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Biography

Johann Georg Tinius

Johann Georg F. Tinius, theologian, criminal Out of greed For books, born in 1764 in the Niederlausitz [region], died on 24 September 1846 in Graebendorf near  Koenigswusterhausen. The father was a shepherd in a Prussian domain of' the Niederlansitz, as a boy  Tinius helped his father in his business and therefore learned by his own observation the useful and the harmful, the healing and the narcotic and poisonous properties of plants, herbs and grasses. The local preacher recognized the boy's talents and arranged for the boy to receive a higher education. Tinius attended the high school in Wittenberg and then studied theology at the university at the same place. At this time he already excelled with his extraordinary memory and his inquisitiveness. After finishing his studies the young Master was a house teacher, then became a high school teacher in Schleusingen, 1798 priest in Heinrichs near Suhl and in 1809 he received the lucrative priest position in Poserna near Weissenfels He was lauded everywhere for his sense of duty, his zeal, his skills and his demeanor. An unsatiable hunger for knowledge drove him to the establishment and continuous expansion of a theological and linguistic library, which became his passion and his downfall. Soon the salaries of his profession, the fortune of his deceased first wife and the interest of the fortune of his second wife were no longer sufficient to sustain his greed for the expansion of his collection and he pursued the path of crime. First Tinius embezzled church money in his care and soon he sank down to become a robber and a murderer. From 1810 on several cases of robbery of mail coaches occurred in the surroundings of Weissenfels and Luetzen on the military road to Leipzig and its side roads. Single travellers who arried large sums of money would meet at some stations near Welssenfels an unknown man who would offer them snuff during their conversation, whoever took a small amount of snuff would become sleepy and soon fall asleep; after waking up the unknown man had disappeared together with the traveller's money. Each time the mysterious person Was In a different disguise, but the similarity of the way in which the robberies were carried out left no doubt that all the crimes were committed by a single person. It was Tinius who by committing these crimes gained the means to purchase new books; his knowledge of narcotic herbs was used for such shameful purposes. Tinius was under suspicion., but nobody was ready to connect the popular and respected clergyman to such shameful deeds. Success made the male factor bolder. On January 28, 1812 Tinius committed in broad daylight murder and robbery on the merchant Schmidt in Leipzig by crushing his skull with a pointed hammer and got away with 3000 Thaler [currency]. All the efforts of the courts to find the perpetrator were unsuccessful. One year later, on February 8, 1813 a similar robbery and murder of the widow Kunhardt In Leipzig happened but the perpetrator did not obtain any money, By now, however, so much evidence had accumulated against Tinius that he was arrested on March 4, 1813. The court found in the rooms of his priest house and along the walls of his barn a library of somewhat 60000 volumes; the court also found long lists of all living wealthy persons, several wigs, false beards and all kinds of disguises the court also found a hammer which fit to the injuries found on the skull of the widow Kunhardt. The preliminary hearings in front of the jury court in Leipzig lasted for a whole year. Tinius denied everything and with shrewd adeptness was able to offer a natural explanation for each piece of evidence brought against him. Despite this, criminal proceedings against him were opened in March 1814. On March 31, 1814 Tinius was, according to the regulations, publicly and solemnly deprived of his priesthood in Leipzig's Nicolai Church by Superintendent Rosenmuller, during which he showed no sign of anguish or uneasiness. Due to the political and wartime events at that time the trial took an extraordinary amount of time, especially due to the change of all authorities and institutions since Poserna belonged to that part of Saxonia [German state] that fell to Prussia [German state] after the Vienna Congress. Only in 1823 the sentence was pronounced, The murder and robbery of Schmidt Could not be proved, but the case of Kunhardt was considered as proved and Tinius was given an 18 year penitentiary sentence. The second instance reduced the sentence to 10 years because of the long pre-trial detention but also added 2 years for the embezzlement of church money, so the total punishment was 12 years in penitentiary. The almost 60 year-old Tinius began to serve his penitentiary terrn in 1823 and appeared under detention and in penitentiary calm, content and apparently without a bad conscience. At first he was assigned writing duties and in the leisure hours that he was given he wrote a great work about the apocalypse without any literary means. As a 71 year old he was released frorn penitentiary with an unbridled temper, fresh spirit, but With white hair, abandoned and despised by everyone. His wife had divorced him a long time ago and his children had broken off all connections. A terrified cry was heard through the country when it was announced "Tinius is coming back". Unsteady and restless the sinister man migrated from place to place in Saxonia and Thuringia [German states]; nobody wanted to shelter him. The community of Poserna had to pay him a yearly subsistence of 25 Thaler, and he earned a little money by proofreading. In 1840 he gained a foothold once more in Graebendorf near Koenigswusterhausen, where distant relatives of him lived. The influential citizens of Graebendorf  were obliging and granted him access and support. It was here that Tinius returned to the occupation of his youth, collecting herbs and plants from which he enjoyed to prepare poisonous beverages. His memory was still phenomenal, he still could recall almost the entire contents of his former huge library to the great surprise of many clergymen from nearby. He was ingenuous about his past, insisted upon his innocence and even considered to apply for a revision of his trial. However he repeatedly slipped some indirect confessions of his guilt. Signs of remorse and unrest showed up only in his last years when the contemplation of his impending death filled him more and more. He was haunted by fear and pain, but died without relieving his conscience on September 24, 1846 - the inhabitants of Graebendorf claimed by poisoning himself, but there was no investigation and his body was given a proper burial. The scholarly works of Tinius are mostly in eschatology (according to J.A. Bengel the year 1836 was considered as the beginning of the 1000-year Kingdom) and have been written partly in detention and in the penitentiary. The above mentioned book about the apocalypse is titled "The Manifestation of John" and the printed work was published in Leipzig in 1839. Among Tinius ' other works are: "Biblical examination of Brennecke's proof that Jesus has lived on earth for about 27 years after his resurrection" (1820); "Doomsday, whether, how, and when it will come" (1836, second edition 1845); "Six ominous foreshadowing of a great world change, visible on sun and earth" (1837).

[References used]

Hacklaender and Hoefer, Hausblaetter 1844, vol 3 and 1863, volume 3 Hitzig and Haering, Der neue Pitaval [The new Pitaval] vol 4. - J Schwabe, Harmlose Geschichten eines alten Weimaraners [Harmless stories of an old inhabitant of Weimar ] (1890) p 124 foll - E. Schulte, Ein Verbrecher aus Buecherwut.h [A criminal frorn greed of books] in der Gjartenlaube 1893, number 5 and 6. - E Fliess, Das Ende des Magisters Tinius, in the Gartenlaube 1893 [The end of Master Tinius] number 21.

 

Nitschke [author of this contribution]

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