The source of the information contained in this article comes from Chronik der Marktgemdinde Zurndorf by Paul Ebner. Following the First World War the village of Zurndorf along with Nickelsdorf and Deutsch-Jahrndorf became part of the State of Burgenland within Austria and were cut off from the other Heidebauern communities that remained part of Hungary.
Although the author provides the historical background of the region from the Early Stone Age, the coming of the Celts, the Roman occupation and the barbarian invasions from the East that passed through here I pick up the story in the thirteenth century.
The first documented reference to Zurndorf was in 1209 in a discussion of the borders of the holdings of Botho III. He had also purchased the estates of Jois, Hof on Leithagebirge, Pama and Sarndorf in Hungary. From 1199 to 1202 he was the highest ranking official in Wieselberg (Moson) County and consolidated the Botho estates. He rose to high office and eventually became the Paladin (viceroy) of the King. The Counts of Botho had been part of the second stream of German knights brought into the County leading to the Christianizing of the Magyar tribes that had occupied the area. Botho I had fled from Germany following an uprising against Henry III over the division of Bavaria. It was the Hungarian King Andreas I who welcomed him and gave him sanctuary.
For the next three centuries the local population would be caught in the vortex of constant invasions and incursions of various military or marauding forces, but it was with the coming of the Turks in the years 1527 to 1529 that the most devastating destruction took place. In 1527 the Habsburg Emperor, Ferdinand I entered the Heideboden with an Imperial Army of 11,000 men of which 3,000 were cavalry under the command of Kasimir, the Elector of Brandenburg. The Emperor was welcomed by his widowed sister Queen Maria of Hungary at the fortress of Ungarisch-Altenburg along with representatives of the Hungarian nobility that acknowledged him as the new and legitimate King of Hungary. He ratified that his sister Maria continued to be the owner of the Ungarisch-Altenburg Domain as well as Queen of Hungary. The fortress of Altenburg was strengthened to withstand a possible siege just as the Turks began to overrun most of Hungary without any organized resistance or opposition.
All of Western Hungary and the Heideboden were devastated and totally destroyed. The entire Domains of Altenburg were plundered and destroyed by the fleeing Silesian and Pomeranian cavalry of the Emperor and the foot soldiers drove off the cattle, livestock and fowl and forced the peasants to abandon their homes and put their farmsteads to the torch. The populations of Nickelsdorf, Deutsch-Jahrndorf and Andau suffered greatly at the hands of the Turks and Zurndorf fell victim to them when the Domains of Altenburg were ravaged again in 1529 and the city of Raab fell into their hands. In a document that is dated from the year 1532 there is a reference to Zurndorf stating that there were two houses left standing and some stables and cattle.
At the time of the rebellion of the Hungarian nobles who allied themselves with the Turks against the Habsburgs, Stephen Bocskay led some 2,000 freebooters and guerrilla fighters across the Danube early in 1605 and lay siege to Pressburg and Alternburg. By the summer the rebels also threatened Eisenstadt and Forchtenstein. Over fourteen villages in the vicinity of the Neusideler Sea were put to the torch by Boczkay’s ally Gregor Nemethy who was in command of those forces. Bocskay’s goals were the independence of Hungary from the Habsburgs and freedom of religion for the Protestants of Hungary for which he had the full support of the nobles. He won some major concessions from the Emperor in the terms of the Peace of Vienna that would effect religious developments in the Heideboden as well as the rest of the country.
By 1613 the Habsburgs had gained the upper hand once more and the Magyar nobles in response revolted again under the leadership of Gabriel Bethlen, Prince of Transylvania who took up the Protestant cause once more. The uprising lasted until 1629 and the Heideboden was a theatre of war and Nickelsdorf was once again burned to the ground.
At the beginning of the 1660s the Turks attempted to use the unrest in Transylvania to their advantage. The Habsburg Emperor, Leopold I took the bait. This led to all out war. The Imperial Army faced the forces under the command of Marshal Nikolaus Zrinyi. The major battle to end the conflict was at Mogersdorf in Burgenland on August 1, 1664 with the Habsburg forces led by Montecuccoli. The peace negotiations held on August 10, 1664 were later the cause of great disappointment on the part of the Hungarian nobles. While for their part, the Habsburgs failed to take advantage of the victory of Mogersdorf when they could have taken the initiative and driven the Turks who were in total disarray out of Hungary.
This was followed by the so-called, “Magnates’ Conspiracy” under the leadership of Peter Zrinyi with the goal of attaining Hungarian independence from the Habsburgs. Their chief spokesman was Franz Nadasdy the Paladin of Hungary. A large group of other nobles joined them including Stephen Thökölly who sought closer ties with the Turks. In 1668 the conspiracy was uncovered. The leaders were executed. The other nobles were imprisoned and their property was confiscated. As a result some others fled for asylum to Transylvania or sought sanctuary in Turkish occupied Hungary and from there they carried out guerrilla raids in Habsburg territory. In 1670 Thökölly assumed leadership of the uprising and fought the Habsburgs to a standstill so that Leopold I agreed to a ceasefire. It was not to last long.
Sultan Mohammed IV sent a force of 300,000 men under the command of Kara Mustapha westwards to take Vienna and make it the capital of a Moselm province in the centre of Europe. This was seen as a threat to all of Western Europe. Leopold I gathered his forces at Kittsee under the command of Charles of Lorraine. The Holy Roman Empire and the Austrian hereditary lands were to be defended along the so-called “Raab Line.” The major part of the Hungarian nobility sided with Thökölly who attacked the Imperial Army from the rear. The “Raab Line” fell apart and all of Western Hungary fell into the hands of the Turks. The whole region was bathed in blood and turned to ashes as the chroniclers of Zurndorf put it. The confusion and terror in the Heideboden villages that followed goes beyond description. The Tartar cavalry units in the Turkish host plundered and murdered their way through the villages and destroyed everything they could not keep for themselves. The Habsburg cavalry had retreated from all of Wieselberg County up to Deutsch-Jahrndorf and began to prepare for the defence of Vienna. The Turkish horde arrived in Zurndorf during July of 1683 and then they moved on to Petronell, Regersbrunn and Schechat towards Vienna, which they reached on July 14th and surrounded the entire city by July 16th.
The chronicles of the Cistercian monks in Mönchof describe the dark clouds of smoke and flames rising from the burning villages. One writes: “The cries of panic passed from one mouth to another that the Turks are coming.” Those who believed the reports and saw the danger fled quickly to the fortress at Trautmannsdorf and other castles where they sought safety. But many remained behind in their villages and faced unknown terrors to come. The gruesome enemy fell upon the innocent people and murdered young and old without pity or mercy. Those who were spared the sword were taken captive to be sold as slaves. The homes were plundered and then they were burned. There were fifty-two murdered in Zurndorf and many more were taken captive. Of those who fled and made it to Trautmannsdorf, forty-six of them died there and ninety-three others who escaped were tracked down and murdered. Others were simply missing and never returned home to Zurndorf and their fate is unknown.”
Another chronicler writes: “It was a time of great sorrow, pain and terror as the Turks made their way to Vienna. The unruly mobs of Turks serving Sultan Mohammed moved down alongside of both banks of the Danube and his Golden Horde swarmed across the countryside and on July 16, 1683 they entered the Heideboden burning, pillaging and destroying in their wake. Units of the Imperial Army were quartered at Ungarisch-Altenburg but they retreated in large organized groups to Deutsch-Jahrndorf at first and then later they moved on to Pressburg. On their line of retreat they took the cattle and livestock from the villages they passed through to rob the Turks of hoped for provisions and told the peasants to take what they could and leave including their household furnishings, clothes and every thing not nailed down.”
“The Heideboden was the “food cupboard” of Vienna. Wagonloads of crops, grain and vegetables were carted off in long columns. The arriving barbarian horde was furious to find there were no provisions or “takings” for them because to a great extent the local populations had obeyed and fled. Unfortunately there were many who had not believed the reports of the coming danger or had decided to remain for various other reasons. They were put to the sword or were driven away as captives to be sold in the slave markets in the Turkish Empire.”
“There were also others who sought safety out in boats on the Neusiedler Sea or hid in the swamps and died of exposure or drowned. On July 1st and 2nd the rampaging Turks put Minihof, Podersdorf and Winden to the torch. The same fate awaited Nickelsdorf, Zurndorf and Gattendorf along the road to Raab the next day. The Grand Vizer Kara Mustapha called for the destruction and burning of twenty villages creating an ocean of blood and fire.”
“As a result of all of this the blacksmith Hans Hinkel found himself homeless and destitute. He had had three sons. They had gone to Altenburg to help defend the Heideboden from the Turks along with thousands of others, only to be massacred while the Imperial troops fled for their lives. He had also raised several daughters who had all been carried off by the Turks after finding refuge at the convent in Frauenkirchen. His house lay in ruins. His cultivated fields had been trampled by the hooves of the horses of the Tartar cavalry and his wife was lost among other refugees…”
“Hans Henkel was only one of many who had to rebuild his life in the midst of the ruins and heartache of what had once been Zurndorf. He had been instrumental in heading off even greater destruction in the village. With the help of some of the other remaining men in the village they built a wood palisade and other barriers around the centre of the village to form a defence against the oncoming Turks and armed themselves with axes, spears, swords and scythes. An ingenious carpenter fashioned two pairs of wooden cannons to give the appearance or real armaments. The ruse worked and the Turks never attacked the defensive position and looked for easier pickings elsewhere.”
Who were these people that had endured so much. The Tax List of 1770 gives the names of the surviving families: Bernhard, Cechmeister, Czernak, Cziglmann, Czotman, Caninger, Denk, Tenk, Ecke, Etz, Fischer, Fronk, Gracz, Graff, Haffner, Huszti, Kiristaier, Kraicz, Kuricz, Lehner, Placher, Meixner, Messler, Mihal, Niczinger, Pammer, Pauer, Piller, Plesss, Raiff, Riass, Riegel, Saffer, Samer, Schmeldzer, Siebenstich, Siexstein, Stelzer, Stumpa, Svalb, Szaller, Tör, Waiss and Wolffarth.
In 1789 we can find some additional names: Leitner, Müllner, Wessely, Wittner, Grünwald, Meixner, Hutfless, Urspringer, Weintritt, Falb, Rechnitzer and Heffermann.
Many of these names would become common in Swabian Turkey especially in the Heidebauern villages of Bikács and Györköny and Paks-on-the-Danube in Tolna County, as well as Lajos Komárom in Veszprem County and Pusztavám in Feher County. But these families also settled among the Hessians and other settlers from Germany throughout all of Swabian Turkey in the early 18th century and would also be common in the colonies in Slavonia.
Hungary had more nobles than any other country in Europe. They had different levels of ennoblement: the Magnates and higher nobility and the lesser nobility. The lesser nobility were often simply owners of small plots of land more like country gentry in the old British tradition. They only advantages they had were a voice in the County administration and freedom from paying any taxes. Ennoblement was often in payment for services rendered to officialdom or military service. Several of the Zurndorf families were ennobled including the Stelczer, Pless and Pammer (Pamer) families.