How the German Villages Were Organized

The settlements occurred in two different forms, the "Schulzendörfern" and the "Holländereien".

a) The "Schulzendörfer"

The modern "Schulzendörfer" was linked up with the Middle Ages village settlement. Again there were settlement contractors (locators), who carried out an immigration on behalf of the Polish landlords and, in return, got to carry forward the hereditary office of village mayor. The colonization occurred according to the Magdeburg law, although, compared with the Middle Ages, the settlement laws were, of course, more modest, and the villages smaller.

The village mayor received, in most cases, only two hides (hufen = the area of two farms each able to support a family) as personal property and, in addition, was committed to various services, such as the furnishing of vehicles for the landlords. The settler received the land in hereditary tenancy, was obliged to make tax payments and, in addition, duties in kind and military service. Nevertheless, his situation was more advantageous than in Brandenburg and Pomerania, and, therefore, many farmers followed the advertising appeal and made the broad forest district on the sand-flats on both sides of the Netze arable.

b) The Holländereien

The "Holländer settlements" are actually traced back to Netherlands Protestants, above all, to the Mennonites (an Anabaptist community named after their founder, Menno Siemons), who had to leave their homeland for religious reasons and had been summoned by Duke Albrecht of Prussia and the city of Danzig for the damming up and draining of the Weichsel [river] lowlands. On account of their extremely successful work they also were immediately enlisted to settle by other landlords who wanted to open up swampy estates. As settlement specialists they were entitled to religious freedom, even by the Catholic clerical landlords, and were allowed to keep their Protestant creed. In this way, the Holländer settlements kept on pushing towards Poland along the river lowlands. The Posen province was already taken hold of by the end of the 16th century. In 1594 the first Holländerei originated at Bromberg/Bydgoszcz, and many additional ones followed along the river valleys of the Netze and Warthe.

Characteristic of the "Holländereien" was the cooperative self-administration by the community of free settlers, called "neighbors". The mayor was chosen yearly; however not he, but the community, concluded the contracts with the landlords. The land was taken possession of in long-term time-leases (25-60 years, then generally extended). No one had to perform military services, and the rent was to be paid in cash. The tax obligation existed after the expiration of the free year.

Since the end of the 16th century, as the migration from Holland diminished, the notion of "Holländerei" (variant also "Hauländerei") passed on to all settlements their form of law and economic system, and the name "Holländer" was thereby transferred also to those settled there from Pomerania, Brandenburg, Silesia and, in some cases, even Poland.

From: Die Deutschen im Posener Land und in Mittelpolen, by Joachim Rogell (The Germans in Posen and in Middle Poland)

Munich, Albert Langen, 1993. 208 pages. (Study book series of the Foundation of the East German Culture Council, vol. 3, Langen Müller)

Extracted & translated by Posen-L subscriber Sue Wolf, 2000