Nearly two full centuries after the Counter Reformation had begun its work in Austria, catholicizing by compulsion a country which by 1550 had been predominantly Protestant, a reaction broke out in Carinthia. It led to renewed emigration by citizens and peasants, who were not willing to give up their Protestant faith, and were ready to suffer much hardship for the sake of this faith. The information on this emigration is found in the writings of a Anabaptist historian, Johannes Waldner (d. 1824), who as a child participated in this trek with his parents, and was familiar with these events from the conversation of his parents and their associates. He relates that the peasants in Carinthia began to avoid going to church, and studied the Bible and other religious books at home, and held secret meetings at night in all sorts of weather. The movement spread over the country, principally through the Gail Valley, and in the district of Himmelsberg and Spittal. In the early 1750s sharp governmental investigations took place.
All who confessed the Protestant (Lutheran) faith and were not willing to desist, had to sell their property, but were not expelled into the foreign lands to increase their forces, but were sent to Transylvania (the easternmost part of former Hungary), where Empress Maria Theresa had ordered that they be assigned to land specially designated for them.
Many young persons now left their parents, friends, and acquaintances, among them the parents of the author of the account. Waldner lists them by name, and we must give some of these names, for they are still found among the Hutterian Brethren. Johannes Kleinsasser, who was for many years the head of the brotherhood, led them in the toilsome journey over the Transylvanian Alps into Wallachia, from there, aided by the Russian field marshal, Count Rumyantsev, to Little Russia, where this company became the parent of thriving colonies. George Waldner, the father of the narrator, emigrated with his wife and three children. Christoph Glanzer emigrated with his wife, two children, and three brothers; the oldest of these left his wife, the other two were youths of 18 and 20. Other families were: Hofer of St. Peter, Nägeler of the Paternion, Gual of Himmelsberg, Müller of Lentsach, Egarter of St. Peter, Platner, Amlacher, Resch, Winkler, and Bidder. These names do not include all the emigrants, but only those who later joined the Hutterian Brotherhood (Klein-Gesch.-Buch, 268-270).
In Carinthia all of these emigrants had been Lutheran. The government placed wagons at their disposal for their departure. Several days after they had arrived in the village of Romos in Transylvania in October 1755, a Lutheran councilor and a clergyman came to announce the imperial will to them: since they could not remain in Carinthia, where only the Catholic faith was tolerated, the Empress had sent them here. "Here you can have the Gospel as you desire it. To be assured of your loyalty, however, she demands an oath of loyalty of you." They protested that the oath was contrary to the Gospel, for which they had left home. "How can you," cried out the zealous Matthias Hofer, "demand of us what Christ (Matthew 5 and John 17) has forbidden?" The councilor replied, "You can read well, but you do not understand. Read Romans 13 about him who resists authority."
Probably the majority yielded, and they were given sites for settlement as promised. Those who refused to yield were excluded from this privilege, and had to work as laborers or artisans in the villages and towns. Two of them, Andreas Würz and George Waldner, went to Alwinz, a half-day's journey from Romos, where the Transylvanian prince, Bethlen Gabor, had once given a homestead to the Hutterites when they were refugees from Moravia. Here they met a brotherhood with whom they were in complete agreement on all essentials, such as baptism, communion, government, war, and divorce, whose services of worship appealed to them, and whose books and writings pleased them. Although these Alwinz Hutterites were no longer on their highest standard, having abandoned the principle of communal living, the new transmigrants now joined them, ready to accept persecutions coming upon them from two directions, Catholic and Lutheran.
However, the Carinthian group worshiped apart from the others; every Sunday they met in the home of Andreas Würz, prayed, sang, and read their Bibles together. At the end of April 1762 Hans Kleinsasser and Josef Müller were baptized. Kleinsasser was chosen leader of the brotherhood on trial, and confirmed in January 1763, after receiving instruction in the essentials of his pastoral charge. But previously the group had put in order its spiritual and temporal affairs at Kreuz, where most of them were united. They had asked their Alwinz friends for counsel and aid. These advised them that two or three of the most gifted brethren be chosen, and the one receiving most votes should be their leader. On 26 July thirteen were baptized. Now the school regulations were set up and the training of children begun. They were taught reading and writing and Christian doctrine, and two sisters, Christina and Elisabeth Winkler, were appointed to look after their physical needs. Joseph Müller was made deacon and Joseph Kleinsasser his assistant. The others worked for the common good, each according to his ability. They met daily for prayer. But increasing pressure from the outside soon compelled them to look about for a quieter place for settlement.
The brethren Joseph Kuhr and Johannes Stahl, who had previously suffered severe torture in prison, were appointed to look for suitable places in Poland, Wallachia, and Moldavia. They returned with favorable information. In Kreuz they learned of the evil intentions of the Jesuit Delphini, upon whose advice it had been decided to take their children from them and educate them at the Catholic orphanage in Hermannstadt. The older generation were to be put in prison, and then if they did not recant, be banished from the country, as had already been done with Kuhr and Stahl. A great fear fell upon the small company. Then Brother Joseph Kuhr related that in Moldavia and Wallachia nobody was molested on account of his faith. This news gave the Brethren courage to migrate. On 3 October 1767 a group of 67 souls left. The brotherhood had existed just six years at Kreuz, the starting point of the new migration.
Loserth, Johann. "The Decline and Revival of the Hutterites." Mennonite Quarterly Review 4 (1930): 93-112.
Nowotny, Ernst.Die Transmigration ober- und innerösterreichischer Protestanten nach Siebenbürgen im 18. Jahrhundert: Ein Beitr. zur Geschichte der 'Landler. Jena: Fischer, 1931.
Zieglschmid, A. J. F. Das Klein-Geschichtsbuch der Hutterischen Brüder. Philadelphia, PA: Carl Schurz Memorial Foundation, 1947: 259-402 (Contains Johannes Waldner's Denkwürdigkeiten 1752-1802).
Cite This Article
Loserth, Johann and Robert Friedmann. "Carinthian Exiles." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 18 Aug 2019. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Carinthian_Exiles&oldid=143511.
Loserth, Johann and Robert Friedmann. (1953). Carinthian Exiles. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 August 2019, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Carinthian_Exiles&oldid=143511.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 518-519. All rights reserved.
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