Salzburger in East Prussia in the 18th century

Like the huguenots in the 17th century, the Salzburger immigrants are a famous example for the reception of religious refugees in the countries of the Hohenzollern monarchy. In 1731/32 the prince bishop of Salzburg expeled his Lutheran subjects - around 20 000 - out of his country. This procedure led to an outcry among the Protestants in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. In the run-up to the expulsion, the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I had already signalized to receive the Salzburger Lutherans: not in Brandenburg but in East Prussian which had low population density due to the wars of the 17th century as well as the plague. The king's recent attempts to establish settlements through military means, partly from other countries under his reign were less succesful. The Salzburger who were mostly farmers, raised hope at the Berlin-Potsdam court to re-popuate the areas in Prussian-Lithuania.

Friedrich Wilhelm I, who was not hesitant to use his Catholic subjects as negotiation quantity, knew how to integrate the reception of expelees from Salzburger into his foreign policy. He produced himself as protector of all Protestants to his mainly Lutheran subjects and the Protestant public of the Old Kingdom. The Salzburger move was accompanied by various publications and pamphlets in a media-effective way. The Salzburger went from Berlin to Frankfurt Oder, over Stettin and the Baltic Sea, to Königsberg and from there to Prussia-Lithuania. Only  12 000 immigrants survived the hardshops of this journey and the first years in their new homeland. Many of them were singles, their families torn apart.

Like the huguenots the Brandenburgers were granted a range of privileges in order to ease the new start in foreign territory. The idea was that the country would profit from a succesful settlement and cultivation. Moreover, the king hoped for new recruits for his army. In contrast to the huguenots, Friedrich Wilhelm I did not settle the Salzburger in own communes but in already existing town communities mixing them with the local population.

The immigrant's traditional costumes and eating habits attracted attention. They had problems with the change of their rural work environment in the Alps in contrast to the flat land and the foreign structures on the ground. There was resistance among the Salzburgers to the state policies. Misunderstandings between locals and settlers were also caused by language barriers and the allocation of goods in the beginning. But these remained initial challenges.

The Prussian court painter Antoine Pesne, himself a migrant like many artists at the Hohenzollern court in Berlin and Potsdam, painted three Salzburger immigrants. The first two paintings were painted in a pair, the focus is on the traditional costumes and the faces of the portrayed. On the back of the last portray "Elisabeth Oberbüchlerin - from the Johannischen Ambt - from Salzburg - 18 years old" is written. It resulted on behalf of Queen Sophie Dorothea, who recognized the young woman during the visit of a Salzburger group in Berlin. These paintings are very rare examples of portrays of migrants in the 18th century.

Migration in Brandenbrug - a historical overview

You can find the overview text about migration here!