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Uncovering the brutal 'Hexenverfolgung' tradition

Updated: Mar 30, 2020

By Amy Nicholas

March 8th marked celebrations for International Women’s Day and the achievements of women past and present. In an article from Die Märkische Allgemeine, historian Frank Brekow chose this date to share the dark history of ‘Hexenverfolgung’ (Witch-hunting) in Brandenburg. According to Brekow, the fear of being falsely suspected of witchcraft was a constant fear for women in the middle ages. Before a woman accused of being a witch could be convicted, she must confess to her ‘crimes’. These confessions were ensured by way of torture – thumbscrews and waterboarding were among the most common methods. After being convicted, the women were taken outside of the city to be burned. Documents mentioned in the article suggest that 30-50 such trials and convictions took place in this German town, right up until the end of the 17th century. Brekow also addresses the positive impact that several influential women in Brandenburg have had. One such figure is Gertrud Prusse, part of the struggle in the late 19th and early 20th century for better education for women; in 1870 she built and lead a school that provided education to 130 girls.

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