Baden (Germany)

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Baden at the time of the German Empire
Source: Wikipedia Commons

Baden, formerly a state in the German Confederation, where Anabaptism spread as early as the first third of the 16th century. Many Anabaptist leaders were successfully active here, e.g., Balthasar Hubmaier in 1525 as pastor in Waldshut. From Staufen near Freiburg came Michaei Sattler. Also in other regions which were added to Baden only in 1803-1806, the doctrines won early adherents, as in the Palatine districts of Heidelberg and Bretten, in the bishopric of Speyer (Bruchsal), in the Kinzig Valley, and in Kraichgau. According to the Baden-Pfalz volume of the Quellen zur Geschichte der Täufer (1951), a total of 81 places in Baden appear in the documents as having had one or more Anabaptists 1525-1548 in northern (Franconian) Baden, and 33 in southern (Alemannian) Baden, although the number of regularly organized congregations was probably small; most of these Anabaptists came from the peasant classes.

The Anabaptists were also found early in the original duchy of Baden. Their too rapid growth is shown by the mandate of 15 December 1527, of Margrave Philip of Baden, commanding his officials not to tolerate the Anabaptists. "We command you, with especial seriousness, to issue a public order immediately in the city and in all your villages and to proclaim that no one may submit to rebaptism, either to baptize or to be baptized; nor shall anyone adhere to Anabaptism on any other point. Nothing shall be taught or preached about it either privately or publicly. No one shall harbor its adherents (or) offer them refuge, all on penalty of body, of life, and of possessions according to the enormity of the violation of this command, in order that the wicked, erroneous, and wanton act of rebaptism may be erased and removed with its adherents. Moreover we command that all who have themselves or their children rebaptized, or teach and preach publicly shall be seized. The officials shall be told forthwith what punishment is to be applied. And in this you shall not appear careless or negligent" (Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 11, 1890, 319).

The rigor with which this decree was carried out is shown by the chronicles of the Hutterian Brethren in Moravia, to whom many refugees from Baden fled. In a report drawn up in 1581 it is shown that in Baden 20 Anabaptists were executed for their faith, in Durlach 12, in Pforzheim 2, and in Bühl 2 (Beck, Geschichts-Bücher, 279). On 19 March 1528, Philip requested the imperial viceroy and other councilors of the imperial government at Speyer, as well as the city council of Strasbourg, to investigate the printing of a booklet that had been "compiled for the strengthening of Anabaptism and may result in impropriety and seduction," which was probably printed by Ariase, the servant of Peter Schöffer in Worms (Röhrich, 38).

In spite of these stern measures the new doctrine spread. "The simple people had been perplexed by their church. In Malsch the parson’s love of drink drove the people into the arms of the Anabaptists" (Bossert, 78). For their religious services the congregations assembled mostly in the border regions of Baden, the Palatinate, and Speyer, often in outlying homes in the villages; in 1531 and 1532 they met in Neibsheim near Gondelsheim and Flehingen (all in the Bretten district) and in the Hagenmill at Bauerbach (bishopric of Speyer). They also worshiped in the forests, as in Neibsheim, and between Flehingen and Bretten. The old chapel of Binsheim was very convenient for them (above Grombach and Jöhlingen in the region of Durlach). Here they were surprised at a service in early February 1538 by the butler of the Cathedral Chapter, who arrested the participants. In order to prevent further meetings there, the bishop wanted to have the chapel razed; the chapter refused to do this, however, for it offered shelter from storms to the people of Jöhlingen. The congregations in that region were large; 200-300 persons often attended the meetings. Later, of course, when attendance at religious services was more dangerous, the number was reduced to 10 or 12 (Bossert, 78).

One of their first preachers was Philip Weber, who, however, migrated to Moravia early in 1528, and settled in Rossitz. Julius Lober is also named in the court records; he had come from Switzerland and headed the congregation at Bruchsal, which in 1530 had about 500 members. He is probably the Julius who in 1532 baptized the wife of Michael Schneider at Bruchsal. The latter was the leader, and was one of the Anabaptists seized on 14 September 1534 at Passau, who with the hymns they composed in prison laid the foundation for the Ausbund (Wolkan, Lieder, 30). Julius later fled to Ansbach (Beck, Geschichts-Bücher, 71; Bossert, 84). The remnants of the Bruchsal congregation were led to Auspitz in Moravia by Blasius Kühn. About the middle of the 16th century the preachers in Baden were Wendel Metzger of Heidelsheim and Hans Gentner of Sulzfeld; they were said to have baptized the people of Malsch whom the bailiff captured at Bruchrain in 1539 (Bossert, 75). Gentner fled to Moravia, where he died in 1548 at Schäckowitz as "a true evangelical servant of Christ, after many tribulations and many a struggle and battle, which he had to suffer for the sake of the Lord" (Beck, 193).

After the death of Philip (17 September 1533), his territory was divided by his brothers Bernhard and Ernst. Bernhard became the progenitor of the Baden-Baden line, and Ernst of the Baden-Pfortzheim line, which later, when the residence of the margraves was moved to Durlach (1565), took the name of Baden-Durlach. Bernhard had definitely favored Protestant doctrine. After his death (29 June 1536) the Reformation was kept out by the strictly Catholic guardians of his minor son; but it made new progress under the rule of Philibert. Not until his death (3 October 1569) did the Catholic confession come to the fore again, under the guardianship of Duke Albrecht of Bavaria. Albrecht's reign entailed severe persecution for the Anabaptists. The government carried out all the imperial laws against them. In 1571 Hans Geiger of Zell, near Aichelberg in the district of Kirchheim in Württemberg, who had been baptized in Esslingen in 1528, was sentenced to die at the stake; because he recanted, the sentence was moderated to decapitation; he was executed at Bühl (Bossert, 77). Thus the Anabaptists could not be permanent residents in the country; they were exiled as soon as the government learned of their presence.

Baden (1806-1945) Source: Wikipedia Commons

The Anabaptists in the margravure of Baden-Durlach seem to have fared better. Ernst, the progenitor of the line, tried to settle differences in ecclesiastical matters, and in his later years seriously considered introducing the Reformation. It is worthy of note that in 1544 he read Caspar Schwenckfeld's works and sought personal contact with him. It is therefore probable that Ernst was benevolent to the few Anabaptists remaining in his lands. Official records are lacking; it is known only that there were Anabaptists at Durlach, Knielingen, Eggenstein, and Königsbach, whose leader about 1555 was Hans Schoch of Königsbach (Bossert, 76). In 1556 the Reformation was introduced by Karl II, 1553-1577. The cooperation of the superintendent, Jakob Andreae of Göppingen, and the court chaplain of Heidelberg, Michael Diller, who at the colloquy at Worms in 1557 assented to the death penalty for the Anabaptists by signing the document, Prozess, wie es soll gehalten werden mit den Wiedertäufern, leads to the conclusion that the Anabaptists were no longer tolerated in Baden-Durlach. In October 1570 Georg Schorich, an influential Jesuit priest of the Munich court, was summoned by Duke Albrecht to assist Count Ottheinrich of Schwarzenberg to recatholicize Baden. He solemnly baptized the child of an Anabaptist on Christmas Day 1570.

Not until the beginning of the 18th century were the Anabaptists permitted to settle in the margravure of Baden-Durlach. Tolerant Karl Wilhelm, 1709-1738, the founder of Karlsruhe, on 15 September 1715 promised religious freedom to all who wished to settle in the vicinity of his forest castle, Karlsruhe, and on 9 April 1722, he issued the order to all the clergy of his lands to avoid any harsh attitude toward those of other creeds. The Mennonites of Bern (Switzerland) sought refuge here after the second great emigration (1710). They were for the most part tenant farmers of the estates of baronial landowners, who valued them highly. They settled principally on the estates at Hohenwettersbach near Bretten, at Wangen and Weyer near Emmendingen, and at Hochberg, where they held their meetings in 1747. Because residence was forbidden them by the imperial laws, they were required by a government order of 1755 to pay a protection fee; besides this, a fee was charged in case of death. Their descendants are for the most part members of the present Mennonite congregations in Wössingen, Dühren, and Heimbronnerhof.

Through the addition in 1803 of the portion of the Palatinate on the right bank of the Rhine and in 1806 of the territories of the imperial knights in the Kraichgau to the margravure, the number of Mennonites in Baden was substantially increased. In contrast to former times, the government now showed general appreciation. In the government records the Mennonites are called "good citizens" and "a peaceful and useful religious community." In 1801 Karl Friedrich, the first Baden grand duke of the later period, abolished the old regulations of Baden-Durlach concerning the confiscation of inheritances of Mennonites, and regulated their other legal rights. In an opinion of the provincial government at Mannheim of 30 March 1808, attention is called to the exemplary legal status of the Mennonites in the former Palatinate, where some of them were citizens. "If the state wants them as citizens," the opinion concludes, "and considers them good, then let it also grant them the rights and the confidence of citizens. It is not suitable to secure the guarantee for this from Geneva, Wittenberg, Rome, or Jerusalem." A regulation of 15 April 1809 decreed that henceforth the Mennonites, like all other citizens, must officially record births, weddings, and funerals; they could do this because they were relieved of all state church connections, and were left to their own conscience. Their children were to be excused from attendance at school if the parents engaged regularly tested and recognized private teachers; in the public schools their children had to attend instruction in morals, but were released from instruction in religion if their parents requested it. Because they did not render military service, Mennonites were not to be granted all the rights of citizenship, but only protection.

The military question for the Mennonites in Baden was regulated by a decree of 13 February 1808 (Kurbadisches Regierungsblatt No. VII, of 7 March 1808), which stated that the Mennonites should never be required to render actual military service, but only to make a contribution (Abfindung). But this arrangement was abolished soon after the death of Karl Friedrich, on account of the "urgency of circumstances" by a decree of 28 June 1812 (Kurbadisches Regierungsblatt No. XXIII, of 1 August 1812). The constitution of the grand duchy of 22 August 1818 (Kurbadisches Regierungsblatt No. XVIII, of 29 August 1818), stated, "Difference in birth and religion are the basis of . . . no exemption from military duty." Mennonites capable of military service could free themselves of active duty by paying a substitute. At first the churches collected the funds for substitutes as a unit, but before many years some families who had no sons of military age refused to bear the expenses of others. Thus the young men who were subject to military duty, if they had no money, had to choose between accepting military service and emigration (Hunzinger, 129).

After the right of freedom from military duty was abolished by the federal law of 9 November 1867, the Mennonite churches asked the Ministry of War at Karlsruhe to grant their members, like the Mennonites of West Prussia, the privilege of performing their military service without bearing arms. The petition was at first rejected, but was later granted in the following decree on 15 September 1869:

No. 14,157. Grandducal Bezirksamt Sinsheim has been authorized, concerning the decree of Aug. 27, No. 13,271, to inform the elders and leaders of the Mennonite church at Rappenau: Even though it does not seem permissible according to the present military law to grant freedom from military service to Mennonites subject to military duty, consideration of their religious requirements is nevertheless not impossible. We shall therefore as far as possible release Mennonites subject to military duty who request it promptly when conscripted, from direct armed service by assigning them to the transport division or the medical corps, etc., which do not put them into a position which requires them to use arms." (Gbl. 1870, 14; 1873, 87, and 1874, No. 6.)

Also on the question of the oath the government met the wishes of the Mennonites. A decree of 1802 granted them the substitution of a solemn vow in place of the oath, using the words, "As truly as I am an honest man." When the law of 20 December 1848 prescribed the formula of affirmation, "I affirm by a solemn vow instead of an oath, that (here follows the statement affirmed) upon my honor and conscience," and demanded of the affirmer that he place his left hand over his heart, the elders on 16 October 1856 requested of the Ministry of Justice that the legal requirements be altered. After the petition had been refused, three elders (Christian Schmutz of Rappenau, Ulrich Hege of Oberbiegelhof, and Heinrich Landes of Ehrstädt) personally presented their petition to the grand duke. Their wish was met by the law of 5 June 1860 (Regierungsblatt No. XXX), the first paragraph of which read:

. . . The law of Dec. 20, 1848, concerning the Mennonites is altered as follows: The affirmation of the Mennonites, as valid as an oath, takes place by means of a handclasp and the use of the formula: With this handclasp I affirm in accord with the Word of God in Matthew 5:33-37, that (here follows the statement to be affirmed); or if a written affirmation is permitted, with the formula: I affirm in accord with the Word of God (as above). This affirmation takes the place of the solemn vow in those cases where a solemn vow is legally to be given in place of an oath. In special cases the board can call in a disinterested elder of the Mennonite Church for the affirmation; this must be done if the opposing party requests it. A false solemn vow in place of an oath is subject to the same penalty as perjury." (See Das von den Gliedern der Mennoniten-Gemeinde im Grossherzogtum Baden an Eidesstatt abzuleistende Handgelübde, Heilbronn, 1862, and ten Doornkaat-Koolman, Die Verpflichtung der Mennoniten an Eidesstatt, Berlin, 1893.)

In the middle of the 19th century two movements had some influence among the Mennonite churches in Baden. About the middle of the century the followers of Johann Michael Hahn, known as the Michelians, won adherents among the Mennonites, which led to a division in 1858. In Dühren and Ursenbacherhof near Sinsheim and also at Heimbronnerhof near Bretten independent congregations with about 140 members altogether were formed, which, however, retained connections with the mother church, and came to be called "Hahnische Mennoniten." In 1845 the Fröhlichianer or Neutäufer, who practiced immersion, caused a considerable number of families to leave the Mennonites. They were most successful in the congregation at Streichenberg (Amt Sinsheim), which had been in existence since the close of the 17th century, and in the congregation at Willenbach near Jagstfeld, which was founded at the end of the 18th century. These divisions decreased the membership somewhat; but on the other hand they had a stimulating effect on church life. The efforts for revitalizing the church found an ardent promoter in Elder Christian Schmutz of Rappenau (1799-1873) (GM., 1874, 3-6), in cooperation with two other elders, Ulrich Hege of Oberbiegelhof (1808-1872) (GM., 1872, 86), and Heinrich Landes of Ehrstädt (1818-1886).

Christian Schmutz, who devoted all his energy to the service of the church, stimulated and revived church life in the congregations through personal contact and by writing. An earnest concern of his was the training of young people for the work of the kingdom of God. For the instruction of youth he compiled a catechism entitled Christliches Lehrbüchlein (Heilbronn, 1865), which was introduced into many Mennonite churches outside Baden, and into some "free churches" of Switzerland (Göttighofen, Wyl, and Hauptweil in the canton of Thurgau, as well as the neighboring Baptist church in Bischofszeil). The founding of the Gemeindeblatt in 1870 was also the result of his efforts. The introduction of the office of traveling preacher (Reiseprediger) is likewise essentially his work.

The number of Mennonites in Baden changed little in the first half of the 19th century (Beiträge zur Statistik, 222), but since then has steadily decreased. The census figures for Baden since 1821 are as follows:

Mennonites in Baden
Year Number
1821 1512
1830 1414
1845 1515
1861 1221
1875 1351
1890 1194
1900 1008
1910 1151
1925 1198

The Mennonites of Baden in the 1950s for the most part lived in the country and were farmers; in 1871 only 63 Mennonites, or 4.64 per cent of the total number, were counted in the five largest cities. Since then the number of Mennonites living in the cities has increased. In 1905 there were 165 Mennonites in the five largest cities; 54 in Mannheim, 41 in Karlsruhe, 27 in Freiburg, 19 in Pforzheim, and 15 in Heidelberg. A tabulation of other places of residence was given in the census of 1 December 1905 (Beiträge zur Statistik LXIII, 1911). Statistics of residence of the Mennonites of Baden by districts 1871-1910 are given in the article Baden, Mennonitisches Lexikon I, 106-107.

The decline in membership in Baden was caused in the main by transfer to other confessions through mixed marriages, and by emigration. At the beginning of the 19th century the congregations were still predominantly centered between Heidelberg and Wimpfen. In the course of time many families moved out of the Heidelberg district, for most of the estates, which they had cultivated through generations as tenants of the noble landowners, were now leased to sugar manufacturing plants. Consequently several congregations disappeared, as Baiertal and Bruchhausen. On the other hand, new congregations were formed in the Oberland of Baden, in Württemberg, and in Bavaria, by emigration from the Neckar region of Baden. In Bavaria, where the congregation of Trappstadt in Lower Franconia had been formed in 1770 by immigrants from the Palatinate, the congregations of Würzburg (formerly Rottenbauer) and Giebelstadt were formed by an immigration from Baden beginning in 1805. From 1880 on, Mennonites from Baden settled in South Bavaria (Menn. Bl., 1905, 68 and 75), giving rise to the congregations of Ingolstadt (formerly Däubling and Rottmannshart) and Donauwörth-Augsburg. In Württemberg the congregations at Heilbronn and Möckmühl were formed by Mennonites who moved in from the Heidelberg region. At the Bodensee (Lake Constance) in Baden the church at Ueberlingen (formerly Forsterhof) was begun in 1812 by several families migrating from the Neckar region of Baden.

In 1951 there were in Baden nine Mennonite congregations with membership as follows: Adelsheim, 37; Bretten, 28; Durlach, 110; Hasselbach, 85; Heidelberg, 41; Sinsheim, 85; Schopfheim, 31; Ueberlingen, 67; Wössingen, 67. In addition there were two congregations of Hahnische Mennoniten, Dühren and Heimbronnerhof.

The total population of Mennonites in Baden in 1951 was more than the 521 baptized members in the nine congregations since some members of the neighboring Württemberg congregations lived in Baden, and there were unattached refugees within the border of the province. With the exception of the Hahnisch congregations and Ueberlingen and Schopfheim, all the congregations belonged to the Badisch-Württembergisch-Bayerischer Gemeindeverband or Conference and to the South German Conference.

See also Baden-Württemberg (Germany)


Beitrage zur Statistik der inneren Verwaltung des Grossherzogtums Baden. 1885.

Bossert, G. Zeitschrift für die Geschichte des Oberrheins 59 (1905).

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 103-107.

Hunzinger, A. Das Religions-, Kirchen-und Schulwesen der Mennoniten. Speyer, 1830.

Kirchenbücher in Baden published by the Badische Historische Kommission, ed. Hermann Franz (2nd ed. 1938) gives Anabaptist statistics.

Krebs, Manfred. Quellen zur Geschichte der Täufer. IV. Band, Baden and Pfalz. Gütersloh: C. Bertelsmann, 1951.

Reinking K. F. , Die Vormundschaften der Herzoge in Bayern in der Markgrafschaft Baden-Baden im 16. Jahrhundert. Berlin, 1935: 147.

Die Religionszugehörigkeit in Baden in den letzten 100 Jahren auf Grund amtlichen Materials. Freiburg i. B. : Herder & Co., 1928.

Röhrich, T. Zeitschrift für historische Theologie (1860).

Author(s) Christian Hege
Date Published 1955

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Hege, Christian. "Baden (Germany)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1955. Web. 17 May 2021.

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Hege, Christian. (1955). Baden (Germany). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 17 May 2021, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 205-208. All rights reserved.

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