Augsburg Mennonite Church (Augsburg, Freistaat Bayern, Germany)
It is interesting to note that the first modern settlement of Mennonites in the region of Augsburg, which began in 1805 with the migration of families from Alsace-Lorraine and the Palatinate, occurred in the very same locality (Wellenburg) where in 1528 Anabaptists had held their meetings. The first families, of both Amish and Mennonite connections, were (at Wellenburg) Gingerich, Miller, Augsburger, König; (at Burkwalden) Nafziger, Stalter, Gut; (Scheppacherhof) Augsburger; (Biburg) Stalter; (Siebenbrunn) Hochstettler. All settled as renters. But these families did not organize a congregation in the 19th century. They held their religious services in the various homes and buried their dead in the gardens. The Napoleonic wars had caused emigration from their homeland, and the tolerance of the reigning houses and the noble landowners made possible the settlement in Bavaria. The inspection records (in the Bavarian state archives in Munich) often bore witness to the fact that it was the colonizing ability of the Mennonite farmers and their moral standards that made them the chosen and preferred settlers. However, the main stream of these settlers went to the region probably because it was easier there to provide for the sons of their large families. The author (R. Ringenberg) is the only descendant of this group of settlers living in the Augsburg region in the 1950s.
Besides this circle of settlements immediately around Augsburg, there was also a larger settlement not far away at Neuburg, Donauwörth, and in the area called Donaumoos at the start of the 19th century. At Maxweiler in Donaumoos, where Mennonite settlers from Baden and the Palatinate worked hard in cultivating the marshy ground, a congregation was formed with preachers Daniel and Heinrich Müller and Elder Heinrich Zeiset of Willenbach. A church was built in 1832, in the 1950s used as a school. But the income from the land was inadequate for the needs of the 25 families settled there. In 1852 most of them emigrated to America, although some united with the Eichstock congregation near Dachau, while some married into other Mennonite families, and a few were lost to the church. In the Neuburg and Donauwörth areas an active life developed among the several families. There was an unusual number of conversions from non-Mennonites in the Neuburg area, the intellectual center having been for many years at the Forsthof near Gietelhausen (has been sold). (A burial ground now covered by the forest bears witness of these Mennonites.) Only a very few of the present population know anything of the work of these departed Mennonites.
At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th new settlements were made in the area between Augsburg, Donauwörth, and Höchstädt by Mennonites from Baden, the Palatinate, Württemberg and Lower Franconia. It was due to this influx that the organization of new congregations was accomplished. In Neuburg a congregation of 40 members was formed under Elder Christian Gingerich and preachers Daniel Suttor of Bartlstockschwaige and Josef Ingold of Tempelhof. However, it dissolved in 1913. The Donauwörth congregation was the offspring of the Neuburg congregation, whose last preacher, Daniel Lichti of Ellgau, served in Donauwörth (ordained elder in 1914). After a short life of 12 years, the meeting place for practical reasons having been moved to Augsburg, the congregation was reorganized as the Augsburg congregation, retaining the same leadership and most of the same members. The elder was Daniel Lichti, preachers Ulrich Hege (Schloss Markt near Biberach, 1914) and David Musselmann (Urfarhof near Donauwörth, 1914), and deacon Eugen Musselmann (Hellmaringen near Lauingen). Thus after almost exactly 400 years an Augsburg congregation was organized to succeed the original one, which had been wiped out by persecution in 1528.
The families of the congregation, with few exceptions farmers in the 1950s, were as follows: Musselmann from the vicinity of Heidelberg (Baden); Hege from near Hasselbach (Baden); Lichti from near Neustadt (Palatinate); Neff from near Heidelberg. These arrived at the turn of the 20th century. The Suttors, Hirschlers, Dettweilers, and Salzmann-Gingerichs are descendants of the original settlers of 1805 who came from the Palatinate and Alsace-Lorraine to Swabia and Upper Bavaria.
After the death of Daniel Lichti (1928) the office of elder became vacant, and was not been filled locally. The meetings were held in the Methodist chapel at Lauterlech 246 every two weeks. During World War II the congregation met in the Protestant Church at St. Ulrich until it was destroyed by the bombings. Increasing difficulties and danger of bombing attacks caused attendance at the meetings to decline, and in 1944 it came to a virtual standstill when Ulrich Hege, after more than 30 years of faithful service as minister, died on 29 March 1944.
As it became possible to travel again after the end of the war the congregational life gradually revived. On 9 March 1948 Philip Hege of Schloss Markt, a son of Ulrich, was ordained to the ministry, and Erich Musselmann, Hellmaringen, the son of Eugen, was chosen deacon. On each first Sunday of the month (until 1950 in the Methodist chapel, since then in the home of the YMCA at Frauentorstrasse 43) regular meetings were again held, and at the same time services were held for the children by Ernst Dettweiler. Until he moved to Mettingen near Würzburg, Peter Löwen often preached. The war and its aftermath claimed the lives of six members. Fifteen Mennonite refugees from West Prussia were added to the Augsburg congregations (especially the Wiebe family).
Even though the Augsburg congregation may be one of the smaller (membership approximately 60 in 1950s; 52 in 2007) links in the chain of Mennonite congregations, it was touched more than most by the great brotherly aid of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) , and especially by the student exchange and agricultural trainee exchange with the Mennonites of North America, in which three young men had been permitted to take part by 1953.
Address: Mennoniten Gemeinden Augsburg, c/o CVJM-Heim Augsburg, Frauentorstraße 43, Augsburg
Phone: 0821 2431700
Website: Mennoniten Gemeinden Augsburg
Denominational Affiliation: Verband deutscher Mennonitengemeinden
Cite This Article
Ringenberg, R. "Augsburg Mennonite Church (Augsburg, Freistaat Bayern, Germany)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 22 Nov 2017. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Augsburg_Mennonite_Church_(Augsburg,_Freistaat_Bayern,_Germany)&oldid=90940.
Ringenberg, R. (1953). Augsburg Mennonite Church (Augsburg, Freistaat Bayern, Germany). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 November 2017, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Augsburg_Mennonite_Church_(Augsburg,_Freistaat_Bayern,_Germany)&oldid=90940.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 186-187. All rights reserved.
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