Kleve (Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany)

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Kleve (Cleves, Cleve), a town in Germany, in the province of Nordrhein-Westfalen (Rhine Province), not far from the left bank of the Rhine and the Dutch border capital of the former duchy of Cleves, with a population of 28,704 in 1950 (49,000 in 2005), was formerly the seat of a Mennonite church. Already in 1534 there were Anabaptists in Kleve. In 1546 Elder Thönis von Hastenrath stayed in Kleve and baptized there (Doopsgezinde Bijdragen 1909, 123). In 1569 a congregation existed in Kleve, which experienced the Frisian and Flemish controversies. After the invasion by the French army (1672) many members fled to Nijmegen in the Netherlands. In 1679 the Mennonite congregation carried on an active correspondence with the Dutch churches. Their church, actually a mere chapel, was on the large square, in a row of houses on the east side; it was built in 1682 with the use of space in a private residence which had been purchased. In the same year, the first church record (Kerke-Boek) was begun; it speaks of the congregation as "very old." Among the members in this period were the Leendertz, Paulus, Utzelmann, Welsing, and Moerbeek families. From 1708 to 1713 Isaak Francken was its Vorleser (leeraar). The congregation received support from Holland, and in 1726 contributed to the Amsterdam Fonds voor Buitenlandsche Nooden.

In 1743 the membership numbered 60. Willem Leendertz was their Vorleser. By 1749, when they were stronger, they acquired a pastor of their own, viz., Jelle Brouwer, who served until 1782, and was succeeded by his son Pieter Brouwer, who served until 1786. Following preachers were A. Doyer, 1787-1788; H. W. van der Ploeg, 1789-1793; J. van Hülst, 1804-1818; H. W. van Ploeg had charge of the Kleve congregation from 1818 to 1850, when it received A. C. Leendertz as its last minister, 1850-1895.

In 1794, when the French occupied Kleve and used the Lutheran and Reformed churches for the storage of hay and as stables, the Mennonites also experienced evil times. In 1801 Prussia ceded Kleve to France, which did not return it until Napoleon's final defeat. The congregation dwindled so rapidly during this time that in the 1820s the members made an arrangement with the Goch congregation, whereby the latter's preacher van der Ploeg would look after all spiritual affairs in the Kleve church as also in the united church of Emmerich-Rees. In 1842 there were only 24 members remaining. When van der Ploeg at an advanced age had to sever relations with Emmerich and Kleve, each congregation chose a preacher. Emmerich received as its preacher P. W. van Zutphen, who had been serving for 14 years, and Kleve received the candidate of the Societeit, Abraham Cornelis Leendertz, a descendant of the founders of the congregation. Leendertz preached only in Dutch; he found a pleasant field of labor here, not so much in the steadily declining congregation (1787, 69; 1861, 41; 1868, 35; and 1878, 7 members), as in Dutch families living there in summer who regularly attended his services. After the death of van der Ploeg in 1853 Leendertz also conducted monthly services in Goch. In 1895, at the age of 73, he resigned.

The church is now extinct. The slight capital remaining after dissolving the congregation was transferred to Krefeld. The church building was leased to the Dutch Reformed congregation. Up to World War II several services were conducted there each summer by Dutch Mennonite preachers for the sake of Dutch Rhinebargees.

On the Lower Rhine, in the congregations of Emmerich, Rees, Kleve, and Goch, and especially Krefeld, linen weaving was the predominant occupation. Abraham Welsing of Rees, who became a citizen of Kleve in 1671, as late as 1716 was working here with eight looms, 10 bondmen, 24 boys, and 100 women.


Crous, Ernst. "The Mennonites in Germany since the Thirty Years' War." Mennonite Quarterly Review 25 (October 1951): 250 f.

Doopsgezind Jaarboekje (1850): 63 f.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: I, 364.

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. 23, 466; II, Nos. 1164, 2571-2575, 2626, 2580.

Author(s) C. A Leendertz
Date Published 1953

Cite This Article

MLA style

Leendertz, C. A. "Kleve (Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 18 May 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Kleve_(Nordrhein-Westfalen,_Germany)&oldid=118401.

APA style

Leendertz, C. A. (1953). Kleve (Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 May 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Kleve_(Nordrhein-Westfalen,_Germany)&oldid=118401.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 626. All rights reserved.

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