Susanna Margaretha Brandt


January 19, 2022

Susanna Margaretha Brandt (born February 8, 1746 in Frankfurt am Main; † January 14, 1772 in Frankfurt am Main) was a Frankfurt maid who, together with the case of Maria Flint, served as a model for Goethe's Gretchen tragedy in his Faust. She killed her newborn child and was sentenced to death and executed for it.


Susanna Margaretha Brandt was born the eighth child of a soldier and grew up as an orphan. She worked as a maid for the widow Bauer in the Frankfurt hostel "Zum Einhorn". Three or four weeks before Christmas 1770 she was seduced by a journeyman goldsmith from Holland, who had stayed as a guest at the inn on his travels. According to her later testimony, he invited her to wine and flattered her with nice words, possibly even putting a powder in the wine, because "she felt so strange, she couldn't resist any longer, the devil had to put his hand in had game". After a few days, the goldsmith moved on to Russia. Susanna Margaretha Brandt knew neither his exact name nor an address. She hid her pregnancy from her two sisters and her landlady, although they soon became suspicious. She continued to work from dawn to dusk. A doctor she saw when her "cleanse" failed to appear prescribed tea for her. He didn't notice anything about the pregnancy. Four weeks before the birth, at the urging of the other women, she went to another doctor. He also didn't notice that she was seven months pregnant. On July 31, 1771, in the laundry room, she suffered from nausea and severe abdominal pain. The widow Bauer made her some tea and at the same time threatened her with dismissal. At that time, concealing a pregnancy or even giving birth in secret was punishable by law. On the evening of August 1, 1771, she gave birth to a boy in the scullery. It was a fall birth, the child fell head first on the stone floor. She later testified that it only rattled briefly. In a panic, she grabbed his neck with her left hand and scratched his face with her right; then she hid it in the stable on the Staufenmauer behind the house. At dawn, when the city gates opened, she fled via Höchst to Mainz, where she had to sell her earrings in order to be able to pay for the market boat and the hostel. Completely destitute and exhausted, she returned to Frankfurt the next day. She was arrested by the guards at the Bockenheimer Tor and taken to the prison in the Katharinenpforte next to the Katharinenkirche. On the evening of August 3, 1771, she was taken from there to the hospital. Five days later, the child's body, which was buried in the Gutleuthof cemetery, was dug up again. When it was presented to her, she broke down and confessed, "Lord Jesus, this is my child, I laid hands on it". After eight weeks of preparation, the court met in the Römer from October 8th to 12th, 1771. According to the custom of the time, the criminal proceedings took place without an oral hearing. The first death sentence was issued on October 12, after which her defense attorney, Marcus Augustus Schaaf, had time to write a plea. On January 7, 1772, the verdict was upheld; it was death by the sword; an appeal for clemency was rejected the very next day. On January 14, 1772, at around 10 a.m., the condemned woman was led to the scaffold at the main guard station, where the executioner Johann Hoffmann was waiting for her at the judge's chair. "The messenger led the maleficant with his hand to the chair, sat her down on it, tied her to the chair in two places, bared her neck and head, and while the clergymen kept calling to her, her head was happily removed by...a prank .”

The verdict in its entirety

The 335 pages st

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