Thomas Schreiber (c. 1598 - 30 May 1629) was a German innkeeper executed for witchcraft. He was the perhaps best known victim of the Mergentheim witch trials, and became known for his opposition to the witch trials. His correspondence is preserved. His case gives an unusually detailed example of the mentality of a city in the midst of a mass witch trial.
The Mergentheim witch trials took place in Mergentheim in Germany between 1628 and 1631. These witch trials resulted in the deaths of 126 people; there were 122 executions, and four died during torture. The trials belonged to the great wave of witch-hunting that took place in southwestern Germany during the Thirty Years' War. It is one of the best documented of the mass witch trials of southwestern Germany. Perhaps the best known victim of the Mergentheim witch trials was the innkeeper Thomas Schreiber, who had been vocal in opposition to the trials before his own arrest.
Thomas Schreiber was the owner and manager of a popular and successful inn in the city of Mergentheim. He was about 30 years old in 1628, married to Anna Schreiber and with four children. He was a member of a wealthy merchant family with relatives in high offices in several of the neighboring cities.
Beginning in early 1628 and continuing for several years, a series of witch trials, leading to hundreds of executions, was in process in Mergentheim, and Thomas Schreiber became known to be in opposition to it. On the execution of the mayor's wife, Martha Braun, on 1 December 1628, he stated that she had been subjected to a great injustice and compared the execution to the bloodbaths of Nero. Twelve days later, on 12 December 1628, he was pointed out for sorcery in the confession of Martha Dönkherin: he was not arrested nor informed about the accusation, however, as regulations required three independent denunciations before an arrest.
Nero was the last Roman emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. He was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius and became Claudius' heir and successor. Like Claudius, Nero became emperor with the consent of the Praetorian Guard. Nero's mother, Agrippina the Younger, was likely implicated in Claudius' death and Nero's nomination as emperor. She dominated Nero's early life and decisions until he cast her off. Five years into his reign, he had her murdered.
On the execution of the rich widow of Lorenz Gurren 21 January 1629, Schreiber stated that he doubted her confession, upon which the official Max Waltzen commented: "Ha, ha, those who know the devil should not be so amazed".After this, Schreiber continued to criticize the witch trials, but also became worried about his safety: "If anything happens to me, let every pious Christian fear for himself. God might preserve everyone from the Neuenhaus [torture chamber] for even the most pious, if put in there, would be found to be a witch". He referred to the witch trials as a bloodbath and stated that he suspected that the city authorities wished to "wash their hands in my blood".
On 29 January, a second woman denounced him under interrogation. Thomas Schreiber transferred money from town, and left for Ansbach-Hohenlohe [ verification needed ] on 1 February. He left in such a hurry that he was forced to ask his wife to send him his boots, hat and outer garments to him. When in safety, he wrote to the mayor of Mergentheim, Paul Nachtraben, and justified his flight with a statement that torture resulted in lies; he wrote to his friend and legal adviser Georg Allemahn and tasked him to investigate his case and inform him when it would be safe for him to return; and he wrote to his wife and stated that the judges would go to hell and asked her to join him in Ebersheim in Hohenlohe. His letter to his wife, however, was intercepted by the authorities in Mergentheim, who successfully asked the authorities in Hohenlohe to extradite him to Mergentheim.
Ansbach is a city in the German state of Bavaria. It is the capital of the administrative region of Middle Franconia. Ansbach is 25 miles (40 km) southwest of Nuremberg and 90 miles (140 km) north of Munich, on the Fränkische Rezat, a tributary of the Main river. In 2004, its population was 40,723.
The Hohenlohekreis is a Landkreis (district) in the north of Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Neighboring districts are Neckar-Odenwald, Main-Tauber, Schwäbisch Hall and Heilbronn.
After his extradition to Mergentheim, Thomas Schreiber was immediately brought before the court on the charges of sorcery. As he had not yet been denounced by three witnesses, only two, he could not be tortured. When asked about his criticism toward witch trials, he replied that he had always said that witch trials were legitimate as long as no one was subjected to injustice. On 13 February, Catharina Reissens denounced him, and the three denunciations necessary for torture was thereby achieved. It is considered likely that all three denunciations against him were performed under pressure from the interrogators.
On 10 April, a joint letter of protest against his arrest signed by friends in Heidenheim, Langenau, Ellwangen, Dinelsbuhl and Aalen was delivered to Mergentheim, in which they protested against the fact that Schreiber had been arrested without any specific accusations, and that he might have sinned by criticizing the court, but that leniency was warranted because of his youth and minor children. The court asked for legal advice from the court of Würzburg, and was given the advice that torture was fully legitimate given the fact that the accused had been denounced three times, that he had attempted to flee, and that he had criticized the court.
Heidenheim an der Brenz is a town in Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. It is located near the border with Bavaria, approximately 17 km south of Aalen and 33 km north of Ulm. Heidenheim is the largest town and the seat of the district of Heidenheim, and ranks third behind Aalen and Schwäbisch Gmünd in size among the towns in the region of East Württemberg. Heidenheim is the economic center for all the communities in Heidenheim district and is the headquarters of the Voith industrial company. The town's population passed the 20,000 mark in 1925. Heidenheim collaborates with the town of Nattheim in administrative matters.
Langenau is a town in the district of Alb-Donau in Baden-Württemberg in Germany. It is situated 14 km northeast of Ulm.
Ellwangen an der Jagst, officially Ellwangen (Jagst), in common use simply Ellwangen is a town in the district of Ostalbkreis in the east of Baden-Württemberg in Germany. It is situated about 17 kilometres (11 mi) north of Aalen.
On 19 May, Thomas Schreiber was taken to the torture chamber and shown the instruments of torture, which was the normal procedure to see if the accused would confess without torture would have to be applied. The interrogators stated that the witch trials were the justice of God and encouraged him to confess his guilt, but he called the whole legal process an injustice, called the 34 witchcraft executions that had been conducted since his arrest a bloodbath, and stated to the interrogators: "As truly as Christ died on the cross and God created me, I am innocent. Cannot the learned make mistakes in this matter too?".During the following torture, he confessed that he committed adultery with Satan in the shape of a woman and that he had become a witch for the sake of sex rather than to perform magic; that he had stolen and desecrated the sacramental bread; that he had attended the witches' Sabbath and that he was since then unable to pronounce the rosary; and finally, he denounced seven accomplices he had purportedly seen attending the Sabbath with him. The court had him confirm his confession four times, on 22, 25, 26 and 28 May, before giving the death sentence.
Before his execution, Thomas Schreiber wrote to his wife. He reminded her that she had often said to him that "whoever is chosen for eternal life must undergo thistles, thorns and strife"; that he wished for her to marry again, "on account of the children, for widows and orphans are despised and pushed down in this vile world",and assured her that he was innocent and that they would meet again in heaven. Anna Schreiber wrote back and replied that she asked his forgiveness if she had ever given him the impression that she believed the accusation against him, and that she wished that she was dead herself. Thomas Schreiber was decapitated and burned at the stake on 30 May 1629.
The Crucible is a 1953 play by American playwright Arthur Miller. It is a dramatized and partially fictionalized story of the Salem witch trials that took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony during 1692/93. Miller wrote the play as an allegory for McCarthyism, when the United States government persecuted people accused of being communists. Miller himself was questioned by the House of Representatives' Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956 and convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to identify others present at meetings he had attended.
The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts between February 1692 and May 1693. More than 200 people were accused, 19 of whom were found guilty and executed by hanging. One other man, Giles Corey, was crushed to death for refusing to plead, and at least five people died in jail. It was the deadliest witch hunt in the history of colonial North America.
Johannes Junius was the mayor of Bamberg, and a victim of the Bamberg witch trials, who wrote a letter to his daughter from jail while he awaited execution for witchcraft.
A show trial is a public trial in which the judicial authorities have already determined the guilt of the defendant. The actual trial has as its only goal the presentation of both the accusation and the verdict to the public so they will serve as both an impressive example and a warning to other would-be dissidents or transgressors. Show trials tend to be retributive rather than corrective and they are also conducted for propagandistic purposes. The term was first recorded in the 1930s.
Friedrich Spee was a German Jesuit priest, professor, and poet, most noted as an opponent of trials for witchcraft. Spee was the first person in his time to present strong written and spoken arguments against torture, especially with regards to its unreliability in obtaining "truth" from someone undergoing painful questioning.
The Bideford witch trial resulted in hangings for witchcraft in England. Temperance Lloyd, Mary Trembles and Susannah Edwards from the town of Bideford Devon were tried in 1682 at the Exeter Assizes at Rougemont Castle. Much of the evidence against them was hearsay, although there was a confession by Lloyd, which she did not fully recant even with her execution imminent. These women have been labelled as the last witches to be hanged in England, but there are subsequent cases which are not as well documented.
The Würzburg witch trial, which took place in Germany in 1626–1631, is one of the biggest mass-trials and mass-executions seen in Europe during the Thirty Years War; 157 men, women and children in the city of Würzburg are confirmed to have been burned at the stake, mostly after first being beheaded; 219 are estimated to have been executed in the city proper, and an estimated 900 were killed in the entire Prince-Bishopric.
The Vardø witch trials, which took place in Vardø in Finnmark in Northern Norway in 1621, was the first major witch trial of Northern Norway, and one of the biggest witch trials in Scandinavia.
Katharina Henot, , was a German postmaster and an alleged witch, burned at the stake for sorcery in Cologne in Germany. She is one of the best-known German victims of the witch hunt, and the best known case in Cologne. She was also the likely first female postmaster in Germany.
The witch trials of Vardø were held in Vardø in Finnmark in Northern Norway in the winter of 1662–1663 and were one of the biggest in Scandinavia. Thirty women were put on trial, accused of sorcery and making pacts with the Devil. One was sentenced to a work house, two tortured to death, and eighteen were burned alive at the stake.
Northern Moravian witch trials, also known as Boblig witch trials was a series of witch trials which occurred in the Jeseník and Šumperk area in present-day Czech Republic, between 1622 and 1696. They are among the largest and most well known witch trials in the history of the country.
Alonso de Salazar Frías has been given the epithet "The Witches’ Advocate" by historians, for his role in establishing the conviction, within the Spanish Inquisition, that accusations against supposed witches were more often rooted in dreams and fantasy than in reality, and the inquisitorial policy that witch accusations and confessions should only be given credence where there was firm, independent, corroborating evidence. He was probably the most influential figure in ensuring that those accused of witchcraft were generally not put to death in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Spain. The Spanish Inquisition was one of the first institutions in Europe to rule against the death penalty for supposed witches. Its Instructions of 1614, which embodied Salazar's ideas, were influential throughout Catholic Europe.
The Bamberg witch trials, which took place in Bamberg in 1626–1631, were one of a series of mass witch trials in southern Germany, contemporary with the Würzburg witch trials and others. Over an extended period these trial resulted in the executions of around 1,000 people. It belonged to the largest witch trials in history, among the largest during the Thirty Years' War, and one of the four largest witch trials in Germany alongside the Trier witch trials, the Fulda witch trials, and the Würzburg witch trial.
Wiesensteig witch trial took place in Wiesensteig in Germany in 1562–1563. It led to the execution of 67 women for sorcery. This has been described as the first of the great witch trials of Germany and the starting point of the continuing European witch hunt. The trial inspired to the popular book : Of the tricks of Demons, which were printed in six expanded editions in Latin between 1562 and 1583 and translated to French in 1565. It was recorded in 1563 in a pamphlet called "True and Horrifying Deeds of 63 Witches".
The Rugård witch trials took place at Rugård manor, and the community of Ebeltoft close to it, on Jylland in Denmark in 1685–1686. It was the most significant witch trial in Denmark since the Rosborg witch trials of 1639, and caused a wave of new witch trials on Jylland after a period of diminishing witch hunts. The case led to the issue of a new law banning local courts from handing down and enacting death sentences without confirmation of the national high court, a law which interrupted the local witch hunt and eventually stopped it nationwide.
Gertrud Svensdotter (1656–1675) was a Swedish peasant. She was the witness and accuser in the witch trial against Märet Jonsdotter in 1668, the trial that unleashed the great witch hysteria in Sweden called Stora oväsendet, involving a series of witch trials in many parts of the nation and lasting until 1676.
The 1594 trial of alleged witch Allison Balfour is one of the most frequently cited Scottish witchcraft cases. Balfour lived on the Orkney Mainland of Scotland in an area called Stenness. Although at that time Orkney was officially subject to Norwegian law, it had been ruled by Scottish earls since 1468, and thus effectively fell under Scotland's legal jurisdiction, and in particular the Scottish Witchcraft Act of 1563, which had made a conviction for witchcraft punishable by death.
Georg Haan, was a victim of the Bamberg witch trials.
Boris Vieniaminovich Rodos, was an officer of the OGPU, colonel of the NKVD and Ministry of State Security, deputy head of the Investigative Department of the Main Board of State Security and People's Commissariat of State Security, notorious for torturing prisoners under interrogation, including leading Communists, and the writer Isaac Babel.