The Story Behind an “Insignificant” Military Stein
By Peter Fahrendorf
The Event was “The Thirty Years War of 1618-1648. The participants, or opponents, were sixteen countries, Catholics and Protestants, who fought over the control of the Germanic territories. Key Players were: “Gustavus Adolphus II, King of Sweden, a Lutheran, who defeated Count Tilly, representing Ferdinand II, the Holy Roman Emperor. The Scene on the stein is: Surrender after the Battle of Breitenfeld about 100 miles south of Berlin in 1631. This was the first major victory of the Protestants over the Catholics. The picture on the right shows the Burgomeister of Breitenfeld presenting the keys of the city to King Gustav on horseback. By 1648, when the war ended by the Treaty of Westphalia, one-third (1/3) of the population of central Europe had been killed and in some areas, the casualties ran as high as 50%. Germany was decimated with the destruction of 2,000 castles, 18,000 villages, and 1,400 towns with 7.6 million dead. Gustavus Adolfus II (Gustavus the Great) is considered to be the father of modern warfare. His adult life was largely spent in battle, succumbing while leading a charge during this campaign.
Today, the effects of the Thirty Years War directly impact those researchers into genealogy. If you are able to trace your German ancestors back to 1648, chances are you won’t be able to do much better. One result of the Thirty Years War was that the Germanic States started passing laws requiring records to be duplicated and in later wars they buried them in lead containers.
(This article was submitted to the Die Lustigen Steinjaeger newsletter editor after our November 2013 meeting.)