History

by | Jun 21, 2017 |

On this page you will find a brief history of Weierhof and the earliest days of the Mennonite Congregation.

In 1682 the Mennonite congregation at the Weierhof (nowadays Bolanden) was officially founded. However, the history of this place is much, much older.

Some indications direct to the late Roman era. Earliest homesteads are presumed to have existed in the Franconia time around 760 A.D. As ruled by the King’s Court at Albisheim (Albulfi Villa), Willare was sold with all its properties to the House of the Carolings.

The first documented mention comes from the year 835 as Ludwig The Godlier endows Willare to the Convent Prüm in the Eifel.

At around 1000 Weierhof consisted of 9 complete farms and several smaller buildings.

In 1122 Werner the First of Bolanden endowed Weierhof to the newly founded convent Hane in Bolanden (although he did not own the property at all). The juridical battle between both convents was fought out in the pope’s court at Rome, showing the worth and importance of the Weierhof property.

In 1183 Pope Lucius III confirmed that the Court’s Property at Wilre shall remain with the Convent Hane. In the cited document, the first mention of a chapel at Wilre, much older than the Hane Convent, can be found. The remains of this chapel can be found in the cellar of a nearby farmhouse.

In 1635, during the Thirty Years’ War, the entire region suffered greatly from pillaging and plundering of passing troops. Only one family, Jakob Sülz, survived the horrors of the war and the waves of pest striking the country. His manor enclosed almost 445 acres of fields, grassland and forest. As nobody was left to treat the property, it decayed rapidly.

Between 1635 and 1682, pillaging continued to be a regular occurrence. Tenants of the manor were the mentioned family Jakob Sülz, one Theis Bohn and a Miller Hans-Steffen Sülz.

Finally in 1682, the entire manor was sold to the Swiss Baptist Peter Crayenbühl. The rights to the manor were granted to him along with the precept, “die Wiedertäuferische Religion nur privat zu exercieren” (“to exercise the Anabaptists’ religion only in private”).

In 1689 French troops destroyed the Castle at Bolanden. Weierhof also retained damages.

In 1706 Weierhof was assigned by the “Polander Tausch” (the Bolander land swap) to the Court of Nassau-Weilburg, residing at Kirchheim.

In 1707 the manor was split into five parts and leased to the five descendants and successors of Peter Crayenbühl (Krehbiel).

In 1712 the farmhouse “Uli’s Hof” was built. It stands today more or less in its original form. In the same period, two other farms were built in what is now known as “Old Weierhof.” For church services the residents gathered in the upstairs room of the “Adamhof”.

In 1771 the first church was built. Today, the walls of this building are part of a ceremony hall at the cemetery. At this time Mennonites were not allowed to build churchlike buildings. The grant for this building however was passed on the condition that it would neither show round bowed “churchlike windows” nor have a bell tower.

In 1804, following an order from Napoleon, the Weierhof was sold and the profits were used to further finance the Napoleonic war. The former Colonel of Napoleon’s army, Ernst-Christian von und zu Humboldtstein, purchased the major properties in an auction for the sum of 9,244 Francs and 21 Centimes. In 1821 his descendants sold Weierhof once more for 5,806 Guilders to the Jewish merchants Steinach and Goldschmitt from Mainz. After 30 years, in 1851, Weierhof farmers bought off the tenancies.

In 1837 Weierhof consisted of 10 farms with 60-80 residents. From the surrounding area, other fellow Mennonites came to the Weierhof for services. The old church building (called the “Lehr”) quickly outgrew its capacity. Based on the blueprint of a Quaker church in Tottenham UK, a new church building (“das Bethaus”) was built in 1837 for only 3,298 Guilders. The image of this building is a signpost of our website.

In 1867 Michael Löwenberg, Teacher at the village’s private elementary school, established a secondary educational institute for boys of all denominations. The goal was to combine the institute with a Mennonite seminary.

In 1869 the institute became its own building, called “Anstaltgebäude.” As with the building of the church, many gifts and grants were needed, which came both from within and outside the congregation. Whereas the Mennonites in Northern Germany in the Congregation at Hamburg-Altona spent money to buy the ground for the new property.

In 1884, after many difficult years, a former student, Dr. Ernst Göbel was appointed as director of the institute at only 24 years old. Through the years to come he enlarged and expanded the school into the “Realanstalt am Donnersberg;” at the time one of the major private institutes in the Palatinate. Still today, after so many years, the institute exists under the name Gymnasium Weierhof.

In 1909 the farms and houses in Weierhof received direct connection to a freshwater system. For 25 years afterwards, nobody payed anything for the use of freshwater. The interests from saved funds, which Weierhof raised for their freshwater system, covered the annual service costs until the great inflation of the twenties.

In 1925 Christian Neff, preacher in Weierhof since 1887, organized an international celebration of the 400th anniversary of Anabaptism in Basel and Zurich. In 1930 a larger international conference in Danzig (Gdansk) was organized, and finally in 1936 Pastor Neff attended the first Mennonite World conference in Amsterdam, which he also initiated. This conference was already overshadowed by themes of future political oppression in neighboring Germany. The University of Zurich granted Christian Neff the title of honorary doctor in theology for all his efforts.

In 1941 the Realanstalt, in the meantime expanded to “Oberschule,” was renamed “Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalt” (National Political Institute of Education) under Nazi control. The change was only possible by a breach of a 1936 treaty between the school and the regional government. The treaty had spelled out the guarantee of the continued “Christian-patriotic tradition” of the school. For four years the school operated under indoctrinating propaganda of the so called “Herrenvolk” and their horrifying ideal of a thousand-year reign.

In 1945 the US-Army together with French troops rolled through West-Germany including the Palatinate. US Army General Patton finds the school premises in Weierhof ideal for his Headquarters. Local residents of Weierhof took emergency quarters in their church.

In 1947 the school went from the temporary headquarters of general Patton to permanent housing of an entire French garrison. Later the housing area would again be inhabited by the US forces. Already in 1951 attempts were made to regain the ownership of the premises and to restore school activities. In the end only Mennonite influence with strong and direct contact to the White House in Washington changed minds in favor for the Weierhof school. Finally, in 1958 the occupation of all school buildings and the premises was lifted.

In 1959 the Heimschule Weierhof am Donnersberg started school again. The German Evangelical Church supported actively.

In 1962 the descendants of the original 1682 Swiss immigrants still lived as full-time farmers on 8 Weierhof farms. Mechanization and farmland consolidation meant prosperity and progress.

In 1966 the building of a Mennonite community hall fulfilled a long-held dream. Finally there was room and space for youth groups, meetings and private festivities.

In 1980 the church was renovated substantially. A new ceiling was drawn. Underfloor heating was installed as well as windows and benches. Several years later a new organ came into service.

In 1992 the political climate in Europe changed rapidly. The iron curtain no longer existed. The US Army disestablished many support- and battle stations, including their nuclear warfare bunkers at Kriegsfeld (what’s in a name). The US base in Weierhof (still 6 apartment blocks, a school, a church and several other buildings) were abandoned. The Bolanden municipality belongs to bought the properties as conversion project and sold them soon after to an investor. The entire base was dismantled, renovated and renewed; partially sold as private property, partially rented. New building lots were developed. In a very short time, the number of Weierhof residents grew from some 200 to far over 800.

As a result of these rapid changes Weierhof was in danger of the social bond collapsing and the town breaking apart into two separate areas; the old traditional community and a new anonymous suburb area. But it was the Weierhof community tradition that helped the church members take the initiative to adress this realistic social threat. It is a part of our own history and tradition to extend communual spirit and a cordial welcome to newcomers and guest alike. From the tradition of the summernight fests the Weierhof farmer families used to enjoy, a new tradition of a street festival spun off. Not on the farmyards within a closed community, but on the street, for everybody in new and old Weierhof.

Together with local churches of other denominations the Weierhof Mennonite Congregation invites everybody -old and young- , to join in worship on the final Sunday of the Weierhof Street Festival: it’s called “Kirch uff de Gass” (church service in the Street). It is a ecumenical service which appeals to many enthusiastic attendants, including many families from new Weierhof.
After two festivals in old Weierhof in 1997 and 1999, thethird was held 2001 in new Weierhof.

Today the Weierhof Mennonite Congregation draws on its tradition and at the same strives to be a a modern church community with many, many activities within the congregation and reaching outside.
Therefore, the history of this congregation is not yet finished…

Many thanks to Hermann König ( † 2007) for his research.