Gerolsheim (Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany)

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Gerolsheim, a village in the Palatinate, Germany, not far from Frankental, where the Mennonites were early found. Before the Thirty Years' War few clues can be found. A Jakob Raab of Ginsheim settled here; on 9 December 1581 he renounced his faith and presented his four unbaptized children for baptism (Hege, 137). It can safely be assumed that there were Anabaptists in Gerolsheim at that time, for there were many in the vicinity. Through persecution by the government and the horrors of the Thirty Years' War most of them perished. Two families may have survived, who are mentioned in the first list of Mennonites of the Karlsruhe Generallandesarchiv of 1664—Heinrich Cassel and Julius Cassel. Their origin is not known. The former was a Mennonite preacher. In 1685 and 1697 the lists name eight Mennonite families in Gerolsheim. The village belonged to the Barons of Dalsberg. Therefore the Mennonites were excused from the payment of protection fees in 1700-1759. In the list of 1759 the following are mentioned: Peter Schmid, a son and three daughters; Jakob Peters' (?) widow, a son and two daughters; Jakob Hirschler, three sons and four daughters; Ulrich Borckholder, three sons and three daughters; and Christian Müller's widow, a daughter. The Mennonites of Gerolsheim had merged with those at Heppenheim an der Wiese and Obersülzen in a single congregation. Services were held in succession in these places, in Gerolsheim in a hall furnished for the purpose and later in a chapel, the property of Preacher David Kaegy of Bolanderhof. After the erection of the church in Obersülzen (1868) services were no longer held in Gerolsheim.

After 1702 Hans Burkholder served the congregation as preacher until his death in 1752. In 1758-1782 Jakob Hirschler was elder, followed by Johannes Lehmann. The Mennonites living in Dirmstein and Offstein worshiped with this congregation, which in 1732 consisted of 40 families (Müller, Berner Täufer, 211). In 1833-1854 Johann Borkholder was their preacher. According to Frey the Mennonites in Gerolsheim numbered 32 souls in 1806 and 36 in 1834. In 1845 the families of Heinrich Burkholder, Stefan Göbels, Johann Schowalter, Johannes Schowalter, Jakob Suter's widow, Jakob Burkholder, and Stefan Hirschler were living there. A memorandum by David Kaegy (Offstein) says: "House, barn, stable, yard (Hof), and garden in Gerolsheim I gave my daughter Barbara and her husband on August 3, 1843. But since the Mennonite congregation has the upper room for a place of meeting, even if the congregation no longer wishes to use it and the owner himself uses it, the owner must pay the congregation 100 guilders and give up the chairs, stoves, table, and benches in the upper room and the smaller room without remuneration. The furniture belongs to the congregation." In 1926 there were two families left—Schowalter and Suter. -- Christian Neff

The Mennonite archives at Amsterdam contain about 80 letters written by Gerolsheim Mennonites to the Amsterdam congregation, specifically to the secretary of the Fonds voor Buitenlandsche Nooden (Inv. Arch. Amst). The first of these letters is dated 28 September 1689 (written by Heinrich Cassel); the last is dated 12 July 1783. These letters, containing much information on the coming of the Swiss Brethren to Gerolsheim and the Palatinate, are very valuable for the light they throw on the social and political conditions of the Palatine Mennonites in the 18th century. The letters also contain information on the Gerolsheim congregation and its preachers. In 1730 the congregation was obliged to pay a fee of 1,500 guilders for the coronation of the new elector (in addition to their regular poll tax). In 1741 the elector doubled the poll tax. In 1744-45 they were disturbed by the French, English, and Austrian armies. In 1744 there was also much trouble widi the government; they were not permitted to bury their dead in the cemeteries, and their marriages were hindered. Many wanted to emigrate to the Netherlands or to Pennsylvania. In 1744 they were afraid they would be expelled from the country. In 1744 also they wrote that they had vainly appealed to the mercy of Lord Dalensberg, to whom Gerolsheim had been allotted.

There were troubles within the congregation. The Amish, who boasted of their Feinheit, were (1744) intolerant and merciless toward Hans Burckholder and his followers, who were ziemlich grob (less strict), Rudolf Egli was a spendthrift, and Hans Landis, who had gone to Holland to collect money, was a deceiver. Christian Burckholder, the son of Hans (1764) and deacon of the Gerolsheim congregation, had embezzled the poor-funds and retained for private use the contributions sent by Amsterdam in 1762-63, and had been dismissed and banned. Christian himself wrote on 27 February 1765 a letter of regret and repentance to Amsterdam. The Committee for Foreign Needs at Amsterdam gave financial aid a number of times. It contributed to relief for losses from rinderpest, crop failure, iood, fire, and sickness. On 7 October 1776 Jakob Hirschler wrote that the meetinghouse built about a century ago had been severely damaged by a storm, and that they wanted to have a new one built. The Gerolsheim congregation, he wrote, had 32 families and 100 members; he asked for financial aid, which was given. In 1783 Amsterdam also contributed to a new meetinghouse built in Heppenheim. Most of these letters were written by Heinrich Cassel (2), Hans Burckholder (49), Christian Burckholder (13), and Jakob Hirschler (4), who also signed a number written by Hans and Christian Burckholder. -- Nanne van der Zijpp


Frey, Michael. Versuch einer geographisch-historisch-statistischen Beschreibung des königlichen bayerischen Rheinkreises. Speyer, 1836-1837.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 81.

Hege, Christian. Die Täufer in der Kurpfalz: ein Beitrag zur badisch-pfälzischen Reformationsgeschichte. Frankfurt am Main: Kommissionsverlag von H. Minjon, 1908.

Hoop Scheffer, Jacob Gijsbert de. Inventaris der Archiefstukken berustende bij de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam, 2 vols. Amsterdam: Uitgegeven en ten geschenke aangeboden door den Kerkeraad dier Gemeente, 1883-1884: I, Nos. 1420, 1422, 1454-1467, 1474-1475, 1483-1537, 1539-1541, 1547-1548, 1550; II, Nos. 687, 690

Müller, Ernst. Geschichte der Bernischen Täufer. Frauenfeld: Huber, 1895. Reprinted Nieuwkoop: B. de Graaf, 1972.

Author(s) Christian Neff
Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1956

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MLA style

Neff, Christian and Nanne van der Zijpp. "Gerolsheim (Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 16 Jun 2024.,_Germany)&oldid=144145.

APA style

Neff, Christian and Nanne van der Zijpp. (1956). Gerolsheim (Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 16 June 2024, from,_Germany)&oldid=144145.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 501-502. All rights reserved.

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