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Posted December 9, 2008
In March 1900 in Konitz, Prussia, two townsfolk find a package containing the upper body of a missing young man. Other body parts wrapped inside packing paper typically used for meat are subsequently found throughout the town. Though the authorities believe the local Christian butcher killed the lad, rumors abound even way beyond the town¿s borders that the Jews performed an ancient ritual using the blood of Christians in the baking of Passover matzo. Taken seriously by many Christians, riots and other violent acts against the Jewish community occurred. <P>THE BUTCHER¿S TALE is an excellent look at a true crime incident that led to unproved accusations followed by anti-Semitic rioting and acts of violence against the Jewish population. Dr. Helmut Walser Smith provides deep insight into the historical evidence, especially collected in minute detail by the police and uses this anecdotal case to prove the 'process' of turning personal bias and local quarrels into a structured vicious attack on a weaker relation in this case the Jews. Generalizations can be drawn from this powerful work that takes a specific medieval belief applied at the beginning of the twentieth century and yet the use of accusing a scapegoat seems so commonplace throughout the world of today. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 27, 2002
Excellent, Illuminating Work
The Butcher's Tale accomplishes a rare feat in popular European nonfiction: it covers a substantial historic issue (anti-Semitism in prewar Germany) within a fascinating microcosmic study of a single small town. It also holds the reader's suspense by slowly unfolding the story of a heinous crime and the authorities' attempt to solve it. Most surprising to me was the odd but persistent prejudice of Jewish 'blood libel' and its survival into the 20th century. One criticism: like many medium-to-long books about fairly short subjects, it starts to lose a little steam near the end (the author attempts, perhaps one too many times, to fit the historical facts within a particular theoretical package). One suspects the book could have ended comfortably at about 3/4 the distance.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.