Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Friedrich Schulzke: “It Fell to My Lot to Guide the Little Branch”
 


Friedrich Schulzke: “It Fell to My Lot to Guide the Little Branch”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - January 28, 2009

The Baltic seaport of Klaipėda, Lithuania, was under the political control of Prussia/Germany for much of its 800-year history, when it was known as Memel. During the 19th century and up to the end of World War I its inhabitants were mostly ethnic Germans rather than Lithuanians. Political realignments after the Treaty of Versailles caused most of Memel’s German inhabitants to migrate to Germany proper; the ethnic shift was virtually complete at the end of World War II.

LDS missionary work in Lithuania dates to the early 1990s, and we have enjoyed some success there in the years since. There was an earlier LDS presence in the region, though, the memory of which has been all but lost in the shift from German to Lithuanian ethnicity.

On 24 September 1843 in the farming region of Gross-Datzen, near what was then Memel, the northernmost point of German control in Europe, Friedrich Schulzke was born to Ephraim and Dorothea Naujokatis Schulzke. Friedrich’s father died when Friedrich and his two older brothers were very small, and their mother supported them as best she could by spinning. Though she was unable to teach her sons to read, Dorothea taught them all she knew about the Bible, and taught them to pray and to sing hymns.

When Friedrich was 15, he left home to seek work in Memel. He had learned to read and write by the time he was 20 in order to qualify himself for better work. The first book he ever bought was a Bible – the clerk who sold it to him said it was the first Bible she had sold in the four years she had worked in the shop.

Friedrich married Anna Buddruss in 1876; within a few years, they were raising four sons and two daughters. Anna died in 1891, and four years later Friedrich married again, to Anna Egliens. He and his much younger second Anna had two more children.

Sometime in the 1890s, when Friedrich was past 50, he read a newspaper article about an American sect called the Mormons, who scoured the cities of Europe looking for young girls they could kidnap and carry back to their harems in the desert. That night, Friedrich knelt in prayer to ask God to protect his daughters by keeping the Mormons far away from Memel.

In 1907 the missionaries reached Memel despite Friedrich’s prayers, and a friend asked Friedrich to go with him to hear the Mormons preach. Friedrich refused.

Not long afterward, Friedrich read an advertisement for a new religion, that of the Latter-day Saints, and he willingly went to hear its preachers speak. He was so moved by what he heard that he invited those preachers to come to his home and tell him more. The elders came, but when Friedrich saw the title of the book one of them placed on the table, he nearly threw them out of his house. Very reluctantly, he allowed them to give their message … and Friedrich believed them. He and Anna were baptized in September 1907; within a year, Friedrich’s daughters and at least three of his sons had also been baptized, along with their spouses. The Schulzkes were only part of a thriving and ever-growing branch of the Church in Memel.

Then came World War I and the withdrawal of American missionaries from Europe. In the upheavals of that time, the greatest part of the German branch members at Memel, including Friedrich’s children, migrated to Germany where they were scattered. One of his sons was killed in the war. Another emigrated to Utah. But Friedrich and Anna stayed in Memel. Friedrich, then in his 70s, later told an inquirer,

When the war broke out it fell to my lot to guide the little branch of saints. I was only a priest at the time, but with the help of the Lord things were opened up for me. The history and records were all written in English and it was hard for me to find the things that I was supposed to do. Many times I thought that it would be impossible for me and that I could not carry on, but I would get down on my knees and ask the Lord for help. Oh, I am thankful for the guidance and blessings that I received at this time because I know it would have been impossible for me to have done the work alone.

All during the war the little flock gathered at my home and we studied the gospel together and learned of the wonderful things that our Father in Heaven has in store for us. I am thankful that I know the gospel is true, and for the many blessings that I have received.

Memel and the surrounding territory were placed under the post-war jurisdiction of France. French restrictions, joined with the demands of Lithuania for control of the country’s only seaport, coupled with the increasing pressure of Russian influence, caused even more of Memel’s German Latter-day Saints to flee. By the time the missionaries were able to return in 1924, the Schulzkes were among the few who were left.

The elders worked hard and the branch began to grow again. The report of a conference held in October 1926 shows that 39 investigators attended and one convert was baptized. Summarizing local conditions in his conference report, the missionary wrote,

There are about eight different languages represented in this city. The main languages are Lithuanian, German, Hebrew, Russian, English, Polish, Swedish and Danish. Memel is the harbor and fishing center, and fish are very cheap. There are many people without work, knowing not from one day to the next what they are going to eat. They receive a little from the government, but that is too much to starve on and too little to live on. the Jews are playing quite an important part in this country. They have a big school, in which the students must all learn some kind of trade before they can go to Jerusalem. A company leaves here for the “promised land” about every six months.

Shortly after that conference, the elders were again forced to leave Memel/Klaipėda, leaving the branch in the hands of Friedrich Schulzke, by then 83 years old and the sole remaining priesthood holder in the city. He again held weekly meetings in his home and kept the branch together until the elders could return in 1931. They were there until the outbreak of World War II, and Mormon missionary work ceased in Lithuania until the 1990s.

Friedrich Schulzke was still a faithful member into his 94th year, when he passed away on 21 January 1937. His widow Anna lived through another war, passing away on 19 April 1945, possibly the last Latter-day Saint in Memel.

Update: See here for photographs of Friedrich Schulzke and family.



36 Comments »

  1. Ardis:
    You know I can’t resist commenting on a German LDS history post!

    This is a very interesting post that tells quite a bit. During the 19th century the Church grew very little in Germany due to laws that prohibited missionary activity (depending on the particular German state–even after unification in 1871 proselyting was difficult). Most 19th century German converts migrated to Utah as soon as they could.

    Around the turn of the century across Europe there was an outburst of sensentional articles in newsprint warning of the “Mormon Peril”–i.e. missionaries converting innocent European girls for the harems in Utah. Naturally, these articles didn’t help the Church much.

    In the decade before World War I the Church finally began to grow and take root in Germany. I really don’t know much about the membership in East Prussia at the time. There was, however, great missionary success in Germany during the 1920s. East Prussia and Saxony were among the most successful areas at the time. The Memel branch was part of the Koenigsberg district which in 1938 had nearly 800 members. Memel, however, had only 16 members in 1938, 13 of whom were females. The source I have indicates there were no Elders in Memel in 1938.

    Comment by Steve C. — January 28, 2009 @ 7:51 am

  2. A wonderful story, Arids. That made my day!

    Comment by Brian Duffin — January 28, 2009 @ 8:01 am

  3. Steve, thanks for that additional background and the 1938 figures. I wasn’t able to pin down exactly when the Elders were pulled out for the last time, but I did note that even though Heber J. Grant was not all that far away on his 1937 tour, he didn’t go to Memel.

    Another World War II connection that you might be aware of is that [Ernst] Otto Schulzke was Friedrich’s son. Otto moved to Germany after WWI, at about the time his brother Richard moved to the U.S. Otto and his wife Elly emigrated to Utah in 1954; I saw the passenger manifest yesterday, which indicated that between the two of them, they refugee’d with a single suitcase weighing 10 kilos.

    Thanks, Brian. Every time I discover one of these previously unknown brothers and sisters, it makes my day, too.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 28, 2009 @ 8:54 am

  4. Thanks Ardis. I really appreciated that considering my interest in the Church in Germany and my travels/study in Lithuania.

    Comment by john f. — January 28, 2009 @ 10:51 am

  5. J. told me yesterday about your connection to Lithuania, john. If you’ve blogged about that somewhere, I’d love a link.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 28, 2009 @ 10:53 am

  6. I appreciated this part of Bro. Schulzke’s statement:

    Many times I thought that it would be impossible for me and that I could not carry on, but I would get down on my knees and ask the Lord for help. Oh, I am thankful for the guidance and blessings that I received at this time because I know it would have been impossible for me to have done the work alone.

    Simple humility seems to be hard for me. I need to follow his example more often.

    Thanks, Ardis, another bright spot you’ve provided in an otherwise gray and dismal NW winter’s day. You need to know how much I look forward to reading your posts.

    Comment by kevinf — January 28, 2009 @ 11:13 am

  7. Wow. I can’t express how deeply I admire (really am in awe of) faith like this.

    Comment by Ray — January 28, 2009 @ 12:25 pm

  8. I love to read these stories, Ardis. The pattern (local branch grows slowly, enduring persecution and frequent emmigration) is so similar to how the gospel spread in other parts of the world. Even though it happened a warld away, we can learn so much from the faith of people like the Schulzke’s.

    Comment by BruceCrow — January 28, 2009 @ 12:53 pm

  9. When I read accounts like this, I feel really blessed to live where I do, with the instruction and guidance we have to do carry out our work in the church, and to have the association of so many others who believe like I do.

    I also feel a bit guilty that I don’t do more with what I have. Friedrich and Anna must have been exeptional people.

    Comment by Maurine — January 28, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

  10. Thanks for your comments. These last four paradoxically point out how very alike and yet at the same time how very different we feel from Friedrich and Anna. That sounds odd but rings true.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 28, 2009 @ 1:02 pm

  11. I came across a bit more information on Memel. In an interview after his mission, Roy Welker, former mission president of the German-Austrian mission, described the Church in Memel. “… Memel was the farthest north of any branch in that mission at the time I was there; way up on the Baltic Sea. I remember that it was a very important branch. We had a young fellow as branch president. He was arrested and put in jail for several weeks. He preached the gospel to everybody who came in: Government officials or rowdies. He was a quiet guy; he preached the gospel right and left. His reminded me so much of Paul’s method. I’ve forgotten his name, but he was a fine man. His father was the first to join the Church in that section. … she ought to be singled out maybe as one of the active and very fine branches in that mission at that time. There were fine people there, intelligent people. People who very active and determined in their desire to serve the Church. We held them up as a fine example of faithfulness.” Although the branch was small and Welker doesn’t mention Schultzke, we get the impression that it was a vibrant and faithful branch nonetheless.

    Comment by Steve C. — January 28, 2009 @ 2:40 pm

  12. Steve, now you’ve gone and done it. Now I have to plow through whatever mission records I can find to try to identify that young branch president. Since Friedrich joined the church the very year that missionaries arrived in Memel, and because he had young adult sons who also joined, it’s possible that our branch president was one of Friedrich’s sons.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 28, 2009 @ 3:06 pm

  13. Ardis, with such great posts as this, I feel horrible for not visiting your personal blog more often. There are only so many hours in a day, and I just can’t seem to visit more than 2 or 3 blogs a day. What a mistake that has been! I am a fellow history buff (sorry, just a BA in history, but I read dozens of history books every year and have ever since graduating college 24 years ago). LDS history is especially fascinating. Keep those posts a-comin’.

    Comment by Geoff B — January 28, 2009 @ 3:55 pm

  14. What a gem, Ardis, and you presented it beautifully!

    Comment by Proud Daughter of Eve — January 28, 2009 @ 4:13 pm

  15. You can’t be everywhere, Geoff — check in when you can. The “Topical Guide” link at the top of the page has a complete listing of posts, grouped roughly by type, in case you want to read old posts about other Latter-day Saints with unusual stories.

    Thank you, PDoE. I really missed you when you seemed to have left the ‘nacle for so long and am very glad to see you here and there again.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 28, 2009 @ 7:05 pm

  16. Ardis:

    Just one more nugget on Friedrich Schulzke. According to the German-Austrian Mission Quarterly Report, Friedrich Schulzke was ordained to the office of High Priest by President Oliver H. Budge of the German-Austrian mission. At the time, Brother Schulke was pushing 90 years old. He is the first known native German living in the German missions to be ordained to the office of High Priest. The report noted that “This brother has served faithfully in the capacity of Branch President of the Memel branch for many years.”

    I find this interesting considering that Memel was such a small branch. It is also noteworthy in that at this time, Church leaders were coming around to the idea that the Church in Germany could be run by the locals and this seems a move tied into the process of turning more responsibility over to the native Germans.

    In regard to comment 12, it is quite possible that FS’s son served as BP at the time. I also wondered if Welker could have been referring to a missionary serving as BP. In many small branches the missionaries held this calling.

    Comment by Steve C. — January 28, 2009 @ 8:41 pm

  17. I forgot to mention that FS was ordained a High Priest in February, 1933. (Interesting time.)

    Comment by Steve C. — January 28, 2009 @ 8:42 pm

  18. Ardis,
    Thank you very much for this blog. It is such an uncanny coincidence that you wrote this. Just this Sunday my son did a talk in sacrament using a family story about Friedrich during the time missionaries were not allowed in Lithuania. I am the great grandson of Friedrich. In addition the reference you made to Otto and Elly Schulzke they are my grandparents. My Elders quorum president brought this article to my attention today recognizing the name from my sons talk. My father Heinz Schulzke was born in Tilsit, East Prussia and later lived in Konigsberg where my grandfather Otto was a branch president for many years. I need to do some digging in my family history to confirm dates but from an article about my great grandfather in “Der Stern” January 1934 it gave the following dates. Baptized and confirmed September 27, 1908 by Elder Gottlieb Klingler, ordained an elder on July 15, 1928 by Elder Watkins and ordained a high priest on February 24, 1933 by Mission President Oliver H. Budge. I am also curious about the reference by Steve C. to the name of the mystery member. I meet an elderly sister member of the Memel branch on my mission in Germany back in the late 70’s that remembered Friedrich and told me she vividly remembers Friedrich with the hat he is wearing in the picture out on the busy street in front of his house telling anyone who was willing to listen about the Gospel. I would love to know where you have found your information. I am very familiar with the history you have given and more. I also recognize the picture in your blog from another article in “Der Stern”
    Thank you for making my day, Michael

    Comment by Michael Schulzke — January 28, 2009 @ 8:46 pm

  19. Oh, my goodness! I’ll be writing to Michael privately in just a moment. Stay tuned, all …

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 28, 2009 @ 8:59 pm

  20. Steve, I was so excited to see the Schulzke name in “recent comments” that I didn’t see the earlier comments at first, sorry. I’m thinkin’ that from what we know of Friedrich, it doesn’t completely surprise me that he was the first high priest (wonderful!) or that he could overcome the missionaries’ prejudice toward selecting “elders from Zion” rather than capable local members as presidents.

    As always, you come through with some gems regarding LDS German history. Thanks!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 28, 2009 @ 9:23 pm

  21. SteveC and Ardis — I wonder whether Welker might have been fusing Memel and Königsberg in that description? The description sounds a lot like what I’ve heard of the church in Königsberg from the time period. Many of the members from Königsberg ended up in Stettin and then in Schwerin and other northern German towns on the Baltic by the end of WWII.

    Comment by john f. — January 29, 2009 @ 3:24 am

  22. John f.:
    I think it is possible that Welker fused Memel and Koenigsberg (or perhaps another branch in the northeast of the Reich). The interview I got the information from was conducted when Welker was advanced in age and years after the events. It is amazing how much he remembers and the detail. But there were also spots where his memory wasn’t as good.

    Michael:
    I do not have the name of the mystery member. He came up in the Welker interview. I would imagine, as I mentioned above, that Welker in his advanced years was thinking of a different branch. I doubt that when Welker was mission president he would have considered Friedrich, who was around 90, “young”.

    Comment by Steve C. — January 29, 2009 @ 7:58 am

  23. Ardis –

    What a wonderful story! I already knew large chunks of it from my family’s genealogy. I, like Michael, am the great grandson of Friedrich Schulzke, through Friedrich’s son, Fritz Kurt Schulzke, and his son, Ernest Frederick Schulzke. We have other pictures of Friedrich that you might like to see, as well. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Kurt Schulzke

    Comment by Kurt Schulzke — January 29, 2009 @ 4:43 pm

  24. As Friedrich’s grandson through his youngest son, Fritz Kurt Schulzke (and father of the Kurt who has commented here), I’m delighted to see this online. Friedrich and Anna were both exceptional spirits.

    This account is consistent with the stories related to us by my father and mother, who emigrated to Toronto, Canada, but returned to Memel for a couple of years prior to WW II. (from 1936-38). I was there with them as a young boy and remember the occasion of Friedrich’s funeral. My wife and I with our youngest son Stuart visited Memel in 1995 and went to the site of his burial, which tho unmarked is still accessible and recognizable. The lay of the land has not changed.

    Both Friedrich and his son were branch presidents, Friedrich in Memel and Otto in Tilsit. Hence some confusion about whether stories are combined here. Friedrich’s story is independent of his son’s.
    I believe Otto was still BP in Tilsit at the time Friedrich died. Both he and my father spoke at Friedrich’s funeral. Kurt Schulzke, Friedrich’s youngest child, was branch president in Goerlitz, during his mission in Germany from 1927-29.

    The son who died in World War I is Max, Friedrich’s next-to-youngest child, one of two sons born of his second marriage. He died in a German U-Boat in the mouth of the Thames. The U-boat was apparently sunk by a torpedo. A survivor visited his brother Kurt in Toronto and related the events to him there.

    Our understanding is that Anna Egliens Schulzke died fleeing the Russian advance and trying to reach her step-daughter Marta in Berlin. If anyone has more detail about her death, we would be grateful to learn of it. (And more of the Schulzke clan, whatever is available.)

    I’m interested in making contact with other descendants who might like to share photos. We have quite a few, including one with President Budge standing beside Friedrich.

    Thank you again for this wonderful post.

    Comment by Ernest Schulzke — January 29, 2009 @ 6:28 pm

  25. Four or five times in my blogging experience, family members have discovered a post and commented here. This Schulzke family reunion is unprecedented — how nice of you to share your reactions and add/correct details, rather than just passing the link around silently. As I told Michael in email, it’s a relief and a pleasure to know that the family approves of how I’ve handled a story important to them.

    To learn that at least some of Friedrich’s and Anna’s living descendants are church members is pretty special too. As you can tell by the earlier comments, Friedrich’s faith is shared and admired by quite a few readers.

    I’ll write to all three Schulzkes in a moment — but on the record, I hope you’ll send me a picture or two of Friedrich to post here that will be clearer than the only one I could find.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment here.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 29, 2009 @ 7:06 pm

  26. I’d like to thank you too, Ardis.

    I’m a great-granddaughter of Friedrich and Anna and the daughter of Ernest, who posted above. Earlier today, I was looking for a copy of this story to send with my son who will be serving a mission in Ukraine.

    I checked my inbox tonight and my brother had sent me a link to your article–out of the blue. What a pleasant surprise.

    I would like to add that my understanding is that Friedrich prayed repeatedly, not only on that particular night, that the Mormons would be kept away from Memel. It is a minor detail, but it does add a bit to the story.

    Thank you, again!

    Comment by Kristen Schulzke Chevrier — January 29, 2009 @ 8:53 pm

  27. Ardis, the response from the Schultzke family is very exciting. It makes the story so much more intriguing.

    Comment by BruceCrow — January 30, 2009 @ 8:54 am

  28. I served a portion of my mission in Klaipeda (Actually, I served there twice, but when you’re serving in Lithuania, there just aren’t a whole lot of cities to serve in!). We knew that the city had had an LDS branch before WWII, but thanks to the lack of a continuous presence and the Soviet occupation, we knew nothing of the details. Thanks for filling in some “back story” on my own wonderful experiences there.

    Comment by Dave — February 1, 2009 @ 7:13 am

  29. Ardis, Facebook has its uses! When I saw your post I commented on the Facebook page of my Oxford mate Stuart Schulzke to ask whether this was his ancestor — now you have a picture of him in your follow-up post!

    Comment by john f. — February 3, 2009 @ 6:48 am

  30. Hey, I’ve been singing “It’s a Small World” for days now — time for another chorus!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 3, 2009 @ 6:57 am

  31. I am overwhelmed to note that there are so many people interested in the family saga. I am Ernie’s sister, Kristen’s aunt and Friedrich’s granddaughter. My heart has often ached about Anna, my grandmother. Now that I am older, I have even more empathy for her trying to get to safety, running from the soldiers. I thank my Heavenly Father many times every day for a safe place to live and a wonderful ward in which to meet with loving brothers and sisters. I have been with Otto and Eli on many occasions and loved them dearly. Heinz and Uschi(spelling?) were friends, too, while I lived in Utah. I know I met some of their children, but I don’t have a very clear recollection of them.
    Thank you all so much for this wonderful time re-visiting these stories. I am so thankful to have such great relatives!

    Comment by Astrid Gossett — March 9, 2009 @ 10:15 pm

  32. I stumbled on this quite late so maybe no one will see my comments. But one Günter Schulzke was serving as branch president in Tilsit in 1945 when the Saints there had to flee in front of the advancing Red Army. He was a true hero to members of the branch. A son was in the Army and died nearby. Write me if you want a bit more info.

    Comment by Lynn M. Hansen — May 20, 2009 @ 7:09 am

  33. Oh, we’re interested! Check your mailbox.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 20, 2009 @ 8:50 am

  34. Lynn, You might be surprise how many of us look at the old posts. I’m interested?

    Comment by Bruce Crow — May 20, 2009 @ 2:18 pm

  35. Ardis

    We are trying to write a history of the Church in Lithuania for the twentieth anniversary. You quote from sources that we have not received and that the department did not find for us yet. Could you let me know about those sources, and maybe we could get them too.

    Thanks

    Ron

    Comment by Ron Watt — January 10, 2013 @ 4:43 am

  36. Ron, how nice to hear from you! Email to follow.

    Except for the general history of the area, and the new material contributed by readers in the comments, my sources are all in the Church History Library. They are just not locatable by easy catalog searches. Remember all those months and months and months you saw me reading newspapers and Church magazines? Well … :)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 10, 2013 @ 8:22 am

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.
TrackBack URI