Bayern Federal State (Germany)

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1955 Article

Bavaria, Germany
Source: Wikipedia Commons

Bayern (Bavaria), the largest federal state in Germany, in the Reformation period a duchy. Here the Anabaptists were most ruthlessly persecuted and most violently suppressed. The reigning dukes were Wilhelm IV and Ludwig, who pronounced the horrifying watchword:"All Anabaptists are to be punished with death. Whoever recants will be beheaded; whoever does not recant will be burned." With inexorable severity this command was carried out. Between 1527 and 1581, 223 Anabaptists were executed in Bavarian territory. Moving hymns relate the valiant martyrdom of the following Anabaptists: Hans Blüetl, burned at Ried, 24 June 1545; Wolf Rauffer, Jörg Bruckmayer, Hans Aichner, beheaded there 13 August 1585; Leonhard Sumerauer, beheaded at Burghausen 5 July 1585; Christian Geiger, beheaded at Munich 13 September 1586 (Oesterreichisches Jahrbuch des Protestantismus XIII, 81). Other names belong to this list of martyrs: Virgil Plattner, beheaded at Schärding in 1529; Hans Mändel and Claus Felbinger, executed at Landshut in 1560; Wolf Binder at Schärding in 1571; Michael Fischer at Ingolstadt in 1587; Leonhard Boltzinger at Julbach near Braunau; Thomas Haan at Freiberg near Braunau 12 May 1592; and Max Eder at Ried in 1565 (Wolkan, Lieder). This is a sad list of martyrs, whose memory lived on among the Anabaptists in the many martyr hymns sung in many congregations.

Vitus Anton Winter reports (Gesch. der bayrischen Wiedertäufer im 16. Jahrh.) that as early as 1528 "all Bavaria was full of Anabaptists, preaching in villages and baptizing in barns." Among the Anabaptists expelled from Augsburg 12 Janueary 1528, were many Bavarians (Riezler, Gesch. Bayerns IV, 189); Hans Geraysig of Hochdorf and Diemut of Mammendorf, etc., are named. In Landshut Augustin Würzelburger was active as an Anabaptist; he transplanted the movement to Oberhaim near Siesbach with great success. Hans Sedlmayr and Hans Frank, whom he won for the movement, died a few weeks later as martyrs in Landshut. The mandate of Wilhelm IV, dated 15 November 1527, against the Anabaptists, opened a veritable hunt for them. Anyone who was in the least suspected was arrested and tried on the rack. Most of them were executed. At the command of Wilhelm, the schoolteacher Georg Wagner of Emmering was taken to Munich, placed in the Falkenturm, and burned at the stake, 18 February 1527. Many others followed him. Those who were not beheaded or burned were drowned in the Isar. Anabaptists were also executed in Straubing and Aibling. On 23 December 1527, nine were executed and a woman drowned in Landshut by ducal order. On 7 January 1528, two noblemen, Augustin and Christoph von Perwangen, were executed with the sword at Günzlhofen and Vogach together with a miller from Milstetten in Munich. On 28 January six artisans of Munich were burned in a room. Jakob (or Jörg) Prenner, a laborer of Schmiechen, who had baptized 18 persons, was beheaded at Munich. In other parts of Bavaria many Anabaptists were executed. At Landsberg on 15 May 1528 three were burned and one beheaded (Riezler, Gesch. Bayerns IV, 194). The bishop of Regensburg was compelled by the Bavarian dukes by repeated reproaches to execute the imprisoned Augustin Würzelburger on 10 October 1528.

Bavarian Administrative Districts

Yet this violence did not succeed in suppressing the movement. On 27 April 1529, the dukes issued a second mandate against the Anabaptists, "that henceforth none of them would escape execution even if he recanted." In the next year the Anabaptists Hans Haschen and Pankratz Wördt were killed. Anabaptists passing through from Moravia to the Palatinate, Hesse, and Switzerland, were seized. On 22 April 1535 Bishop Ernst of Passau issued a mandate forbidding anyone to give shelter to a Moravian Anabaptist. On 19 May 1535, 15 Anabaptists—seven men, five women, and three children—were captured and placed in the Oberhaus, a castle in Passau (Wolkan, Lieder). On 14 September 1535, 14 additional Moravian Anabaptists were tried on the rack, followed several hours later by another group of 20, including Hans Beck of Greding near Eichstätt and his wife Elisabeth. He stated that he had already been previously captured at Eggenburg, but released with 20 others after their cheeks had been burned through with hot irons. On 24 September 1535, again five Anabaptists were seized. None of all these Anabaptists left the prison alive .

In 1559 the news of the existence of an Anabaptist congregation in Schrobenhausen stirred up renewed action. Cardinal Otto of Augsburg called the attention of Duke Albrecht V to the presence of Anabaptists there. In haste the duke sent his officers to investigate, but little came of the affair. Hans Lor, the cobbler in whose house the meetings had been held, had fled. Two persons under suspicion were arrested, but their utterances revealed nothing damaging, and they were released. There was doubtless more truth in the report that Burghausen was an Anabaptist center. As already stated, many died there as martyrs.

Duke Wilhelm V also made it his business to rid the land of Anabaptists. In 1579 he issued a mandate, that "they should be suppressed with all our might." When he learned that Anabaptists were coming from Moravia to win converts, he issued the harsh mandate of 30 September 1584, "to admit no one, to arrest at once all who entered and deliver them to the courts." A reward of 40 to 50 guilders was offered to anyone reporting an Anabaptist to the government. Nevertheless it is reported that they succeeded in winning 600 Bavarians and inducing them to immigrate to Moravia. Some of the most successful secret emissaries of the Anabaptists were Hans Zuckenhammer, a blacksmith and hymn writer, Bastel Segenschmidt, Paul Schuster, Lienhard Vischer, and Hans Körner.

On 28 February 1587, a sharper edict followed, which ordered the officials, on penalty of severe punishment and disfavor, to build a dam that could not be crossed by the intolerable sect of the Anabaptists, which increase day by day in Bavaria, and especially to track down their leaders, Hans Zuckenhammer and Bastel Segenschmidt. For the capture of one of these leaders a reward of 100 florins was offered, and for the capture of an ordinary Anabaptist, 25 to 30 florins. These strong measures were apparently successful, for from now on little is heard of Anabaptists in Bavaria. A few years later the movement seems to have disappeared without a trace.

Approximately 200 years later an elector of Bavaria admitted the Anabaptists back into the country. Those whom his ancestors had most cruelly expelled, he recalled as capable colonists and as good and useful subjects. In 1802, on the invitation of Max Joseph IV, eight Mennonite families left their homes in the Palatinate and settled between Neuburg and Ingolstadt on the right bank of the Danube. They founded the Mennonite colony of Maxweiler in Donaumoos. With tremendous effort they worked to turn the marshes into arable and fertile land. On 9 December 1832, they dedicated their newly erected chapel. Twenty years later the congregation was dissolved. In 1855 all of the Mennonites living in Maxweiler sold their property and immigrated to America. Three families remained in Ingolstadt, and others near Neuburg a.d.D. Their descendants belong to the congregations at Ingolstadt and Donauwörth.

A few years after the founding of Maxweiler, a Mennonite congregation was established at Eichstock near Munich in Upper Bavaria. In 1818 the first Mennonite families settled here. These came from Alsace; they were joined by others from the Palatinate, Hesse, and Baden. The immigration lasted until 1848; it was strongest in 1820. But very few families settled there permanently. Most of them immigrated to America. (See Menn. Bl., 1886, where the families are enumerated.) The congregation still exists in 1950, though it is very small.

The congregations at Bildhausen and Mönchshof near Schweinfurt in northern Bavaria came into being somewhat earlier than Maxweiler. About 1770 several families emigrating from Baden and Württemberg settled here. The former had a church of their own with an organ, and in 1838 a school. Their first preacher was Christian Stauffer of the Spitalhof near Neustadt a.d.H., who went to America in 1844. In 1856 Bildhausen and Mönchshof numbered 140 communicant members. The congregation is now extinct, their remnant joining the church at Trappstadt in Lower Franconia.

The church at Rottenbauer near Würzburg arose about 1805. Jakob Bühler and Michael Bähr, who came here from near Heidelberg, are considered its founders. When other families from Baden settled here, the Giebelstadt congregation was formed. Since 1804 three Mennonite families had been living on the Hettstädterhof; they had their own services. Their preacher was Michael Musselmann.

The Amish Mennonite settlers who came to the region of Ingolstadt and Regensburg from Alsace and Hesse from 1808 on established two congregations which have been named after these two major centers, although actually no Mennonites lived in these cities until recently, and the Amish meetings were held alternately on the various farms. Regensburg seems to have been the more active group about the middle of the 19th century since in the brief period of 1852-1877 six Mennonite publications appeared here: Neu-Vermehrtes Geistliches Lustgärtlein, 1852 and 1854; Die Ernsthafte Christenpflicht, 1852, a Gesangbuch, 1859; a Christliches Glaubensbekenntnis, 1876, and a Katechismus, 1877. Since 1893 the Regensburg congregation has met in a rented hall in the city. The Amish groups near Ingolstadt died out largely through emigration to America, but were replaced by Mennonite settlers from the Palatinate in the second half of the century, and from Baden and Franconia at the turn of the century and later. In 1891 a congregation was formed at Rottmannshart, which in 1905 was relocated in Ingolstadt, where it built its own meetinghouse in 1951. A similar group of Amish families settled near Munich in the first half of the 20th century, meeting on the farms for worship. Beginning in 1880 Mennonite families from Baden also settled here. In 1892 these two groups merged to form the Munich Mennonite congregation. Munich, Regensburg, and Eichstock have had a joint salaried, trained minister since 1905, quite in contradistinction to the other congregations in Bavaria belonging to the Badischer Verband, who have never had a trained salaried minister. These three churches have also, alone in Bavaria, joined the Vereinigung (1928).

The membership of the congregations are listed below

Name 1930 1940 1950
Augsburg-Donauwörth 55 75 60
Eichstock 19 22 27
Ingolstadt - 122 149
Munich 139 168 162
Nürnberg - - 30
Regensburg 100 135 164
Trappstadt 61 70 82
Würzburg 105 59 70
Total 469 651 744

Four congregations, Augsburg, Ingolstadt, Trappstadt, and Würzburg, in 1950 belonged to the Badischer Verband conference. The three, Eichstock, Munich, and Regensburg, have for years had a joint pastor, and belong to the Vereinigung. All the congregations except Ingolstadt, in 1928 formed the Union of Bavarian Congregations (Vereinigung der Bayerischen Mennoniten-Gemeinden), which however is only a legal corporation and not a church conference.

In Bavaria the question of nonresistance was decided by the regulation of January 1805, which stated that no creed could release a subject from military duty. But by paying a fee of 185 fl. per man of military age to pay for substitutes from voluntary recruits, they could be released. Since the introduction of universal military conscription, freedom from armed service has been completely eliminated in Bavaria. Mennonites here were not given the privilege granted by the Order of Cabinet of William I of Prussia in 1868.

King Max I (d. 1825) of Bavaria was very favorably inclined toward the Mennonites. He granted them religious freedom and all the rights of citizenship enjoyed by other subjects, and solicited their settlement in Bavaria. The fact that in 1801 the Palatinate, the home of many Mennonites, was added to his dominions, was no doubt the occasion for his action favoring Mennonite settlers. For a full account of the legal provisions made for Mennonites in the 19th century see "Bayern," Mennonitisches Lexikon I: 145-47.

Bavarian Mennonites have furnished some outstanding farmers, who in the 1950s were honored with the title of "master farmer." In the person of Elder Michael Horsch (1871-1949) of the Hellmannsberg-Ingolstadt congregation, formerly of Giebelstadt, Bavaria furnished South German Mennonitism one of its outstanding leaders of the 20th century, for a generation the leader of the Badischer Verband.

The Mennonite relief organization known as Christenpflicht was organized in 1921-1922 under the leadership of Michael Horsch, with a board of directors of the Bavarian churches, and has had its seat continuously in Ingolstadt from the beginning. An old people's home was established at Burgweinting near Regensburg in 1931, which had been begun at Niederwinser in 1929. -- Christian Neff

1990 Update

In 1987 Bavarian Mennonites were represented in eight congregations whose numbers ranged from 28 to 137; total membership was 521.

Members were scattered widely. Some, who live too far away to attend Mennonite worship regularly, worship with other denominations. A number of people take part in the life of a Mennonite congregation while retaining membership in other churches. Five congregations rented facilities in which to worship. One group, which has owned a meeting-house since 1841, built a youth retreat center nearby in 1967. Two congregations built their own facilities in 1965 and 1982 respectively. Members also gather in homes for small-group meetings.

There is a clear tendency toward team ministry; 20 lay ministers served in the congregations, four churches had salaried part-time pastors also. The traditional mode of baptism is by pouring, although some congregations are willing to perform immersion upon request. Once a year the Bavarian Mennonites gather for a one-day conference. -- Rainer W. Burkhart


Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 141-147.

Riezler, Sigmund von. Geschichte Bayerns, 9 vols. 1880-1932: v. IV.

Winter, V. A. Geschichte der bayrischen Wiedertäufer im 16. Jahrhundert. Munich, 1809.

Author(s) Christian Neff
Rainer W. Burkart
Date Published 1987

Cite This Article

MLA style

Neff, Christian and Rainer W. Burkart. "Bayern Federal State (Germany)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 3 Jul 2022.

APA style

Neff, Christian and Rainer W. Burkart. (1987). Bayern Federal State (Germany). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 3 July 2022, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 251-253; v. 5, p. 60. All rights reserved.

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