Wassmann, Dietrich (Rev)

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Life and ministry

Cf. “Dietrich Wassmann” in [the German] Wikipedia:

As the son of a linen weaver family from Schaumburg-Lippe, Waßmann already wanted to become a missionary as a child. From 1916 onwards, he was a war veteran, and after a short nursing training at the Stephansstift in Hanover, he began theological training in 1920 at the mission seminary in Hermannsburg. After the end of the training in 1927, he and three other missionaries were assigned to the mission among the Oromo.

In July 1928, the missionaries arrived in the western province of Wollega via Addis Ababa. Rev. Wassmann and his co-workers built a mission station in Aira and gathered a congregation. Waßmann strove towards his goal through intensive Bible instruction and preaching. He learned indigenous languages and studied their structure as well as the customs and traditions of the Oromo people.

Waßmann also set up a second inland station in Beddellee. In 1936, Waßmann had to leave the inland stations with his family and German co-workers because of the Italian invasion but could return in 1938 and work in Aira from 1939 to 1941. He ordained his co-worker Dafaa Jammoo as the first Evangelical Lutheran Oromo pastor before leaving Aira in April 1941 due to World War II.

Rev. Dietrich Wassmann and his colleagues returned to Ethiopia in 1951. After contracting malaria and typhoid fever, Rev. Wassmann passed away in Addis Ababa in January 1954.

Translating hymns into Oromo

Quote from Arén (1999), Envoys of the Gospel, p. 451-52:

“Rev. Dietrich Wassmann was “[p. 451] concerned about Onesimos’ Oromo Hymnbook. The melodies it referred to were totally unfamiliar to him and the [p. 452] tunes that were sung at Hermannsburg did not fit in with the words in Onesimos’ hymns. […] After two years at the mission he [Dafaa Jammoo] was so far advanced in the German language that he could assist his tutor in revising Onesimos’ hymnbook.*

* Footnote 157: “GHM/AE 1. 31: Wassmann to Director, 22 May 1932. Wassmann 1938 [Pioneerdienst], 42 – Wassmann and Daffa were presumably totally unaware of Onesimos’ own revised version of 1927 [= manuscript], which included hymns which could not be sung to western melodies. See p. 330n.”


Collection of 26 Oromo hymns (approx. 1934 ?)

  • Translated (presumably with the help of Dafaa Jammoo) and edited by Rev. Dietrich Wassmann. Duplicated in Aira.
  • It appears that the development of an Oromo hymnal was continued until 1936 (under the guidance of Friedrich Bock).


Rev. Dietrich Wassmann teaching first singing lesson; Aira around 1930/31
(from ELM Hermannsburg Archive; ELM-A 14, adapted)
Rev. Dietrich Wassmann playing the trumpet; Korme 1952
(from ELM Hermannsburg Archive; adapted)

Further readings

1. Sources

Wassmann, Dietrich. Letter to Mission Director Christoph Schomerus, 22 May 1932. [Read online]

—. Das Oromovolk auf unserm abessinischen Missionsfelde: Seine Sitten und Gebräuche. [The Oromo people on our Abyssinian mission field: Its customs and habits]. Hermannsburg: Missionshandlung, 1935.

—. “Vom Gallasang zum christlichen Gemeindegesang” [From Oromo singing to Christian congregational singing], Hermannsburger Missionskalender für das Jahr 1937, p. 39-44. [Read online]

—. Pionierdienst unter den Galla in Westabessinien [Pioneer Service among the [Oromo] in Western Abyssinia]. Hermannsburg: Missionshandlung, 1938. [Read excerpts]

—. Der Durchbruch des Evangeliums im Gallaland: Ereignisse und Erlebnisse nach dem italienisch-abessinischen Kriege [Breakthrough of the Gospel in [Oromia]: Events and Experiences after the Italian-Abyssinian War]. Hermannsburg: Missionshandlung, 1948.

Wassmann, Dietrich (tr. and ed.). Collection of Oromo hymns. Duplicated in Aira in the 1930s. [Read online]

2. Literature

Arén, Gustav. Envoys of the Gospel in Ethiopia: In the Steps of the Evangelical Pioneers 1898-1936. Stockholm: EFS förlaget; Addis Ababa: The [Ethiopian] Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, 1999. [See chapter 8: “A Dream Came True – The Legacy of Louis Harms 1928-1936”]

Bauerochse, Ernst. Ihr Ziel war das Oromoland: Die Anfänge der Hermannsburger Mission in Äthiopien [Their Destination was Oromoland: The Beginnings of the Hermannsburg Mission in Ethiopia]. Münster: Lit Verlag, 2006. [Google Books]

—. A Vision Finds Fulfillment: Hermannsburg Mission in Ethiopia. Zürich and Berlin: Lit Verlag, 2008.