Die Gruender der Christengemeinschaft: Ein Schicksalsnetz By Rudolf F. Gaedeke
Translated by Cindy Hindes
October 18, 1882, Barr/Alsace – October 11, 1969, Beddelhausen/Eder
At the time of the founding of the Christian Community in 1922, Fritz Blattmann, at the age of forty, already belonged to the small circle of the oldest ones. He experienced all the events – as someone unknown and silent. Silence was one of his great virtues. After two years, in 1924, while they were preparing for the last meeting with Rudolf Steiner in September in Dornach at the Marienstein estate near Göttingen, the founding circle was not a little astonished when this unknown person told them about his life in a more detailed and coherent way.
He was born on October 18, 1882, as the ninth child of parents from Freiburg im Breisgau. They had founded a merchant’s office in Paris, which they had to give up during the 1870s war. Since they were looking for administrative officials in the new Reich territory of Alsace, his father had himself appointed as a civil servant there. So Fritz was born at the foot of the holy Odilienberg, in Barr in Alsace, near Andlau Castle, and grew up in a beautiful house in the vineyards, not far from the summer residence of the famous writer Édouard Schuré. But his childhood paradise lasted only three years. Then his father died, and his mother, who now had to get by on a very small pension, moved with her flock of children to the gates of Stuttgart to what was then so-called ‘holy’ Korntal. There was a congregation of brothers in Korntal. The ‘Hahn Brothers’ with their ‘Hours’ shaped the pietistic life of the community. There were good and affordable educational opportunities for the children. As a matter of course, Fritz grew up in this unique religious atmosphere, which surrounded him until he was sixteen. At that time, he and his mother, with her daughters, who were still living in the household, moved to Tübingen to enable him to graduate from grammar school and study theology. The Land Exam there was waived by the King of Württemberg for particularly gifted pupils and entitled them to study theology or jurisprudence with the obligation to become a pastor or administrative official.
After graduating from high school, he underwent basic military training and began his studies in Tübingen. We find nothing more reported about his theological studies, his First Examination, his vicarage in Tuttlingen, and his Second Examination, except that he met the girl he was to marry twenty years later during his vicariate. To avoid getting stuck as a pastor in some village in the Swabian Alb, Fritz Blattmann applied and was accepted as pastor of the German seamen’s home and, at the same time, as vicar for the small Protestant congregation in the French port city of Marseille. During this essentially social activity in the home, where German seamen arrived from all over the world, Fritz Blattmann became increasingly aware that although he did not doubt the content of religion, he himself felt very incapable of communicating it. He was clearly aware that this inability was also due to the state of development of Protestant liberal theology, but he felt it more painfully as his own imperfection and inability. It is a testimony to his honesty and inner ambition that this feeling of inferiority, as he himself called it, also accompanied him later as a pastor in The Christian Community. Naturally, he could not live up to his ideal and the high standards he set for himself.
At that time, a bout of typhoid forced Fritz Blattmann to give up this work in Marseille and freed him to a certain extent from inner distress. On the other hand, this illness led him to the brink of death and let him experience the reality of the spiritual world in his own way. This must have happened around his thirtieth year (about 1912).
After the long period of illness, he reported once again to the Central Seamen’s Mission in Berlin and was sent to Genoa, to a very similar activity as in Marseille. To get to know the living conditions of the seafarers better, he hired himself out incognito — he was known among the German seamen — as a coal trimmer on a passenger steamer for the trip to New York. Because a reporter recognized him and wrote an article on him (“anonymous pastor as coal trimmer”), he sailed from there on another ship.
He returned to Bremen as a dishwasher at Norddeutscher Lloyd. After a further period of work in Genoa, he finally left the service of the Württemberg Regional Church to attend lectures in national economics at the University of Tübingen. A full second degree seemed too long and too expensive, so he looked for a position in a social profession that could sustain him and found it in the small industrial town of Heidenheim at the world-famous Voith company as head of the company health insurance fund and supervisor of other social affairs for the factory workers (1914).
After a short time, this activity was abruptly interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War, which Fritz Blattmann experienced as a reserve officer of an infantry regiment for the entire four years in the heavy battles on the Western Front in the Argonne, in Flanders, and on the Somme. In the middle of these war years (1916) came the event of his engagement to Mathilde Däuble from Blaubeuren and his first acquaintance with Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy through reading the book Theosophy, not long after his thirty-third birthday.
In Heidenheim, the world traveller Alfred Meebold, knowledgable in English-Indian theosophy and a student of Rudolf Steiner, had to enter the management of the second well-known company in Heidenheim, the ‘Württembergische Kattunmanufaktur,’ which his father had co-founded, due to the circumstances of the war. Immediately after the war, Alfred Meebold began intensive public lecturing activities in Heidenheim for anthroposophy and soon also for the threefold movement. In Fritz Blattmann (now thirty-six years old), the conditions had also matured, which made possible his membership in the Anthroposophical Society and full collaboration with Alfred Meebold in the Heidenheim branch and the Threefold Movement work. At that time, the Heidenheim branch had two hundred members, half of whom were industrial workers.
Fritz Blattmann’s situation in life was met with a request from his cousin Dr. Hermann Heisler from Tübingen, whether he would not like to take part in Rudolf Steiner’s planned theology course in Dornach in autumn 1921. Again, the struggle with the social question — similar to and yet again so characteristically different from, for example, Marta Heimeran, Heinrich Ogilvie or Wilhelm Salewski — led to his energetic and sacrificial collaboration in the founding of The Christian Community.
There is agreement on the necessity of religious renewal far and wide in church circles; not so on the way to this renewal. For those who have themselves struggled in vain for living forces in the church, it is clear that the forces of renewal cannot come from the denominations. Church piety cannot stand up to the modern scientific, materialistic worldview. It must give way to it step by step because this piety is itself permeated by a materialistic spirit. Before the war, I was employed as the pastor of the German seamen in Genoa and had the ardent desire to impart to these people, who had been tossed about by life, a strength that would sustain their lives. I failed in this task because I was stuck in the same mindset as those I wanted to help. That is why I gave up my ministry. At that time, I only blamed myself; today, I see that it was just as much the fault of the church, which could not give me the religious strength that is necessary to help others. In the meantime, I have become acquainted with anthroposophy and have gained the certainty that with it, the path is given to the individual as well as to the whole, on which connection can be found again with the spiritual forces of the world. I have unlimited confidence in this path and am convinced that a religious renewal can be initiated with the suggestions Dr. Steiner gave us in Dornach. I am wholeheartedly committed to helping in this renewal. The only concern that always troubles me is my own inability and unworthiness. If there were enough other people to support our cause, I would stand back. But since there are not enough people, I provide what I can. Even if I cannot lead people to the highest peak of the mountain, I can still keep them from the path that will inevitably lead them into the abyss, and I can point the way. From such points of view, I declare myself ready to make myself available for the work of religious renewal. I intend to take up the work here in Heidenheim.
–Heidenheim, February 8, 1922
When Fritz Blattmann was ordained a year later, on September 16, 1922, he was the seventh oldest of the founders. He began his priestly service in full awareness of his inadequate potential, although he was one of the most experienced in the world in the circle of founders. His painfully-experienced inability testifies to his modesty. But the awareness that there was a lack of people who wanted the new also shows his courage, which was perhaps greater than many of the inexperienced, younger co-founders. The relatively large number of members of the Heidenheim branch of the Anthroposophical Society, including so many of the working class, naturally led to the immediate formation of a considerable congregation at the end of 1922, for Fritz Blattmann had been known and appreciated in this circle for years as a speaker and as a person. After all, no one had forbidden anthroposophists to lead a religious life and belong to a religious community. However, there was not sufficient clarity about the need to distinguish between cognitive activity and religious practice, first in consciousness and the social sphere. The situation in Heidenheim at that time was often held up as a negative example of the relationship between the Anthroposophical Society and The Christian Community. One can understand that situation if one knows the special circumstances of that time.
After a year of working for The Christian Community in Heidenheim, Fritz Blattmann left his colleague Wolfgang Schickler in charge and moved to Göppingen for a year, from where he also had to help look after the congregations founded by Dr. Hermann Heisler in Tübingen and Esslingen for some time.
In 1931 he moved from Göppingen to Mannheim to take care of the existing congregation there; then he and Mathilde could finally marry. They had a son, Georg, who later served as a pastor in The Christian Community. When, in the difficult time of 1933, people gathered in Stuttgart to open the first building for the seminary, and every member of staff was asked to contribute a word to the event,
Fritz Blattmann spoke the terse words so characteristic of him: “Work and do not despair.”
One year before the beginning of the war, the seven years of parish work in Mannheim ended, and Darmstadt became the most important place of his priestly activity for twenty-five years. The ban on The Christian Community on June 9, 1941, also affected him. He had to spend a quarter of a year in prison without trial or conviction and then found a livelihood with the Fissan company in Zwingenberg an der Bergstraße as a company accountant. The family was able to move into a flat in the beautiful town of Zwingenberg and thus survived the war, the severe destruction of Darmstadt, and the post-war years. In the destroyed Darmstadt, it was possible after the war to erect a very simple but small church building of their own, not on their own land, but with only a very small building lease. In 1966, however, the landowner demanded such a high rent that the congregation felt compelled to build its own newly designed church on an overlying plot of land (1966). Fritz Blattmann was able to accompany this phase in the life of the Darmstadt congregation from afar. In 1963, at the age of eighty, he said farewell to being responsible for the work in Darmstadt. He withdrew with his wife to the retirement home of The Christian Community in Beddelhausen in the Sauerland, where he celebrated until a few months before his death. He spent an important last period of his long, rich life as a faithful and silent co-founder and priest of the Christian Community. He died there on October 11, 1969.