Pappenheimer family

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The Pappenheimer family was tried and executed for witchcraft in 1600 in Bavaria, Germany. The case is taken as an example of the torture used in witch trials, as it is unusually well documented.


The Pappenheimers consisted of father Paulus, mother Anna, sons Jacob (sometimes called Michel) and Gumpprecht, and the youngest son, ten-year-old Hoel (sometimes called Hansel). They belonged to the lower class in German society, and were originally beggars from Swabia. Pappenheimer was a nickname, their actual family name was Pämb or Gämperle.[citation needed]

Witch trial[edit]

They were pointed out by an arrested thief, and arrested in the middle of the night, taken from their beds and brought to jail, accused of having assisted the thief in murdering pregnant women for the purpose of making candles out of their unbaptized fetuses.[citation needed]

On the order of the duke Maximilian I (Elector of Bavaria), they were taken to Munich, and exposed to torture so fierce they confessed to anything they were accused of or questioned about. They were made responsible for every unsolved crime that had occurred in Bavaria in the later years and confessed to hundreds of thefts and murders. They admitted sorcery and pointed out over four hundred accomplices.[citation needed]


The parents and the eldest sons were to be executed together with two other men. The bodies of the men were torn six times each with irons, Anna's breasts were cut off and rubbed in the faces of her adult sons, the skeletons of the men were broken on the wheel, the father was subjected to impalement on a pike, and finally, they were burned at the stake. All this took place in front of the youngest son, ten-year-old Hoel, who was to witness the execution of his family; he had been brought along on the horse of the sheriff, who was to write down his reactions. Later the same year, in December 1600, six more people were burned at the stake in Münich, including Hoel.


The historian Joseph Hormayr, Baron zu Hortenburg provides a detailed excerpt from an old chronicle depicting these events in the 1844 edition of Taschenbuch für die vaterländische Geschichte, pages 331-332.

In Münich 29. July 1600, six persons were executed in the following manner: The vagabond and beggar Paul Gämperl was impaled, his wife had her breasts cut off, and both herself and two of her sons had those breasts smeared onto their mouths. In addition, two other men and associates were executed, and all six were pinched with glowing pincers. Their arms were broken on the wheel, and they were afterwards burnt alive.

They had confessed to being devoted to the Devil, and with his help, in particular by making a devilish, magic salve, to have contributed to the deaths of at least 400 children and more than 50 old people by having applied that salve. Paul Gämperl was condemned for being directly responsible for 44 murders; in total, the six were condemned for 74 murders. In addition, they had been charged with many acts of robbery, theft and nightly burglaries, where they had plundered houses and killed the people in the houses. They had also, according to the charges, put on fire diverse hamlets and marketplaces, principally in order to get away with goods in the ensuing confusion. Also, they had conjured up bad weather, killed cows in the field, robbed churches and sold to the Jews the holy wafers.

The 27. November 1600 was the next batch of the gang executed. This was a mother and her two daughter, as well as two other men. The last to be executed was the 12-year-old son of Paul Gämperl, who in the intervening time had been baptized and given the name Cyprian. However, that did not help him, he was first strangled, and then his corpse was burned. The other 5 were burnt alive. Cyprian was condemned for having performed 8 murders on his own. The members of the whole group had, under torture, admitted to having contributed to the deaths of over 400 children, having killed, by means of sorcery, 39 individuals, and admitted 62 murders besides.[1]

Some divergences, such as Anna Gämperl having died prior to being burnt, rather than burning alive in the Hormayr account, in the chronicle used by Hormayr can be seen relative to an English account of the trial already in 1601 (translated from a Dutch copy of the German original), A Strange Report of Sixe most notorious Witches[2]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Michael Kunze: Highroad to the stake: A tale of Witchcraft
  • Michelle Powell-Smith: Torture and the Witchcraze of Early Modern Europe Part 4
  • Horn, Michael (2009). "Das Leben und gewaltsame Ende der Landstreicherfamilie Pämb, genannt die Pappenheimer". Historische Serienmörder. 2. Kirchschlager Verlag. ISBN 978-3-934277-25-0.
  • Ritual in early modern Europe, pág. 119. Edward Muir. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521841535 (2005)
  • Women in world history, Volume 2, pág. 76. Sarah S. Hughes, Brady Hughes. M.E. Sharpe. ISBN 9781563243134 (1997)
  • Magic, mystery, and science: the occult in Western civilization, pág. 177. Dan Burton, David Grandy. Indiana University Press. ISBN 9780253216564 (2004)


  1. ^ Hormayr, Joseph, Freiherr von; Mednyanszky, Alois, Freiherr von (1844). Taschenbuch für die vaterländische Geschichte (volume 23 of whole series, volume 15 in new series). Berlin: G.Reimer. pp. 331–332.
  2. ^ Anonymous (1601). A Strange Report of Sixe most notorious Witches. London: T. Pauier.

External links[edit]

  • [1] Historische Serienmörder Band 2