|Duke Friedrich I of Württemberg had a long-cherished dream: to build a city in the middle of his
Duchy at the northern extremity of the Black Forest. At the same time, persecuted Protestants from
Austrian lands needed a place to go after the edict of Emperor Ferdinand in 1598, and the Duke
offered hospitality to the exiles. Each new settler was to be given free land for their own homes and
promised enough well-paid work in the Duke's new city and the surrounding mines. In addition, there
was good timber and fields for their own needs. They were granted freedom and a future of peace
and prosperity. The Duke's land had silver mines, and mining was an occupation familiar to many of
the emigrants, and this is how the town of Freudenstädt in the Black Forest got its start.
In 1599, the first exiles from Carinthia arrived in what was still wilderness and they had to first clear
the forests and build the necessary infrastructure. Only a remote road leading toward Strasbourg was
in place in the wild countryside.
The Duke hired Renaissance architect Heinrich Schick Hardt to design a town plan and he
commanded him to build a castle "in the middle of the market" larger than the Stuttgart Castle. The
foundation stone of a new church for the exiles was laid in 1601, but the Duke unfortunately died in
1608 before his dream was completed: he never saw his castle built. However, because it was
planned to contain a castle, the market place in Freudenstädt was and still is the largest in Germany.
The new residents initially lived in simple wooden huts, but by 1602, four sides of the market place
were built with a total of 80 buildings completed. The population grew steadily and more and more
refugees arrived. By 1603, 250 settlers had become 1000 people and by 1609, 2,000.
Among the immigrants from Carinthia were some from Styria and also some Protestant Slavs. In
1628, after 300 Protestant nobles back home in Carinthia were expelled, the population grew even
more. The Duke's vision was realized after his death and Freudenstadt, built to give refuge to
persecuted religious exiles, turned into a place of remarkable beauty.
Friedrich I, Duke of Württemberg, the son of Georg Mömpelgard, is alluded to in Shakespeare's
'The Merry Wives of Windsor'. As heir apparent to the dukedom of Württemberg, Friedrich visited
Windsor and other English cities in 1592, and he yearned to be made a Knight of the Garter and
repeatedly solicited Queen Elizabeth for the honor. After he inherited the dukedom and became more
prominent, she admitted him to the order, but intentionally did not inform him in time for him to
attend the spring investiture in 1597, the ceremony for which 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' was
written. Thus Shakespeare's references to the one German duke who would not be present in
Windsor were jokes, and they appeared in the First Folio edition of the play.
Napoleon took his armies through Württemberg on his way to attack the eastern countries and to
Russia, and these marches ravaged and plundered Germany. The French troops demanded free
quartering and food all along the way from peasants and dukes alike, resulting in severe food
shortages. The smaller hamlets of the Württemberg area were also becoming over-populated, and the
younger generation had no land of their own. Many people left the area at this time.
Some were invited to settle in the vast empire of Russia from about 1763 to 1862. German workers
and traders were already living there, having settled in the 16th century at the invitation first of Ivan
the Terrible (1553-1584), then by Peter the Great (1672-1725), who had invited Germans to Russia
to help him "westernize" rural Russia, and then by Catharine the Great who enticed settlers to
sparsely populated regions, especially in the Volga valley. Some Württembergers moved to the area
of today's Ukraine. Friedrich the Great of Prussia also offered Württembergers land in Prussian
Poland if they would come teach the local people modern farming methods, especially in areas
recently reclaimed by clearing brush and draining marshes. Even young America beckoned. By the
year 1765, there were an estimated 7500-8000 Germans and German-Swiss who had come to the
province of South Carolina, many Württembergers among them.
|The Merry Duke of Württemberg and His New Town
|Market place and Lutheran church in Freudenstädt before and after war
|During the Second World War, the French bitterly avenged themselves under General Jean de Lattre
de Tassigny on April 16/17, 1945, after German troops had withdrawn and the town was
undefended. French troops began a bombardment of the town with explosives and incendiaries in late
afternoon, followed by a heavy bomb attack, and then another.
The barrage lasted into the following night, reducing the town to rubble and ash and unnecessarily
destroying 95% of the core of the city. French soldiers of the third Moroccan Spahi regiment under
the command of Major Christian de Castries went into the town with official permission to plunder,
and this they did, for three days and three nights, even robbing the inhabitants in broad daylight.
Buildings which had been lucky enough to escape bomb destruction were set ablaze and the Germans
were forbidden to extinguish the fires which were burning their homes and businesses. Surviving
citizens of Freudenstädt who had taken refuge in their cellars were ferreted out of their shelters,
thrown into the streets and robbed and shot. 500 women and girls were documented as having been
raped. The carnage went on for days, leaving 1,400 Families homeless. As in other bomb ravaged
cities, there was great debate later as to whether to rebuild in modern or original form and a
combination won out. After "re-education", beleaguered Freudenstädt led the pack in the apologetic
"reconciliation" movement and is now "twinned" to a French city.
|The Return of the French