A branch of this old aristocratic family in the province of Holstein in North Germany was in possession of the domain of Fresenburg from 1526 to 1641, where the village of Wüstenfelde was located, between Hamburg and Lübeck, Germany. In 1543 the owner, Bartholomäus von Ahlefeldt, permitted the Mennonites to settle there. In his younger years he is said to have given military service in the Netherlands, and there become aware of the peaceable Anabaptists, having witnessed the execution of several of Menno's followers. Convinced that they were not the dangerous insurgents and fanatics they were reputed to be, he opened his lands to them, which until that time had been mostly occupied by serfs. A descendant of B. von Ahlefeldt was one of the first to abandon the practice of serfdom.
The Mennonites had a print shop in Lübeck to distribute Bibles and other books. In 1554 it was moved to Oldesloe where ten tons of books were confiscated and the matter reported to Christian III of Denmark without naming the persons involved. After this the Mennonite printers moved to Fresenburg, where Bartholomäus von Ahlefeldt built a house for them. Since this is about the time that Menno Simons moved to Fresenburg and his books were printed there, there is a possibility that he was involved in this matter. Although King Christian did everything possible to have Ahlefeldt expel the Mennonites, the latter remained their protector. During the Thirty Years' War the Mennonite settlement was destroyed and the Mennonites moved to other places.
Dollinger, Robert. Geschichte der Mennoniten in Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, und Lübeck. Neumünster, 1930.
Goverts, E. F. "Das adelige Gut Fresenburg und die Mennoniten." Zeitschrift der Zentralstelle für Niedersächsische Familiengeschichte. (1925): Heft 3-5.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 14.
Krahn, Cornelius. Menno Simons (1496-1561) : ein Beitrag zur Geschichte und Theologie der Taufgesinnten. Karlsruhe: Heinrich Schneider, 1936.
Roosen, Gerhard. Unschuld und Gegen-Bericht der Evangelischen Tauffgesinneten Christen, so Mennonisten genandt werden, über die unverschuldete Beschuldigung, als ob sie von der auffrührischen Münsterschen Rotte entsprossen, und derselben Grund und Lehre führeten. Ratzeburg, 1902.
Schröder, J. Topographie des Herzogthums Holstein, des Fürstenthums Lübeck und der freien Städte Hamburg und Lübeck. Oldenburg, 1841.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 27. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.
MLA style: van der Smissen, H., Christian Hege and Cornelius Krahn. "Ahlefeldt family." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1955. Web. 24 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/A417.html.
APA style: van der Smissen, H., Christian Hege and Cornelius Krahn. (1955). Ahlefeldt family. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/A417.html.