Waldner, Johannes (1749-1824)

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Johannes Waldner: Hutterian Brethren bishop; was born in 1749 near Villach, Carinthia, of Lutheran parents, Jerg Waldner (25 January 1714, Carinthia, Austria – 16 August 1768, Cioragirla, Romania) and Anna (Artzmann) Waldner (1725, Carinthia, Austria – 31 January 1798, Wischenka, Russia). The first wife of Johannes was Maria Naegeler (1754, Carinthia, Austria – 5 October 1818, Radichev, Russia), daughter of Christian Naegeler (1714-1757) and Dorathea (Kleinsasser) Naegeler (1723-1770). Johannes and Maria were married 13 November 1773 in Wischenka, Russia. Johannes and Maria had 9 children: Andreas, Johann, Susanna, David (died young), Zacharias (died young), Jerg (died young), Dorathea (died young), Jerg, and Maria. The second wife of Johannes was Elisabeth (Billner) Hofer (1777 – 30 December 1839), widow of Michael Hofer (1778-1815). Johannes died 14 December 1824 in Radichev, Russia at the age of 75.

Johannes migrated with his parents on the order of Empress Maria Theresa to Transylvania in 1755, along with other Lutherans. Here the entire Carinthian exile group turned Hutterite and became the very soul of a revitalization of the brotherhood. His parents were baptized and joined the Hutterian Brethren in 1763. In his later years he wrote his recollections, called Denkwurdigkeiten, as a sort of continuation of the old Hutterite chronicle, the Geschicht-Buch. Thus grew a remarkable new book, the Klein-Geschichtsbuch der Hutterischen Brüder (first printed in 1947). Waldner wrote the story only to the year 1802; the remainder to 1947 was done by other writers. In this work he mentioned his own experiences at different places.

Johannes was baptized on 17 April 1767 in Kreuz, Transylvania. Later that year, Waldner shared the dramatic flight of the brotherhood across the mountains into Romania (Walachia) and all their subsequent hardships until the Brethren found a new home in Ukraine, first in Vyshenka, later in Radichev. In 1782 he was elected preacher, and in 1794 bishop of the entire brotherhood. In 1818 an unfortunate conflict arose as one group wished to give up the principle of community of goods. Waldner insisted on continuing this time-honored principle in spite of all external difficulties. "I would rather die at the stake than to abandon the old practice" (423). Thus a split occurred and Waldner moved to a new place near by called Neudorf.

Waldner began writing his Denkwürdigkeiten in 1793, but he prefaced this personal story by a brief recapitulation of Hutterite history as found in the larger chronicle and amplified it by records otherwise unknown. This resulted in a brilliant history of the Hutterites, more condensed than the older (Braitmichel) chronicle, and yet full and rich. Johann Loserth, who read this work for the first time ca. 1930, considered Waldner an outstanding history writer, with a unique skill in making events live.

But this revival of the interest in history was only secondary to Waldner's more central achievements. His main concern was the revival of the old and genuine spirit of the Hutterites as it had been at the time of the great bishop Andreas Ehrenpreis (d. 1662). A major avenue to this end was the collection and rewriting of the old sermons that at Waldner's time had almost been forgotten. New sermon books were produced by Waldner and his co-workers, taken from old sermon notebooks. Waldner also incorporated excerpts from these sermons into the Klein-Geschichtsbuch (204-21). This made an invaluable inheritance for the brethren, which has continued alive to this day, and which is the very center of all their piety. Waldner also renewed the old Gemeindeordnungen and insisted on their observance. In short, he became the rejuvenator of the brotherhood at a time when it was particularly difficult to continue the tradition. That the Hutterites could survive so strongly through the ages (after the conclusion of the heroic first century) is due mainly to the work of three outstanding men: Ehrenpreis, Waldner, and Elias Walter.


Friedmann, Robert. Mennonite Piety Through the Centuries. Goshen, IN: Mennonite Historical Society, 1949: 113-115.

GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 5.00 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2006: #125.

Loserth, Johann. "Decline and Revival of the Hutterites." Mennonite Quarterly Review IV (1930): 93-112.

Author(s) Robert Friedmann
Richard D. Thiessen
Date Published May 2007

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Friedmann, Robert and Richard D. Thiessen. "Waldner, Johannes (1749-1824)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. May 2007. Web. 21 Apr 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Waldner,_Johannes_(1749-1824)&oldid=143783.

APA style

Friedmann, Robert and Richard D. Thiessen. (May 2007). Waldner, Johannes (1749-1824). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 April 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Waldner,_Johannes_(1749-1824)&oldid=143783.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 877. All rights reserved.

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