In Memoriam

Dr. Hinrich Stoevesandt, founding Director of the Karl Barth-Archiv in Basel Switzerland and first General Editor of the Karl Barth Gesamtausgabe, quietly passed away on Pentecost Sunday in his home on the Dittingerstraße in that city. He is survived by his beloved wife, Elisabeth, daughters Dorothee and Magdalene and by Christoph Bucher, Dorothee’s partner.

Hinrich Stoevesandt was a careful researcher who bore the responsibility for seeing the first 31 volumes of the Gesamtausgabe into print. Several individual volumes including the 37th volume in the series, the concluding volume of the Göttingen lectures on dogmatics, were directly edited by him. His knowledge of Barth’s theology and his biography (acquired through exhaustive acquaintance with Barth’s letters) made him a rich resource for those scholars fortunate enough to make their way to the door of Bruderholzallee 26 in Basel. Many there were whose reputations were established with the help of this humble man, working quietly behind the scenes. A visit to the Stoevesandt home was always a gift to savor. That a man so given to detailed, historical research could have had such a highly refined sense of humor and a simply lovely gift for story-telling made him all the more endearing.

Dr. Stoevesandt was also the author of a number of writings of his own on topics ranging from Bonaventura’s eschatology to historical theology to Barth’s sermons, practical theology and homiletics. He served as a Visiting Professor of Homiletics at the Eberhard-Karls-Universität (Tübingen) in the Winter Semester of 1984/85. He preached regularly in the Basel Münster – where he was also a faithful member. A great many of his sermons have been published. He was the recipient of two honorary doctorates – from the University of Bern and from the University of Budapest. And he was a speaker and reader of the Dutch language who helped to mediate Dutch theology to German readers through translations of significant Dutch works. He published a critical edition of the 76 letters exchanged by Karl Barth and K. Heiko Miskotte in 1991 as well as a translation of Miskotte’s Wenn die Götter Schweigen – a book which had a profound impact in the 1960s. Of course, he was also in a position to mediate Barth’s theology to the Dutch. For a number of years, he travelled to Holland each year to expound Barth’s theology to a gathering of Dutch theologians.

But who was this man? He was the son of one of Karl Barth’s closest friends dating back to the 1920s, Karl Stoevesandt, a medical doctor from Bremen. Karl Stoevesandt became a stalwart of the confessing church movement in the 1930s and suffered imprisonment on more than one occasion for his activities in opposition to the German Reich

Given the close relationship between the two families, it was natural that Hinrich should have lived with the Barth family in the large house on Pilgerstrasse (within walking distance of the new lecture building on the Petersplatz) when he came to Basel in the 1950s for doctoral studies. He repaid this kindness by providing technical support for Barth in publishing Church Dogmatics IV/2, to which he also contributed a striking phrase adopted by the great man directly into his text: “Gemessen an seinem Großen Licht erweisen sich die kleinen Lichter, in deren Schein wir jetzt leben, als nötige und in ihrer Weise brauchbare, aber schließlich doch kümmerliche Treppenbeleuchtung” (KD IV/2, 950 – i.e. so many wretched lights illuminating a flight of stairs). After Barth’s death, he edited the well-known letter exchange between Karl Barth and Carl Zuckmayer, Späte Freundschaft in Briefen (1977).

Mention should also be made of Dr. Stoevesandt’s musical talents. He loved to sing; he helped create the Neue Basler Kammerchor – which he also served for a number of years as President.

Dr. Stoevesandt was much loved by all who knew him. To his family, to his dear friends (e.g. Michael Trowitzsch, Michael Beintker and Karlfried Fröhlich), and to his co-laborers in Basel in the field of Barth-Studies and in ministry (e.g. the Christ families, Anton and Mirjam Drewes), the Center of Barth Studies wishes to say to each and all: we share in your sorrow at the passing of such a wonderful man. And we trust with you in the God who will raise the dead on the Last Day.

—Dr. Bruce L. McCormack, Director, Center for Barth Studies

Click here to read the correspondence of Dr. Hinrich Stoevesandt

Dr. Hinrich Stoevesandt and his wife, Elisabeth Stoevesandt