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German Witchcraft and Witches
Posted In: Religion Articles  1/18/06
By: Yona Williams

You may not be familiar with some of the witchcraft trials throughout Germany, but one of the most notorious trials occurred within this country. The Bamberg trials (1623-33) were responsible for the death of at least 600 people, who were accused of being witches and burned to death.


In Germany, the persecution of witches did not begin until the early 1600s. Under the guidance of Bishop Johann Gottfried von Aschhausen, more than 300 witches faced death between 1609-1622. His nature and beliefs earned him the nickname of “the Witch-Bishop.” After his rule, Johann George II took over and began encouraging witch-hunts. He also ordered the creation of specialized prisons that would hold those accused of being a witch. There was no justice or relief for those who were accused of being a witch. During these times, there was no chance for defense and the only thing awaiting them was the death penalty. Many wealthy individuals were victims of the bishop’s rules. Once accused, the people were sent to trial and hung once they were found guilty. Who paid for all of this? Their properties paid for the trials and anything over that amount was given to the bishop.


The Torture

When witches were interrogated, they were subjected to “the boot,” cold baths, force-feeding, scalding hot baths, as well as the prayer stool. Lacerations on their necks were created by rope, where some were forced to sit upon a “roasting iron chair.” Burning feathers that were dipped in sulfur and then applied to the armpits or groin. The accused also endured scourging, the stocks, the ladder, as well as thumbscrews. The ways a person could be tortured knew no limits during these trials. Some convicted witches would have their right hand cut off before approaching the gallows; sometimes her breast would be mutilated. These sorts of trials finally ended after the bishop passed away.


Cologne Witchcraft Trials

Most of the cases in Cologne usually ended with a not guilty verdict due to the officials in that area displaying close to a tolerant attitude. Unfortunately, many of the accused were retried in a different court, found guilty burned to death.


Eichstatt Witchcraft Trials

In 1637, the courtroom records and notes pertaining to the happenings within the torture chamber are still in tact, revealing the horrors that occurred during these times. One record revealed the torture of a peasant female who denied being a witch and felt that the charges were so ridiculous that she’d rather die than to admit being something that she wasn’t. But after repeated of torture, she confessed to attending forbidden meetings, digging up human bodies, as well as passing through doors that were locked.


For more than two weeks, she endured all sorts of torture. The method that broke her down was when she was subjected to boots and straps while being laid across a ladder. This is when she began to construct a confession just to end the torture. It is said that the pain was so intense that documentation revealed that she had beseeched God and Christ to rescue her. She created confessions regarding various situations and later tried to take back her statements. This earned her a session of flogging where she was made to confess further offenses.


Throughout the ordeal, she insisted that she was not a witch. Every time she denied she was a witch, she was sent to the torture chamber. The torture forced her to name accomplices and fellow witches. Her torture sessions produced many names. She eventually died, where the records of her guilt stated that she died “penitent.”



Hundreds of people lost their lives during these trials. The hysteria increased to the point that after the Bishop’s passing, his son was even accused of witchcraft. They secretly put him on trial, found him guilty, tortured him and finally put him to death. When the Swedish Army Invasion occurred, these sort of trials were terminated.  




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