Norton, Aug 2002, 25.95, 269 pp.
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, false 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.
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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.
The review of this Book prepared by Harriet Klausner