daughter Adele survived him.
Hege's literary career began in 1891 with articles in the Gemeindeblatt and in 1893 in the Mennonitische Blätter. His first and largest book was Die Täufer in der Kurpfalz (Frankfurt a.M., 1908). In 1935 appeared his booklet, Ein Rückblick, auf 400 fahre mennonitischer Geschichte (Karlsruhe). Chronik der Familie Hege, edited and largely written by Hege, was designed as a quarterly periodical, but only the first number appeared in 1937. He discovered in Zürich in 1925 the lost Vermahnung of Pilgram Marpeck, which he edited for publication in the Gedenkschrift zum 400-jährigen Jubiläum der Mennoniten (Ludwigshafen, 1925). He was also responsible for the publication of Pilgram Marpeck's Verantwortung by Johann Loserth in 1929 (Vienna and Leipzig, 1929). He was the chief promoter and founder (with Christian Neff) of the Mennonitischer Geschichtsverein (established 1933) and served until his death as treasurer and editor of its publication, Mennonitische Geschichtsblätter (5 volumes 1936-1940) and as the general editor of the Schriftenreihe (3 numbers appeared 1938, 1939, 1940).
But Christian Hege's greatest work, his real life-work, was the Mennonitisches Lexikon, of which he was coeditor and publisher with Christian Neff. Of this work he was the prime mover, and the managing editor from 1913 until his death. He also wrote a vast number of articles, chiefly though not exclusively in the field of Anabaptist and early Mennonite history. An exhaustive bibliography was prepared by Christian Neff and published posthumously in Mennonitische Geschichtsblätter VI (1949): 23-27, under the title "Bibliographie von Christian Hege." The same number contains two bibliographical sketches, one by Christian Neff, "Zum Gedenken an Christian Hege," and one by his daughter Adele Hege, "Gedenkworte für die Generalversammlung des Mennonitischen Geschichtsvereins 1947." Prof. Walther Köhler of Heidelberg published a warm tribute to him in the Theologische Literaturzeitung, 1944, Nos. 1 and 2. Ernst Correll wrote a biography and appreciation in the Mennonite Quarterly Review (1957).
Although Christian Hege produced no great historical works, he was a thorough and devoted scholar, whose many smaller contributions have lasting value, and whose editorial enterprise and financial sacrifice on behalf of Mennonite historical research and publication have produced great and lasting benefits in the cause of Anabaptist-Mennonite historiography. Personally he was a man of great depth of character and dignity, and of striking presence. He lives on in the life and work of many others whom he inspired and to whom he gave an unblemished example of selfless devotion and complete Christian integrity.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 689. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Bender, Harold S. "Hege, Christian (1869-1943)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 24 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/hege_christian_1869_1943.
APA style: Bender, Harold S. (1956). Hege, Christian (1869-1943). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/hege_christian_1869_1943.