History of Lomnitz

 

Although early Germanic clans could be found in Lomnitz around the 4th and 5th centuries AD, they were nomadic and gave way at times to Slavic and Scandinavian settlers. Most eventually moved on, driven out by regular flooding from the three rivers running through the valley. Germans began settling permanently in Silesia from the 12th and 13th centuries, as part of a systematic colonisation started by the German Kaiser Barbarossa, and the real founding of Lomnitz occurred around 1150 – 1200 AD. This makes Lomnitz one of the oldest villages in German Silesia. Official town status was granted in 1340.

 

The settlers to the Lomnitz area were predominantly from the German states of Franken and Hessen in the very heart of modern-day Germany. The character of the new arrivals produced an inspired mix. The people of Franken were intelligent and entrepreneurial, as evidenced by their homeland around Frankfurt am Main becoming the industrial heartland of Germany. They were also lively, reliable and unusually ready to pull up roots and move on in search of better opportunities. The people of Hessen were noted for being sensible and industrious, producing a desirable fusion to build a new province.

 

The name Lomnitz has a different origin to the other Lomnitz villages which were established in the area. The name was taken from the river which flows through the town, originally called the Lumens (The Light). It flowed from the Schneekoppe, the highest point in the Riesengebirge, whose snowcapped peak heralded the sunrise and sunset each day. From Lumens developed Lumnez, Lomnez and eventually Lomnitz. Homes were built in the style of Franken, similar to central Germany. The valley was actually crossed by three rivers, two of which, the Lomnitz and Eglitz flowed into the larger Bober. Regular flooding was a feature of the town.

 

The townfolk were religious people who are best documented by their church activities. Most of the German population was Protestant and an 1842 village chronicle shows that the village contained 185 houses, 875 Lutherans and 104 Catholics. The surviving church records give an impressive set of matching data to help establish family lines, stretching all the way back to before 1700. Unfortunately, many pastors had very poor handwriting and no respect for correct spelling, leading to many of the family name variations which plague genealogical research. Particularly before 1750 the records are incomplete, the surnames of wives are not recorded and a small number of Christian names was used so frequently that it is difficult to distinguish between families.

 

Reading the church records gives a good feel for Silesian village life over four centuries. In the early period families were large but the infant mortality rate was rising rapidly. After 1750 families became smaller yet almost half the children died before they became teenagers, mostly in their first year. This tragic infant mortality was due to diverse illnesses and exacerbated by the greater movement of people, which tended to spread infectuous diseases. Lomnitz did not escape the cholera and viral epidemics which swept Europe and in 1720 there were over 100 deaths, almost triple the annual average.

 

A substantial number of young women died during childbirth. Children were given almost exclusively religious names and baptised within three days of birth, a sign of a god-fearing people. Since only the strongest children survived, natural selection developed a very strong race of people. Adults who lived past forty usually went on to live well into their seventies and eighties. After 1800 a surprising number of children were born illegitimately. The fathers were seldom named and mostly did not marry the mothers.

 

The earliest recorded property ownership of the "Dominium" of Lomnitz was by the von Zedlitz family, spanning from Hans von Zedlitz in 1475 to Wolf von Zedlitz in 1600. After 1650 the retired Austrian Crown Lieutenant Tomagnini became owner and private land ownership started soon afterwards. The landed estate around Schloss Lomnitz then passed to the Mentzel family and for over 100 years they contributed much to the development of the church and schooling in Lomnitz. During the 1800’s the estate ownership passed through the Flach and von Roth families to the von Küsters. Descendents of the von Küsters have recently purchased the ruin of the Schloss Lomnitz and restored it to an exquisite country hotel.  This will also serve as the Cultural Centre for the Verein zur Pflege Schlesicher Kuns und Kultur (VSK), a society for the preservation of Silesian culture and for the building of common cultural bridges between Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.