LEMGO, 11km north of Detmold, preserves a beguiling small-town atmosphere that harks back to its Hanseatic League prime, its streets a photogenic blend of Weser Renaissance pomp and picturesque half-timbering. Not everything in the town’s history is as charming as its architecture, however. Converting to Protestantism after the Reformation, from 1583 to 1681 Lemgo was gripped by an anti-witchcraft frenzy that was cynically exploited by politicians – most notoriously by Hermann Cothmann (1629–83), the so-called Hexenbürgermeister or “witch mayor”, who presided over the last, bloodiest, wave of trials. The last woman prosecuted for witchcraft, Maria Rampendahl, survived, but 254 men and women were not so fortunate.

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