Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rosina T. Schmidt
Most of the settlers to the future
settlement of Hrastovac in Slavonia, which was clear-cut of the ancient oak
forest in the year of 1864, all came from the diverse Danube Swabian Evangelical
Lutheran communities in the Swabian Turkey. Swabian Turkey was the popular name
for the three counties Baranya, Somogy and Tolna, which were settled by various
Germanic tribes more than a century before. Both Swabian Turkey and Slavonia
were prior to 1918 part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.
Every Donauschwab wanted to be a
farmer. Even if he learned a trade, as most of them did, if he lived in the
countryside, he had to have his own farm. By the middle of 19th
century there were no farms available for purchase in all of Swabian Turkey at
any price. And when the word spread in 1865, that south of the Drava River in
the county of Slavonia, Baron Tikery of Daruvar was looking for settlers for the
future farming village of Hrastovac, most of the plots were soon sold to the
eager ethnic Germans relocating from the Swabian Turkey.
Hrastovac was the first Evangelical Lutheran
community in Slavonia and belonged to the Diocese of Somogy in Hungary. As it
was still a very small community a pastor visited it only once a year. He would
baptize all the children born since his last visit, unless they were baptized
already by the orthodox priest in Uljanik, would wed the couples, held a service
(Abendmahlgottesdienst) and be on his way again.
By 1880 the first struggles of the colonists
were behind them and the community felt that it was time to have its own pastor.
A larger school building was built and opposite the school a parsonage. The
church service was held in the school building.
The first pastor
was Peter Adam, whose home was in Tolna. Pastor Adam taught the children
and held the prayers in the Hungarian language. 12 years later he returned to
Bayer from Burgenland, who implemented the
Pressburger Gesangbuch (prayer book) came as the next pastor, but stayed
only for three years. Pastor Bayer returned back to his hometown of Güns in
Seregeli was the next pastor and stayed also for three years. Pastor
Seregeli returned back to Burgenland and became pastor in Unterschützen.
The next two
pastors were Croatians:
Dobrovoljac, who later left the church for civil
Plivelic – left in 1916. Also left for civil service.
Kettenbach 1916-1917. Returned to šidski Banovci.
Zulauf, who married Hrastovac teacher Ms. Neufeld.
Returned to Hungary in 1922.
Torinus from Wolhynien in Russia.
from East Prussia.
After the division of Austro-Hungary in 1918
the few Lutheran congregations in Slavonia belonged now to the Diocese of Agram
(Zagreb) under Bishop Dr. Popp.
The Hrastovacer were planning for quite some
time to erect a church building in their town. Then came WWI, which was followed
by the Inflation and their savings for a better place of worship were now
worthless. Alas, by 1929 the parish was once again ready and eager to go ahead
with the building of the church.
The Laying of the Church Foundation Stone
For the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hrastovac
On 26th of May 1929
This festive Sunday was rung in by the music
of the ‘Königsberger Posaunenchor’ at five in the morning. The sermon
started at 9.30 h with the whole community assembled on the grounds, as well as
guests from far and wide, and accompanied by the Posaunenchor singing
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise him until I die.
While I still count my hours here on earth
I will sing praises to my God.
Who has given me body and soul.
I will praise Him both early and late.
Blest, yes blest are those
Whose help is the God of Jacob.
He does not allow himself to be separated from his faith
Who hopes with certainty on Jesus Christ
Always has his Lord on his side
And finds the best counsel and support.
Sing praises all you people
To the Everlasting Lord
Who does such marvelous things.
Everything that has breath shout Amen!
And offer praise with joyous tongues
You Children of God love and praise Him
Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Senior Andreas v. Tarczay
read the Script, followed by more singing, followed by the prayer by
Pastor Franz Schoschfarecz.
The assembled sang “Heart and heart together
are searching for Gods help…’ after which the Hrastovac Pastor Hellmut May
held the Sermon.
More singing followed it, this time by the
church choir under the leadership of conductor Mr. Ebersold.
His Honour, Bishop Dr. Philipp Popp,
who came all the way from Zagreb, gave the blessings.
In the afternoon at 14h, the whole
congregation assembled in front of the old Bethaus (Prayer House) and from there
the procession went to the building grounds, singing heartily
“Grosser Gott, wir loben Dich!…”
The church inspector Bruno Matern
greeted the assembled, after which the prayer was read by Pastor Gerhard May
(the brother of the Hrastovac Pastor Hellmut May.)
The Bishop Dr. Philipp Popp held his
speech prior to the reading of the Church Building Document by the Church
Inspector Bruno Matern.
More singing by all assembled and a prayer
by Pastor Erich Ellenberger. Followed with the blessings by Senior von
“Nun danket alle Gott mit Herzen Mund und
Händen…”, was the song, which closed the ceremonies in the afternoon, to be
met again at 20h for an evening of festivities.
Bauurkunde (Building Document)
In the year of our Savior 1929, on 26th
of May, the Trinities Sunday, at the reign of S.M. King Alexander I, during the
time of Bishop Dr. Philipp Popp’s administration of the Evangelical Lutheran
Diocese A. B. and Andreas von Tarczay as Senior of the upper Croatian District,
the Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Hrastovac is laying the foundation
stone for their church building during the rain of their Pastor Hellmut May and
the Church inspector Bruno Matern, the Church fathers Sebastian Faul and Johann
Fleisch, the Architeck and project administrators Andreas Ellenberger, Konrad
Gärtner, Heinrich Jung, Heinrich Kaiser, Johann Köhler, Johann Lotz, Adam März,
Andreas Müller, Johann Müller, Hans Müller, Heinrich Müller, Peter Müller,
Johann Reith and Johann Stickl. This stone was taken from the ruins of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Scharfenau next to Cilli, which was destroyed on
21st of January 1600.
The settlers, who arrived here in the year
of 1865 from the Swabian Turkey, whose citizen arrived there from Hesse and
Württemberg, transferred the marsh and jungle, which they found at arrival
through many hardships of epidemics, deprivations and sacrifices and made this
town their new home through their incredible hard working efforts. Today, with
much trust in God for a better future, they are building for themselves and
their neighbours a new Church building, under the supervision of the Architect
Ing. Leo Kalda and with the help of the Adolf Club after the loss of the old
Prayer House. This building is to be the home of the Gospel, God to honor and
for their salvation.
“I will not die, but live and praise the
Gods works” – Psalm 118, 17.
did not take a long while to build the church. Already six months later, on the
17th of November 1929 the parish was proudly celebrating the official
opening of their church building.
This time again not only the guests from the
neighboring Lutheran communities were present but many dignitaries too:
Bishop Dr. Philipp Popp;
Senior Andreas von Tarczay;
Senior Jakob Kettenbach from Zemun, Banat;
Superitendet Tehophil Bayer from
Oberschuetzen/Austria, a former Hrastovac Pastor;
Church Inspector Bruno Watern;
Chruch Director Wilhelm Ebersold from
Pastor Heinrich Zulauf, former Hrastovac
Pastor, now Pastor in Kalazno, Tolna;
Pastor Hermann Lagershausen from
Preacher Dully from Bastaji;
Pastor Gerhard May from Celje/Slovenia
(brother of Hrastovac Pastor Hellmuth May)
Architekt Ing. Leo Kalda;
As well as once again the Königsberger
Pousanen Choir from Königsberg.
The Hrastovac Evangelical Lutheran Church
became the Mother Church for the surrounding Lutheran Congregations.
Alas, WWII was soon to follow with all the
atrocities directed specifically to the ethnic German communities. The church
bells were ringing more often for a funeral, if not as a warning for the
approach of the Partisans. By 1944 the life for our Donauschwaben was not safe
in that part of the world any more and the citizen were ordered to abandon the
village. Most of the villagers left in three different convoys within months of
each other, while the church bells kept ringing the sad good-by.
With the expulsion of the congregation not
only the church life came to an end, the new inhabitants soon transferred the
church building first into a sheep stable and later in a restaurant.