A woman, burnt at the stake after being found guilty of witchcraft in 1627, is to have her case re-examined by Cologne City Council. Katharina Henot was head of the post office in Cologne, Germany when she was accused of witchcraft, making people ill and murder via witchcraft.

 

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Statue of Katharina Henot, Cologne. Image: © Raimond Spekking / CC-BY-SA-3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons

Arrested and thrown in prison along with her brother, Henot suffered horrendous torture while in prison but never admitted to anything. She lost the use of her right hand through torture and her last scrawl of innocence was made with her left. She was still found guilty though and burnt at the stake having been paraded around Cologne in a wagon.

 

Supporters of Henot say a grave wrong was done and the post mistress was more likely the victim of a plot by a rival to get their hands on her money.

 

A statue of Henot is on display in the town hall where one of her hands points to the fire beneath her and the other is raised in a symbol of defiance, a gesture that such a wrong should not be allowed happen again.

 

An evangelical priest, Hartmut Hegeler, has taken on the case after some students wanted to hear of the witch trials. Hegeler said he realised Henot had never been acquitted and in the eyes of the system, was still guilty of the charges. “As Christians, we find it challenging when innocent people are executed, even if it was centuries ago,” he said.

 

Henot was only one of 25,000 people burnt and executed in Germany during the witch trials. Germany murdered more ”witches” than anywhere else, most of them on hearsay and flimsy evidence. If Hegeler succeeds in having the verdict against Henot overturned, it could open the way for other victims to have their cases reheard.