Maria and Karl Schroeter

Photo courtesy of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Archives.

Schroeter, Karl (1900–1980?)

By Karsten Wilke

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Karsten Wilke, Dipl. Theol. (Friedensau Adventist University, Germany), serves as pastor with the Berlin Central Conference in Germany where he lives with his wife and children. He is ardently interested in the history of Christianity and Adventism, particularly in China. His diploma thesis discussed “Contextualization in the Face of the Chinese Popular Belief” (2006).

Karl Schroeter was a German Adventist missionary to China. He directed the work in the Chekiang province, ministered in the Anhui and Jiangsu provinces, and served as chaplain and instructor at the Shanghai Sanatorium.

Early Years

Karl Schroeter1 was born on April 9, 1900 in Straßburg (formerly a German city).2 Schroeter’s origins could be traced to Alsace Lorraine, France, though his nationality was German. He also spoke French, having studied it for five years in secondary school, and his English was “quite good” as well.3 From 1918 to1920 he served in the German army. Beginnng in 1923, he worked with the Adventist church in Germany as a gospel worker and missionary licentiate in the South-Bavarian Conference for two years.4 He spent two more years attending two missionary seminaries,5 the Darmstadt Missionary Seminary,6 and most likely the seminary in Bad Aibling, South Bavaria, where the Adventist Church had a missionary seminary and a sanitarium at that time.

Ministry, Marriage and Mission

Schroeter continued working as a licentiate in 1925.7 The Adventist Yearbooks record Schroeter’s service from 1926 to 1928 in the North-Bavarian Conference.8 Walter K. Ising, secretary of the European Division, and the Winter Council of the European Division voted to send him to China in November 22-30, 1927.9

On December 24, 1927 Schroeter married Maria Schott (born 1898) in Aschaffenburg.10 She was a trained nurse, but without state accreditation. Instead, she had a state diploma in massage and therapeutic gymnastics.11

China

On February 5, 1928, the Schroeters sailed from Hamburg for Shanghai, arriving April 9.12 Immediately they started their language classes at the Shanghai School of Mandarin Studies.13 After a year of study, in June 1929 the Schroeters were transferred to the East China Union Mission to serve in the Jiangsu province.14

Schroeter’s common worldview with the American Adventist missionaries and his good language skills in English and Chinese15 gained the respect of his associates. At the Spring Council of the Far Eastern Division in 1929, K. H. Wood, Superintendent of the East China Union Mission, mentioned Schroeter as the appointed director of the newly-to-form North Chekiang Mission.16

In 1930, six churches and outstations were separated from the Jiangsu Mission to found the North Chekiang Mission, with its headquarters in Hangchow (Hangzhou, Zhejiang province), the province capital where Schroeter lived.17 He was ordained and became the first director of that new Mission.18

Beginning April 14-23, 1931, the biennial session meeting of the East China Union was held in Nanking. There, Schroeter presented his first report with a stress on membership. His mission station had gained a membership of 435.19 Schroeter followed the Adventist method of tent evangelism, founding Sabbath-Schools and supporting these with Adventist literature.

William A. Spicer, secretary of the General Conference in Washington, D.C., showed his amazement at Schroeter’s success. While G. L. Wilkinson, director of another mission, failed to reach all hsiens (political districts) of his province, Schroeter claimed to have entered every of his 30 hsiens. Spicer also reported about a public outreach effort in Hangchow (Hangzhou) where he led the congregation “in Chinese, with a fluent Chekiang accent.”20 Spicer was part of the leadership which decided to send Schroeter to China at the 1927 Winter Council in Vienna, at a time when Schroeter had “no thought of China”.21 But now his language skills were so strong that C. C. Crisler asked him to translate a Mongolian-Chinese grammar book for O. Christiansen to learn the Mongolian language.22

This good reputation is evinced in Schroeter’s election to the planning committee for the quadrennial session meeting of the China Division, held from January 22 to February 6, 1932.23

In a director’s report of 1934, Schroeter showed some of the problems he encountered in his mission. Due to famine, his mission struggled with suicides, robberies, and Bolshevistic uprisings.24 Nevertheless an authoritarian leadership style of that time by the East China Union pressed him to set new baptismal goals for his mission, and Schroeter got the task to baptize 175 souls for the new year 1935. Working persistently with his co-workers, they reached 117 baptisms by mid-1935.25

In July 1936, Schroeter was appointed a delegate to the General Conference Session in the United States of America, and on the way back to China he and his wife made a short visit to Germany.26 In June 1937 they arrived back in China, and Schroeter became director of the South Chekiang Mission.27 But soon the Sino-Japanese war broke out, and Schroeter, in the company of F. A. Landis and J. H. Schultz, was sent from Hankow (Hankou today, part of Wuhan) to safeguard the property of the China Training Institute (中華三育研究社) at Qiaotouzhen (橋頭镇)/Nanjing.28 Later that year the Schroeters fled with their child to Kiukiang (Jiujiang, Jiangxi province), where they lived under one roof with J. H. Effenberg, another German Adventist missionary, and his family. From there Schroeter made another trip to Nanjing to secure supplies from Qiaotouzhen.29 Together with the Effenbergs they fled to Hong Kong that December.30

The only son of the Schroeters, Horst Gerhard Schroeter was born February 15, 1937 in China.31 The next year, Schroeter became chaplain of the Shanghai Sanatorium and Clinic. The demands of too many students in the nursing classes made it necessary for him to start teaching in the nursing program.32 On April 24, 1939, he baptized 31 candidates in Shanghai,33 including “Nine, as the result of the Bible classes which he conducted”.34 For further evangelistic effectiveness, Schroeter entered the Far Eastern Academy for language classes in winter 1939/40.35 As a result, he was able to conduct evangelistic meetings in Chinese in the Rang Road Church, Shanghai.36

Return and End of Denominational Work

The financial pressure of the Sino-Japanese war forced the China Division to return some missionaries permanently in order to secure their budget.37 The General Conference decided to send Schroeter back home to Germany, voting a permanent return on October 28, 1940.38 Schroeter returned from China with the Trans-Siberian Railroad from Peking via Moscow to Berlin and arrived back in Germany just two weeks before the Germans invaded Russia.39 The Adventist Yearbook confirmed his return, and listed him living in the Regensburger Street 22, Berlin from 1942 onward, but without any church position.40 Schroeter’s service profile was last recorded in the Adventist Yearbook of 1946, where he was listed as living in Berlin.41 Because of his language skills in Chinese and English he was asked by the “Auswärtige Amt” (Federal Foreign Office) in Berlin to work for them as a translator on foreign affairs during the war.42 After the war Schroeter moved with his wife to his mother to Munich and lived in Isartalstr. 40/4 in Munich. The house belonged to the Adventist church.43

According to oral sources, Schroter left the Adventist church. In Munich he worked at the International Airport as “Empfangs-Chef” (front office manager) because of his excellent language skills. The exact date of the death of Karl Schroeter could not be verified, but most likely it was in the year 1980 in Munich.44

Contribution

As a missionary and administrator of the Adventist church in China, Schroeter entered new territory for the Church, and helped to organize the mission as the first director of the Northern Jiangsu mission, and later in the Zhejiang province.

Also, during the Sino-Japanese war, Schroeter labored to secure the church property at Qiaotouzhen (橋頭镇)/Nanjing. As an evangelist with a mastery in the Chinese language, he was effective in leading many Chinese to Jesus. As chaplain and instructor at the Shanghai Sanatorium, he encouraged young Chinese to learn a profession for service to their own people.

Sources

“Assignments and Departures.” Far Easter Division Outlook, June 1929.

“Changes of Address.” Far Easter Division Outlook, May 1930.

“Division Notes.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, May/June 1928.

Green, G. M. “Shanghai Sanatorium 1938.” China Division Reporter, November 15, 1939.

General Conference Committee, January 5, 1928, 469, General Conference Archives, accessed February 16, 2020, http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Minutes/GCC/GCC1928.pdf.

General Conference Committee, October 28, 1940, 1665-1666, General Conference Archives, accessed February 16, 2020, http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Minutes/GCC/GCC1940-11.pdf.

Hackman, E. F. “Letter from China.” Pacific Union Recorder, June 28, 1939.

Hall, O. A. “The East China Union.” China Division Reporter, March 1941.

Hartwell, R. H. “Baptisms in Shanghai.” China Division Reporter, May 1, 1939.

_________. “Shanghai Efforts and Workers’ Institute.” China Division Reporter, February 15, 1940.

_________. “Shanghai Workers` Institute.” China Division Reporter, April 15, 1940.

Ising, W. K. to I. H. Evens and C. C. Crisler, December 18, 1927, in Erich Aurich, Record ID 45145, Box 9821, General Conference Archives, Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S.A.

Lee F. “Great Soul-Winning Endeavor.” China Division Reporter, February 1932.

Miller, H. W. “The China Division Delegation Enroute to General Conference.” China Division Outlook, July 1936.

“Missionary Sailing.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, June 1937.

“News Notes.” China Division Reporter, November 1937.

“News Notes. China Division Reporter, December 1937.

“Report of Physician`s Examination of Karl and Maria Schroeter.” November 18, 1927. Record ID 47027, Box 9906, General Conference Archives, Silver Spring, Maryland.

Scharffenberg, W. A. “Chinese Language Study.” China Division Reporter, December 15, 1939.

Schroeter, C. “North Chekiang Mission: Annual Meeting.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, June 1930.

__________. “The North Chekiang Mission.” China Division Reporter, April/Mai 1931.

__________. “Advance in North Chekiang.” China Division Reporter, October 1931.

__________. “North Chekiang Mission: Director`s Report 1934.” China Division Reporter, April 1935.

__________. “Missionare erleben den Chinesisch-Japanischen Krieg.” Adventbote, March 15, 1938.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington D.C.: Review and Herald, 1923–1946.

Spicer, W. A. “What One Hears and Sees in East China.” ARH, June 9, 1932.

__________. “‘Forward into Battle’ in North China.” ARH, September 9, 1932.

Thiele, E. R. “Into Norther Chekiang.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, June 1930.

________. “The Gospel Transforming Lives.” ARH, January 15, 1931.

Wood, K. H. “The East China Union.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, March 1943.

Notes

  1. He is referred to as Carl Schroeter in English texts.

  2. This date is assumed since the report of a form signed in 1927 indicates he was aged 27 at that time. See “Report of Physician’s Examination of Karl and Maria Schroeter,” November 18, 1927, Record ID 47027, Box 9906, General Conference Archives, Silver Spring, Maryland. Also, Frank Hasel, e-mail message to author, July 10, 2020.

  3. W. K. Ising, Letter to I. H. Evens and C. C. Crisler, December 18, 1927, Record ID 45145, Box 9821, General Conference Archives, Silver Spring, Maryland, 1.

  4. Ibid.; See “South Bavarian Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Takoma Park, Washington D.C.: Review and Herald, 1923), 90.

  5. W. K. Ising, Letter to I. H. Evens and C. C. Crisler, December 18, 1927.

  6. Spicer, W. A., “What One Hears and Sees in East China,” ARH, June 9, 1932, (5) 533.

  7. Ibid.

  8. His address according the Yearbook was Hinterm Bahnhof 30, Nuenberg. The last address according to his “Report of Physician`s Examination” was: Innere Dammerstr. 7, Aschaffenburg; See “Ministerial Directory,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Takoma Park, Washington D.C.: Review and Herald, 1926), 349.

  9. Without author, “The Winter Council at Vienna,” Quarterly Review of the European Division, 4th Quarter 1927, 3-4.

  10. Frank Hasel, e-mail message to author, July 10, 2020.

  11. W. K. Ising to I. H. Evens and C. C. Crisler, December 18, 1927, Record ID 45145, Box 9821, General Conference Archives, Silver Spring, Maryland, 1.

  12. W. K. Ising, Letter to E. Kotz, December 18, 1927, Record ID 45145, Box 9821, General Conference Archives, Silver Spring, Maryland.

  13. “Division Notes,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, May/June 1928, 13.

  14. “Assignments and Departures,” Far Easter Division Outlook, June 1929, 16.

  15. Schroeter hoped “the later rain may fall in power to ripen the harvest and prepare His waiting people for His soon coming.” C. Schroeter, “North Chekiang Mission: Annual Meeting,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, June 1930, 6. E. R. Thiele reported that Schroeter had “a very good hold upon the Chinese language, and is throwing himself strongly into the up building of the work.” E. R. Thiele, “The Gospel Transforming Lives,” ARH, January 15, 1931, 14-15.

  16. K. H. Wood, “The East China Union,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, 6d.

  17. “Changes of Address,” Far Easter Division Outlook, Mai 1930, 16.

  18. See “North Chekiang Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Takoma Park, Washington D.C.: Review and Herald, 1931), 168.

  19. C. Schroeter, “The North Chekiang Mission,” China Division Reporter, April/May 1931, 2; But in October 1931 Schroeter could report only 47 baptisms. He hoped to reach his goal for the year and asserted: “We are putting forth strenuous efforts to increase our tithe and offerings, and we hope to show a marked increase by the end of the year.” C. Schroeter, “Advance in North Chekiang,” China Division Reporter, October 1931, 7. This shows the level of pressure, especially in the time of the Great Depression, that was placed on missionaries to succeed.

  20. W. A. Spicer, “What one Hears and Sees in East China,” Review and Harold, June 9, 1932, (5) 533.

  21. W. K. Ising, Letter to I. H. Evens and C. C. Crisler, December 18, 1927; W. A. Spicer, “What One Hears and Sees in East China,” Review and Harold, June 9, 1932, (5) 533.

  22. W. A. Spicer, “‘Forward into Battle’ in North China,” ARH, September 9, 1932, (11) 851.

  23. F. Lee, “Great Soul-Winning Endeavor,” China Division Reporter, February 1932, 4, 6.

  24. C. Schroeter, “North Chekiang Mission: Director’s Report 1934,” China Division Reporter, April 1935, 6-7.

  25. C. Schroeter, “In North Chekiang,” China Division Reporter, August 1935, 3.

  26. H. W. Miller, “The China Division Delegation Enroute to General Conference,” China Division Outlook, July 1936, 2.

  27. “Missionary Sailing,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, June 19370, 8.

  28. “News Notes,” China Division Reporter, November 1937, 7-8.

  29. Ibid.

  30. C. Schroeter, “Missionare erleben den Chinesisch-Japanischen Krieg,” Adventbote, March 15, 1938, 90-92; without author, “News Notes,” China Division Reporter, December 1937, 8.

  31. Frank Hasel, e-mail message to author, July 10, 2020.

  32. G. M. Green, “Shanghai Sanatorium 1938,” China Division Reporter, November 15, 1939, 5.

  33. R. H. Hartwell, “Baptisms in Shanghai,” China Division Reporter, May 1, 1939, 4.

  34. E. F. Hackman, “Letter from China,” Pacific Union Recorder, June 28, 1939, 10.

  35. W. A. Scharffenberg, “Chinese language Study,” China Division Reporter, December 15, 1939, 4, 7. The Academy had elementary classes and advanced classes with “an oral vocabulary range of 20,000 words, a reading knowledge of 5,000 characters and writing knowledge of 2,000”.

  36. O. A. Hall, “The East China Union,” China Division Reporter, March 1941, 3.

  37. See E. F. Hackman, “A Letter from China,” Pacific Union Recorder, June 28, 1939, 10.

  38. General Conference Committee, October 28, 1940, 1665-1666, General Conference Archives, accessed February 16, 2020, http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Minutes/GCC/GCC1940-11.pdf.

  39. Frank Hasel, e-mail message to author, July 10, 2020.

  40. See “Ministerial Directory,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Takoma Park, Washington D.C.: Review and Herald, 1942), 354.

  41. “Workers Directory,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Takoma Park, Washington D.C.: Review and Herald, 1946), 403.

  42. Frank Hasel, e-mail message to author, July 10, 2020.

  43. Ibid. In fact there is an Adventist church at the same address in Munich (Isartalgemeinde).

  44. Frank Hasel, e-mail message to author, July 10, 2020.

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Wilke, Karsten. "Schroeter, Karl (1900–1980?)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Accessed May 14, 2021. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=9IDF.

Wilke, Karsten. "Schroeter, Karl (1900–1980?)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Date of access May 14, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=9IDF.

Wilke, Karsten (2021, April 28). Schroeter, Karl (1900–1980?). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 14, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=9IDF.