A Jew Must Die - Jacques Chessex

IT S 1942, a few days before Hitler s birthday and a group of Nazi sympathisers in a small Swiss town decide to murder a local Jew – for no real reason other than that they can. They lure him into a stable, bash him over the head with an iron bar, then cu

IT'S 1942, a few days before Hitler's birthday and a group of Nazi sympathisers in a small Swiss town decide to murder a local Jew - for no real reason other than that they can.

They lure him into a stable, bash him over the head with an iron bar, then cut up his body and dump it in a lake.

A Jew Must Die (�6.99, Bitter Lemon) is another novella from the pen of Jacques Chessex, one of Switzerland's greatest writers. It may be a novel, but it is also a true story, and Chessex should know - as a child, he knew the killers and sat next to the children of one of them at school.

Like The Vampire of Ropraz, also available from Bitter Lemon, the book brilliantly evokes the evil of the central deed - all the more horrific in that it really happened - while seeing, with a poet's eye, the beauty of the surrounding countryside.

Chessex writes sparingly, the book is just 92 pages and can be read in one sitting. Much of it is written in the present tense, making the nightmarish incident all the more immediate.

Europe is in flames and Switzerland, while not directly involved in the war, is suffering from high unemployment. The rural market town of Payerne suffers a number of bankruptcies, the locals are out of work and money, and looking for someone to blame.

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Fernand Ischi, leader of the local Nazi cell, blames everything on the Jews and the murder is to be an example, a foretaste of what is to come once the Nazis take over Switzerland. He figures the killing will put him in favour with Hitler's men when they arrive and he will get an important post in the local Third Reich regime.

- LINDSAY JONES

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