The Peasant War in Germany by Frederick Engels
About fifty years after the suppression of the Hussite movement, the first symptoms of a budding revolutionary spirit became manifest among the German peasants.
The first peasant conspiracy came into being in 1476, in the bishopric of Wuerzburg, a country already impoverished “by bad government, manifold taxes, payments, feuds, enmity, war, fires, murders, prison, and the like,” and continually plundered by bishops, clergy and nobility in a shameless manner. A young shepherd and musician, Hans Boeheim of Niklashausen, also called the “Drum-Beater” and “Hans the Piper,” suddenly appeared in Taubergrund in the role of a prophet. He related that the Virgin had appeared to him in a vision, that she told him to burn his drum, to cease serving the dance and the sinful gratification of the senses, and to exhort the people to do penance. Therefore, he said, everybody should purge himself of sin and the vain lusts of the world, forsake all adornments and embellishments, and make a pilgrimage to the Madonna of Niklashausen to attain forgiveness.
Already among these precursors of the movement we notice an asceticism which is to be found in all mediaeval uprisings that were tinged with religion, and also in modern times at the beginning of every proletarian movement. This austerity of behaviour, this insistence on relinquishing all enjoyment of life, contrasts the ruling classes with the principle of Spartan equality. Nevertheless, it is a necessary transitional stage, without which the lowest strata of society could never start a movement. In order to develop revolutionary energy, in order to become conscious of their own hostile position towards all other elements of society, in order to concentrate as a class, the lower strata of society must begin with stripping themselves of everything that could reconcile them to the existing system of society. They must renounce all pleasures which would make their subdued position in the least tolerable and of which even the severest pressure could not deprive them.
This plebeian and proletarian asceticism differs widely, both by its wild fanatic form and by its contents, from the middle-class asceticism as preached by the middle-class Lutheran morality and by the English Puritans (to be distinguished from the independent and farther-reaching sects) whose whole secret is middle-class thrift. It is quite obvious that this plebeian-proletarian asceticism loses its revolutionary character when the development of modern productive forces increases the number of commodities, thus rendering Spartan equality superfluous, and on the other hand, the very position of the proletariat in society, and thereby the proletariat itself becomes more and more revolutionary. Gradually, this asceticism disappears from among the masses. Among the sects with which it survives, it degenerates either into bourgeois parsimony or into high-sounding virtuousness which, in the end, is nothing more than Philistine or guild-artisan niggardliness. Besides, renunciation of pleasures need not be preached to the proletariat for the simple reason that it has almost nothing to renounce.
Hans the Piper’s call to penitence found a great response. All the prophets of rebellion started with appeals against sin, because, in fact, only a violent exertion, a sudden renunciation of all habitual forms of existence could bring into unified motion a disunited, widely scattered generation of peasants grown up in blind submission. A pilgrimage to Niklashausen began and rapidly increased, and the greater the masses of people that joined the procession, the more openly did the young rebel divulge his plans. The Madonna of Niklashausen, he said, had announced to him that henceforth there should be neither king nor princes, neither pope nor other ecclesiastic or lay authority. Every one should be a brother to each other, and win his bread by the toil of his hands, possessing no more than his neighbour. All taxes, ground rents, serf duties, tolls and other payments and deliveries should be abolished forever. Forests, waters and meadows should be free everywhere.
The people received this new gospel with joy. The fame of the prophet, “the message of our Mother,” spread everywhere, even in distant quarters. Hordes of pilgrims came from the Odenwald, from Main, from Kocher and Jaxt, even from Bavaria and Suabia, and from the Rhine. Miracles supposed to have been performed by the Piper were being related; people fell on their knees before the prophet, praying to him as to a saint; people fought for small strips from his cap as for relics or amulets. In vain did the priests fight him, denouncing his visions as the devil’s delusions and his miracles as hellish swindles. But the mass of believers increased enormously. The revolutionary sect began to organise. The Sunday sermons of the rebellious shepherd attracted gatherings of 40,000 and more to Niklashausen.
For several months Hans the Piper preached before the masses. He did not intend, however, to confine himself to preaching. He was in secret communication with the priest of Niklashausen and with two knights, Kunz of Thunfeld and his son, who accepted the new gospel and were singled out as the military leaders of the planned insurrection. Finally, on the Sunday preceding the day of St. Kilian, when the shepherd believed his power to be strong enough, he gave the signal. He closed his sermon with the following words: “And now go home, and weigh in your mind what our Holiest Madonna has announced to you, and on the coming Saturday leave your wives and children and old men at home, but you, you men, come back here to Niklashausen on the day of St. Margaret, which is next Saturday, and bring with you your brothers and friends, as many as they may be. Do not come with pilgrims’ staves, but covered with weapons and ammunition, in one hand a candle, in the other a sword and a pike or halberd, and the Holy Virgin will then announce to you what she wishes you to do.” But before the peasants came in masses, the horsemen of the bishop seized the prophet of rebellion at night, and brought him to the Castle of Wuerzburg. On the appointed day, 34,000 armed peasants appeared, but the news had a discouraging effect on the mass; the majority went home, the more initiated retained about 16,000 with whom they moved to the castle under the leadership of Kunz of Thunfeld and his son Michael. The bishop, by means of promises, persuaded them to go home, but as soon as they began to disperse, they were attacked by the bishop’s horsemen, and many were imprisoned. Two were decapitated, and Hans the Piper was burned. Kunz of Thunfeld fled, and was allowed to return only at the price of ceding all his estates to the monastery. Pilgrimages to Niklashausen continued for some time, but were finally suppressed.
After this first attempt, Germany remained quiet for some time; but at the end of the century rebellions and conspiracies of the peasants started anew.
We shall pass over the Dutch peasant revolt of 1491 and 1492 which was suppressed by Duke Albrecht of Saxony in the battle near Heemskerk; also the revolt of the peasants of the Abbey of Kempten in Upper Suabia which occurred simultaneously, and the Frisian revolt under Shaard Ahlva, about 1497, which was also suppressed by Albrecht of Saxony. These revolts were mostly too far from the scene of the actual Peasant War. In part they were struggles of hitherto free peasants against the attempt to force feudalism upon them. We now pass to the two great conspiracies which prepared the Peasant War: the Union Shoe and the Poor Konrad.
The rise in the price of commodities which had called forth the revolt of the peasants in the Netherlands, brought about, in 1493, in Alsace, a secret union of peasants and plebeians with a sprinkling of the purely middle-class opposition party; and a certain amount of sympathy even among the lower nobility. The seat of the union was the region of Schlettstadt, Sulz, Dambach, Rossheim, Scherweiler, etc. The conspirators demanded the plundering and extermination of the Jews, whose usury then, as now, sucked the blood of the peasants of Alsace, the introduction of a jubilee year to cancel all debts, the abolition of taxes, tolls and other burdens, the abolition of the ecclesiastical and Rottweil (imperial) court, the right to ratify taxation, the reduction of the priests’ incomes to a prebend of between fifty and sixty guilders, the abolition of the auricular confession, and the establishment in the communities of courts elected by the communities themselves. The conspirators planned, as soon as they became strong enough, to overpower the stronghold of Schlettstadt, to confiscate the treasuries of the monasteries and the city, and from there to arouse the whole of Alsace. The banner of the union to be unfurled at the moment of insurrection, contained a peasant’s shoe with long leather strings, the so-called Union Shoe, which gave a symbol and a name to the peasant conspiracies of the following twenty years.
The conspirators held their meetings at night on the lonesome Hungerberg. Membership in the Union was connected with the most mysterious ceremonies and threats of severest punishment against traitors. Nevertheless, the movement became known about Easter Week of 1493, the time appointed for the attack on Schlettstadt. The authorities immediately intervened. Many of the conspirators were arrested and put on the rack, to be quartered or decapitated. Many were crippled by chopping their hands and fingers, and driven out of the country. A large number fled to Switzerland. The Union Shoe, however, was far from being annihilated and continued its existence in secret. Numerous exiles, spread over Switzerland and South Germany, became its emissaries. Finding everywhere the same oppression and the same inclination towards revolt, they spread the Union Shoe over the territory of present-day Baden. The greatest admiration is due the tenacity and endurance with which the peasants of upper Germany conspired for thirty years after 1493, with which they overcame the obstacles to a more centralised organisation in spite of the fact that they were scattered over the countryside, and with which, after numberless dispersions, defeats, executions of leaders, they renewed their conspiracies over and over again, until an opportunity came for a mass upheaval.
In 1502, the bishopric of Speyer, which at that time embraced also the locality of Bruchsal, showed signs of a secret movement among the peasants. The Union Shoe had here reorganised itself with considerable success. About 7,000 men belonged to the organisation whose centre was Untergrombach, between Bruchsal and Weingarten, and whose ramifications reached down the Rhine to the Main, and up to the Margraviate of Baden. Its articles provided: No ground rent, tithe, tax or toll to be paid to the princes, the nobility or the clergy; serfdom to be abolished; monasteries and other church estates to be confiscated and divided among the people, and no other authority to be recognised aside from the emperor.
We find here for the first time expressed among the peasants the two demands of secularising the church estates in favour of the people and of a unified and undivided German monarchy – demands which henceforth will be found regularly in the more advanced faction of the peasants and plebeians.
In Thomas Muenzer’s programme, the division of the church estates was transformed into confiscation in favour of common property, and the unified German empire, into the unified and undivided republic.
The renewed Union Shoe had, as well as the old, its own secret meeting places, its oath of silence, its initiation ceremonies, and its union banner with the legend, “Nothing but God’s justice.” The plan of action was similar to that of the Alsatian Union. Bruchsal, where the majority of the population belonged to the Union, was to be overpowered. A Union army was to be organised and dispatched into the surrounding principalities as moving points of concentration.
The plan was betrayed by a clergyman to whom one of the conspirators revealed it in the confessional. The governments immediately resorted to counter action. How widespread the Union had become, is apparent from the terror which seized the various imperial estates in Alsace and in the Union of Suabia. Troops were concentrated, and mass arrests were made. Emperor Maximilian, “the last of the knights,” issued the most bloodthirsty, punitive decree against the undertaking of the peasants. Hordes of peasants assembled here and there, and armed resistance was offered, but the isolated peasant troops could not hold ground for a long time. Some of the conspirators were executed and many fled, but the secrecy was so well preserved that the majority, and also the leaders, could remain unmolested in their own localities or in the countries of the neighbouring masters.
After this new defeat, there followed a prolonged period of apparent quiet in the class struggles. The work, however, was continued in an underground way. Already, in the first years of the Sixteenth Century, Poor Konrad was formed in Suabia, apparently in connection with the scattered members of the Union Shoe. In the Black Forest, the Union Shoe continued in isolated circles until, ten years later, an energetic peasant leader succeeded in uniting the various threads and combining them into a great conspiracy. Both conspiracies became public, one shortly after the other, in the restless years from 1513 to 1515, in which the Swiss, Hungarian and Slovenian peasants made a series of significant insurrections.
The man who restored the Upper Rhenish Union Shoe was Joss Fritz of Untergrombach, a fugitive from the conspiracy of 1502, a former soldier, in all respects an outstanding figure. After his flight, he had kept himself in various localities between the Lake Constance and the Black Forest, and finally settled as a vassal near Freiburg in Breisgau, where he even became a forester. Interesting details as to the manner in which he reorganised the Union from this point of vantage and as to the skill with which he managed to attract people of different character, are contained in the investigations. It was due to the diplomatic talent and the untiring endurance of this model conspirator that a considerable number of people of the most divergent classes became involved in the Union: knights, priests, burghers, plebeians and peasants, and it is almost certain that he organised several grades of the conspiracy, one more or less sharply divided from the other. All serviceable elements were utilised with the greatest circumspection and skill. Outside of the initiated emissaries who wandered over the country in various disguises, the vagrants and beggars were used for subordinate missions. Joss stood in direct communication with the beggar kings, and through them he held in his hand the numerous vagabond population. In fact, the beggar kings played a considerable role in his conspiracy. Very original figures they were, these beggar kings. One roamed the country with a girl using her seemingly wounded feet as a pretext for begging; he wore more than eight insignia on his hat – the fourteen deliverers, St. Ottilie, Our Mother in Heaven, etc.; besides, he wore a long red beard, and carried a big knotty stick with a dagger and pike. Another, begging in the name of St. Velten, offered spices and worm-seeds; he wore a long iron-coloured coat, a red barret, with the Baby of Trient attached thereto, a sword at his side, and many knives and a dagger on his girdle. Others had artificial open wounds, besides similar picturesque attire.
There were at least ten of them, and for the price of two thousand guilders they were supposed to set fire simultaneously in Alsace, in the Margraviate of Baden, and in Breisgau, and to put themselves, with at least 2,000 men of their own, under the command of Georg Schneider, the former Captain of the Lansquenets, on the day of the Zabern Parish Fair in Rozen, in order to conquer the city. A courier service from station to station was established between real members of the union. Joss Fritz and his chief emissary, Stoffel of Freiburg, continually riding from place to place, reviewed the armies of the neophytes at night. There is ample material in the documents of the court investigations relative to the spread of the Union in the Upper Rhine and Black Forest regions. The documents contain many names of members from the various localities in that region, together with descriptions of persons. Most of those mentioned were journeymen, peasants and innkeepers, a few nobles, priests (like that of Lehen himself), and unemployed Lansquenets. This composition shows the more developed character that the Union Shoe had assumed under Joss Fritz. The plebeian element of the cities began to assert itself more and more. The ramifications of the conspiracy went over into Alsace, present-day Baden, up to Wuerttemberg and the Main. Larger meetings were held from time to time on remote mountains such as the Kniebis, etc., and the affairs of the Union were discussed. The meetings of the chiefs, often participated in by local members as well as by delegates of the more remote localities, took place on the Hartmatte near Lehen, and it was here that the fourteen articles of the Union were adopted: No master besides the emperor, and (according to some) the pope; abolition of the Rottweil imperial court; limitation of the church court to religious affairs; abolition of all interest which had been paid so long that it equalled the capital; an interest of 5 per cent as the highest permissible rate; freedom of hunting, fishing, grazing, and wood cutting; limitation of the priests to one prebend for each; confiscation of all church estates and monastery gems in favour of the Union; abolition of all inequitable taxes and tolls; eternal peace within entire Christendom, energetic action against all opponents of the Union; Union taxes; seizure of a strong city, such as Freiburg, to serve as the centre of the Union; opening of negotiations with the emperor as soon as the Union hordes were gathered, and with Switzerland in case the emperor declined – these were the points agreed upon. We see that the demands of the peasants and plebeians assumed a more and more definite and decisive form, although concessions had to be made in the same measure to the more moderate and timid elements as well.
The blow was to be struck about Autumn, 1513. Nothing was lacking but a Union banner, and Joss Fritz went to Heilbrun to have it painted. It contained, besides all sorts of emblems and pictures, the Union Shoe and the legend “God help thy divine justice.” While he was away, a premature attempt was made to overwhelm Freiburg, but the attempt was discovered. Some indiscretions in the conduct of the propaganda put the council of Freiburg and the Margrave of Baden on the right track. The betrayal of two conspirators completed the series of disclosures. Presently the Margrave, the council of Freiburg, and the imperial government of Ensisheim sent out their spies and soldiers. A number of Union members were arrested, tortured and executed. But the majority escaped once more, Joss Fritz among them. The Swiss government now persecuted the fugitives with great assiduity and even executed many of them. However, it could not prevent the majority of the fugitives from keeping themselves continually in the vicinity of their homes and gradually returning there. The Alsace government in Ensisheim was more cruel than the others. It ordered very many to be decapitated, broken on the wheel, and quartered. Joss Fritz kept himself mainly on the Swiss bank of the Rhine, but he also went often to the Black Forest without ever being apprehended.
Why the Swiss made common cause with the neighbouring governments this time is apparent from the peasant revolt that broke out the following year, 1514, in Berne, Sollothurne and Lucerne, and resulted in a purging of the aristocratic governments and the institution of patricians. The peasants also forced through some privileges for themselves. If these Swiss local revolts succeeded, it was simply due to the fact that there was still less centralisation in Switzerland than in Germany. The local German masters were all subdued by the peasants of 1525, and if they succumbed, it was due to the organised mass armies of the princes. These latter, however, did not exist in Switzerland.
Simultaneously with the Union Shoe in Baden, and apparently in direct connection with it, a second conspiracy was formed in Wuerttemberg. According to documents, it had existed since 1503, but since the name Union Shoe became too dangerous after the dispersal of the Untergrombach conspirators, it adopted the name of Poor Konrad. Its seat was the valley of Rems underneath the mountain of Hohenstaufen. Its existence had been no mystery for a long time, at least among the people. The shameless pressure of Duke Ulrich’s government, and the series of famine years which so greatly aided the outbreaks of 1513 and 1514, had increased the number of conspirators. The newly imposed taxes on wine, meat and bread, as well as a capital tax of one penny yearly for every guilder, caused the new outbreak. The city of Schorndorf, where the heads of the complot used to meet in the house of a cutler named Kaspar Pregizer, was to be seized first. In the spring of 1514, the rebellion broke out. Three thousand, and, according to others, five thousand peasants appeared before the city, and were persuaded by the friendly promises of the Duke’s officers to move on. Duke Ulrich, having promised the abolition of the new tax, came riding fast with eighty horsemen, to find that everything was quiet in consequence of the promise. He promised to convene a diet where all complaints would be examined. The chiefs of the organisation, however, knew very well that Ulrich sought only to keep the people quiet until he had recruited and concentrated enough troops to be able to break his word and collect the taxes by force. They issued from Kaspar Pregizer’s house, “the office of Poor Konrad,” a call to a Union congress, this call having the support of emissaries everywhere. The success of the first uprising in the valley of Rems had everywhere strengthened the movement among the people. The papers and the emissaries found a favourable response, and so the congress held in Untertuerkheim on May 28, was attended by numerous representatives from all parts of Wuerttemberg. It was decided immediately to proceed with the propaganda and to strike a decisive blow in the valley of Rems at the first opportunity in order to spread the uprising from that point in every direction. While Bantelshans of Dettingen, a former soldier, and Singerhans of Wuertingen, a prominent peasant, were bringing the Suabian Alp into the Union, the uprising broke out on every side. Though Singerhans was suddenly attacked and seized, the cities of Backnang, Winnenden, and Markgroenningen fell into the hands of the peasants combined with the plebeians, and the entire territory from Weinsberg to Blaubeuren and from there up to the frontiers of Baden, was in open revolt. Ulrich was compelled to yield. However, while he was calling the Diet for June 25, he sent out a circular letter to the surrounding princes and free cities, asking for aid against the uprising, which, he said, threatened all princes, authorities and nobles in the empire, and which “strangely resembled the Union Shoe.”
In the meantime, the Diet, representing the cities, and many delegates of the peasants who also demanded seats in the Diet, convened on June 18 in Stuttgart.
The prelates were not there as yet. The knights had not been invited. The opposition of the city of Stuttgart, as well as two threatening hordes of peasants at Leonberg nearby in the valley of Rems, strengthened the demands of the peasants. Their delegates were admitted, and it was decided to depose and punish three of the hated councillors of the Duke – Lamparter, Thumb and Lorcher, to add to the Duke a council of four knights, four burghers and four peasants, to grant him a civil list, and to confiscate the monasteries and the endowments in favour of the State treasury.
Duke Ulrich met these revolutionary decisions with a coup d’état. On June 21, he rode with his knights and councillors to Tuebingen, where he was followed by the prelates. He ordered the middle-class to come there as well. This was obeyed, and there he continued the session of the Diet without the peasants. The burghers, confronted with military terrorism, betrayed their allies, the peasants. On July 8, the Tuebingen agreement came into being, which imposed on the country almost a million of the Duke’s debt, imposed on the Duke some limitations of power which he never fulfilled, and disposed of the peasants with a few meagre general phrases and a very definite penal law against insurrection. Of course, nothing was mentioned about peasant representation in the Diet. The plain people cried “Treason!” but the Duke, having acquired new credits after his debts were taken over by the estates, soon gathered troops while his neighbours, particularly the Elector Palatine, were sending military aid. Thus, by the end of July, the Tuebingen agreement had been accepted all over the country, and a new oath taken. Only in the valley of Rems did Poor Konrad offer resistance. The Duke, who rode there in person, was almost killed. A peasant camp was formed on the mountain of Koppel. But the affair dragged on, most of the insurgents running away for lack of food; later the remaining ones also went home after concluding an ambiguous agreement with some representatives of the Diet. Ulrich, whose army had in the meantime been strengthened by voluntarily offered troops of the cities which, having attained their demands, now fanatically turned against the peasants, attacked the valley of Rems contrary to the terms of the agreement, and plundered its cities and villages. Sixteen hundred peasants were captured, sixteen of them decapitated, and the rest receiving heavy fines in favour of Ulrich’s treasury. Many remained in prison for a long time. A number of penal laws were issued against a renewal of the organisation, against all gatherings of peasants, and the nobility of Suabia formed a special union for the suppression of all attempts at insurrection. Meantime, the chief leaders of Poor Konrad had succeeded in escaping into Switzerland, whence most of them returned home singly, after the lapse of a few years.
Simultaneously with the Wuerttemberg movement, symptoms of new Union Shoe activities became manifest in Breisgau and in the Margraviate of Baden. In June, an insurrection was attempted at Buehl, but it was immediately dispersed by Margrave Philipp – the leader, Gugel-Bastian of Freiburg, having been seized and executed on the block.
In the spring of the same year, 1514, a general peasant war broke out in Hungary. A crusade against the Turks was being preached, and, as usual, freedom was promised to the serfs and bondsmen who would join it. About 60,000 congregated, and were to be under the command of György Dózsa, a Szekler, who had distinguished himself in the preceding Turkish wars and even attained nobility. The Hungarian knights and magnates, however, looked with disfavour upon the crusade which threatened to deprive them of their property and slaves. They hastily followed the individual hordes of peasants, and took back their serfs by force and mistreated them. When the army of crusaders learned about it, all the fury of the oppressed peasants was unleashed. Two of the men, enthusiastic advocates of the crusade, Lawrence Mészáros and Barnabas, fanned the fire, inciting the hatred of the army against the nobility by their revolutionary speeches. Dózsa himself shared the anger of his troops against the treacherous nobility. The army of crusaders became an army of the revolution, and Dózsa assumed leadership of the movement.
He camped with his peasants in the Rakos field near Pest. Hostilities were opened with encounters between the peasants and the people of the nobility in the surrounding villages and in the suburbs of Pest. Soon there were skirmishes, and then followed Sicilian Vespers for all the nobility who fell into the hands of the peasants, and burning of all the castles in the vicinity. The court threatened in vain. When the first acts of the people’s justice towards the nobility had been accomplished under the walls of the city, Dózsa proceeded to further operations. He divided his army into five columns. Two were sent to the mountains of Upper Hungary in order to effect an insurrection and to exterminate the nobility. The third, under Ambros Szaleves, a citizen of Pest, remained on the Rakos to guard the capital. The fourth and fifth were led by Dózsa and his brother Gregor against Szegedin.
In the meantime, the nobility gathered in Pest, and called to its aid Johann Zapolya, the voivode of Transylvania. The nobility, joined by the middle-class of Budapest, attacked and annihilated the army on the Rakos, after Szaleves with the middle-class elements of the peasant army had gone over to the enemy. A host of prisoners were executed in the most cruel fashion. The rest were sent home minus their noses and ears.
Dózsa suffered defeat before Szegedin and moved to Czanad which he captured, having defeated an army of the nobility under Batory Istvan and Bishop Esakye, and having perpetrated bloody repressions on the prisoners, among them the Bishop and the royal Chancellor Teleky, for the atrocities committed on the Rakos. In Czanad he proclaimed a republic, abolition of the nobility, general equality and sovereignty of the people, and then moved toward Temesvar, to which place Batory had rushed with his army. But during the siege of this fortress which lasted for two months and while he was being reinforced by a new army under Anton Hosza, his two army columns in Upper Hungary suffered defeat in several battles at the hand of the nobility, and Johann Zapolya, with his Transylvanian army, moved against him. The peasants were attacked by Zapolya and dispersed. Dózsa was captured, roasted on a red hot throne, and his flesh eaten by his own people, whose lives were granted to them only under this condition. The dispersed peasants, reassembled by Lawrence and Hosza, were defeated again, and whoever fell into the hands of the enemies were either impaled or hanged. The peasants’ corpses hung in thousands along the roads or at the entrances of burned-down villages. According to reports, about 60,000 either fell in battle, or were massacred. The nobility took care that at the next session of the Diet, the enslavement of the peasants should again be recognised as the law of the land.
The peasant revolt in Carinthia, Carniola and Styria, the “windy marshes,” which broke out at the same time, originated in a conspiracy akin to the Union Shoe, organised as early as 1503 in that region, wrung dry by imperial officers, devastated by Turkish invasions, and tortured by famines. It was this conspiracy that made the insurrection possible. Already in 1513, the Slovenian as well as the German peasants of this region had once more raised the war banner of the Stara Prawa (The Old Rights). They allowed themselves to be placated that time, and when in 1514 they gathered anew in large masses, they were again persuaded to go home by a direct promise of the Emperor Maximilian to restore the old rights. Still, the war of vengeance by the deceived people broke out in the Spring of 1515 with much more vigour. Here, as in Hungary, castles and monasteries were destroyed, captured nobles being tried and executed by peasant juries. In Styria and Carinthia, the emperor’s captain Dietrichstein soon succeeded in crushing the revolt. In Carniola, it could be suppressed only through an attack from Rain (Autumn, 1516) and through subsequent Austrian atrocities which formed a worthy counterpart to the infamies of the Hungarian nobility.
It is clear why, after a series of such decisive defeats, and after these mass atrocities of the nobility, the German peasants remained quiescent for a long time. Still, neither conspiracies nor local uprisings were totally absent. Already in 1516 most of the fugitives of the Union Shoe and Poor Konrad had returned to Suabia and to the upper Rhine. In 1517 the Union Shoe was again in full swing in the Black Forest. Joss Fritz himself, who still carried in his bosom the old Union Shoe banner of 1513, traversed the Black Forest in various directions, and developed great activity. The conspiracy was being organised anew. Meetings were again held on the Kniebis as they had been four years before. Secrecy, however, was not maintained. The governments learned the facts and interfered. Many were captured and executed. The most active and intelligent members were compelled to flee, among them Joss Fritz, who, although still not captured, seems, however, to have died in Switzerland a short time afterwards. At any rate, his name is not mentioned again.
Last updated on 15 July 2020