Emmental (Switzerland)

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Emmental Region (Switzerland) Source: Mennonite Encyclopedia v. 2, p. 206

1956 Article

Emmental, a district in the Swiss canton of Bern, where Anabaptism gained a following in the Reformation era, and in spite of very severe persecution has maintained itself up to the present. The narrower Emmental (Emme Valley) is made up of the two townships, Signau (the upper valley) and Trachselwald (the lower valley), together with the adjacent Konolfingen and Burgdorf. The meadows of the upper part of the Emmental extend to the Lower Alps. Mt. Napf rises to a height of 4,670 ft. Here is the home of the famed Emmental cheese. In the lower regions farming and fruit-growing predominate. In the narrower Emmental there are only a few towns of any size, of which Langnau, with its population of 8,600, is most important. In general it is an extensive region of individual farms. Besides the church and school there are few buildings to mark a center. The brooks have cut deep, narrow furrows in the meadows. Thickly sprinkled over the landscape are the trim homesteads. This form of landscape and of settlement produces in the inhabitants a strong self-reliance and a consequent weakening of group or community consciousness. Their independence of thought has frequently been demonstrated to both state and church. To this territory we add the flatter land of Aarwangen and Traubrunnen (the Oberaargau). This extended Emmental embraces a considerable part of the canton of Bern, approximately 450 sq. miles with 160,000 inhabitants.

What is said in the article Bern about the Anabaptist movement applies in especial degree to the Emmental. Here Anabaptism arose and spread very quickly. Although the movement spread throughout the canton, nevertheless the Emmental was specifically an Anabaptist region. This may be due in part to the fact that it is adjacent to the cantons Aargau, Lucerne, and Solothurn, where the Anabaptists were likewise more numerous during the 16th century. The canton of Basel also extends to within five miles (8 km) of Wangen and Aarwangen. Thus missionary Anabaptists always reached this region first to strengthen the brotherhood, and were then all too frequently seized and finally also executed.

Since the history of Emmental has already been discussed in Bern, the present discussion will center especially on those places where Anabaptists are mentioned in documents (see the map). The first dealings of the council of Bern with the Anabaptists (22 October 1525, and 13 January 1526; see Aktensammlung zur Geschichte der Berner Reformation 1521-1532 (hereafter) R.A., Nos. 746 and 801) lead in the direction of Aargau, which was at that time largely under Bernese jurisdiction (until 1798). On  7 and 12 March and 27 April 1526, dispatches were sent to the magistrate of Wangen (R.A. Nos. 839, 843, 876), which mention secret meetings, clandestine preaching (Winkelpredigen) and preaching in the tavern, and order the magistrate to banish these preachers if they will not desist. It is not certain that these acts deal with Anabaptist preaching. But in later dispatches the preaching of the Anabaptists is often referred to as "corner preaching" and "tavern preaching" (R.A. Nos. 2721 and 3058). A similar case occurs in a dispatch of 8 May 1527, in which two men of Lower Huttwil are to answer for talking about the sacrament and are released (R.A. No. 1202).

On 6 September 1527, in an order to the communes, the Anabaptists are mentioned, which indicates that the movement was widespread. Measures are passed to "eradicate these weeds." The banished outsiders who return are to be "drowned without mercy," likewise their leaders and "masters." On 7 January 1528, a command is issued to keep Anabaptists imprisoned until the conclusion of the approaching disputation (R.A. No. 1456). On 10 January 1528 Jegenstorf receives instructions concerning the imprisonment of Anabaptists (R.A. No. 1459). On 22 January 1528 a dispatch is issued to city and canton, which deals only with Anabaptists, with the "earnest and urgent command" to watch carefully and closely all Anabaptists, whether "foreign or native" (R.A. No. 1481). On 23 February 1528, an order is given to the communes concerning the Reformation: Anabaptists are not to be tolerated anywhere, neither in city nor canton; they are to be captured and sent to Bern (R.A. No. 1534). Strangely there is now a gap in the succession of notices about the Anabaptists, from 23 February 1528 to 7 October 1529 (R.A. Nos. 1534-2557). On 7 October 1529, an order is issued to the magistrate of Wangen, to send the "peasants and pastors" of Rohrbach and Madiswil to him, the "Disputatz thöuffer" (disputation Anabaptists) (R.A. No. 2557). On 14 October 1527 and 28 October 1529 orders go to the same magistrate concerning the Anabaptists in his territory. The towns Wangen, Rohrbach, and Huttwil are named (R.A. Nos. 2564, 2565, 2584, and 2585).

Upon receipt of information that the Anabaptists of Basel were planning a missionary campaign in Bernese and Solothurn territory, Bern issued orders to the districts of Attiswil, Bipp, Wangen, Aarwangen, and Landshut (as also Seeland and Aargau) to guard carefully against the Anabaptists, in order that "such weeds be exterminated" (R.A. No. 2693). This appeal was not without purpose; on 1 February 1530 the magistrate of Bipp is to "guard the Anabaptists well and give information." 2 February 1530 Bern reports to Solothurn about the Anabaptist movement in Wangen, Aarwangen, and Bipp (R.A. No. 2716). 7 February 1530, Röthenbach appears and 18 February Oberdiessbach (Diessbach) in the same affair (R.A. Nos. 2721 and 2728). On the same day instructions are issued to the magistrate of Landshut, to inform himself actually and secretly by day and night concerning the Anabaptists in Utzenstorf (R.A. No. 2728).

On 18 February 1530, Bern reports to Basel that in the district of Bipp four Anabaptists have been captured, and on 18 May Bern issues a warning to Solothurn on account of the Anabaptists. In the district of Solothurn the persecuted and banished Anabaptists of Emmental often found refuge and temporary asylum (in Bucheggberg, Lüsslingen, Aetigen, Kriegstetten). In a rather lengthy, undated dispatch of the close of 1530, all deans are ordered, each in his own chapter, to give faithful warning against the "seditious sect of the Anabaptists." Now the Council is occupied with "Uli Flückinger" and "Osswalden" of Huttwil.

The severe mandate of 31 July 1531 to city and canton demands the "abolition and extermination" of the Anabaptists. Proof of the seriousness of the Council's intention are the numerous edicts and directives to officials; for example, 31 August to Trachselwald and Signau, 6 September to city and canton, 10 October to Burgdorf, Huttwil, Wangen, Aarwangen, and Trachselwald, 21 November again to Burgdorf. The captured Anabaptists are taken to Bern and tried; but their names are rarely given. For example, there are Anabaptists brought in from Aarwangen, Huttwil, Trachselwald, Signau, Burgdorf, and Rohrbach. The pastor of Dürrenroth complains that the Anabaptists are preaching and attacking his teaching. An Anabaptist teacher has been preaching at Sumiswald, and intends to preach in the market place of Huttwil. In Sumiswald and vicinity the Anabaptists have created "general confusion." The priest is removed and replaced by another, who "is to preach at Sumiswald, Dürrenroth, and Eriswil, to try to bring the churches back to their old custom." In prison in Bern are mentioned Christian Brügger of Rohrbach and Hans Riff, called Kaderli of Madiswil. The magistrates of Wangen, Aarwangen, Bipp, Trachselwald, Sumiswald, and Huttwil receive a reprimanding order to obey orders at once. In 1533 orders are issued to Aarwangen (to bring an Anabaptist to Bern with his father), to Trachselwald (concerning Miescher, a tailor at Dürrenroth), to Burgdorf (to keep the Anabaptists in prison until further notice or punish Miescher's wife and child), to Brandis (to send prisoners to Bern), to Signau (to come to Bern for instructions or to release Klaus Schumacher and the Müller of Gunten from fines), and to Melchnau, Sumiswald, Wangen, Aarwangen (to capture Anabaptists en route; and imprison leaders of the rabble and fine those who keep them in their homes). The pastor of Sumiswald is removed because of scandalous speech against the Anabaptists. At the close of the year the "Küfferli" is brought in, which is of significance to the people of Emmental. In 1534 directives are issued to Aarwangen, Trachselwald, Trub, Burgdorf, Brandis, Sumiswald, Oberburg, Signau, Wangen, and Heimiswil.

Several Anabaptists recant; thus in Rüegsau, Oberburg, Zäziwil, and Bigental. Others join the Anabaptists, and backsliders return to them; thus in Trachselwald and Grosshöchstetten. The Anabaptist Grete Wyss of Höchstetten is released on account of sickness. Peter Hofer of Biglen must appear before court because he "murmured" in church when the pastor said "the Anabaptists disregard the government." As the number of steadfast (Anabaptists) increases, the measures of the government fail. In 1535 directives are issued to Wangen, Aarwangen, Bipp, Brandis, Trachselwald, Signau, Sumiswald "where Anabaptists are living." On 30 January, 19 persons at an Anabaptist meeting, all from Emmental, appear before the council, among them Stucki, Vögeli, Blum, Tierstein, Bürki, Lienhart, Gfeller, Baumann, Künzi, Jenni. As new towns of their origin are named Konolfingen, Gisenstein, Niederhünigen, Stalden, Freimettigen. Two days later four appear from Rüegsau and Lützelflüh and seven from Signau (Wyss, Bürki, Salzmann, etc.), then from Höchstetten, Dürrenroth, Sumiswald, Biglen. From Huttwil comes bitter complaint that in Rüegsau there are unbaptized children, and in Madiswil the constable has helped the Anabaptists to hide. In Sumiswald the people warn the Anabaptists when they are in danger.

At the Anabaptist disputation of March 1538 (see Disputation) Emmental Anabaptists were present from Eggiwil, Signau, Grosshöchstetten, Walkringen, Schufelbühl, Sumiswald, Burgdorf, Niederhuttwil, Rohrbach, Madiswil, and Winigen. According to magistrates' reports there were Anabaptists also in the districts of Sumiswald, Bipp, Trachselwald, and Signau. In 1551 it is found that "the strip of land from Münsingen over Höchstetten throughout the Emmental has experienced a significant increase in the number of Anabaptists and the regulations are to be more strictly observed." In the districts of Signau, Trachselwald, and Brandis an open letter must be read from the pulpits, proclaiming that those who do not desist are to be punished in body and possessions, likewise those who shelter them. In 1585 the statement is made that all previous efforts have failed, and that the number of Anabaptists has rather increased. The pastors of Langnau often took pains to try to teach the Anabaptists in a friendly manner. In 1620 the pastor of Langnau receives the names of 17 Anabaptists in the vicinity (Mühlibach, Dürsrütti, Scheidegg, Brügglen, Gartegg, Frittenbach), among them names like Baumgartner, Probst, Friedrich, Bichsel, Ruch, Studer, Jost, Dählenbach, Reber, Krähenbühl,, Röhtlisberger, Gerber.

In 1640 directives are issued to Aarwangen, Signau, and Brandis, in 1644 to all officials where Anabaptists are living. Teachers (preachers), "agitators and seducers" are to be sent in, especially Uli Zaugg, Uli Nüwhus, and Christen Stauffer. In 1654 the preacher of Eggiwil in reply to a request names 40 Anabaptists in his district. In 1658 a record of Anabaptists is demanded of the chapters (deanships) Burgdorf and Langenthal. In 1660 an order from the Council is again sent to Langenthal. A record mentions eleven Anabaptists in the penitentiary, of whom eight are from the Emmental, one from Lauperswil, and one from Koppigen. In 1669 the Anabaptist teachers Christian Güngerich and Hans Burkhalter escape in Bern. In 1670 an interdict is issued to Konolfingen against "harboring and visiting" Anabaptists. In particular they are to try to seize the Anabaptist teachers Durss Aebi and Hans Haldimann. The preacher of Lauperswil holds a discussion with the Anabaptists there.

On 3 May 1671 the magistrate of Signau receives orders to seize the Anabaptists of district Eggiwil, and to deliver them to the orphanage. Somewhat later 12 of the wealthiest persons in the district are sent to Bern as hostages until the Anabaptists would be delivered to Bern or move away. The hostages were to be kept at their own expense. This measure proved "effective in several places."

In 1692, 28 known Anabaptists are staying in Langnau; the populace is very favorable to them and does not want to hear them preached against. In 1693 a division occurs (see Jakob Ammann). The Emmental Anabaptists stay with the more lenient group led by Hans Reist. In the same year directives concerning Anabaptists are issued to the districts of Landshut, Burgdorf, Brandis, Trachselwald, Signau.

Further places appearing in Anabaptist history are Herzogenbuchsee (Niklaus Häberle of Buchsee, in prison in 1710), Ranflüh (Peter Geissbühler has given six "High German Anabaptist Testaments" to the bookbinder for binding), Goldbach (the forbidden Froschauer Bible to be demanded of Hans Reber), Wasen (Ulrich Scheidegger and Hans Wysser, smith, are on trial), Worb (Trini Bigler, a simple poor soul of 52 years), Wichtrach (Daniel Loris's wife), Hasli (Jakob Schüppach in der Träyen).

The names and places of persons executed in Bern 1529-1571 point predominantly to the Emmental, especially to Sumiswald, Lützelflüh, Rüderswil, Rüegsau, Signau, Hash, Röthenbach, Schüpbach, and Tannental.

In 1670 the chapter (deanery) Burgdorf complains to the Council: "The number of these sectarians increases daily; for instance nine members of the little Reformed Church at Schangnau have withdrawn this year. The half-Anabaptists, who differ in that they still attend our services at will, are so numerous that it is to be feared that in some places there are more of them than of ours." Ernst Müller remarks correctly: "The surmise of the pastors that the 'half Anabaptists' might in several places constitute the majority of the congregation, explains the renewed zeal of church and secular authorities, and shows again how independent the Emmental always was toward church and government."

At that period the movement in the Emmental reached its greatest following. In the following period persecution took a severer turn. Fluri states: "The almost unceasing persecution of the Bernese Anabaptists occasionally burst out with the violence of a volcanic eruption, . .. it never stopped, not even in the years of pestilence 1667-69, and in 1670 took on the form of actual hunts." The persecuted Anabaptists often fled to Lucerne territory, as for instance Daniel Grimm and Hans Brechbühl at Willisau. The Anabaptist hunts frequently led to the violation of district and cantonal boundaries. Especially long-drawn-out proceedings followed a hunt near Kröschenbrunnen, in which Anabaptists entered Lucerne territory. The sound folk-will of Emmental expressed itself forcibly against the Anabaptist hunts. In Sumiswald a crowd of 60-70 persons released the Anabaptists and severely beat the hunters (1714).

Naturally the perpetrators of this deed whose names were known were punished. "Bendicht Widmer, the schoolmaster, took part, is removed from his position for a half year to Brassu in the district of Romanmostier," Uli Loosli in Trachselwald receives 24 hours of imprisonment because of "improper conduct" toward the Anabaptist hunters when his sister was seized by them. The canon Hans Schöni of Sumiswald ventures to defend the Anabaptists; he receives 24 hours of imprisonment. Anabaptists are warned by "horns, cries, and similar signs."

If we compare the present congregation at Emmental with the complaint of the Burgdorf chapter in 1670, it is evident that Anabaptism was greatly weakened by continued persecution. This is, however, not due to any extensive recantation, but to the numerous voluntary removals from the canton, the frequent banishment, and above all to the extensive emigration. True to their faith, the Anabaptists sacrificed their kin and homeland, went out into the unknown, depending on God and the help of the Brethren.

The canton of Solothurn probably served as nearest refuge for shorter or longer sojourn. Then the blue mountains of the Jura beckoned, where in the district of the more tolerant bishops of Basel numerous Emmental Anabaptist families found shelter and work. Beyond these mountains France became an asylum for the refugees. In the Jura and in France even in the 1950s the majority of Anabaptist families are of Emmental origin (Mathiot).

In the 16th century Moravia was also for a time the goal of fleeing Swiss Anabaptists. The migration was at times unusually great (for example in 1585-1586). Bern attacked the problem of emigration several times and tried to prevent it. Names like Gerber, Schenk, Hofer, Baumann, Amsler, and Born prove that Emmental had a part in this emigration.

A far more important goal for emigrants in the 17th and 18th centuries was the Palatinate with the adjoining country (Hege, 178). Already in 1527 an immigration takes place here from Switzerland, and only from Swiss Anabaptists did the movement in the Palatinate make any considerable gains (Hege, 7). It is also significant that the Moravian Anabaptists called their brethren in the Palatinate Swiss Brethren. The greatest emigration, chiefly from Bern, took place in 1671—about 700 persons, large and small, impoverished (record in Müller, 200-294). Most of the names given indicate Emmental as their home. Emigration continued for many years. Lists of heads of households in the Palatinate congregations in the years 1731 and 1732 name for the most part Bernese names, and those chiefly from the Emmental (Müller, 209-12; Menn. Jugendwarte II, 1921-22, 10). The present-day Mennonites in South Germany probably derive for the most part from the Emmental.

A further goal of emigration was Holland. Sympathetically and continuously the Dutch Mennonites concerned themselves for their harassed brethren, with financial support and petitions to their persecutors. They did their best in word and deed to ease the lot of their persecuted brethren. Some Swiss Brethren settled in Jülich and Berg in 1653. Driven out by the Jesuits, others fled to the Netherlands. On 10 September 1660 eleven exiles left Bernese territory, of whom eight were from Emmental. Jakob Schlappach of Oberdiessbach, Ulrich Baumgartner of Langnau, Hans Zaugg of Signau, Peter Frider of Biglen, and Matthys Kaufmann, stopped at Koppigen. Later other Anabaptists attached themselves to this first small emigration to Holland. Benedicht Baumgartner (see Dürsrüttilied) and Christen Christen returned and were again incarcerated. In 1711 came the great emigration of about 346 persons (Müller, 307, 313). On the Emmental boat the overseers were Hans Bürki, Christen Gäumann, and Jakob Rechener. This ship to be sure did not harbor only refugees from the Emmental (e.g., from Bolligen, Stettlen, Rüeggisberg); on the other hand there were on the "Oberländer" boat, the "Thuner" boat, and the "Neuenburger" boat many persons of Emmental descent, so that Emmental here again furnished the greatest number of immigrants. Many returned because of homesickness and others settled in the Palatinate.

A new haven for emigrants was Prussia. Bern and Prussia negotiated. Prussia offered favorable terms and the investigation commission, headed by Benedikt Brechbill, brought back a good report. But the Swiss Brethren disregarded this goal. In greater numbers they settled in Neuchatel which was at that time Prussian.

The greatest territory for emigration was, however, America. In 1699 the Bernese government intended to banish the Anabaptists to the East Indies, but this plan had to be abandoned. Instead in 1710 more than 50 persons were to be banished to America. The exiling took place, but the Dutch managed to bring it about that the plan of the "gracious patrician lords" of Bern ended in favor of the Brethren. A large number of the exiles had to be left behind in Mannheim, because of sickness, and the rest were freed in Holland. The Mennonites who from this time on emigrated from South Germany to America are probably almost all of Emmental origin. These numerous emigrations in the 18th and 19th centuries had serious consequences at home. In the Jura several congregations died out.

Love of home and kin induced many emigrants and exiles to return, where they were again persecuted, imprisoned, and exiled. With their intense love of home these Emmental exiles must have suffered severely from homesickness. (See the deeply emotional poem "Peter Krehbiel's Abschied aus der Schweiz," 1671, in Mennonitischer Gemeinde-Kalender (1911): 46.)

The Bernese government made an effort to exile the Brethren as penniless as possible and keep their resources in the country. Numerous communities had Brethren estates to manage, as Roggwil, Seeberg, Huttwil, Dürrenroth, Sumiswald, Eriswil, Heimiswil, Trachselwald, Lützelflüh, Rüegsau, Rüederswil, Walkringen, Münsingen, Wichtrach, Oberdriessbach, Grosshöchstetten, Hasli, Lauperswil, Langnau, Trub, Eggiwil, Röthenbach, Schangnau. These lands were used for church and school purposes. From the income from the Anabaptist land, Lützelflüh paid its church musician and repaired the church tower. Sumiswald and Langnau returned some of the income to the descendants of the original owners; Langnau finally restored the land to its rightful heirs.

From about 1720 there was some lessening of persecution, although even until the middle of the 19th century harsh measures were taken by the cantonal government against the Mennonites. In 1743 the Anabaptist Commission (Täuferkammer) was disbanded, and the "Anabaptist-hunters" disappeared from the country.

A new cause of emigration from the Emmental lay in the conflicts concerning military service. In 1737 it was decided that Mennonites who refused military service were to be sent to work in the silver mines. In 1745 those who failed to appear were charged with fines, and in 1780 they were threatened with banishment from the territory of Bern. The plan of 1786 to compel each Mennonite liable to military service to work a month per year in harvesting the crops of the poor was never carried out.

Through the influence of ideas of the French Revolution conditions improved greatly for the Emmental Mennonites. In 1798 they obtained formal recognition and toleration, but soon again a number of restrictions were made. In 1810 four leaders of the Emmental congregation, Niklaus Gerber, Christen Gerber, Ulrich Kipfer, and Christen Brand, made an appeal to the Bernese government, recalling the rights granted them in 1798. But about the same time the Langnau parish ordered a compulsory baptism of all who had not been baptized since the French Revolution, and in 1811 some 27 young Mennonites were brought to the state church by the local police and baptized by the minister Stephani. In 1823 the Mennonites had to hand over lists of all members, in order to enable the magistrates to determine whether proselytes were being made among the members of the state church. This system continued for several years in the Signau district of Emmental until as late as 1850.

After the formal toleration of 1798 the question of military services remained critical for more than a century. In 1815 the Mennonites of the canton of Bern were freed from military service on condition that they send a person as a substitute, or pay a special fee. From 1835 exemption from military service was granted on paying a special tax. In 1874 the matter was settled by a federal act for all Swiss citizens (see Military Service).

Notwithstanding these conditions only a few Emmental Mennonites emigrated after 1798. In January 1852 a number of them left, most of them settling in Adams County, IN, where they founded the town of Berne. Among them there were two Emmental ministers, Matthias Strahm and Ulrich Kipfer.

When we consider the difficult terrain, the complicated district and cantonal boundaries, the frequent visits of outside Anabaptists, the amazing love of home of the Emmental inhabitants, the almost unmatched steadfastness in faith, and the generally favorably-minded populace, then we understand why the century-long persistent attempts at annihilation on the part of Bern were unsuccessful against the Anabaptists of this region. Anabaptism had from the very beginning struck such deep roots that it outlived all the storms of persecution. Of course the numerous exilings and emigrations broke off some powerful limbs. But these branches have taken fresh root in other places and thus have helped to spread Anabaptism. The Emmental is the original home of many Mennonites in the Jura, France, Hesse, Bavaria, Baden, Württemberg, Galicia, and the Netherlands, as well as the American Mennonites who came from these places, and is thus the source of numerous Mennonite congregations in Europe and America.

There are no stone monuments to the suffering of the Brethren in the Emmental. But the recently discovered Anabaptist history speaks insistently of it. The books of local folklore say little about it. Ernst Marti created a literary monument in his novel, Zwei Hauser, zwei Welten (Two Houses, Two Worlds) (Frauenfeld, 1911). A living token is the still extant "Old Evangelical (Ana)baptist Church of Emmental" in Langnau. -- A-T

1990 Article

It is important to distinguish between the valley of Emmental, the River Emme, and the Emmental as a distinct geographic region of the Canton Bern. Defining the boundaries of the Emmental is somewhat complex. Politically the administrative areas Trachselwald, Signau, and Konolfingen constitute "the Emmental." Some of the regions belonging to Konolfingen, e.g., the areas in the Aare Valley, are not part of the Emmental. Economically the Emmental belongs to the weakest areas of the Canton Bern, while the Oberaargau, which is not part of the Emmental (although the above article counts it as part of the Emmental), is among the wealthiest areas of the canton. Although the Geographisches Lexikon der Schweiz limits the Emmental to the administrative areas of Trachselwald and Signau, topographically several smaller regions bordering Burgdorf and Konolfingen should be included as part of the Emmental landscape. Tourist hiking maps also include a part of the Canton Luzern as part of the Emmental. It was precisely the Luzern area which became a place of refuge for persecuted Bernese Anabaptists in the 16th century.

Emmental is ethnically unique. The clothing, dialect, and character of people from the Emmental have historically been different from the rest of the canton, though they are gradually losing this distinctiveness. In other parts of the Canton Bern, people from the Emmental are considered backward and stubborn. This characteristic may also have been a root cause of their resistance to the introduction of the Protestant Reformation and their support of the peasant revolt in 1653. Since that time Anabaptism has unfortunately often been falsely identified with that revolt.

In summary, the boundaries of Emmental may be described as follows: in the east the canton boundary with Luzern, in the south the highlands Voralpen (Hohgant-Honegg), and in the west a line running through Krauchtal-Walkringen-Konolfingen-Oberdiessbach. In the north Burgdorf and Huttwil can be viewed as the gates to the Emmental. This description modifies that given in the 1958 article above, namely, the areas Aarwangen, Wangen, and Fraubrunnen are in no case part of Emmental; neither are Jegenstorf, Bipp (Niederbipp), Utzenstorf, Herzogenbuchsee, etc. . The family of Niklaus Haberli von Buchsee were citizens of Munchenbuchsee near Bern, not Herzogenbuchsee. In connection with the names listed on page 209 of the print encyclopedia, only Gerber and Schenk are Emmental families. Amsler, Baumann, Hofer and Born are not of Emmental origin.

A careful study of official records has shown the following: (1) Many people were identified as coming from Emmental because that was a temporary place of residence rather than their place of origin. (2) Opponents of Anabaptism identified as many people as possible as "Emmentaler," that is, they portrayed Anabaptists as people of little education and great stubbornness. In this way the region called Emmental was enlarged beyond historical and geographical justification. (3) In the 1960 registry of Swiss Mennonite names only 14 out of 70 were actually originally from the Emmental. Eleven additional names which are found throughout Switzerland, including Emmental, might be added. This would, nevertheless, indicate that in 1960 two-thirds of the Swiss Mennonites were not from Emmental. As more people of non-Mennonite background join Swiss Mennonite congregations, the percentage of Swiss Mennonites originating in the Emmental would be reduced to one-fourth. For the congregation in Bern itself, for example, the in 1990 the figure would be only 20 percent. An analysis of the state archives in Bern, beginning in 1527, indicates that only 24 percent of the Anabaptists were from the Emmental, while 20 percent were from the central part of the Bernese Canton, 16 percent were from Thun and the Highlands, 13 percent from other cantons, 26 percent carried general Swiss names found everywhere. Possibly 3 percent were foreigners.

It should be noted that the Anabaptists who immigrated to the Jura region from the Emmental area do not speak the Emmental dialect but the central Bernese Canton dialect. Nineteenth-century mandates, the last in 1847, requiring every Swiss citizen to be registered in a specific area of his ancestral origin, resulted in many Mennonites being registered in Emmental when they had, in fact, not originated there. This was true, for example, of the Zürcher family, whose roots go back to Zürich but had spent some time in the Emmental -- IZ-G


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Author(s) A. J. Amstutz-Tschirren
Isaac Zürcher-Geiser
Date Published 1990

Cite This Article

MLA style

Amstutz-Tschirren, A. J. and Isaac Zürcher-Geiser. "Emmental (Switzerland)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1990. Web. 15 Jun 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Emmental_(Switzerland)&oldid=146411.

APA style

Amstutz-Tschirren, A. J. and Isaac Zürcher-Geiser. (1990). Emmental (Switzerland). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 15 June 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Emmental_(Switzerland)&oldid=146411.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 205-210; vol. 5, pp. 268-269. All rights reserved.

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