Our German Bohemian Legacy
Robert J. Paulson
Auherzen (Czech: Uherce) is an agricultural village about 15 kilometers west of Pilsen in County Mies (Czech: Stribo) the current Czech Republic. In 1945 there were about 100 houses and a population of around 500, the majority German-speaking
The first historical mention of Auherzen came in a document in 1213, when a noble women named Helga gifted the village to the cloister in the neighboring Chotieschau (Czech: Chotesov). Sometime prior to then, the village had been founded by two noblemen and two free farmers from Bavaria, who divided the land area into four farms. By 1367 there were 18 large farms (meaning, probably, around 50 acres each) and 20 farms about half that large, for a total tillable area for the village of about 2000 acres, plus the area for the village, forest land, and two ponds, which played an important role later in a trade with the cloister for freedom from what was called “rabat,” the requirement to provide a portion of their crops and of their time to the “lord,” in this case the cloister. The population in the 14th century was partly German, partly Czech, with some inhabitants with Polish names.
As was true for much of central Europe, the Thirty Years War, 1618-1648, was a defining event for Auherzen. As the front line of the war, primarily between the Roman Catholic Hapsburgs in Vienna and the Protestants in northern Germany and Scandinavia, moved back and forth across central Europe, villages like Auherzen were devastated. Auherzen was uninhabited from about 1625 to 1635, as its citizens were either conscripted, killed, or fled to the forests to avoid the violence. With the end of the war in 1648 with a series of treaties between the warring sides, Europe was divided between Catholics and Protestants. Given the decimation of the population in and around Auherzen, the Hapsburgs sought devout Roman Catholics to settle the area, in order to start farming again and, of course, to pay taxes to the crown, so that by 1682 the population of Auherzen was listed as 247. From that time until the end of World War II when they were all expelled, the population was predominantly German-speaking, as those were the Roman Catholics who were willing to resettle the area after 1648.
By the mid-1780s Auherzen had become the church and school center for four surrounding villages and by the late 1780s another two villages. While this part of central Europe was not a major battlefield during the Napoleonic wars, it was a region that was often used as a highway for troops, although by this time the murder, rape, and plunder of the villages was legally prohibited, as opposed to the Thirty-Years War. Ultimately, the farmers were responsible for at least a portion of the costs of ongoing wars, however, and were often required to provide shelter and accommodations to troops, at their own cost. During these years, however, the population of Auherzen remained constant, with a population listed as 281 in 1854. By 1912 Auherzen is listed as having 56 houses and 537 inhabitants, of which 530 were German-speaking and seven were Czech, and 524 were Roman Catholic. After World War I, the situation in Auherzen, as in much of the Sudetenland, began to change, with more Czech influence and control. By 1931 there were 471 German-speaking and 121 Czechs living in the village. It was a difficult time for many. In 1934 there were five suicides in the village.
On April 17, 1946 the expulsion of all of the German-speaking residents began. On April 20, they were loaded into cattle trucks and driven to the west, with most of them being unloaded in Frankfurt, where many of their descendents still live today. Even though most of those people were ultimately much better off living in West Germany than they would have been living in Czechoslovakia, many of them carried deep resentments about the expulsion to their graves, which has greatly complicated relationships between Germany and the Czech Republic. Perhaps with the passing of the generations, a kind of reconciliation will be possible.
* For this history of the village, the late Josef Lappat, the person designated the village “Ortsbetreuer” at the time of the expulsion in 1946, is to be thanked for the tremendous historical and genealogical work he did, published in his book, “Auherzen und sein Kirchsprengel: Die Geschichte eines Dorfes im Sudetenland (1992).