Just in time for Walpurgisnacht, or Germany’s mythical “night of the witches” I was proud to bring this project to fruition – a labour of love that has been on my mind for decades. As the descendent of a family that lost several members to witch hunts, I went after the story of my ancestors, speaking to historians and digging through archives in southwestern Germany.

From the beginning of the Great European Witch Hunts in the 15th century to witch hunts in present-day Africa and Asia, the resulting film elucidates why they really happened, and why being singled out as a witch can still be deadly today. Find the full video on our DW History and Culture YT channel, where it has generated quite a conversation.

With Historian Walter Rummel

I remember the day I learned we had a witch in the family. I walked with my parents up a leafy hillside overlooking Winningen, a picturesque wine-making town on the banks of Germany’s Moselle River. It was a pilgrimage to the top of the “Hexenhügel,” or Witches’ Hill, where a sombre obelisk commemorates 21 people who died as a result of the Winningen Witch Trials.

For a Canadian kid just discovering Europe, it was quite a revelation. My mind was instantly filled with horrifying images. I ran my finger over the rough engraving of my 9th great-grandmother’s name: Margarethe Kröber. She had died over 300 years earlier, burned as a witch in November 1642.

Decades later, I was still haunted by her story and tried to find out more.

Screenshot: DW, Photo: Manja Wolff