On the photo you see lake Hallstatt from the Krippenstein (Photo: Viorel Munteanu)

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Dachstein/Salzkammergut

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The "Transmigration" of the Protestants to Transylvania

More than 285 years ago, in July 1734, the transmigration of numerous Protestant families from the Salzkammergut to Transylvania began. Here are the backgrounds and initiators.

How did the transmigration come about?

In spite of their most eager efforts, the religious commissions acting in the spirit of the Counter-Reformation, especially in the Bad Ischl, Bad Goisern at Lake Hallstatt, Hallstatt and Gosau at Dachstein, had not succeeded in eradicating Lutheranism. In order to put an alleged end to these conditions, the Gmunden salt officer Ferdinand Friedrich Graf Seeau travelled to Hallstatt in the summer of 1733 and offered the "voluntary" emigration to Protestant countries to the evangelically minded inhabitants of Bad Goisern, Gosau, Lauffen, Bad Ischl and Hallstatt, whereby the inhabitants of the Salzkammergut thought above all of those German territories into which the evangelic Salzburg citizens had moved in 1731.

When almost 1 200 people decided to emigrate, Vienna feared that the communities in the upper Salzkammergut would be depopulated. It was soon made known that the salt officer had made his promise without the knowledge of the emperor and the provincial governor and that it was therefore null and void. Soon thereafter, a religious commission came, checked the passwords and insulted them as

"Misbelievers who themselves do not know what they believe, and there would be no one among them who would have a perfect concept of Lutheran doctrine!"

As misbelievers they would therefore have no right to emigrate.

Emperor Charles VI ordered the forced dispatch

Emperor Charles VI, who also needed the consent of the "non-Catholic potencies, chiefs and estates" to secure the succession of his daughter Maria Theresa, did not want to annoy the Protestant princes in Germany and prepared therefore the forced dispatch of Protestant families from the Salzkammergut to Transylvania.

Since the Reformation period, the Augsburg Confession had been accepted by the Transylvanian-Saxon nation there and in 1691 was publicly recognized by Emperor Leopold I alongside the Roman Catholic Confession. While the Protestants sent from Carinthia at about the same time had to leave their children behind, the people from the Salzkammergut were allowed to take all their biological descendants to Transylvania, their abandoned houses were sold and the proceeds were sent to them after deduction of the legal taxes to Transylvania.

The first transport to Transylvania, planned for June 29, 1734 could not take place until July 4 due to flooding. The four ships with the Protestants escorted by soldiers sailed down from Steeg on Lake Hallstatt on the Traun. When the ships were already on the Danube, the "ringleaders" of the transmigrants who had already been imprisoned and deported to Linz were also included in the transport. Thus, the four "Seven Zills" had a total of 56 families with 259 persons, most of whom came from Bad Goisern and Hallstatt.

The next day the deputy of the Transylvanian Saxon nation took over the transport in Korneuburg on the orders of Emperor Charles VI. He explained to the deportees that they were to be settled in the two villages of Großau and Neppendorf, one hour from Sibiu, and that only the Augsburg Confession and the "Old German Language" were in use in the two villages. These villages had been heavily depopulated by the Kuru war and the plague, so that sufficient arable land was available there for the new immigrants.

This first transport was followed by further transmigrations from 1734 to 1736, with a total of 624 Protestants from the Salzkammergut being brought to Transylvania.


The distribution of the Protestants from the Salzkammergut

440 of them were settled in Neppendorf, 73 in Grossau and the rest in other places. 387 transmigrants came from the parish of Bad Goisern, 122 from Hallstatt, 82 from Bad Ischl, 27 from Gosau and 6 from Lauffen.

From 1737 onwards the expulsions from the Salzkammergut ceased completely. The unusual climatic conditions, dysentery and other epidemics demanded a high toll of blood from the immigrated Salzkammergut estates, especially among the older people there were many deaths which were difficult to get used to in their new homeland. The book "Die Landler in Siebenbürgen" by E. Buchinger, Munich 1980, contains a statistic according to which about a quarter of the inhabitants of the Salzkammergut died in the first 18 months after entering Germany. But the author added: "But the large number of children brought along and the other favourable conditions ensured the existence of the settlements in Grossau and Neppendorf".

More than two hundred years later, the settlements carried out in 1734 from the Salzkammergut in Transylvania found their counterpart in the stream of refugees of the Second World War, which rolled in the opposite direction from Transylvania to the West. A considerable part of German-speaking Transylvania settled in Upper Austria, contributed substantially to the founding of new Protestant parishes and led to a considerable increase in the number of Protestant families in Upper Austria.


Text by Karl Pilz (Goiserer Kurzeitung, July 1984)

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