A CAST OF THOUSANDS
BY CHRISTOPHER SCOTT
Schwartz is potentially one of the most important, and certainly one of the most studied of witnesses in the Whitechapel case. On the night of the murder of Elizabeth Stride in Berner Street, Schwartz witnessed an altercation involving a woman he later identified as Stride and one, possibly two, men. According to Schwartz this incident occurred at 12.45 a.m. and on the exact spot where Stride's body was found fifteen minutes later.
If Schwartz was telling the truth and was correct both in his estimate of the time and his identification of the woman as Stride, then it is difficult to escape the conclusion that he did indeed witness the onset of the attack that led to the murder. Of course, to those who discount Stride as a victim of the Whitechapel killer, this testimony is of no importance in the search for the Ripper.
Unfortunately, the statement of Schwartz has many unresolved elements. He saw two men - one assaulting the woman he identified as Stride and another standing on the other side of the street lighting a pipe. There is no firm indication that the two men were working in collusion or were even known to each other. As Schwartz hurried away from the scene the second man - the pipe smoker - followed him. Again it is open to interpretation whether this second man was approaching Schwartz to frighten him off or whether he, like Schwartz, was not involved with the incident and also decided it was safer to be elsewhere.
From the various police documents relating to Schwartz and his testimony we are told the following:
1) At the time of the Stride murder Schwartz was living at 22 Ellen Street which ran east west at the southern end of Berner Street. This is odd in that Inspector Swanson's report says that Schwartz, when the second man followed him "ran as far as the railway arch." Whichever arch is meant, in Hooper Street or Pinchin Street, would have meant that Schwartz ran right past his own house.
2) Schwartz had a "strong Jewish appearance."
3) Schwartz was Hungarian.
4) Schwartz was unable to speak English.
It is certainly also odd that such an apparently important did not testify at the Stride inquest. This could not be due to his lack of English as it obvious from the surviving police documents that Schwartz was extensively interviewed, so relevant interpreters must have been available.
Such an important witness proves to be remarkable elusive. One identification is from the 1891 census data and involves a family living at 22 Samuel Street, St. George in the East. The residents are as follows:
Israel Schwartz aged 27 born Poland - Tailor's presser
Eva Schwartz aged 27 born Poland
Dinah E aged 6 born Poland
Louis aged 1 months born St George's.
The obvious difficulty with this candidate is that his place of birth - as with his wife and older child - is given as Poland, not Hungary. It is also only possible to say that Schwartz and his family came to England some time between 1885 (the year of birth of his daughter, born in Poland) and early 1891 (the date of the birth of his son, born in St. George's.) The identification of this man as the witness Schwartz can only be accepted as a possible, not definite, match.
It has to be said that other Israel Schwartz identifications fare no better, if not worse. In the 1901 census there is this listing:
8 Little Alie Street
Head of Household:
Profession: Cigarette Maker
The address is certainly in the right area but the fact that the older son is listed as a Russian subject suggests that the family did not come to England until after 1895.
There is a marriage record for an Israel Schwartz registered at Mile End Old Town in September 1893. Possible spouses are Rebecca Jacobs, Rose Linsen and Annie Schenstein. In fact, he married Annie Schenstein who is listed in 1901 as Annie Schwartz living at 115 Sidney Street, Mile End. She had three children, Elisabeth aged 7, Emma aged 5 and Charles aged 2. Although described as "wife" and "married, no husband is listed. So where this Israel Schwartz was at the time of the 1901 census is not known.
There is none more listing under a slightly different spelling in the 1901 census.
Israel Shwartz - 21 Jubilee Street, Mile End
Aged 36 born Russia - Provisions seller
Esther aged 36 born Russia
Esther aged 16 born Russia
Louis aged 12
Daniel aged 6
Edward aged 3
Last three all born in London.
Abraham aged 1
Born St George in the East
The ages and places of the birth of the offspring suggest the family came to England between 1885 and 1889. There is, of course, again the matter of the place of birth (Russia, not Hungary) but there is simply no entry in either the 1891 or 1901 censuses under the name of Schwartz born in Hungary. We have the possibility that the police information was incorrect and the witness Schwartz was not Hungarian but Polish or Russian. But as matters stand we cannot, unfortunately, be more specific or definite in identifying Israel.