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'Witches' pardoned 400 years after executions
Photo: DPA Statue of Katharina Henot, Cologne's notorious "witch"

'Witches' pardoned 400 years after executions

Published: 30 Jun 2012 12:20 GMT+02:00
Updated: 30 Jun 2012 12:20 GMT+02:00

Cologne City Council has pardoned 38 women nearly 400 years after they were sentenced to death for suspected witchcraft, a newspaper reported on Saturday.

Katharina Henot - Germany's most notorious "witch" - stood accused of having entered into a pact with the devil, conjured up a plague of caterpillars, sown strife and encouraged sexual deviancy. In 1627 she was sentenced to death by torture by the Cologne Court.

385 years later, in a symbolic gesture by the Cologne City Council, Henot and 37 other "witches" executed by local authorities are to be pardoned and rehabilitated, wrote Die Welt newspaper on Saturday.

Councillors voted unanimously to pardon the former Cologne inhabitants in a vote on Thursday, rejecting "any violation of human dignity and human rights," wrote the paper.

The move was not a judicial act - authorities in modern day Germany do not have the power to overturn rulings made under the Holy Roman Empire. Instead, the move was intended to highlight how easily a person can be defamed to the point of no longer being seen as human, but a demon that deserves to die a horrible death.

Hartmut Hegeler, a retired pastor from Unna who had submitted a citizen proposal to pardon the "witches" was said to be "very relieved" following the vote on Thursday. He is now hoping a mass will be held in the Cologne Cathedral as a gesture of reconciliation by the diocese, according to the article.

The decision makes Cologne the 14th local authority in Germany to distance itself from historical witch trials. But not all rehabilitation gestures have been agreed without opposition, wrote the paper.

When a citizen from Dusseldorf proposed that two women burned at the stake there in 1738 be rehabilitated, there was an objection from a citizen who claimed pardoning the women would amount to challenging his Catholic faith, wrote the paper. His objection was overruled.

Historians estimate the total of 25,000 women and men were sentenced to death in Germany in the past for having entered into a pact with the devil, according to the article.

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Your comments about this article

18:01 June 30, 2012 by Landmine
ohh, I be she is thrilled.... Thanks for wasting our tax money doing this....
18:06 June 30, 2012 by sagamoreny
I'm sure that makes them all feel better. "Whoops, we're sorry."
18:26 June 30, 2012 by The-ex-pat
Seems that it is a European competition running in different towns. How far can we back date human rights. What has this achieved apart from a dose of self importance and media time for some councillors
22:34 June 30, 2012 by Englishted
Now days they would just send them back to Satan`s hell and tell them to lie .

(see other headlines )
08:33 July 1, 2012 by wood artist
Does it really matter? Probably not for most people, but it does have some value if society acknowledges that things done in the past were inappropriate. While this particular situation might seem less so, examine history a bit more carefully. In Turkey no one wants to objectively discuss the charge of genocide, and although the damage was done long ago, it's still a festering sore today.

The same is true in Asia, where the Japanese have steadfastly refused to acknowledge crimes and actions taken during WWII. There are a few survivors to whom this might mean something, but national societies are still at odds about it. Would an apology change anything? Not really. The leaders speaking those words weren't involved and can hardly be considered "guilty" in any way. But, the lack of an apology still matters, and it comes up regularly.

In the US, the government finally apologized to the interned Japanese-Americans, and has even made some efforts to Native Americans. A few real victims of the former are still alive, while only the descendants of the latter remain. Does it matter? Not to many.

@Landmine As to the cost, it's minimal. In any larger picture, it's invisible. If we now know it was wrong, why not say so? What's the down side?

wa
10:40 July 1, 2012 by MydogMax
That's right pat yourself on the back, make you feel better saying sorry to a bunch of 400 dead people?

How about lets concentrate on the now and prevent things from happening in the first place.
10:53 July 1, 2012 by Landmine
Wood artist. Had a chuckle with your comment, Since when does a government do anything that is quick, cheap and easy?
11:46 July 1, 2012 by Leo Strauss
You see that big green Jesus at the Rio Summit? Don`t need no magic to predict who the next `witches` gonna be. :(
15:44 July 1, 2012 by MrPC
Only 25,000 germans entered into a pact with the devil? A lot more than that when they elected and supported Hitler and his cohorts through the most destructive war in human history.
19:17 July 1, 2012 by PeaceOmind
in the 4th paragraph it clearly explains best why they decided to do this...it reads as follows....

***." the move was intended to highlight how easily a person can be defamed to the point of no longer being seen as human......"***

it has nothing to do with an "OOPSIE".
08:27 July 2, 2012 by wood artist
@MydogMax You're right, but the first step in prevention is to identify the types of things you no longer consider acceptable...so you have some idea what you're trying to prevent in the first place.

@Landmine This certainly wasn't "quick" unless you're thinking in cosmic time frames. Cheap? Well, on the scale of government spending, it probably is. Likely less than a million Euros total cost. Easy? Obviously not easy enough, or else it would have been done. Heck, if they can get this one done, perhaps they can move forward and clear the names of some of those killed in organizations like White Rose or the Edelweiss Piraten. Only the criminal regime believed they were truly criminal.

It's progress...in a way...and we see little enough of that these days.

wa
16:40 July 2, 2012 by TheWonderer
It is never too late to admit a mistake - in this cases, many fatal mistakes.

It does not make those killed alive, but it may be a reminder to the living:

Whatever you believe to be a hard and fast rule today may be absolutely wrong tomorrow. Besides, many people did profit one way or the other when pointing at a man or woman they did not like - once accused of witchcraft, there was almost no way out - and so people were out of the way.

Furthermore: Both Women ans men were affected - after all, a witch could take any personality (male, female, child, animal,...)

I think these pardons are overdue - in all German cities were these executions took place.

Thank you for putting that right - it is a start to think over our heritage.

TheWonderer
20:31 July 2, 2012 by Gretl
As a descendent of the Carringtons who were murdered for being witches (in the U.S., 50 years before the Salem witch trials) I would appreciate the apology for being narrow-minded religious extremists who let their "faith" overcome acceptance and compassion. I can't imagine other families wouldn't also appreciate an apology.
20:27 July 19, 2012 by Father Witch
We shall remain hidden because there are those among us that will still kill or batter in the name of their god. They just beheaded Muree bin Ali bin Issa al-Asiri for witchcraft in Saudi Arabia. This occurred just several months ago. Because of a complete fear and lack of knowledge about the craft, ignorance continues as our covens grow in silence. But rest assured, silent we will not be when it comes to murder in the name of god. To know; to dare, to will and to be silent. It is not that we fear prosecution. It is one of the corners of the witch¦#39;s pyramid. It is the foundation of how we cast spells. The apology is well noted, but about 400 years to late and is of little satisfaction for acts of murder. Blessed Be, Father Witch USA
16:17 August 6, 2012 by Alan3354
This is what religion does.

The RC church should be put out of business.

Murder, torture, child rape, etc.

If you give them money, you're giving your approval.
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