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Israel Schwartz

Israel Schwartz was a Hungarian immigrant, at various times described as a Jew and/or as an actor. By his own statement we know that he had a wife in 1888, and the authors of The Jack the Ripper A-Z suggest he may be the "Israel Schwartz" listed in the 1891 census as living in 22 Samuel Street, married, with two children.

Schwartz is one of the most talked-about witnesses in Ripperology. He is one of the few who very well may have seen the killer, and yet there is no press mention of him at the inquest (conducted by Coroner Wynne E. Baxter, who was known to be extremely thorough). Similarly surprising, only a handful of newspapers mentioned Schwartz's newsworthy sighting -- what's more, the few that did attributed the event to a mere domestic squabble. The Star was the only paper to cover the incident in-depth, and even it reported that "the man's statement is not wholly accepted."  

This is peculiar, because we know from the police files that Schwartz's testimony was considered one of their most promising leads. Indeed, there was a entire string of memos to the Home Office discussing the significance of the use of the word "Lipski!" as reported by Schwartz. An examination of the police records also reveals a statement by Sir Robert Anderson which includes the seemingly contradictory phrase, "... the evidence given by Schwartz at the inquest in Elizabeth Stride's case..." It could be (as has been suggested by many researchers) that Anderson was mistaken with his details. But there is some evidence to suggest that perhaps the police were keeping Schwartz's testimony under wraps from the press, in the hopes that it might lead to a break in the case.

In any event, Schwartz's statement was taken on September 30th, the day of the murder, by Chief Inspector Donald Swanson:

12.45 a.m. 30th. Israel Schwartz of 22 Helen Street, Backchurch Lane, stated that at this hour, on turning into Berner Street from Commercial Street and having got as far as the gateway where the murder was committed, he saw a man stop and speak to a woman, who was standing in the gateway. The man tried to pull the woman into the street, but he turned her round and threw her down on the footway and the woman screamed three times, but not loudly. On crossing to the opposite side of the street, he saw a second man standing lighting his pipe. The man who threw the woman down called out, apparently to the man on the oppos- ite side of the road, 'Lipski', and then Schwartz walked away, but finding that he was followed by the second man, he ran so far as the railway arch, but the man did not follow so far.

Schwartz cannot say whether the two men were together or known to each other. Upon being taken to the Mortuary Schwartz ident- ified the body as that of the woman he had seen. He thus describes the first man, who threw the woman down:- age, about 30; ht, 5 ft 5 in; comp., fair; hair, dark; small brown moustache, full face, broad shouldered; dress, dark jacket and trousers, black cap with peak, and nothing in his hands.

Second man: age, 35; ht., 5 ft 11in; comp., fresh; hair, light brown; dress, dark overcoat, old black hard felt hat, wide brim; had a clay pipe in his hand.

If Schwartz is to be believed, and the police report of his statement casts no doubt on it, it follows ... that the man Schwartz saw and described is the more probable of the two to be the murderer.

The Jack the Ripper A-Z, 1996. (pg 385-386)

Schwartz's story is a complicated one, but it is necessary to full understand the events as they happened (according to his testimony) to fully appreciate the significance of his statement. For this reason, we include an animated movie of the events as they took place (right).

The importance of the word 'Lipski' is not negligible. In 1887, a Jew named Israel Lipski was convicted and hanged for the poisoning death of Miriam Angel at 22 Batty Street (parallel to Berner Street). The case was controversial and gave rise to a great deal of anti-semitism, to the extent where it seems the term "Lipski" was used as an anti-semitic insult in the neighborhood. The police had hoped that perhaps "Lipski" was the name of the second man seen by Schwartz, so that he could be traced and questioned, but in the end both Anderson and Abberline agreed that the cry was more likely an insult than an appellation. Indeed, Schwartz's "Jewish appearance" could very well have precipitated such a remark.

If this is the case, there may be even more significance when viewed against the discovery of the Goulston Street Graffito, found less than two hours later, scrawled above the bloodly apron of Catharine Eddowes. It read, "The Juwes are the men That Will not be Blamed for nothing."  Of course, there is no evidence to prove that the chalked message was written by the Ripper (one P.C. remarked that it was "blurred," as if it may have been there for some time). But it is a remarkable coincidence, should one accept that both Stride and Eddowes were murdered by the Ripper, and if one accepts as well that the assailant Schwartz witnessed was Stride's killer, that there are two separate incidents, both separated by less than two hours, which involve possible anti-semitic remarks.

A possible string of events is as follows, though this is unevidenced speculation:

  • Schwartz is seen by the Ripper immediately after he attacks, but doesn't yet kill, Stride.
  • Angered, and perhaps frightened of capture, he shouts "Lipski!" at Schwartz, who is later described as being of considerable Jewish appearance.
  • The killer returns to his work and kills Stride, but is again interrupted -- this time by Louis Diemschutz, another Jew.
  • Frustrated with the Diemshutz interruption (which prevents him from mutilating Stride), the Ripper searches for another victim, finding Catharine Eddowes in Mitre Square.
  • Fleeing quickly back into the heart of Whitechapel after killing Eddowes, the killer discards a piece of her bloody apron in Goulston Street.
  • Angered at having had to rush his "work" because of the interruptions of two Jews, the Ripper writes the cryptic "Juwes" message on the wall above the apron.

Again, pure speculation, but the "Jewish" connection between so many events connected to the murders of September 30th do make for an interesting coincidence.

As mentioned before, the Star was the only paper to cover Schwartz's story in-depth. There were some significant differences in the story, but the main thrust still rings true, and it is quite possible that these discrepancies arose either because of problems in translation or becauase of a reporter eager to spice up the story. Following is a transcription of the article, which ran in the October 1st issue:

Information which may be important was given to the Leman Street police yesterday by an Hungarian concerning this murder. The foreigner was well-dressed, and had the appear- ance of being in the theatrical line. He could not speak a word of English, but came to the police station accompanied by a friend, who acted as interpreter. He gave his name and add- ress, but the police have not disclosed them. A Star man, however, got wind of his call, and ran him to earth in Back- church Lane. The reporter's Hungarian was quite as imperfect as the foreigner's English, but an interpreter was at hand, and the man's story was retold just as he had given it to the police. It is, in fact, to the effect that he saw the whole thing.

It seems that he had gone out for the day, and his wife had expected to move, during his absence, from their lodgings in Berner Street to others in Backchurch Lane. When he first came homewards about a quarter before one he first walked down Berner Street to see if his wife had moved. As he turned the corner from Commercial Road he noticed some distance in front of him a man walking as if partially intoxicated. He walked on behind him, and presently he noticed a woman standing in the entrance to the alleyway where the body was found. The half-tipsy man halted and spoke to her. The Hungarian saw him put his hand on her shoulder and push her back into the pass- age, but feeling rather timid of getting mixed up in quarrels, he crossed to the other side of the street. Before he had gone many yards, however, he heard the sound of a quarrel, and turned back to learn what was the matter, but just as he stepped from the kerb a second man came out of the doorway of a public house a few doors off, and shouting out some sort of warning to the man who was with the woman, rushed forward as if to attack the intruder. The Hungarian states positively that he saw a knife in the second man's hand, but he waited to see no more. He fled incontinently to his new lodgings.

He described the man with the woman as about 30 years of age, rather stoutly built, and wearing a brown moustache. He was dressed respectably in dark clothes and felt hat. The man who came at him with a knife he also describes, but not in detail. He says he was taller than the other but not so stout, and that his moustaches were red. Both men seemed to belong to the same grade of society. The police have arrested one man answering the description the Hungarian furnishes. The prisoner has not been charged, but is held for inquiries to be made. The truth of the man's statement is not wholly accepted.

The Jack the Ripper A-Z, 1997. (pg. 386)

Differences between the two statements:

  • Schwartz describes the first man as intoxicated in the Star interview.
  • In the police statement, the first man tries to pull Stride from the passage -- in the second, he tries to push her into the passage.
  • In the Star interview, it is the second man (not the first) who yells "a warning" (as opposed to "Lipski!" in the police statement)
  • In the Star interview, the second man has red moustaches -- in the police statement, there is no mention of moustaches on the second man, who is then described as having light brown hair.

Still, the main story remains the same, and the differences are trifling (and understandable when considering the difficulties in translation from Hungarian to English).

In the end, Israel Schwartz's testimony should be taken quite seriously. The police placed a great deal of credence in it, and the fact that they did not disclose his address (as described in the Star article above) along with the evidence showing that perhaps they were trying to keep his testimony from the press, and the numerous memos concerning the use of the phrase "Lipski", could show just how important his testimony was to their investigation.

Related pages:
  Israel Schwartz
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       Dissertations: Mrs. Kuer’s Lodger 
       Message Boards: Israel Schwartz 
       Press Reports: Star - 1 October 1888 
       Ripper Media: Jack the Ripper: A Cast of Thousands - Israel Schwartz