New Trials for Witchcraft
Burnt at the Stake
In Germany between 1500 and 1872, approximately 25,000 people were executed for Witchcraft. Although some men or children were executed, the vast majority were women.
It is now well known that a lot of these executions were results of making scapegoats for natural disasters or as a result of personal vendettas.
Although it is now believed that most of these victims were innocent, their names have never been exonerated, their names still remain in records as being guilty of Witchcraft.
For the people to have been convicted and punished in the first place is obviously an injustice, for the verdicts not to have been cancelled since, perpetuates the injustice.
This is a situation that may soon change.
Hartmut Hegeler, a retired priest and the teacher of religious studies at a local college in the City of Cologne, is now championing the cause of righting this past injustice.
To his students he described the case of Katharina Henot, a woman tortured and burnt to death in Cologne for practicing “Black Magic” in 1627.
Henot had been the Post Master and it is believed that she was accused of black magic by political rivals. She was tortured so bad, that even though she was right handed, she had had to write her last letter of defense with her left hand. Despite the obvious torture, the panel from the City Council still found her guilty and she was paraded through the City Streets in an open cart before being tied to the stake.
Hegeler’s students asked him if the verdict against Henot, had ever been cancelled. On realizing that it hadn’t the ex priest decided to try and change this injustice and is intending to take up the act of reversing the verdict, with the same authority that first gave it, the Cologne City Council.
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Perhaps the worst case of bloodletting from this period was in the small town of Oberkirchen in 1630, when in a three month period 58 people, including two children, were accused, convicted and burnt for alleged acts of witchcraft.
In towns and villages all over Germany today, people are following Hegeler’s example and reviving the cases of those that had been sentenced for witchcraft in an attempt to correct injustices of the past.
This process is one that, I believe, should be taken in all countries where these so called witchcraft trials took place.
We cannot be held responsible for acts that took place in our history however, many of these people were falsely accused, wrongfully convicted and brutally punished. Many of these people may have had religious convictions that would not permit them rest until these injustices have been rectified and their names have been fully, legally cleared. That is a responsibility that we could and perhaps should shoulder.
History cannot be changed, however if known misdoings occurred and they can be corrected, then perhaps they should be.
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