Three Hirzels are listed in the chronicles of the Hutterian Brethren in the 1620s: the cousins Rudolf and Christoph, and Konrad Hirzel. The best known was Rudolf. When after the death of Ulrich Jaussling on 8 April 1621, the brotherhood had been without a head for four weeks because of the danger of meeting earlier, they chose Rudolf Hirzel to be their leader on 9 May. He was apparently not qualified for the position, and soon fell into disrepute in the brotherhood.
The impression that the Hutterites had stored up vast treasure was prevalent in the land, supported by the writings of Christoph Andreas Fischer. For this reason Cardinal Franz von Dietrichstein had Hirzel and two other brethren seized at Neumühle and taken to prison in Nikolsburg. After several weeks Hirzel was sharply questioned concerning the location of this money, by the cardinal and two other prominent men. If he refused to give this information willingly, they would eradicate the brotherhood from the ground up, beginning tomorrow with Neumühle and Nikolsburg. But if he gave the information, the emperor would protect them as his true subjects and give them liberties. At the same time they promised that the money would not be taken from them, but merely put into safekeeping to keep it out of the hands of the rebels.
Thus they persuaded the leader to deliver the money of the brotherhood, the "hard and sour sweat of so many pious persons," which had been entrusted to him. He thought he was thereby saving the lives of his people, but he reaped only shame and disgrace on every hand; he was deposed from his office and excommunicated. In Jesuit circles it was reported that the money Hirzel had delivered was being used for the imperial army, that this had caused such bitterness in the brotherhood that many moved away, others joined other groups of Anabaptists, and ten had become Catholic. Rudolf Hirzel confessed his error and repented with tears. He died at Coding in Moravia, 27 April 1622. His successor, Valentin Winter, was chosen on 22 February 1622.
Christoph Hirzel was one of the men imprisoned with Rudolf. Konrad Hirzel, with Franz Walter, a preacher, and 138 men, women, and children, fled before the troops of Buquois to Echtelnitz and Schächtitz, and from there they went to Transylvania and Alwinz to form a settlement. Konrad Hirzel was chosen a preacher in Transylvania, but he was released from this duty after a year, at his "earnest request and insistence."
Beck, Josef. Die Geschichts-Bücher der Wiedertäufer in Oesterreich-Ungarn. Vienna, 1883; reprinted Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1967: 393-397.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 319.
Loserth, Johann. "Der Communismus der mährischen Wiedertäufer im 16. and 17. Jahrhundert: Beiträge zu ihrer Lehre, Geschichte and Verfassung." Archiv für österreichische Geschichte (1895): 81, 1.
Cite This Article
Loserth, Johann. "Hirzel, Rudolf (d. 1622)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 5 Mar 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hirzel,_Rudolf_(d._1622)&oldid=95264.
Loserth, Johann. (1956). Hirzel, Rudolf (d. 1622). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 5 March 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hirzel,_Rudolf_(d._1622)&oldid=95264.
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