Among the thousands of thousands of innocent people killed by the organization known as the Holy Inquisition, were innocent men and women. People whose life suddenly started to depend to the unqualified judges. Often, the bunch of gossips related to the witchcraft was the reason of the process ended with the death sentence. One of such a stories became the reason why Barbara Zdunk had to die. She was born in 1769 in Reszel ( Rößel) now in Poland, but during the lifetime of Barbara, it belonged to Prussia. Her life was perhaps pretty common an unimpressive until the blind accusations changed her life into the hell and ended it in a tragic way.
Scary witch or unlucky woman?
Her life has changed when in 1806 the tragedy touched her city. It was the night from 16 to 17 September, the granaries were full of The fire burned almost everything to the ground. People tried to find the explanation to this tragedy, so they turned to the closed-minded belief about the „bad witches”. Those times the society was still afraid of women whose life was different than others.
If they didn’t have a husband, children or didn’t find any justification, they were judged by the society as weird or dangerous.Those times Zdunk was a maid famous of her impressive knowledge related to magic. People believed that she had to be a witch.
Barbara fell in love with a man who didn’t share her feelings. His name was Jakob Auster, and according to some resources he was very young, maybe even a teenager, when Barbara was 38 years old. He wasn’t interested in this woman.
When the city was burned, someone said that Barbara put the fire to punish the world for her broken heart. Some people claimed they have seen Barbarachanting the spells full of anger and hate. They believed she wished the citizens of Reszel to suffer as much as her heart.
There is another theory saying that Barbara was a mentally ill woman, who caused the fire of the city without any awareness what has she done. However, there is no evidence to this story either.
The victim of insane ideas
In fact, Reszelwas burned by polish soldiers from the army of Napoleon Bonaparte. However, the process of Barbara was very comfortable to the soldiers, nobody was interested in their guilts. At the same time, many people seemed to be aware of her innocence. The case of Barbara Zdunk was very difficult, and at the end of the process nobody wanted to make the final sentence. Therefore, the one who decided to execute her was king Frederick William III of Prussia. Why did he make such a decision? Did he read the documents related to the process? Was he aware that he sends to death the innocent woman?
Barbara was executed just after his decision on August 21, 1811. According to the notes by the witness of her execution, Barbara was suffocated to death before burning her at the stake.
The last witch?
It is believed that Barbara was the last witch executed in Europe. Although I believe that it is nearly impossible to find undoubtful conclusion which person was the last executed for witchcraft, it is acceptable that her death took a place at the end of long-lasting madness of killing people in the name of Inquisition
The resources from different parts of the continent suggest there were more women killed due to the same reason in this period. Although Zdunk might not be the last woman who died in such a circumstance, she appears as a symbol this cruel period in the history of Europe.