Helmut Walser's Smith, The Butcher's Tale

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When a young boy is found brutally murdered in a small Prussian town called Konitz, once part of Germany, now part of Poland, the Christians residing in the town lash out by inciting riots and demonstrations. Citing the incident as an act of Jewish ritual murder, better known as blood libel, Christians rendered blame on the Jews. Helmut Walser’s Smith, The Butcher’s Tale, details the murder account and the malicious consequences of superstitious belief combined with slander and exaggerated press propaganda. Foreshadowing the persecution of Jews which would take place three decades later, Smith analyzes and explains the cause and effect of anti-Semitism in Imperial Germany at the turn of the century. Utilizing Smith’s book as a primary source,…show more content…
Tragically, the butchered upper-torso of Winter’s once-robust body was stumbled upon by his father, who had noticed the absence of his son since Sunday, March 11 (Smith 2002, 25-26). Unsurprisingly, an investigation occurred to obtain the identity and whereabouts of the murderer. When the various pieces of the body are found in differing areas of the town, theory begins to formulate that the murder was conducted by one of the two butchers in town; Adolph Lewy, a Jew, and Gustav Hoffman, a Christian, due to the precision of the cuts made upon Winter’s body (Smith 28). As fragile relations between Konitz-residing Christians and Jews increasingly began to deteriorate, rumors and speculation that Winter had fallen victim to ritual murder by local Jews, set the ball in motion for a virulent anti-Semitic nature characteristic of Imperial Germany. This anti-Jew sentiment would further be sensationalized by rumors, political movements, and the biased, fabricated newspaper reports of the…show more content…
Beginning with the economic level of analysis, Smith points out how accusations regarding the Jews concerning the murder of Ernst Winter generally had a common trait in that several of the accusers had either “worked for the Jews they accused or had been in close business relationships with them” (Smith 2002, 139). Smith goes on to note that these accusers often came from low-class or low-middle class citizens and consisted of “unskilled workers, day laborers, masons and a civil servant, a prison guard and a night watchman, a poor farmer and his family, a handful of apprentices, and a large number of servant girls” (Smith 2002, 139). Unsurprisingly, Smith explains that the result of such noticeable differences in the possession of wealth between Konitz citizens led to poorer Christians seeking to place blame on Jews of middle-class status; thereby creating a “rudimentary form of economic or class protest” (Smith 2002, 140). However, Helmut Walser Smith is quick to indicate that this form of analysis cannot solely provide an answer to the rise of anti-Semitic sentiment in Imperial Germany. This explanation, Smith says, is rather simple; although it is true that Christians were perhaps motivated to falsely accuse their Jewish neighbors due to their social and economic trials, not all Konitz-residing Christians were disadvantaged and not all Konitz Jews

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