The information provided in this article finds its source in the Strass-Sommereiner Heimatbuch by Johann Nitsch and Hans Schrodel.  On a contemporary map of Hungary it is now identified as Hegyshálom, one the chief border crossings between Hungary and Austria with only the frontier separating it from its sister village Nickelsdorf now in Austria.  They are two of the many Heidebauern communities that existed in Moson County for a millennium until their expulsion in 1946.


  Following the First World War a portion of the Heideboden was ceded to Austria and it assumed its ancient name of the Burgenland an area that had seen the passage of various peoples and the settlement of numerous others over the past two thousand years.  It became part of Western European history following Charlemagne’s victory over the Avars and the incorporation of their kingdom as part of his Domains.  Along with troops he garrisoned in the newly conquered territory to strengthen the borders of this vulnerable eastern frontier of his empire he also settled nobles and monastic orders and gave them land grants with a hope for their development into feudal estates.  They in turn brought servants and peasants to serve as their subjects from various German regions that would form the basis for an ongoing German presence in the region who would survive the Magyar and Mongol invasions and the later Magyar occupation.


  With the defeat of the Magyars at Lechfeld, just outside of Augsburg in 955 the Magyar host retreated back into the Great Hungarian Plain and gave up their nomadic lifestyle and paganism.  With the reign of Stephen I, the first Christian king of Hungary the ties with the Germans was strengthened by his marriage to Gesela of Passau the sister of the German king, Heinrich II.  She was the daughter of Heinrich of Bavaria residing in Passau and included in her marriage contract was title to Pressburg, Wieselberg, Ödenburg and Steinamanger.


  With the death of King Stephen quarrels arose around his succession to the throne that resulted in uprisings and rebellions among the Magyar chiefs before things became stabilized once more and Hungary was then seen as a tributary state within the Holy Roman Empire and a border and frontier was identified and established in Western Hungary.


  In the middle of the 12th century the Hungarian King Geza II fortified this western border.   Konrad of Ungarisch-Altenburg built a fortress along the northern stretches of the frontier to protect Hungary from the west.  In the Mattersburg region the two Spanish brothers Simon and Bertrand carried out a series of political machinations that would have longstanding results.  They built a castle at Forchtenstein.  Along its borders with the Steiermark the brothers Wolfer and Heidrich were given land grants by the Hungarian king.  Wolfer would become the ancestor of the Counts of Güssing and Heidrich that of the Hédervóry family.  The Kanizsai nobles were also given some smaller estates and they would play a major role in the future.


  These nobles were far removed from the internal politics of Hungary and were for more interested in their own concerns and that of their estates.  We find that the Counts of Güssing were allies of Archduke Friedrich of Austria.  On the other hand the nobles of Forchtenstein remained loyal to the Hungarian king and provided protection and security to the borders.  Even though that was true the tendency among all of the nobles was to lessen the power of the Hungarian king and increase and enhance their own.  It took a treaty in 1328 to re-establish the authority of King Karl Robert of Hungary over the nobles and expanded his borders deeper into Austria.


  Approaching the end of the 14th century the nobles of Forchtenstein ingratiated themselves with the Habsburgs.  They did so through marriage with the Austrian nobility.  This often led to calls for lessening or limiting their ties and obligations to the King of Hungary.  More peaceful developments occurred when Archduke Albrecht V of Austria married Elisabeth, the heiress of the Hungarian King Sigismund.  The early death of the king led to rather serious consequences.  His widow Elisabeth in an attempt to preserve the throne and domains for her son who was born after his father’s death mortgaged Ödenburg to the Habsburg Friedrich III.  She needed the money to form an army.  This led to a protest on the part of the Hungarian estates, which included nobles and higher clergy.  On the basis of the Golden Bull that governed the powers of the monarch no domains within Hungary could be mortgaged to a foreign noble.  The question raised was whether the Habsburgs were foreigners or not.  Later when Albrecht of Habsburg became King of Hungary as Ladislaus I, Friedrich III of Austria was able to purchase the estates and exercise authority over them.  The Hungarians did not recognize Ladislaus as their rightful king and elected the Polish King Wladislaw (Ladislaus) in his stead.  He was crowned King but shortly afterwards he died an early hero’s death fighting the Turks so that the Hungarians had to accept Ladislaus as their king.


  Friedrich II had taken over more and more territory in Western Hungary and now his son Friedrich III expanded the Habsburg holdings even further.


  Following the early death of King Ladislaus, Matthias Hunjady was elected King of Hungary.  The lesser nobles were uncooperative while the upper nobility in Western Hungary sought a reunion with the Habsburgs.  In 1441 they elected Friedrich III the King of Hungary.  This now left Hungary with two kings.  The situation was resolved in 1463 with the Peace of Ödenburg.  Friedrich III gave up his claim to the Hungarian throne and retained all of his Hungarian estates with the exception of the town of Ödenburg.  King Matthias set his own expansion policy into effect and turned Lower Austria into a theatre of war.  His forces pushed back Friedrich’s army as far as Linz and after its capitulation Matthias was granted the title of Archduke of Lower Austria.  With the death of Hunjady in 1490 it also marked the end of the conflict.  The result was putting into effect the terms agreed upon in the Peace of Ödenburg of 1463.  This did not end the rivalry between the nobles that would continue even in the face of the Turkish threat in the south that would eventually result in the Battle of Mohács in 1526 that would see Ferdinand I become the first Habsburg King of Hungary.


  Unlike other settlements of Germans in Hungary who came by invitation of the Hungarian Crown, the Heidebauern came as an extension of the Frankish Empire of Charlemagne after the destruction of the Avar Empire and established the East Mark (Österreich) to be known as Austria in the future.  These peasant that came to defend the Frankish Empire, were a military fighting machine or they would not have been entrusted with the eastern defences of the Empire.  They made history.  They did not write it.


  The road that passes through Strasssommerein and Kaltenstein is of Gothic origin.  Roman veterans settled in the area when it was part of the province of Pannonia.  None of those who passed through the area established any permanent roots except for the Heidebauern.  They were descendants of Bavarian and Franconian settlers brought in by Charlemagne.  It was centuries later when Swabian blood was added when Lutheran refugees arrived in the area from Upper Swabia and the Lake Constance region.  This group merged with the Heidebauern and became part of them.  But by and large they are descendants of the 9th century settlement of Charlemagne.  Some historians claim that the Heidebauern were wiped out or assimilated during the invasion and occupation of the area by the Mayars but the facts do not support this thesis.


  The Heideboden was and remained a German-speaking island that related more directly with Pressburg and Vienna than it did with Budapest.  No attempts were made to Magyarize the population.  It was simply accepted that they were German-speaking and “belonged” in Hungary.


  Strasssommerein was located in Moson (Wieselberg) County and part of the Domains of Ungarisch-Alterburg, with the fortress in Altenburg the seat of the resident owner or their administrators and army commanders.


  At some point in the 16th century during the rapid spread of the Lutheran Reformation in Hungary the inhabitants of Strasssommerein accepted Lutheranism and made use of their parish church.  The introduction of Lutheranism on the estates of Ungarish-Altenburg is intimately tied to Queen Maria of Hungary who was given the estates at the time of her marriage to the young Louis II who lost his life at the Battle of Mohács.  Both the teenage king and his wife had been influenced by the writings of Martin Luther and following his death she became the patroness of Lutheranism on her Domains and brought in young students from Wittenberg to serve her peasant subjects whose parishes were vacant because most of the priests had fled with the coming of the Turks along with the prelates and administrators of the diocese.


  For the first fifty years they were left undisturbed.  The calm before the storm was the initiation of Episcopal canonical visitations in all of the Lutheran villages in the Diocese of Raab and the introduction of some minor new regulations affecting church life.  These were authorized by King Ferdinand in 1557 at Pressburg and were instituted, “for the conversion of countless heretics and sectarians.”  The various uprisings against the Habsburgs led by Bocskay, Bethlen and Rakoczy rampaged across the Heideboden and then later the Turks once again marched through and plundered and ravaged the villages and terrorized the population on their way to the siege of Vienna.  Other kings like Ferdinand came to the Habsburg throne that put the Counter Reformation into motion in Hungary and Austria.  They put into effect the goals of the Hungarian Archbishop Peter Pazmany:  “It would be better for the land to be the haunt of wolves and foxes than to be a haven for heretics.”


  During the short period of peace between the uprisings of Bethlen and Rakoczy a cavalry unit was sent into the Heideboden by Countess Katharina Palffy in 1635 that confiscated the churches being used by the Lutherans in Strasssommerein, Kaltenstein, Ragendorf and Pallersdorf.  Bibles and hymnbooks were taken forcibly from their owners and burned out in an open field.  The same thing happened in the other communities under their landlord’s orders.  The Lutherans were not prepared to accept this repudiation of their rights and protested at the Diet of Pressburg in 1647.  As a result, ninety of the four hundred churches that had been confiscated by force were returned to the Lutheran congregations.  In Kaltenstein, Zurndorf, Zanegg and Kimling their churches were returned to them.  That was not the case in Strasssommerein.  Within two years the Lutherans there began to build a new church.


  This was a very stormy period in the life of the Lutherans in the Heideboden and the only information that we have comes from the archives of the Diocese of Raab.  There are records of two canonical visitations in Strasssommerein, in March of 1659 and February of 1663.  Stephen Zichy was the estate owner at the time.  The two visitors, who were Martin Szill and Stephen Galovitzer were not pleased with the results.  The majority of the villagers were heretics and they did not receive them kindly and protested about their presence in their village.  When they returned again in May of 1663 they would not even open up the church for them to enter.  There were only a few Roman Catholics who resided in the village and were:   “like sheep among wolves,” as the visitors reported to the Bishop.


  At that time, Strasssommerein was a filial congregation of Kaltenstein.  The pastor there also served them.  Johann Durith served them until 1649.  Philip Jakob Winkler was their pastor from 1657 to 1661.  There are numerous gaps in the life of the congregation during their four hundred year history especially during the early period.


  After not being included among those who got their churches back as a result of the decisions made at the Diet of Pressburg in 1647 their new church was dedicated in 1649.  Their joy was not to last too long.  The most unfortunate day in the life of all of the Lutherans in Wieselberg County was on August 24, 1673.  Along with countless other Lutheran churches, the one in Strasssommerein was boarded shut.  The pastor of the congregation, Maximillian Ehrenreich Frankenberg who also served the Lutherans in Kaltenstein was forced out of the parsonage and driven from the village and out of the country.  There is a copy of the letter of recommendation by the congregation as to his faithfulness in preaching the Gospel among his parishioners and his exemplary behaviour as a servant of Jesus Christ that can be found in the church records.  It was dated on October 31, 1673 and signed by:  Simon Hautzinger, Andreas Muhr, Albrecht Fischer, George Steltzer and Peter Macher.  The signatories represented the members of both of the congregations and all of the names are typical Heidebauern names.

  Johann Liebegott a master hatmaker in Pressburg wrote about these events of August 24, 1673 in his diary.  “The Bishop of Raab, Count Kollonitsch had the churches taken away from the Lutherans in Kaltenstein, Strasssommerein, Zurndforf and Nickelsdorf.  The bishop was personally present to observe this undertaking.   He charged the pastor Maximillian Frankenberg with false teaching and having led many souls into error and heresy but if he recanted he would be allowed to remain.  In response to his offer the pastor replied, “I hold true to my faith and convictions.”


  There are many other incidences that took place on that day throughout the Heideboden in which many of our people had to endure persecution.  Matthias Rosemar from Nickelsdorf along with some others were imprisoned in the dungeon at the fortress in Altenburg for witnessing to their faith before the bishop.  Many of them wavered in their faith later after facing gruesome methods of torture.  Rosemar held out for twelve weeks.  He was released and forced to leave his home and property and went to Ödenburg for sanctuary.  He was originally from Austria and had been exiled and driven out of there with his aged father because of their Lutheran faith.”


  The church records in Strasssommerein also lists the dates of the confiscation of the Lutheran churches throughout the Heideboden:


  In 1672:  July 8th in Ödenburg

                 August 28th in Altenburg

                 August 28th in St. Johann


  In 1673:  April 10th in Kittsee

                 August 24th in Zurndorf

                                    in Nickelsdorf

                                    in Ragendorf

                                    in Deutsch-Jahrndorf

                                    in Strasssommerein

                                    in Kaltenstein

                  November 5th in Güns

                  November 12th in Gols


  In 1674:  February 7th in Rust

                 March 1st in St. Georgen

                                 in Modern           

                                 in Bazin


  We catch another glimpse into the lives of the villagers in this short terse entry in a family diary:  Simon Muhr writes:  “On July 2, 1683 we were driven off by the Turks and were in flight from them for twelve weeks.  Upon returning home three months later we were met with a scene of total misery.”


  The second Lutheran church served as a place of assembly for the congregation for only 24 years.  Then it too was boarded up to keep them out.  The light of the Gospel was extinguished throughout the region.  In some of the villages like Zanegg, Kimling and St. Johann that would mean for all time.  For the next one hundred and ten years there was no Lutheran congregation, church, pastor or teacher.  In the Explanatio Leopoldina of 1682 the Lutherans were guaranteed two prayer houses in every County.  This was never put into effecting Moson County.  The closest Lutheran prayer houses were in Pressburg and Ödenburg.  People from Strasssommerein went to worship secretly in Pressburg.  On the way there they were molested, had rocks thrown at them, were scolded and verbally abused and ridiculed.  Still they continued to go.  They also brought gifts of grain and produce to help support their former pastor Frankenburg who had taken refuge in the city.  This too was forbidden and people were punished whenever they were apprehended but they continued to do so.


  The Lutherans of Strasssommerein had endured the Decade of Sorrows that saw their church life completely destroyed, now began the one hundred and ten years of repression.  Their own Babylonian Captivity of the Church.  Parents and grandparents had long been dead and buried by the Roman Catholic priest.  There were only Roman Catholic baptisms and marriages allowed.  All of the villagers were forced to participate in processions, attend mass and go on pilgrimages and those who were known to be Lutherans were plagued with all kinds of annoyances and persecution.  Yet for several generations they still remained Lutherans.  How was that possible?


  Worship was held in the home and the Lutheran chorales were sung quietly and in secret.  Every household became a church.  There were no pastors or teachers, the farmers, tradesmen, labourers, fathers and mothers became the pastors and teachers of their children and grandchildren.  Because they were not allowed to have a church every home was the “house of God” where the Lord’s Word was proclaimed, heard and believed.  The lives of these simple people spoke for themselves.  Every home had a Bible, book of sermons, prayer books and hymnbooks, books for spiritual growth including the writings of Martin Luther.  These books with the title page and author removed were part of the family inheritance passed down by father to his son.  All of this give them strength and hope through the dark times through which they passed.


  The century of darkness came to an end with the publication of the Edict of Toleration in 1781 by Emperor Joseph II.  Through the long night of persecution in many places in the Heideboden Lutheranism had died out.  In Zanegg, St. Johann, Pallersdorf, Kimling and Altenburg and many other villages there was no longer any visible sign of a Lutheran presence any longer.


  To the consternation of the priest in Strasssommerein a movement began to stir among the people to form a Lutheran congregation.  In order to do so the head of each household had to go to the priest and declare himself or herself to be a Lutheran or do so in some other public way before the community.  It soon became apparent that there were enough of them to formally petition the Emperor to approve the formation of a congregation and call a pastor.   Consulting with their fellow believers in Kaltenstein they formally proposed to become a Mother Church with Kaltenstein as a filial congregation.  On May 8, 1783 the Emperor approved of the petition and a week later on May 15th a call was extended to Ferdinand Wendler of Pressburg to come and serve as their pastor.


  The church the Lutherans had built in 1649 remained in the possession of the Roman Catholics and there was little hope it would be returned to them and so they erected a wooden prayer house that was up in three weeks.  It must be remembered that despite the Edict of Toleration the pressure against the Lutherans did not end everywhere.  All sorts of hindrances were put in the way of the Lutherans putting the Edict into effect.  There was an attempt made to declare the Edict illegal because it had not been improved by the Diet.  Others insisted that the Edict only referred to existing Mother Churches.  All of this resulted in a petition being presented to the County Administration by the Lutherans in Nickelsdorf and Deutsch-Jahrndorf on August 24, 1783 in which they complained that their pastor was being hindered in his ministry in light of the guarantees in the Edict.  All of this did not suddenly just stop but went on for the next few generations.  As late as 1835 while conducting the funeral of a woman in Altenburg the Lutheran pastor was interrupted by the Roman Catholic priest during the committal service.  He attacked the pastor verbally and threatened him with imprisonment and ordered him to leave the cemetery.  The pastor and family stood around the coffin and simply continued and ignored him.  A court case followed.


  It was only after a great deal of effort that permission to build for four prayer houses in the Heideboden was finally given.  Ragendorf, Gols, Strasssommerein, Nickelsdorf or Zunrdorf.  The last two named congregations had to decide which of them would become the Mother Church.


  Even though the Lutherans in Strasssommerein had their wooden prayer house they still hoped that in the future they would regain their former church that had erected in 1649.  They appealed to the current owner of the Domains of Ungarisch-Altenburg, her Excellency Maria Christina in Brussels for her support and assistance.  On August 29, 1788 she replied, “We will allow the handing over of the lower church (describing its location on the outskirts of the village) in Strasssommerein to the local Lutheran congregation with the stipulation that they donate 250 Gulden for the renovation of the upper church as well as providing equipment and labour to carry them out.”


  It was with great joy that this was carried out.  The congregation was finally able to repossess their church that they had constructed in 1649.


  Once the four prayer houses had been built or restored to the Lutherans there was a minor migration of Lutheran families from those villages where the movement had been almost totally snuffed out.  This included the villages of St. Johann and Pallersdorf whose clandestine Lutheran families sought a new home in the other Lutheran communities.


  In 1946 after a thousand year sojourn in the Heideboden almost all of the population of Strasssommerein was expelled to the American Zone of Germany.


  Some of the more familiar Heidebauern family names that were prevalent in Strasssommerein include:  Weisz, Zecher, Hofbauer, Pingitzer, Nitsch, Gindl, Hutflesz, Falb, Stelzter, Fischer, Macher, Unger, Schmeltzer, Wenneusz, Stinner, Tullner, Meixner, Muhr, Ochs, Heszheimer, Schneider, Schmickl, Zechmeister, Pamer, Gross, Tieringer, Lichtl, Eder, Roth, Geistlinger, Nitschinger, Liedl, Salzer, Reissinger, Hautzinger, Tauber, Spiegel and Sturm.

One Response to “ Strasssommerein in the Heideboden ”

  1. Mike Ewing says:


    Does Strasssommerein / Hegyeshalom have a Familienbuch? I am researching Jakob Weiss, who was born there 2 Feb 1840. I am having difficulty finding info much beyond his generation. He immigrated in 1883 via Bremen and New York to Omaha, Nebraska, where he died in 1893. I believe his parents to be Andreas Weiss and Maria Sailer. I assume his family to have been Catholic, but given what you have written about Strasssommerein, perhaps that is not accurate. Thanks for the enlightening narrative.

    Mike Ewing

Trackbacks & Pingbacks:

Leave a Comment