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February 20, 2007

The Hexenturm files: The bookshop story

Hexenturmpostcard2_1 Yesterday I was telling you how when I was trying to find information on the internet about the old Hexenturm in Salzburg, I kept coming across things about the Hexenturm book shop on the same street.

Eventually, I plucked up the courage to go in, and subjected the guy my own version of the Spanish Inquisition. To my relief, the owner spoke extremely good English, was very friendly, and I think was quite pleased to be asked about, what turned out to be, quite a passion of his. And here's what he told me:

The Hexenturm, or witchtower, did indeed stand on the spot where the laundry stands today. It was a large round building with a very wide radius, which jutted out past the facade of the current building, making the street very narrow. The hexenturm was used to imprison accused 'witches' during the witch-trials craze that swept through Salzburg on it's disasterous journey through Europe and North America. The tower held up to 100 people at a time and was equipped for torture, beheading, and strangulation. The youngest tower 'guest' was 12. whilst the eldest was 80.

Unfortunate souls who were unlucky enough to be convicted of witchcraft were burnt here too.

Hexenturmbookshop_1The tower was eventually destroyed when American bombs stuck it on 17 November 1944. The witch sign that had adorned the roof though, depicting the stereotypical woman on her broom, survived. It was made of metal and had originally been painted in colour. The bookshop man found a colour sketch of this sign in an old book, and to my surprise the woman riding the broom had blonde hair. Needless to say, due to the bombing, the sign had been blackened from head to 'broom'. I asked the man if this was the black sign now hanging outside his shop. No, he said, it is a copy, however apparently the original sign does still exist, and is on display in the Fortress Museum which itself towers above Salzburg.

Now the bookshop man, clearly quite happy to be sharing his hobby with me, was in full flow. He disappeared into the back room of the bookshop, and emerged with a little pile of postcards. He explained that the term Hexenturm was not only used for the tower where 'witches' were imprisoned, but also for a house/tower where a 'witch' lived. He showed me at least a dozen postcards - pictures of both types of hexenturm which he had collected over the years. These were from various locations across Austria and Germany.

Who knew?! I was thrilled to have obviously found just the person to answer my questions. And I felt that he was quite pleased that someone else was interested in this topic too. I thanked him profusely for taking the time to answer all my questions, but before I left he gave me a postcard to take with me. It was a picture of the Hexenturm - the same one that was hanging in the laundry. All he asked for in return was that, while on my travels, if I ever see a postcard of another hexenturm, I post it to him.

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The man at the bookshop sent us an email - he'd love people to send him postcards of any Hexenturms you come across - http://lemontree.typepad.com/a_lemon_tree_of_our_own/2007/02/the_hexenturm_f_2.html

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