WITCH HUNT – THE MECHANICS OF MASS HYSTERIA

Over 50,000 people in Europe fell victim to a witch pogrom between the end of the 15th century and the late 18th century—fuelled by a detailed guide to witch hunts called “Malleus Maleficarum”.

Between the end of the Middle Ages and the late 18th century, over 50,000 Europeans were persecuted, tortured and executed on charges of witchcraft. The witch hunt was sparked by a Dominican monk named Heinrich Kramer. He was obsessed with the idea that witches were part of a satanic conspiracy. To prevent the impending apocalypse, he wrote a book that would become a guide and legal treatise for the persecution of witches in the Christian world: “Malleus Maleficarum”. Kramer describes in detail how to recognise witches, how to put them on trial and how they should be executed. The first edition was published in 1486, after which the work spread like wildfire throughout Europe and even to America. Thousands of alleged witches were blamed for famines, natural disasters, diseases, epidemics and other misfortunes. The film traces the lives of the supposed witches based on the sources still available today, quoting from the records of witch trials and the sentences passed. The accounts of the perpetrators and victims show how good citizens were transformed into torturers and murderers, shedding light on how this mass hysteria came about.

Genre History / Docudrama
Length 45'/52' HD
Film by Roland May
Production LAVAFILM for SWR, with the support of MFG Baden-Württemberg
Original Title Hexenjagd
Year 2018