Zwar > Historic Archives

Appeal To The King

An Appeal to the King of Saxony
for better treatment for the Wends


In 1848 there were political uprisings throughout Germany. They emanated from Paris, and had the ideals of the French Revolution of Freedom & Equality as their cause. The Wends of Saxony took the opportunity to present a special petition to the Royal Saxon National Assembly. A delegation travelled to Dresden in July where they presented the Petition to the Prime Minister, Dr. Braun. The delegation also spoke to the King who treated them most graciously. The Petition had been printed as a booklet and widely circulated, and 130 years later a copy was found by Kevin Zwar in the loft of Johann Zwar’s old homestead at Ebenezer in South Australia. The Petition gives a good insight into the difficulties the Wends experienced living under German Saxon rule. The indigenous peoples in countries like Australia, Canada and the U S A would identify with the experiences described in the petition. History often repeats itself!


Wendish to German

I will therefore print it in full as this is also the first time to my knowledge that the Petition has been made available in English. It is significant the original petition was published in the Wendish language.
I want to pay a special tribute to the translators who have made this Petition available for us to read in English. Their valuable work is often overlooked or taken for granted.
Pastor Siegfried Albert translated the lengthy petition from Wendish into German. At the time he was a full time pastor of the Lutheran Church in Gröditz in East Germany. I wanted to reward him with something for his work. One was not allowed to send money into East Germany in those times. We had an arrangement where I sent money to his sister in West Germany, who then bought goods suggested by Siegfried. She delivered them to her brother when she visited him. I must say the amounts I was able to send were far short of what he deserved! We owe a debt of gratitude to Pastor Albert for translating this Petition, and for many other articles he translated from Wendish over the years. Pastor Albert now [Feb 2004] lives in retirement in Bautzen.

German to English

The translation from the German version to the English was carried out by Pastor Rupert Burger. He was paid nothing! He did it out of friendship and his deep love of Wendish history.

Historians report that only a few of the requests made in the Petition by the Wends were met.
… Kevin P Zwar



addressed to the Royal Saxon National Assembly.


It is a known fact that the Wends of Lusatia and also of some mixed villages have by God’s grace retained their national identity. Without claiming any personal credit, we can declare before our nation that we honour our king, whom God the King of Kings, has given us; also that we have full confidence in the men whom he has appointed to high positions in the government.

In our time people and nations have brought forward complaints to their governments about those things that disturbed them and applied for that which they needed. Also we Wends have long been aware of those things we lacked but in our natural love of peace we did not wish to use the unrest of the past months to the government’s embarrassment and to our own advantage. This unrest began in our general area and even close at hand until it spread like a storm cloud over a great many countries.

As this raging storm has now been allayed and since you have permitted all our people confidently to present their petitions, we Wends also come to pour out our hearts before you and as we think that you would find it preferable in this way to become acquainted with our petitions before the new laws, designed to bring about an easing and improvement in the situation, are presented to the national representatives for their decision, also because in this way we can draw your attention to those matters which are helpful and even essential for us. Yes, we approach you because you have shown such a friendly concern for the requests made by our German brethren and supplied as far as possible all reasonable demands made by them. We confidently look to you, trusting that you will not reject our pleas but hear them out and that the more so since we are not foreigners in this state of Saxony but from time immemorial have had our legal rights as citizens of this land.

We beg not only that our beloved folkways and mother tongue be preserved, but also that these might be cultivated and held in high honour, yes, especially our mother tongue which since childhood has become so much a part of our inner feelings and our thinking that we cannot surrender them but rather regard them to be gifts, as we firmly believe, of our heavenly Father who in his wisdom has predetermined in which nation each person is to be born.

We are happy that our German brethren esteem their national customs so highly, regarding no sacrifice too great in order to uphold them and that they cannot idly look on should the German name and the German language be treated with contempt as has become evident in our time when the Danish people tried to destroy the German language and German culture.
We also firmly trust that our German brothers will not only demand justice for themselves but also that they will accord us the same privileges, especially because we have the same citizenship duties to fulfil and wish to enjoy the corresponding privileges. In Frankfurt the national assembly which determines the future policies affecting the German territories has already promised that each national group must have the same rights with respect to language as the Germans themselves possess. We herewith ask for that which had been promised.

We however request:
“that the honourable Royal Saxon General Assembly give consideration to and grant that the Wend language may have the same right among the Wends as the German language has among the Germans, and this particularly in the schools, churches, in law-making and in law courts,”

Permit us now to elaborate further and in greater detail the matters herewith requested and the reasons prompting us.



In the first place we beg for changes in our schools, because here among our beloved youth whom God the Lord has built up through spiritual renewal and awakening, we find the greatest need, which deeply grieves us.

Quite some time ago it was decreed that the German language be taught in the Wendish schools; we were quite agreeable to this and request that this continue to be done, because in our daily intercourse and on the market-place we constantly meet Germans.

However, the manner in which the German language was taught in our schools did great harm to our children. Nowhere, when people begin to learn a foreign language, be it on university level or in the better city schools, is this done with all instruction given in that foreign language. Then why should this most difficult demand be made in the case of our Wendish children?
Deeply disturbed, we must raise our voice against this system, because we know the unhappiness which arose because of this. Permit us to make public our grievances in this matter. The Christian faith is taught frequently using the German language for this purpose in our Wendish schools. According to the school regulations (of the 6 June,1835, par 26) it is of course permitted to teach the Christian faith in Wendish in our Wendish schools, but what can and dare we do when the teachers of the Wendish children decide to use German to impart this sacred instruction? True, the law does not forbid this, as according to the phrasing of the law the use of the Wendish language during religious instruction is permitted but not expressly commanded. What can we now say when here and there it has come to this that the time allotted for religious instruction is wasted by getting the Wendish children to learn German answers to German questions, without regard to the lack of benefit from this type of teaching. From this it follows that these sacred doctrines remain German, that is foreign, to the children. A far greater injustice is thereby done our children who are only beginning to learn God’s Word, than would be done to us adults, should someone deprive us of worship in the Wendish language and insist that God’s Word be expounded only in German. We are deeply convinced that this is an entirely wrong and harmful procedure and we must confess that we do not recognize instruction in Holy Scripture in an unknown, unintelligible language to be a worthy application of God’s Word, but rather a misuse of the same. Already the holy apostles, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, spoke to the various nations in the language the people best understood, namely in their mother tongue. Where this was done, great blessing resulted. Yet in our Wendish schools the Gospel has here and there been proclaimed in the unintelligible German language. Attention was given, not that the Wendish children should receive God’s Word into their hearts, but that German words be stored in their memories. How can attention be given when following this course so that the power of God’s Word might become a living force in the hearts of the children?

Also children must hear the great deeds of God in their mother tongue otherwise their hearts remain cold and unmoved, with the result that neither the Christian homes nor the fatherland benefit. For the employment of the German language in this wrong way when giving instruction in the Christian faith leads to neither piety nor to the development of a strong character. Under these conditions we look in vain for spiritual blessings and the extension of God’s kingdom is almost impossible.

Further, the Wends often lack the most elementary experience which in these days of secular enlightenment is becoming ever more necessary for the physical well-being of all, so that they are often at a real disadvantage also in everyday affairs. This is really not our own fault, but is due to the replacement of the Wendish
language by the German. We repeat that it is necessary and to our advantage that we Wends learn the German language. We therefore desire that the German language be taught in our schools, also in the future. It gives us no pleasure, however, to think that our schools were founded only for the purpose of learning the German language, for it would then appear that the Wendish language should be rooted out.

Also we are deeply saddened that here and there our dear old Wendish books have been removed from the schools and replaced by German books. We are convinced that this is not in any way the wish of our dear government ministers, who because of their integrity are respected throughout the land. We are the more saddened that certain of the minor officials have of their own accord undertaken to suppress the Wendish language, also that some have so disregarded the needs of the Wendish schools that they have appointed Germans who are not competent in the Wendish language as teachers of our Wendish children.

For our material well-being we need not only the German language but other useful training. What is the situation in this regard with respect to the greater part of our Wendish people? It is just as bad as it would be for the German nation, were the German children to be instructed entirely in an unfamiliar, strange language. The benefits of a school cannot be as great if a foreign language is used rather than the mother tongue.

Since previously the necessary instruction in secular subjects was not given in Wendish, is it any wonder that the majority of our Wends have not had an adequate education in those areas most needed in our tines? That they know little about these things is not the fault of our language, but that it was thrust aside and suppressed.
All the reputable teachers in every nation are agreed that school instruction can only then be effective when received in one’s mother tongue, because children can only in this way fully absorb the instruction given.
Similarly it is agreed that only through the use of the mother tongue can the mental powers of the children really be awakened, harnessed and their gifts fully developed.
Only through the mother tongue which comes from the heart and reaches the heart, can the happy young powers be awakened, captured, lifted to new heights and enriched. Whoever weighs these matters carefully will look with sorrow and sincere sympathy upon our Wendish nation, which for so long was denied the benefits derived from an education received in one’s native language. Accordingly it is clear to all that our Wendish language must no longer be set aside in our schools if they are really to produce the right results.
With real gratification we note that learned and prominent Wends hold their mother tongue in high regard and praise its beauty and strength. So the days are passed, with God’s help, when the name Wend was regarded as something unpleasant and the language as something to be despised.

The Germans are well provided for in our high schools and in our seminary at Bautzen. Since it has long been recognised that only he can adequately exercise his calling among Germans who are fully conversant with German, it has therefore been resolved that in these places of learning particular emphasis be placed on the study of the German language. But the same consideration is not given to our Wendish youths, who later will be called upon to serve the Wends. Isn’t a thorough training in the Wendish language just as necessary for our Wendish young people as German is for the German students? Foreign languages, which one often forgets in later life, must there be learnt, but Wendish has so far not been found worthy and deserving of a permanent teacher to instruct in the Wendish language and literature.
We do not here wish to take up the fact that in Leipzig no instruction whatever is given in the Wendish language. Many of our educated Wends feel this fact keenly and openly mention that they would be better able to carry out the duties of their office if the Wendish language, in which they had no training, were not so difficult for them and if they could express themselves in it correctly.
We are fully convinced that we only need to draw the attention of our honourable ministers to this great need which so heavily presses upon us, with the result that they will immediately legislate that, since we are asking nothing unjust, we should be given that of which we should no longer be deprived.

If we now may summarise all that we Wends need in the matter of our schools, we have the following requests:

“May it please the honourable Royal Saxon General Assembly to consider and grant:
i) that the Wendish language no longer be suppressed in our schools, but rather that our mother tongue be fully recognised and used as a medium of instruction; at the same time that the German language be classified as a subject of major importance;

2) that in the high school and seminary in Bautzen a trained Wend be appointed as a regular member of the teaching staff, to give instruction in the Wendish language and to prepare Wend youths for service among Wends; also that the Wendish seminarists be given opportunity to gain experience in giving instruction in matters relating to the Wends.”



We recognize, with hearty thanks and inner joy, that by far the greater number of our people have divine services in the Wendish language every Sunday and on every festival day, also hearing Wendish used at the celebration of Holy Communion, at baptisms and at all other religious observances. But this is not the case in every Wendish congregation. For among the Wends there are congregations, in which there is a preaching service in Wendish only on every second Sunday. There are even some congregations in which Wendish is never used. There are also congregations in which sermons are given in Wendish but in all other sacred acts only German is used. Why must these congregations lack what other Wends enjoy? Our honourable assembly will surely not deny them this privilege, would they request it.

Because the installation of a new pastor is a very important ceremony for every congregation it was decreed quite a number of years ago by the highest church authorities that such installation ceremonies should take place in the congregations which receive that new pastor. The same authorities decreed that such installations be conducted in the Wendish language in such congregations in which there are more Wends than Germans. But just the most important part of the ceremony, namely the solemn vow, is spoken in German in such congregations.

The previous honourable assembly had praised through the minister of the day, Mr von Wittersheim, that a Wendish service shall be held for the many Lutheran Wends resident in Dresden and neighbourhood. So far this has not yet been done. What has been said of the Lutherans applies exactly to the same degree in the case of the Catholic Wends. Frenchmen and Englishmen in Dresden now hear their mother tongue in their divine services. We have full confidence in the honourable members of our assembly, that they will very soon attend to this matter.

We accordingly petition that

“The honourable Royal Saxon General Assembly consider and grant:

i) that in all Wendish congregations the preaching of the Word may take place in the Wendish language on every Sunday and festival day; also should the Wends request it, the Wendish language be used in the celebration of Holy Communion as well as in connection with all other sacred acts;

2) that in Dresden Wendish services be held for the Lutheran as well as for the Catholic Wends at least twelve times a year and that a Wendish minister celebrate Holy Communion for them at least four times annually.

3) that new pastors at their induction in their congregation make their vows in Wendish, should there be more Wends than Germans.”




When we examine the entire previous procedure, we find much to complain about, much that did not please us but rather proved burdensome and caused many of our dear Wends to suffer considerable losses, all because we have neither Wendish court hearings nor laws in the Wendish language. Where the Germans were fully justified in occasionally complaining about the legal system, we Wends have double reason to do so. The Germans were of course perfectly able to communicate with their German judges, but we Wends stood before Judges who tried us in a foreign language and were not able to make completely clear to us in German the points under discussion so that they were not always able to gain from us the points that were actually sought by them. So it is not only possible but an actual fact that the Wends were a greatly disadvantaged people because of the German court hearings.

The Germans, speaking the language in which the trial judge took evidence, were able to insist that he record their statements exactly as they were given. Also before the trial began they understood what the lawyer had written and were able to point out any inaccuracies in the brief he was about to deliver. But what was the case as far as we Wends were concerned, particularly those among us who could in no way make themselves intelligible to their German judge and therefore required an interpreter whom they mostly had to remunerate for his services and so had additional costs to meet?
That, however, was not yet the only evil in this matter. Sad to say, if anyone has ever translated something from one language to another, he must acknowledge that such translation work is not only often very difficult but also the result is at times so vague that one can not positively determine whether the right intention and full meaning have been transmitted from the one language into the other. This applies particularly in those cases where not the written but only the spoken statements are to be conveyed in the other language. He who is equally conversant with both the Wendish and the German languages, recognizes that there are such great differences between the two languages that it is not always possible to express certain things equally well in both languages. If this is taken into account, then it will be clear what happened to us Wends in the German court hearings where we at times signed something which was not clearly understood by us and the legal documents when drawn up read very differently from what we had intended.

He who concerns himself with these matters and is guided by that form of justice which permits no injustice, whether the interests of many or a few are involved, will view our Wendish people with deep concern: yes, it cannot be disputed, our poor Wends have often suffered great injustices in our German law courts. However, we do not wish to complain further in this submission about what has happened in the past but would rather plead that our Wends receive more considerate treatment in future.

You, gentlemen, have at the inauguration ceremonies as you took office by royal consent, promised the entire country that great changes would be introduced in legal procedures, namely that after the abolition of the hated secret hearings as well as the keeping of costly written records of doubtful value, the legal hearings in future take place publicly and verbally, meaning that the accused can openly plead his innocence or speak in his favour with the words of his own mouth, following which, judgment is passed according to the conviction gained by the judge acting according to his conscience before those present, who are determined to see justice done. No third element, whether it be the great amount of writing or interpreting, dare step between the accused and the judge.

These court hearings, which are insisted on in all German territories, would bring us Wends benefit, rather we would have to fear such hearings, were we not allowed to use our mother tongue in which alone we are able to fully make our thoughts known; also if we could not find men who not only understand everything that is spoken in Wendish but could also express themselves well in Wendish, as well as prepare our defence in Wendish and give the verdict in Wendish.

Further, we have practically no members from our own ranks in the government or public service. This is greatly to our disadvantage: We wish to bring one thing to your notice. Wends in government positions could often help us in a friendly way and counsel us; they would know us and our Wendish customs and would realize what is oppressive in our eyes and what we consider essential.

As necessary for us as a Wendish law court, just so necessary is also this, that our body of laws be made available in the Wendish language. The government proclaims laws in order that the nation nay be made aware of what may and what may not be done. But of what use are laws to us if they are written in a language not understood? Until now the right understanding of our laws has always been very important for all and whoever did not understand them was constantly in fear of coming to harm and being punished if he did not comply with the law. Yet both now and in future since everyone is being given more freedom and when everyone will be answerable for his actions to a greater degree, those who do not understand the law will be worse off than ever before.

Because of that, it is not only advisable but also absolutely necessary that the body of laws as well as other important regulations and gazetted rules which apply to us be published in the Wendish language. In other countries where a number of different languages are spoken, this has long been done.

We therefore beg: “That the honourable Royal Saxon General Assembly consider and grant:

1) that we be given a Wendish law court and in order to promote the civil legal system in future the Wendish language be used in the court hearings, the defence and written court proceedings, also when giving the verdict;

2) that we appoint men competent in the Wendish language to serve on government boards;

3) that all laws, important regulations and gazetted rules be translated into the Wendish language by a translator, duly sworn in, and that these be then published.

These are now our main petitions. 0h, please grant them to us! We are deeply conscious of how much depends upon these matters. The Lord be with you and with us! We trust in him to grant us these privileges which we petition. In his name we attach our signature and forward our petition on to you.

* * * * *

The above Petition was translated from the original Wendish language to German by Pastor Siegfried Albert.

The Petition was translated from German to English by Pastor Rupert Burger.

Kevin P Zwar