The First German Church
A little church in Wilna, a larger city near Wylkowiszki, was the site of the first German church in Lithuania in which German services were held. As the story goes, when Napoleon came through Wilna, he was so impressed by its sight, that he had the notion to carry it off and had it reconstructed in Paris. 1
“From Days Long Gone By”
A yellowed, hand-written manuscript, written in 1928 by Dr. Johann Lange, a well-known
German in the area of Kauen near Wylkowiszki, was published as one chapter of a History of the Protestant German Settlement in Lithuania. It is a primary source provided by a knowledgeable person with first-hand experience during the era and in the area in which these ancestors lived. This author provides an understanding of the German perspective as few others could. The editor commented:
It gives information about how the way that things were at in time—to make our old people wistful, sometimes also a rather angry recollection, the young ones to admonish, this to keep in mind, that for us, to be a German and to remain a German is not a gift from fate, nor from any other source. 2
“A Little Contribution to the History of the Germans in Lithuania in the
Wilkowischen, Mariampol, Kalwaria, and Schaken Districts”
Excerpts from the “original text and without any polishing or refinement” follow: The reader will note the distinction between the personal observations of Dr. Lange and the statistical approach of the editors of
the 1923 Polish Encyclopaedia with respect to recording the history of a people. Paragraphing has been shortened for ease of reading.
In the cited region, which once belonged to Poland, the German farmers and artisans lived scattered amongst the Lithuanian (we are not discussing the German estate owners here because according to Russian law, they did not belong to the farmer class and contributed the least to the maintenance of the German customs and traditions). Officially they were called “colonists” (in Russia, all settlers were called “colonists”). From those colonists who scattered in the villages and also the cities, one can see that they either came and bought land. Or they settled as artisans.
Since all these Germans emigrated from East Prussia, called themselves “Salzburgers,” and belonged to the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession, as also all Germans in Poland, it is to be concluded that these are the descendants of the Protestants who were expelled from the archbishopric Salzburg by the archbishop Count von Firmian. Of these, 17,000 were accepted by Prussia. The immigration to Prussia and also to Poland began in the 18th century.
I know, for example, that my paternal great-grandfather emigrated from East Prussia in about 1820 and already found many Germans in Lithuania. Most [Germans] probably immigrated during the time after the third partition of Poland [in 1795], when for seven years this region was assigned to Prussia. The Germans lived in friendly, neighborly harmony with the Lithuanians. Naturally, the Germans had to speak Lithuanian. Amongst themselves the Germans always spoke German in the Platt (Low German) dialect.
The domestic servants were Germans because the Catholics, according to their religious tradition, were forbidden to work for Germans so that they would not desert their faith. Later the Catholics did not adhere to this so stringently and were very glad to work for the Germans.
All German immigrants, all true Salzburgers, were very devout. Every house contained a Bible, a book of sermons, and a hymn book. On Sundays and holidays, worship services were held—hymns were sung and a sermon was read. The church was only attended on Sundays when a pastor would be there to conduct services, which was usually once in every three to four weeks, because one pastor had to serve three or four churches. (It is not any better now.)
1 Jaekel, Bilder aus der Geschichte des evangelischen Deutschtums in Litauen, 15-16.
2 Jaekel, Bilder aus der Geschichte des evangelischen Deutschtums in Litauen, 31-34.