[Ger-Poland-Volhynia] Free English language book on German villages in Mazovia

Worth Anderson worth_a at yahoo.com
Sun Feb 15 22:37:21 PST 2009

Jerry:  You are quite right that "Dutch" seems to be misused in the English language version.  You are also right that this isn't a "Dutch" vs. "Deutsch" confusion, but I think it is the result of another translation problem: two different but related usages of the word "Holender" or "Olender" in Polish.

The first meaning is people from the Netherlands, such as the Frisian and Flemish Mennonites who started arriving in Poland in the 1500s and settled in villages where -- unlike their enserfed Polish neighbors -- they enjoyed several personal and collective freedoms.  They lent their name to this type of village organization.  The governing law was called the "Holender" law, and such villages "Holendry" or "Olendry."

The second meaning is people who lived in villages organized under the Holender law, regardless of their ethnicity.  The author explicity acknowledges in the introduction to the Polish version that ethnic Germans and Poles, as well as Dutch, lived in "olendry."  It is in this sense that they are referred to as "Olendrzy."

The first meaning of Olender -- people from the Netherlands -- can be appropriately translated into English as "Dutch."  The second meaning -- people living in villages organized under the Olender law -- should not be.  That is the error the translator made.

But I do have some sympathy for the translator, as there doesn't seem to be any other term in English that succintly captures that second meaning.  The German term "Niederunger" is not a substitute, as it differentiates one set of German colonists from colonists with origins in Wuerttemberg or Saxony.  Moreover, Niederungers, Saxons and Wuerttembergers could all live in "Olendry" villages, and -- while Germans were surely the overwhelming majority of such colonists -- there were nevertheless some ethnic Poles and Netherlanders among them.

I don't think this translation difficulty signals a problem with the scholarship itself.  I spot checked the Polish language page for a few of the villages I'm most familiar with (Zakrzewo, Rakowo, Sady, Bialobrzeg, Wykowo, Leszyno and Swiniary) and in each case it seemed clear in context that the second meaning of Holender was intended.  Indeed, the Swiniary page states, "The first Holender homesteads in this village, named for the first time in the 14th Century, were founded in 1788.  'Clearing away' overgrowth was agreed to by Marcin Datzlaw 'a German citizen of the village of Sady." That makes it pretty clear the author was aware he was not just dealing with people from the Netherlands, a point he makes himself in the introduction.

I'm curious how other list members handle this translation issue when writing on this topic in English.  I think my preferred approached would be to explain the (second) meaning of Olender and Olendry, and then use that term without translating it. 


--- On Sun, 2/15/09, Jerry Frank <FranklySpeaking at shaw.ca> wrote:

> From: Jerry Frank <FranklySpeaking at shaw.ca>
> Subject: Re: [Ger-Poland-Volhynia] Free English language book on German villages in Mazovia
> To: worth_a at yahoo.com
> Cc: ger-poland-volhynia at eclipse.sggee.org
> Date: Sunday, February 15, 2009, 7:20 PM
> I have been debating myself for some time now whether to
> include that link from our website or not. The entire book
> is a very long download. If you want to browse through the
> village descriptions yourself, start at:
> http://holland.org.pl/art.php?kat=obiekt&id=1&lang=en
> Opposite the search box on the right side you will see an
> arrow. Click that to work your way through the villages. You
> can also use the search box to find a specific village but
> it will require an exact spelling match and you will
> struggle with switching between Polish and English language
> pages.
> The reason I have been reluctant to include the link even
> though some of the villages details are excellent, is that
> the entire website and book are based on the blatantly false
> premise that these are Dutch (Holland) villages. Almost
> every village is described as being founded by Dutch
> Colonists though a handful do make reference to Evangelical
> (Lutheran) Germans. In fact, the opposite is true. 99% of
> the villages shown were founded or settled by Germans. Only
> a small handful had Dutch (Mennonite) settlers. Lest someone
> assume that this is a Dutch vs. Deutsch confusion, the
> Polish language uses two distinctly different words to
> describe them so confusion is unlikely - Holenderski vs.
> Niemieckie. Further more, the website name clearly
> references Holland.
> In the introduction, this statement is made:
> "The Dutch were the first colonists. In the 18th
> century, they were followed by German farmers from Lower
> Germany as well as Polish peasants. The Dutch settlers were
> nicknamed Olęder, which was the Polonized version of the
> noun "Dutchman" ("Holender" in Polish).
> Olęder signified not only the nationality of the settlers,
> but also the system of farming that originated in Holland.
> The system, which granted considerable freedom to the
> colonists, was based on the perpetual lease of land, with
> only cash rent payable to the landowner."
> The author has the right idea but seems to forget that the
> term which describes the land ownership / village government
> style instituted by the Dutch Mennonites in Prussian regions
> can also apply to any other ethnic group, German, Polish or
> other, that operate under similar rules. The fact that there
> were numerous Hollendry or Hollendry style villages along
> Wisla River does not mean that all those villages originated
> as the result of Dutch settlement.
> I have tried to correspond with the authors and supporters
> of this site. All addresses, including that of the
> webmaster, result in bounces. It's a shame that such
> quality presentation is tainted by such very poor and far
> reaching research.
> Bottom line - some good content in this material regarding
> the villages but treat most references to Dutch as being
> German.
> Jerry Frank
> Calgary, AB
> Worth Anderson wrote:
> > In 2004, Polish historian Jerzy Szalygin published in
> Polish, "Catalogue of monuments of Dutch Colonization
> in Mazovia."  This book lists alphabetically each
> German village, usually with a map excerpt to show the
> location, and information (often with pictures) on any
> surviving pre-War German buildings.  The excerpt for Rakowo
> appears at the bottom of this e-mail, to give a flavor of
> the information.
> > 
> > I thought this was an amazing source when I first
> learned about it, but it gets better.  Szalygin's book
> has been translated into English, and is available as a free
> download at:
> <http://holland.org.pl/art.php?kat=art&dzial=ogolne&id=ebook&lang=en>.
>  While you're at the website, poke around; it is full of
> interesting information.
> > 
> > Worth
> > 
> > 
> >


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