Schwedentrunk

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Water torture. Woodcut from 1556

The Schwedentrunk (English: Swedish drink) is a method of torture and execution. The name was invented by German victims of Swedish troops during the Thirty Years' War. This method of torture was administered by other international troops, mercenaries, and marauders, and especially by civilians following the Swedish baggage train, who received no pay. It was used to force peasants or town citizens to hand over hidden money, food, animals, etc., or to extort sex from women.

Even though 15% to 20% (locally up to 60%) of the German population perished due to violence, famine, and disease during the war, the memory of the Schwedentrunk was preserved. The method was immortalized in one of the first widely read German books, the satirical Der abenteuerliche Simplicissimus published by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen in 1668.

Mechanism[edit]

Den Knecht legten sie gebunden auf die Erd, stecketen ihm ein Sperrholz ins Maul, und schütteten ihm einen Melkkübel voll garstig Mistlachenwasser in Leib, das nenneten sie ein Schwedischen Trunk

Its English translation is:

They lay the bound servant on the ground, stuck a wooden wedge into his mouth, and poured into his belly a bucket full of foul manure water, which they called a Swedish Drink.

Use of the Schwedentrunk is recorded in the histories of towns throughout Southern Germany. Though specific circumstances differed, in every case a restrained and gagged victim was forced to swallow (by means of a funnel) a large amount of unappetizing, sometimes boiling liquid. Substances such as urine, excrement, liquid manure, and sullage were used for this purpose.

Apart from disgust, illness, and the possibility of bacterial infection, the Schwedentrunk inflicted intense gastric pain. Because liquids are incompressible, the victim's stomach and bowels must expand to painful proportions to accommodate the copious quantities of fluid. The torturers then squeezed the distended belly with wooden boards or trampled the victim underfoot.

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