Etienne Bach

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Etienne Pierre Bach (born September 12, 1892 in Lunéville , † February 27, 1986 in Margilley ) was a French pastor who campaigned for peace work during the world wars in the 20th century.


Etienne Bach was born on September 12, 1892, the first of five children in Lunéville in Lorraine to the French-speaking Swiss Thérèse Cuénod and the Protestant pastor Jacques Bach. The family from Alsace had German roots, but Bach, like his father, saw himself as French. He first studied in Lyon and then began studying theology in Paris, which he could not finish immediately, as he was called up for military service in 1912. During the First World War he was appointed lieutenant of the alpine hunters . In 1921 he was deployed in Trier , where he had his first contact with Christians from Germany. In 1923 he took part in the occupation of the Ruhr area by French and Belgian troops, with which the reparations payments stipulated in the Versailles Treaty were to be enforced.

His attitude to war changed with the "Dattelner Last Supper", which took place in 1923, when he happened to celebrate the Last Supper on Good Friday with his political opponent, the German parish director from Datteln, Karl Wille, in the Lutherhaus in Datteln . They shook hands with each other with a promise to accept one another as Christians. Looking back, he said, “I understand that the power of Christ can ask anything of a person. From that day on there was peace between us, and the whole city could feel it. ”This new, peace theological behavior was evident in Gelsenkirchen in June 1923: Here he refused an order to shoot during a demonstration and convinced those involved in an agreement without violence. Approx. In 1924 he founded the peace movement "Knights for the Prince of Peace" ( Les Chevaliers servants du Prince de la Paix ). A year later he finished his military service and began campaigning for reconciliation and peace. This took place in different ways: He published writings, including the Bulletin des Chevaliers de la Paix , organized meetings of the Crusaders in France, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland, gave numerous lectures in which he campaigned for Franco-German reconciliation, and worked with the Youth Commission of the World Federation for International Friendship Work of the Churches , an activity that he had to interrupt again as a soldier 1939-1945. During that time, he and his wife helped Jewish refugees to flee Germany and later also from France. In 1944 he took part in the liberation of Paris. After the war, Bach moved to Margilley, France, and worked as pastor of the parish of Gray in the Haute-Saône department until 1970 . Etienne Bach died in Margilley in 1986.

Wartime (First World War)

Bach became a professional soldier. Bach was wounded three times during the First World War. In 1915, during the war, Bach married his first wife, the French woman Isabelle Morin-Pons, with whom he had twins. In 1916 the twins died and shortly afterwards Isabelle too. In 1919 Bach married Jeanne Cornellie, a Belgian, who had nursed him in the hospital during a war injury. He had three children with Jeanne.

post war period

At the beginning of his military service, Bach's attitude towards the Germans was hardened by the fact that his wife and children had died. In 1921 he was posted to Trier as an occupying soldier. In Trier, Bach began to visit Protestant institutions - such as the city ​​mission . Encounters in the city mission changed his attitude towards the Germans and the war. The first experience was a woman's reaction to the leader's question whether everyone agreed not to hate the enemy but to be more open to him. A German initially refused this question because she had lost close family members to the war. Then a French woman who shared the same suffering went up to her to shake hands. Bach had noticed this, but without any reaction. The second experience occurred at Christmas: In a meeting he was sitting next to a German soldier who had gone blind in the war. Bach and the German soldier made peace and met more often from that point on. These experiences show how Bach gradually loosened his hardened attitude towards the Germans on German soil in order to finally stand up for the reconciliation of the two peoples at the “Dattelner Last Supper”.

In 1923 Bach was transferred to the Ruhr, where he again sought contact with Protestant groups and meetings.

The "Date Supper"

On Good Friday 1923, Bach attended a service and the Lord's Supper in the Protestant parish of Datteln (Recklinghausen church district in the ecclesiastical province of Westphalia) in uniform, as did his political opponent Karl Wille, official member of the Datteln office and deputy bailiff. This peacemaking encounter became the starting point for Bach's peace commitment.

Les "Chevaliers servants du prince de la Paix"

The peace movement Les Chevaliers servants du prince de la Paix (= The Knights of the Prince of Peace) was founded around 1924 when Bach returned to France through a military mission. After Bach finished his military service in 1925, the movement was pushed forward. Bach published the Bulletin des Chevaliers de la Paix and was involved in the first conferences. The number of participants rose quickly: According to Bach's own statements, 200,000 members followed the movement. The bulletin was also successful: 2500 subscribers received it as early as 1928. By the end of 1939, 148 bulletins had been published.

The movement was structured according to seven principles, which are Christian and theologically structured: Example: Principle 6: With God's help, master yourself in such a way that no national hatred or patriotic chauvinism can assert itself in words, deeds or attitudes . It was always emphasized that the first goal was always to act in God's favor for peace. Specifically, this could be done by meeting people by cultivating conversations. In 1933 the members helped poor families in Germany and France through financial support. In addition, there were conferences and lectures that emphasized the cooperation between France and Germany.

In 1939 the situation of the movement changed. It was ended in the same year by National Socialism and the resulting conflicts within the movement. Only Gertrud Kurz and the Swiss crusaders continued their work, but with a new direction that focused on helping refugees. The publication of the bulletin was continued in Switzerland, until 1946 another 19 issues were published. Approx. In 1947 the crusaders became the Christian Peace Service (CFD).

Main theological work: La tragédie de la paix

In 1942 Bach published his main theological work under the title La tragédie de la paix. Analyze et conclusions d'un chrétien (Eng .: The tragedy of peace. Analysis and conclusions of a Christian). This was based on his thesis presented to the Theological Faculty of Montpellier in 1941. In it, Bach presents a biblically based ideal of peace and then means and methods for realizing this peace on the educational level as well as on the national and international level. To this end, he develops the attitude of "Christian patriotism", which he distinguishes from pacifism and nationalism. In addition to the role of the individual Christian, he mainly addresses the role of the church, from which he demands a more decisive position. His remarks culminate in a vision of peace in which the formation of a "Religious Universal Council" and the redefinition of ecumenism, including all world religions, lead to the realization of a world-wide peace. Aware that final peace can only be achieved in the messianic kingdom, Bach challenges Christians in particular to work actively and in concrete terms for peace. As a basic requirement for a profound peace, Bach focuses on Christ's work of redemption and his preaching in the Sermon on the Mount.

Bach's service in the Resistance

During the Resistance movement in World War II, the Bach family also took part in the resistance: his wife helped Jews from France to flee to Switzerland.

The years after 1945

In 1947, Bach resigned from the office of President of the Order of the Crusaders, as he could not identify with the new, one-sided focus on helping refugees. After the death of his second wife in 1949, he married the Alsatian Eugénie Rasser the following year. In addition to his work as a pastor, Bach continued to be involved in Franco-German reconciliation work and in 1964 established a partnership between Gray and the Protestant parish of Frommern near Balingen.

Fonts (selection)

  • How I, as a Frenchman, want to work with Germans. Lecture given in Cologne, Münster, 1931.
  • Les devoirs des Eglises en matière de paix: conférence. 1929.
  • La tragédie de la paix. Analysis et conclusions d'un chrétien. (Collection du réveil social 8) / Jacques Courvoisier (foreword). Geneva 1942.


  • Martin H. Jung : Risk Reconciliation. The “Dattelner Last Supper”, Etienne Bach, Gertrud Kurz and the “Crusaders for Peace” (= Osnabrück Studies on Historical and Ecumenical Theology, Vol. 1). Aachen 2014.
  • Martin H. Jung: Etienne Bach, the Datteln Last Supper and the Peace Cross Knights. In: Yearbook for Westphalian Church History, Vol. 110 (2014), pp. 201–236.
  • Thomas Mämecke: The “Dattelner Last Supper” from 1923. Memory of a legendary episode from the time of the Ruhr occupation. In: Kirche im Revier 20 (2007), pp. 12–20.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Albrecht Knoch: Bach, Étienne Pierre In: Jean-Marie Mayeur, Yves-Marie Hilaire: Dictionnaire du monde religieux dans la France contemporaine: 5. Les Protestants. Beauschesne, Paris 1993.
  2. Walter Dignath: Christian Service for Peace (CFD) (Crusaders). In: RGG ³ 1 (1957), Col. 1739 f. Etienne Bach: Les Chevaliers de la Paix et les Nationaux-Socialistes. In: Bulletin des Chevaliers de la Paix 65, December 1931; Etienne Bach: The knights in the service of the Prince of Peace (crusader) / NN (transl.) Munich: Crusader movement, leaflet, 1931 Etienne Bach: Rules of life for the crusaders. In: [Statutes, rules of life, declarations and prayer of the crusaders], undated leaflet, approx. 1930