Veľké Leváre (Bratislavský kraj, Slovakia)
Veľké Leváre (Velké Leváry; German, Grosschützen, Gross-Schützen), a village (1959 population, 2,800; 3,554 in 2004) in the Malacky District in the Bratislava region of Slovakia, located on the bank of the Rudava (coordinates: 48° 30′ 0″ N, 17° 0′ 0″ E), a tributary on the left side of the March River. The Hutterian Brethren of Moravia were invited to settle here in 1588 by the imperial cupbearer Hans Bernhard von Lembach, who leased them land in return for certain services and payments, and a Bruderhof was established. The Bruderhof at Veľké Leváre suffered great hardship in the Turkish war of 1605. The troops of General Basta attacked it 4 May. Although most of the inhabitants had fled in time, several brothers and sisters were wounded, some of them fatally, and 42, including the housemaster Matthes Pühler, were taken by the Heiducks. Fortunately Hans Zwinkeberger, the barber-surgeon, who had been summoned by the baron, succeeded with the baron's help in releasing the prisoners without paying ransom. But not until 1609 was the new lord, Seifried von Kollonitsch, able to persuade the Brethren to rebuild and resettle the Bruderhof at Velke Levary.
The Thirty Years' War drew Veľké Leváre into further suffering. On 23 October 1619, the household was robbed twice by the army, and the inmates who fled to the woods were robbed and stripped by the Hussars; on 3 November desperate peasants broke in and carried away all they could find. Scarcely had they set themselves up again, when on 17 July 1620, Polish auxiliaries plundered the brotherhood anew with senseless brutality. On 6 February 1621, the same thing happened again.
When the Anabaptists were expelled from Moravia in 1622 the Slovak Bruderhofs became the places of refuge, although these were also constantly threatened in those restless times. On 19 October 1623, robbers hiding in the ruins of Leváre damaged the Bruderhof, and two days later Czober auf Schossberg made a predatory march to Leváre and robbed and murdered, until he was prevented by Bethlen's men from worse deeds. Four days later neighbors plundered the Anabaptists and hauled away five wagonloads of booty. On 9 November 1626, about 300 Croats, Walloons, and French broke into the Levary household and plundered, tortured, and raped just as in the neighboring household at St. Johann. Veľké Leváre fared somewhat better in 1642, when the imperial troops retreating from the Swedish General Torstenson took quarters here, without deeds of violence. On the other hand, three years later in 1645 the Croats fleeing from the Swedes plundered the household in April, and robber peasants plundered it in June, searching for weeks for the supplies buried by the brethren and carrying away what they found.
Scarcely had the brethren with unprecedented energy overcome the consequences of these numerous robberies together with several poor harvests and famine, when another Hungarian war brought new misfortune. In September 1663 Turks and Tatars broke into Protska, and the Leváre Bruderhof had to be evacuated. The inmates moved into the peasant quarters below the fortress of Blasenstein and remained there nearly nine weeks. On the flight they lost a large part of their goods and cattle, and all their sheep and hogs. On 11 October 1664, German auxiliaries were quartered in the house for a week with 55 horses, and a week later the French, causing several hundred guilders' worth of damage.
The bitterest experience of the Hutterites at Levary occurred in 1685, when their own baron, Ulrich von Kollonitsch, took their goods by violence. He had the wine taken from their cellars, and their plows, harrows, and wagons, and compelled them to do military service. The subordinate authorities exploited this want of order, and took away the products of their crafts. The situation became so unpleasant that no one came to them, and a shortage of working forces ensued, aggravated by excessive forced labor for the landowners. Finally they had to offer cattle in lieu of money, damaging their economy still further.
The Veľké Leváre brethren abandoned communistic living in 1685, and each one leased his land individually from the barons. They decided that "each should pay for himself." This decision struck the fatal blow to communal living, which had for some time been showing signs of decay in the Hungarian Bruderhofs.
Then there was the additional danger of Catholization, which had long been looming. Intervention by baronial patrons softened the demand in 1733 to having at least the infants baptized. Since some of the Hutterites had ever since 1688 been complying with this request—not yet compulsory—without being expelled from the brotherhood (a mere reprimand was the penalty), a meeting at Sobotište decided to obey the command. Also the principle of avoiding the bearing of arms and shedding of blood was violated when in 1741 the Brethren obeyed government orders to furnish two men to serve as Hussars.
The isolation of the Slovakian brotherhoods, who for many years had no contact with their brethren in Transylvania, became their destruction. The barons who had protected the brotherhoods as long as the communal enterprise brought them gain, now treated them like any other taxable subjects, and had no interest in opposing an intolerant government and clergy by defending the Hutterite faith. And finally the pleasure of the brethren in owning personal property and the desire to see it increase overpowered the love for the faith of the fathers; they adapted themselves.
In 1760 came the strict order that they be converted to the Catholic faith, and the Jesuits received the mission to carry it out. Where persuasion was not sufficient, blows and imprisonment helped. A few fled to find their way to the brotherhood in Transylvania; the majority had turned Catholic by 1764. When the Edict of Toleration was passed in 1781, excluding the Anabaptists, about 70 apparent Catholic converts from Sobotište and Levary immigrated to Russia to join their brethren.
The modern Catholic descendants of the Hutterian Brethren in Leváre, Sobotište, and St. Johann, now called Habaner or Neuhofler, were living before 1945 in the same places and in the same households, which in Leváre comprised forty cabins. They continued to choose an elder and a leader by lot, who managed the (small) capital and the treasury and kept the church records, until recently in German. The ancient handicrafts are forgotten, their books were taken from them, and the memory of the past passed into oblivion. (See Habaner.) After 1945 those who had not turned Slovakian but spoke German were summarily expelled.
Beck, Josef. Die Geschichts-Bücher der Wiedertäufer in Oesterreich-Ungarn. Vienna, 1883; reprinted Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1967. 302.
Friedmann, Robert. "Habaner in der Slovakei." Wiener Zeitschrift für Volhshunde (1927): illustrated.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: II, 644-645.
Müller, Lydia. “Kommumismus der mährischen Wiedertäufer.” Schriften des Vereins für Reformationsgeschichte XXXXV (1927).
Wolkan, Rudolf. Geschicht-Buch der Hutterischen Brüder. Macleod, AB, and Vienna, 1923.
Zieglschmid, A. J. F. Die älteste Chronik der Hutterischen Brüder: Ein Sprachdenkmal aus frühneuhochdeutscher Zeit. Ithaca: Cayuga Press, 1943: 552 note 2, with further details.
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Cite This Article
Dedic, Paul. "Veľké Leváre (Bratislavský kraj, Slovakia)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 20 Feb 2018. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Ve%C4%BEk%C3%A9_Lev%C3%A1re_(Bratislavsk%C3%BD_kraj,_Slovakia)&oldid=146749.
Dedic, Paul. (1959). Veľké Leváre (Bratislavský kraj, Slovakia). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 February 2018, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Ve%C4%BEk%C3%A9_Lev%C3%A1re_(Bratislavsk%C3%BD_kraj,_Slovakia)&oldid=146749.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 804-805. All rights reserved.
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