The old parish village of Berg, located barely 4 km west-northwest of Ronsperg, probably has its origin in an old castle or Wallburg(1), whose ruins likely were taken to build the present church St. Wenceslas. Berg is documented in 1384 as already having a parish church which was attached to the Archidiakonat Bischofteinitz.
The name of the village appeared in the Urbar(2) of the Herrschaft(3) Lobkowitz at Bischofteinitz with six farms in 1587. It had been attached to the castle Hirschstein, along with Trohatin, Natschetin and Hoslau. In 1539 it was attached to the Herrschaft of Teinitz. The surname Prokosch continued to be mentioned in the Urbar of 1587 until 1946.
In the year 1789 the chronicler Schaller occasionally refers to some remnants of a former strong castle and calls the village with 16 houses as “Berg am Böhmerwald”; “Bergium”; “Mons St. Wenceslai”. In 1839 Berg had 22 houses with 173 German residents, who pursued active cultivation of flax and yarn spinning, but also worked in the glassworks of other estates.
In 1913 Berg had 26 houses with 165 residents; in 1945 it had 32 houses and 163 residents. In 1937 the area amounted to 124 ha(4) which could be divided in 71,72 ha fields; 25,81 ha meadows; 8,35 ha pastureland; 9,16 ha woods; 1,05 ha gardens.
The former parsonage, which was mentioned in 1707, was used as a school at the same time. It burned down in 1927 and was rebuilt once more in 1932.
Until 1787 the church of St. Wenceslas was administered by priests of the monastery of Stockau. On 25 January 1788 it again became a parish church after the buildings of the monastery were taken over. The priests were secularized by Emperor Joseph II. The villages of Trohatin, Natschetin, Schiefernau and Schilligkau were also attached to the parish of Berg.
The church steeple had three bells. Two of them were melted in World War I and were replaced by new ones in the twenties. In 1787 the school teacher moved from the parsonage to a small house which had been attached to the school. The school became too small in 1860, so a new school was built on the school hill. In 1893 the school had three classes. In 1945 there was once again only one class because, in addition to the children of Berg, the children of Schiefernau, Natschetin and Hoslauer Mühlen came to the school in Berg. (After World War I they had attended school in Münchsdorf.)
The political community Berg consisted of Berg, Schiefernau and Zeisermühl. In Berg, besides the church and the school, there was also the seat of the Raiffeisenkasse of Trohatin and the environs; a general merchandise store; a butcher shop; two inns; and a cigar store. The community also had a midwife.
The residents mainly worked in agriculture and in winter they also made Klöppeled lace.
In World War I six soldiers were killed and in World War II nine were killed.
(1) Wallburg (also called Schanze, Spitzwall): entrenchment, field-work, ring-walls, which were built in the early Middle Ages. Later in the Middle Ages castles wereoften built in it and the old ramparts were used as an additional hindrance for attackers.
(2) List in which were written down the possessory rights of the lord of the manor and the duties of his subjects. Also called “Urbarium”.
(3) Herrschaft = dominion or estate
(4) 1 ha (Hektar) = 100 a (Ar); 1 a (Ar) = 100 m
A Divine Moment
There are often times in our lives that we have special moments that we remember forever. I have been very lucky to have such a very special moment happen in my Heimat, the homeland of my immigrant ancestors. It happened on our first German- Bohemian Heritage Society Tour to the homeland in 1991, just two years after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Upon arrival in the homeland we were horrified at the condition of the country. After 45 years of neglect the homes, the churches, the roads, and even the clothing of the people, was so depressing. It was very clear that the country was still under Communist rule! Our German-Bohemian families that were left behind after the immigration were certainly better off living in Germany rather than staying in Czechoslovakia after WWII.
We were going to be in the Heimat over a Sunday, so I thought it might be a nice idea if we could attend Mass in the village church where our forefathers once worshiped. I had written to the parish priest at Ronsperg, the largest parish in the area and informed him of our desire to attend mass and asked in which church he would be saying mass on Sunday, August 4th. I received an immediate reply informing me that holy mass would be celebrated at 11:00 A.M. in the the Church of St. Wenceslaus in the village Berg and that we were most welcome to attend. I was delighted! This was the same church that my great grandparents had attended. The parish church of Berg ministered to the neighboring villages of Trohatin, Nachetin and Schilligkau. From these villages many people immigrated to New Ulm between the years of 1865 in 1869. Such names as Domeier, Gag, Helget, Kiefner, Rothmeyer, and Zwach were very common in these villages. These names, of course, are also very common in New Ulm, Minnesota cemetery. Some of them obviously had been desecrated for the porcelain photographs of the people that were buried had been broken or removed. It had been obvious that no one had been there for many many years to care for the cemetery stones.
We received a very cordial welcome from the parish priest who was standing at the door to greet us. He spoke in German by saying “welcome to your homeland”. His name was Father Kaplanec. (We had occasion to see Father Kaplanec again in 1995 at the dedication of the Memorial in Neubäu.) As we enter the church father asked if anyone played the organ. My wife Dorothy is a very accomplished organist and she answered . Father Kaplanec said she was welcome to go up in the organ loft and play during mass., which she did. Accompanying Dorothy up to the choir loft was a member of our tour group who happened to be a tenor soloist. During the mass Dorothy improvised on some of the old favorite hymns. It was wonderful to hear that organ being played in the church where my great grandparents were baptized and when they had attended mass.
All gravestones were overgrown with weeds higher than the stones
The huge tour bus with over 40 people pulled up to this little village and we all disembarked. We walked up the hill through the iron gates surrounding the Berg Cemetery and headed towards the church. We were horrified at the condition of them of the cemetery. All the grave stones were overgrown with weeds higher than stones themselves.Some of them obviously had been desecrated for the porcelain photographs of the people had been broken or removed. It had been obvious that no one had been there for many years to care for the cemetery stones.
Father Kaplanec graciously greeted us in German at the beginning of mass. The Mass was said both in Latin and then Czech but he gave his homily in beautiful German so that many of us could understand. In attendance at the mass in addition to our tour group of about 40 were some of our German friends accompanying Rudi Kiefner and also the local Czech congregation which consisted of about 6 to 8 young women who answered the Mass prayers very strongly in the Czech language. So you see, we were a very international congregation.
On our ride to the church I had mentioned to our group that the priest was being very kind to us by inviting us to attend mass in his church and it that would be very fitting if we were quite generous in contributing at the offertory. Most everyone put at $20 bill in the offertory basket. When the Czech ladies brought the basket to Father, it was obvious from the expression on his face that he was overwhelmed with gratitude. This was probably more money that he receives for all his parishes in an entire year.
During communion our tenor soloist sang a beautiful well-known Eucharistic hymn in Latin entitled Panis Angelicus. When I went up to receive communion I could see that there were tears in Father Kaplanec eyes. Father probably had not heard this song for many many years. The Czech government had forced the Catholic Church underground, the real Catholic Church. The real Catholic Church functioned clandestinely and I'm sure Father Kaplanec was part of this underground church. The official Catholic Church, that was recognized by the communist government, did exactly what the government wanted. If you were a real Catholic you belonged to the underground church.
The divine moment came at the conclusion of the mass when Dorothy led the congregation with full organ in the very familiar old German Hymn “Holy God We Praise Thy Name”. The German title is “Grosser Gott Wir Loben Dich” , and Bože, chválíme tebe in the Czech language. But simultaneously, three peoples sang together in unity, in their own language, this beautiful old hymn with full voice raising their voices to God. There was not a dry eye in the entire church. I could see the tears streaming down Father Kaplanec’s face. I’m sure that the good Lord was well pleased. This was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. This was indeed a Divine Moment.