Pilgrims on the Shore
This report appeared in the Privilegirte wöchentliche gemeinnützige Nachrichten von und für Hamburg Nr 159 on Friday 6th July 1838. The author was the Hamburg Senator Martin Hieronymus Hudtwalcker. “Crescens” was his pseudonym. Later the report was reprinted in the Allgemeine Zeitung of Augsburg.
The Lutheran emigrants
On one of these beautiful evenings, when I was walking in the city, along the dyke, I heard a sweet sound of religious music, sung by many men and women, coming from the upper harbour, just outside the boom. As it was many years since such sounds had been heard in our harbours, I became curious and had myself rowed out to it. I found four big Oder barges, swarming with men, women and children.
I learnt the following: These people, about a hundred in number, came from Klemzig near Züllichau and some of the neighbouring villages; they were Lutherans and for the sake of their religion they wanted to emigrate to South Australia, a new English colony. Can there be such a thing, I thought to myself, Lutherans who have to emigrate for reasons of faith from Prussia, from Protestant, enlightened Prussia? There must be something odd about this. They must be the religious bigots one hears so much about, or some other mystics or fanatics.
So I inspected their ships and got into conversation with them. Although the boats were very crowded, they were in very good order and spotlessly clean, and this accorded well with the friendly, cheerful faces of these people. I learnt the following from some men who were described to me as their elders: They had initially, out of ignorance, allowed themselves to be persuaded to join the Reformed Church, but they had subsequently become convinced that the Reformed doctrine concerning the Lord’s Supper was not in accordance with the Scriptures. And so they had regretted their move, and their pastor had not been willing to agree to the new worship book. He was finally removed from office and had been in London for two years, where he had been holding services on German ships, but he would go with them to South Australia and be their pastor again there. His 73-year-old mother was with them and was to emigrate too. Admittedly, they had begun to baptise their children themselves because they could not recognise a United pastor, and they had also celebrated Communion among themselves, but they had not in any way departed from the teaching of the Lutheran Church.
Then the authorities had intervened and had forbidden them to do these things, or suffer penalties, and when they had not obeyed, the threats of punishment were put into effect. A woman told me that she had been imprisoned four times for this reason. Finally they had obtained permission to emigrate, and in the previous year they had sold everything they had and hired transport to get here. Then the permission to emigrate had been withdrawn. So they had had to endure a good deal of adversity, but they now hoped they had achieved their goal.
I was lost in contemplation of the strange contrasts of our times – that the same country should take in emigrating Protestants from the Tyrol and yet reject its own Protestant sons, although the truly pious and god-fearing King of Prussia was well acquainted with the true facts of the case. I asked others about the behaviour of these people on their boats, as they had been here for some weeks. Exemplary, I heard from all sides. No quarrels, no swearing on these boats. They hold morning and evening devotions, singing hymns and reading prayers. There are always boats clustered around them, with people who had come to listen. At first there were occasional individuals who came along to make fun of them, but that did not last; curiosity gave way to sympathy and goodwill.
I went back on shore, wishing from my heart that these poor people from Klemzig should have a safe voyage and find a new home, where they could honour God undisturbed in their own way.
www.germanaustralia.com Translation by Lee Kersten, in: Dirk M. Hahn.
Emigrants to Hahndorf (English-language edition of Die Reise mit Auswanderern von Altona nach Port Adelaide Süd-Australien 1838). Adelaide: Lutheran Publishing House (now Openbook Publishers), 1989.
Used by permission.
Added in April 2006.