Friday, 5 October 1888
The absorbing pre-occupation this week of our brethren in the East of London has been the ghastly mystery of the Whitchapel murders. It was reserved for the Vienna correspondent of the Times to give a still more sombre hue to their thoughts by a strangely imperfect reference to a Galician cause celebre. We reported on March 5th, 1886, the acquittal of Moses Ritter. He, his wife, and the Christian Pole, Stochlinski, were imprisoned for four years while the several trials were proceeding, and the unhappy Christian peasant who was accused of being the actual perpetrator of the crime, died during this long confinement. It was alleged that Ritter had outraged a Christian girl, and in order to destroy all evidence of the fact, had caused his victim to be murdered. The crime was thus of a very different nature both in its motive and circumstances from the six apparently purposeless and maniacal atrocities which have terrified London. But the correspondent speaks of it as "of an exactly similar kind", although in the recent atrocities there was no evidence of, and in the last crime no time for, the perpetration of any offence previous to murder. The correspondent goes on to commit still grosser errors. Evidence, he said, was given, and passages quoted from the Talmud to show, that a belief existed among ignorant Jews that an Israelite who had been intimate with a Christian woman might make atonement by slaying and mutilating her. The correspondent adds that there was no doubt Ritter was innocent, but that the evidence as to this superstition was never wholly disproved. How could it be disproved, one may ask, if the Jew was innocent as a fact. In that case any evidence as to what his motive might have been, assuming he had been guilty, would be immaterial. But Professor Delitzsch and Dr. Bloch did give evidence that no such superstition existed, although the correspondent fails to mention their testimony.
This telegram appears to us as dangerous a piece of composition as could be imagined. Of course it is not correct. The crime of which Ritter, his wife, and the unfortunate Polish Christian were accused, was quite different as we have pointed out from the series of murders in England. It is equally untrue that any such diabolical belief, as that imagined, exists among Jews. What witnesses can be found to swear to, and what falsifications they will make in Hebrew books to suit their purpose, appeared from the Tisza-Eslar charge which is known from subsequent events and confessions to have been an anti-Semitic plot from first to last. Dr. Herman Adler has written to the Times stating positively, as the fact is, that in no Jewish book is there any support for such a barbarity. Dr. Gaster has shown, in the same medium, that these calumnies were long since wickedly used by heathens against Christians, and were next employed by Catholics against Reformers. He might have added that such stories are still invented in Spain against Protestants, and in China against Europeans. The impropriety and injustice of the libel is only equalled by the danger involved in telegraphing it. Although it is a Jewish member of Parliament who offered the first reward for the discovery of the murderer, and Jews are active members of the Vigilance Committee, no one knows what an exited mob is capable of believing against any class which differs from the mob-majority by well-marked peculiarities. Many English and Irish workpeople at the East End are inflamed against the immigrant Jews by the competition for work and for houses, by the stories of the sweaters and the sweated. If these illogical and ignorant minds should come to believe in the report heedlessly spread by a writer who is obviously not quite just nor well-informed himself, the result might be terrible. Fortunately the press generally has treated the suggestion with the contempt which it deserves.