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Apache mirracle (htaccess)

Dear Apache-Experts!

I have a strange problem with a simple task of configuration on our
Apache 1.3.26 www-server on an "old potato updated to woody"-Debian. 
Therefore I would be very gratefull if I could get replies.

The task: Granting access to directories to certain users on a simple
user/password basis, using simple authentification and .htaccess-files.
This had been working very well for a long time.

The problem: After I had installed and uninstalled mySQL-server/client,
horde and imp - it stopped working. (Or let's say, after a log

The symptomes: .htaccess-files are parsed - for when I write impropper
syntax, apache writes errormessages. It looks as if only the
AuthUserFile-information is simply ignored. When one tries to login,
apache claims in its error-log that it couldn't find the user in the
restricted web-directory (nonsense!).
([error] user testuser not found: /restricted_dir/)

My homework: I read 20 manuals and I have checked every setting and
every line in /etc/apache/httpd.conf. Everything is set correctly. I
have checked each and every .htaccess-file and regenarated the
password-files: It did not work.  I have moved the syntax from the
.htaccess-file to the httpd.conf-file as directory-directive: It did not
change anything. I have removed the webserver from the system, removed
the rest by hand and reinstalled everything from another source: this
didn'd change a thing. And at last I had tried to change the combination of
modules, which was quite confusing in the results, but it didn't change
my problem. (Which modules are needed for minimal restriction, anyway?)

I wrote Emails to apache and to the maintainer of the debian-package,
but I didn't get any answers yet. Does anybody have an idea about this
strange behavior? (Of the server, of course..)
Thank you very much in forward to any suggestions.

ps. some configurations:

AllowOverride is set to All everywhere.
My directives for an example-directory in httpd.conf:

<Directory "/usr/local/httpd/htdocs/restricted_dir">
AuthType Basic
require valid-user
Satisfy all
AuthName "test"
AuthUserFile /etc/apache/access_files/testdir

## Oliver Sass (oas)
## mail@olansa.de
## Heidelberg, DE

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