18th & 19th century

the village of

18th and beginning of 19th century in Zodel

A) Traugott Gerber

B) The rent dispute of Zodel (1711 – 1713)

C) The parsonage of Zodel is on fire

D) War disorders during the War of Independence against Napoleon (1813)

A) Traugott Gerber

In 1710 Traugott Gerber, son of the Pastor, was baptised at the church in Zodel. He studied medicine in Leipzig, worked in Moscow and undertook expeditions in Russia to explore the fauna. He made a name for himself as a botanist. It was after him that the Gerbera, a plant specie from South Africa, was named. More about Traugott Gerber can be found under: www.gerbera.org/traugott-gerber.html.

B) The rent dispute of Zodel (1711 – 1713)

One year after Traugott Gerber’s birth, his grandfather on his mother’s side, Pastor M. Joachim Pfeffer had a court battle lasting over 2 years, with Pastor Joh. Christoph Luther, a relative of Martin Luther, from the neighbouring community of Lissa. The reason for this disagreement lay 100 years back. In 1593, the pastor of Zodel Mr. J. Winkler entered into a contract with the pastor of Lissa, Mr Abraham Benedikt.

In this contract, the pastor of Lissa was given the use of a meadow for all times. In return, the community of Lissa had to give a certain amount of groceries to the pastor of Zodel. The pastor of Lissa cancelled the contract and stopped the delivery of groceries. Pastor Pfeffer from Zodel got an expert opinion from the Chief Consistorio in Dresden who decided in his favour. Pastor Luther did not except this ruling and so they had to go to court. The law faculty in Leipzig also ruled in favour of Pastor Pfeffer from Zodel. The contract remained valid right up to 1833.

C) The parsonage of Zodel is on fire

You can read in the chronicle of Zodel: “Allein die unwandelbaren Wege und Gerichte Gottes reichten in diesem Jahre 1773 bis zu uns. Der 18. Juni des Jahres 1773 wird bis auf die spaete Nachwelt unserer Gegend ein unvergesslicher Tag bleiben.”

The terrible hour arrived at 4.30. A massive amount of hail, enormous storm, constant thunder and lightning united and caused indescribable damage. As soon as the hail was over, god commanded a terrible lightning to strike the house of the pastor, which was in use since 1588 and never been harmed.

The fire started at the “evening side” (west – the side of the setting sun) and the house burnt down to the ground, only a few of the pastor’s belongings could be saved.

Under Pastor Johann Gottlob Lange, the foundations for a new, more comfortable parsonage were laid on April 8th 1774.

Remark: The old parsonage can be considered as being the birthplace of Traugott Gerber, because his father was the pastor in Zodel at the time.

D) War disorders during the War of Independence against Napoleon (1813)

Through the town of Goerlitz, only 10 km from Zodel, lead the via regia, a direct west-east connection from Spain through West Germany, Dresden, Goerlitz, Breslau, to Moscow. Through Zodel ran another road in north-south direction. These two roads gave Zodel a strategic importance, which proved to be a huge disadvantage for the little village. Armies of different nationalities with thousands of soldiers marched, stayed over night, plundered and stole from the population. During the Silesian Wars the King of Prussia stayed with his soldiers in Zodel and the English ambassador, Mitchel, stayed overnight at the parsonage.

In the year 1813, when the French Armies under Napoleon had to retreat from Russia, an endless suffering started on the 12th of February 1813 for the people of Zodel and ended only in the late autumn 1813. Often the front line changed and in one single day, the people of Zodel had to feed Russian Cossacks, then Austrians, Prussians and French. They had to serve the different armies with their wagons, give them accommodation and look after their horses. Some soldiers were very friendly to the people, while others plundered and stole.

Some examples of this difficult year 1813

Polish horsemen (249 men, 141 horses) stayed overnight and plundered.

Every house in Zodel had to deliver – within a short period – 30 German pounds of bread, 1,5 cans of spirit, 12 pounds of meat and on
top hey and oats.

Approximately 50 Russian Cossacks had to prepare for the stay of 533 men and 554 horses. They treated the people of Zodel very well and
were very friendly.

16. – 17.08 1813
Thousands of soldiers of Victor’s Corps marched through Zodel.

1294 French ulans with 1299 horses stayed overnight and plundered the village.

1487 French dragoneers with 1496 horses stayed over night and plundered the village for an entire 2 days.

The most terrible plunder in Zodel, performed by 4000 French soldiers.

In the chronicle entry dated 6th of September, you can read the following:
Now the most terrible plundering started. The soldiers were not only looking for groceries, they stole and plundered everything they could lay their hands on. With torches in their hand, they searched the village, forced their way into the houses and looked in every corner. The anxious villagers feared to see their village go up in flames. Doors were forced open, crates and cassettes were broken into and even walls broken down and everything the soldiers found was either destroyed or taken. Even the church was forced open. The parsonage was broken into. Here some families from around Goerlitz took refuge after having been raped and robbed.

At the beginning, the people of Zodel gave what they had but when nothing was left to give the soldiers became angry and started to plunder and rob and they forced families with a sable in their hands out of their houses. The pastor’s wife, who had a little baby, was forced to flee during an icy cold night and took refuge in a small bush next to the river Neisse.

The soldiers continued to pursue them, and husband and wife, parents and children had to spend the night apart from each other, waiting for the morning to come. At sunrise, after the French soldiers left the village, they returned to their houses to find everything destroyed and broken. Nearly everyone in Zodel had this experience and in almost every bush surrounding the village, one could find a mother with her children or a father in hiding.

The people of Zodel will always remember those terrible hours in their hearts and all these hard trials continued until the end of the year 1813.

Two examples will show that even with all the cruelty of war, humanity had its place.

The chronicler wrote:

The colonel was stationed with eight officers at the parsonage. One of the officers was a major, who was very stubborn and uneducated. In a rage, he went to the pastor and demanded six different kinds of wine. The pastor said, that there is no wine at all in the village – not even a bad tasting one – so the excellent varieties he was demanding were definitely not available.

The major took his sable and said: 

The colonel ordered to get him some wine and if he, the pastor could not organize the wine, he had orders to demolish his house and kill him. The pastor went to the colonel and tried to explain the major’s behaviour. The colonel listened to the pastor’s story and when he ended the colonel asked him:” Do you really have no wine at all?” The pastor: “No”. The colonel:” If there is nothing left, I presume one cannot take anything. Call the major for me.” The pastor called the major and in the presence of the pastor, the colonel said to him:” You misused my name, put down your sword
and all your medals and do what I order.
” From now on the major had to serve the colonel, set the table, serve the food and then clear the table and many other things, which were normally done by servants. Now the major was hardly seen in the house and he did not exchange a word with the pastor anymore.

The chronicler wrote:

This story was told by the pastor of Zodel:” In the night from the 20th to the 21st May, A Rittmeister (a military rank in the Prussian Army) with 4 officers and 50 soldiers (Russian) came to stay at my house. The officers and the soldiers stayed under the open skies and only the Rittmeister came inside and demanded wine and when I told him that I do not have wine in the house, he was happy to drink a glass of beer. He also ate a slice of bread with ham. 

Because he had such an honest face, I asked him if we had to fear the arrival of the French and the answer was: ”The battle is still going on and no army will give up. He fell asleep on one of the beds fully dressed and only woke up the next morning. 

After he got up, he gave me his hand and said: “Pastor, I will ride to the town to find out what the situation is.” He got onto his horse and galloped away. After a couple of hours, he returned and he could not hide a certain unease. After he ordered his soldiers to assemble, he pulled a bottle of wine out of his pocket and said: ”Dear pastor, I bought a bottle of wine in town, now let us have a drink”. 

Then he toasted to me and said: ”God only knows if we will see each other again. Pray for our armies.” After he had also given a glass to the schoolteacher, he entered the yard and told his people that the battle was lost and the armies were completely retreating. As if they had been struck by lightning, the Russians stood still with tears in their eyes. It was quite touching to see these tough warriors crying. Quiet and speechless they all left the village.

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