Witch Trials Back in Vogue?

In early 2011, I published what has become a very popular post on the taxes Romanian authorities were levying on the nation's witches. While today's European witches are not finding life so easy, they can at least find some solace in the idea that some of their presumed predecessors have begun to find justice in the German court system. From The Telegraph:
"Between 1500 and 1782 at least 25,000 Germans, mostly women but also some men and children, were executed for witchcraft. Many were made scapegoats for natural disasters or faced accusations because of personal vendettas or just because they failed to fit in with the people around them.
In one of the most infamous cases, a three-month burst of bloodletting in the small town of Oberkirchen in 1630 claimed the lives of 58, including those of two children, as accusations of witchcraft spread like wildfire.
Now across Germany towns and villages are beginning to rehabilitate the names of the executed in an attempt to bring a belated form of justice."
While it is difficult to see who, exactly, benefits from this 'rehabilitation' - it typically isn't even heirs or relatives who are bringing these actions - it is, perhaps, in the interests of a trusted justice system to take ex post facto actions like this. So long as it doesn't clog up the court system unduly, I can't see the harm in it. And, at the very least, it allows us to check in on the witches of Europe on occasion...


  1. Anonymous31/8/12 19:26

    Is this clearing old records of conviction? I can see a good governance rationale for that. The continued validity of scapegoat convictions is an easy potshot that undermines confidence in a justice system.

  2. Hi Anon, thanks for the comment.

    As I noted in the post itself, I agree with your good governance reasoning for these judicial actions, so long as there isn't undue burden created as a result. This is in the interest of fairness and an enlightened society.

    However, I am not sure that these 500 some odd year convictions have done much to undermine confidence in the justice system. After all, governments and even the governance system in what we now call Germany have changed radically since the 1500s. Indeed, some of those governments have arguably acted in ways even worse than the witch trial governments during the lifetimes of some still-living citizens, and I don't believe those actions undermine confidence in the system.

    That said, it is a fair result for the names of those being cleared, and while I am not sure doing nothing would undermine confidence, I would buy the notion that doing something inspires confidence. That, of course, might well be worth the small amount of time courts are giving to the subject.