He may have left Poland because of persecution. It was tough to be Jewish in the latter part of the 19th Century, especially in Eastern Europe and its bordering areas of Central Europe. There were lots of tensions.
To boil things down to the skeletal remains, a burgeoning movement of the moment was catching fire, i.e., Communism. It beguiled the intelligentsia and fueled the resentment of the serfs. At the same time it headbutted its more moderate kin, i.e., Socialism. Both ideologies railed against the status quo and splintered into simmering subsets.
And everybody blamed the Jews.
In the eyes of many Russians, Emperor Alexander II was lifting too many sanctions, rules and regulations on the Jews who lived in the conquered land of Poland. To these Russians no Jewish infraction was too small. These Russians were loud with their verdicts and pronouncements. They influenced people. They fanned flames.
Unsurprisingly, the Jews became the common enemy of an increasingly fractured Russian populace. Then Alexander II was assassinated. Sweeping riots targeting Jewish settlements broke out. Jews were beaten. Robbed. Killed. Some of them fled their homeland to other lands that did not welcome them.
In any event, Aaron Kosminski would have been young when he left Poland. From there his family most likely settled in Germany, but only briefly. Somewhere along the way his older sisters wound up in London and sent for him. He lived with them in the slums of the Whitechapel district when he wasn’t roaming the streets, sleeping in doorways and eating out of the trash. At the time he was twenty-three years old.
Kosminski was very obviously, very seriously, mentally ill. He was in the throes of schizophrenia at a time when it–like syphilis and gonorrhea– was a terminal disease. There was no medicine for these conditions. No satisfactory treatment. People routinely died from strep throat and were locked away in crude mental facilities just for being depressed.
It is reasonable to presume that there were times when Aaron Kosminski teetered on the brink of normalcy. Schizophrenia waxes and wanes. He was a barber. He had knowledge of sheers and razors.
It is also pretty safe to presume that he harbored a deep seeded resentment of women independent of, though informed by, his disorder. Schizophrenics are rarely violent.
That’s pretty much the gist of the backstory. By Information Age standards, they didn’t keep the best records in those days but when prostitutes started showing up in the gutters and alleyways of Whitechapel in stages of disfigurement to disembowelment, they–i.e., the press–became very particular with dates, locations and gruesome details even though the victims were desperately impoverished, living on the fringe of society. Such was the case September 30, 1888, the date of the so-called Double Event.
The Double Event was almost “just”another double murder. Almost, but not quite. The crimes were two different murders, separated by a block and forty-five minutes, committed by the same killer. Most historians and police officials have theorized that the reason there was a Double Event was that the killer was interrupted before he could eviscerate prostitute Liz Stride to his liking.
There was a witness who initially came forward and identified the killer, then quickly recanted his statement. He later refused to go on record or to testify about what he saw on the early morning of September 30th.
That witness was probably Israel Schwartz. Schwartz happened on the scene as the murderer was likely killing Liz Stride; her body was still warm when found. He admitted to the police that he observed Stride talking to a man–a dirty, disheveled man. At the time, the press reported that Schwartz could not identify the disheveled man.
Unable to fulfill his escalating modus operandi the murderer had to satisfy his sick blood jones with another victim. Catherine Eddowes.
With Eddowes, the murderer took outrageous risks. Even though he had been very nearly caught in the act only minutes before, even though there was panic in the streets, he took his time with her.
The serial killer’s M.O. was to approach a prostitute, lure her into a dark corner of the street, slit her throat, mutilate her body, masturbate and then disappear into the shadows. (Whitechapel was very dark, not just from London fog, but from the excessive burning of coal.) With Eddowes he ripped open her abdomen, pulled out her intestines and removed her left kidney, taking it with him.
Typical of the homeless, Eddowes wore many layers of clothing. Some of it was left strewn around her body. Incredibly, a policeman picked up Eddowes’ shawl thinking that his wife might like it. When he presented it to her she was predictably horrified. It was stained with blood and, as it turned out, other bodily fluid.
The wife boxed it up and put it away. Over many decades it was handed down and finally sold to author Russell Edwards who submitted it for mitochondrial and epithelial DNA testing in 2014.
On October 16th, 1888 the killer sent a letter and a portion of a human kidney–a left human kidney, medical science was then able to conclude– to George Lusk, the president of the Whitechapel Vigilance Group. The letter read:
I send you half the Kidne I took from one women prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise. I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer
Catch me when you can Mishter Lusk
The news spread like wildfire. Wildfire is known to jump creeks and rivers. News of the Double Event, the letter and the kidney jumped oceans.
The whole world was riveted and unnerved as it speculated about grandiose suspects like: American physician and con artist, Francis Tumblety, famed artist, Walter Sickert and Queen Victoria’s grandson, Prince Albert. All of these men enjoyed varying degrees of wealth. All of them snazzy dressers.
There was another witness who might have identified the killer and recanted. According to press accounts, Joseph Lewende saw Catherine Eddowes either talking to or scuffling with a dirty, disheveled man right before she was killed.
It is reasonable to presume that both Lewende and Schwartz knew the murderer. He was a notorious character from the slums they all three lived in. Lewd, filthy, he was known to bother women. But the witness(es) knew even more than that.
The witness, whoever he was, knew Aaron Kosminski and Jack the Ripper were one and the same. But he could not tell. He could not tell because he–like Kosminski–was Jewish. And the Jews of Whitechapel were the most marginalized of the marginalized.
Assistant Commissioner Sir Robert Anderson of the Scotland Yard wrote in his memoirs that “Jack the Ripper was a low class, Polish Jew.” Colleague and lead Ripper investigator, Chief Inspector Donald Swanson wrote in the margins of his copy of his boss’s memoirs, “Kosminski”. This was in 1910.
“If nonsense were solid, the nonsense that was talked and written about those murders would sink a Dreadnought. The subject is an unsavoury one, and I must write about it with reserve.
But it is enough to say that the wretched victims belonged to a very small class of degraded women who frequent the East-End streets after midnight . . . one need not be a Sherlock Holmes to discover that the criminal was a sexual maniac of a virulent type; that he was living in the immediate vicinity of the scenes of the murders; and that, if he was not living absolutely alone, his people knew of his guilt, and refused to give him up to justice. . . . The conclusion we came to was that he and his people were certain low-class Polish Jews; for it is a remarkable fact that people of that class in the East End will not give up one of their number to Gentile justice.
And the result proved that our diagnosis was right on every point.
For I may say at once that undiscovered murders’ are rare in London, and the Jack the Ripper crimes are not within that category.”
Sir Robert Anderson
The Lighter Side of My Life
While the witness, Sir Anderson and Chief Inspector Swanson lived with the terrible truth, Mary Kelly did not…Live, that is.
She was murdered by Aaron Kosminski, November 9, 1888. She is probably his last victim. Hers was the most brutal murder.
After the Kelly homicide, Scotland Yard put Aaron Kosminski under near constant surveillance until he was forcibly admitted into Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum on February 7, 1891.
One hundred twenty-eight years later, March of 2019, results of the 2014 mitochondrial and epithelial DNA testing initiated by Russell Edwards were confirmed by scientists from the prestigious Liverpool John Moores University. Results from the Moores scientists testing were published in Journal of Forensic Sciences. Edwards wrote a book about his research and testing entitled Naming Jack the Ripper.
He wasn’t Hannibal Lecter. He wasn’t even Ted Bundy.
He was Aaron Kosminski.