Jettenbach, Rhineland-Palatinate - History


Evidence of human presence can be found within Jettenbach’s limits dating from almost every era back to the Stone Age. Particularly worthy of mention is a settlement centre from the Middle Stone Age, which over several years was surveyed and analyzed.

Remnants of barrows from the Middle Bronze Age are to be found in the Jungenwald (woods) between Jettenbach and Kollweiler. Unfortunately, little of these mounds’ contents has been preserved. Among what is left, however, are an axe and a sacrifice knife.

More information is available from Roman times. It is known for certain that there were three Roman settlements in what is now Jettenbach, while others are suspected. Possibly the most interesting was the high sanctuary on the Potschberg (mountain), which in 1964/1965 had to give way to stone quarrying.

Land surveys brought to light coins from the first to fourth centuries AD. Moreover, a 2nd-century bronze figure of the god Mercury was unearthed. Two settlement complexes were examined more closely. By 1960, a settlement was found on the municipality’s western limit with Bosenbach, and an archaeological dig was undertaken. Unearthed here were wall remnants, waste, clay waterpipes and pieces of little heating pipes, leading investigators to conclude that it was a settlement from the 2nd and 3rd centuries. A thorougher investigation was done at the settlement complex on the Trautmannsberg (mountain). Here, in 2002/2003, the laying of a long-distance gas pipeline made possible an intensive investigation of the land. This site was an exceedingly large Roman complex. There might have been both a temple zone and a villa rustica here, bearing witness to which are the many outbuildings. Also unearthed along the pipeline’s route were remnants of pre-Roman pit houses from Celtic times. In 1995, and urn graveyard from the early Roman epoch was shown to have existed on the Wingertsberg (mountain).

After the Romans withdrew from the region, the area that is now Jettenbach remained uninhabited for several centuries. It was only in the time when the Franks took over the land that people once again settled there.

Lying in the northern part of the current municipal area was once another village, Zeißweiler, which may have been older. It was geographically the last place in the string of settlements with names ending in —weiler (German for “hamlet”) at the end of the Eßweiler Tal (valley or dale). A single legal document from 1432 is all the proof that there is that this village even existed, and even at the time that that was written, the settlement had already been forsaken. Nothing is known of the village’s fate, nor of its people’s. While it is known that Zeißweiler lay north of Jettenbach, its exact location is also unknown. Likewise unknown is anything about Jettenbach’s founding. It is believed that this dates back before the year 1000, but Jettenbach did not have its first documentary mention until 1348 (a full transcription of the document in question, in archaic German, can be found in the German article). At that time, Jettenbach belonged to the extensive area of the Reichsland (“Imperial Land”) near Kaiserslautern, which was already subdivided into separate court districts (Gerichte). Jettenbach belonged to the Gericht of Deinsberg (Theißberg), later also named Jettenbach or Reichenbach, with the name seeming to change along with whatever village the Schultheiß lived in.

Another document from 1393 shows that the village was once made up of two centres, Obergittenbach and Niedergittenbach. It is certain that the latter is today’s village. Where the former lay, though, is not known with any certainty. If oral tradition can be believed, it lay at the forks of the Rutzenbach and the Selchenbach, the municipality’s two brooks.

The Gericht of Deinsberg belonged beginning in the 12th century to the Counts of Veldenz. At the time the two brothers, Count Heinrich III and Count Friedrich II, divided their holdings, the village passed to the former, and as an Amt seat with its villages. In the letters bestowing these holdings upon Count Friedrich III, however, Jettenbach was part of the combined Amt of Reichenbach and Deinsberg, and was split into Ober-Gittenbach and Nieder-Gittenbach.

In 1444, Jettenbach ended up with the Dukes of Palatinate-Zweibrücken. In 1543, it passed back to the newly formed Principality of Veldenz-Lauterecken. Clearer details about the village’s history only emerge beginning in this time.

The Thirty Years' War brought downfall for Jettenbach, as it did for so many villages. Given the village’s location some way off the military roads, it was possible, at least for a while, for the people to stay in their houses. Nevertheless, it must be assumed that the village was largely destroyed and that three fourths of the population fell victim to the war or to the waves of sickness that it brought. Refuge was often sought within the walls of Lauterecken, the princely family’s residence town.

After the war, new settlers came to the village, as witnessed by names in documents. These new villagers mixed with the older ones and soon had to bear with them through more war. French King Louis XIV’s wars of conquest brought the villagers such hardship and woe that at times things were as bad as they had been in the Thirty Years' War. The princely House of Veldenz was powerless to do anything about the onslaught. Their last male member died in 1694 in Strasbourg, and there then arose a dispute between the Duchy of Palatinate-Zweibrücken and Electoral Palatinate as to who the rightful heir to the now defunct House’s domains was. Electoral Palatinate troops quickly occupied the Amt of Lauterecken and the Schultheißerei of Reichenbach after the French had withdrawn in 1697. By compromise between the two princely houses, Jettenbach was to be held permanently by Electoral Palatinate, although it was not at all permanent: By about 1800, French Revolutionary intervention had swept the historical lordships away and this time and the Napoleonic era that followed saw the region under French rule.

Only in the early 18th century had Jettenbach once again reached its former size, but it was at this time that villagers began to turn their back on the village. As early as 1708/1709, one family from Jettenbach left the village for America to make a new beginning. In the late 18th century, quite a few families and persons tried to earn a better living in the realm of the Danube Monarchy and in Russia.

This emigration stopped for a while when the village was under French Revolutionary and then Napoleonic French rule. Jettenbach had to put up with troops on the march, yielding up supplies, troops stationed in the village and, on one occasion – on 4 January 1794 – troops plundering the village. They took everything. Besides food and livestock, they took the villagers’ household belongings and even their clothes.

During Napoleon’s campaigns, men from Jettenbach were duty-bound to fight under the French flag for Napoleon’s empire, and did so throughout Europe. The empire’s downfall once again brought Jettenbach burdens, such as German troops stationed in the village and withdrawing Russian troops. The new order worked out by the Congress of Vienna annexed the Palatinate to the Kingdom of Bavaria, whereafter Jettenbach belonged to the canton of Wolfstein and the Landkommissariat of Kusel.

In the early 19th century, there was a notable upswing in Jettenbach’s population. This led, through the customary division of land bequests, to the economic downfall of many farming families in Jettenbach, which forced people to seek other means of earning a livelihood. A heavily populated handicraft industry could only sell so much of its wares, and this led once again to waves of emigration in the 19th century. Almost without exception, the emigrants went to the United States. The last wave of emigration came in the time between the world wars and involved about 200 people.

Economic problems in the Palatinate arising from the region’s discontiguity with the rest of the Kingdom of Bavaria led to efforts to split the Palatinate away from Bavaria. This movement reached its high point with the 1849 Palatine Uprising (known in German as the Pfälzischer Aufstand). There was activity in Jettenbach, too. The candidate teacher Ludwig Heinrich Hauber, who was born in Jettenbach, advocated his ideals. He went as far as to secure leave from his teaching post in Katzweiler to dedicate himself wholly to his goal. Ludwig Heinrich Hauber was primarily engaged in the canton of Wolfstein with making monetary instruments and raising the Landsturm (people’s army).

In Jettenbach itself, a heavily attended people’s assembly took place on 10 June 1849 in the “Strieth” woods. The next day, Hauber mobilized the Landsturm, which was to fight off the advancing Prussians. There were few guns at these men’s disposal. Indeed, most had primitive weapons such as scythes, pitchforks and flails, and with these they hoped to beat the Prussian army. The men, however, had agreed that if there were to be any danger, they would betake themselves to their homes, and indeed this is what they promptly did as the Prussians drew nearer. Even Hauber, now deserted by his troops, thought it best to flee, without ever having seen even one Prussian. Thus ended the “Palatine Revolution” for Jettenbach in very short order, before it had even begun.

As late as the last third of the 19th century, there had been very little change in Jettenbach’s economic circumstances. Only after the Franco-Prussian War in 1870/1871 could some economic improvement be felt. This upswing came partly because of the Wandermusikanten, whole orchestras of travelling musicians who earned their living playing music in many parts of Europe, and indeed the world. Their buying power and the brisk building activity that was beginning at this time were mainly responsible for the better economic situation. Whole rows of buildings went up and the village began to see lively growth. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were more than 1,000 inhabitants in Jettenbach.

These “good old days” were brought to an end by the outbreak of the First World War. Many men from Jettenbach were called into the military to fight for the Kaiser. Many of them never came home. After the war, times were hard, for there were few job opportunities. As early as 1927, some, mostly young men, came into contact with National Socialism. About 1929, there was already a local Nazi cell in Jettenbach, which had joined itself to the local group in Kollweiler. In 1933 – the same year that Adolf Hitler seized power – the Nazis also managed to win every seat on municipal council. For jobless inhabitants at least, this meant a gradual improvement of their lot. To make work, the Nazis had the Jettenbach – the village’s namesake brook – straightened and lined with bricks, and also had a “bathing pond” built. Bit by bit, the orders grew for the quarry belonging to neighbouring Eßweiler, and it eventually employed more than 600 workers.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, most men fit for service had to go to war. The shortfall in the agricultural labour force was bolstered by prisoners of war from France and forced labour from the Eastern Territories. During the war, Jettenbach was not directly confronted with martial action, but towards the end of the war, as German troops were withdrawing ahead of the Allied advance, they were often billeted temporarily in Jettenbach. The last German troops left Jettenbach about midday on 17 March 1945. Outside the village, though, they quickly found themselves under attack by American airmen. Just over two days later, the first United States Army troops arrived in the village.

Of all the changes that Jettenbach has undergone, none has been quite as thorough as the one that came in the wake of the Second World War. Whereas the village had hitherto been characterized by farmers, craftsmen, musicians and working people, most of the population were now finding the underpinnings of their old livelihoods changing very swiftly, in only a few years. Already before the Second World War, the region’s well known Musikantentum, the industry that involved musicians earning a living all round the world, had come to an end. Some old Musikanten dreamt of reviving past glories, but they soon had to acknowledge that those days were forever bygone.

A shift in Jettenbach’s economic foundations could be seen by the early 1950s when more and more people began to take jobs outside the village. Some of these new jobs were with the United States Armed Forces in Kaiserslautern, Ramstein and Miesau.

An upswing in the building industry created further jobs. In Jettenbach itself, the agricultural sector was steadily shrinking. This also brought down the craft sector, many of whose businesses depended heavily on the agricultural sector. Today, the visitor sees a village that is almost wholly residential in function. Farming can now only be seen at one of the five so-called Aussiedlerhöfe (farming hamlets established in modern times), one of which has already been forsaken.

There are also few craft businesses left. There is, however, still a butchering business with its own slaughtering and a grocer’s shop with baked goods, which at least make basic foodstuffs locally available.

The most successful business in Jettenbach is still the stone quarry run by Basalt AG. Here, the stone is processed and then either stored in silos for sale or stockpiled in a storage area for onward transport. The yearly yield can be up to 600,000 metric tons. The quarry business is joined to a bitumen mixing complex.

Jettenbach’s best showing to date in the contest Unser Dorf soll schöner werden (“Our village should become lovelier”) was in 2003, when it won second place in the main class at the district level, which qualified it for the Rhenish Hesse-Palatinate regional contest, in which it placed first. This was the first time that Jettenbach qualified for the state level, in which it placed seventh.

In November 2003, the Minister for Environment and Forests, Margit Conrad, awarded Mayor Bernd Ginkel the special prize for “the municipality’s model ecological performance”. This was based mainly on the forward-looking heating plants (wood pellets and woodchips), the solar and photovoltaic complexes and a distinct engagement for nature conservation within the municipal area.

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