Station: [330] Everyday Life and War

We are in the 14th year of the Thirty Years War. Electoral Prince John George III has allied himself with the Swedish troops against Kaiser Ferdinand II and Saxony has become a battlefield in the so-called Swedish war. The Kaiser’s soldiers have received the instruction from Wallenstein their supreme commander „to ruin the land for ever.“ So, on their march across country they are leaving a trail of burning towns and villages behind them. Penig cannot avoid this fate and the Kaiser’s troops lie in wait outside the small town for three days, storming it on the third.

The public bath in Obergasse, or Upper Lane is full of men. They haven’t been out of their uniforms for weeks and warm water is steaming in the basins. It is hot in the room.  The court tailor Thomas Nitzsche is stoking the fire under the boiler and his assistant is drawing beer from the tap. Wine is standing all over the floor in large Bellamine jugs and a soldiers’ head is clamped between the knees of a bather while, accompanied by great howling, his tooth is being taken out. Heat and alcohol drive the tension of war out of the mens’ pores and they are still laughing, but this can quickly change. Nitzsche is happy to have his wife and children safe in the forest, and together with his two assistants he is humouring the soldiers. If they could just leave his house standing he thinks as he’s grabbed by the neck and dragged across the room.

229 houses in the town went up in flames and the bathing house in Upper Lane was extremely badly hit. Nitzsche’s wife and children survived and later sold their piece of land.

We don’t know whether this scene really did take place in Nitzsche’s house, or whether he survived the fire. The spinning whorl with which the court tailor daily span thread for the Lords of Schönburg didn’t burn and is here in memory of him.