Heinrich Rytz Zollinger

Swiss Mercenary and accused Murder Accomplice, Buchen Farm, Lautikon, Switzerland, 1544 - ?

This case of murder is documented only by a letter written in 1565 by the Burgomaster and Council of Zürich, addressed to Duke Holzhab in Grüningen, the translated text of which reads:

“Now then, dear Vogt, it happens that we believe that a Heini Rytz Zollinger of Lautikon had not so long ago assaulted and beat up his cousin Jacob Zollinger so badly, that this Jacob several days later died of his injuries. Now the said Heini Rytz Zollinger has become a fugitive due to this crime, and may be hiding out somewhere in the Duchy of Grüningen. We therefore beg to ask the Duke to order to look out for him, and, if possible, to arrest him, while then sending a notice to the Burgomaster of Zürich”.

Source : States Archive of Zürich, B IV, 25, page 89

A short time later there were court proceedings in Grüningen to establish the facts of the case, where witnesses were giving testimony. One witness is on record reporting that he had met the victim Jacob Zollinger on his way home from Grüningen to Lautikon, and he noted injuries which he understood were caused by Hans Rytz Zollinger. Another witness, a Hans Walder mentioned that an earlier altercation took place at the home of the victim’s father Hans Zollinger. There an argument had broken out between Jacob Zollinger and his cousin Hans Rytz Zollinger over a fence.

From these scant records it could be assumed that there were two brothers, a Hans Rytz Zollinger and a Heinrich Rytz Zollinger, both at the time living at their father’ farm “Buchen” near Lautikon. A separate branch of Zollinger family then lived in Lautikon itself, where the victim and cousin Jacob Zollinger lived with his parents. It must also be assumed that all three were all young adults at the time of the assault.

There is no record of the Rytz brothers ever having been arrested. Although the witnesses had identified Hans Rytz Zollinger as the culprit, the Zürich authorities were mainly searching for his brother Heinrich. From the witness statements it must be assumed that both brothers were involved, and under the laws of the time both would have been culpable, and likely would have been punished by death. It must be assumed that both brothers had chosen to become fugitives, and it is more than likely that both entered into mercenary military services with one of the European armies which had units of Swiss mercenaries, likely in France or Holland.

Yet some three years later a “Hans Rytz Zollinger of Lautikon” purchased the farm “Neugut” in Üssikon near Maur, and settled there. Since no search warrant had been issued for Hans Rytz Zollinger, he must have thought it safe to return home after three years of absence. Judging by his stature and wealth, he must have had a very successful military career, and likely achieved a high rank. However, nothing more is heard of his brother, and he likely died as a mercenary.

During the following twenty years the name of Hans Rytz Zollinger is frequently found in official documents, and not a year goes by that he is not mentioned in court records of Greiffensee for some altercation or conflict, usually a beating of a hapless neighbor. As his sons grew up, they followed in their father’s footsteps, and several times father and sons were accused together. Maybe the most heinous crime recorded was when Hans Rytz Zollinger beat up an old woman with a stick so that she almost died, because she had collected some apples from under a tree belonging to him. Yet in spite of this quarrelsome nature, his wealth and high military position allowed his sons and grandsons to hold very senior positions in the county, be it as Military Banner Carrier or as Deputy Duke for Maur.


Reference: Gustav Zollinger Dentist, Volume II

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