Wesel, a town (1953 population, 22,000; 2006 population, 61,432) on the Lower Rhine in Germany, in the 16th century belonging to the duchy of Cleves. Adolf Clarenbach was active here in 1524. In 1534, when Anabaptists from the Netherlands and from Cleves streamed into Münster, active contacts were maintained between Wesel and Münster. Heinrich Santes, a coppersmith of Wesel, was made a duke by Jan Bockelson. There were rumors that there were large numbers of Anabaptists in Wesel. The council arrested suspect wanderers. Heinrich Graess, one of the "prophets" sent out by Münster, was imprisoned and confessed his mission in Wesel and also betrayed his brethren in the town. Eighteen persons were imprisoned in 1535, whose names are given in the records. Some of them had been expelled from other places and had come to Wesel as refugees, e.g., Karl of Stüstern, a cobbler, who was banished from Liege in 1534. Wolter Teschemacher, a native of Kuilenborgh, had reputedly just arrived from Münster to gain adherents and procure food for the besieged town. There were Wesel citizens among these Anabaptists: Otto Vink and his wife, Wilhelm Schlebusch and his wife, and Lijntgen Bottermanns. They were also arrested, although they belonged to the first families of the city and had been on the city council. The names of the prisoners, to whom 16 were added later, show that they came from all classes. Vink, Schlebusch, their wives, and four others were executed on Mt. Calvary and buried there in the presence of the Duke of Cleve. One woman was drowned, some were banished, and others pardoned. Several years later, when quiet Anabaptist groups were found in the city, the city council was less severe. But the radical wing of Anabaptists was not yet eradicated. In the early years of the Dutch War of Liberation the cobbler "King" Jan Willemsz, of Roermond, wandered through the country with a band of 300 companions, robbing and plundering in the region of Emmerich, Wesel, and Kalkar. No wonder that the Mennonites as late as 1700 were haunted by the specter of the Münster atrocities.
When the Reformed creed became dominant in Wesel, the Mennonites could maintain themselves only in smaller numbers in near-by Kleve and were not able to organize a congregation. The city council prevented any Mennonites from the outside from settling in the city. On 12 January 1638, Johann Rebber, a Mennonite from Hamm, who had settled in Wesel without knowledge of the city council, was permitted to remain until Easter. The Reesen and Cramer families stayed longer. Maurice of Orange, the Stadholder in Cleve, requested of Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg, that the Mennonites be tolerated and not be burdened with the oath. Nevertheless Jan Reesen and his brother had to obtain permission to retain the rights that they as citizens had enjoyed for 40 years. In 1694, when the Mennonites were expelled from Rheydt, Gottschalk Dietrichs of Elten came to Wesel with his family. He died here in 1701, and his wife in 1710. His three daughters remained in Wesel. After this nothing more is heard of Mennonites in Wesel.
Bouterwek, K. W. "Bekäntnus einiger persohnen, so der Widdertauff urid des Munsterischen Unwesens halben alhie zu Wesel im Jahr 1535 eingezogen worden." Drey Stuck aus den Weselischen Wiedertäuffer-Acten. Fortges. Sammlung v. alten u. neuen theolog. Sachen, n.p., 1739: 409-24.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. IV.
Rembert, Karl. Die "Wiedertäufer" im Herzogtum Jülich. Berlin: R. Gaertners Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1899.
Zeitschrift des Bergischen Geschichts Fereins I: 360-84.
Cite This Article
Hege, Christian. "Wesel (Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 7 Mar 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Wesel_(Nordrhein-Westfalen,_Germany)&oldid=61947.
Hege, Christian. (1959). Wesel (Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 7 March 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Wesel_(Nordrhein-Westfalen,_Germany)&oldid=61947.
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