Image credit: Masthof Press
by Katharina Zimmermann
Reviewed by Beat Nobs
Swiss Author Katharina Zimmermann sheds in her 1989 novel Furgge (a local name for the mountain Hohgant) very interesting light on the period of persecution of Anabaptists in the Emme Valley, Canton of Bern, Switzerland in the period of the late 17th and early 18th century leading to the incarceration or the forced emigration of many Anabaptists (Mennonites, Amish) to the Alsace, Southern Germany, the Netherlands and North America. The momentous historical events of the Reformation, which shook Europe for two hundred years are masterfully put into a story of a young farmer's wife, whose religious beliefs do not correspond to the official state religion of the Reformed Church as was resolutely enforced by the Bernese authorities in that period. The pacifism and strictly community-based form, including adult baptism, ran counter to the system of military draft of all young men and religious practice as a means of political control the state religion was applied to by the powerful government of Bern, the largest and most powerful city state north of the Alps in Europe before the French Revolution and the transformation of Switzerland to a modern state. Her growing doubts and increasing resistance not only leads to the destruction of her family but a life in despair and eventual death in prison. Katharina Zimmermann succeeds in weaving a gripping and very moving moral painting of a period in European history with great impact also on North America and readers in the United States and Canada. Consequently, her book was translated to English in 2017.
Beat Nobs served as the Ambassador of Switzerland to Canada from 2014 to 2019. A career diplomat, he served in the Swiss diplomatic core from 1988 to 2019. Previous positions include serving as the Assistant State Secretary for Asia and Pacific (2010-2014), Ambassador of Switzerland to New Zealand, the Fiji Islands, Samoa, Tonga, the Cook Islands and Niue (2005-2010), and various positions with the United Nations including Vice-President of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Vice President of the United Nations Environment Programme.