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“Windish” Wends from Hungary

by John Noack

An article with the title “Windish Lutherans at Home and Abroad” published in The Lutheran Quarterly, the theological journal of the Lutheran Church of America and the American Lutheran Church in May 1955 has been sent to us by Archivist Lyall Kupke, after being located by Pastor Loffler.

The author, Ernest A. Stiegler, traces the history of the Wends from when they dwelt along the River Vistula and were known as ‘Venedi’ to their move into Western Europe, calling themselves ‘Slovenci’ but being nick-named Wends by their neighbours.

He observes that two groups of Wends still exist today.

The Wends or Sorbs of Lusatia who lived and still live along the upper course of the River Spree around Bautzen and Cottbus have been of great interest to our Wendish Heritage Society. However, this article presents a second surviving group of European Wends who for over 1,500 years lived in a mountainous area above the Muhr (Mura) River at the intersection of three countries, Austria, Hungary and Yugoslavia. Their land was occupied by the Magyars in about 900CE (Common Era) and between 1500 and 1700 they faced attacks by the Turks. After the Reformation, some became Lutherans and in 1771 Rev Stephen Kuzmics translated the New Testament into Wendish.

When more land was needed, some of these Wends from Hungary migrated to America between 1900 and 1914, where many settled around Bethlehem in Pennsylvania.

The author knows so much about these Wends because he learned their language when he became their pastor on 4 July 1914 and was installed at St John’s Windish Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem Pa. In 1927 he visited their European homeland and in 1955 in this article, he thankfully let the rest of the world know about this other group of ancient Wends who survived into the 21st century.