Realanstalt am Donnersberg (Weierhof, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany)

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Realanstalt am Donnersberg, a Mennonite school at the Weierhof, Palatinate, Germany. Michael Lowenberg, the pastor of the Weierhof congregation, established a small school called the "Lehr- und Erziehungsanstalt," which opened at the Weierhof on 2 December 1867. Responsibility for the school was borne by the School Association composed of Mennonite friends living at Weierhof and vicinity. Classes met in Lowenberg's home; the students were lodged in the "Weavers' Cabin." It was the purpose of this school to give the boys two years of training, particularly religious training, beyond the public school, similar to that offered in the Zeller institutions at Beuggen, Switzerland, and in the schools of the Moravian Brethren. The plan was to add a Bible school to train Mennonite ministers. The attendance was good.

A school building was erected slightly north of Weierhof and opened 22 September 1869, with financial support from the Mennonites of the community, and also especially from Krefeld. In 1873 the enrollment consisted of 25 resident students and 25 day students. There were probably three teachers. The plan for a ministerial school was dropped for lack of patronage. A crisis arose when the state insisted on the fulfillment of its requirements in the school and the founder died in 1874. Following this there were many changes in the office of principal.

In 1884 Ernst Göbel, a former student at Weierhof, consented to become principal of the school, which then had 9 resident students and 15 day students. He had been a teacher at the Rauhes Haus at Hamburg. The objective he set for himself was to give the boys a thorough secondary education, as well as family-style religious and moral training. In the autumn of that year the school was made a six-year Realschule with a dormitory. Under the direction of Ernst Göbel and his brother Gustav Göbel, who came to the school in 1892 and served on the teaching staff and as business manager, and the co-operation of David Krehbiel besides younger teachers, the school made rapid progress, becoming, in spite of tremendous difficulties, one of the outstanding secondary schools in the Palatinate. In the course of time the plant was also developed to provide for normal extracurricular activities. In 1935-36 the enrollment was 246, of which 20 were Mennonites. The local Mennonite pastor for almost 50 years, Christian Neff, regularly taught the Bible and religion classes, but the school otherwise did not have a particularly Mennonite character, even though the Board of Directors was Mennonite.

In 1936 the school was taken over by the Nazi Party, and after World War II (1945) by the French occupation forces. In 1957 the American military, which had used the school for several years for a specialized training school, promised to return it to the Mennonite owners. Meanwhile, despairing of regaining the school property, the Board had purchased in 1952 a building in Kirchheimbolanden, two miles from the Weierhof, to serve as a boarding and rooming dormitory (Schülerheim) for Mennonite and other boys attending the Kirchheimbolanden high school, using the rent received from the military authorities for the Weierhof school property to help maintain the new student home. In 1957 a total of 90 boys were occupying the student home, of whom, however, only 20 were Mennonites. There were in addition 30 Mennonite day students, making a total of 50 Mennonite boys in the school. No other such concentration of Mennonites in any school was found in German- or French-speaking Europe at the time. The assistant principal, Dr. Horst Penner, was a Mennonite, several other Mennonite teachers from the old Weierhof faculty were on the Kirchheimbolanden school staff, and a Mennonite couple was serving as house parents for the student home. The Weierhof Mennonite pastor had been teaching Bible for the Mennonite students since 1953.

The Weierhof Board since about 1930 was no longer been exclusively Mennonite, even though the majority of the members still were in the late 1950s. At the time it was clear that the Mennonites were not able to finance a school alone, nor did they have a sufficient faculty. It also seemed uncertain whether there would ever be enough Mennonite students to make the Weierhof school, should it be reopened, a predominantly Mennonite school. The Weierhof school board hoped to reopen the school in 1959.


Göbel, Gustav. “Ernst Göbel.” Mennonitischer Gemeinde-Kalender (1936): 47 ff.

Händiges, Emit. "Zum fünfzigjährigen Jubiläum der Real- und Erzielumgsanstalt auf dem Weierhof am Donnersberg." Mennonitische Blätter (1920): 91-97 (with five photographs).

Haury, Helmut. "Die Weierhofer Schule." Mennonitisches Jahrbuch (1955): 17 ff.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. III: 432 f.

Schowalter, Paul. "Die Schule auf dem Weierhof." Mennonitischer Gemeinde-Kalender (1958): 47-60.

Author(s) Helmut Haury
Christian Galle
Date Published 1959

Cite This Article

MLA style

Haury, Helmut and Christian Galle. "Realanstalt am Donnersberg (Weierhof, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 2 Dec 2023.,_Rheinland-Pfalz,_Germany)&oldid=146689.

APA style

Haury, Helmut and Christian Galle. (1959). Realanstalt am Donnersberg (Weierhof, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 2 December 2023, from,_Rheinland-Pfalz,_Germany)&oldid=146689.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 257-258. All rights reserved.

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