The "Friedensstadt" (City of Peace)
of the Johannische Church
History of the "Friedensstadt"
The "Friedensstadt" is a Christian residential estate built by the founder of the Johannische Church, Joseph Weißenberg (1855-1941), and his followers. It was built between 1920 and 1935 and is situated near Glau, a village 40 kilometres south of Berlin. Thanks mainly to the enthusiasm and self-sacrifice of its residents and cofounders, the community flourished despite a backdrop of severe national economic recession and material austerity. People found work and accommodation here and in only 15 years about 40 buildings were erected for some 400 residents. These structures included residential buildings, a school, a home for senior citizens, a farm, workshops, a therapeutical centre, and a church on the site known as "Waldfrieden". The "Friedensstadt" thus became one of the largest and most modern private estates in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century.
This picture was taken in the year 1928 during the construction of the main chapel of the Johannische Church on the ground called "Waldfrieden".
Joseph Weißenberg believed that religious beliefs, social work and healing as practised by the early Christians were inseparable. The "Friedensstadt" was meant to become a place where people should try to live according to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It was designed to provide a place to live and work as well as offering a spiritual home to the weak and poor together with recuperation of body and soul.
Under the National Socialist regime construction came to an abrupt end: on January 17th, 1935 the Johannische Church was banned, Joseph Weißenberg and his closest associates were arrested and the assets of the Church were confiscated. At the same time the Gestapo took action against the estate. They ordered the liquidation of the estate co-operative and the residents were expelled.
The SS, the infamous National Socialist Protection Squad, took over the grounds towards the end of 1938. An artillery training unit of the arms division of the SS moved in. From 1942 until January, 1945 part of the grounds were utilised as an external unit of the concentration camp "Sachsenhausen", holding up to 180 prisoners.
In April, 1945 the "Friedensstadt" was hastily abandoned by the SS and immediately occupied by the Soviet army. Subsequent Soviet troops belonged to engineering units. Later, during the course of the Cold War, a missile base was set up forming a strategic observation platform over the city of Berlin from the hills of Glau.
All attempts by the Johannische Church to regain the "Friedensstadt" failed due to the opposition of the Soviet military powers and to the disinterest of the government of the German Democratic Republic.
Up until the withdrawal of the Russian army in 1994, the garrison in Glau was a fenced-in and strongly guarded military enclave to which civilians normally had no right of entry.
Map of the "Friedensstadt" (German, pdf, 508kb)