To: Jenny
From: Summer
Date: 01 Sep 1997
Time: 02:10:06

>>Except in Germany, Witch trials were usually a money-losing proposition.<<

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?

To: Summer
From: Jenny
Date: 15 Sep 1997
Time: 12:19:33

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 any lady's.

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.

To: Jenny
From: Deborah
Date: 19 Sep 1997
Time: 19:55:27

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?

To: Jenny
From: Pleione
Date: 25 Sep 1997
Time: 23:08:17

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 ownership.

It is such a sad story, I can hardly tell it to others. But I feel this is definitely the place to share such saddness.

Please let me know if you have any thoughts on this story. I will try to find the rest of the documentation.

To: Pleione
From: Jenny
Date: 30 Sep 1997
Time: 09:44:56

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 such sadness.<<

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 to history.

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 ancestors'.

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.

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