Karl Segebrock

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Karl Segebrock (born January 4, 1872 in Mitau (Latvian Jelgava ) in the Courland Governorate , now part of Latvia , then part of Russia ; † October 20, 1896 in Akeri on Mount Meru , Tanzania ) was a Protestant missionary . He is considered a Christian martyr .


Karl Segebrock was born the second son of a carpenter. After attending elementary school, he went to the Kaiser Alexander School. From 1887 to 1888 he worked as a teaching assistant at a church school in Mitau. During his school days, he heard a missionary sermon. Impressed, he decided to take up this profession himself.

From Easter 1889 he was trained together with Ewald Ovir at the Leipziger Missionswerk . At Easter 1895 he passed the final exam. He was ordained on June 2, 1895. On June 5 of the same year, he and Ovir were sent to Kilimanjaro in what was then German East Africa . He landed in Mombasa on August 10th . On September 19, he reached the Mamba mission station at the foot of Kilimanjaro. There he learned the language of the Chagga , which he was supposed to proselytize. He worked there with the missionary Gerhard Althaus (1866-1946), who later became the father of the theologian Georg Althaus . On February 11, 1896, he went to the missionary Fassmann in Moshi (now Kidia) to help set up the mission station there.

On October 13, 1896, Segebrock traveled with Ovir, some local Christians and 70 porters to the area of ​​Mount Meru, which was three days away. Here they wanted to build a new mission station in Usangi in the northern Pare Mountains , the first in this region. The reason for the order was the increased likelihood that the Fathers of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit could establish a Roman Catholic station in the same area. They wanted to forestall this foundation. A few days later, some of the porters reached their destination first and were able to report to the missionaries on their return that they had been warmly received by the local Mangi Matunda. The missionaries and the few remaining Christian companions felt safe as a result.

In addition, an Askari protection force was camped nearby, under the leadership of Captain Kurt Johannes, the Moshi station chief responsible for this area. However, this warned them of rebellious Arusha and Meru warriors. The Arusha are a people of the Maasai after whom the Arusha region is named today. John had carried out a surprise attack on the Arusha in 1895.

Some native warriors, who were not under Matunda, attacked both the soldiers 'and the missionaries' camps in an equally surprising retaliatory strike against the captain on the night of October 20, 1896, in order to prevent further penetration by Europeans. Since the military camp was surrounded, the soldiers could not help the missionaries. The local warriors surrounded the tent of Segebrock and Ovir and killed them after a short fight with numerous spears, while Johannes escaped with his life. Ovir is said to have called out to the attackers beforehand: “I am dying, but I thank you!” Three of the local Christian companions also died in the attack, while two were taken prisoner.

Three of the escorts escaped and reported on the attack and Ovir's last words, which were also witnessed by the local soldiers nearby. A short time later, one of the Christian companions told the missionary Müller that the injuries suffered by the missionaries were as numerous "as if you threw a fishing net over one and drew every stitch with a spear".


The missionaries were buried by the soldiers at the place of their death, near Akeri.

When Captain Johannes reached the German administration in Moshi, a punitive expedition was planned under Lieutenant Moritz Merker. He moved with 100 Askari from the Chagga people to the region of the attack and began the retaliatory strike on October 31. After three weeks of fighting that killed several hundred locals, the Meru had to surrender their rifles and pay a large amount of ivory as a tribute . Their homes and food reserves were destroyed. In this way Johannes gained control of the region, but armed clashes continued for years.

In Germany, the fatal attack on Segebrock and Ovir endangered the financial support of the Leipzig mission in German East Africa. The mission management responded by styling the two killed missionaries as martyrs, which was simplified by Ovir's last recorded words in order to bind their supporters closer to themselves. On November 10, 1896, a commemorative sermon for Segebrock and Ovir was held in Leipzig's Nikolaikirche on the occasion of the annual celebration of the local mission branch association. In it, the situation of the mission was compared with that of a victorious general, who would be incited to fight further by the death of his soldiers instead of giving up. The motive that the blood of the missionaries would oblige further missionary work was maintained in many publications on the death of Segebrock and Ovir, even in later times.

In 1900, Carl Paul , a later director of the Mission Society, expressed the hope that others would take the place of the "fallen" missionaries and that the place of their death was "consecrated ground". He hoped that a chapel would be built on this site as a sign of the ultimate victory of Christianity.

In 1902, the Leipzig Mission in the Meru area prevailed. The martyrs grave was expanded, maintained, often photographed and thus made known in Germany in order to gain support for the mission. It also became an important symbol for the emerging Chagga Church. The cult of martyrs around Segebrock and Ovir, cultivated in this way, also motivated others to do missionary work for the Leipzig mission, for example Hugo Stelzner, who admitted that a book about the two missionaries had taken him to the missionary service.

Despite the violent colonization that was then linked to the mission, there are now numerous Christian communities between Kilimanjaro and Meru. Today the church of the village is located next to the grave of Segebrock and Ovir.

Remembrance day

October 20 in the Evangelical Name Calendar .

The day of remembrance was first introduced unofficially by Jörg Erb for his book Die Wolke der Zeugen (Kassel 1951/1963, vol. 4, calendar on pp. 508-520). The Evangelical Church in Germany took over in 1969, this Memorial Day in the then introduced Evangelical Name calendar since this Protestant Memorial has official character.



  • Karl von Schwartz: Karl Segebrock and Ewald Ovir , Verlag Ev.-luth. Mission, 1897