The Amish, Macron & 5G

There was kind of a quirky “Amish” story that emerged last week in France. Not being a French speaker, I have mainly heard of it secondhand from French readers of this site, who have kindly kept me informed.

I wanted to share a brief guest post from Romain Speisser on the topic with you today, who you might recall last month shared a history of the Amish in Salm. In a nutshell, French president Emmanuel Macron made a comment referencing the Amish which caused a minor uproar.

Last week I was also contacted by a journalist from Le Point magazine, which is one of France’s larger newsweeklies. She did an article on the topic, and while it’s behind a paywall, I can share one of my quotes from the piece:

L’absence d’éducation poussée ou de connexion Internet ne les empêche pas de prospérer. « Les amish ne sont pas antitechnologie, ils sont sélectifs. Avant d’adopter une nouveauté, ils l’évaluent de manière réfléchie en examinant l’impact sur la communauté, la famille, et décident si ses bénéfices dépassent ses coûts », explique Erik Wesner, auteur du blog Amish America.

I didn’t realize I could speak French so well. Google Translate tells me I said:

The lack of extensive education or internet connection does not prevent them from thriving. “The Amish are not anti-technology, they are selective. Before adopting a novelty, they consider it thoughtfully by examining the impact on the community, the family, and decide if its benefits outweigh its costs, ”says Erik Wesner, author of the Amish America blog.

Yes you’re right, I’m just using this as an excuse to share my words in French (not a chance that comes around often). I don’t know, something about that language makes my common English statements look that much more cultured and sophisticated 😉

Joking aside, now I’ll let the guy who really knows what is going on, Romain, explain what happened last week and why “Amish” was such a hot topic in the French media. Take it away, Romain.


The scene took place Monday evening during a speech by French President Emmanuel Macron, as he spoke to French Tech entrepreneurs about the installation of 5G across France.

Undoubtedly encouraged by the presidential elections of April 2022, and faced with the rise of environmental parties in France, which demand a moratorium on 5G, our president launched a punchline towards them by saying “I hear a lot of voices who rise to explain to us that we should take up the complexity of contemporary problems by returning to the oil lamp! I do not believe that the Amish model makes it possible to solve the challenges of contemporary ecology. ”

The local Mennonites, who are the descendants of the “heftlers” left here, do not talk about it, because national politics is not a subject they even broach among themselves.

Apart from Alsace and Lorraine, where a large part of the inhabitants know that the Amish movement was born in this region and that it existed until the beginning of the last century, the rest of France ignores all the Amish.

At the most, they think they know that in America there are people who still live like in the novel “The Little House on the Prairie,” and this is because they watched the film Witness, but nothing more.

French environmentalists and 5G opponents who have been called Amish, have taken the president’s comment by throwing the #jesuisamish (I’m Amish) or made the joke Je suis l’ami(sh) de mes amish (I am the friend of my Amish).

Finally, this presidential attempt to snip his opponents, I hope, will make the French want to know more about the Amish, or even introduce them to the French who do not know them.

Without realizing it, I guess, the environmentalists acted in an Amish way, forgiving the president’s words and taking them on the good side of things rather than the bad.

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    9 Comments

    1. sylvie

      Bonjour,

      Je vis en Alsace et j’aime bien les Amish sans les connaître. Je retrouve certaines particularités de nos cousins Allemands. On m’a dit que certains Amish comprennent et parlent l’Alsacien.
      Dommage qu’il n’y a pas de Amish ici….

      1. Alex Knisely

        Sylvie's contribution, Englished

        I live in Alsace and I really like the Amish — without knowing any. I can see [in them] some quirks of our German cousins. I’ve been told that some Amish understand Alsatian. A shame that there are no Amish here.

        1. sylvie

          La traduction déforme le sens de la phrase mais je vais essayer dd’écrire en Anglais, je suis comme vous, je n’ai plus fait d’anglais depuis le lycée0

    2. Sunflower

      Translation

      Hi Eric. I never realized there are Amish communities in France. Is it possible to print the French comments in English under its original? I haven’t had to use French since high school; and being the first class of the day I napped in the back of the room (had many farm chores before school). I’m interested because it also has something to do with the 5G apparently. I’ve heard some states and other countries are banning it. Curious what the Amish know of it. Thanks.

    3. sylvie

      Il n’y a pas de communauté Amish en France……..
      La 5G est très mauvaise pour la santé, les ondes sont nocives pour les cerveau, les animaux dans les pâturages.
      Je ne veux pas de la 5G.

    4. Romain S.

      Effectivement, il n’y a plus d’amish en France. Les derniers d’entre eux qui sont restés en France se sont éteinds au début 1900. Leurs enfants qui sont restés dans la foi sont devenus mennonites comme avant la scission de Jacob Amann. Il existe trois assemblées mennonite dans le Bas-Rhin et huit dans le Haut-Rhin. Mais on parle bien de mennonites, plus rien ne les distinguent de par leur apparence vestimentaire. Une tentative de retour amish en Alsace a eu lieu dans les années 80 par des Beachy amish, mais ce fut un échec.

      Indeed, there are no more Amish in France. The last of them who remained in France died in early 1900. Their children who remained in the faith became Mennonites as before the split of Jacob Amann. There are three Mennonite assemblies in the lower Alsace and eight in the upper Alsace. But we speak of Mennonites, nothing distinguishes them by their dress appearance. An attempt to return Amish to Alsace was made in the 1980s by Beachy Amish, but it was unsuccessful.

      1. C. J.

        Mennonite in the Alsace?

        Wondering if “Romain S” can elaborate a little and let us know where the Mennonites are located in the Upper and in the lower Alsace, please?
        Are there Mennonite Churches located in these 5 areas as well?
        We visited the Alsace area a number of years back, and I would love to visit again someday, and possibly connect with some of these communities/villages/towns where these Mennonites live, where some of my ancestors migrated from,to the USA!
        We were able to tour the Trachselwald Castle, in Switzerland, where the Anabaptists were imprisoned, and learned some info from that area.

        Thank so very much ~

        1. Romain S

          Mennonite in the Alsace

          C J
          If you are not in a hurry to come to Alsace, I think this is the case with the covid at the moment, I would publish different articles on the Anabaptist presence in Alsace and that Erik will post on this blog. You can therefore make a roadmap for your next hollydays in Alsace.
          For Lower Alsace, the 3 places of worship are Bourg-Bruche, Geisberg and Illkirch near Strasbourg. You can follow the worship of Geisberg live or in replay on the youtube channel on Eglise Mennonite du Geisberg. As the number of people is limited with this virus, Mennonites who know how to live with their time offer this alternative to follow the cult. For Upper Alsace, the places of worship are Colmar-Ingersheim, Neuf-Brisach, Ensisheim, Pulversheim, Pfastatt, Altkirch, Birkenhof and Saint-Louis.
          Quite often the descendants of Anabaptists come to visit the places where their ancestors lived.
          Remaining at your disposal if you have any further questions.

    5. Aj

      It’s a little sad, because the Amish are an easy target. I know the Amish would never make a fuss about it. They aren’t going to protest like others over cartoons or negative and false depictions. They will shun addressing it. In the U.S. there are also a lot of misrepresentations of the Amish. A few negative stories about abuse or puppy mills all of sudden becomes synonymous with all Amish. In Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Gazette is an example of a publication that often falsely accuses the Amish.

      This is a problem the Amish will probably need to address in the future. As the Amish continue to grow and spread out there will be a lot of people who grow jealous or worried about the growing Amish presence in their community and will try to enact laws or rules to keep them out. Other religious people have faced similar accusations and attacks, such as Jewish communities in New Jersey. Some areas that vote Democrat have tried to keep Jews out of certain neighborhoods for fear they will alter the political landscape.

      People need to learn to live with other people. It’s fine to keep distance, but respect is needed.