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The Butcher’s Tale by Helmut Walser Smith Essay

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Anti-Semitism is the hatred and discrimination of those with a Jewish heritage. It is generally connected to the Holocaust, but the book by Helmut Walser Smith, The Butcher’s Tale shows the rise of anti-Semitism from a grassroots effect. Smith uses newspapers, court orders, and written accounts to write the history and growth of anti-Semitism in a small German town. The book focuses on how anti-Semitism was spread by fear mongering, the conflict between classes, and also the role of the government.

In March 11, 1900 in a German town called Konitz the severed body parts of a human were discovered. Almost immediately, the blame fell on the Jewish. As Smith points out, anti-Semitism had been on a steady decline, and the anti-Semitics
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The Inspector, who had been sent to solve the case, had formed a theory that placed focused on a Christian butcher. Wilhelm Bruhn, the publisher of Die Staatsburgerzeitung, then interfered by convincing Bernhard Masloff, a laborer, to testify against a Jewish butcher. The story that Masloff gave would directly conflict with the theory that the Inspector had formed. This created more subject matter that the anti-Semitic newspapers could use to fuel their tirade.

Smith also makes the argument that anti-Semitism was a gateway for neighborly disputes and personal grudges to develop into bigger conflicts. He presents two arguments on the issue of class. In the first argument, he points out that a majority of the people who came forward to accuse someone were in the lower class. Additionally, the people who came forward were often poorly educated and sometimes had mental issues. He explains that it was possible that poorer Christians would condemn higher class Jews out of spite. An example that Smith provides was in the conflict between Josef Rosenthal, a wealthy Jewish merchant, and his servant, Margarete Radtke. Margarete went to the police and told them that her employer had killed Ernst Winters. No evidence could be found to back the story up. It was later discovered that Margarete had a habit of accusing her employers as a ploy to get revenge. Another incident occurred between
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