Halberstadt, a city in the former Prussian government district of Magdeburg, where there was in 1535 a small congregation of Anabaptist refugees from the territories of Duke George of Saxony. Two families settled here in 1535; their leader was Georg Knoblauch. He collected a small group of men and women, including Hans Heune (or Höhne) of Seehausen near Frankenhausen, Christoph Thalacker, Georg Möller, Hans Birkhan, and Hans Hesse of Riestedt, several of whom died as martyrs. Services were held in Knoblauch's house in the Willows behind the cathedral at Halberstadt. Here transient brethren also found shelter.
The Brethren here were truly pious. The official, Heinrich Horn, who listened in on one of their meetings and gave a report to the bishop's authorities on 9 September 1535, said, "Within a mysterious murmuring is held; it was not possible to understand what it was, since it took place behind barred doors and closed windows. The men occasionally came into the yard, knelt and prayed with folded hands." Petronella, a woman who was arrested later, stated, "The brethren and sisters prayed four times daily, also before and after meals. They usually get up twice at night to pray and praise God." At the communion service, which was held a short time before the harvest, the preacher washed the feet of the participants and kissed them; each broke off a bit of the bread, ate it in commemoration of the death of Christ, and confessed that he would gladly die for His sake. Whoever considered himself unworthy of the meal did not take part. Baptism was also performed in Knoblauch's house; thus on 10 July 1535, he baptized Hans Heune's wife Grete, Hans Kraut (the tailor), the brothers Georg and Jobst Möller, as well as Wolf Goldener. Even weddings were performed in the quiet little house; there is record of that marriage of Georg Knoblauch's daughter Ursula with Hans Möller.
The Anabaptists in Halberstadt are sad evidence of the difficulty and danger attending membership in an untolerated brotherhood in the 16th century. To escape persecution they lived under the open sky and the forest wilderness. In order not to subject their children to the inclement weather and to give their women the necessary care in confinement they sought protection in the city. When the owner of the "house among the willows" learned that an infant born there was not baptized, she dispossessed the group. They then found refuge in the unoccupied Grauer Hof in Halberstadt in mid-August. But on 13 September the police found two women, Anna Knoblauch and Grete Heune, with six children; soon they also seized Hans Heune, who had just returned home, and Petronella, a baker's wife, who had been baptized five years previously by the schoolmaster Alexander (executed in 1533).
The prisoners openly confessed their faith. Nevertheless they were tried under torture on the orders of the cardinal. On 20 September Adrian Henckel (also called Adrian Richter) and Anna Reichard (Hermann Gerucher's wife) were also arrested. Since the prisoners refused to renounce their faith, Bishop Heinrich von Ackon decided to have various scholars attempt to convert them. They had partial success. Two mothers of newborn babies agreed to recant, probably to preserve the lives of their children, while Adrian Henckel and Hans Heune, as well as Petronella, persisted in their faith and declared to the judges that they were happy to suffer death for Christ's sake. On 8 October Cardinal Albrecht gave the secular authorities the order to sentence them to death; they were to be taken to Groningen, placed in a sack, and drowned; they were then to be interred in unhallowed ground by the executioner.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II: 233 f.
Jacobs, E. "Die Wiedertäufer am Harz." Zeitschrift des Harz-Vereins für Geschichte u. Altertumskunde 32 (1899). This citation includes statements of the victims.
Wappler, Paul. Die Täuferbewegung in Thüringen von 1526-1584. Jena: Gustav Fisher, 1913.
Cite This Article
Hege, Christian. "Halberstadt (Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 24 Oct 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Halberstadt_(Sachsen-Anhalt,_Germany)&oldid=95046.
Hege, Christian. (1956). Halberstadt (Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 October 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Halberstadt_(Sachsen-Anhalt,_Germany)&oldid=95046.
Herald Press website.
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