The origins of the later known Heidebauern as a distinctive “people” began after 796 following the defeat of the Avars and the destruction of their Empire in what is now known as Slovakia by Charlemagne.  In order to defend the eastern approaches to his empire he built fortresses in the area, which future generations would know as the Burgenland, “the land of fortresses”, a defensive ring along the Danube.  Along with the border garrisons he also settled Bavarian and Franconian peasant farmers to provide the necessary provisions for the troops and also serve in the defense of the fortresses when they were under attack.  This area would later be better known as Western Hungary and consisted of Weisselberg County that the Hungarians referred to as Moson County.

  In the century that followed, numerous new groups of Germanic peoples joined the original settlers and adopted the Bavarian name of Heidebauern to describe themselves.  All of their original settlements and farms were overrun and devastated by the onrushing Magyar tribes that streamed into the area from across the Danube at the beginning of the tenth century, while the population was massacred, fled or went into hiding.  With the defeat of the Magyars, the future Hungarians, at the Battle of Lechfeld on the outskirts of Augsburg in 955 they retreated eastwards to the Great Hungarian Plain and the remnants of the refugee Heidebauern returned to the Heideboden where they had lived previously.

  But now a new wave of colonists arrived, mostly again from Bavaria and Franconia.  Stephen I, the first Christian king of Hungary married the Bavarian Princess Gisella of Passau and gave her the Heideboden as part of the marriage settlement and a massive German immigration took place throughout Hungary.  Many of the new settlers were knights and nobles, skilled tradesmen and peasants as well as large numbers of monastic orders whose formidable task was the conversation of the nomadic Magyar tribes.  This colonization was the beginning of most of the towns and cities of Hungary and their German character would last well into the 19th century.

  In the future many wars were waged along this western frontier of Hungary and the population was at the mercy of marauding armies.  Then the ultimate disaster appeared with the coming of the Mongols in the 12th century that devastated and ravaged the countryside and massacred the population, leaving Hungary desolate and impoverished.  King Bela IV called for more colonists and settlers to his domain and new German-speaking people came to the Heideboden and other parts of Hungary.

  A pivotal point in the development of the Heideboden came during the reign of young teenage Louis II, married to a young Bavarian Princess Maria of the House of Habsburg, which would forever change the relationship between Hungary and Austria.   Both he and his young wife were avid followers of the teachings of Erasmus of Rotterdam and as a result also read the writings of Martin Luther.  Their chaplain at court was an ardent Lutheran and played a role in their acceptance of the “new” teachings.  Louis II however was forced to face the advance of the Turks into Hungary and at the Battle of Mohacs in 1526 he and his army were annihilated.  His young widow Maria was given the domains of Ungarisch Altenburg (Mosonmagyarorvar) that contained all of the Heidebauern villages and communities.  This central fortress alone was now able to withstand the never ending Turkish raids into the territory, which saw countless Heidebauern massacred or taken captive to be sold in the slave markets of Turkey.  It was during these troubled and perilous times that the Lutheran Reformation was introduced into Hungary and especially in the Heidebauern communities, which would become a stronghold of Lutheranism in the following centuries, in the face of relentless persecution, both by the Roman Catholic hierarchy and the House of Hapsburg.

    The Heidebauern were now joined by Lutheran refugees from Upper Austria and Styria, and Upper Swabia from around Lake Constance and brought new dynamics into their communal and religious life.  Their influence can be noted in some of their family names that indicate their origins were not from Hungary like the Heidebauren who had settled there earlier.  There were twenty Heidebauren communities in all, some now in present day Austria and the others in Hungary.  Although the Heidebauren had gone en masse over to the Reformation, it was only in six of the communities that they were able to maintain their Lutheranism after repeated forced conversions of the population.  It is interesting to note that the reasons given for their ability to survive was the role that fathers played in their household, where the “house” church was the norm, and the catechism and hymnal and scripture were taught and as one disgruntled and frustrated Jesuit put it, “the fanaticism of the women who were so deeply steeped in their heresy and were beyond conversion”.

  These six communities were:  Deutsch Jahrndorf
                                                       Zurndorf
                                                       Nickelsdorf
                                                       Strasssommerein (Hegyshalom)
                                                       Kaltenstein (Level)
                                                       Ragendorf (Rajka)

The first three are in present day Austria and the others are in Hungary, and I have also given their current Hungarian names.

Due to several factors, the most important of which was the lack of religious freedom, the Heidebauren began to move elsewhere and establish new communities to the south of the Heideboden.  They had also experienced a series of droughts and a stream of refugees had swarmed into the area and taxed the meager food supply.  The Turks final attempt to take Vienna in 1683 had been unsuccessful but they had pillaged and massacred the local populations throughout Western Hungary including the Heideboden and the population sought another location far removed from the War of Liberation which the Habsburgs were waging and for which they were seeking recruits for their armies.

  They established settlements at:   Pusztavam
                                                              Gyorkony
                                                              Bikacs
                                                              Lajoskomoram
                                                              Paks-on-the-Danube
                                                              Egyhazarackozar

  But they were also to be found in various new settlements being formed in Tolna County that consisted mainly of Hessian colonists coming directly from Germany.  These were usually family groups or individuals.  This is were the Danube Swabians met the Heidebauren and to all intents and purpose became part of the same family, expect the older communities in the Heideboden continued on their own way in defining who they were as the Ungarn Deutsche (German Hungarians).

No Responses to “ The Heidebauern Connection ”

Leave a Comment