History of Zemschen

Zemschen village lies approximately six kilometers north of Weißensulz and five kilometers south of Pframuberg in a flat valley bottom. It is very near to Pössigkau, the next village to the west.

Since Zemschen was one of the 13 Choden villages of Pfraumberg and since Albrecht in "Die Besiedlung Westböhmens" indicates there settlement of western Bohemia was already underway in the twelfth century, it can be assumed that our village was established even before then. The fate of the Pfraumberg Chodens were described by the historians Loserth and Pangerl in a publication of the "Verteins für Geschichte der Deutschen in Böhmen." But there are traces of a much earlier colonizations and some indications pointing to the fact that the same places where the later villages of Zemschen and Pössigkau were located were already inhabited in pre-Christian times.

In a forest meadow at the foot of the Niklasberg there is a gigantic stone block [monolith] with carved images and cavities. It is evidently an altar stone marking the site as a place of cult-rituals for the earlier inhabitants of this valley. In later times the stone became known as the "devil stone" and the site was avoided. There is also evidence of an earlier settlement on the western edge of Zerfischen where farmsteads numbers 12 and 13 (Gotscher and Wogler) were later built. The lands of the mountain fief extended to the south, just beyond a little brook which was a strong enough stream to be used as a fountain [water supply]. "Ell" marks the site across the brook where the village pigs wallowed and which was first drained in 1927. Exactly opposite the two "Höfenon the hilltop known as "Hurber", surrounded by trees a sanctuary and later a Christian chapel was located. But most important is that all roads from the village went in the direction of the two "Höfed Around 1900 while farmer Gotscher built a new stable the remainders of a house were found. The items found were thrown into a nearby brook and also a stone cube that had been used as a seat [chair, throne] that was called another "devil stone" because it had inscriptions similar to the other.

When the Choden settled the area they made a pond somewhat to the east and built their houses on both sides of it based with the layout planned to house from eight to ten farmers. It is also evident that they continued to use the already established roads and paths even if they actually represented a detour in a given direction. Around 1600 there were 20 farms in the village and four "Tripfhäuseln."

Formerly there was a small manorial estate -- about 80 Hectares with nine fishponds -- on the southern fringe of Zemschen. It was probably destroyed during the Hussite War (1419-1436) if not sooner. All the fields and meadows in the area were named "Schlösselgrund" by the people. That land was purchased by the farmers who worked it -- originally only ten. Thus it appears that at the time that the land was purchased there were only ten farmsteads in Zemschen. Over time these fields were distributed to the land- hungry small farmers and cottagers. The fields and meadows of the "Schlösselgrund" eventually were sub-divided into irregular patches of land that bore little resemblance to the original plat. If the farmers who acquired land in this area were Choden they had many privileges. In 1596, when the Choden villages were sold by the emperor, making the farmers subject to the Hostau Herrschaft , their property was still listed as "Freistuck" [free-holdings] in the land register, meaning that they owned their fields and could dispose of them if they wished.

Zemschen suffered from the Hussites who plundered and burned the village. According to a letter from Kaiser Siegmund, written in 1437, in which he ordered the local count to exempt the Choden of Pfraumberg from taxes, other duties and compulsory labors for a year because of their loyalty and extreme poverty. The area was not spared during the Thirty-Years War either. In 1621 Troops from Mansfeld occupied Pfraumberg. Tilly and his forces passed through the district and so did several other armies during 1630. In 1641 the Swedish camped here. But the farmers of Zemschen must have recovered from their losses quite quickly because by 1654 the tax rolls indicated there were several who had significant numbers of livestock. For example, one of the eleven largest farmers had four teams of oxen, four cows, and eight calves as well as seven sheep and nine pigs. The general impoverishment of Germany that followed the Thirty Years War caused problems in our area up to the end of the 17th - beginning of the 18th century. A large number of farmers were forced to sell their farmsteads [and land holdings] to the Herrschaft, to give something of equal or better value or to sign over their son's rights. Most of the hardship and poverty of the period is recorded in the land register. Buildings were described as "dilapidated." The purchase price of the farmsteads fell from 200 Schock to 60-100 Schock at the time the contract was closed. In the Theresian Land Register of 1713 the largest farmers in the area no longer had more than one cow, 1-3 calves and one pig. But, typically, everyone had two oxen for performance of robot. The last freedoms of the farmers were given up as they were now burdened by serfdom. The Herrschaft [noble lord and his administrators] were unaware and unconcerned about their difficulties and took no personal responsibility to help in any way. It was not until the reforms of Josef II in 1781 that the lot of the farmers improved. Even though the larger farmers still had to do 73 days of compulsory labor with two oxen [Zugrobot] and 34 days of hand labor by one person, a certain prosperity followed. The number of cottages in Zemschen and Pössigkau increased because virtually every farmer built a house for one of his children and gave a field to go with it.

In 1826 eight farmsteads on one side of the village burned down -- reversing economic progress of the area because there was no such thing as fire insurance at the time. New economic growth and prosperity did not take place until around 1900. The younger farmers were no longer content to do things in the traditional manner. The sought new ways to raise crops and cattle and success followed. Soon Zemschen was one of the most prosperous communities in the county.

Cultural renewal accompanied economic success. A men's choir was formed by Zemschen and Pössigkau, and a local chapter of the "Deutsch Landjugendbudes" whose purpose was to preserve old practices, folk songs and the village as a so-called "living stage."

People also began to beautify the village. Both of the ponds were repaired, the brook-bed was paved and linden, maple and other trees were planted all around. Where there had once been a swampy area in the center of the village a war memorial was erected along with a spring-fed fountain and floral displays. Then the two rows of farmsteads along with the two ponds and the forest in the background was truly a beautiful sight.

On April 20, 1945, Pfraumberg went up in flames from artillery fire. A few days after the barrage the Americans fired on the village. American tanks drove into the area, and a single house was set afire. After that the village was occupied. The Americans were very surprised and wondered why, since they were in Czechoslovakia, they found only Germans, no Czechs. As they pulled out and the Czechs began to move in to occupy the farms the younger people fled to Bavaria to escape from possible abduction. The humiliations, chicanery and threats that followed brought many of the local people to the brink of despair. Many men were transported to Taus and forced to work during the day on Czech farms and then beaten until bloody at night. Those who remained, remained only to wait only for the return of the men of their families so they could escape or be evacuated to Germany.



German-Bohemian Heritage Society

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