Hartitsch, Dietrich (16th century)
Dietrich von Hartitsch, captain of the Hungarian city and district of Oedenburg, and provost of Lower Austria. In the Habsburg domains of Austria there was in the 16th century a police officer, the provost, who served as a security and court officer in civil as well as military service. It was the duty of this officer to clear the country of disorderly elements, such as vagrants, retired soldiers, etc. He was also to serve as informer, and to report on the state of roads and bridges. For police duty he was given as many as 50 peasants to assist him. In Styria he had halberdiers at his side. Two horses were assigned to him; as a salary he received the considerable sum of 1,200 guilders, from which he paid also his aides.
At the end of the 1520s the provost had a difficult task in ferreting out and delivering all elements suspected of heresy. In the days of Hut and Hubmaier, Dietrich von Hartitsch played an important role as a persecutor of the Anabaptists. The Hutterite Geschichts-Bücher says, "In 1528 in the first week of Lent, King Ferdinand sent the provost to Lower Austria. He now and again caused great indignation, sorrow, and persecution. For he put some into prison, and if he seized anyone in the field or on the streets he had him beheaded; those in the villages who would not renounce their faith he hanged on the pillars of the gates. Then many people were moved to go from Austria to Nikolsburg. Many also fled to the mountains with wife and children."
This was the execution of the royal mandate of 26 February and 20 March 1528: "We have sent Dietrich von Hartitsch to eradicate heretical and seductive sects and doctrines, to spy out the ringleaders of the Anabaptists and such persons as have accepted their sect, and to proceed against the ringleaders straightway, without any mercy and without the dignity of law."
This action cost many bloody sacrifices. Many Anabaptists fled over the border of Austria to Moravia, where persecution had ceased for the moment. But in a forest near Lengbach a group of 35 fell into the hands of the provost; 17 of them were killed, the others branded through the cheeks. At other places Hartitsch acted in similar fashion. The above commands of King Ferdinand were followed on April 12 by a directive to the governor of Lower Austria to have a gang of scouts ferret out persons moving away from the places where Hartitsch was in action. At the same time the courts of Lower Austria were shown the characteristics by which the Anabaptists might be recognized.
Beck, Josef. Die Geschichts-Bücher der Wiedertäufer in Oesterreich-Ungarn. Vienna, 1883; reprinted Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1967.
Hege, Christian and Neff, Christian. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: II, 257 f.
Loserth, J. Balthasar Hubmaier und die Anfänge der Wiedertaufer in Mähren. Brunn, 1893.
Zieglschmid, A. J. F. Die älteste Chronik der Hutterischen Brüder: Ein Sprachdenkmal aus frühneuhochdeutscher Zeit. Ithaca: Cayuga Press, 1943.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 667-668. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Loserth, Johann. "Hartitsch, Dietrich (16th century)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 22 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/hartitsch_dietrich_anabaptist_persecutor.
APA style: Loserth, Johann. (1956). Hartitsch, Dietrich (16th century). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/hartitsch_dietrich_anabaptist_persecutor.