Kaltenstein in the Heideboden


  The Heidebauern village of Kaltenstein is now known as Level.  It lies only a few miles south of Strasssommerein, the border crossing between Austria and Hungary, now known as Hegyshalom.  The village lies only a few kilometres north of Altenburg and is somewhat south of Ragendorf.


  A Latin document entitled, Possessio Kaltnestein, now part of the State Archives in Budapest provides us with the names of the peasant tenants on the Kaltenstein estates of the Forgach family in the year 1644.  They are listed as landowning peasants, cotters and others who were landless and were labourers and servants.  But the earliest documented records with regard to the village is in the Altenberg Archives of 1083 and 1085.  Consequently we can assume that it was not among the earliest Heidebauern settlements but a secondary one the result of migrations from existing communities in the Heideboden rather than new settlers arriving from Austria and Bavaria.


  Some time prior to 1659 Count Stephen Zichy became the new owner of the entire estate.  In addition to Kaltenstein he was also the landlord of Zurndorf and Leiden two other neighbouring villages.  What all three communities had in common was that all of their inhabitants had remained Evangelical Lutherans despite what they had already endured during the Counter Reformation.  The Decade of Sorrows and once again all three of these villages would withstand the onslaughts to their faith and the horrors to which they were subjected.  For the next one hundred and ten years church life among the Lutherans in the Heideboden would consist of only “household assemblies” led by the head of the house.  The “head” in many households was the grandmother.


  During the canonical visitation by the Archdeacon of the Bishopric of Raab (Gyӧr) in 1659 his reports notes that during his visit in the community of Kaltenstein there was a total lack of respect or appreciation for his visit and no welcome at all from the village’s inhabitants.  In fact, he complains that the local Lutheran pastor challenged him on his right to conduct an authorized visitation in the community since they as Lutherans had their own “visitors” (referring to their own elected Superintendent who was not allowed to function in his elected capacity by the Emperor despite action taken by the Hungarian Landtag to free him to do so.)


  Further in his report, the Archdeacon included a description of the church building and then comments, “…but alas the interior has been changed to accommodate the usage of the Lutherans.”  In the past church historians assumed that the visitor meant that the side altars had been removed as well as some other liturgical furnishings or works of art.  What he actually meant was that pews had been installed since preaching had became an essential part of worship.  The length of the sermon varied from between two to three hours making seating for the congregation a necessity.


  In 1635 this church like countless others had been confiscated from the Lutherans and the congregation had been officially disbanded.  By action of the Landtag at Pressburg in 1647, ninety of the eight hundred and eighty churches confiscated from Lutheran congregations throughout Hungary and turned over to the Roman Catholic authorities were ordered to be returned.  The church in Kaltenstein was one of them.


  At the conclusion of his report the Archdeacon laments that not only was the total village population once again lost to the Lutherans but the congregation also maintained a toe-hold in nearby Strasssommerein.  Many of the people there openly confessed themselves to be Lutherans and had formed a filial congregation of Kaltenstein over the objections of the local Roman Catholic clergy.  He was also loath to report that they were being served by the pastor in Kaltenstein and the Archdeacon had the sneaking suspicion that an “underground” Lutheran schoolmaster was at work in the community but he was unable to prove it.


  Kaltenstein shared in the history and fate of the Heideboden and the Heidebauern.  Many of its inhabitants would migrate to the south after the expulsion of the Turks.  They could be found in Pusztavam, Gyӧrkӧny, Bikács, Lajoskomarom, Paks and the emerging Swabian villages in Tolna, Somogy and Baranya Counties.


  At the time of the expulsions in 1946 the total population of Kaltenstein was just short of one thousand.  Only a handful were not included on the deportation list.  The expellees were taken by truck to nearby Zanegg where a transit camp was established.  Here a steady flow of Heidebauern arrived every day from the neighbouring communities.  During the night a column of cattle cars moved down the tracks behind groaning locomotives with a cargo of Heidebauern returning “home” after their thousand year temporary residency in Hungary.


  The Hungarian authorities were more thorough in cleansing the Heideboden than any other part of Hungary in making certain that it was “Svabok” free.  Included among the deportees were all the pastors and school teachers of “German” origin.  This would not be true of the expulsions in any of the Danube Swabian communities in the rest of the country.  Among the deportees was Matthias Schrodl of Kaltenstein who was the dean of the Lutheran Church District.  This action was taken against the Lutheran clergy and teachers because of the public denunciation of the expulsion of the Danube Swabians by Bishop Lajos Ordas, the Bishop of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Hungary (Lutheran).  He was a voice crying in the wilderness.  His was a voice that was soon to be silenced.


  It took the three “greatest” and “most powerful” men of the 20th Century:  Churchill, Stalin and Truman to accomplish what had proven impossible on the part of the fierce nomadic Magyar tribesmen; waves upon waves of Mongol raiders; the century-long onslaughts of the marauding Turks; the oppression and persecution unleashed during the centuries of the Counter Reformation, that unsuccessful united effort on the part of the Habsburg Emperors allied with the Roman Catholic Church…to eliminate and find a final solution for the Lutheran Heidebauern.  The action taken by the Big Three over a period of a few days in the summer in the summer of 1945 in Potsdam eradicated and ended the thousand year history of a people and effectively destroyed one of the oldest expressions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  A church and a people that had paid such a high price for their faithfulness…



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