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The Butchers Tale: Murder and Anti-Semitism in a German Town

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            In narrating how the community of Konitz, Germany found an upper torso of eighteen-year-old Ernst Winter inside a package floating in the lake of Monchsee, it was suspected that the event was a ritual murder of Jewish butcher Gustav Huffman, in acquiring Christian blood for the unleavened bread for the Jewish Passover.  As Smith (2003) narrates social and religious factors and differences among citizens of the community (e.g., Protestant vs. Catholics, middle class vs. working class), the author tries to convey how religious context affects a once peaceful community, which as a result of their belief (that is was actually a ritual murder), they unite altogether to carry out a mission that, in the same way, can also be described as a ritual murder.

However, despite the chaos over the citizens’ social and religious differences, the German government’s reaction—that the event cannot be extinguished as a ritual murder—makes an impression that an action done en masse by the working class is merely a response of the decisions made by the ruling class.  In this same way, actions done by each citizen are merely responses of what the ruling class has pressed them to do, such as acquiring blood for ritual purposes or events.  The argument, therefore, can be described as the following: Over a specific social and religious context, is evil a result of what is not good in the eyes of all people; or that what is evil in the eyes of a citizen has merely something to do with the angle by which s/he sees the specific event or person?  It is evident that Smith (2003) fights for the latter argument, especially that he tries to narrate that the finding of the corpse can be good or evil in the eyes of men, depending on whose eyes it landed on.   By writing the episodes in a narrating manner, and from the angle and motive of each person or religious group, Smith’s feelings convey one that declares social events as contrasting and conflicting rays that shoot to whichever angle the source swerves out.


Smith, H.W.  (2003).  The butcher’s tale: murder and anti-Semitism in a German town.  New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.

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