About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Butcher’s Tale by Helmut Walser Smith

Three years ago my son, Michael, recommended a non-fiction book he had read in a German history class on a murder in Germany early in the 20th Century. It proved fascinating. Tonight I post my review of the book. On Monday I will post an exchange of emails with the author concerning the book.


17. – 480.) The Butcher’s Tale by Helmut Walser Smith – I had never realized that the myth of Jewish ritual killings at Easter for blood to be used in making Passover Matzo had persisted into the 20th Century. In 1900 Ernst Winter, a 19 year old student, was killed and dismembered in Konitz, West Prussia. Rumours arise that he was killed by the community’s Jews in a ritual murder. Attention is focused on Adolph Lewy, a butcher, for the cutting of the body was done by someone skilled in cutting meat. Riots ensue. The Jewish population is saved from physical harm because the State protects them – twice sending in the army to maintain peace. State investigators pursue non-Jewish leads but the majority of the population is convinced of Jewish culpability. Smith proceeds to a history of alleged Jewish blood murders going back to 1200. He dis cusses the systematic killing of Jews in Western Europe through the Middle Ages because of non-existent blood murders. The Vatican consistently condemned the killing of Jewish people and found no proof of ritual killings but the belief that Jews killed for blood stubbornly persisted. With such a depth of anti-Semitism simmering in the population it is far easier for me to understand how the German people would participate in the Holocaust. When the State turned against the Jews they were ready to follow. (The same murderous spirit concerning the Jews was present in enough of the Polish and Slavic populations to the East to help the Nazis kill Jews as set out in Hitler's Empire.) I have a better understanding why Jewish people fiercely react to anti-Semitic remarks and actions. A millennium of violence over the blood libel is barely a century past. In Monday's post will be the exchange of letters with Smith on the investigation and a startling statement from the author with regard to the murder that is not within the book. It is an excellent book. (May 6/09)


  1. Sounds an important, but harrowing, book, Bill. The victimisation of this group over many years is a shameful stain on human history.

  2. Bill - Thank you for this thoughtful and well-written review. Most people do not realise the history behind this aspect of anti-Semitism, and I'm glad you have addressed it. The Holocaust did not just appear. It was the product of a lot of factors including historical factors, and the blood libel is one of them. I look forward to your post on Monday.

  3. Maxine: Thanks for the comment. I should not have been surprised that such suspicion and, even hatred, dwelled within the people in Prussia of that time.

  4. Margot: Thanks for commenting. The Holocaust was far more than Hitler's personal hatred of Jewish people.