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February 21, 2007

The Hexenturm files: The Zauberjäeckl trials

Hexenturmpostcard2_2 Over the last couple of days I've been telling you about my quest to find out about Salzburg's Hexenturm.

Well, in the middle of all this, I started reading a book about the witch persecutions called 'The Witch Hunts' by Robert Thurston. I haven't yet come across any information about the trials specifically in Salzburg, but I'll keep looking - in books and online.

The only specific story I know about Salzburg is about a man called 'Magic Jack' or Jackl (pronounced Yackel - like Jackel with a y). From 1675 - 1690 the Zauberjäeckl trials took place in Salzburg. This was one of the last major witch trials to take place in Europe and was particularly violent and brutal, not least of which because many of the victims had barely reached puberty.

At this time, the Catholic church, concerned about the growing number of vagabonds, prostitutes and pickpockets found a solution in Archbishop Max Gandolf. The centre of Gandolf's campaign was a man known as the 'Jackl'. He was accused of being a devil and teaching young beggars how to make potions and spells, of making them invisible when they stole, and generally leading them over to the dark side. To anyone sane, he sounds more like Oliver Twist's Fagan, but why waste time trying to catch a scoundrel like this mid-petty-crime, when you can instead accuse him of witchcraft, torture him, and have him burnt to death. Not only did this campaign rid the streets of Jackl the leader, but also of all his young followers.

One of the most unusual (and telling) factors of this particular witch trial, was that two thirds of accused where men (mmm, witches? Or an easy eradication of the unsavoury side to Salzburg society?). The most awful truth to this particular hunt was that one third were under the age of 16 (luckily those younger than 12 could not be sentenced to death, however their fate,  I'm sure, was not much better). Following long and harrowing bouts of torture most of the young men confessed. 200 people were executed.

For some more stories about the witch trials in Austria and Germany see: http://www.exulanten.com/alpha.html

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Comments

I am so glad that i came across your story! on October '07, my husband and I were in Saulzberg, and while on a bus tour, we passed that sign, I saw it quickly out of the corner of my eye, and, though I knew we had at one point walked passed that street, i dign't see it again! And I love witches, so I was looking! I did see the sign with the shoe, but I had no idea of the meaning!! Now I wished I had researched more. But, I thank you for all the info!!

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