Emanuel Felke

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Clay pastor Felke, around 1900

Erdmann Leopold Stephanus Emanuel Felke (born February 7, 1856 in Kläden near Stendal , † August 16, 1926 in Munich ) was a Protestant pastor who emerged as an advocate of naturopathy . He lived and worked from 1896 to 1914 in Repelen near Moers and from 1915 to 1925 in Bad Sobernheim , developed the Felke cure named after him and applied iris diagnostics ( iridology ). Felke is also considered the father of complex homeopathy.


Since the applications also included rubbing with clay and clay mud baths, Felke was often referred to as a clay pastor . Felke's regimens consisted of eating healthy and exercising outdoors. His patients received a low-meat diet, rubs in with healing clay, cold baths in zinc bathtubs outdoors and they had to sleep in light-air huts on the clay floor or on straw sacks.

Pastor Felke in Repelen in front of the linden tree

Felke, the son of a teacher and a pastor's daughter, had already been interested in medical questions while studying theology and had attended medical lectures for a few semesters. His interest was always in the area of ​​medicinal plants and the well-known alternative medicine specialists Hahnemann (the founder of homeopathy ) and Prießnitz ( hydrotherapy ). In his first pastor in Cronenberg , he treated the sick with homeopathic remedies during a diphtheria epidemic and was widely recognized by his patients. In 1894 he began his service as a pastor at the Protestant village church in Repelen. In 1896, some citizens of Repelen founded a homeopathic association to support Felke's work, as the latter usually gave homeopathic remedies free of charge. Felke is considered the father of complex homeopathy because he began to combine various active ingredients in chronic diseases with several symptoms, unlike Hahnemann. In 1897, Felke and some community representatives traveled to the Harz Mountains, where Adolf Just , another well-known natural healer of the time, had founded the Jungborn Kuranstalt in Eckertal to visit its facility. The visit must have made such a big impression that it was decided to create a similar facility in Repelen and later in Sobernheim as well .

Repelen around 1900

Not far from the village church, a generous area of ​​meadows and arable land on the Repelner Meer was purchased for 50,000 marks (today almost 500,000 euros) and converted into a spa park with considerable personal contribution. In addition, there were 50 light huts as accommodations for 100 to 120 people and two pavilions as rest and reclining rooms. In 1898 the Jungbornpark, a park that is still popular today in Moers, was inaugurated. Since the bathing applications as well as sports and gymnastics were done without clothing, there were two separate bathing parks for men and women, surrounded by picket fences.

Felke started a real spa business first in Repelen, and later in Bad Sobernheim as well . While it was initially assumed that the original capacities were very generous, Repelen counted up to 400 spa guests in the season from May to October, so that many of them had to be accommodated in private pensions. The spa guests had traveled widely and came from the USA, Great Britain and Russia, among others. For the village this meant an enormous economic boom, especially in the hotel industry. The Jungbornhotel was established in 1914. The new movement, unfamiliar to the rural population, was also viewed very critically. Because of the nudity of the spa guests during the treatments, Felke was accused of endangering morality, which he vehemently opposed. When the requirement to increase the surrounding fences to three meters was not met quickly enough, the park was closed at short notice in 1899. The church superiors were also uneasy about Felke's activities. When asked, however, the community always confirmed that Felke also always fulfilled his pastoral duties.

This criticism did not prevent a real Felke movement from occurring. In the years up to 1914, Felke health resorts were established in Berlin , Aachen , Krefeld , Kettwig , Dortmund , Stettin and Benneckenstein in the Harz Mountains . These institutions were only allowed to use the name Repelner Method or Felke Method if they had received confirmation from Felke that they had been trained and approved by him. During this time, a large number of Felke associations (merged in the Verband der Felke-Vereine e.V. in Krefeld) with over 2500 members in Germany emerged. At the same time a Felke magazine was published.

Pastor Felke in his office in Repelen

With the outbreak of the First World War, this development came to an abrupt halt. The spa facilities were now used as a hospital. In addition, Felke had to give up his pastoral office because of an affair in 1912 and was now without means because he continued to carry out his homeopathic treatments free of charge. So in 1915 Felke moved to one of his students in Sobernheim and built up a large spa there again. After the war, Felke came to Repelen every 14 days, but the health resort never regained the size it originally had. So the spa business was stopped, the Jungborn Society finally sold the hotel to an innkeeper and stopped its activities in 1934.

Felke worked in Sobernheim until his death and played a major role in making this place close to a successful health resort. Therefore he was awarded the honorary citizen . He died in 1926 and was buried in Sobernheim.

Afterlife, honors

Later, a memorial was erected in his honor and a small Felke Museum in Moers-Repelen. The Emanuel-Felke-Gymnasium in Bad Sobernheim has been named after him since May 15, 1996 .

A barefoot path was set up in Bad Sobernheim in 1992 , based on suggestions from Felke. This 3.5 km long circular route leads through various stations such as natural stones, pebbles, wood, clay pools, water, balancing stations and grass areas, so that the senses, the foot reflex zones and the musculoskeletal system are activated. A similar path is also laid out at the museum in Moers-Repelen.

A number of Felke associations still exist today. Bad Sobernheim is still the center of the Felke cures with three spa facilities, which also exist in Diez an der Lahn and Meddersheim . Both clay cures (see peloid therapy ) and eye diagnostics have become an integral part of treatment practice in naturopathic practice at the beginning of the 21st century. The Felke Institute for Iridology has existed since 1984. Furthermore, there is a medical working group for Felke therapy and a manufacturer of homeopathic complex medicines, Hevert-Arzneimittel GmbH & Co. KG, based in Bad Sobernheim.


Eye diagnostics

Felke was known for his eye diagnostics . The procedure was controversial from the beginning and is still not recognized by medicine due to a lack of empirical evidence. Felke was charged with bodily harm and most recently with negligent homicide in a total of 16 trials, but was always acquitted. In the last trial, which took place in 1909, Felke, under the supervision of a number of sometimes prominent medical professionals , including the surgeon Carl Garrè , had to diagnose 20 patients using only the irides. Felke protested because he was not allowed to speak to the sick, as he usually did to establish the anamnesis. How many diagnoses were correct is not known; but he was able to convince the judges.

The Felkekur

The Felke cure consists of the following basic elements (original description):

  1. Felke hip bath: A Felke hip bath is taken in the Felke tub (approx. 40 cm high hip bath made of zinc) . Water a hand's breadth up, naturally cold. When sitting down, the feet are placed in the tub with the legs drawn up. While bathing, the water is brought up to the abdomen with both hands and the abdomen is then rubbed (rubbed) with the hands from top to bottom. Bathing duration 1–5 minutes. After the Sitz bath, the whole body is rinsed off with the water hose. Rinse sequence: abdomen, stomach, chest, back from bottom to top, thighs, calves or lower legs, right shoulder, left shoulder. After the hip bath, exercise vigorously and rub dry with your hands. (Calisthenics and deep breathing). Do not use a towel. After the body has become dry, dress, if you do not want a light air bath to follow.
  2. Light air bath: A light air bath can be taken at any time. The bather quickly undresses, then walks around rubbing the body with his hands, sometimes making vigorous movements with the limbs. Gradually the body becomes comfortably warm, then the bather can sit down for a while or go for a slow walk. Duration of the light air bath: 15-20 minutes at the beginning. Gradually this time is extended and after a few days it can finally be of unlimited duration. The longer then, the better and more beautiful. If you are nervous, you don't want to stretch the light air bath for too long. Many follow the light air bath with a short hip bath (see to 1) or a cold rinse with the hose. Then rub dry with your hands and then dress.
  3. Clay bath: A clay bath is prescribed by Pastor Felke or his representatives for certain forms of illness and is taken in exactly the same way as the Sitz bath (see z. 1), only with the distinction that the water is mixed with good stone-free clay until it becomes thin Porridge results. After bathing in clay, rinse with a hose and rub dry with your hands. Duration of clay bath according to regulation.
  4. Earth sleep : Earth sleep (lying down and sleeping on the ground at night) either without any surface or on a woolen blanket or on a straw mattress (straw sack) is recognized to be an equally invigorating and nerve-steeling remedy. It's not a superstition. You cover yourself with so many blankets that you feel comfortably warm and when you get up fresh and lively from this earth bed in the morning, you immediately plunge into the hip bath. A weather-tough body is the safe consequence of these procedures, so they cannot be recommended enough.
  5. Finally, regular air bathing of the lungs and respiratory organs is strongly recommended. In the light-air bath, you can bathe your lungs several times after the rest of the bathing. The same thing happens by slowly drawing in air deeply with the nose with the mouth closed and by expelling the air drawn in through the nose through the mouth. This is carried out 12 to 20 times in succession, trying to hold your breath as long as possible after inhaling. When performing the lung bath, keep your arms raised above your head or laid on your back.

The applications were supplemented by an almost meat-free diet with lots of vegetables, green spelled, potatoes and fruit, through which Felke wanted to detoxify the body due to malnutrition. Felke sometimes differentiated the diet depending on the clinical pictures of his patients.

Like Kneipp, Prießnitz, Rikli, Kuhne and Just, Felke belongs to the ranks of important lay practitioners who gave natural medicine decisive impulses at the beginning of the 20th century. Incidentally, Felke never made a secret of the fact that he did not consider himself the inventor of a healing method. “It was homeopathy that won me over with its simplicity and uniformity in therapy. It is the backbone of my whole method ... “Felke's ideas also inspired pharmacist Friedrich H. Pascoe, who took over Mellinghoff's pharmacy in Mülheim an der Ruhr in 1895. From this cooperation later the Pascoe pharmaceutical preparations GmbH emerged, which is still run as a family business today and is dedicated to natural medicine and complex homeopathy.

While Pastor Felke initially prescribed mostly individual homeopathic remedies, he later, based on his practical experience, came up with a compilation of his homeopathic complex remedies, which he used almost exclusively for the last ten years. He started from the principle that a treatment leads to the goal most quickly if the "disease complex" present in most patients is met with a "drug complex".


  • Siegfried Seligmann: Eye diagnosis and quackery: With special consideration of the quackery process against the "clay pastor" Felke. Berlin: Barsdorf 1910 ( digitized version )
  • Alfred Brauchle : Erdmann Leopold Emanuel Felke. The clay pastor. In: Alfred Brauchle: History of naturopathy in life pictures. 2nd extended edition (first edition under the title Große Naturärzte ). Reclam, Stuttgart 1951, pp. 302-305.
  • Pastor Emanuel Felke. Festschrift of the health week from 5th to 13th May 1956 in Sobernheim (Nahe) . Sobernheim 1956.
  • Joachim fruits:  Felke, Emanuel. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 5, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1961, ISBN 3-428-00186-9 , p. 70 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Wolfgang Schulz: The Felke cure. 2nd edition, S + M Verlag, Bad Kreuznach 1996.
  • Felke, Erdmann Leopold Stephanus Emanuel . In: Deutsche Biographische Enzyklopädie , Vol. 3. Saur, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-598-23163-6 , p. 258.
  • Jürgen Westphal: Felke cures with the elements of nature. The light, air and clay therapy. Waldthausen (Natura viva), Weil der Stadt 1999, ISBN 3-89881-519-6 .
  • Friedhelm Wittfeld, Christa Wittfeld: 100 years of Jungborn Park Repelen 1898–1998. A health resort by Pastor Emanuel Felke. Self-published, Moers o. J.
  • Clemens Reinders: The healing methods of Pastor Emanuel Felke. In: The man who bought Manhattan and other stories from the Lower Rhine. Mercator-Verlag, Duisburg 2000, ISBN 978-3874632867 , pp. 94-98.

Web links

Commons : Emanuel Felke  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Andrea Schrickel: Adolf Just (1859-1936). An important representative of naturopathy in the 19th and early 20th centuries, founder of the naturopathic institution "Jungborn" in Stapelburg / Harz and the healing earth company Luvos Just GmbH Blankenburg / Harz. 2011 (medical dissertation, University of Magdeburg, 2012), p. 44f.
  2. A. Müller, RW Schlecht, Alexander Früh, H. Gill: The way to health. A faithful and indispensable guide for the healthy and the sick. 44th edition. CA Weller, Berlin 1931, p. III (Honorary diploma from the Federation of Felke Associations for the CA Weller company in Berlin from June 23, 1929).
  3. Eckart Roloff and Karin Henke-Wendt: A pastor believes in the healing power of clay. (The Felke Museum in Moers-Repelen) In: Visit your doctor or pharmacist. A tour through Germany's museums for medicine and pharmacy. S. Hirzel Verlag, Stuttgart 2015, ISBN 978-3-7776-2510-2 , pp. 142-143.
  4. Hevert Arzneimittel GmbH & Co. KG
  5. Pascoe Natural Medicine: History - Pascoe Natural Medicine. Retrieved February 10, 2017 .