We are thrilled to bring three translated articles from the Quaker Journal of German Friends (“QUÄKER, Zeitschrift der deutschen Freunde), to the blog over the next few weeks. Graciously translated into English by Birgit Adolph and reviewed by Rosemary Meier, the three articles discuss early Quakerism in Germany, nineteenth century Quakerism, and Quakers in twentieth-century Germany. Part I discusses early Quaker missionaries to Germany and instances of early Quaker groups. Written by Lutz Caspers, the articles were originally published in 2015 to celebrate the ninetieth anniversary of the German Yearly Meeting. The articles are reproduced here with the permission of both the author and the journal.
“90 Years of the German Annual Meeting. Part I: The 17th and 18th Centuries: Missionary Journeys and First Groups,” Quaker Journal of German Friends 4, (2015): 159–162.
German citation: Lutz Caspers, “90 Jahre deutsche Jahresversammlung. Teil I: Das 17. und 18. Jahrhundert Missionsreisen und erste Gruppen,” QUÄKER, Zeitschrift der deutschen Freunde 4, (2015): 159–162.
Have Quakers been in Germany for ninety years? As a matter of fact, Quaker groups have existed here for more than two hundred years. However, they were tolerated only in a few locations. After the “Religionsfrieden” (Religious Peace Agreement of Augsburg) in 1555, only Protestants were recognised as equal fellow Christians. All other religious communities were excluded from the peace agreement. In all of the three hundred independent states, the Ruler (prince) decided on the religion of his subjects. About one hundred years later, in 1648, this restriction was slightly eased. No Ruler could require his subjects to convert to his religion. By 1700, Quakers were being discriminated against, denigrated or ridiculed.
“The Quakers still shoot many people…fire on Colonel Sandis…shoot a Constable and a Drummer … fire on the town’s Major Brown … defile the holy Baptism, are brought to court and put on trial, get the reward they deserve.”
A few years later, from 1654, English Quakers conducted missionary journeys to the continent, which with few exceptions, were met with opposition. From this time, Quaker publications were appearing, mostly in Dutch. In 1666 alone, there were seventy editions. In 1659, “An instruction for all who wish to know the way to the Kingdom” by George Fox, appeared in German.
In 1677, George Fox mentioned his German destinations in his journal:
Emden: “Then we came to Emden, where Friends had been cruelly persecuted and from whence they had been banished… And while we were waiting, the Friends of this town came, and we had a little Meeting.”
In 1686, Friends there were granted full freedom of conscience and all civil rights. In 1715, Friends were visited for the last time.
Hamburg: “We came to Hamburg and had enough time for a Meeting. A good and wonderful Meeting it was. Among others there were a Baptist and his wife, an important man from Sweden with his wife, and everything was peaceful, praise be to God, whose power shone over all. But this was a dark place and the people did not receive the truth.”
In 1796 Savery, a Quaker, visited “inspired” people in Hamburg who were considered to be Quakers.
Friedrichstadt: “There we went to William Paul, where several friends joined us. We had a nice, refreshing Meeting.”
In 1771, there was no longer a Quaker group. The Quaker House of Worship can still be visited.
Leer: “…Where lived a Friend who had been banished from Emden…”
Delmenhorst: “…I explained to them the Way of truth and warned them of the Day of the Lord…”
Buxtehude: “…I preached on the truth and warned them of the Day of the Lord and exhorted to maintain sobriety…”
Itzehoe: “I had a Meeting with people in a tavern and exhorted them to sobriety…”
County of Holstein: “…Friends there are enjoying freedom … I spoke to a Levite about the coming of the Messiah, about which he was very puzzled, but invited me into his house, where I met a Jew who showed me their Talmud and other Jewish books, but they were obscure…”
Bremen: “…I felt the power of the Lord in the city and holding down the wicked and wayward.”
Frankfurt am Main: In 1677, William Penn visited Frankfurt, among other places. In 1683, some Krefeld Quakers emigrated to Pennsylvania, the first German immigrants. In 1993, this was honoured as “German-American Friendship”. American Quakers also celebrated, in a different way. An identical postage stamp was issued in USA and Germany.
Around 1790, Quaker groups formed in Minden and Pyrmont. In the “Duldungsakte” (Toleration Act) of Prince Friedrich von Waldeck: “knowledge of man has formed my principle to pay as little attention as possible to religious fanaticism. A babbler who declaims his follies to anyone passing by will finally tire of being ignored. However, this applies only if fanaticism does not put public order at risk. This is not to be feared if the Pyrmont main office shows wise behaviour and philosophical and serious conduct … On mature reflection, I believe that the following path should be followed regarding the Quaker matters: the Quakers are to be informed that only in this case are they permitted not to have their children baptised and to be kept out of school, if they avow themselves to the Amsterdam or Altona sects (the two places with the highest level of tolerance) and if they follow the rules of these sects … Their new behaviour—as foolish and ridiculous as it may be—should be regarded as a weakness. They can thee and thou and keep their heads covered as long as they like … Working on feast days could be ignored as long as it does not cause a stir. If this is the case, however, it should be dealt with as a rowdy disturbance of the peace…” (Hubben 1929).
Sünne Juterczenka, Über Gott und die Welt: Endzeitdivisionen, Reformdebatten und die europäische Quäkermission der Frühen Neuzeit (2008).
Wilhelm Hubben, Die Quäker in der deutschen Vergangenheit (1929).
Heinrich Otto, Werden und Wesen des Quäkertums und seine Entwicklung in Deutschland (1972).