Commission for Anabaptist Affairs (Täuferkammer)
The great growth of the Mennonites had induced the council of Bern to set up a special committee for the management of Anabaptist affairs on 4 January 1659. This newly organized committee was composed of Wilhelm von Diessbach and Christian Willading of the council, Captain Daniel Morlot, and Magistrate Johann Stürler, and two clergymen, Professor Christoph Lüthard and Pastor Abraham de Losea. From this special committee developed the permanent Täuferkammer which was to relieve the council of its Anabaptist problems. It was the duty of the committee to supervise the Anabaptist funds, to check the growth of the sect, make suggestions as to its elimination, to control the apprehension and banishment or pardoning of the Mennonites, and to be responsible for the execution of the mandates. A part of the confiscated property fell to the Commission.
The Commission worked systematically. Most of the Mennonites seized were sent over the border penniless. In 1709 the council could boast that more than 500 persons had been conducted to the border. But many came back because they had left their families behind or could not abandon their congregation.
To end their troubles with the Mennonites once for all, the Commission planned to deport them to the East Indies, since the prisons were overflowing, and expulsion was not effective; but this plan failed. Their next idea was to send them to America. The committee reached an agreement with a certain Mr. Ritter to have about 100 imprisoned Mennonites taken to the Carolinas (see Bern). For each Mennonite he actually transported he was to receive 45 talers from the Anabaptist fund. But this plan was foiled by the intervention of the Dutch Mennonites.
The work of this institution is recorded in the manuals of the Commission in the state archives of Bern, which fill four volumes in the period 1721-1743, and in the Täuferurbar, the official inventory of confiscated Anabaptist property (see Confiscation of Property), which was instituted by a mandate of 23 February 1729. This list in the state archives of Bern gives us an insight into the persecution which not only threatened the economic existence of numerous Mennonite families, but ruined them. The Täuferurbar, especially set up for this purpose, was to give information on the spread and development of Anabaptism in order the better to suppress it, and also to give an account on the use of confiscated property taken from them. But these books are not a justification of the course of the Bernese government regarding the Mennonites, but are instead a spot of disgrace in the history of the patrician government of Bern.
Gradually as the zeal for the preservation of church uniformity declined and the old orthodoxy paled in the Age of Enlightenment, religious intolerance gave way to the idea of "Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality." On 4 December 1743 the council of Bern came to the unanimous decision to dissolve the Täuferkammer.
Müller, Ernst. Geschichte der Bernischen Täufer. Frauenfeld: Huber, 1895. Reprinted Nieuwkoop : B. de Graaf, 1972: 337 ff.
Geiser, Samuel. Die Taufgesinnten-Gemeinden: eine Kurzgefasste Darstellung der wichtigsten Ereignisse des Täufertums. Karlsruhe: H. Schneider, 1931.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 649. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Neff, Christian and Samuel Geiser. "Commission for Anabaptist Affairs (Täuferkammer)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 24 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/commission_for_anabaptist_affairs_tauferkammer.
APA style: Neff, Christian and Samuel Geiser. (1953). Commission for Anabaptist Affairs (Täuferkammer). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/commission_for_anabaptist_affairs_tauferkammer.