We are thrilled to bring three translated articles from the Quaker Journal of German Friends (“QUÄKER, Zeitschrift der deutschen Freunde), to the blog over the next few weeks. Graciously translated into English by Birgit Adolph and reviewed by Rosemary Meier, the three articles discuss early Quakerism in Germany, nineteenth century Quakerism, and Quakers in twentieth-century Germany. Written by Lutz Caspers, the articles were originally published in 2015 to celebrate the ninetieth anniversary of the German Yearly Meeting. The articles are reproduced here with the permission of both the author and the journal.
Canadian Quaker meetings had a number of German connections throughout the twentieth century. Notably, one of CFHA’s founders, Kathleen Schmitz-Hertzberg, visited Germany pre-World War Two out of her concern to contribute to Quaker service for international peace and reconciliation. In Robynne Rogers Healey’s 2009 article in the Canadian Quaker History Journal, “A Quaker Concern for Pre-World War Two Germany: Kathleen Hertzberg’s ‘Report of Visit to Germany, 14 April 1938 – 18 January 1939,’” Healey details Kathleen’s time in Germany where she attended the German Yearly Meeting in August 1938 and heard Thomas Kelly deliver his classic lecture, “The Eternal Now.” It was also in Kassel, Germany where Kathleen met her husband, Fritz Hertzberg, though war would separate them for many years. Healey writes that Kathleen’s time in Germany laid the foundations of her life, where Kathleen’s experiences in Nazi Germany ignited her lifelong commitment to the Quaker Peace Testimony.
Additionally, the Yonge St Monthly Meeting began sending aid to Frankfurt in 1946 consistently until 1949 through the Care Relief Agency in New York. They sent donations to Leonore Burnitz, founder of the Friends’ Work in Frankfurt, and through British Friend Dorothy Henkel. The main contact in the meeting appeared to be Maria Wolfe, a German immigrant who joined the Yonge St Meeting in 1930. Maria worked as treasurer for the meeting and was instrumental in their relief work. For more on the Yonge St Monthly Meeting and German aid, see the Yonge St Monthly Meeting Minutes, 1943–1949, and 1950-1960, on our transcriptions page.
“90 Years of the German Annual Meeting. Part III: The 20th Century: Towards the Founding of the German Yearly Meeting,” Quaker Journal of German Friends 5, (2015): 211–213.
German citation: Lutz Caspers, “90 Jahre deutsche Jahresversammlung. Teil III: Das 20. Jahrhundert: Auf dem Weg zur Gründung einer Deutschen Jahresversammlung,” QUÄKER, Zeitschrift der deutschen Freunde 5, (2015): 211–213.
Have there been Friends in Germany since 1925? No, they already have existed even earlier in the 20th century. The new beginnings of Friends in the last century are strongly intertwined with the work of British and American Quakers. A group of friends of Quakerism started meeting in Wetzlar as early as August 1919, among them Joan Mary Fry and Alfons Paquet. They discussed publications on educational tasks based on the peace testimony. In Berlin, in the Mohrenstrasse, the “Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) – German Committee” opened an office. In the summer of 1920, a follow-up meeting of Friends took place in Tambach-Dietharz. All participants had to bring food stamps for bread, meat, and sugar. Henry Cadbury was one of the participants. They discussed the idea and desirability of establishing a “Society of Friends in Germany.”
Later that year, a meeting was held in Gelnhaar. For the first time, Corder and Gwen Catchpool took part. In 1921, the “Mitteilungen” newsletters were published weekly for the first time. In 1922, a Quaker conference with ninety-five participants took place in Elberfeld. In 1923, 250 Friends from all parts of Germany gathered in Eisenach. There was no longer the need to learn more about Quakerism, as this had been accomplished, but to achieve a means for collective impact with neither sectarian dogma nor formal association. It was all about “a small but down-to-earth seedling in German soil,” as it was described in the new September 1923 “Communications for Friends of Quakerism in Germany.” Among others, Emil Fuchs and Elisabeth Rotten were present in Eisenach. A work committee of ten Friends was formed to oversee the next steps. The Friends gathered in Eisenach particularly thanked the English Quakers who had openly opposed the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. Opinions on how to develop Quakerism in Germany differed widely. For example, one of the groups favored joining an English or American society. It was also in 1923 that the Quaker publishing house celebrated its first anniversary.
In early 1924, the “Mitteilungen” newsletters reported on Quaker groups in Magdeburg, Breslau, Leipzig, Glauchau, Elberfeld, Altenbochum, Berlin, Kassel, Cologne, Krefeld, Darmstadt, Eisenach, Essen, Frankfurt, Fürth, Gröba, Hamburg, Königstein, Nürnberg, Rostock, Stuttgart, and Leipzig.
In the summer of 1924, a further meeting took place in Frankfurt. The seventy-five participants consisted not only of Friends, but rather of “a wider circle of people whom meetings with Quakers had caused to join together in loosely tied groups for work and prayer.” This meeting led to the formation of an “Association for the Unification of the German Members of the Society of Friends.” That same year in Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe, 180 people took part in a meeting, among them thirty participants from abroad. This meeting determined the form and constitution of the “Bundes deutscher Freunde” (Association of German Friends). Hans Albrecht said: “We are neither companions in times of need nor a Peace Society, but rather a ‘Religious Society of Friends.’ Alleviation of poverty and pacifism are the outcome of Quaker principles, but not the origins of it.” As Quaker relief was coming to an end, Albrecht proposed the “establishment of an English and American Quaker office.”
These preparations led to the founding meeting in Eisenach in 1925. Here, it was stated:
“The meeting of the German members of the Society of Friends (Quakers), held at Eisenach on July 22nd and 23rd of 1925, after thorough discussion of the present situation, agree upon the necessity of establishing a German Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends (Quakers). Our decision acknowledges the fact that German Friends are just at the beginnings of Quakerism.
We trust that the Spirit guiding the Society of Friends will also provide us with the strength to live our lives in truth and love. In the past years, the Society of Friends in England and America have provided us with steady support which we have received with gratitude. We hope to continue this friendship and ask for further support in order to develop into a solid branch of the Society of Friends spreading the message of Jesus Christ.
Membership: new members may join the Society of Friends at the Yearly Meeting. Applications may be sent directly or indirectly to the secretary. Together with the local Friends, the secretary will make inquiries about the applicant and provide a report to the Yearly Meeting. No decision may yet be made concerning birth-right membership. This topic needs further discussion.
The members of the work committee are to encourage the establishment of local Meetings (if not already formed), and to foster connections among local groups in their areas. The topic of concurrent membership in the Society of Friends and in another religious denomination has been discussed in detail. We believe that the true Spirit of Jesus Christ opposes formal religious affiliation. Therefore, members of the Society of Friends will not be members of another religious denomination at the same time. However, we do not feel authorized to deny membership to Friends who feel unable to sever ties with another denomination.”
During the following years, the Yearly Meeting was held in various locations: 1926 in Coburg, 1927 in Magdeburg, 1928 in Bückeburg, 1929 in Comburg/Schwäbisch-Hall, 1930 in Wernigerode, 1931 in Dresden, and 1932 in the Pyrmont Quaker House for the first time.