Book Review: The Butcher’s Tale

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The book I selected was “The Butcher’s Tale” by Helmet Walser Smith. This is actually a very interesting story it revolves around multiple explorations. This book deals with murder cases in 1990 that was taken place in Konitz which is a town in Prussia. Pretty much focuses on unsolved murder of Ernest Winter in Konitz. A place that doesn’t exist anymore at least not in the way it did at all in the 19th century, when the murder occurred. After WWI it became part of Poland. It shows how the town fell to pieces, egged on by anti-Semites, mostly journalists from outside the town, nut also those in outlying communities. This too easily stirred up the inhabitants of Konitz and of course at the time, forensics wasn’t even on anyone mind. Anyhow this whole book is a study on how people can turn on one another and victimize innocent neighbours. It shows how otherwise good, seemingly decent neighbours will often turn against ‘the other’ and do unspeakable things to their neighbours, including slit their throats, burn them alive, and so on. The events in this book are all prior to the Nazi Third Reich, but they were precursors to such an atrocity, which God willing will never happen again. Before the Holocaust, there was long-term hatred, and victimization of innocent Jewish people, and others, town loners and hermits, the mentally ill, and so forth. The author has done some very good research on this.

This book is a study on how people can believe the worst about others, often their own neighbours who live trustingly near them, and be persuaded with very little work, to destroy their innocent neighbours, as a group, for no particular reason, and how they can believe the most ridiculous nonsense, based on total fantasy and fiction, and not question, seriously, the absurdity of their collective beliefs. One nationality can utterly victimize another; one religion can do the same, one neighbour can do the same to another, with little to no provocation. The hate crimes can just crop up like wildfire, and the hateful, unreasoning behaviour of the perpetrators seems truly hard to understand.

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I would urge everyone to read this book who might be interested in history, crime, human nature, religious fanaticism, mob rule, current events, or the long, sad history of the Jewish people. I think also it is a cautionary tale against tolerance toward anti-Semitic people. Well, perhaps they can be tolerated up to a point, but they deserve vigilance by the police, our military, and every honest, aware citizen because their brand of hate and ignorance, and propensity to propaganda and creating unnecessary mayhem and suffering to mankind should not be accepted, anywhere, ever again, but unfortunately it probably will be to one extent or another, but it should not be. It should never be. Blind hatred, greed, corruption, racism, and the like are all unacceptable, degrading vices, and they do not help this become a better world, for anyone.

Yes, it is written very well, researched excellently, and when I say it reads like a novel, that is a big compliment. It is not just a bunch of dry facts and figures cobbled together, but a rather amazing book, and I highly recommend it to any curious, intelligent, concerned citizen. This book gives one a lot to think about, and it is mostly quite enjoyable to read, what can be better than that? It covers a lot that is sad about the human condition, the apparent inherent malice, cruelty, and barbarity in people, and how marginal citizens can be scapegoated, all too easily. Although that’s a sad topic, it is important for people to read about these things, and to understand how and why people behave this way, and hopefully to avoid ever treating other human beings in that same, bad way.

Often these unfairly accused or abused citizens are guilty of nothing more than being loners, and slightly eccentric outsiders, as was the case most often with the Jews described in Europe, during this historical time frame. I recommend this book.


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