Sunday, February 5, 2017

Wiesensteig, Germany, postal code 73349, scene of witch executions

Population 31 December 2010: 2,138. Largest-ever population: 27 May 1970 --2,632.

First mentioned in 861, concerning a Benedictine monastery.

“Count Ulrich XVII of Helfenstein (1524-1570) and his brother Sebastian († 1564) introduced in 1555 the Lutheran confession in Wiesensteig. 1562/63 in the rule Wiesensteig a great witch-hunt took place in which at least 63 women and men were executed.”

Another site says 67 women were executed for sorcery. Ulrich von Helfenstein signed the warrants of execution. He was “originally Catholic, a Lutheran during the trial and converted to Catholicism in 1567, which thereby also turned the religion of the city. Wiesensteig experienced more witch trials in 1583 (25 dead), 1605 (14 dead), 1611 (5 dead).”

Wiesensteig in that time “suffered from religious turmoil, war, severe hail storms and epidemics.” Helfenstein blamed witches.

Here is another account, typos and all:

“Although poorly documented, the witch-hunt in the small southwestern German territory of Wiesensteig was one of the first in the great wave of witchhunting that swept Germany in the second half of the sixteenth century. In 1562, Wiesensteig was a Lutheran territory ruled by Count Ulrich vetn Helfen-stein. After a severe hailstorm on August 3, 1562, von Helfenstein had several women arrested as witches. Under torture, they implicated others, including several people from the neighboring city of Esslingen who they claimed to ha’e seen at the sabbat. Much to the chagrin of von Helfenstein and Esslin-gen’s Lutheran preacher Th(tmas Naogeorgius, this disclosure was not followed by a witch-hunt in Esslingen. Wiesensteig itself, where von Helfenstein cooperated with the local Lutheran leader Leonhard Cuimann, was a different story, of course, and a sensationalistic pamphlet dated 1563 claimed that Wiesensteig had executed hy burning no less than 63 witches. Under outside pressure, von Hclfcnstein converted to Catholicism in 1567, and nineteenth-centtiry German historians spent much time armiinp whether Wiesensteig was Catholic or Pn,)testant at the time of the witch-hunt. Althoufth it seems clear that durin, tt this hrst Wiesensteig witch-hunt the state and church were Lutheran, the hahit C)f witch-hunting survived von Helfenstein’s and the territory’s return to the Catholic fold. There were suhseeiuent flare-tips in 1583 (about 25 dead), 1605 (14 dead) and 1611 (5 dead).”

REFERENCE; H. C. Erik Midelfort. Witch-Hunting in Southivestern Hcrmany, 1562-1684- Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1972.

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