Dies in Nördlingen, Swabia, Germany, 1590.
In the Year of Our Lord 1590, the mayor and council of the town of Nördlingen hunted witches. Surviving letters from one of the accused, Rebecca Lemp (or Rebekka Lempin), and from her family provide a unique insight into these witch hunts. Based on the accusation of an executed witch, authorities arrested the forty-year-old mother of six on June 1, 1590 while her husband, the Zahlmeister or tax counter of the town, was away on business. ~ Letters from the Witch Trial of Rebecca Lemp trans. by Brian A. Pavlac
In March 1590, Rebecca Lemp was the respected wife of an accountant, Peter Lemp. She was the mother of six affectionate children. In April, because of the ambition of two local lawyers and a burgomaster, she was one of dozens of women arrested for witchcraft.
Her husband was away when she was arrested, but at first she and her children were relatively untroubled and certain that justice and reason would prevail. Her children sent her food, money and news, and assured her: “do not be worried about the housekeeping.” Kemp sent a letter to her husband, pleading, “Don’t hide thy face from me, thou knows my innocence. In God’s name, do not leave me in this anguish which is choking me.” she believed she would not be tortured, “since I am not guilty of anything.”
Peter Lemp believed his wife and stood by her during the months she was held in jail. However, her sanguine expectations of fair treatment were soon destroyed. She was tortured five time, and she finally confessed. Complaining of a heart “nearly broken” she tried to smuggle a note to her husband in which she marveled that God seemed not to hear her prayers and pleaded with there husband to send her some poison so she could escape another session of torture.
Her plea went unheard. The note was intercepted, and the lawyers merely added another charge to that of witchcraft—attempted suicide. They forced her to write a confession to her husband, but he didn’t believe it. He wrote the court an eloquent defense of his wife’s piety and innocence, but it was ignored. She was tortured again, and she was burned at the stake. Rebecca Lemp was not alone; in 1590, 32 highly respected women were burned as witches in Nördlingen.
Remember the Ladies, Kirstin Olsen, Main Street Press, 1988