Elisabetha Gassner

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Elisabetha Gaßner (Maria Elisabetha Gassnerin, née Ebnerin; baptized April 9, 1747 in Wiblingen ; † July 16, 1788 in Oberdischingen ), popularly known as the Schwarze Lies , was an active market and pickpocket thief in southern Germany.

Origin and family

Elisabetha was born in the monastery town of Wiblingen near Ulm. She had a brother named Martin who was about six and a half years older and entered military service at the beginning of the Seven Years' War . Her father, Johannes Ebner, was an abdicated soldier and came from a family of day laborers from Thonlohe near Jachenhausen in the Altmühltal. He died early, allegedly in Hirschbach near Wertingen, but this cannot be proven. The mother was born out of wedlock in Katzdorf near Neunburg vorm Wald. She died on May 26, 1782 at the age of 77 in Biberberg. At the time of Elisabetha's birth, the parents led a life as vague, that is, as a non-sedentary.

On June 7, 1770, Elisabetha married Johannes Gassner from Biberberg, who after twelve years of military service in various troop contingents in the Swabian District returned with Elisabetha to his home town and settled there. The couple already had two children, Hansjörg and Kreszenzia. The marriage resulted in four more, of which two were still alive in 1787 in addition to the two elders, Joseph and Maria Josepha.

Criminal career

At the end of the 1760s, Elisabetha first came into contact with professional property crime through a vagant and thief she knew . At that time, however, she still earned her livelihood mainly by knitting cotton stockings and doing seasonal work in agriculture. After settling down in Biberberg, she increasingly fed the steadily growing family, which also included mother Elisabetha Ebnerin, from theft. At the end of 1779 the Gassner household consisted of eight people. A year earlier, Elisabetha had already acquired a smallholder property through considerable loot.

The arrest of the couple in early 1781 ended Elisabetha's sedentary life in Biberberg. She initially settled in Switzerland, then stayed with her new partner, Matheis Ruttmann, who came from Munningen near Oettingen im Ries, for half a year in Tyrol and eventually returned with him to Swabian and Württemberg. In March 1786 the couple had a daughter in Bleibach near Gutach im Breisgau; she was baptized in the name of Anna Maria. Elisabetha now earned their living together almost exclusively and very successfully through pickpocketing. The damage that their victims suffered from a total of 300 documented property crimes was later only rudimentary at 7,685 guilders .

The most well-known act in which she was involved was the legendary embellishment of the pickpocketing of the imperial count Franz Ludwig Schenk von Castell , the most famous "crook hunter" of Upper Swabia , who during the visit of the Russian Grand Duke, the later Tsar Paul I, at the Ludwigsburg court in the court chapel there for his purse with gold currency worth 1700 guilders . The main culprit was a woman from Ludwigsburg named Lisabeth, who was married to a man who was called Schokulat Hannes in rogue circles because of his trade. That the count later pronounced the death sentence on Elisabetha Gassnerin is an accidental irony of history. Although self-sacrifice, he exercised a certain extent grace and recognized counter routinely collected opinions of lawyers Württemberg (bailiff Klein), that of death from the train pleaded to beheading .

Elisabetha obtained another respite by stating at the end of her interrogation that she had been taken prisoner while pregnant . The investigation by three court-appointed midwives on May 15, 1788 could not confirm this, but the report advised that the execution of the death penalty should be suspended until the end of the ninth month since the arrest.

On July 16, 1788 Elisabetha Gassnerin was executed by the sword by executioner Xaver Vollmer in Oberdischingen .


  • Eva Wiebel, Die Schleiferbärbel and the black Lies. Life and life descriptions of two notorious crooks of the 18th century, in Andreas Blauert / Gerd Schwerhoff (eds.) Kriminalitätsgeschichte Contributions to the social and cultural history of the premodern, Konstanz 2000, pp. 759-800
  • Silja Foshag, "It is a fear what they stole ...". Life and personality of the "Archdief" and "Landvagant" Elisabetha Gassnerin, known as Schwarze Lies, who was executed in Oberdischingen in 1788. Dissertation, University of Potsdam, 2015.

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