Abstract Existing models for the initiation of salt withdrawal minibasins focus on the role of triggers that exist within the minibasin, either stratigraphic (e.g. differential deposition) or tectonic (extension, translation or contraction). Existing studies tend to focus on complex settings, such as continental margins, which contain many different potential triggering mechanisms. It can be difficult in these settings to identify which process is responsible for minibasin initiation, or the influence of individual factors on their subsequent development. Salt withdrawal minibasins also exist in simpler settings, without any obvious intrinsic trigger; the region of the North German Basin used by Trusheim (1960) in the classic definition of salt withdrawal geometries was of this nature. There is no overall basal or surface slope, no major lateral movement, and there is no depositional heterogeneity. Previously recognized trigger processes for minibasin initiation do not apply in this benign setting, suggesting that other, potentially more fundamental, influences may be at work. A simple forward-modelling approach shows how, in the absence of any other mechanism, a new minibasin can develop as the consequence of salt movement driven by its neighbour, and families of withdrawal minibasins can propagate across a region from a single seed point. This new mechanism may explain how some minibasins appear to initiate before the sediment density has exceeded that of the underlying salt. The forward modelling also indicates that some minibasins begin to invert to form turtle anticlines before the underlying salt has been evacuated, so that the timing of turtle formation may not be diagnostic of weld formation. This mechanism may also give rise to salt-cored turtles that have a lens of salt trapped beneath their cores. These new findings have implications for hydrocarbon migration and trapping.