Date: 01 Sep 1997
>>Except in Germany, Witch trials were usually a
I have ancestors who were burned as witches in Germany (a
husband and wife) My understanding was that the church
took all their holdings and about 100 years later their
heirs got them back. Was this more typical of Germany?
Date: 15 Sep 1997
Germany was in many ways a unique (and uniquly awful)
place to be a Witch. It had the highest death toll,
killing almost as many Witches as the rest of Europe
combined. It is the only country where crazes were
common. Almost all countries had steady, low-levels of
individual trials, plus one panic. (For instance, the US
regularly tried one or two people and had the Salem panic
in the late 17th century). Germany, however, had several
panics, and they were some of the largest and most lethal
ones on record.
Why were the panics so bad? Germany's legal and political
systems were fractured during the Burning Times.
Therefore there were no legal safeguards in place,
nothing to slow a panic or stop an unscrupulous leader.
Since there were no solid rules on how to dispose of a
convicted Witch's wealth, the ruler of an area was free
to do as he saw fit. Many chose to keep that money for
themselves, and so German Witches tended to be wealthier
than Witches in other parts of Europe. Usually the
profits were concentrated into the hands of just a couple
of Witch- hunters. For instance, one writer raged about
how his town had been bankrupted, how farms and fields
were abandonned to the weeds, while the executioner rode
a blooded horse and his wife dressed in furs as fine as
One of the other weirdities of Germany
is it's often difficult to say whether a trial was run by
the Church or the state. Some of the most enormous crazes
of the Burning Times occurred in the lands of the
"Prince-Bishops", Catholic bishops who were
also the "secular" rulers of a region. (Johanes
Junius, in the biographies, was tried by one of the
worst.) As secular ruler, the Prince-Bishop could order a
witch-hunt (something the regular Church could only
request) and have Witches executed (again, something the
Church normally could not do). Then all of the Witch's
money was "donated" to the Church (that is, the
Prince-Bishop in his role as bishop). It was a rare and
ugly combination of powers, and some of the German
Prince-Bishops rank among the most lethal Witch-hunters
of all times.
Do you know your ancestors' names, or the areas that they
were tried in? There are some fairly complete listings of
the Witches killed in several of the big German crazes,
and you might be able to get more information about them.
Date: 19 Sep 1997
Wellll.... it looks like good old Germany is once again
practicing religious persecution. I was watching CSpan
this morning as members of the Church of Scientology
(John Travolta, Issac Hayes, Chic Correrea and others)
gave testimony before a committee of congress.
Apparently, The Christian Democratic Party of Germany
(aka the German Government?) has been putting out anti
Scientology (and any other "minority" religion)
propaganda. They have also barred Scientologists from
holding jobs, housing, child rearing and performing in
public (Correrea has had several concerts cancelled adn
the government is quite open about why). They had a woman
there who had her license to run her employment agency
revoked when they discovered she was a Scientologist.
They had a man and his wife and two small daughters who
have had to seek religious assylum in this country
because he was a German "yuppie" who was
discovered to be a Scientologist and was fired adn
"blacklisted" the same way that Hollywood
blacklisted people back during McCarthy's time.
The Commission was going to go to the United Nations and
the German Ministry and see what the deal is from their
side adn make the U.S.'s concerns known to them.
Apparently, when they signed the Helsinki Accord it
guaranteed their people the freedom of religion.
Anyway, this is going to be an interesting situation to
follow. Are we looking at the next wave of hatred and
intolerance from Germany? We've already had the Burning
Times Witch Crazes and the Jewish (and anybody else of a
minority viewpoint/religion/race) Holocaust. What is it
with this country? Are they sitting on a life negative
energy vortex or something?
Date: 25 Sep 1997
Jenny, I'm Summer's sister, she just recently sent me a
copy of your post about Germany. I do have quite a bit of
info on our ancestors who had such a tragic and terrible
fate. Sometime I could send you the entire commentary
that our uncle received telling about their fate, but for
now I'll just share some basic facts:
Their names were Hans Adam Mertz and Elisabeth Mertz and
they had lands near Waldkirch (which is near Freiburg, I
believe). In 1630, someone accused them of taking part in
a Witches Sabbath on the top of Mount Kandel. They were
both arrested and imprisoned in the Kastelburg where they
were tortured for many months before they were finally
executed. Of course they were stripped of all land
It is such a sad story, I can hardly tell it to others.
But I feel this is definitely the place to share such
Please let me know if you have any thoughts on this
story. I will try to find the rest of the documentation.
Date: 30 Sep 1997
I'd love to hear more about your ancestors. If you and
Summer are comfortable with it, I could add their story
to the biographies section. I'll keep my eyes open, too,
while I'm doing research. There have been several
detailed studies of German Witchcraft published in the
last ten years, and if I can turn up any more information
on them, I'll let you two know.
>>It is such a sad story, I can hardly tell it to
others. But I feel this is definitely the place to share
A friend's cat, Silver, died some years back. A short
time later, Silver appeared to him in a dream and said:
That which is named can be written. That which is written
shall be remembered. That which is remembered, lives.
I couldn't think of a better way to explain why I'm drawn
My husband often wonders why I'm interested in the Witch
trials. Why re-open old wounds?, he asks. Why spend days
trying to piece together monstrous events that happened
hundreds of years ago? Isn't it morbid?
I point out the modern connection, of course. The threat
that the Burning Times or something like them might
return. But for me, that's only part of the reason. Even
if I was positive that the Burning Times were a thing of
the past, I'd still want to preserve stories like your
I can't explain why, really (or at least not sensibly
enough to convince Ry. But somehow I feel like people
aren't fully dead as long as they're remembered. That as
long as their tale is told, there's still hope that some
meaning, some tiny bit of good, can be squeezed out of
the horrors they went through. That forgetting the past
is the ultimate insult, giving your ancestors a second
and final death.
Perhaps it doesn't make sense. Perhaps it is morbid.
<g> But yes, this is a good place to share your
ancestors' sufferings -- and I think there's good reason
to do so, too.