Württemberg, formerly one of the larger states of Germany (1939, 7,532 sq. mi., and pop. 2,896,820), was located between Baden and Bavaria. Once a duchy, Württemberg became a kingdom in 1806 and a republic in 1918. After World War II Württemberg became part of Württemberg-Baden and Württemberg-Hohenzollern. After the Federal Republic of Germany was formed in 1949, these two states merged with Baden in 1952 to become the modern state of Baden-Württemberg. Württemberg was composed of the former duchy of Württemberg, the gravures of Hohenberg, Hohenlohe, Limpurg, Lowenstein, part of the margravure of Ansbach-Bayreuth, the Landvogtei of Swabia, the realm of the counts of Thurn and Taxis, 18 imperial cities, and numerous knightly estates and monasteries. In the time of the Reformation these were still independent. After the time of Napoleon, that is, after 1801, the Mennonites of all Württemberg are included here.
In 1520-1534 the duchy of Württemberg was under the domination of Austria, since the Swabian League had expelled Duke Ulrich because of a murder and had sold the country to Austria. The Anabaptists had been active here since the execution of Michael Sattler in May 1527. The government had become attentive to this movement proceeding from Horb and Rottenberg, and from Esslingen and Gmünd. On 26 January 1528, King Ferdinand gave orders to the government as to procedure with the Anabaptists. The Anabaptists were classed with murderers, arsonists, and vagabonds. The provost of the Swabian League, Berthold Aichelin, also carried on his nefarious work in this duchy and here came to an infamous end. The trial of Augustin Bader took place in Stuttgart. With his execution the very small chiliastic revolutionary group in Württemberg had come to an end. But the regular peaceful Anabaptists were active here continuously from 1526. The Hutterian Brethren also were active and sent emissaries from Moravia, who won more and more new followers in this country which had meanwhile been subject to a famine. The Swiss Brethren found the greatest response. After Michael Sattler had gathered these quiet Anabaptists, who were entirely bent upon living a holy life quite in accord with the Scripture like the first Anabaptists in Zürich, this group established itself firmly in Württemberg. Not until the Thirty Years' War did this type of Anabaptism die out. The Anabaptist striving for sanctification, however, continued later in Pietism that was connected with the established church.
The Anabaptist literature was feared. All booksellers' wares were checked. The Anabaptists were not only accused of murder and arson but they were also blamed for the increase in divorces. Indeed, continuance of marriage with an unbeliever was a very serious question for an Anabaptist.
The Austrian government condemned Aichelin's brutal proceedings and tried to hold strictly to legal process. But this process provided for capital punishment for Anabaptists. The Swabian spirit rebelled against such measures. Even though the government might have the imperial mandates solemnly read in the churches, an effort was still made to convert the Anabaptists by having preachers and university professors debate with them. Only the most obstinate were punished with death. A Hutterite martyr catalog of 1531 names 55 from Württemberg out of a total of 410. A later catalog of 1581 counts 67 from Württemberg among a total of 2,169 blood witnesses. But these figures are not exact. There were more victims in Württemberg than these, since it has been shown that there are more places in which capital punishment was applied than those named in these sketches.
When Duke Ulrich returned to his country in 1534-50, Anabaptist executions ceased. To be sure, the Strasbourg Reformers Capito and Bucer warned the Duke against the Anabaptists and against Schwenckfeld. In the Peace of Kaaden Ulrich obligated himself to punish them. But the treatment grew more lenient. On 18 June 1535, Ulrich's first Anabaptist mandate concerning the treatment of recanting Anabaptists was published. These recanters were to give up all connections with Anabaptists and to obey the government in all things, hence also to attend the established religious services and communion; "corner preachers" traveling through were to be reported like vagabonds; backsliders were to be punished with death. At first the horror of the events in Münster in 1534-1535 affected the Duke's judgment. But after its fall Ulrich sought advice of the jurists at the University of Tübingen. Their answer of 9 June 1536, to be sure, pointed to the imperial law requiring the death of such Anabaptists, but it recommended lenience. The theologians advised lenience because these simple people "see in these mild spirits such a fine appearance of life and, on the other hand, with us and the great crowd of our people unfortunately such a wild, bold, and degraded life." The death penalty, they said, would deprive the victim of the possibility of conversion. Arrest would prevent infection and would give opportunity for a change of mind. Expulsion from the country, they said, is unbrotherly since in that way ruin goes to the other countries. Here they were expressing the ideas of Johannes Brenz, the Reformer of Nürnberg.
The ducal regulation of 1536 emanates from these views of the theologians and jurists. Anabaptists were arrested and under the threat of the rack were questioned (1) regarding any possible participation in the Peasants' War; (2) concerning the time, place, participants, leaders, and the reason of Anabaptism; (3) concerning infant baptism, communion, the oath, the Christian character of the government, and participation in war; (4) concerning the restoration of all things, concerning the sonship of Christ and His sufficient atonement; (5) concerning possible recantation. If they recanted they had to give up all Anabaptist living and under oath vow obedience to the temporal and to the spiritual authorities. Backsliding would be punished by death. The leaders were questioned more strictly, probably under torture, concerning their adherents, their peculiar doctrine, whether they had anything to do with Münster or Moravia, concerning their signs of recognition, whether they had any plans for violence. The authorities feared the overthrow of all social order. As a punishment banishment was provided as well as confiscation of property, and death in the case of illegal return. Skilled clergymen were engaged to instruct the prisoners.
An Anabaptist by the name of Hans Fritz of Dettingen said in 1565 that he had previously been questioned by Erhard Schnepf and others but that he had been permitted to keep his faith. Proceedings were thus apparently not violent.
The Anabaptists preferably stayed near the state borders. They held their meetings in secluded places. Popular with them was the song written by Jorg Wagner, who was burned at the stake at Münich in 1527. They recognized each other by the greeting, "The grace of the Lord be with us all."
A number of noblemen gave them protection and lodging in their villages; for example, the Weittershausens at Bromberg near Hohenhaslach, the Nippenburgs in Schwieberdingen and Hemmingen, the Thumbs in Köngen and Stetten. The Anabaptist economic capability and honesty stood them in good stead. Their nonresistance made them adaptable.
The interim government of Charles V brought the Anabaptists a certain lessening of danger; the attention of the authorities was diverted. Since the Moravian Landtag of 1547 decided not to tolerate more than 5 to 7 persons living in one house, the Bruderhofs of the Hutterian Brethren had consequently become impossible there, and some of them returned to their old homes. A more careful distinction was now made in Württemberg between the Hutterian Brethren, the Swiss Brethren, and the Schwenckfelders. The earnestness of the Anabaptists was recognized; but the fear of possible revolutionary efforts continued for a long time and accounts for Ulrich's serious doubts even about the peaceful Anabaptists.
Under Duke Christoph, 1550-1568, the Anabaptist movement increased, probably in consequence of the work of the Hutterian Brethren in the country. The Treaty of Passau gave the Duke a free hand. In 1553 the church inspection regulation stipulated that the superintendents and the church councils should consult together four times a year concerning the Anabaptists and the Schwenckfelders. Thus the Württemberg synod owes its creation to the struggle with the "sects." On 14 June 1554, an order was issued not only against "Kaspar Schwenckfeld's own accursed person," but also against the Anabaptists. Jacob Andreae no doubt incited the Duke to this measure; he had had to deal with Anabaptists from Stauffen in his parish at Göppingen. The order required church attendance, forbade all meetings of Anabaptists, and required immediate reports about everything. The trial in 1557 of the Rapp brothers reveals the Duke's zeal for pure doctrine. Brenz and the court chaplain Bidembach took the greatest pains to convert the two brothers. With the younger one they succeeded, but the older one remained stiff-necked and was expelled from the country. At the disputation at Pfeddersheim on 24 August 1557, Andreae won to his side the magistrate (Vogt) of Alzey who had favored the Anabaptists.
In Worms Brenz and Andreae in 1557 took part in composing the Prozess wie es soil gehalten werden mit den Wiedertäufem. Brenz was a signatory. But it is somewhat remarkable that the recommendation of the death penalty and the reference to Servetus' execution is crossed out. Who did this can no longer be ascertained, whether Brenz or the Duke. But the crossing is clear evidence of the strong feeling in Württemberg against the shedding of blood in spite of Lev. 24:16, "He that blasphemeth . . . shall surely be put to death."
On 25 June 1558, Duke Christoph issued the mandate that remained authoritative for dealing with all sectarians, including the Anabaptists. It gives the exact questions by which the Anabaptists were to be cross-examined. If the leaders did not give adequate answers they were to be tortured. Repentant ones were to recant before the assembled congregation. Obstinate ones were to be kept in prison. Property confiscated from the Anabaptists was to be used for the expenses of the prisoners and for their innocent dependents. One of the questions asked was whether a Christian may dismiss his wife for confessional reasons, and how many wives one may have.
The Duke's zeal induced the people of Esslingen on 5 July 1562, to arrest some Swiss Brethren who were at a meeting in the Heinbachtal and to examine them. The prisoners were all from Württemberg. They were dismissed after a few weeks upon their promise to avoid the city. In 1563 an Anabaptist, Barbara Loffler of Stuttgart, was branded because she had backslidden into Anabaptism. In 1557 began the 19-year imprisonment of the Hutterite Paul Glock in Hohenwittlingen.
The verdict of popular opinion concerning the Duke's zeal to preserve the pure doctrine was, "The pope compelled us to attend communion with the ban, but you with the tower [prison]," as an Anabaptist said in 1565. Everywhere the Anabaptists sought earnestly for sanctification. In 1569 an Anabaptist exile wrote to the government: "It gave me offense to see that so many go to the Lord's Supper heedlessly out of old habit; they are this year like last year and last year like this year and I have not seen any change in them nor any laying aside of the old Adam."
The Lutheran state church was established under Duke Christoph. Brenz's idea that heretics should be attacked only with the Word disappeared. In 1557 Andreae still preached his 33 sermons against all sectarians including the Anabaptists, but without success. Nevertheless for the sake of their clarity they are worth reading.
The bad life of many an official under Duke Louis, 1568-93, and a number of famines induced many Württembergers to follow the call to Moravia as the promised land of all Anabaptists. Twice a year their missioners appeared in the country. But the Swiss Brethren were also at work, though very quietly. The period of the developing Formula of Concord, to which Jacob Andreae was giving his attention, was a time of strong increase of Anabaptism in Moravia as well as in Württemberg. The tone of the records becomes harder. A marginal note, "Just deal harshly with this little rabble of rogues," may have come from the Duke. The Anabaptist leaders are now called "work devils" and their preaching a "chattering." The Anabaptist regulation was revised and expanded in 1570-1571. A clear distinction was made now between leaders and the simple Anabaptists. The rack was used more frequently; the introduction of capital punishment was considered but rejected. In the period of the Duke's minority outstanding officials and theologians paid close attention to the Anabaptists. The witch trials compelled everyone everywhere to make a clear statement of faith. What was one to say about divorce for reasons of faith? How should one deal with people who secretly lodged their Anabaptist relatives? Should one leave Anabaptist wives in the country or expel them if their families remained true to the church? What should one do with children of Anabaptists? Should they be baptized and taken from their parents, or should they be permitted to leave the country with their parents? What should become of the lords who have taken Anabaptists on their estates? A number of questions had to be discussed and newly regulated. In 1584 the regulation was again reviewed and sharpened.
The theologians expressed themselves as opposed to the death penalty which had been advised by the jurists, Biedenbach in 1570 and more especially Lukas Osiander in 1584. One of Osiander's main arguments was that the Papists might likewise apply the death penalty against Protestants if one used it against Anabaptists. The Duke decided to wait and to follow the milder way. The numerous church inspections occurring twice annually after 1573 brought much difficulty and annoyance but little success. When an Anabaptist escaped out of the country there was occasionally a note in the margin of the records, "Is probably outside." If the inspection brought an Anabaptist to the preaching or communion service, a "thank God" shows the mind of the church council. Often, however, one reads: "One must commit it to God."
Duke Frederick, 1593-1608, who was always in need of money, had the land procurator Esslinger ascertain the exact amount of the Anabaptist estates, and rent them out. The proceeds were to go directly to the Duke instead of to the church treasury. He wanted to use the money for the church in his newly founded Freudenstadt. Thus the question of faith became one of finances. The most dubious thing was that even the young theologians began to occupy themselves with the books of the Anabaptists. Menno's Foundation Book and the hymns of the Swiss Brethren were found among them now and then.
The property of the Anabaptists was reckoned after 1604 at some 55,293 guilders. In 1630 there were still 24,000 guilders. After this there is no official estimate concerning the Anabaptists and their property.
In the Thirty Years' War the Anabaptists finally died out in Württemberg. Individual Anabaptists found there later were only temporarily in the country.
The Anabaptists of Württemberg were usually peasants and vinedressers. Occasionally there were also other vocations represented among them, particularly physicians. For example, Jörg Wernlin, called Scherer, who died ca. 1559 in Kirchenkirnberg and is often named as a zealous leader of the Swiss Brethren, remained in the country for a long time; he had once vainly sought connections with the Hutterian Brethren in Moravia. Indeed, even a Lutheran deacon, M. Johann Walch, had to be dismissed in 1582, who at first immigrated to Moravia, but later went to Strasbourg and from there kept in contact with the Swiss Brethren in Württemberg.
According to the Anabaptist census of 4 December 1570, there were 129 Anabaptists in the duchy; in the district of Lorch alone there were 109. In official circles the number of stiff-necked ones was reckoned at at least 100, who were to be kept in permanent imprisonment and which would cause an expense of 5,000 guilders annually.
In Moravia many "Swabians" (Anabaptists who stemmed from Württemberg) occupied outstanding positions among the Hutterian Brethren. Among their bishops was Sebastian Dietrich of Markgroningen, a widely renowned physician, 1611-1619. His successors, Ulrich Jaussling (Jaussle, Jausel) 1619-1621, Valentin Winter 1622-1631, and Heinrich Hartman 1631-1639, were probably also Swabians. Andreas Ehrenpreis 1639-1662, stemmed from Illingen. He was the object of a written attack by the Stuttgart provost Melchior Nicolai in 1650. His successor, Johann Rieger (Rinker, Rükker), 1662-1687, was probably from Hohenstaufen. He was replaced by Johann Milter, 1687-1688, of Dettingen near Kirchheim; then followed Caspar Eglauch of Bartenbach 1688-1693; Tobias Bertsch 1694-1701 was from the Maulbronn district; Zacharias Walter, the grandson of the founder of the Anabaptist settlement in Alwinz in Transylvania, who had come from Oetisheim, was their last bishop, 1746-1761. Also among the Hutterite preachers and managers there was a series of Swabians - Hasel, Glock, Binder, Hans Schmidt, and Wernlin.
By 1570 the various forms of Anabaptism were well recognized in Württemberg; distinctions were made between the Hutterites, the Moserites, the Hofer Brethren, in contradistinction to the Davidjorists, the Münsterites, and the followers of Servetus. The Hofer group was an offshoot of the Hutterites; the Moser group must have been Swiss Brethren. The difference between the Hutterites and the Swiss Brethren lay not only in the question of private or communal property but also in doctrine. But in common to both was the striving for holiness, which always made an impression on the churchmen. One found among them, the "poor erroneous but not bad-hearted people, a great, ardent, but unintelligent zeal," whereas the people of the Black Forest thought: "He who does not carry a sword and leads an inoffensive life is an Anabaptist." In 1574 it was said in Rosenfeld, "If one does not curse or go into the tavern, one is an Anabaptist." The magistrates, however, said from their experience that they had never yet heard of a Hutterite who had denied his faith. Life and doctrine were in their case integrated, as was said in Gündelbach. The Junker of Hemmingen had an Anabaptist buried honorably in the cemetery, saying that he considered him a saved man; if he were to the today or tomorrow he would not want to get into any other heaven but the one into which this Anabaptist had gone. Such voices testify to the impression made by the quiet walk of the Swiss Brethren as well as by the steadfastness of the Hutterian Brethren. The Anabaptists differed sharply from Schwenckfeld, as is clearly shown in the dispute between Schwenckfeld and Pilgram Marpeck, but a quiet life and striving for holiness was characteristic of both groups. Conspicuous in the Anabaptist testimonies is the frequent use of the fourth book of Ezra and the preference for the Epistle of James. Besides their greeting, another common point of distinction was their homemade, simple clothing.
After 1571 obstinate Anabaptist women were forged to chains. A church funeral was denied Anabaptists, and many were branded. The leaders were often held in prison for many years. Paul Glock was released only because the Duke pardoned him for his outstanding work in extinguishing a fire.
The same villages in which Anabaptists had once appeared later had a great inclination to Pietism. The church managed to keep the latter in the church, especially through the influence of J. A. Bengel in the Pietist Edict of 1743, since the leaders recognized that these Pietists were striving for quiet conduct, for holiness, and for edification; indeed the church often won them as energetic promoters of the church life. This it had failed to do in the case of the Anabaptists.
A part of the Anabaptists in South Germany, the immediate followers of Pilgram Marpeck and Leupold Scharnschlager, ca. 1530-55, seem to have formed a group somewhat distinct from the Swiss Brethren, although the differences were not great. They were sometimes called "Pilgramites." J. J. Kiwiet considers this group to have originated as followers of Hans Denck and Hans Hut, rather than Michael Sattler and his associates, and thus to have had a distinct origin from the Swiss Brethren proper. (See Kiwiet's Pilgram Marbeck and the article Marpeck.) He holds that Marpeck succeeded in bringing together his group and the Swiss Brethren by about 1555, as well as the remnants of the Hofmannites. No doubt there were Pilgramites in Württemberg, although TA Württemberg contains no references to this group, and the only group name that appears in the official records is Swiss Brethren.
In 1763-1765 Mennonites are named in Bonfeld and Fürfeld in (what was later) northwestern Württemberg as renters on the Gemmingen estates: Heinrich Beer and Jakob Ebe. These villages were then not yet politically a part of Württemberg. In 1801 Duke Frederick granted the Mennonite renters of the estate of Lautenbach near Neckarsulm, after it had become a part of Württemberg, the privilege to take over in lease some of the estates in his land. In return they were to pay a fee for protection. They could not acquire the right of citizenship but they received the right to hold worship in their homes and complete toleration of their religious opinions and their religious usages as far as to instruct their children in their religious concepts. A vow was permitted to take the place of the oath. In accord with the decree of the minister of justice of 30 April 1845, the formula of affirmation for the Mennonites read: "With a solemn reference to Matthew 5:37 I assure the government instituted by God, that in the matter in which I am being heard in a legal matter I will tell all that is known to me about it in a pure, unfalsified truth, and will conceal nothing, with 'yes,'" which words were to be fortified by a handclasp of the one obligated to the oath.
According to the decree of 20 June 1807, the Mennonites were to be tolerated and permitted to stay in that kingdom as long as they behaved well; but they should by no means be granted the right of citizenship if they would not personally serve in the army.
According to the regulation of military conscription of 20 August, Section 13, the Mennonites could choose to pay a certain amount of redemption money in place of military service. On 18 February 1810, King Frederick commanded that the funds of the Anabaptists who were subject to military duty should be treated like the funds of the Jews.
With the introduction of general military duty the right of exemption by redemption payment ended. On the basis of the standardization of the Württemberg military service regulations with those of Prussia in the formation of an imperial army, the Prussian Order of Cabinet of 31 January 1868, was authoritative also for the Mennonites in Württemberg. It specified that Mennonites subject to military duty could render noncombatant service in the hospital corps, or as secretaries in the army, as well as craftsmen and with the transportation corps.
The first Mennonites came to Württemberg about 1801. Soon after some came as renters on the estates of the Imperial Knights which had passed to the realm of Württemberg, such as Willenbach, Hosselinshof, Seehof, Sülzhof near Neckarsulm, Breitenau near Weinsberg, Liebenstein near Besigheim, Mühlhausen near Cannstadt. Some of these estates are now leased to sugar factories and therefore the Mennonites have disappeared from them. But many are still living on estates scattered largely in the northern half of the country and are highly valued for their farming capability. Lautenbach, Willenbach, Liebenstein, Breitenau are among those still or again in Mennonite hands. Others have moved to the cities and have opened businesses or have adopted other vocations. The Lichdi chain of grocery stores is owned and operated by a Mennonite preacher, with office in Heilbronn. According to the census of 1868 Mennonites in Württemberg were
distributed as follows:
|Name of Township (Oberamt)||Male||Female|
|Total for the Neckar district||48||49|
|Total in the Jagst district||49||36|
There were therefore in Württemberg 182, of whom 141 were adults.
In the later census lists the Mennonites are often grouped together with the Baptists and other religious parties under the heading "Of other confession," so that it is impossible to set up a list of places where the Mennonites of Württemberg lived as can be done for Baden and Bavaria. But the total Mennonite population in 1905 was 272, and in 1925 was 729, a remarkable growth. Of the 729 in 1925, 173 were in cities of over 10,000 population; 37 in cities over 5,000 population, a total of 210 in the cities; the other 519 were in the country. In agriculture there were 282, in crafts and industry 83, in trade and transportation 56, in offices and schools 44, in the public health and welfare departments 22, in domestic service 13, and with unnamed work 98. One sees how predominant agriculture was, but how more and more the Mennonites have been turning to city vocations.
In 1958 Württemberg had the following six congregations, all members of the Badisch-Württembergisch-Bayrisch Gemeinde-Verband : Heilbronn (org. 1890, 120 members), Nesselbach (1890, 28), Mockmühl ( 1914, 23), Stuttgart (1933, 111), Reutlingen (1948, 53), and Backnang (1947, 292), a total of 627 baptized members. The Backnang congregation consists wholly of refugees from Poland and Russia now settled in the Sachsenweiler Siedlung at the edge of Backnang. All the other congregations consist of descendants of the original Swiss immigrant stock of 1650-1750, which first came to the Karlsruhe-Durlach and Heidelberg-Sinsheim areas (the latter formerly Palatinate). Only Heilbronn and Backnang have meetinghouses of their own; the other congregations use rented meeting rooms.
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Bossert, Gustav. "Wiedertäuferbischofe aus Württemberg und Schwaben ausserhalb Schwabens." Schwabischer Merkur (9 June 1930, and 8 Feb. 1923).
Grüneisen, Karl. "Abriss einer Geschichte der religiosen Gemeinschaften in Württemberg mit besonderer Rucksicht." Zeitschrift für historische Theology. (1841): 63-142, which also appeared as “Geschichte der neuen Taufgesinnten in Württemberg”, and was translated into Dutch as Mennonieten en Doopsgezinden in Württemberg. Amsterdam, (1848).
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. IV.
Hillerbrand, Hans. The politische Ethik des oberdeutschen Täufertums. Gutersloh, 1959.
Kiwiet, Jan J. Pilgram Marbeck. Kassel, 1957.
Mennonitischer Gemeinde-Kalender (formerly Christlicher Gemeinde-Kalender) (1959): 89 f.
Rauscher, Julius. Württembergische Reformationsgeschichte. Stuttgart, 1934.
Reyscher, A. L.. Sammlung der württembergischen Gesetze. IX, Stuttgart, 101.
Schmutz, Christian. "Die Mennonitengemeinden in Baden (und Württemberg) vor 100 Jahren." Mennonitischer Gemeinde-Kalender (1955): 60-68.
Schraepler, H. W. Die rechtliche Behandlung der Täufer in der deutschen Schweiz, Sudwestdeutschland und Hessen. Weierhof and Tübingen, 1957.
Stälin., “The Rechtsverhaältnisse der religiosen Gemeinschaften und freniden Religionsverwandten in Württemberg.” Württemberg. Jahrbuch fuer Statistik u. Landeskunde. (1868): 214.
Teufel, Eberhard. "The Beschlagnahme und Verwaltung des Täufergutes durch den Fiskus im Herzogtum Württemberg im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert." Theologische Zeitschrift. (Basel) VIII (1952): 296-304.
Zeitschriftt für Geschichte des Oberrheins (1914): 57.
|Harold S. Bender|
Cite This Article
Bossert, Gustav and Harold S. Bender. "Württemberg (Germany)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 26 Jan 2021. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=W%C3%BCrttemberg_(Germany)&oldid=167358.
Bossert, Gustav and Harold S. Bender. (1959). Württemberg (Germany). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 January 2021, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=W%C3%BCrttemberg_(Germany)&oldid=167358.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 991-996. All rights reserved.
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