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of all sorts, so that they might dihgently carry them
about and strew and smear them over the streets and
in the houses ; especially in the houses in which they had
had business to do on account of the dead, and where
they strewed their poison over the stairs, the hand-rails,
the doorsteps and door handles. They threw their
powders into houses where they intended to commit
robberies, to some they gave them as wholesome
medicine, and so killed about 2000 people. For the
dead they had no mercy. They stripped them of their
grave clothes and of their rings and laid them cross- wise
for their own superstitious purposes. They hacked off
the corpses' heads with a spade and used them as
ingredients for their poisonous concoctions. For the
same purpose they cut out rotten fle^i or took it out

' S. Grosser, Lausitzische Merckwiirdigkeiten (Leipzig und Bautzen,
1714), Erster Hauptteil, 192.

M 2


of old graves. Two of tliein cut out and ate the hearts
of an unbaptised infant, and of two unborn cliildren, "to
have se^'en hicky years." One of them satisfied his lust
on tlie dead body of a virgin, which he kept three days in
the mortuary chapel. They threatened also to poison
the pews. They were betrayed by two drunken servants
of theirs. Then at the song of these two birds the whole
nest was carried off and brought to prison and trial.
After the statement of their dreadful deeds eight
malefactors were condemned on September 20, and
bm-nt with red-hot tongs on the fingers and breast ;
two of them had their hands chopped of?, the leader was
tortured on the wheel, and afterwards four of the bodies
were burnt and four of them smoked by slow fire to
death. On October 24, in punishment for poison-
strewing, Ursula, daughter of Caspar Hiibner, and
Susannah, the sexton's servant, was burnt with red-
hot tongs on the fingers and breast, brutally torn and
mangled, and with Margaret, the wife of Caspar Schetsen,
who had died of dropsy in prison, burnt to ashes on a
flaming pile of wood. The following year, on February
23, Barthel Milde, who, under pretext of burying the
dead and disinfecting the houses, had strewed fresh
poison about, had broken into houses and committed
robbery, was tortured with red-hot tongs on both breasts
and both hands, bound ahve to a post, and scorched for a
full hour by a fire at a distance. Three women were
exposed to equally terrible punishments for having
strewed poison. On October 5, Hans Lack was burnt
ahve for having dug up corpses. . . . George, the son of
Schleuniger, a ^oy of thirteen, and Paul, son of
Freudiger, a boy of eleven, were also put in prison
because they had learned the poisoning trade from


their wicked parents and wanted to avenge the death of
the latter by strewing poison.' i

Altogether the Silesian criminal record is one of the
largest. In Brieg in 1570 two miscreants were executed
who had committed 120 mm'ders.- ' In 1575,' so says a
report, 'at Sagan, Peter Wolfgang, styled Pusch-Peter,
had his right hand chopped off, was torn with
pincers, dragged out of the town, and impaled on a spear.
He had murdered over fifty people, among whom were
six women with child, whose httle hearts he ate in
order to escape capture, and forty-one widows, com-
mitted six chm'ch robberies and other criminal deeds.' ^

In Breslau the number of executions and unnatural
brutahty in crime rose to a preposterous height : in the
years from 1530-1580, punishment was inflicted for
109 cases of murder and of taking hfe, and eighty-seven
persons executed for other offences. Incest and bigamy
increased continuously.^

1 Pol, V. 32-33.

- In A. Knoblich's Chronicle of Liihn (Breslau, 1863) there are inter-
esting accounts of the way in which the council and the burghers, in 1572,
out of fear, let tliieves, crop wasters, and incendiaries, escape and actually
protected them against punishment: pp. 114-121.

^ Pol, iv. 79.

^ Dollinger, ii. 657, and Pol, vols. 3 and 4. Ebers says, p. 337 : ' It
is a striking fact that such unnatural vices (incest, polygamy, and so
forth) should be recorded especially of the sixteenth century ' ; then, in
strange contradiction of this statement he says at p. 341 : ' With the
Reformation the gross outbreaks of immorality diminished and gave way
more and more to orderly civic conditions.' In a list of crimes at p. 342
we find, for the years 1530-1555, fifty-one murders and deaths by foul
means, five cases of child-murder, one street-robbery, seven cases of theft,
six cases of incendiarism, two of (secret) polyandry, two of bigamy, one of
incest, five of adultery, twenty-two suicides ; then follows a list of punish-
ments without any mention of the particular offences for which they
were inflicted : eighteen cases of beheading, two of hanging, eight of
burning, six of torture on the wheel, quartering, and pinching with tongs,

\{\{') HIS Tom' OF 'rilK (iKK.MAX PKUPLE

111 Strasbiirg, in Catholic times, one gallows had
been onougli ; but in 1585 a second was erected, and
in \&2'2 a third. Iniinorality increased from year to year. ^

The increase of crime brought about by the
religious innovations appears in a specially striking
manner at Nuremberg. ' The number of executions
there multiplied threefold in the sixteenth century,
and unnatural abomination of crime increased in the
same proportion.'- 'On going through the chronicles,
especially those of the second half of the sixteenth
century, one is astounded at the quantity of deeds of
^'iolellce, cruelty, and murder, of the more or less serious
robberies, of the immense amount of fraudulence.' ^

A highly interesting pubhcation is the Diary of the
executioner Franz Schmidt, who entered on his dismal
trade in Nuremberg in 1577 and remained in the service
till 1617. In 1578 he had to conduct thirteen people
to death ; concerning one criminal he remarks : ' put
to death with the sword : him I anatomised and cut up.*
In 1579 the number of executions amounted to thirteen.
In these two years the number of persons who under-
went other kinds of severe bodily punishment, such as
chopping off fingers, or the right hand, burning through the
cheeks, scourging with rods, amomited to seventeen.'^

four of bmying alive, one of spearing. In the j'ears 1555-1580 : fifty
cases of murder and killing, three child-murders, nine crimes of immorality
and incest (one man had seven wives), and so forth.

' See above, p. 122; Silbermann, Lokalgesch. von Strassburg, 169-171;
DoUinger, ii. 658. Cf. Reuss, 210, for the trial of M. Schreiner in Strasburg
in 1618, which shows the moral depravity of the upper classes of the town.

- DoUinger, ii. 656, where in note 24 a table is given showing the increase
of particular crimes.

'' Dr. Lochner, 'Zur Sittengesch. von Niirnberg,' in the Zeitschr. fur
deutsche Kullurgesch. (Jahrg. 1856), p. 236.

^ V. Endtei, 8-11, 127-129.


Crimes were gross and manifold. The entries in this
Diary for the year 1580 are as follows : ' January 26,
three women put to death with the sword for child-
murder : their heads were nailed up on the gallows-tree.
February 15, a bigamist scourged with rods. February
23, a robber put to death with the sword. February 29,
a woman scourged with rods for child-murder. March 3,
a fratricide put to death with the sword. March 27, a
female thief scourged. April 28, two thieves hanged.
May 5, 14, 19 ; June 18 ; July 5 and 8, five male
thieves and two female ones scourged with rods. July 15,
two thieves put to death, one by hanging, the other
by the wheel. July 18 and 20, and August 2, four
thieves hanged and one scourged. August 16, a murder-
ess put to death with the sword, after torture with tongs,
her head was stuck on a pole and her body buried under
the gallows. August 23, scourged a crab-poacher who
already had been in the galleys. September 14, hacked
off the fingers of a procuress. September 17, two
thieves hung : " who, being led to death, were in good
spirits, laughed and shouted and called the gallows a bad
cherry-tree." September 30, two female thieves scourged
with rods. October 4, one thief hung. October 20,
scourged the wife of a watchman, a whore. November 17,
broke on the wheel a man who had murdered his
sister. December 1, scourged a man who had taken
three wives and had children of them ; ditto, one of the
wives. December 6, put to the sword a woman who had
murdered her own six-year-old child and had intended
also to murder her four other children. December 12,
scourged a thief.' ^ The diary shows how frequently
incest, rape, sodomy (one case involving eleven persons)

' V. Endtcr, 11-14, 129-130.

1G8 HlsroKV OF TJIK (;khman teople

had to be puuislied. Many are tlie bigamists and
triganiists ; one man had four, another five wives.
The number of murders is appaUing. Murders of
fathers, brotliers, sisters, liusbands and wives appear in
the executioner's diary ; fourteen mothers who murdered
their own children ; murderers guilty of three, five,
eight and even twenty murders, some who had ripped
up ' Uving women and cut off the hands of their little
children.' ^ The hideous unnaturalness of the crimes
is appalling. In 1576 it was reported that ' a man had
buried his own child alive, and after it was suffocated
had dug it up again, torn out its heart, and eaten it.' ^
' On the whole,' says the executioner Franz Schmidt
at the end of his Diary, ' I helped 361 people out of life
into death, besides inflicting bodily punishment, scourg-
ing, chopping off fingers and ears, on 345 others. Then
I gave up the service and became an honest citizen again.'
A very important manifestation in the period of the
Church schism was the increase of suicide. The Mayence
Archbishop Michael Helding lamented over it in his
sermons at the Augsburg Diet in the years 1547-1548.
' We are forced nowadays to see and to acknowledge
that Christendom was never so greatly in the power of
the devil as in our unhallowed times. When has sin
ever gained ground so terribly ? When has the devil
ever driven so many people to such desperation, that
they become utterly hopeless and put an end to their
own Hves ? ^

' See V. Endter, especially pp. 4, 7, 22, 86.

- Histor.-di'plomatisches Magazin, ii. 252.

^ Von der Hailigsten Messe, Filnfzehn Predige zu Augsburg aiiff dem
Reichsstag im Jar MDXLVII gepredigt. Ingolstadt, 1548. Erste
Prodi trt.


As to-day, so too at that time suicide was much more
frequent in Protestant than in Cathohc districts, i

In the Brandenburg Mark the great increase of
suicide moved the superintendent Andrew Cehchius in
1578 to pubHsh a special treatise on the subject. ' It
is a cause of great wonder and lament/ says Cehchius,
* that in so short a time we have had so many terrible
and heart-rending cases of murder, by which people, old
and young, rich and poor, sick and healthy, have put an
end to their days, and through their example have
helped to spread the contagion of despair.' The theory,
so much discussed in modern times, of the infectious
influence of suicide, is already propounded by Cehchius.
' Right-minded Christians,' he says, ' are much distressed
and concerned that so many suicides find prompt
imitators. I know of a respectable family in an evangeli-
cal locahty, four members of which committed suicide
one after the other. Possibly the despair of the first
member became an example to the others.' The
realisation of the prevalence of suicide distressed this
Lutheran preacher all the more, as he saw that this
sinister manifestation did not reflect honour on the
Protestant Church. 'These people' (suicides), he said,
' give the evangel a bad name in the world, and cause
many to turn their backs on the pure doctrine and to
reject the Lutheran Church (although it is indeed the
true Church of our Lord), because they see and hear
that some of us get no comfort from the evangelical
sanctuary, but become victims of melancholy and
despair, just hke any God-forgetting heathen, and in
great fear and trembling put an end to our lives. This

' What follows is from Paulus, ' Der Selbstmord im 16''" Jahi'hunderfc/
in the Wiasenschafll. Beil. der Germania, 1 Oktober, 1896.


inalvos the preaching of Jesus Christ despised by some,
hated by others, and it seems to numbers of people as
if all that is said and written and proclaimed so exult-
ingly about the sap and vigour of the Evangel was all
pure invention/ ^

That ' melancholy desperates ' were constantly met
with we learn from another Lutheran preacher, Simon
Musaeus, who had laboured in various parts of Germany :
* Not only in our own selves do we day by day reahse
how' much we are overcome by heavy-heartedness, but
we see and hear of it in other people and learn how one
here, the other there, pines for death, stabs himself or
drowns himself, and this not only on account of poverty
and want, but in the midst of riches and abundance :
many a wealthy peasant has been found dead over a
heap of corn or a chest of gold.' -

' Verily it is to be feared,' wrote in 1572 the Silesian
preacher Sigismund Suevus, ' that cases of this sort will
be of very frequent occurrence in these present times of
dearness both among rich and poor/^ In agreement
with this a Silesian chronicle says : ' In this year 1545
numbers of people in towns and villages fell into such a
state of despondency that they drowned, hanged and
stabbed themselves. Many of the peasants, when they
were driving into the towns, hanged themselves on the
wagons before their servants knew what they were
doing.' ^

' A. Celichius, Nutzlicher und notwendiger Bericht. ' Von den Leuten,
so sich selbst aus angst, verzweiffelung oder andern ursaclien entleiben und
hinrichten.' Magdeburg, 1578. A. 2% S. 5'', R. 5\

- S. Musaeus, Nutzlicher Bericht wider den Melancholischen Teuffel
(without locality, 1569), C. l'\

^ S. Suevus, Trewe Warming Fiir der leidigen Verzweiffelung (Gorlitz,
1572), D. 6^

' See Pol, iii. 130. For Basle see Ochs, vi. 762-769.


Towards the end of the sixteenth century the Lausitz
Sujoerintendent wrote : ' There is such an amount of
waihng and complaining among the people that if you
go amongst them ever so httle your ears are tortured
and your hair made to stand on end. The people are
heavy at heart and they don't know why. In such
extremity many of them can find no comfort and they
put an end to their own hves.' ^ Another preacher
from the Lausitz district, Martin Moller, spoke in the
same way of people who committed suicide in

Complaints were specially numerous in Saxony, the
cradle of the new doctrine. Wenceslaus Sturm, superin-
tendent in Bitterfeld, wrote in 1558 : ' In a few short
years we have had many terrible cases of desperate
people putting an end to themselves.' ^ Andrew Lang,
who was preacher in Chemnitz for a long time, pubhshed
in 1573 a pamphlet against the ' heathenish care for
the stomach which nowadays, as every one knows, is
tremendously in vogue.' The ' Sorgeteufel ' (devil of
worry), says Lang, ' led many people to suicide, which
was a fact of common experience.' ^ ' We see numbers of
people,' wrote in 1567 the Wittenberg professor Henry
Moller, ' who, overpowered by despair, lay violent hands
on themselves. ' ^ From Mansf eld, Cyriacus Spangenberg
wrote in 1556 : ' Several people this year have hanged, or

1 Z. Rivander, Fest Chronica, Part ii., Leipzig, 1602, Bl. 2'\ The
first edition appeared in 1591.

- M. Moller, Ueylsame Betrachtung, wie ein Mensch Christlich leben
und Seliglich sterhen sol (Gorlitz, 1593), p. 143.

■' A. Hondorf & W. Sturm, Promftuarhim Exemplorum, ii. (Leipzig,
1588), 215\

^ Theutrum Diuholorum (Frankfort, 1587), 361''.
H. Moller, Enarralio concionum Hoseae (Wittebergae, 1507), Z. 3''.


otherwise put an end to, themselves out of sheer
tlospcration/ '

In 8outh Oerniany also suicide increased in an
appaUing manner in the course of the sixteenth century.

In 1554 at Nuremberg, at an assembly in which all the
preachers of the town took part, the councillor Hieron-
mus Baumgiirtner said : ' It is, alas, a matter of daily
experience that in these times, more than ever before,
people of sound physical health fall into despair and
long for death, go out of their senses and put an end
to their hves. ' ~ That this statement was not exaggerated
is shown by the fact that in 1560, in Nuremberg, within
three weeks there were fourteen cases of suicide.'^

The Hildesheim chronicler John Oldecop, in 1556,
lays stress on the striking fact that suicide was especially
on the increase among the new religionists. ' Those
who at Hildesheim dming this year have put an end
to their hves were all Lutheran burghers, men and
women, who had fallen away from the holy Christian
faith, and also from God and from obedience to the
holy Christian Church. Consequently Satan got posses-
sion of them, and it is to be feared that the Lutheran
preachers do not properly bless the httle children, and
do not sufficiently drive out of them the evil spirit.' ^

In the polemical writings of that period this difference
between the two creeds is frequently alluded to. The
convert Sebastian Flasch, amongst other reasons for his
conversion adduces the following : ' I observe that many
of the Protestants fall into such a state of despair, that,

' C. Spangenberg, Mansfeldische Chronih (Eisleben, 1572), Bl. 473''.

- G. Th. Strobel, Neue Beytrdge zur Literatur, i. (Niimberg, 1790), 97.

■'* Hondorf-Stiirm, Calendurium Sanctorum (Leipzig, 1599), p. 338.

' Oldecop, 390.


in spite of the great certainty and confidence of their
faith, they are driven to taking away their own fives
either by hanging or some other way. Of this there
are frequent examples, and they show the inadequacy of
the Lutheran doctrine in building up the conscience.
Such despair and despondency do not astonish me,
because the Lutherans are outside the Church wherein
alone true consolation is to be found, and they are
robbed of the true administration of the Sacraments
and true forgiveness of sins.' ^

' The adherents of the Lutheran doctrine,' says
another Catholic writer, ' are much given to falling into
despair and pusillanimity ; to such an extent indeed
that the Lutheran leaders have pubfished a special
book of consolation for such unhappy people : it is of
no use, however, and does not keep them back from
putting an end to themselves by hanging, stabbing,
drowning, and other such ways, and all because their
new faith and their Augsburg confession are a dry
cistern containing neither the true sap of the pure Word
of God, nor the living power and might of the seven
holy Sacraments.' ~

In the same sense writes the Ingolstadt professor
Caspar Frank, who had before been a Lutheran preacher.
As one of the reasons ' why all rightly-believing Christians
ought to persevere to the end in the universal Christian
and Roman Church ' he adduces the fact that ' many
of the sectarians fall into despair and put an end to their
lives : only lately a preacher who styled himself Andreas

' Professio mtholiai M. Sebastiani Flaschii (Ingolstadii, 157G), B. 2''.

2 Elliche tvichtige Ursachen, warumh in Augsburgischer Konfession
gefdhrlich zu leben und sterhen. Addenda Bekehrung Joannis Harennii
(Ingolatadt, 1587), pp. 108 ; Bekehrung Piquerin Volons (Ingolstadt,
1606), pp. 39.

174 iiisrom- of tiik chrmax people

Celichius had published a book about the people who
couunittod suicide, and he tells in what rapid succession
terrible cases of the kind had occurred in his own neigh-
bourhood.' ^

Luther, who was not blind to the constant increase
of suicide among his followers, had in 1542 declared
it to be a work of Satan to whom God had given such
power within the Lutheran Church for the punishment
of the prevalent ingratitude for, and contempt of, the

The increase of gross and abominable criminality had
the effect of lowering the people's respect for criminal
justice. Its moral power was thus diminished ; it was
forced to inflict heavier penalties. The general brutish
morals and manners invaded the courts of justice and
brutalised all their proceedings : the hearing of witnesses,
the debates, the sentences and the executions.

At the close of the Middle Ages all the different
territories of the empire were already intent on prevent-
ing crime by threatening with the strongest possible
penalties : the threatening now assumed such earnest
that not only were almost all offences, even the shghtest,
such as polluting fountains, insulting town night-
watchmen, punished with death, but in most cases the
manner of death was made as painful and agonising as
possible. Special cruelty was manifested in the steadily
increasing persecution of witchcraft, though not equally

1 K. Frank, Grundt des Catholischen Glaubens (Ingolstadt, 1580),
Bl. 331.

- ' Brief an A. Lauterbach vom 25 Juli 1542,' in De Wette, v. 487 ; cf.
Paulus, I.e. With suicide, melancholia, a mental malady which often leads
to it, also gained ground among the Protestants in an alarming manner.
See the proof in Paulus, ' Die Melanchohe in 16'«" Jahrhundert,' in
Der Wissenschaftl. Beil. der Gennania, 4 Februar, 1897.


SO everywhere.^ The most extreme instance, perhaps,
was the Nuremberg ' Recht ' (1479), while the Cologne
town ' Stadtrecht ' (1437, printed 1570) was, relatively
speaking, characterised by striking mildness. In this
code even the worst crimes were only punished with
simple beheading ; excruciating modes of death had
no place in it. All over Germany the widest scope was
left to individual judgment in the meting out of punish-
ment. In the Austrian ' Landgerichtsordnung ' of 1514,
for instance, only the punishable acts are enumerated,
the particular mode of punishment is left entirely to
the discretion of the judges.

The arbitrariness thus allowed in the pronounce-
ment of sentences grew worse with the invasion of the
Roman law and the supplanting of indictment by the in-
quisitorial process evolved from canon law. The local
criminal codes were often enlarged by additions from
the Roman code ; the number and the species of punish-
able acts were thus increased. At the same time the
Roman penal law, which bore such an out-and-out
national stamp, was little understood. Still more
important than this adoption of the foreign law was
the removal of members of the to^\Ti coimcil and
sheriffs from the law-courts to make room for trained
judges, whereby the harmony and agreement between
the view of the bench of judges and that of
the people, rendered so imperatively necessary by the
uncertainty of the penal laws, were entirely lost.
Added to this was the changed attitude of the judge to
the accused person, who, under the inquisitorial process,
was delivered up helpless to the unfettered authority
of the judge who was conducting the trial. The

' For fuller details thereon see below.


inquisitorial principle aimed at making the whole penal
procedure independent of formalities, in order that there
might be as little restriction as possible in the investiga-
tion of the facts of tlie case. Protecting formalities
were allowed to drop, provided justice remained safe.
The best proof of an accusation is the confession of
the accused : condemnation could only take place when
the culprit had owned up, or witnesses had proved his
guilt. Where these were wanting the examining judge
endeavoured to obtain full proof by means of torture.
Abuses and evils had become so great towards the end
of the fifteenth century that the Imperial Chamber
insisted on a new penal code being drawn up for the
whole of Germany, and the Diet at Freiburg in 1498
took the matter in hand. The generally complained
of dechne in the penal procedure of Germany was
chiefly manifest in the unlimited use of torture. ^

The judiciary use of torture was first introduced
into Germany in the middle of the fourteenth century ; ~
but it was only at the close of the fifteenth and during
the course of the sixteenth century that it reached
its terrible development, and torture in the hands
of the inquisitors became a special science and art.
Even those lawyers who recognised that there was
nothing so cruel and inhuman as to subject a human
being made after the image of God to the torture of the

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