Eisdorf is located in the valley of the Popper River. Probably at the end of the 12th century, two villages were founded in the township of Eisdorf, Eisdorf and the hamlet of Klein-Eisdorf 3 km away. The first surviving mention of Eisdorf is from a charter of 1209. The village name in German, Magyar and Slovak indicate that a man called Isaac was the founder (in medieval German, Isaac was pronounced like in English, with Ei instead of German I, and at some point the middle syllable dropped from Eisackssdorf, while in Slovak, the first syllable got dropped). After the Mongol invasion of 1241 Eisdorf was rebuilt but Klein-Eisdorf not. Eisdorf belonged to the Zipser Staedtebund from the very beginning. Several historians believe that the settlers of Eisdorf came from the Eisacktal in South Tyrol, (Rudolf, 78) including the ancestors of my own mother's family, the Alexy. It is likely that the villagers had no family names yet. Eisdorf belonged to the Zipser Bund, which means that the village, which had at its heyday at most 500 people, had city status. The township of Eisdorf since the middle ages had an area of 3635 Joch (a Joch has 5700 square meters, an acre 4040, a Joch is 1.41 acres). The village had an area of 5125 acres or about 8 square miles. By 1944, the distribution was 75% fields, 14% forests, the rest meadows, gardens and the village.
The Eisdorfer suffered from the catastrophes that shook the area. For non-nobles, life was not fun in a feudal society in the best of cases. But here, the Czech Hussites came and plundered and murdered in the 15th century. In the 16th, they were followed by the Ottoman Turks, who though stopped 20 miles south of Eisdorf, conducted regular raids northward until decisively beaten between 1686 and 1699. Eisdorf had become Lutheran in 1542. In 1672, the government banned Lutheran parishes. In November 1672, Imperial troops plundered the village, in February 1709 the rebel Kurutzen, and in May 1709 the troops of Prince Rakoczy. After that, enemy troops would not come to the village till 1945, though the young men had to suffer in far-away wars.
Eisdorf also suffered from devastating fires. The village has no riverfront or fire pond, and so fires could not be quenched in time. In 1717, 1869, 1873, 1882, 1892, 1919, 1927, 1931 and 1937, large chunks of the village burned, destroying also the stored harvest and creating famine. There also were illnesses and epidemics. In 1558, 1600, 1646 and 1710, the plague struck. In the year 1700, 73 men, 67 women and 25 children, or 165 people, a third of the village, died of the plague. The cholera was less deadly, but still...in 1831, 34 people died of the cholera, in 1855 44 people, in 1914 10 people.
2. The village economy
Even when the plague (Pest), Cholera and war did not threaten, the life of the Eisdorf peasant was not easy. Most of the villagers were Untertanen, the remainder Besitzlose. The peasants were differentiated according to whether they owned the rights to a full farm (64 Joch, that is 90 american acres, or 36.5 hectar), a half or a quarter farm. In 1821, there were 105 full and 28 half-sized farms. The peasants made fruit brandy and homespun linen. Otherwise, there were no crafts. However, in 1944, the village counted a carpenter, smith, merchant and innkeep.
The village had comparatively few meadows, and so there was not much cattle. The majority of grasslands was owned in common, with hay cut only once a year because the soil was poor. But geese and sheep, which could be feld in the scrubland, were kept in larger numbers. The fields were planted according to the three-fields rule, each peasant having a long strip in each third, the rotation of the crops (potatoes, wheat, then rye) being decided by the village elders. Every five years, to allow the thin soil to regenerate, all fields were used as pasture. After 1848 the farmers were not legally bound anylonger to cooperate in the three fields system, but continued to do so because this way of farming was necessary until fertilizers became more available--but they were not cheap.
In the 16th century, Eisdorf, like the other members of the Zipser Staedtebund that were not mortgaged to Poland, was now too weak to
protect its liberties, and was assigned to the estates of the noble family (Counts) Csaky. For the right to use a full farm (90 American
acres), a peasant family now owed the Csaky family annually until 1848:
In addition, each farm had to pay several kinds of taxes to the king/state, plus the tenth to the Catholic Church, which was the
state church, and a city tax. I'm still trying to understand the particulars of some of these taxes (Portengeld, notably):
4. Living on the farm The lifestyle of the village of my ancestors was rough. The climate did not allow large gardens. Hence, vegetables and fruit were uncommon at meals. As Adalbert Wannhof remembered from his youth in the 1930s, farmers breakfasted with hot sweet milk-coffee and bread and butter. There was a second, more substantial, breakfast at 9 AM. Food was simple. Because there were few meadows and gardenland, vegetables and milk were not plentiful. The staple for breakfast, lunch and dinner was the potato, cooked in ingenious ways, and served with bacon or some milk product.
Life was characterized by ceaseless labor to eke out a living from a harsh land, even after the Robot for count Csaky had ended. Houses were seen not as homes in a romantic sense, but as mere dwellings, with the limited resources being rather put into improving the stalls rather than the living room. After the large farms began to be subdivided, the large homes became cramped--even though the number of villagers dwindled. Usually, the large farmsteads were inhabited by the parents and several adult children, including married children.
Looking at old birth registers, it is noticable that many births up to the 1930s were stillbirths, because pregnant women worked as long as they could on the fields. The birthrate began to drop after the 1880s, with the average number of children born to a married woman surviving her entire fertility cycle dropping from the usual 10 to 15 of the mid-19th century to 5 to 8. Below a picture from the 1930s.
In 1700, the population was about 500 people.
In 1921, the census counted 608 people, of which 582 were German, 10 Slovaks, 4 Magyars, 2 ethnic Jews and 10 others. By religion, 420 were Lutherans, 167 Catholics, 2 Jewish.
In 1930, the census counted 641 people. Of these 624 were German, 10 Slowaks, 2 Magyars, 3 ethnic Jews, 2 other. By religion, 428 were Lutheran, 207 Catholic, 3 Jewish, 3 other.
6. For the Spirit: Churches and Schools: The Catholic St Nicolas' church was built in the 13th century, (oft modified) and has parish registers beginning with 1672. Many Eisdorfer became Lutheran in 1542. The list of all Lutheran ministers has been kept. But Catholicism was the state religion. Until 1782, Lutherans could worship only in a few churches. Births and death of Lutherans in Eisdorf were registered at the Catholic parish until 1782, then at the Lutheran church was in nearby Menhardsdorf (Vrbov). Around 1830, a Lutheran church was built in Eisdorf, and a parish book begun in 1850. For a list of archival material, see below.
In the 19th century, the two parishes organized parish grade schools. In the 20th century, a kindergarten was built as well.
There were not many societies. There was a Lutheran Maennergesangverein (male glee club) and a relief society (Bruderverein). Every 24th June, St John's Day, the "brothers" shared the "Bruderbier." In city hall, there was a small public library with smoking room, the "Casino." Young men also joined the volunteer firefighters.
Not much is known about the Jews of Eisdorf. Their births and deaths were not recorded in either the Catholic or Lutheran records. Until Jewish emancipation in the mid-19th century, Jews were confined to small trading and peddling, and moneylending, and Eisdorf was too small to host a larger, permanent group of such Jewish residents, unlike nearby Hunsdorf, from whence Jewish peddlers came to Eisdorf for business. In the late 19th-early 20th century, some stayed long enough to have children born in Eisdorf, though most did not stay long in the village, according to Yad Vashem records online and the census. In 1877, 11 Jews by religion lived in Eisdorf, in 1910 5, in 1930 3. In 1858 Eduard Low was born to Ernestina Low, no father named. He then lived in Deutschendorf/Poprad. Other Jewish births listed for Eisdorf/Zips were Jakob Winkler (1880), Andre Ben Yirmiyahu (1888), Schlomo Bugler (1905), Jakob (1901) and Margita (1910) Feuermann, children of Tzvi and Zhana Feuermann, Malvina Friedmann (1918), Laszlo Bass (1921). Iliya Langer was noted as a merchant in Eisdorf. The last merchant was Julius Bergman, b. 1891, who was deported in 1942. I would like to learn more about the history of Jews in Eisdorf and Zipser Bela.
7. The End after 800 Years: Slovakia became independent in March 1939. In the great European civil war between the two ideologies, its leaders allied themselves with Hitler, who was not yet a mass-murderer in 1939, rather than with Stalin, who had already murdered 15 to 20 million men, women and children by that time. The Slovak Army participated in the campaign against Poland and then against the Soviet Union. Until 1943, when a German defeat appeared possible, few Slovaks had complaints about that alliance, despite what their official history claims today.
But as the tide of war turned, in Summer 1944, there was a Communist-led partisan revolt in Central Slovakia. Over 3,000 ethnic Germans were massacred. The uprising failed. Yet, as the Soviet Army rolled nearer, Carpathian German civilians were evacuated to protect them from indiscriminate slaughter. The children of Eisdorf were evacuated to Austria on September 21, 1944, led by their teachers, the boys to Glognitz and the girls to Rabenstein. On January 10, most women and old men, as other Germans from the Zips, were evacuated with the last trains from the railroad station in Kaesmark. On January 23, the 85 men who had stayed packed their belongings on 55 carts, with 112 horses, and began a long trek through the snow-covered and wolf- and partisan-infested countryside until they reached Bischofsteinitz in the Sudetenland on February 25, having trekked for 350 miles. Once the fighting was over, they expected to be able to return to their little village. The trek left in the nick of time. German and Hungarian troops (though the Soviet imposed Hungarian puppet government, the so-called "Debrecen government," had declared war on Germany on December 21, 1944, most Hungarian troops fought with their German friends and allies to the bitter end--such as in the epic defense of Budapest till February 13, 1945)--evacuated the upper Zips between January 22 to 26. Menhard was occupied by soldiers from the Czechoslovak (Benes) army on January 27. So were the other villages, by CSR and Soviet troops.
Not all Zipser left. Many simple souls, knowing they were innocent, trusted the Allies (after all claiming to fight for Freedom & Humanity), and stayed. Many were murdered by Czech and Soviet troops. And when the war was over on May 8, 1945, the great self-anointed humanitarians who claimed to fight a "good war" allowed the Czech government to torture some, kill others in slave labor camps such as the castle in Kesmark, and ethnically cleanse all of them from their homes of 800 years. Today, Eisdorf only survives in the memories of families, such as mine, who live in the Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, the United States and Canada. Two families remained due to illness, and the Cathoplic priest, Rev. Pataky (died 1947). The village was resettled by Slovaks and Ruthenes. While individual Eisdorfer visited the village in the 1960s, as a group surviving Eisdorfer and their descendants visited their village only in May 2006 and July 2009, led by Albert Gotthardt, and the elders made peace with the current dwellers of their homes in a moving ceremony for the 800th anniversary of the first surviving mention of the village. We were greatly helped by our Slovak tour guide, a lovely young lady who both times guided us with heart and understanding and helped us connect with the current residents. As a group, we wrote a beautiful village history that reflected our ancestor's world in Eisdorf. The Slovak side wrote also a book, edited by Ivan Chalupecky, which dealt more heavily with the post-1945 history of Zakovce.
[To the top of the Webpage] 8. Sources: Rudolf, Rainer, Pater, et alii, Zipser Land und Leute, (Vienna, Austria: Karpatendeutsche Landsmannschaft 1982), esp. 45-60. Wanhoff, Adalbert. "Eisdorf, ein deutsches Dorf in der Oberzips," Karpatenjahrbuch 1990, 77-88.
For further research, the church records of Eisdorf and Menhard have been microfilmed by the Latter Day Saints (Mormons). The Eisdorf records, 1850-1944 are on films 1791927 and 1791928. The first pages of the birth records are missing, unfortunatly. The records for the Lutheran church of Menhard cover Eisdorf till 1850. The microfilm for Menhard is 1791920 and 1791921. Alas, the marriage records are entirely missing until the 1860s, so that no Eisdorf marriage until 1850 can be perused on the microfilm. Also, while otherwise neatly written, the records before 1850 do not indicate any house numbers, which, since many cousins marry, makes identifying families difficult at times.
The Lutheran ministers were Rev. Johann Schönwiesner (Schönviszner) from 1851 to 1868, followed for a short time by Jacob Ganovsky (who I think was also minister in Menhard) until in 1868 Rev. Julius Szekely became minister. He was succeeded by Rev. Andor Nikelsky till about 1902, Rev. Gustav Hajso, and then by Rev. Eduard Hönsch around 1920 who remained until the End.
The Eisdorf Catholic parish registers, which except for the 1840s were not microfilmed by LDS, have been photocopied and put into a database by John Long, in Seatle, Washington. For more information, contact him at John Long
Strangely enough, parts of the church archives for Eisdorf, Bierbrunn, as well as Deutschendorf and Niederschwaben, have ended up in
Russia, at the Military Archives, ul. Wyborgskaya, Moscow, and are finally accessible to the public there, under "Fonds Number
1295, Religious Organizations". The web catalog is available at
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My ancestors in/from Eisdorf were, starting with my Opi (grandfather) as 1st generation:
Desider Paul ALEXY (x 24 May 1905 Bierbrunn, + 24 May 1963 Stuttgart/Germany)
married 23 Jan. 1931 in Pressburg
Martha BOEHM (x 23 Jan. 1911 Pressburg, + 12 Aug. 2001 Stuttgart)
The couple had three children, 11 grandchildren (including yours truly) and 20 great-grandchildren as of 2001.
Desider Alexy was ordained in 1928, and served as priest for diaspora communities such as in Hedwig-Bries, where he initiated their German school house. He became minister in Ratzersdorf in 1932, and in 1941 head of the Diakonissen-Anstalt in Pressburg, while serving as secretary of the new German Evangelical Church in Slovakia, under bishop Johann Scherer. In Pressburg, he was also active in the foundation of the Deutscher Kulturverband in 1925, and the Karpatendeutsche Partei in 1930. He remained its regional chairman till 1939. He was inactive in the DP, whose Nazi-orientation he opposed. After the war he co-founded the Hilfskommittee der evang.-luth. Karpatendeutschen, which he chaired from 1946 to his death in 1963, while being also vice-speaker of the KDL and chairman of its Baden-Wuerttemberg state organization. He was also active in many other ways, chairing this and initiating that, such as the Karpatenland building cooperative. He was devoted to the welfare of the little people he was born into.
Matthias was ordained a Lutheran priest in 1877, and served from 1877-1890 in Rissdorf (today Ruskinovce), then till 1912 in Bierbrunn, (Vibornej), after which he was able to transfer to the wealthy Danube Suebian parish of Buljkesz in the Batschka. He retired in 1930. The couple had 16 children. My Opi was the 15th.
Children: (I only noted those that survived childhood):
Matthias Alexy, b. 1853, noted above.
Jakob Alexy, (x March 4, 1848 Eisdorf, + after 1860 since he was confirmed that year).
Johann Alexy, (x 1851 Eisdorf). He married on Jan. 29, 1878 his cousin Susanna Alexy (born 1856, daughter of Martin Alexy and Maria Kunsch). They had four children in Eisdorf. One died young. The three others (Jakob, b. 1882; Johann, b. 1885; Matthias, b. 1887) may have emigrated with their parents to Philadelphia.
Susanne Alexy, (x April 23, 1855 Eisdorf), married in Eisdorf June 28, 1880 the farmer Michael BREYER, from Eisdorf.
Maria Alexy, (x March 12, 1857 Eisdorf), + after 1869 since confirmed that year.
Michael Alexy, (x Sept. 29, 1860 Eisdorf), married Nov. 17, 1887 Pauline RAAB from Menhard.
Samuel Alexy, (x March 15, 1867 Eisdorf, + Nov. 6, 1937 Eisdorf ), married 1891 in Eisdorf Maria SCHERFEL (1869-1935). Samuel inherited the farm Nr. 101, which in 1930 was renumbered into Nr. 136. Samuel's daughter Maria Alexy (1895-1936) married in 1919 her first cousin Matthias Alexy (a grandson of Paul Alexy, 1822-1908) from Farm Nr. 97. Their daughter Julianna (b. 1921) married Matthias Forberger. In Jan. 1945, farm 101 (136 new number), as the rest of the village, was abandonned before the onslaught of the Red Army.
Johann RENNER, peasant in Eisdorf. (x 18 June 1806 Eisdorf, + 1831 Eisdorf)
married 15 Nov. 1825 Eisdorf
Eva ROTH (x 15 Sept. 1810 Eisdorf, + Jan. 17, 1846 as wife of Martin Ratz, who then married after 1847 Maria Schmidt, widow Alexy)
Jakob ALEXY, noted above
Michael ALEXY, (1835-?), peasant in Eisdorf, married 1856 Katharina Ratz, daughter of Martin Ratz and Eva Roth, widow Renner, noted above.
Paul ALEXY, (1822-1908). He was a peasant in Eisdorf and married his cousin Katharina Alexy.
Paul SCHMIDT, married 19 Nov. 1780 Eisdorf with
Matthias RENNER, (x 16 Feb. 1762 Eisdorf)
Catharina MITSCHKO, (x 23 Sept. 1776 Eisdorf)
Jacob ROTH married to Catharina KUTSCHAR