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Traveling to Mennonite World Conference in 1957

In August 1957, the Mennonite World Conference Assembly was held in Karlsruhe, Germany. At least three Brethren in Christ attended: Charlie B. Byers, Sr., C. N. Hostetter, Jr., and E. J. Swalm. Before the assembly, Bishop Swalm toured the Holy Land and parts of Europe visiting with Mennonites and learning about our Anabaptist ancestors. He wrote about his trip in several issues of the Evangelical Visitor. Following is an excerpt from his final report before reaching Germany for Mennonite World Conference.

Europe and the Holy Land Day by Day

by E. J. Swalm

My dear readers, we broke our conversation with you at Basle, Switzerland where we spent a few hours and did some shopping. Our party indulged in some watch-buying. We called on our dear friend and brother in the Lord, Rev. H. H. Janzen who is doing evangelistic work throughout Germany and Switzerland. Leaving Basle we directed our journey toward Berne. En route to this city, the capital of Switzerland, we visited Mennonite Bible School which has moved from Basle to this lovely location on a mountaintop which was once used for a luxurious hotel. Our Peace, relief and Service Committee has made contributions to this noble work in the past years.

Later in the day we called on Rev. Samuel Gerber, President of the Swiss Mennonites who is a farmer high in the Alps. He is a very spiritual man with a strong passion for evangelism. After having a little prayer meeting, we went on our journey arriving at Berne about sunset.

Bishop E. J. Swalm stands at the exact spot on the bridge in Switzerland where Anabaptists were put into a weighted cage and lowered into the water until they died. Then they were raised to be replaced with the next victim.
Bishop E. J. Swalm stands at the exact spot on the bridge in Switzerland where Anabaptists were put into a weighted cage and lowered into the water until they died. Then they were raised to be replaced with the next victim.

Berne is a large city, famous for its miles of Arcades along the main street, also rich in Anabaptist history. Here in the Aare River early Mennonites were drowned one by one because their faith held them steadfast in Christ. We felt a sense of holy awe as we walked down the cobble stone street toward the bridge where scores of them took their last earthly journey before they stepped on heaven’s shores (see adjacent photo).

Saturday, Aug. 3, our party of eight again took to the Volkswagen and steered toward the beautiful city of Lucerne. One the way we stopped at a high Alpine resort called Grunewald where the writer of Heidi caught the setting for her book and used the social background of this quaint area for her literary masterpiece. We arrived at Lucerne early in the evening and were amazed beyond any expectation at the crowded tourist situation. Literally thousands of people flock to this beautiful city scattered along the shores of a placid lake with its mirrored scenes. We have never seen a more beautiful aspect of God’s external handiwork.

Leaving Lucerne about Sunday noon, Aug. 4 we travelled some very mountainous roads. Even though the scenery was superb, the dangers seemed very evident. But a kind Providence guided us safely with His unseen hand. We crossed into Austria and spent the night at Feldkirch. During the day we passed the spot where the Queen of Belgium was killed in a motor accident in 1935 when the card she and her husband King Leopold were riding left the road and struck a tree.

Monday, Aug. 5 found us on our way through Austria crossing again a narrow portion of Germany, and arrived at Innsbruck, Austria early in the evening. The tourist jam was such that we could not get any hotel accommodations. We tried out in the country towns and were forced to take rooms in private dwellings near midnight, thankful to get them.

Tuesday, Aug. 6 we pulled toward Linz visiting Berchtesgaden on the way. This was Hitler’s “hide-out.” The building was bombed and is in ruins as some movement similar to the Nazi party was trying to make a shrine of it. We had a great welcome in Lintz by Rev. Abram Neufeldt and wife of the Mennonite Brethren who are doing Mission work and relief service to a large group of refugees.

We took the train on Wednesday for Vienna and spent the day there with the Pax Unit. The MCC workers had gone to the Hungarian border so we missed visiting them.

Thursday, Aug. 8 we reached Nurnberg [Nuremberg] where the high ranking Nazi officers of World War II were convicted of desperate war crimes and received the death sentence.

Friday, Aug. 9 we travelled back to Karlsruhe, stopping briefly at Stuttgart. In every city we were amazed at the unbelievable recovery they have made since I saw them five years ago in disposing of their rubble and erecting great buildings. Our next report will be on the 6th Mennonite World Conference here in Karlsruhe.

Reprinted from Evangelical Visitor, September 9, 1957, pages 3-4.