(The following information comes from the Heimatbuch for Pusztavám.)
Pusztavám is located in the so-called Schildgebirge, the central area north of Lake Balaton and north of Szekésfehevár south of the Bakony Forest (Buchenwald).
It is one of the few settlements in the Schildgebirge that was established after the expulsion of the Turks that was not founded by Count Esterhazy. Throughout the Schildgebirge the settlers were composed of three nationalities: Slovaks, Magyars and Germans. As the authors put it, “There were also Slovaks in Pusztavám, a minority that like rain drops became part of the ocean and merged and lost its identity with the German population.
The Germans and Danube Swabian settlement of the Schildgebirge began in 1691 when the Emperor Leopold I granted the area known as Csokakö to Baron Johann von Hochburg who was a commander in his army. This included Pusztavám and Ondód. Until they were both settled these pusztas (prairies) were to fall in many different hands. In 1702 they belonged to the Paksi family who are the source of the name Paks-on-the-Danube in Tolna County. Before World War I a whole chain of Swabian villages were strung throughout the area. Pusztavám’s nearest neighbours included Mór, the oldest German settlement in the Schildgebirge. But German-speaking settlers also lived in larger Magyar communities eventually to become Magyarized. It also remains the most forested area of Hungary and had been the private hunting preserve of the Counts Esterhazy until 1945. Oak trees were everywhere, treasured both by the Slovak and German villages in the area. Until the 1880s vineyards were cultivated extensively but with the arrival of philoxera it never really recovered. Only Mór and Pusztavám continued intensive vineyard cultivation. It became their chief export crop to Austria.
The area was always a romantic tourist area and was the site of summer residences and hunting lodges of the kings, magnates and nobles.
Until 1909, government officials referred to Pusztavám as Ondód. It lies in the northwest portion of Feher County. The word “Vam” means a custom’s house and the local ruins of one from the 15th century is the source of the designation in the name. Or on the other hand it could be “Wamma” and most likely the personal name of a Magyar who had been the first resident in the area in ancient times. The area had been settled for several generations prior to the coming of the Turks but by 1662 Vam and Ondod were uninhabited, its acreage was a wasteland and the population had fled. But the nobles who still held title to the area included the Kanizsy and Nadasdy families. As a result of the Wesselenyi Conspiracy, Nadasdy was executed and all of his estates were confiscated by the Crown and later sold for 15,000 Gulden to Count Georg Szechenyi the bishop of Kolocsa and in 1685 Archbishop of Estergom. From 1602-1686 the area was in the hands of the Turks and with the fall of Buda on September 2, 1686 the Turks fled from the area. By 1690 the lands once again belonged to the Hungarian Crown.
On November 8, 1691, Baron Hochburg was granted the estates in payment of a 60,000 Rhenish Gulden debt owed by Emperor Leopold. On October 21, 1692 the transaction was officially registered in Raab. Pusztavám was part of the Domain.
In 1741 the wife of General Trips, the former Countess Maria Antonia von Auersperg, the daughter of the Count von Auersperg and Maria Katharina von Hochburg became the owner. In 1754 she sold all of her estate to Paul Jeszenak for 100,000 Gulden. It was later sold and transferred to Count Esterhazy.
According to the state archives in Budapest, General Trips began a settlement programme in 1741. A contract with his settlers is still extant.
Paul Jeszenek first purchased Pusztavám in 1754 but soon sold it again and is not to be confused with the landlord who had brought the original Lutheran settlers who had first established the village after their arrival in 1715.
The Urbarial Agreement of 15.04.1768 between Count Esterhazy and his tenants in Pusztavám lists the following names:
Simon Valdinger, Richter
Paul Krepsz (Kreps)
Marting Krasz (Krauss)
According to the contract Ondód (Pusztavám) was settled twenty-seven years before. That is 1741 and not 1715. But it is probable that families had settled here on their own much earlier. But the church chronicles of Pastor Martin Balassogvics (1812) reports that settlers holding to the Augsburg Confession settled there around 1715 and they lived in primitive cellar homes for years. It was only in 1730 when houses were built. The first two settlers are identified as a huntsman (no name is given), a farmer Paul Gober and a colonist Matthias Szabó.
In returning to the contract of 1768 there were 131 families included in the agreement and 98 of them have German names and 33 were non-Germans. Half of the latter were Slovaks and the others Magyars.
In Conscription Lists of 1828 the following statistics are provided:
There were 286 households
The Population was 2,084
Roman Catholics 1,281
The History of the Evangelical Lutheran Congregation
The church chronicle indicates that the first settlers came to Pusztavám in 1715. They were poor people who were driven out of their former home because of their faith and at the beginning of the settlement they lived in earth huts. The first three houses were built in 1730. One belonged to a huntsman, Paul Gober and Matthias Szabó. Things soon moved quickly, house after house were built. Nine German settlers came from the Counties of Sopron and Moson, the villages of Rajka-Ragendorf and Miklosfalva-Nickelsdorf and also some from Württemberg. Hungarians arrived from Szák and Szend. All of these first settlers were Lutherans.
As long as Baron Jeszenak, who was a Lutheran, was their landlord, they were quite happy but kept others who believed differently at a distance because of the high cost they might pay because they were Lutherans. But such people came anyway. They declared themselves to be Lutherans in order to be eligible for a homestead, but when the Roman Catholic Count Esterhazy became the landlord and later in 1750 when Baron Joseph Luzsinszky also a Roman Catholic took over they showed their true colours and threw off their disguise and claimed to be Roman Catholics. Their numbers increased through the arrival of more settlers and especially during the reign of Maria Theresia when the open extermination of the Lutherans in the area began.
At the head of this persecution stood the Capuchin monks at Mór. They kept their eye on the Lutherans in Pusztavám because they considered them to be part of their church jurisdiction. Because of that the Lutherans had to work on the construction of the new Roman Catholic church, the priest’s home and school in Mór and pay the clergy their fees and tithes. Although they had received official sanction to demand these things from the Diocese of Veszprem in 1742 they could not enforce these things until the Jeszenak family sold their estates to the Esterhazys and part of it to Maria Antonia von Trips, the Countess of Auersperg who banished the Lutheran teacher and notary Paul Kegl from the village in 1746. At this point the monks took over his “work” and began to set up church records of their own on October 3, 1746 and would continue to do so until 1784 when the Edict of Toleration finally took effect. They intensified their efforts at conversion and were somewhat successful and began to build a church for their converts in 1748.
They began their conversion mission on the night before the festival of the Epiphany when the monks descended on the village and conducted a house search and confiscated all Bibles, prayer books, hymnals and other Lutheran literature. Those who were found to possess any were fined or punished if they were unable to pay. As this persecution began almost all of the Hungarian Lutheran families sold their possessions and left without leaving a forwarding address. Despite the losses of numerous fellow believers the remnant continued to assemble for worship in haylofts and barns or out in the forest. In 1770 we discover that they had managed to have an elderly clandestine pastor serving them whose life was turned into a living hell by the monks and eventually he was forced to flee for his life by night.
The chronicler writes: “It was only by the grace of God that under such circumstances that the our people did not waiver or go under. God gives us a cross but also helps us bear it. The oppressed and persecuted He gives steadfast faith. This strength came as they gathered and encouraged each other in their homes. By reading the scriptures together, books of sermons and prayer books and through singing hymns they built up their faith and dared to believe in a better future.”
They managed to strike up a relationship with the Hungarian and Slovak congregation in Bokód despite the opposition of the County authorities. What courage it took for them to once again participate in Lutheran worship and celebrate the Lord’s Supper. They were allowed to worship there every fourth Sunday and they would undertake the one hour walk through the forests singing their hymns along the way. They took part in the support of building a church in Bokód, paid towards the pastor’s upkeep with money, wine, produce and wood.
Their children went to the Roman Catholic school in their village. Parents provided catechism instruction and Bible study at home for their children, while “a simple pious God fearing farmer” as the chronicler puts it, “provided instruction in preparation for Holy Communion.” His name was Georg Mossberger, who counts Henry A. Fischer, the author of this article, among his descendants.
The “enlightened” Emperor, Joseph II announced the publication of his Edict of Toleration in 1781. The long suppressed desire of the people to establish their own congregation now went forward. They approached the authorities for this purpose. Their request was denied because they failed to have the necessary one hundred families in order to qualify under the terms of the Edict. But the small flock did not despair or give up. They planned an appeal directly to the Emperor, and the Church Fathers Paul Krebs and Lorenz Zechmeister made the long dangerous journey to Vienna to attempt to have a personal audience with the Emperor to achieve their desire.
This courageous action on the part of these men of simple faith was not to be in vain. They brought home the signed royal permit from the Emperor dated July 26. 1784. One can hardly imagine their joy. They quickly went to work. The newly formed “official” congregation sought their first shepherd. He came from Bokód. He was Matthew Nerodoly who arrived to begin his pastorate in 1785. How hearts beat wildly the first time he preached and conducted worship in Pusztavám. But there was no place to hold worship at the time and so it was held in the hayloft of Paul Krebs. The pastor lived with the Richter, Adam Farkas.
Both the pastor and congregation were committed to the building of a church. An old dream was realized on April 13, 1785 before noon at 11:00 o’clock the holy task of laying a cornerstone took place. The pastor’s text was from Isaiah 28:16 as follows:
“Therefore says the Lord! Behold I lay a cornerstone in Zion, a
worthy stone, a costly foundation. Who believes, he does not
The congregation was disappointed that they were forbidden to build the church in the centre of the village but on the outskirts of the village where no other buildings stood. The blame rests with the administrator of the landlord, a much too earnest Roman Catholic by the name of Rosthy.
The construction took place rapidly. All of the members provided labour and offerings to the best of their ability. The most faithful and enthusiastic were the Church Fathers: Paul Krebs and Lorenz Zechmeister and Andreas Farkas, Georg Macher, Georg Strobl, Michael gross, Paul and Johann Barabas, Andreas Halenar and as a result it was completed within six months and the church was dedicated on October 9, 1785. In 1786 the congregation began to build a parsonage and by 1790 a Lutheran school had been built and was in operation. The first organ was installed in the church in 1793 at the cost of 80 Gulden. In 1806 the congregation consisted of 630 persons but a severe loss was felt when 23 families consisting of 138 persons left to settle in the Banat, some in Tolna Paks and Györköny but the vast majority of them founded Lajos Komarom in Veszprem County. In 1824 the membership reached 730 and would continue to grow in the future.
As early as 1942 there was talk going around among Hungarian people in the army that the “Swabians” would be deported some day in the future, although at the time Hungary was an ally of the German Third Reich.
By 1944 the Germans of Pusztavám were equally divided among those who supported the Volksbund and those who opposed it. This division was also equally distributed both in terms of the Roman Catholics and Lutherans. Although it was a German village only Magyar was used in the school and German was taught as a subject and foreign language. Many of the elderly residents could not speak Hungarian and had great difficulty in dealing with officials and authorities.
In 1942 and 1943 there was a bilateral agreement between Hungary and Germany that led to the mobilization of all Swabians, 17 years and up into the German Wehrmacht.
Following the capitulation of Romania at the end of August 1944, the first Swabian refugees from the Banat arrived in the area. Ninety wagons with 300 persons were quartered in Pusztavám.
On October 15, 1944 the radio announced that Regent Horthy had been replaced. Talk of evacuation began to spread. On December 4, 1944 as the front lines grew closer the regional Führer of the Volksbund Dr. Heinrich Neun of Sopron told the Bund leaders in Pusztavám to get ready for flight. The would-be evacuees were transported to the railway station at Mör. Some 600-800 persons left at the time in four different transports across Czechoslovakia, on to Silesia and then others to Austria.
On December 9th to the accompaniment of the beating of drums it was announced that all desiring to join a trek to escape the onrushing Red Army were to report at the community centre. Thirty-one teams of horses with 73 persons on board their wagons reported to leave. They travelled north to Bokód. By December 17th they reached Sopron and the next day headed into the Burgenland in Austria.