Knak, Siegfried (1875-1955)

Director of the Berlin Mission

siegfried_knakKnak was born into a family of Lutheran ministers associated with the north-German neopietist awakening. He did his theological studies at Halle, mainly under Martin Kähler, and for a few years served as a parish pastor. In 1910 he was named inspector of the influential Berlin Mission, and in 1921 he began a twenty-seven-year tenure as director. In 1950 he became lecturer in missiology at the Berlin and Halle universities. Both as a mission administrator and as a mission theologian, Knak conceived the task of missions primarily in terms of inculturation of the gospel, the planting of folk churches, and respect for the God-given orders of society, largely along the lines of Bruno Gutmann in East Africa and Christian Keysser in New Guinea. Knak’s first questioning of this approach came when the Nazi-controlled German Christians tried to dominate both churches and missions in Germany. Knak, after some hesitation, found himself on the side of the “Confessing Church” movement. A more thorough revision of his missiological stance was initiated after World War II under the influence of the ecumenical movement and J. C. Hoekendijk‘s criticism of the “organological” ideology in German missions. Meanwhile, the devastating loss of most of the East German constituency of the Berlin Mission after 1945 required a painful renewal of the mission’s leadership.

Gensichen, Hans-Werner, “Knack, Sigfried,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 371.

This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.


Knak, Siegfried. Zwischeb Nil und Tafelbai: Eine Studie über Evangelium, Volkstum, und Zivilisation. Berlin: Heimatdienst-Verlag, 1931.

Göttingen State and University Library contains a short list of Knak’s writings in German.


“Siegfried Knak.”In Lehmann, Hellmut. 150 Berliner Mission. Erlangen: Evangelisch-Lutherische Mission, 1974.