words by: Elam Stoltzfus
— INTRODUCTION —
Are you one of those readers who need to know how a book ends? Do you flip to the back and take a peek at those last few pages before you begin reading from the start?
For the past half-year, we’ve been discussing the American printings of the Ausbund songbook—when’s the last time you peeked at the back?
Starting on page 837 of 895, you’ll find something interesting: a collection of short stories.
In the past several months, I have asked numerous people if they have read the short stories in the back section of the Ausbund. Only a few said that they had read them. This is partly due to the stories being in the old script German language.
Today, thanks to the diligent work and research of the Ohio Amish Library, these stories are available in English in the book Songs of the Ausbund, History and Translations of the Ausbund Hymns, Volume II.
So just what are these stories in the back of the Ausbund?
Known as “A True Report of the Brothers in Switzerland” (Wahrafftiger Bericht von den Brüdern in Schweitzerland), these short stories are about Swiss Anabaptists martyred in Europe.
The report was compiled by Jeremias Mangold, describing the martyrdom stories between 1635-1645 of Swiss Mennonites to his fellow Dutch.
“In sum, Mangold shared these martyr stories so readers would be reminded of [their] courage and faith.”
In the opening statement, a Swiss Anabaptist wrote,
Beloved Christian Reader!
It is not possible with a few words to tell of the great tribulation and cruelty which came upon us, as well as our wives, children, the aged, the sick, those with children, and those nursing—how they dealt with us poor subjects so harshly, inhumanly, and mercilessly. We however caused them no harm.
Yet we want to write this report and a sure record to you, our beloved brothers in the Netherlands, to give a short, simple, sure, and true account, notwithstanding, because we know that you have made a sympathetic inquiry about our heavy tribulation and have remembered us. Hence, we cannot refrain from giving you this report.
In sum, Mangold shared these martyr stories so readers would be reminded of the courage and faith of the martyred.
Interestingly, these martyrdom stories are not found in earlier European printings. They were only included when the Ausbund was first printed in 1742 in Pennsylvania.
Why did Amish and Mennonite leaders in early America urge printer Christopher Sauer to include these martyr stories?
Let’s lift our eyes from the book and look around at what was happening during this time.
To read the full story, purchase a September back issue here.
Subscribe today to get the full stories in print each month!
Elam Stoltzfus currently serves as caretaker of the Nicholas Stoltzfus Homestead in (Berks County) Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. In 2018, he traveled to Germany to document the history of the Stoltzfus family—this research is documented in German Lutherans to Pennsylvania Amish: The Stoltzfus Family Story. To order a copy of this book, you can mail a $30 check to Elam Stoltzfus, 1700 Tulpehocken Road, Wyomissing, PA 19610.
Sources of research and quotes:
Ohio Amish Library, Songs of the Ausbund V.1 ed. Edward Kline. Sugarcreek OH: Carlisle Printing.
Ohio Amish Library, Documents of Brotherly Love – Dutch Mennonite Aid to Swiss Anabaptists Volume I.
Kelly, Martin. “American History Timeline – 1701 – 1725.” ThoughtCo, Dec. 5, 2020, thoughtco.com/american-history-timeline-1701-1725-104300.
Ausbund das ist: etliche schöne Christliche Lieder, Verlag von den Amischen Gemeinden in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.