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Judicial and Prison Flogging in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-century Germany

Extracts from old German books, discovered and translated by "Diogenes"

W. Breithaupt, Die Strafe des Staupenschlags und ihre Abschaffung in Gemeinen Recht (publ. 1938)

"Staupenschlag" was the severest form of judicial corporal punishment.

It was also the most disgraceful since it was inflicted in public and by the official executioner or his assistants.

The instrument of punishment was usually a bundle of birch twigs or similar material. Sometimes a single rod or a scourge was used. In Danzig the executioners seem to have favoured a rope or a leather whip, whereas in Trier a horse whip was the usual instrument.

Public floggings were either inflicted in a procession through the streets or at the whipping post on the platform of disgrace.

In most German principalities the most usual punishment was 39 or 40 strokes.

In the Austrian regions, punishments were awarded as a fraction or multiple of a "Schilling": a "whole Schilling" meant 30 strokes; a "half Schilling" meant 15 strokes. Occasional cases of a "double Schilling", or 60 strokes, are recorded.

The number of birch rods to be employed was also often specified in the sentence: "Staupenschlag mit 4 Ruthen je 40 Streiche", or 40 strokes using 4 rods.

"Staupenschlag" was considered extremely degrading and was intended as an example. The infamy attached to one's person being chastised by the public hangman was indelible.

Judicial corporal punishment lost much of its power of degradation in the nineteenth century when it was inflicted in prisons or houses of correction and no longer by the executioner.

G. Schindler, Verbrechen und Strafen in Recht der Stadt Freiburg 1520-1806 (publ. 1937)

The Freiburg records contain two unusual sentences:

1758. Johann Begel, 15 years old, from Hofsgrund. For stealing various tools. To be flogged by the Beadle with a rod for as long as it takes for the blood to run down from his buttocks.

Dominicus Hofmann. A 16 year-old thief. To be flogged in public by way of example at an Assembly, of the Latin School, by two Beadles to the extent of 40 strokes with rods on his bottom.

M. Koppel, Die Voreeschichte des Zuchthases zu Waldheim Leipzig, 1934 (Waldheim was in Saxony)

In the eighteenth century every prisoner was flogged on arrival:
An "Ordinary Welcome" involved 12 strokes.
A "Middling Welcome" involved 18 strokes.
A "Strong Welcome" involved 24 strokes.

Floggings with a Whip were inflicted at the Post, in the middle of the castle courtyard.

Birchings were inflicted on the "Bock" or bench, in a corner of the courtyard.

The "Bock" also served for the infliction of judicial sentences over and above the usual "welcome"; such sentences usually involved 24, 36, or 48 strokes with 4, 6 or 8 fresh rods respectively.

In the House of Correction at Rawicz the "Bock" was also employed when the Whip was ordered, as the following extract from the Rules from 1835 illustrates:

"The punishment is to be inflicted only with a whip on the buttocks only after the prisoner has been fastened in the regulation machine".

The Saxon Code of Laws of 1855 was one of the harshest in the German states, imposing between 20 and 60 strokes for numerous offences. Men were to be flogged with either (a) a bundle of birch rods 85cms long, bound together up to the middle, on the naked back and/or buttocks, or (b) with an 85cm-long hazel stick no wider than 0.75 cms at the end and only "auf das entblosste Gesass" (on the bare bottom). Women were only to receive the birch or hazel rod on their clothed buttocks.

In the year 1855 alone, 903 prisoners were flogged in the Waldheim House of Correction.

Corporal punishment of women was abolished in 1870.

In 1883 the flogging of male prisoners across the back was prohibited, but hazel sticks continued to be applied to their bare buttocks.

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Copyright © C. Farrell and "Diogenes" 1999