I was on Wikipedia and I came across the Konitz Affair. I am guessing that Wikipedia took it from the Jewish Encyclopedia.com, which appears to have copied the entry from a 1925 book, 'The Jewish Encyclopedia', or possibly earlier versions. The basic story is that some 19-year-old boy, Ernst Winter, went missing in Konitz, West Prussia, in the German Empire, now Poland, then some days later, pieces of his expertly sectioned body started turning up. A rumor started that the local Jews had murdered him to use his blood in rituals. This caused violence and "excesses" against the local Jewish population. Some trials were held, but all were acquitted. Who committed the murder appears to be a mystery. Despite this, 3 times in the Wikipedia article, and twice in the Jewish Encyclopedia books and website, it says the probable cause was "jealousy".

The one mention unique to Wikipedia, stated in the introduction to the article, proceeds as follows (all italics are my own):

"The Konitz affair was an accusation of Jewish ritual murder in the unsolved murder and dismemberment of student Ernst Winter in Konitz, then part of the Prussian Province of West Prussia in the German Empire (now part of northern Poland), in 1900. Although jealousy was later determined to be the probable motive, anti-Semite leaders were quick to turn suspicion against the Jewish inhabitants, and encouraged and bribed locals to testify against the Jews."

Then, the two mentions common to all sources state, first:

"An investigation made in Danzig by the board of health (Königliches Medizinalkollegium) for West Prussia proved that Winter had been choked to death, and that, contrary to the statement of the county physician, his death was not the result of the cutting of his throat. This opinion, rendered September 7, 1901, was confirmed by the highest medical authority, the Wissenschaftliche Deputation für Medizinalwesen (state board of health), January 15, 1902. It was further shown that jealousy was, in all likelihood, the motive for Winter's death.

Then, the articles end with:

"Mysterious as the Konitz case is, it has been clearly established that the motive of the crime was jealousy."

This line seems likes they are trying to Jedi-mind-trick, me: "You've heard this twice now so it must be true." But it strikes me as incredible, impossible even, that they can be so sure of the motives for a murder when they are not even sure who the murderer is. Further, no citation is given for these claims.

I find a JSTOR article that mentions the incident in an introduction to four-ish similar events (three of the events are much more similar than the first example), but the only information of value that was furnished is that investigators into the crime, much to their credit, never considered the possibility that it was ritual murder due to the absurdity of the claim. Despite this, the German Emperor gathered up Christian converts from Judaism who all confirmed that ritual murder does not occur within the Jewish faith.

Then, I find an h-net.org article that is a book review for a German book about the Konitz Affair. According to the reviewer, the author reported on multiple alternative explanations,

"Most important among them was a rumor that claimed Ernst Winter to be the victim of a so-called Lustmord. In this version of the story of the murder, one or the other of two male Konitz citizens, who were commonly assumed to be homosexuals, killed Ernst Winter in a sexual frenzy."

So, my question is about what evidence exists for either possibility: 1) That jealousy, I assume a spurned lover; or 2) sexual frenzy caused his death. I imagine if they have these theories about motives, they have to have suspects in mind. So, did Winter recently leave a lover? Or do these possibilities stem simply from the boy's reported "licentiousness"?

Edit: the English Wikipedia page already explains the possible explanation that a butcher killed the Winter while angry about Winter's relations with the butcher's daughter. This would not answer the question about what evidence exists for the motive of jealousy or sexual murder. The Wikipedia gives the impression that the butcher, a Jew, was falsely accused, and the JSTOR article gives the impression that Jewish defendants were pursued specifically for political reasons.

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    'I am guessing that Wikipedia stole it from the Jewish Encyclopedia.com,...' Is your guess that it was stolen solely based on the Wikipedia statement in it's references: This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "Konitz Affair". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.? Badly quoted: yes (probably the cause for the This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2018) warning), but hardly stolen. Feb 15, 2023 at 22:53
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    "stole" was poor use. I changed it to copied. Feb 15, 2023 at 23:19

1 Answer 1


The German wikipedia has more information on it:

Excerpt (auto translated, made sure the meaning has not been changed):

Since the local investigating authorities, later often criticized as incompetent, were overtaxed by the manifold witness statements, the lack of concrete traces and the increasing hysteria in Konitz, which was also forced by the fact that parts of Winters' body and clothes kept turning up in the village, deliberately placed there by the perpetrator or other persons, the Prussian Ministry of the Interior sent two experienced criminal investigators to Konitz on March 25, 1900. One of the two was Johann Braun, one of the most distinguished criminalists in Prussia at the time.

After several weeks of independent investigations in Konitz, Braun assumed that Winter must have been the victim of an act of violence resulting in death.

According to this, Hoffmann, a butcher, could have caught Winter in an intimate situation with his younger daughter and killed Winter with the intention of teaching him a lesson. Braun's cross-examination, in which he hoped to obtain a confession from Hoffmann and/or his daughter, failed, however, in part because an announcement of Hoffmann's arrest led to tumultuous protests by supporters of the ritual murder theory outside the building where the interrogation took place. Braun speculated that the protests, which were clearly audible in the building, encouraged Hoffmann to sit it out and remain silent.

So there seemed to be a specific incident and suspect that was investigated, but no evidence or confession could be obtained.

  • This theory was mentioned somewhere in English, whether Wikipedia or elsewhere, but this does not address the jealousy or "sexual frenzy" motive. This was actually one of two trials, but all were acquitted. Feb 15, 2023 at 19:00
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    @JimmyG. In such cases, where the topic is basicly a german topic, working through the german version (with help from Google Translate) is the best option since they often have more sources available. Your JSTOR and h-net.org article references books which are also summerised in an extra chapter: Konitzer Mordaffäre - Publizistische Aufarbeitung im neuen Jahrtausend - Wikipedia Feb 15, 2023 at 23:52
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    On a side note, I have no idea how one can "teach a lesson" to someone by "killing" them. Any hypothetical benefit of the "lesson" is lost at once !
    – Evargalo
    Feb 16, 2023 at 15:36
  • The German sentence is a little ambiguous, you could read it as "intended to teach him a lesson and killed him", as well as "killed him to teach him a lesson". The first interpretation makes more sense logically. Gramatically, both meanings are possible.
    – nvoigt
    Feb 17, 2023 at 6:12
  • @nvoigt Also possible: and while intending, to teach him a lesson, killed Winter. (und Winter in der Absicht, ihm eine Lektion zu erteilen, getötet haben.) Feb 17, 2023 at 6:35

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