Village of My Berthold and Ullrich Ancestors
Thirty-Year War 1618-1648

 According to the Peace of Augsburg in 1655, the religion of the prince determined the religion of his subjects. At the end of the 16th century, most of the German princes and their subjects had converted from catholicism to protestantism, which created problems between them and the Holy Roman Emperor, leading to a religious war. That is, it began as a religious war but developed into a political war as well.  Almost all the countries of Europe became involved.  On the side of the emperor:  the Spanish, Italians, Irish, Croats, Scots, etc.  On the protestant side:  Swedes, Danish, French, etc. It was fought mainly on German soil. The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 reaffirmed the Treaty of Augsburg, allowing each state within the Holy Roman Empire to decide its own religion. The only important innovation of the treaty was the recognition of Calvinism.

The 30-Year-War was second only to World War II in its catastrophic destruction of Germany. Fields were devastated, whole villages and farmsteads systematically burned, churches and schools destroyed, animals slaughtered, women raped, men murdered.  Epidemics and hunger killed tens of thousands.  The 80,000 population of Augsburg was reduced to 18,000; that of Wuerttemberg from 400,000 to 48,000. Berlin only had 300 residents left at the end of the war. It is estimated that the 18 million population of Germany was reduced by two thirds to 6 million. The  economic, political and intellectual consequences of this war set Germany back 200 years.

In Oberkalbach, there were 70 households as the 30-Year War began in 1618 and when it ended in 1648, there were only 34 households. The village, the vicerage and the church records were burned. A poem composed by an author long forgotten, titled “Spinnen bei Oberkalbach”  (Spiders in Oberkalbach), is set in the time of this great war.

Die Spinnen bei Oberkalbach

Im grossen Krieg, wo alles auf der Flucht,
In the great war, when everyone was fleeing
Und jeder nach Verstecken sucht
And looking for a place to hide
Vor Mord, Gewalt und Raub und Brand,
From death, violence and robbery and fire,
Da war’n die dichten Dornhecken
There were dense thornhedges
Am Schwarzenberg gut zum Verstecken.
On Black Hill which were good for hiding.

Ein Knabe wird verfolgt von Schweden,
A lad was being followed by the Swedes,
Aus Mordgier wollen sie sein Leben.
Who, bloodthirsty, wanted to take his life.
Der Bub geht ihnen grad noch aus
The boy walked straight on
In einer Heck’ am Jaegerhaus.
Into a hedge by a hunter’s house.

Schnell kommen nun die Spinnen her
Quickly the spiders came
Und ueberziehen kreuz und quer
And criss-cross covered
Das Dorngestruepp mit ihren Faeden,
The thorny undergrowth with their threads,
Nichts finden konnten mehr die Schweden.
The Swedes were unable to find him.

Die kleinen Tiere werden heut’ noch hier verehrt,
The little creatures are today still revered here,
Und niemand sie am Leben wehrt.
And no one takes their lives.
Besonders ehren unsre Alten
Especially our old people respect
Die Spinnen, die so nuetzlich walten.
The spiders who made themselves so useful.  

Copyright 2000-2008 by Sue Foster.  Please contact me for permission to copy.  I would like to know why this information interests you :-)