Immelhausen (Baden-Württemberg, Germany)

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Immelhausen, a village in Baden, Germany, 2.5 miles (four km) south of Sinsheim, has been the seat of a Mennonite congregation for over 250 years. The first Mennonites settled there soon after the Thirty Years' War as renters in Immelhausen and on the adjacent estates of Streichenberg, Steinsfurt, Kirchard, and Weiler, having left Switzerland on account of their faith. The authorities welcomed them into the devastated and depopulated country, but did not permit them to hold religious services without special government consent. Apparently the consent to assemble for the "admonition" was sometimes given reluctantly. They probably did not often claim this permission, since the pastors expected them to attend the regular services of the Reformed Church. How unpleasant their meetings were to church circles can be seen in the fact that the church councilors at Heidelberg in 1654 advocated non-toleration of the Mennonites if they refused to be subject to the Reformed Church. Therefore they preferred to assemble quietly, without authorization, in the woods. These secret meetings were discovered in 1654, when a marriage was performed there. The case was inflated to make it appear a public nuisance.

The Mennonites also held services in their homes, for which they had not sought permission. On 2 March 1661, 53 persons were surprised at nine o'clock in the evening in Steinsfurt as they were just beginning a hymn. They were fined 100 guilders, a heavy fine in view of the fact that their total capital amounted to only 6,000 guilders. Max Oberholzer, who had come from the canton of Zurich in 1660, had taken part in this service. His brother, Jakob Oberholzer, the father of 13 children, had come earlier. In a later cross-examination it was learned that he had left the Reformed Church in 1645 on account of the wicked lives of its members, because he was unable to take communion with them with a good conscience. He had united with the Mennonites, since all of them strove to live godly, to avoid vices, and transgressors were separated from them. His mother had previously been a Mennonite. The other participants lived at Rohrbach, Reihen, Ittlingen, Streichenberg, Weiler, Dühren, and Steinsfurt.

The Mennonites declared to the state officials that they would rather leave the country than give up their religious meetings. The authorities, acknowledging the pioneer work of the Mennonites in rebuilding the land, granted them permission to hold their services in an electoral edict on 4 August 1664. The regard their work called forth is revealed in a report of Johann Jakob Lumpert in Hilsbach, 20 October 1666, to the government, stating that the Mennonite families of his district were cultivating the electoral estates at Streichenberg, Immelhausen, Steinsfurt, and Reihen, were still clearing forests and draining marshes, and paid their debts, the poorer ones being aided in the payment of dues by those who had a little more. The electoral estates would have to lie desolate if these families moved away; among the remaining subjects one would hardly find people who could manage such estates.

When in 1671 the Swiss Mennonites had to flee from renewed oppression, leaving their property, they were willingly received in the Kurpfalz. But new congregations arose in the Immelhausen area. According to a register of 1732 there were 160 families in 13 congregations in the Palatinate east of the Rhine. To the Immelhausen church belonged 18 families who lived on adjacent estates; the names listed are Binkele, Frey, Bahr, Brand, Muller, Schaub, Gut, Gerber, Lienhard, Schneider, Huber, Eicher, Moser, Behm, and Oberholzer, whose descendants can in many cases still be found in the South German churches. A descendant of the Oberholzer family, members of which went to Pennsylvania in 1727 to 1732, was J. H. Oberholtzer, who in 1859 was the moving spirit in forming the General Conference Mennonite Church. In 1887 the baptized membership numbered 41; there were 15 children. The congregation at this time had no elder, and Christian Schmutz (ordained 1880) was its preacher. There was a meetinghouse in Immelhausen, and meetings were also held at Dühren. In 1891 the Immelhausen estate was still occupied by four Mennonite families. Of these only the Binkele family lived there in 1930. The congregation was severely weakened by emigration to Pennsylvania in the 18th century. In March 1912 it was merged with the newly organized congregation at Sinsheim, which the Ittlingenchurch also joined at the same time.

The issues of the Dutch Naamlijst 1766-1802 give some information about Immelhausen, in the issue of 1766 called "Himmelhausen, Durnen en Hönigerhoff," in 1769 "Dieren en Himmelhausen," in 1784 and following years "Diernheim en Himmelhausen." Abraham Zeiset (d. 1787) is named as the elder beginning in 1749. After his departure to the Willenbach congregation in 1783, Johannes Krehbiel was the elder. When Krehbiel moved to Bockshof in 1790, Heinrich Funck became the elder. The following preachers are mentioned in this period: Jacob Mayer 1735-ca. 1780, Jacob Platscher 1761 until after 1802, Jacob Schmutz until about 1780, Michel Bachmann until about 1767, Samuel Bär about 1768-1775, Friedrich Müller 1772-ca. 1785, Johannes Neff from 1772, and Friedrich Müller from 1786.

At the Immelhauserhof, near Immelhausen, a conference was held on 14 October 1782, for the purpose of healing the breach between the Amish and the Reist Mennonites. The Swiss delegates were Peter Ramseier, Benedict Wälti, Hans Lehmann, Hans Steiner, and David Baumgartner; from the Palatinate were Christian Hege, Abraham Ellenberger, Johann Stauffer, Michael Stiess, and Johann Möllinger.


Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 409 f.

Müller, Ernst. Geschichte der Bernischen Täufer. Frauenfeld: Huber, 1895. Reprinted Nieuwkoop : B. de Graaf, 1972: 210, 213.

Smith, C. Henry. The Mennonite Immigration to Pennsylvania in the Eighteenth Century. Norristown, 1929: 184, 196.

Author(s) Christian Hege
Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1958

Cite This Article

MLA style

Hege, Christian and Nanne van der Zijpp. "Immelhausen (Baden-Württemberg, Germany)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1958. Web. 26 Jun 2022.,_Germany)&oldid=145482.

APA style

Hege, Christian and Nanne van der Zijpp. (1958). Immelhausen (Baden-Württemberg, Germany). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 June 2022, from,_Germany)&oldid=145482.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 13-14; vol. 4, p. 1145. All rights reserved.

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