ROTHENBURG OB DER TAUBER, Germany -- Of all the sites this Bavarian
village has to offer, one of the most interesting and unusual could
be the Medieval Crime Museum.
Throughout four floors of displays, the museum traces 1,000
years of law and order in Germany.
On offer are a plethora of exhibits of gruesome torture devices
used to punish criminals -- such as spiked chairs and stretching
racks -- as well as other disciplinary tools used to reprimand
those convicted of more minor offenses.
For instance, the donkey of shame was a wooden creature created
as an uncomfortable seat for schoolchildren who didn't know their
And the iron maiden was the torture device that disgraced young
Several varieties of the mask of shame, each designed to fit a
certain crime, are also on display.
A metal mask with giant, bugle-shaped ears and an elongated,
pointy tongue, for example, was the punishment for gossipy women;
the oversized tongue and ears were to show that the wearer heard
all and repeated all.
And the mask of shame that resembles a wart hog was crafted for
men who acted like swine. Meanwhile, citizens who committed acts
that were deemed idiotic were sentenced to wear "shoes of fools,"
or footwear made of iron.
Even bad musicians couldn't catch a break; they were forced to
stand in public with an iron shame flute around their necks.
The museum also offers some insight into what office life was
like in the early part of the 20th century.
A sample office policy instructed workers that "simple clothing
is law. Persons are not allowed to wear light or glittery colors
and have to wear sensible socks."
It was also the employees' responsibility to look after their
health, because "in case of sickness, there will be no salary,
therefore it's recommended that everyone put away a part of his
salary for sickness and old age."
Apparently, the boss did have a heart, as this policy was "much
better than the last. For this reason, more work is expected."
Which was probably just as well, since talking was prohibited
from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The museum is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., from April to
October. The hours of operation from November to February are 2
p.m. to 4 p.m., and during March, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information, visit the museum's Web page at www.kriminalmuseum.rothenburg.de/Englisch/page1.html.