High German Mennonites

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High German Mennonites, or Upper Germans, in the Dutch sources called Hoogduitsche Doopsgezinden or simply Hoogduitschers, sometimes also called Overlanders, were a group of Mennonites originally found in South Germany and along the Rhine. This was the group to which the elders Zylis and Lemke belonged who disagreed with Menno Simons concerning shunning. The conferences held at Strasbourg in 1556 and 1559 were also meetings of the High Germans. Many of these High Germans made contacts with the Swiss Mennonites, especially in South Germany, and soon became one body with them. A number of High Germans, usually merchants, moved to the Netherlands, and were found in cities like Haarlem, Amsterdam, and Leiden. During the troubles when the Dutch Mennonites were divided into several branches "High German" became one of the party names, indicating a rather moderate group, which was averse to severity in banning and shunning. In 1591 a number of German congregations agreed with some Dutch congregations of Young Frisians on several points. The result of this agreement is the Concept of Cologne. Henceforth in the Netherlands High German congregations began to unite with other groups, first with Young or Soft Frisians, about 1600 also with the Waterlanders. So the Bevredigde Broederschap (group of churches who had made peace) came into being. For a while some troubles in Haarlem and Amsterdam (see Afgedeelde Broederschap) disturbed the peace, and though the union of the High Germans with the Waterlanders was criticized by a large number of congregations in the Rhine province of Germany who held meetings at Gladbach in 1608 and Geyn near Cologne in 1616 to protest against unification with the Waterlanders, the unification proceeded. After the United Congregation of High Germans and Frisians at Amsterdam had presented a confession in 1630 (Confession of Jan Cents), serious negotiations were made between this congregation and the Amsterdam Flemish congregation bij 't Lam which led to a union of both groups in 1639. From then on the High Germans as a special group disappeared in the Netherlands. -- Nanne van der Zijpp

In Germany, at Friedrichstadt a.d. Eider, the High Germans may have had at their best about 100 members; about them there is less information than about the other groups; the strongest group, the Frisians, numbered about 400 members. Since the increase from the region around the Lower Rhine benefited the Flemish and Waterlanders who had united early, nothing was left for the High German element (with the exception of the Palatine families which strengthened them about five years before the general union of 1698) but the lowland plains, from the uncertainties from which people sought refuge in the privileged free city. Names like Clausen, Peters, and Jacobs have a High German stamp. Since they were least in numbers, union was more essential to them; they felt most closely drawn to the Flemish, whose preachers at a conference held in Hamburg, 3 May 1639, had for reasons of geography broken the previous close ties with the Flemish party in Hamburg and Glückstadt, and allied themselves more closely with their brethren in the adjacent region of Eiderstedt; from 1653 on there was a "Hoochduytse en flaemse vereinigde Doopsgezinden gemeynte." In Eiderstedt, where the High Germans were represented especially in Koldenbüttel and Tetenbüll by farmers, they lost members by transfer; according to the charter they were not permitted to organize a congregation of their own, hence the Mennonites growing up there tended more and more to give up their connections with Friedrichstadt, especially because at this place the Dutch language was retained too long (1828) for divine services. In the country there was therefore increasing conformity to the immediate surroundings.

In Hamburg there was from the beginning a preponderance of Flemish; through transfer to them the Frisian congregation had dissolved by 1671; the High German group suffered the same lot, for they—like those of Friedrichstadt—were not permitted to have their own meetinghouse, but were allowed to have meetings like Bible study groups in private homes; the only preacher named for their group was Johann Peltz(er), who lived in Hamburg and died early in 1660; his widow became a Lutheran, was baptized, and married a Lutheran. -- Robert Dollinger


Cate, Steven Blaupot ten. Geschiedenis der Doopsgezinden in Friesland. Leeuwarden: W. Eekhoff, 1839: 169.

Cramer, Samuel and Fredrik Pijper. Bibliotheca Reformatoria Neerlandica. The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1903-1914: VII, passim.

Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1894): 36-38.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff.  Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 320.

Hoop Scheffer, Jacob Gijsbert de. Inventaris der Archiefstukken berustende bij de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente to Amsterdam, 2 vols. Amsterdam: Uitgegeven en ten geschenke aangeboden door den Kerkeraad dier Gemeente, 1883-1884: v. I, Nos. 525, 532, 536, 542, 544, 546, 555, 556, 600-602, 605-606, 628; v. II: Nos. 1193-1203, 1379; II: 2, No. 865b.

Kühler, Wilhelmus Johannes. Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche Doopsgezinden in de Zestiende Eeuw. Haarlem: H.D. Tjeenk Willink, 1932: 322-328, 458, 461; II: 71-74, 89-94, 193-194, 197-199.

Vos, Karel.  Menno Simons, 1496-1561, zijn leven en werken en zijne reformatorische denkbeelden. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1914: 140-143.

Author(s) Nanne van der Zijpp
Robert Dollinger
Date Published 1956

Cite This Article

MLA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der and Robert Dollinger. "High German Mennonites." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 30 May 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=High_German_Mennonites&oldid=131387.

APA style

Zijpp, Nanne van der and Robert Dollinger. (1956). High German Mennonites. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 30 May 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=High_German_Mennonites&oldid=131387.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 739-740. All rights reserved.

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