Bamberg Witches Prison
Between 1626 and 1631, in Southern Germany, the Bamberg Witch Trials would take between 300 and 600 supposed witches to their death. No one was safe from accusation, torture and a probable death sentence. Many of the trials were recorded in great detail emphasizing the pain and suffering that was forced upon many innocents during this tragic time.
The area of Bamberg was in ruins and had been so for many years due to war and the many conflicts the state had with the Holy Roman Empire. Not only was the area devastated by these wars, but it was also plagued by crop failure which left the people of the area starving. Ironically instead of looking to nature, outside causes and political officials for the cause of this strife the people and their ruler decided to look for more supernatural explanations, thus talk of witchcraft abounded.
At this time the state was ruled by Prince-Bishop Dornheim, Dornheim saw this as a time of great profitability and secretly created a network of informers, these informers would report to Dornheim who would accuse the supposed witches, but never publicly, and then he would deny them any rights whatsoever. Dornheim then created a Doudenhaus (witch prison) in 1627 where special torture chambers were established and hidden from the public, where torturers and executioners were on standby, if you will, around the clock.
Dornheim and his henchmen became quite rich as they could accuse who they wanted at any time and even the rich and powerful were no match for him, he would take their land and their possessions and if you questioned him you to were accused of witchcraft. It has been found in documentation from that time that age was also no limit for Dornheim as the youngest supposed witch to be tortured and killed was a mere 6 month old baby.
During this time the forms of torture that were thought up were in time and nature barbaric and included the inevitable thumbscrews and various vises, but also the need to torture grew out into other forms of vicious torture such as ice water baths, hot lime baths, whippings, burned with sulphur and being put into stocks that were made with iron spikes. There were several new tortures invented during this time such as the “kneeler” which was a piece of wood with spikes driven into it, the accused were made to kneel on this “kneeler” and to make it even more painful they were whipped and beaten while kneeling. Another favorite of the time seems to have been what was called the “Linsten Chamber” this was a small room with not a chair or a bed but instead small pyramids covered the floor leaving nowhere for the accused to sit, stand or sleep without being impaled upon one of the pyramids.
It appeared that once you entered the Doudenhaus you would never leave, the condemned found no solace as before they made the walk to the stake where they were to be burned to death often their right hands were lopped off or on occasion they would be poked with glowing irons. Fortunately by 1631 occupants of the town began to wonder how so many could be condemned to death and yet still the many problems of the community had not disappeared with the burnings. By 1631 it was so ordered by Emperor Ferdinand that all activity involving the accusations, torture and murder of so-called witches was to cease. Dornheim died in 1632. We cannot nor will we ever know for sure how many were killed in that dreadful prison, and the building itself was torn down in 1635 leaving the spirits of the condemned to forever wander.
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