Zeeuws Archief, Historisch-Topografische Atlas Veere (HTAV), nr 1955

Immigrants in Zeeland

Throughout the ages, many immigrants have come to Zeeland. This phenomenon was heavily influenced by its location near the seaside, its many harbors and its location between the provinces of Brabant, Holland and Flanders.

Additionally, Zeeland was also known as a tolerant province, which provided many a safe haven. As a consequence, groups of immigrants settled permanently in Zeeland. This contrasts the soldiers, merchants, skippers and seasonal employees in agricultural sector, who due to their professions, would only settle in Zeeland temporarily.


In 1541 the Scottish king Jacob V, appointed Veere as Scottish trading staple of the Low Countries. This meant that every product that was shipped from Scotland to Europe, first had to be stored in Veere for a while. In order to store all goods, warehouses were built near the harbor area. A part of the quay was specifically reserved for the ships from Scotland, in time this became known as the Scottish Quay (Schotse Kaai). Furthermore, merchants would built beautiful houses here. For instance, the building were the Museum ‘Schotse Huizen’ is currently located.


Zeeuws Archief, Historisch-Topografische Atlas Veere (HTAV), nr 1955
Scottish Houses in Veere

Other special and important privileges for the Scottish include their own form of jurisdiction, and not having to pay taxes on wine and beer. In order to ensure that these privileges would be upheld and preserved, a ‘Conservator van de Schotse Privileges in de Nederlanden’ was appointed. This ‘Conservator’ had several tasks: he was an ambassador, representative of the Scottish cities in the Netherlands, he could act as judge when related to Scottish matters, he managed Scottish inheritances, could assign important positions and was an overseer of the Scottish community in the Netherlands.

Scotsmen on peace missions in the Netherlands

Not only Scottish merchants and their families settled in Zeeland. Several so-called peace garrisons were stationed in the Netherlands, some Scottish soldiers were part of this organization. The soldiers were housed in several different barracks in the city. They often brought along their children and wives, who would settle in Veere as well as in other cities. Others would marry Dutch women during their service and would then settle in one of the Dutch cities. Many Dutch citizens with Scottish ancestors are descendants of these soldiers, who would be known for their obedience, courage and discipline.


In 1860 the descendants of the Scottish still lived in Veere, however throughout the years these settlers have all moved away to other places as well. You can no longer find Scottish names in Veere. Archival documents have made clear that, in general, the Scottish had difficulties with living in a foreign country. The Scottisch conservator, Charles Stuart wrote on this topic: “A country’s customs are easily learned but your own habits and tastes often cannot be unlearned.” (“Lands manieren bin wel te leren, maar gewoontes en smaken bin dikwijls niet te verleeren.”) Relations between Scotland and Veere are currently maintained by the Scotland-Veere organization, which was founded in 1999.

Southern Low Countries / France

Traditionally, the northern Low Countries and the southern Low countries were a united nation. This lasted, however, until the Dutch Revolt or the 80-years’ war (1568-1648). Until 1795, the northern Low Countries was not a kingdom but a self-sustaining republic; de Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlanden. There was a continuous flow of people from the southern Netherlands to Zeeland. Mainly merchants from Flanders and Antwerp tended to settle in the cities of commerce in Zeeland. These cities included Middelburg, Vlissingen, Veere and Zierikzee.

An increase in migration

A significant increase in migration occurred in 1572 and onwards. Many people from Flanders, Brabant and other inhabitants of the remaining provinces of the southern Low countries flee from the violence resulting from the Revolt against the catholic Spain. Fortunately, the cities in Holland and Zeeland could provide them with the opportunities to practise their own religions and to continue their trade relations.

Citizens of Antwerp move to Zeeland

The fall of Antwerp in 1585 once again drove many protestant refugees to move to the nortern Low Countries, especially Middelburg and Amsterdam became common destinations. During the last quarter of the sixteenth century, many people from Flanders and Brabant became a “poorter” (citizens) in one of the cities in Zeeland. Not all became a “poorter”; there was a fee and people often had to fulfill requirements with regard to employment and their prosperity. Around 1622 half of the inhabitants of Middelburg at the time (about 20.000 people), originally came from the southern Netherlands. These so-called ‘inwijkelingen’ significantly contributed to Middelburg and Zeeland in becoming flourishing, both culturally and resource wise.

Huguenots are persecuted

A second wave of immigrants from the south consisted of the Huguenots: French protestants. From 1617 onwards, the Huguenots from Lille settled in Groede. In 1622, a Walloon church was built here. From 1635 to 1640, various Huguenots from Calais and its surrounding areas settled in Sint Anna ter Muiden. A larger amount of French Calvinists, however, fled to the northern Netherlands from 1685 onwards, as the result of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. To a certain extent, this provided them amongst other things, with somewhat more religious freedom. The revocation made their existence more difficult. Huguenots who where employed in public positions were fired, craftsmen were cast out of their guilds, protestant schools were closed or given to the Catholics. Retroactively, the Huguenots had to pay high taxes. Around 1770 the French and Walloon immigration stagnated.

Lutherans’ demonstration of good behavior

Maarten Luther was a monk who, in 1517, preached to uncover the wrongdoings of the Roman-Catholic church.

Lutherse Kerk in Zierikzee -Raas-775
Lutheran church in Zierikzee, Zeeland Archives, Collection P.S.G. Raas, no. 775

He protested in favor of a reformation of the Catholic church.

Eventually, his teachings sparked a new reformed movement: Lutheranism.

The Lutherans were persecuted by the ruling Roman-Catholic chuch and had to flee. After the fall of Antwerp in 1585 many Lutherans fled to the northern Netherlands, especially Amsterdam was a popular destination. A small amount of Lutherans settled in Zeeland, favoring the city of Middelburg in particular. Moreover, the Lutherans were in possession of a certification by the government of Antwerp stating that “those of the ‘Augusburgse Confessie’ church behave decently and obey the Magistrates” (“die van de kercke der Augsburgsche Confessie aldaer haer gedragen hebben in alle zeedigheyt ende gehoorsaemheyt tegens de Magistraten.”) As a result, the Lutherans were able to found their own communities within their new hometowns.


In 1727, a new archbishop was elected in the archbishopric of Salzburg Austria. Compared to his predecessor, this archbishop was less tolerant to the protestant Lutherans who lived in the catholic archbishopric. He commissioned an Edict of Expulsion of Protestants, which started the religious persecution of protestants. In 1732 the Lutherans presented him with an ultimatum: either he would grant the Lutherans total religious freedom or the right to migrate. The bishop took advantage of this opportunity and declared that migration, rather than a privilege, would be a duty which would be effective immediately. With support from the Dutch Lutherans, large groups of Salzburgers migrated to the Netherlands.

Warm welcome

‘Het Vrije van Sluis’, an area that approximately encompasses current ‘West-Zeeuws-Vlaanderen’, had at the time a significant labor shortage in the agricultural sector. With the arrival of the Salzburgers, this shortage could be resolved and therefore they offered to take in 36 families. Two Lutheran preachers traveled to Salzburg to pick up the families. In Ulm they ran into a group of Salzburgers who managed to escape the persecutions. This group was sent to Middelburg, where the refugees were placed in quarantine for a week in the hospice. Some families moved to Veere and Vlissingen, however, most families stayed in Middelburg and joined the Evangelical Lutheran Community.

Exhausted Dürnbergers arrive in Breskens

The Ulms group told the preachers that a small group of approximately 800 Lutherans lived near the saltmines near Dürnberg. This group refused to convert to Catholicism and eventually got permission to migrate. After they procured licenses and free passages, almost 800 Salzburgers left the mining town in November 1732. The journey was tough. Ships froze, got stuck and the group was delayed several times. Some gave up and went back home. Many children and elderly people died due to the hardships. In February 1733 the exhausted refugees arrived in Nijmegen, were they were welcomed and taken care of. A month later 18 ships full of Salzburgers arrived in Nieuwerhaven, Breskens were they were divided and housed in several nearby villages.

Disappointed Salzburgers return

The arrival in the promised land turned out to be a let-down. The Salzburgers were housed in badly lit barracks, stables or in draughty attics in which hay used to be stacked. Recruiters of the VOC tried to convince youths to work on their ships, but paychecks were never received, in addition to many other unfortunate events. Moreover, the miners were not even used to working in the agricultural sector. 1733, the constant disappointments and hardships were related to the deaths of 145 Salzburgers already. The notorious ‘Zeeuwse’ fever, which was similar to malaria, left its mark on the community as well. As a result, many disappointed Salzburgers returned to the German home countries in 1734.

Assimilation of Salzburgers into the ‘Zeeuws-Vlaamse’ community

In 1734, only 224 people remained of the original group of 784 Salzburgers.In 1741, this amount decreased to 171. The largest concentration of Salzburgers was located around Groede.

The Salzburgers founded their own church here in 1742. The church would later become the heart of the Evangelical Lutheran Community in the ‘Vrije van Sluis.’ Gradually, the Salzburgers integrated into the Zeeuw-Vlaamse community.


There are still surnames which are reminiscent of the Salzburger migration. Some examples are: Auer, Eggel, Ehrlich, Ekkebus, Fagginger, Keijmel, Neugebauer, Scheybeler and Wemelsfelder. The Dutch Salzburgers keep in touch by means of the ‘Stichting Bestudering Geschiedenis Salzburger Emigranten Nederland’ (Organization for Historical research regarding Salzburger migrants in the Netherlands).

The Indonesian archipelago

The first form of contact between the Dutch Republic and Indonesia dates back to 1596, when the first Dutch merchant ships reached the East Indies. In the nineteenth century, the archipelago became a Dutch colony and was renamed Nederlands-Indië. The area was governed by the Dutch. In 1942 the colony was occupied by Japan, and as a result, all Europeans were brought to camps for prisoners of war or internment camps.

Independence of the Republic of Indonesia

On the 15th of August 1945 the Japanese army surrendered, and two days later Soekarno and Hatta declared the Independence of the Indonesian Republic. However, the Netherlands was not ready lose their sovereignty over the area. As a result, the Netherlands initiated so-called ‘politionele acties’ in 1947 and 1948. Indonesian soldiers in the Royal Dutch-Indonesian Army (Koninklijk Nederlands-Indische Leger (KNIL)) fought alongside the Dutch soldiers. In the end the Netherlands, which was pressured to do so by the international community, signed and acknowledged the Independence of the Indonesian Republic on December 27th 1949.

Migrating to the Netherlands

The decolonization of Indonesia consequentially led to an exodus of various populations. During the period of 1945-1949, many Dutch people migrated back to the Netherlands. Additionally many Indo-Europeans (children with European and Indonesian parents) also moved to the Netherlands. As a result this demographic exported Indonesian culture to the Netherlands. Indonesian food and musical influences (‘Indo-rock’) have since been part of Dutch culture. After 1950 a group of approximately 12.000 Moluccans, of which the men had served in the KNIL, moved to the Netherlands. In total, approximately 300.000 repatriates and migrants moved to the Netherlands during the period of 1945-1957, which proved to be an enormous increase in immigration numbers.

Moluccans in Zeeland

Barakken aan de Nadorstweg te Middelburg - Foto ZB
Barracks near the Nadorstweg in Middelburg – Photo by ZB

The Moluccans were housed in barrack encampments. Initially their stay would be temporary as they wished to return to their own Moluccan Republic. When the Moluccans’ temporary stay proved to become a long term stay, government policy changed accordingly from enforced isolation in assigned living quarters to a forced integration by means of small Moluccan neighborhoods placed the municipalities’ newly constructed neighborhoods. In total 65 residential areas were built in the Netherlands. In Zeeland these were located in Oost-Souburg, Koudekerke and Middelburg.