chapter  One
23 Pages

Confessional Migration: The Dispersion of Anabaptists to Northern Germany

The theme of migration is central to Anabaptist history into the twentieth century and this chapter elaborates on the German historian Heinz Schilling's concept of confessional migration. Schilling's analysis, while concentrated on Calvanists, does apply well to Anabaptists, for their collective religious, political, social and economic lives were also shaped decisively by experiences of persecution, expulsion and relocation. The reasons for Anabaptist persecution and exile were rooted in mainstream Christian attitudes towards baptism and social order. Adult baptism in northern Germany and the Netherlands began in the early 1530s. The Anabaptists who eventually settled in Hamburg and Altona were largely Flemish Mennonites. The completion of a new church building in Altona was an important benchmark in the institutional history of the Flemish congregation. The new church and cemetery were symbols of the growing wealth, confidence and autonomy of a group that had made northern Germany its home already for several generations.