Danzig -- Religions - Mennonites (Anabaptists)

Mennonite (drawing by Daniel Chodowiecki)

Beginning as early as the 1530s persecuted followers of the Dutch Anabaptist Menno Simons (1492-1561) were drawn to the lands of their eastern trading partners by reports of tolerance for their beliefs there. To be sure, the Danzigers did not allow these religious "fanatics" to settle inside the city walls, but they did permit them to settle in the low-lying areas of the Danziger Werder. Here the Dutch tradition of draining land to make it arable soon yielded results, and many of the Mennonites became farmers. Skilled craftsmen also practiced their crafts. Merchants and scholars also came. They were exempted from military duty in return for payments, or later service as firefighters. Their villages were built in the Dutch manner, they spoke Dutch dialects, they had different requirements for the draft. Unlike other religious sects in the area (Arians, Socinians, Quakers) Mennonites were permitted to live in the city, but not to become citizens. Not only did they not belong to any of the three required churches, they refused to swear the oath. The town government treated them ambivalently. They were valued for their industriousness and skill and for their connections to Holland, but the Hundertmänner -- largely craftsmen and guildmembers -- tended to view them as economic rivals. Despite a city ordinance (1650) that Mennonites could not own property, even outside the city walls, there are repeated exceptions. Given the uncertain situation, however, many chose to live in Schottland and Stolzenberg, land belonging to the Bishop of Cujavien. The community has been estimated at 1,000-2,000. (Mannhardt 84)

[Horst Penner. Ansiedlung mennonitischer Niederländer im Weichselmündungsgebiet von der Mitte des 16. Jahrhunderts bis zum Beginn der preußischen Zeit. Weierhof: Mennonitischer Geschichtsverein, 1963.] [H. G. Mannhardt. Die Danziger Mennonitengemeinde. Ihre Entstehung und ihre Geschichte von 1569-1919. Danzig: Sebstverlag der Danziger Mennonitengemeinde, 1919.]