Klaassen, Johann (1872-1950)

Jump to navigation Jump to search

Johann Klaassen, b. 17 March 1872, in Ladekopp, district of Halbstadt, Taurida, Russia, d. 25 June 1950, at Djakarta (Jakarta, formerly Batavia), Indonesia, was a Mennonite missionary. Initially he was trained as a businessman, but in 1893 he began his missionary studies, first at St. Chrischona near Basel, Switzerland, then at Rotterdam in the Netherlands. In the meanwhile he had been ordained as a preacher in Russia (9 June 1896). After he had finished his studies, being appointed missionary by the Dutch Mennonite Mission Association, he sailed for Java, now Indonesia, then Dutch East Indies, where he arrived on the field in March 1899. He was active in Margaredjo until June 1905 when he returned to Europe because of illness. In his first Indonesian period he had been married 6 July 1903 to Magdalena Horsch from Gelchsheim, Germany, sister of Michael and John Horsch. He remained in Europe until August 1908. The European period was devoted to medical studies and trips in Holland, Germany, Switzerland, and Russia to arouse interest in missions. Back at Java he was in charge of a large field, serving Margaredjo, Kedung-Pendjalin, Kaju-Apu, and Pati. After 1910, when missionary Johann Hubert had come back from Europe, he served only at Kaju-Apu and Pati. Here he worked with much blessing as an evangelist, as a teacher, and also doing some medical work. From 1913 to 1923 he lived in Europe, at first at Lautenbach, then mostly in Heilbronn, Germany. But though far from the mission field, he did not forget his "brown brethren" and traveled widely to preach and to collect money for the mission work. Because of the war and political changes in Russia after 1914 he was unable to enter his native country and lost touch with its congregations. He became a German citizen in 1915.

From April 1923 to 8 January 1925 Klaassen again was on the Java mission field, now serving Margaredjo and the leper colony of Donorodjo. In the spring of 1925, after having visited the Dutch Mennonite mission of Pakanten on the island of Sumatra, he returned to Germany. The following years were devoted to mission promotion until he returned to the mission field for the fourth time in 1939. On the mission field he found his children: Helene, a nurse, married in 1926 to the missionary Hermann Schmitt, Maria, also a nurse, and Martha, married to the missionary Otto Stauffer. He re-entered Java as a widower, his wife having died in 1929. He now lived mostly in the home of Hermann Schmitt in Kudus. After a year of happiness and blessings among his relatives, bitter years followed. At the outbreak of the war between Germany and the Netherlands both Schmitt and Stauffer, being German subjects, were interned in a camp and in 1942 both perished when their ship, transporting them from Java to India, was torpedoed. Other calamities followed: hostilities of the Muslims, the Japanese invasion in 1942, and 1945 the troubles which accompanied the political movement of independence of the republic of Indonesia loosed from the Dutch motherland, the communistic disturbances, the attacks of fanatical Muslim bands against missionaries and native Christians, and the guerrilla wars of 1948-1949. In all these troubles and disasters Klaassen remained loyal to his faith and continued to serve his Lord as much as he could. On 6 January 1950 he took leave of his beloved mission field, delivering a short address in the church of Kelet. It was his intention to go to his daughter's home in California, but while in Djakarta he had a stroke and died there on 25 June 1950.

Klaassen was a man of steadfast simple piety, whose preaching and life was able to strike many hearts and to win over for the church of Christ a large number of Javanese natives.


"Johann Klaassen."Mennonitischer Gemeinde-Kalender (1952): 19-39. Part I auto­biographical, Part II by Maria Klaassen, Part III by Gerhard Hein.

Reports of the Dutch Mennonite Mission Association.

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1957

Cite This Article

MLA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. "Klaassen, Johann (1872-1950)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 27 Sep 2020. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Klaassen,_Johann_(1872-1950)&oldid=119319.

APA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der. (1957). Klaassen, Johann (1872-1950). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 27 September 2020, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Klaassen,_Johann_(1872-1950)&oldid=119319.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 188-189. All rights reserved.

©1996-2020 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.