Schinderhannes, the 'King of the Soon Forest'
Highway robbery, attacks upon farmsteads and blackmail were all committed
by "Johannes through the woods", as Hans Bückler, the "Schinderhannes", called
himself. He used this name to sign passes for movement through his area. The
right to give these passes as well as the right to collect taxes were rights
the "King of the Soon Forest" gave himself. It is no wonder that the authorities
as well as the population did not put up with it for too long. In 1801, the
farmers made their first revolt against this robber baron. Eventually he was
caught and, in 1803, brought to court. Hans Bückler, who had enlisted in the
Austrian army under a false name, made a complete confession. At the same
time, though, he asked for mercy for some of the members of his band and for
his wife Julie Bläsius who had given birth to a son during incarceration in
the wooden tower in Mainz. The plea for his followers and for his wife so
impressed the public in the courtroom that he was suddenly seen not as a notorious
robber, but as a gentleman robber baron and helper of the poor, like Robin
Hood. The judges in Mainz did not share this opinion and during these sensational
proceedings they sentenced 20 people to death. Immediately after his death
the most amazing tales of his life began to emerge, and multiplied quickly.
It is not surprising, then, that the Schinderhannes was transformed into a
literary hero through a theatre play ("Schinderhannes") written by Carl Zuckmayer
(1896-1977). The premier of the play occurred in 1927 in Berlin, and a romantic
film adaptation of the story –starring Crud Jürgens and Maria Schell as main
characters (with footage of the moated castle Baldenau at
was a great success.
The ruins shown here of the Schmidtburg near
in the Hahnenbach valley, between
were a hideout of Schinderhannes for some time. With the Celtic "Altburg"
in sight, the Schmidtburg is picturesquely located on a narrow rock spur,
and is one of the oldest fortresses of the Hunsrück. It was built around 926
for protection against invasions from Hungary. It was the main seat of the
Earls of Nahegau, the Emichons (so-called due to Earls named Emicho I – Emicho
V) as well as their heirs, the nobleman (Wildgraf). The first documented mention
of the Schmidtburg dates back to 1084. After the death of the last Wildgrave
of the Schmidtburg lineage in 1328 the fortress was sold to the Archbishopric
of Trier, and subsequently extended and fortified by the Archbishop of Trier,
Balduin of Luxemburg. Until its destruction by French Troops in 1689 it was
the residence of a civil servant, and an important stronghold of Trier against
the Earls of the Hunsrück and Archbishop of Mainz.