Forgotten Hugenotten

Forgotten Hugenotten

Hu-go what? More like forgotten Hugenotten.

Destroyed. Rebuilt. Still facing off.

Across the centuries old square, the French and German churches of Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt still smile at each other.

The statue of Schiller acts as a referee while the concert house plays audience for a change.

It is a cold, gray cloudy day. A curator sweeps away sprinkled bread crumbs off the ground in front of the Hugenotten museum in Berlin.

The French church is a small shelter of history, housing the almost forgotten Hugenotten Museum. “But who exactly were the Hugenotten?” I thought.

“The museum closes at five pm. If I would have woken up earlier, maybe I could have asked for a short tour.” It was too late however and the Curator was already closing for the afternoon. I turned to my guide book instead.

“The French church or dome (Dom) as referred to in German, was built between 1701 and 1705.”

“The ethno-religious group known as Hugenotten (Huguenot’s in English) are French Protestant Calvinists. During the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, persecution and murder drove the Hugenotten to seek refuge in neighboring countries in Europe as well as around the world.

Frederick the Great granted several thousand French protestants refugees asylum in Berlin. The then Prussian King was famous for his free thinking ideologies as well as for his military might. At this time he coined the term “Jeder soll nach seiner Fasson selig werden – Each may live as they see fit.” The Guide book explained.

“Minority religions such as Judaism and Catholicism were still openly scrutinized by society, however.”

I closed my guide book and took a moment to reflect. “Have we heard this story before?” I asked myself. The curator was presently locking the door to the Hugenotten Museum.

In the age of globalization and mass migration, It is important to remember the migrants of our cities past.

Since it’s founding in 1213, Berlin has been a refuge for immigrants and asylum seekers. For the French protestant Calvinist however, decades have turned into centuries. Though quite a bit of French can be heard in Berliner jargon, their story seems lost to time its self. I am determined to learn more about their story.

“If I wake up on time, maybe I can make it to the Hugenotten museum before they close” I thought.

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