The situation after 568 C.E. is quite contentious among modern historians. For some, the area was empty, a res nullius, and hence its sole legitimate possessors are the Slavic tribes that followed after the Germans left. But archaeological finds--important for the centuries when few written records were created, and even fewer survived--and the transmission of Germanic place names, show that several thousand Germans remained. But they were likely assimilated by the Slavs over the next three centuries, when the area payed tribute to the Turkic Avars. The Avars were beaten by the Frankish Empire of Karl der Grosse (Charlemagne) in the Awar Wars from 791 and 803 C.E. As noted by Pater Rainer Rudolf in Zipser Land und Leute, to secure the area, the Franks founded several castles and villages in the Zips, notably on the site of Arnoldsdorf (slv. Arnutovce) and Toppertz (from Theudeberts), Mengsdorf and Lautschburg. From what is known from other Eastern areas with Frankish border defense villages, these were inhabited not only by German soldier-farmers, but by Christianized Slavs as well. After the 9th century, very little is known about the Zips for the next two centuries. Wild Magyar horsemen tumbled down the Carpathian passes in the late 9th century and conquered an area even larger than the Avar Empire: The great Pannonian plain, and the mountains around it, from Croatia in the South to Upper Hungary (future Slovakia) in the North and Transylvania in the East.
In 907 the Magyars beat the German army decisively. In 991, the Bavarian duke Heinrich der Zaenker (the quarrelsome) destroyed the Magyar army. In between, the few German villages left by the Carolingians in the 9th century may or may not have perished. No document telling us survived. After the Magyars became Christians, they wanted to develop their kingdom into a modern state. But they were few in numbers. Their slavic bondsmen were not numerous either after 4 centuries of constant warfare. And neither group was accustomed to live in cities, nor experienced in crafts and mining. The Magyars did not effectively incorporate the Zips till the mid-11th century, when they built their Gyepü (border stripes) settlements for border soldiers (landzsasok) , and the North only in the late 12th. .
2. The First German Settlers: In old Hungary, save for a small area of "clan land" taken by the seven Magyar clans at the time of conquest, the king not just ruled, but actually also owned the kingdom. Most of it was unsettled in the early middle ages, (the entire population of the Hungarian kingdom is estimated at 200,000 souls in the 10th century). Subjects on that land, whether nobles or non-nobles, only "owned" the hereditary right to use a certain piece of land, subject to annual payments, or military service in the case of tax-exempt nobles. The king could either remain the direct lord of a settled area, which then was a "crown land," and the peasants would pay to him the taxes owed to him as king plus the rent owed to him as lord for the right to till the land. Or he could assign his ownership rights rights to a noble, to whom the peasants then owed the rent for the right to till the soil. In exchange, the nobleman owed military service and had to do all the administrative work for the king for that area. In principle, he also owed the peasants, whether serfs or free, maintenance in case of famine and protection from outside enemies. To transform the forest into tax-producing farms, the Hungarian kings distributed much land to nobles, who then tried to get settlers. Some areas became royal cities (koenigliche Freistaedte) that is received charters giving them autonomy and putting them forever under direct royal rule. Most cities had lesser rights--generally they were autonomous in their administration, their burghers were not serfs, but often they were subjected to the obligation to pay rent to nobles for the land they used. There was no uniform code of laws then, and each group of city-founders was able to negotiate more or less rights for their city.
Well documented is the settlement of Germans in the Zips County (Szepes Megye) during the reign of Geza II (r. 1142-1161) and especially Andreas II (r. 1204-1235). In contrast to the Germans of the Hauerland and Pressburg, whose dialect points to bavarian-franconian origins, the Upper Zipser dialect points to Northwest Germans (Lower Rhineland, Flanders) but who had settled first in neighboring Silesia. In specific cases, settlers came from other German areas as well, as in Eisdorf, whose inhabitants were brought from the Eisacktal in South Tyrol by their Lord, Bishop Ekbert of Andechs-Meran, who owned land in South Tyrol and in the Zips. He also brought settlers from his lands around Bamberg, whose bishop he was, such as to the lower Zips, the Zipser Gruende, where the children of the Upper Zips Germans intermingled with the Bavarian-Franconian miners. The dialect of the Lower Zips is quite different from that of the Upper Zips, while the area around Lublau, including Hopgarten, spoke a Silesian German dialect. Their villages had been settled by the Piasts from Krakau in Poland, until the border was set.
In the Zips, the first great landholder known to posterity was the above-named Ekbert of Andechs-Meran. His sister Gertrud was the wife of King Andreas II. Ekbert received from the king a large chunk of the Zips around Gross-Lomnitz and Eisdorf. Ekbert then granted the land to the Zipser abbot Adolf, whose sister was married with the knight Rutker von Matrei, the ancestor of the noble houses of Berzeviczy and Tharczay. The Berczeviczy family received from the king further lands in the Zips and founded the villages of Bierbrunn, Landeck, Altendorf, Katzwinkel and many others. By 1241, about 4,000 people lived in the Zips, mainly German settlers, plus about 1,000 Magyar border guards and their Slovak bondsmen. The Mongol invasion of 1241 (Mongolensturm) destroyed most of the settlements, German and Magyar, as well archives. In the Zips, a century of work was destroyed, and about half of the people killed by the Mongols. The others survived a heroic siege on the Zufluchtsstein (Stone of Refuge, Lapis Refugii), a fortified mountain plateau near Gross-Schlagendorf, under their commander Jordan von Gargau, ancestor of the locally important noble family of Görgey.
By now, the Kings of Hungary were more interested in making this important border area well-populated. Slovak peasants were settled from the neighboring Komitats. So were many new German settlers, called by King Bela IV (r. 1235-1270). Together with the survivors, they rebuilt the cities and villages. Having performed heroically during the Mongol invasion, Jordan received the old Carolingian village of Toppertz as seat, and went on to found in the 13th century Malthern, Schoenwald, Kreig, Scheuerberg, and Bauschendorf, as well as the mixed Slavic-German village of Windschendorf (windisch=Slavic) .
Hungary was divided in counties, administered by a Gespann and a county legislature made up of the local nobles. In 1271, 24 German cities of the Zips were consolidated into a German autonomous area, the Zipser Staedtebund (city league) within the Zips county, which remained autonomous till 1876 from the royal county administration of Zips Megye, to which it continued to belong otherwise. In that area of the Zips, the king remained Lord, or had become Lord again in the troubled time after the Mongol invasion. The Federation, for the annual payment of 300 Marks (one mark was about a half-pound) of pure silver and 50 soldiers, plus free food for the king and his court should they visit, was freed from further financial obligations towards the king--but not the nobles if their land was on land that was part of a noble estate. The original 24 cities owed no rent to area nobles. An important concession was that the governor of the autonomous area, the Zipser Staedtebund, the count of the Zips, (Zipser Graf), was not appointed by the king but elected for life by an assembly of county notables, city mayors and priests. The name remained though their number (including larger villages) grew to 43 by 1312, some of which were on noble land. Kesmark left the Bund in 1350, when it became a royal free city. The rights of these cities were codified in the "Zipser Willkür" in 1370 by king Ludwig I.
As a result, the county of the Zips, after its borders were set in the 14th century having 3,605 km2 (1,442 sq. miles), was split into several distinct administrative areas. These were the self-governing Lanzentraeger villages, 10 of them (with 29 hamlets), with its Magyar nobles, the royal free cities of Leutschau and Kesmark, and the the Saxon province with its 24 cities (of which 13 where mortgaged to Poland from 1412-1772). The Lanzenträger lost their autonomie in 1804, the Zipser cities in 1802, and the two royal free cities in 1876.
The original 24 cities of the Zipser Städtebund were Zipser Bela, Leibitz, Menhard, Georgenberg, Deutschendorf, Michelsdorf, Wallendorf, Zipser Neudorf, Rissdorf, Felka, Kirchdrauf, Matzdorf, Durlsdorf (these 13 cities were mortgaged to Poland from 1412-1772), Muehlenbach, Gross-Schlagendorf, Eisdorf, Donnersmark, Schmoegen, Sperndorf, Kabsdorf, Kirn, Palmsdorf, Eulenbach, and Dirn. In addition, there were five free royal cities, Leutschau, Zeben, Bartfeld, Eperies, Kaschau, joined in 1350 by Kesmark. In the Southern Zips, seven German cities formed the "Sieben Oberungarische Bergstädte" (Seven Upper Hungarian Mining Towns' League), that is Zipser Neudorf, (which also belonged to the 24-City League), Goellnitz, Schmoellnitz, Rosenau, Jossau, Rudau and Telken.
Only about half of Zips county belonged to the Zipser Town Federation. The other half, inhabited by Magyars, Germans and Slovaks, on land either still owned directly by the king, or on land granted to nobles or to cloisters (such as Schwenik), remained under the standard county administration, paying taxes to the king plus rent in cash and kind to the feudal lord who had received manorial rights to an estate from the king. But in 1412, king Sigismund needed a large amount of cash quickly, and borrowed it from the king of Poland. The loan was secured by mortgaging the tax income of 13 of the 24 members of the Zipser Städte Bund, including Zipser Bela, and the three cities belonging to the royal estate of Alt-Lublau (Alt-Lublau, Pudlein and Kniesen; these were old German cities but rather assimilated by Slavs by the 15th century). The mortgaged cities legally continued to belong to Hungary, but were administered by Polish officials headquartered in the castle of Alt-Lublau. The Polish administration lasted till 1772. The legal status of the cities mortgaged to the Polish king remained "frozen" as it was in 1412; they remained free from feudal dues to a lord. But this mortgaging weakened the power of the 11 remaining Zipser cities. In 1465, the king made the office of county head (Obergespann) hereditary in certain families, in the Zips to the Zapolya, followed by the Thurzo in 1536, and the Csaky in 1636. This did not make the royal domains administered by that family their property, unlike the holdings they had received as estate, but in practice, the distinction between the two eroded. While at first, taxes remained the same, they soon were hiked arbitrarily. The 11 towns impovertished. When the 13 cities and the 3 cities of the estate of Alt-Lublau were redeemed in 1772, they could not be reunified anylonger with their 11 sister cities because their legal and economic status was now so different. Rather, the 16 mortgaged cities became a new Bund der 16 Zipser Städte, till its autonomy was abolished in 1876.
In 1526, the Hungarian army was destroyed at Mohacs, and its king died on the battlefield, betrayed by the selfish nobles who opposed his plans to streamline administration and curtail their powers. The Hungarian capital was moved to Pressburg. The hungarian nobles then elected the Habsburgs, who were dukes of Austria and other territories, as well as elected Emperors of Germany, also hereditary kings of Hungary.
3. Lost of Majority due to War and the Plague: The German majority declined proportionally to Slavic inhabitants beginning with the 15th century. There was the devastation left by the Czech Hussites in the 15th century, the Turkish border warfare in the 16th and 17th centuries, religious strife between Protestants and the Catholic monarch (who were Emperors as Emperors of Germany--there was no Emperor of Austria until 1803--and kings of Hungary), and the civil wars between pro- and anti-Habsburg nobles. The latter had religious overtones as well, since the anti-Habsburg forces were often Calvinists and prepared to tolerate Lutherans (usually Carpathian Germans) while the armies of the German--but more importantly, Catholic-- monarch, killed them as heretics. In 1606, the Emperor-King allowed religious freedom to Protestants, but this promise was not respected by his sharply Catholic successors. This, together with other issues, led to uprisings led by mainly Calvinist noblemen, with the support of the Lutheran German cities--with the Turks always looming in the background. After an uprising by Emmerich Thököly, Emperor Leopold I granted in 1681 at the Landtag of Oedenburg a limited religious toleration. Protestants as such were allowed to exist. But they were discriminated in their right to hold public office, and could have only 2 churches per county (the so-called Articularkirchen, from article 26 of the Treaty). These had to be entirely from wood (even no nails allowed) and outside the city walls, too--probably so that the Turks could burn them easily during raids. There was a last, terrible convulsion in the area from 1683 to 1711. In 1683, the Turkish army laid siege to Vienna, was beaten back with enormous loss of life, and by 1699 forced out of most of Hungary. Upper Hungary was now free from the threat of Turkish raids. Flush with victory, Leopold I rued his 1681 promise of religious toleration and began again to persecute Protestants. The Protestant nobles revolted in 1703 until 1711, when in the peace of Szathmar the toleration of 1681 was confirmed. The Carpathian German cities were very hard hit by these wars, and also by the plague, with that of 1710 killing perhaps 7,000 Zipser, again more in the cities. Then, by the 17th century, most Catholic village priests (badly paid by the state, and ill-educated) were Slovaks who promoted their language among the villagers under their charge. The Tax Census of 1720 showed, according to Joerg Hoensch, (2001) that Magyars were still only 4% of the local population, but Germans now only a small majority, and the rest Slovaks and Ruthenes. By 1790, the Slavs had even become a slight majority. In 1781, Emperor Joseph II in 1781 issued an edict of general religious tolerance for all Lutherans in Hungary. He also encouraged some immigration from the overpopulated Southwest of Germany to the Dunajetz valley in the Northernmost Zips. But he also ordered in 1783 that all artisans, notwithstanding their religion or ethnicity, should be made burghers, which threatened the cultural cohesion of those cities that were still German and restricted burghership to ethnic Germans, and Magyars and Slovaks willing to intermarry and assimilate into the German people.
For example, Karpfen, one of the oldest German cities in the lower Zips, whose "Saxones de Corpona" (Saxons from Karpfen) were noted in documents as early as 1135, was destroyed by the Mongols, rebuilt, flourished, and then was destroyed by the Hussites of Jan Jiskra in the late 15th century. After the Hussites had been kicked out, to rebuild the city, non-Germans were allowed to become burghers, too. The first larger group of Slovaks moved into the city. Living in a German environment, they were going to assimilate over the next generations, but then came the Turkish wars that decimated the local Germans. In 1566, Turkish raiders killed 2 burghers and took 44 into slavery; in 1570, 20 burghers working their fields were killed; another attack happened in 1578, and in 1582 over 200 Karpfen burghers were taken into slavery. For a small city, these continuous losses were hard to make up. In 1611, Karpfen elected a Magyar as mayor, the first non-German since the city's foundation. In 1650, only 11 German children and 87 Slovak children were born, noted from the language used at baptism. In 1673, the German Lutheran minister left the town, because the flock had become too small to support him. By 1740, the great Slovak historian Matthias Bel reported that only a few very old people remembered that the city, now the Slovak city of Krupina, once had German inhabitants.
Assimilation also happened in Menhard (Menhardsdorf), or Vrbov in Slovak. Founded in the 13th century by German settlers led by the Schultheiss (mayor) Meynhard (at the time, commoners rarely had family names), it was a German village till the 19th century despite being mortgaged to Poland from 1412 to 1778. In 1880, of 789 inhabitants, 736 were Germans, 35 Slovaks and 17 Jews (mainly German-speaking). But by 1940, of 870 inhabitants, 410 were Slovaks, 407 Germans, 7 Jews, and 52 others.
At the same time, the overpopulation of the farming areas led many Zipser to emigrate already in the late 18th century to the Bukovina, (Buchenland), notably the area of Zibau, where Zipser German was spoken till World War II, to the area of today's Karpato-Ukraine and of today's Maramures area in Romania, (the Karpato-Ukraine includes part of the old Magyar county of Marmaros, but also other counties such as Bereg), in the latter notably the areas of Ober-Wischau and the nearby Wassertal (Valea Vaser in Romanian). Zipser Saxons founded Oberwischau in the 12th century as a mining settlement, but the original population was assimilated over the centuries. The 18th century migrants came mainly from the Oberzips, notably the area around Kesmark and Leutschau, but also from Germany proper. Despite the ethnic cleansing of the Germans of the East after World War II, traces of Zipser famlies still survive in the Wassertal and Oberwischau. This website here is in German, and has pictures (2005) Oberwischau . This emigration further reduced the number of Germans.
In 1847, the census counted 191,523 people in the Zips, of which 63,833 were Germans, 2,043 Jews, 500 (!) Magyars, 98,951 Slovaks and 26,196 Ruthenians. The Germans, excluding Jews, were now only 33% of the population. And after 1867, the urban Germans increasingly became Magyars, owing to the pressure of "magyarization" laws. In 1880, the census counted 172,881 people in the Zips. Of these 48,169 were German, 96,274 were Slovaks, 5,941 Jews, 16,158 were Ruthenians, and 3,526 Magyars. By 1910, the total number of inhabitants was 171,725 people, of which 38,434 were Germans, 7,475 Jews, 97,077 Slovaks, 12,327 Ruthenian, and 18,658 Magyar. Most of these Magyars were former Germans. A good example of the ethnic change was Zipser Bela, where, without any "ethnic cleansing," from 1880 to 1890 the number of Germans fell by 19 percent, from 1890 to 1900 by another 8.3 percent, and from 1900 to 1910 by another 13.5 percent while the number of Magyars exploded. (From Ladislaus Guszak, in Karpatenpost February 1969, p. 4, based on census data in Dr. Erich Fausel, Das Zipser Deutschtum, Jena, Germany, 1927, p. 111).
4. Burghers and Robots: Social Rank in the Zips: The Zips had legally, till 1848, three classes of people. The nobles owned the land and had a seat in the county legislature. They were tax exempt. The local nobles tried from the 14th century onwards to become feudal lords of the remaining royal areas. They succeeded especially after 1526, when the new Habsburg kings desperatly needed the support of the nobles against the Turks. This included the remaining 11 cities of the Zipser federation. While the people of these little cities kept their local self-rule and were not made into serfs, (leibeigen) they now had to pay the king's annual rent to a noble family. The rent was raised substantially. The rent was due in cash and in kind, and increasingly also unpaid labor, called the robot). The Csaky remained hereditary Obergespann of the Zips till 1848, and after that remained appointed county heads. Albin Csaky, (1841-1912), who later served as minister of education in Budapest, was Obergespann till 1880, the last of his family to hold the office.
The Buerger, or burghers, of the remaining free royal cities paid royal taxes collectively through these. Untertanen (subjects) were the peasants and artisans of the villages and small cities that had come under feudal rule. The most common occupation, even in the towns, was that of peasant, called a Untertan, Bauer, and in the 19th century a Landwirth, in latin colonus. The Besiztlose, consisting of Hausleute, Kleinhaeusler, Mietsleute etc were people without enough land to live from farming. They eked out what their could from their garden plots and worked as laborers or itinerant laborers or peddlers.
[To the top of the Webpage] 5. Torn from the Fatherland: World War I and its aftermath: In August 1914, World War I broke out. The Zips was administed in 1914 by Obergespann baron Arthur Wieland and Vizegespann Dr. Ludwig Neogrady, in 1918 by Dr. Tibor von Mariassy. The Zips' roughly 172,000 people, mainly small farmers, with some industrial workers, could not expect to eke enough food from the county's soil. The Russian offensive into Eastern Galicia in Fall 1914 caused panic, with the front by September 26 at Tarnow and Gorlice just East of Krakau--Tarnow was only about 160 km (100 miles) from Kesmark--and also sent waves of refugees crashing through the Popper River valley. But the German and Austrian-Hungarian armies threw back the Russian army in Mai-June 1915. After that, there was no direct military threat, but the slow drain of young men and of food, the progressive lack of which made death rates rise. Food production was increasingly controlled by the Ministry for People's Nutrition (a.k.a Food Ministry). It would be too much to detail the agony of the Zips. I will focus on the last months of the war, based on the Karpathen-Post and other sources.
By Summer 1918, the Zips was worn out. In late September, the Food Ministry decreed that the Zips had to deliver at once 2,500 train wagons loads @5 tons of potatoes, or it be seized by force. Also, a family could have only keep one pig per five people to feed itself if they had a license. Sugar, one of the few bountiful items, was raised from 2.14 K/kg to 2.92 wholesale, hence in stores from 2.40K to 3.30K. Even matches were rationed. Local politics revolved nearly entirely in lobbying for more food. Kesmark mayor Dr. Otto Wrchovszky succeeded in getting the fat of 1,600 pigs to be rationed to the nine Zipser cities with self-government. Also, after food distribution broke down in November, and the Kesmark population had nothing for December, he persuaded the local state employees, who had received an annual allotment of flour and other foodstuff, to share these, thus preventing mass starvation (and probably the lynching of said employees by hungry mobs), according to the Karpathen-Post of November 28. Interestingly considering the times, in October-November, though half of the mountain spas were closed, Tatraszeplak, Ujtatrafured, and the sanatorium in Otatrafured, as well as some hotels in Tatralomnitz,were still with guests from Budapest. [This part is a work in progress]
6. 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, 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.
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A dancing song from the Zips
From Karpatenpost June 1968, p. j1.
Wu gejst hin, wu gejst hin, du schworzes Porailchen?
En die Mihl, en die Mihl, mein liebes Frailchen.
Wos sollst du en der Mihl, du schworzes Porailchen?
Mohln, mohln, mohln, mohln, mohln, mein liebes Frailchen.
Wos sollst med Mahl dank tun, du schworzes Porailchen?
Of mein Hochz, of mein Hochz, mein liebes Frailchen.
Wann wed dein schejn Hochz sein, du schworzes Porailchen?
Wanns Mihlchen pfeift, 's Korn a"uch reift, mein liebes Frailchen.
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