and the German Baptist Movement
Bukovina and Galicia
by Paul F. Massier
Copyright 1993, 1997
Paul F. Massier,
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Posted on the World-Wide Web with
permission of the author
by the Bukovina Society of the Americas,
March 1, 2003
For several days during the first week of April 1993
Professor Dr. Kurt Rein, Project Director for the Bukowina-Institut,
Augsburg, Germany and Professor at the Institut für Deutsche Philologie,
Universität München, as part of his tour of the USA and Canada visited Paul
F. Massier at his home in Arcadia, California to exchange information on
historical events of the Germans in Bukovina. Paul has a collection of letters
written between 1900 and 1956 to his father, John Massier, by relatives and
friends who remained in Europe, and also has old documents containing
information which pertains to family events in Bukovina and Galicia dating back
to the eighteenth century. Four generations of Paul's direct line of family
ancestors lived in Bukovina and Galicia. In addition, at this time Paul was
nearing completion of a history of his ancestral families and their descendants
and also had just revised a document on the genealogy of many Massier families
dating back to the mid-1500's.
After reviewing as much of this material as time allowed, Dr.
Rein believed that portions of it were of general historical interest and
recommended that certain parts be extracted from these documents and then
packaged into specific articles for publication. One of the topics of interest
pertained to the spread of the German Baptist faith into Bukovina and Galicia
from Bessarabia and Romania even though the Baptists were only a very small
minority compared to the other religious groups. Paul's grandfather, Ferdinand
Massier, pioneered the Baptist movement into these Austrian provinces. Without
Dr. Rein's involvement it is unlikely that this story would have been prepared
and the author is deeply indebted to him for his interest, his thorough review
of the documents, and his encouragement. In addition, Dr. Sophie Welisch of
Congers, New York provided valuable comments which significantly enhanced the
article. Her contribution is also greatly appreciated.
At least two other stories on the ministry of Ferdinand
Massier had been drafted in the past and this article is based on records from
the authors of both. One was written by Ferdinand's daughter, Josefine Massier
Zalan, who in one of her letters to Paul's father stated that she. had completed
about twenty-five pages; however, during World War II invading Soviet troops
completely destroyed them together with all of Ferdinand's masterful sermons and
other papers as well as photographs and other items. Hence, all carefully
catalogued records of people whom Ferdinand had converted and baptized were
lost. Furthermore, the invaders confiscated anything that was of value. Those
who were of German descent were treated most harshly. Since the family lived in
communist-dominated Hungary after the war, they were discouraged from writing
about their cruelties and even prohibited from writing long letters. Moreover,
the censors promptly removed any items, such as photos or other articles
enclosed within letters. It was not until the mid-1950's that Josefine in her
letters attempted to reconstruct a few of the events of her father's life.
However, her health, impaired by the war, had not fully recovered and it had
been more than thirty years since her father had died and more than forty years
since he had left Galicia to live with his daughter and her family;
consequently, that which Josefine did write in just a few paragraphs consisted
of only a very small fragment of her father's experiences as a minister.
Nevertheless, those few sentences revealed important events.
Another story of Ferdinand's life was recounted by his son,
Johann (Paul's father, John). His account pertains to Ferdinand's early years as
a young man and his conversion to the Baptist faith. Johann, as a boy, sometimes
walked with his father to attend services at his father's mission stations but
at age sixteen he left home to learn the trade of furniture-making in Prague.
There he remained for six years before being conscripted into the Austrian army.
Johann's mother died when he was only fourteen years old and eight months later
his father remarried and began raising a second family. After his army discharge
Johann went to Bucharest where he lived for a time and then finally emigrated to
the USA. Josefine, Ferdinand's first child by his second marriage lived in her
father's home until the more mature age of nearly twenty-one when she married.
Consequently, she experienced more of her father's ministerial life than had her
A brief story on the life of Ferdinand appeared in the German
Baptist news publication Der Wahrheitzeuge, (Cassel, Germany), July 15,
1923, no. 28, p. 207. This article was an obituary prepared by student preacher
Wilhelm Bretz (see Appendix, p. 8).
The information from these three sources has been enhanced by
recollections written in letters from other relatives, including Adolf Massierer,
born in 1883 in the town of Sniatyn, Galicia. Sniatyn was Ferdinand's residence
during most of his ministry. Adolf and his parents were personally acquainted
with Ferdinand and his work.
Events Leading to the Baptist Movement in Bukovina
As late as the mid-1800's the main churches in Bukovina were
Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Lutheran. In all of these churches services
consisted of monotonous routine rituals without life. These ceremonies did not
arouse the human spirit but certainly satisfied some of the worshipers. To the
doubtful this form of worship probably seemed quite boring and perhaps did not
generate much enthusiasm for outreach. Although available, the Bible was not
routinely studied by the Catholic or Orthodox laity; however, the Lutherans did
read it. Nevertheless, prayer meetings and intensified biblical interpretation
did not become a dominant aspect of a believer's life until the time that the
Baptist missionary movement extended into the region.
Not everyone who works for the Lord is capable of becoming a
pioneer in spreading the Gospel. Such a person must develop special skills and
possess the determination to follow through. One individual destined for this
type of adventure in life who pioneered the Baptist movement into Bukovina and
Galicia was Ferdinand Massier. He was born on April 21, 1842 in Alt-Fratautz,
Bukovina, Austria the son of Georg Massier and Maria Margaretha Wagner. When he
was still a baby just a little more than six months old, his mother died and his
oldest sister, Magdalena, who had already married Christian Jäckle and was
living in her father's house, raised him together with six other children.
Although Ferdinand was the youngest, most of the family chores fell on his
shoulders as he grew into manhood. However, this developed in him inflexible
obedience which became firmly established during his school-age years and
continued to be enhanced throughout his life.
As a boy, in addition to his other duties, Ferdinand had
learned the hatter's trade from his family and upon reaching adolescence he
occasionally traveled from his home in Alt-Fratautz to Bucharest, Romania to
sell his hats. It was during one of these visits to Bucharest in 1860 at the age
of eighteen that he became acquainted with Baptists. They consisted of a small
congregation organized in 1856, only four years earlier. Here for the first time
Ferdinand acquired a copy of the New Testament. He was so impressed with this
different approach to Christianity and became so interested in the Christian
faith that he decided to give up his hat business in favor of seeking more
religious knowledge. This decision led him in search of greater religious
opportunity. He heard of the larger congregation in Bessarabia and traveled to
the village of Wisniowski in South Russia, near the Crimean Peninsula. There he
found a church that was full of life led by its minister August Liebig. He
gained more knowledge of the Bible and found fulfillment of his spiritual needs
as well as good employment. While attending church services and church school,
he made new friendships and in addition, learned how to pray from the heart. On
June 5, 1865 Ferdinand converted and was baptized on June 15, 1865 by the
minister, August Liebig, in Wisniowski. The Bible, prayer, and communication
with the parishioners provided him with the understanding and knowledge that
would eventually lead him to a lifelong total commitment to Baptist missionary
According to Josefine Massier Zalan, Reverend August Liebig
was pastor of a church in Romania as well as in Bessarabia (perhaps at different
times). In addition, she stated that her father, Ferdinand, was ordained by
August Liebig to be the first Baptist missionary for Bukovina and Galicia.
August Liebig had two brothers, Hermann and Helmuth, who lived in Germany and
Josefine referred to Hermann as being a minister also.
In that era and in those countries where Ferdinand lived
religious toleration was linked directly to the idiosyncrasies of the political
rulers. Some permitted it whereas others did not and this created a very
unstable lifestyle particularly for the German Protestants and the Jews. For
example, during the reign of Czar Nicholas I (1825 - 1855) religious tolerance,
granted by Catherine II (1776 - 1796) and her grandson Alexander I (1801 -
1825), was again rescinded. Eastern Orthodoxy was reestablished as the single
dominant state religion. Mischief against the non-Orthodox including stealing
livestock and contaminating their land with oil, followed. Thus, many of those
of different beliefs and religious preferences sold what belongings they could
and left the country to settle in other parts of the world. Some emigrated to
the USA, some to Canada, and others to South America. There were those, however,
who were very dedicated to local missionary work and under the slogan "every
Baptist a missionary", remained where they were and continued worshiping in
As a consequence of the Crimean War (1854-1856) the Ottoman
Empire regained sovereignty of Bessarabia from Russia but the province became an
autonomous entity within the Danubian Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia.
In about 1860 Constantinople, desirous to benefit from the skills of the German
colonists in Bessarabia and South Russia, extended an invitation to them to
migrate into the newly formed province of Dobruja which extended southward from
Bessarabia and the Danube Delta to Bulgaria with the Black Sea as its eastern
border. As an incentive to migrate the colonists were offered free land and
other privileges previously withheld. Thus, many German Baptists responded to
this opportunity and participated in the building of settlements and churches in
Dobruja. Young Ferdinand Massier was among those who took advantage of this
occasion and settled in the village of Catalui. It was here that Ferdinand
decided to become a missionary and it was also here that on April 21, 1867 he
married Dorothea Engel. She became a very devoted supporter and contributor to
Ferdinand's missionary work.
The Engel family had lived in Neu Danzig, South Russia and
they, together with other devoted Baptists, had experienced persecution
themselves. In the autumn of 1851 Dorothea's father, Martin Engel, a Deacon in
the Baptist church, was suddenly arrested and imprisoned along with other
followers. About a week later they were sentenced to cut timber in a forest in
Siberia for the remainder of their lives and were transported there partly by
train and partly by sled. However, the members of the German Baptist
congregation were successful in petitioning the Czar, requesting the return of
these individuals and miraculously after about a year all indeed returned home.
After that there was more leniency toward the Baptists; however, some time after
Martin had returned, the Engel family finally decided also to take advantage of
the opportunities in Dobruja and relocated to the village of Catalui, where
Ferdinand was living at the time. There, as the village grew in size, a Baptist
church was built in a choice location at a street intersection as well as a
parsonage for the pastor.
The Baptists Spread into Bukovina and Galicia
After their marriage Ferdinand and Dorothea remained in
Catalui for five years and it was here that their first child, Franz, was born.
When in 1872 Ferdinand decided to return to Bukovina to carry out his missionary
work, he wanted to begin in Alt-Fratautz, the village of his birth; so the
family moved to Alt-Fratautz. Here he converted and baptized some of his
relatives but not all of them accepted the "new" faith. His initial missionary
venture in AltFratautz may have been frustrating to him. People in general did
not accept his teachings and some even accused him of heresy; nevertheless, he
was determined to continue his ministry. After having survived in Alt-Fratautz
for about three years, the family moved on to Radautz which contained a much
larger population. There he distributed many Bibles to both young and old.
However, not satisfied to confine his work to this locality Ferdinand extended
his missionary outreach to include other villages, generally traveling on foot,
sometimes to distant places. Then, about four years later, he decided to advance
his missionary work into Galicia and moved his family to the town of Sniatyn.
This finally became their permanent residence.
Using Sniatyn as a base Ferdinand broadened his missionary
effort to include many surrounding communities, one being Bukovina's capital of
Czernowitz which was more than twenty miles distant. He continued to travel from
place to place on foot, establishing eleven different mission "stations" that he
visited regularly and as a consequence, became known as "The Walking
Missionary". Baptism by immersion was generally done after dark at midnight in
nearby rivers so as not to draw attention to those who seriously opposed his
work. For example, in the evening of September 20, 1888 Ferdinand walked with
three of his children, son Johann and daughters Magdalena and Martha from their
home in Sniatyn to the bank of the Pruth River where he baptized them at
midnight. Johann was fifteen, Magdalena thirteen and Martha eleven. The
following Sunday they were accepted as members of the church. The text was from
John 3: 30, "He must increase but I must decrease".
While living in Sniatyn Ferdinand once told his daughter,
Josefine, about one of his experiences:
time I traveled with Aunt Emelie to Alt-Fratautz and preached a sermon on 'The
Unfruitful Fig Tree'. After the sermon I asked Aunt Emilie to sing and she sang
'Cut It Down, the Unfruitful Tree'. Everyone cried, they were so overcome with
emotion. Suddenly a proud nice man named Peter Schmidt stood up and said, 'Uncle
Ferdinand, I am the unfruitful tree and from now on I will be another person.
Help me to understand.' Then after he was baptized, he became a Bible seller.
Gods strength and his blessing followed him on all of his journeys.
There were other good experiences where people became
practicing Baptists. In the German village of Augustdorf there was Jakob Mack
and his family of three sons and three daughters, and Johann Daum and his
family, Rudolf and Adolf. There was also Martin Massier and his family plus
Johann Gauer and family.
However, not all of Ferdinand's experiences were as rewarding
as these. Once in the village of Stanestie, in northern Bukovina, Ferdinand was
ridiculed, put in prison and bound, together with his relatives who lived there.
But in the morning under severe threats all were set free. This incident did not
discourage him nor the others. In a letter written by Adolf Massierer (son of
Franz Massierer and Filipina Held) to John (Paul's father) Adolf stated that the
first person in Stanestie to be converted was his uncle, Georg Massierer, which
occurred sometime before 1880. Others, including Georg's wife, the Stein family,
and Franz Massierer (who married Filipina Held), and their family also converted
and accepted baptism. These people got together frequently and then later moved
to Sniatyn where others also became believers. Adolf was born in Sniatyn and
grew up there, living with his parents.
Not long after the mother church was founded in Sniatyn
additional affiliated congregations were established in other communities.
Ferdinand and pastor Jäckle of Stanislau, Galicia who apparently was also a
Baptist minister, became good friends both personally and professionally.
On another occasion when Ferdinand began his missionary work
in the beautiful village of Augustdorf, some of the residents became angry and
threw stones at him. Then, in the night after the prayer meeting, they went to
his house and harrassed him. Fortunately, no stones struck him. The Lord
Throughout Bukovina and the southeastern part of Galicia
where Ferdinand had concentrated his missionary endeavor he had converted and
baptized 300 people to the Baptist faith including not only members of his
family, relatives and friends, but also many others.
Ferdinand's second wife, Josephine (nee Vove), died on
November 28, 1916 in Sniatyn; his daughters, Josefine and Lidia, in 1917 took
their father to live with them in their home in Satora!jaujhely, Hungary. There,
Ferdinand continued his ministry in a small German congregation to which he
added new vitality. His daughters were active members also and one of them led
the youth group. On May 28, 1923 at the age of eighty-one Ferdinand died in the
home of his daughters in Satoraljaujhely.
Ferdinand's ministry influenced the lives of a!! his family.
It was his son Johann however, who perhaps became the most dedicated to the
Gospel. When not engaged in earning the means to support his family, Johann
devoted most of his time to worship, Bible study, prayer and missionary work.
After immigrating to Chicago, Illinois from the homeland
Johann immediately joined the Second German Baptist Church and became involved
by teaching a youth group and singing in the choir. There he met Kathryn Arki,
married her and they had two sons before migrating to a homestead in southern
Idaho near Taber. This was mostly a community of German farmers who got together
and organized a Baptist congregation which grew to about sixty members. Johann
became active in this group that met in people's homes, and on occasion Sunday
worship services were held at Johann's place since there was no church building
in which to meet. After several years of drought the families abandoned this
area and Johann moved his family to Pocatello, about forty miles distant. There
the few Germans who moved to the same town at first got together for Sunday
services in Johann's home; however, there were too few to form a congregation so
they joined the First Baptist Church in Pocatello which held services in
For nearly forty years Johann was an active member of this
church serving as a Deacon, teaching the adult Sunday school class and on
occasion even leading the mid-week prayer meetings. At home thirty-minute family
services (Andacht) were held in German every evening, and also in the
mornings on Saturdays and holidays . These included Bible reading and study,
prayer and also singing of hymns. Johann's bi-lingual German and English Bible
contained his own handwritten notes on many pages indicating his in-depth study
of the text.
Thus, Ferdinand's ministry impacted not only his own
surroundings but extended to regions perhaps beyond his imagination to the USA
including the central state of Illinois, the western state of Idaho and the
south-central state of Texas.
Obituary of Ferdinand Massier in Der Wahrheitzeuqe,
translated and edited by Paul F. Massier
Although the deceased was already in his eighty-second
year of life, he was still quite vigorous and so his departure was
unexpected. During the night of May 13  he didn't feel well,
enduring severe intestinal pain. However, for fourteen days it, appeared
that he would improve, but suddenly on May 27 he developed a fever and
died in the afternoon of May 28.
Brother Massier was the founder of the [Baptist]
churches in Sniatyn, Galicia and Czernowitz, Bukovina. Both were
casualties of the war [World War I]. Many former members are in America,
more in West Prussia. Nevertheless, he believed in the perpetual heartfelt
love of those who had emigrated. In them he missed the strongest segments
of the congregations.
Brother Ferdinand Massier was born on April 21, 1842 in
Alt-Fratautz, Bukovina, converted to Christianity on June 5, 1865 in
Wisniowski, Bessarabia and was baptized on June 15, 1865 by Brother August
Liebig. He married Dorothea Engel on April 21, 1867 in Catalui, Dobruja.
She was born in New Danzig, South Russia. They had five children [Franz,
Johann, Martha, Ferdinand and Dorothea] who emigrated to America and all
of their families became followers of the Lord. [They also had another
daughter, Magdalena, who died in Sereth, Bukovina at age twenty-two.]
His wife died on March 21, 1888. His work and children
needed a mother; therefore, he married Josephine Boves [should be Vove not
Boves] on December 8, 1888 in Prague. She was a faithful caring mother for
their children and an intelligent helpmate. She died during the war [World
War I] on November 30, 1916 in Sniatyn. There were five children by this
marriage [Josefine, Lidia, Elisabeth (Ella), Friedrich and Eduard]. The
two sons were killed by shrapnel [from a grenade] on July 29, 1917 in
In October 1917 brother Massier went to Satoraljaujhely
[Hungary] to be with his children. Despite his old age he served the
congregation there until the end of his life. The founder of this church
was brother O. Bretz who devoted much effort to its members. Both brothers
had deep respect for each other. We felt God's blessing during brother
Massier's presence here and needed him very much. The Lord, however,
wanted it otherwise. For more than fifty years he carried God's banner,
and so the Lord released him from all his work. We all grieve for him.
With him we lost one of the first pioneers of the Lord in Austria-Hungary.
His work began under brothers H. Meyer and H. Novotny. He had a difficult
and harsh territory. God, however, gave him courage and strength and
blessed his diligence.
At four o'clock in the afternoon of May 30 
Reverend Pissmann of Budapest led the memorial service. He [Ferdinand] had
the opportunity to preach the Christian Word to many who heard him. His
earthly grave was decked with beautiful hillside flowers that spoke of
much love. We speak to him, "Rest in Peace" (2 Timothy 4: 7, 8). William
Bretz, student minister.
Announcement of Thanks From the Family
(see above notice)
For the heartfelt participation at the funeral of our
loving father, in-law, grand and great grandfather
Preacher Ferdinand Massier
Likewise for the many wreaths and flowers we wish to
express our heartfelt thanks to loved ones and friends
The grieving survivors
The photographs of the congregations and identification of
the people in these pictures were donated by courtesy of Emil and Rosa Massier
and Helga Gross. Their inclusion significantly enhanced the historical value of
the document and is greatly appreciated by the author
|Baptist Congregation in Czernowitz,
Bukovina, Austria, 1912
of the Baptist congregation in the city of Czernowitz was taken on one of
Rev. Massier's visits there. It was one of his mission stations when he
lived in Sniatyn, Galicia, Austria. In the picture there are two men with
white beards seated near the center. Ferdinand is the one on the
left. There is a small plus (+) sign hand drawn in ink on his left
shoulder. Unfortunately, the names of the other members of this
congregation are not known.
|Baptist Congregation in Fratautz,
Bukovina, Austria, 1912
Children sitting in front.
left to right: Karl Kuffner (leaning on elbow), Marie Massier
(daughter of Johann and Karoline), Ella Kuffner, Johann Massier
(leaning on elbow (son of Ludwig and Katharina)).
Children in second row. left to right: Ferdinand
Massier (son of Ludwig and Katharina), Martin Massier (son of
Ludwig and Katharina), Emil Massier (son of Johann and Karoline),
Lena Kühl, Karoline Massier (daughter of Ludwig and Katharina),
Wilhelmine Kuffner, Karl Massier (son of Johann and Karoline),
Samuel Massier (son of Ludwig and Katharina). Adults in third
row. left to right: Johann Massier (son of Johann
and Karoline), Susanna Silzer (maternal grandmother of Emil and
Erwin Massier), Three women wearing babushkas (names not known),
Rev. Ferdinand Massier, Man with beard and mustache (name not
known), Adolf Kuffner, Philipp Massier (son of Ludwigand Katharina).
Adults in fourth row. left to right: Pastor Tolar (visiting),
Frau Kurtz, Frau Schaeffer, Four women wearing babushkas (names not
known), Katharina Mack Massier (wife of Ludwig),
Adults in back row. left to right Two women
(names not known), Ludwig
Massier (in back, head only showing), Woman in white (name not
known), Marie Kuffner
Gross, Two women (names
not known), Karoline Silzer Massier (mother of Emil and Erwin),
|Baptist Congregation in Fratautz
Sitting in front. left to right: Katharina Mack Massier (wife of Ludwig) holding grand
daughter, Hedwig, Pastor George Teutsch (uncle of Emil Gross),
Pastor Robert Schlosser, Erwin Massier (boy standing), Karoline Silzer
Massier (mother of Erwin, Emil and Marie).
left to right: Marie Massier (wearing hat), Susanna
Silzer (wearing babushka), Johann Massier (in back (son of
Ludwig and father of Hermann)), Marie Kuffner (wearing hat (married
Martin Massier five years later)), Karoline Massier (behind Marie
(daughter of Ludwig)), Wanda Leisten (wearing hat, a visitor),
Man with mustache (a visitor, name not known), Man in back (a
visitor, name not known), Frieda Leisten (wearing babushka),
Otto Leisten (with mustache wearing cap), Woman wearing hat
(name not known), Emil Massier (in front of window wearing hat),
Johann Massier (with mustache wearing hat (father of Emil, Erwin and
Marie)), Philipp Massier (wearing cap and tie (oldest son of
Ludwig)), Ludwig Massier (with beard, ten years older than his
brother, Johann, standing beside him), Emil Gross (wearing hat and tie),
Martin Massier (behind, wearing hat (son of Ludwig)), Samuel
Massier (wearing Romanian soldier's uniform (son of Ludwig)).
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