In this tragic true story based on the novel by Arnold Zweig, a butcher was called upon to execute four communists with a meat axe in 1938 because the normal executioner was ill. When author Zweig read about the execution, and then later read about the suicide of a butcher later in the same year, he came to the realization that both butchers were the same person, and he wrote this story. In the film, Erwin Geschonneck plays the butcher who suffers miserably from his act and he is not alone in his misery--his wife commits suicide while in deep despair. Unable to function properly, the butcher loses his customers and soon he himself cannot face living any longer. This 1951 East German movie was banned in West Germany and West Berlin until its well-attended 1983 premier at a retrospective for its director Falk Harnack. A 1982 documentary by the same title provides the background and the story of the butcher.