Mönchengladbach (Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany)

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Mönchengladbach (earlier München-Gladbach or often only Gladbach), a city (1950 population, 122,388; 2005 population, 261,645) in Rhineland, Germany. In the 16th and 17th centuries there were many Anabaptists in the city, and particularly in the country around it. The first information about them concerned the execution of Vwit Pilgrams, who was recognized in the cross-examination as an Anabaptist, in the district records as a Lutheran, and in the Martyrs Mirror as a "High German brother." He was seized in the winter of 1532 but was released upon the petition of friends and relatives. In 1537 he was again seized, put on the rack after a lengthy imprisonment in Grevenbroich, and after another trial with torture in Gladbach, in which he persisted in his faith as fully as in the first trial he was burned at the stake on May 26 in Gladbach with a sack of powder around his neck. The region around Gladbach was full of Anabaptists. In Odenkirchen the pastor and chaplain were Anabaptists; Adam Pastor lived there for a time and Theunis van Hastenrath had baptized there. In 1554 Grevenbroich horse guards appeared in Hardt "on account of Anabaptists." From the records of the second church inspection of Tulich in 1550 (the first one of 1533 did not include Gladbach) it is seen that there were numerous "innovators" in the Gladbach region, for the authorities were ordered to present a list of Anabaptists, Sacramentists, etc., to the secretary.

Theunis van Hastenrath confessed that he had baptized four persons in Gladbach broich and in Hoeven; of these four Paetzgen Bruwers was still named as one of the unchurched in the inspection of 1560. This inspection said concerning Gerhard von Schechtelhausen, that he could not comprehend that the true body and blood of Christ were actually in the sacrament; but he accepted it with the word in spirit and in faith. The stadholder of Gladbach was ordered to be on the lookout for suspicious books and booksellers. The government and the church tried with all measures to stop the movement. They brought the noted clergyman Matthys von Aachen, who stayed in Gladbach a week, preached against the Anabaptists, and disputed with them. It is worthy of note that the people of Gladbach in  the church inspection of  1560 asserted that they knew of no Anabaptists or rebaptized persons. They had recognized that the quiet industrious people who were for the most part native Gladbach people, had nothing to do with fanaticism of the Münsterite Anabaptists. Nevertheless the persecutions continued.

Theisz Rueden from Dülken, who was imprisoned on 26 July 1565 in Cologne with other Anabaptists, said that in the previous year he had been baptized between Gladbach and Viersen by Heinrich Krufft and Matthias Servaes, the leaders who had been preaching and baptizing in the region of Gladbach. The only other preacher he knew was "das Lampgen," who however had been deposed from his office. This was Lambert Kramer (or Lemken), who was important for the history of the Gladbach congregation and who stood with Zillis in the question of the ban and avoidance in marriage against the inexorable position of Menno Simons. He was expressly called "a High German preacher," and represented the moderate point of view of the High Germans. Matthias Servaes, who was also imprisoned in Cologne in 1665, favored unity and did not approve of excessively severe discipline, and in this spirit he admonished his Brethren in his correspondence from the prison.

In the same year the pastors of Jülich and Duren were dealing with the Anabaptists in the Gladbach district. They were to try to turn these erring ones from their error through the mercy of the Almighty. They and their preachers should be granted safe-conduct in writing.

In 1653 the Gladbach Anabaptists stated that they had been living there for more than one hundred years and had been the first to begin the trade of weaving and had propagated it. It is a question how in spite of all the decrees, of all the persecution and suppression, they were able to stay so long at one place. The answer is given in a letter to the duke by the abott, Hecken, in 1574: in the city and parish there were 150 Anabaptist families who "for their promotion (Fortpflanzung) had their preference above all others with the (ducal) officials." The magistrate (Vogt) Johann Gryn was holding his hand over them but the church did not relent in its persecution. In 1575 Daem auf der Scheuten was expelled from the country. His estates were inventoried and his three children were compulsorily baptized. Johannes Vits was ordered with other Anabaptists to appear before the theologians. The abbey did not permit any non-Catholic renters to lease its estates and did not allow the Anabaptists to have any Catholic servants. The Kirchenvroge (der Sent) in its first question dealt with the Anabaptists. But the congregation continued and in 1591 sent Toenis Comes as its representative to the Anabaptist conference at Cologne. In 1599 they were again banished from Gladbach and their estates confiscated. Most of them found a refuge in Rheydt, where the official hunted them up. As their chief minister and leader Claes in Sittard was named. This was Claas Wolters, "the preacher" who in the list of Gladbach Anabaptists of 1622 was named as the first of those living in the parish. His full name was Claas Wolters Kops of Aldenhoven. It was said he was born in 1559, the son of Wolter Kops in Hoen and Bilken ter Meer, and it is supposed that the father was pastor Wolter N., who was named in 1540 at Odenkirchen as being suspect of Anabaptism, and who preached in Hiils and Krefeld about 1550. Claas Wolters in 1611 in Haarlem, Holland, induced Leenaert Clock to leave the "Bevredigde Broederschap." Abraham Rietmacher of Aachen made this charge against Claas: It was an offense among the Anabaptists that some carried on a great mercantile business and even admitted Diener am Wort into their businesses in order to collect much money and property. This statement was aimed at the "High German preacher," who was designated as Claas Wolters. According to the list of 1622 he was carrying on a great mercantile business with yarn and linen cloth and had much capital and also a great estate. In the list 151 families and individuals were listed, most of them weavers and merchants. Two were elders in the congregation.  Some had come to the congregation from Cologne. The edicts became sharper. In 1639 a number, mostly those without financial means, immigrated to Nijmegen and became citizens there. Soon the fate of those who had remained in Gladbach was also to be decided. They had to leave their home. A list drawn up by them in 1654 named 142 families and individuals with their wives, the number of children, vocation, property, and servants. In the signature of this list they described themselves as "those who have themselves baptized upon their confessed faith." This was still the name by which Gladbach Anabaptists called themselves; they had never called themselves "Taufgesinnte" or indeed "Mennonites"; for as High Germans these terms did not describe them.

The fact that they had in 1639 purchased from the Count Palatine the right to remain in residence in Gladbach was of no benefit to them in 1642. They had to seek a new home. Many remained in the neighborhood to await developments. Others settled in Krefeld, Nijmegen, and Goch. Later they were found in Wickrath and Rheydt, until they also had to leave these places and then settled in Krefeld. A list of 1669 named 65 persons who had not availed themselves of the privilege of selling their possessions. Not until well in the following century had all Mennonitc property passed into other hands. Some individual Anabaptists tried in vain to return to Gladbach. One single one, Johann Floh, succeeded in 1667 by giving the promise that he would introduce Dutch bleaching for the especial benefit and profit of business. He was even allowed to enlarge his possession at Lüpertz in Harterbroich, but in 1694, in the final expulsion from the Jülich district, he had to leave Gladbach permanently. But even in 1743 his grandson Jacob Preyer still owned the house and the bleaching establishment there.

The ducal officials lamented the expulsion. Their income had declined so sharply that the magistrate (Vogt) at Gladbach proposed in 1705, "that the expelled Anabaptist be again soon admitted in the country for the sake of business." But in vain. The congregation of the High German Mennonites in Gladbach had come to an end in 1654.


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Author(s) Wilhelm Niepoth
Date Published 1957

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Niepoth, Wilhelm. "Mönchengladbach (Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 24 Sep 2023. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=M%C3%B6nchengladbach_(Nordrhein-Westfalen,_Germany)&oldid=167963.

APA style

Niepoth, Wilhelm. (1957). Mönchengladbach (Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 September 2023, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=M%C3%B6nchengladbach_(Nordrhein-Westfalen,_Germany)&oldid=167963.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 775-776. All rights reserved.

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