Some Information about Anton Praetorius

The life of Anton Praetorius (1560-1613)

This is to inform you about Anton Praetorius, protestant fighter against the persecution of witches and against torture.

Anton Praetorius was born in 1560 in Lippstadt, Westphalia in Germany. He studied theology and became principal of the humanistic Latin school in Kamen/Westphalia. Here Praetorius got married, but he lost his wife Maria to the plague.

In 1597 he was appointed as Protestant pastor to the Earl of Büdingen/Ysenburg (near Frankfurt/Main) and had to witness the torture of 4 women accused of witchcraft.

According to the court records Praetorius got so affected by the torture that he protested violently and succeeded in stopping the trial against the last surviving woman. As a consequence Anton Praetorius was dismissed by the Earl.

In his new parish in Laudenbach/ Bergstrasse (near Heidelberg) he wrote the book „Gründlicher Bericht über Zauberey und Zauberer“ [Thorough Report about Witchcraft and Witches] to protest against torture and the prosecution of witches. At first he published the book in 1598 under an assumed name („Johannes Scultetus“). In 1602 he dared to publish it under his own name. The book was published again in 1613 and posthumously in 1629. Praetorius died in 1613 in Laudenbach.


Anton Praetorius

Anton Praetorius – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Encyclopaedia. Informations system of reformed Protestantism worldwide

Ordering of books

The books are written in German. They can be ordered from the author and are sent with an invoice. Prices in Euro plus postage.

Hartmut Hegeler, Sedanstr. 37, D-59427 Unna/Germany, Telefon 0049 2303 53051, Email: ed.xm1716330291g@rel1716330291egeH.1716330291tumtr1716330291aH1716330291


Anton Praetorius, fighting against prosecution of witches and fighting against torture – Anton Praetorius – Kämpfer gegen Hexenprozesse und Folter
historical biography
264 pages, ISBN 3-9808969-4-3, € 20 (reprint)
The book includes 100 images (30 colour photos of the places where Praetorius has lived), index of names and places, bibliography and numerous references.

Hexenbuhle (friend of the witches) – novel about Praetorius – Hexenbuhle – Das Geheimnis um Anton Praetorius
Persecution of witches and jews at the time of 1600
51 pages, ISBN 3-9808969-1-9, € 5,00

Hexenbuhle (friend of the witches) – audio book to the novel about Praetorius – Hexenbuhle. Hörbuch zum Roman
2005, ISBN 3-9808969-5-1, 2 CDs, ca. 110 minutes (out of stock)

Teaching materials about witchcraft trials and Anton Praetorius – Unterrichtsmaterialien: Hexenverfolgung/Anton Praetorius
teacher´s book, ISBN 3-9808969-3-5, 106 pages, 2005, spiral binding, € 15,00 € – teacher´s book

Teaching materials about witchcraft trials and Anton Praetorius – Unterrichtsmaterialien: Hexenverfolgung/Anton Praetorius
student´s book
58 pages, 2005, ISBN 3-9808969-8-6, spiral binding, € 5,00

Anton Praetorius and the witch – Anton Praetorius und die Hexe
children´s book with coloured pictures
30 pages, hardcover, ISBN 3-9808969-7-8, € 15,00

Posters about Witchcraft Trials and Anton Praetorius – Hexenprozesse und Praetorius: Plakate
10 Posters, print them yourself, (pdf file on CD), € 5,00

Anton Praetorius and the Great Wine Barrel in Heidelberg Castle – Anton Praetorius und das Große Fass von Heidelberg
ISBN 3-9808969-0-0, € 6,00 (no longer available)
Poem on the 1. Great Wine Barrel in the Castle of Heidelberg, 1595, by Anton Praetorius
Being the first calvinistic pastor of the parochy of the wine producing community of Dittelsheim Anton Praetorius visited nearby Heidelberg, the centre of Calvin´s theology in Germany. Impressed by the huge wine barrel in the Heidelberg castle he wrote a poem in 1595 praising the barrel as an apparent proof for the superiority of the calvinistic belief:

Image Vas Heidelbergense (Poem on the 1. Great Wine Barrel in the Castle of Heidelberg).

Persecution of the Witches and the Responsibility of the Churches – Hexenprozesse, die Kirchen und die Schuld
ISBN 3-9808969-2-7, € 8,00
(no longer available, only as a reprint)

More details and a table of contents and summary: see below

Ordering by Email: ed.xm1716330291g@rel1716330291egeh.1716330291tumtr1716330291ah1716330291 or telephone 0049-2303- 53051


1. Much has been written about the origins of witchcraft and about the impact of the book Malleus Maleficarum (1487) on the persecution of witches. It is not widely known, though, that persecution of witches took place in protestant as well as in catholic areas in Middle Europe. The reformers of the Church, Luther and Calvin, propagated this persecution according to the words of the bible Exodus 22.18: „Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live“. Sermons were held calling for the hunting down of witches.

But it was not only the Church which demanded trials against witches. At that time there was a widely accepted accordance between all legal and social institutions and the common people about the necessity of persecuting and torturing devil worshippers as observed in the contemporary witness of Loeher (in Rheinbach near Bonn 1640).

2. Individual Christians at that time protested against the persecution (Weyer, Praetorius, Spee, Meyfart). Over the centuries the protests of the Protestants have been forgotten, while the testimony of the catholic Friedrich Spee has been kept alive.

3. During the period of the Enlightenment it was one of the main aims of historians to make a contribution to put an end to the controversy regarding the trials. Blame for the persecution of witches was put on the Churches.

4. The period of Romanticism put the emphasis on the Germanic roots of witchcraft. Witches were seen as being „wise women“ with a knowledge of herbs for medical purposes.

5. Soldan-Heppe´s publication „History of Witchcraft Trials“ (1843) made a big impact on the awareness of academics about the dimensions of the persecutions and put the blame on the Churches for a long time to come.

6. During the period of National Socialism a fierce controversy on witchcraft raged in Germany. Nazi demagogue Rosenberg accused the Catholic Church of importing the belief in witchcraft from oriental / Jewish sources. The Catholic Church tried to give evidence that witchcraft was genuinely Germanic. Himmler´s SS prepared an elaborate documentation on the witchcraft trials in order to discredit the Churches.

7. The witchcraft trials as a topic of Church history

After the sharp controversy during the Nazi period it is not surprising that Church historians in Germany rather tend to avoid this topic. The Church history of Heussi (1907) for example, which was widely used by students of theology, mentioned the persecution of witches in three sentences only. It said: The prevalence of superstition (delusion of witchcraft) was very destructive for church life. The German Lutherans with their ´reckless faith in God` played an important part in the recovery of the social conditions.

8. The position of the Churches

There are Christian groups in Germany like the ecumenical initiative Jeanne d´Arc in Berlin which demand that the Churches clarify their position.

Since 1792, when the last execution of a witch took place in Switzerland, no Church in Europe has issued an official statement on the witch-hunts.

Only in 1997 the synod of the Lutheran Church in Bavaria passed an elaborate declaration (120 pages) of repentance for the responsibility of protestant influence on the witch-hunt in Bavaria.

In 2001 the synod of the Protestant Church of Westphalia declared its intention to work out a similar statement.

The words of the Pope´s Mea Culpa („my guilt“) in the holy year 2000 are rather vague:

In the necessary striving for the protection of the truth there have been individual men of the Church who have sometimes made use of methods which were not in accordance with the gospel.

Pope John Paul II neither mentioned the words „heretics“ and „witches“ nor the victims of the persecutions. Therefore the Mea Culpa has rather been a disappointment for many people who had hoped for a clear word of apology of the Pope for the involvement of the Church in the persecution of minorities and of witches.

A whole hearted statement is expected from the Churches as social institutions with special moral obligations.

9. The Ecumenical Decade to Overcome Violence of the World Council of Churches (2001 – 2010) is calling for the churches to „repent for our complicity in violence“. This is a particular challenge for the Churches especially in Germany to come to terms with the past. It is just not enough to concentrate on developing visions of a future Church. A large majority of the people are convinced that it was the Church itself which conducted the persecution of witches. This is not correct, though, as the trials of the witches were conducted by the government. This shows the necessity to deal with this topic so correct historic information is available.

10. Exonoration of the victims

A re-evaluation of the history books is overdue. Many of the accused in the witchcraft trials denied their guilt in spite of heavy torture but confessed their faith in God until their death. Their martyrdom should finally be acknowledged by the Churches. They should no longer be regarded as „sinners“ but as „saints“. Places of remembrance should give witness to their fate.

The last victims of the witchcraft trials of Salem/ USA were exonerated in 2001.

In Norway neither the government nor the Supreme Court have ever rehabilitated the victims of the witch hunts. But the victims of the Norwegian witch-hunts from 1578 to 1695 have now received a national memorial monument from a private sponsoring group in Nordnes in Bergen.

The victims of the witchcraft trials should be given back their dignity as human beings and as Christians. Their plight is a warning example of the persecution of innocent people.


I. Statement of the Protestant Lutheran Church in Bavaria about the church responsibility for witch-hunt (1997)

II. Petition to the Church of Westphalia for a statement about the church responsibility for witch-hunt (2001)

III. Statement of the President of the Church of Zurich / Switzerland about the church responsibility for witch-hunt (2001)

About the author

Hartmut Hegeler was born in 1946. He was pastor in the Church District of Unna in the Church of Westphalia/ Germany. 1982-2010 he was teaching the subject of religion in the Maerkische Vocational Training College in Unna.

Questions of his students about the persecution of witches were the impulse for his studies on this subject.