In Germany, a 400-Year-Old Witchcraft Case Gets a Retrial

No, they’re not hunting for more witches. In fact, it’s part of a trend in Germany to rehabilitate the names of the executed.

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English School

An engraving above shows the execution of witches in England.

Hartmut Hegeler, a German pastor and religious educator, has been championing the exoneration of a woman who was burned at the stake nearly 400 years ago. The accused victim, Katharina Henot, died in the city of Cologne in 1627 on the premise of practicing witchcraft.

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The panel on the town’s city council is reviewing the evidence in an effort to clear Henot’s name. It is suspected she was an unfortunate victim of a deadly political conspiracy. In some circles, Henot is considered to be Germany’s first postmaster. Apparently, conflicts ensued in trying to establish a single, central post office. (Mail was serious business, people.)

Henot, of course, is not the only woman to have ever burned at the stake. (Ever heard of the Salem witch trials?) It is estimated that between the years of 1500 and 1782, more than 25,000 Germans were executed for witchcraft. Most victims were often used as scapegoats or were targeted as the result of personal vendettas.

Hegeler noted that “Katharina had her own reputation in high esteem; she would want to have it cleared.”

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Erica Ho is a contributor at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @ericamho and Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.