In 1627 German post office owner Katharina Henot was convicted as a witch and burned at the stake in Cologne. 385 years later doubts have been cast on Henot’s witch status and a retrial called by the Cologne Council, who originally found Henot guilty. This is part of a bid to rehabilitate the names of those executed all across Germany where 25,000 witches sentenced to burn in the 15th century.
It is believed that the brother and sister had a political rival in the Imperial court, Count Leonhard II Von Taxis, who wanted a central post office. The conflict and the witch trial are usually linked in the telling of Henot’s story.
Paranoia regarding witches seized the city of Cologne in 1626, when a nun became “obsessed” It was rumoured Katharina Henot was to blame. In January 1627 the archbishop arrested the Henots, blaming them for causing death and sickness in the convent by magic. Katharina was imprisoned with no bail or protection.
Even after torture Katharina admitted nothing. She was judged guilty and burned alive at the stake for witchcraft. The trial was not thought to be legally correct in 1627 but all appeals by Katharina’s brother to free her failed.
Now an Evangelical priest in Cologne has traced Henot’s descendants and called for a retrial. Hartmut Hegeler says of his reasons to call for the case to be reopened: “As Christians, we find it challenging when innocent people are executed, even If it was centuries ago.”
Some of Henot’s living descendants will attend the hearings, a relative, Martina Hirtz, said: “I do think she should have her name cleared. But I think of the endless amount of people still living who are being mistreated and find that much worse.”