The Doruchów Witch Trial
There is still some controversy surrounding this trial, in a small village then in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
The original version of the story recorded that 14 women were tried after being accused of using sorcery to cause the illness of a local noblewoman. This nasty piece of injustice and judicial murder – 11 women were burned, three tortured to death – was for a long time believed to have inspired legal reforms that forbad torture in trials and ended the burning of witches in Poland.
However, recent research has linked the story to a notorious historical hoaxer. Nonetheless, the trials did take place, convicting and sentencing to death six women according to original sources.
Witch trials had already been outlawed when the trial took place, critics of the original story point out. However, in 1793 in the city of Poznań, briefly under Prussian control, one charming judge made a point of accepting accusations of witchcraft against two women said to have enchanted cattle. They were tried and burned. The judge had wanted to mark the transition of the city from a legal regime that didn’t allow witch trials to one that did. Nice.