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The Jewish History Series

Lesson #10: Was Jack the Ripper a Jew?

In the autumn of 1888, a homicidal maniac prowled the gaslit streets of London 's Whitechapel district, slaughtering six prostitutes in an increasingly gruesome and bloody manner. His deadly spree culminated with raving madness in the murder of Mary Jane Kelly, whom the killer virtually dissected in her shabby room in Miller's Court, heaping her body parts all around the room and taking away her sexual organs with him. After this, the killer disappeared into the London fog forever, but he left behind a name which has fascinated and terrified down through the ages—the name of the first recorded serial killer in the modern sense of the term. The name of Jack the Ripper.

His identity may have been accidentally discovered now. And ser-prise, ser-prise, Sergeant Carter—he may have been a Jew.

Yahoo News reports that "An eminent South African historian believes he has stumbled on the identity of Jack the Ripper. Charles van Onselen said at first he wasn't sure he wanted to publicize the conclusions he drew when he noticed parallels in the century-old, unsolved Ripper case and the background of Joseph Silver, who terrorized women as 'King of the Pimps' in Johannesburg ... The publicity around van Onselen's The Fox and The Flies: The World of Joseph Silver, Racketeer and Psychopath, published in April, has made much of Silver being Jack the Ripper, the notorious Victorian serial killer who murdered at least five East London prostitutes in 1888." (I make it six; I have always been inclined to give the Ripper Martha Tabram as his first victim.)

"Van Onselen, an acclaimed biographer who specializes in South Africa 's criminal history and who took nearly three decades to research the book, only makes his Ripper case in the final 25th chapter, written in the last 36 months. While the book has been well-received, reaction from Ripperologists has been skeptical as van Onselen makes his case on circumstantial evidence." (Of course, after 119 years, that's about all the evidence anyone is ever going to find.) "To his doubters the author said: 'How many coincidences do you want to mount up in your mind simultaneously until you start saying this is a real possibility?'

"Scores of people have been accused of the Ripper murders, but no one has ever been proven guilty and London police put the number of most likely suspects at just four, among them a poor Whitechapel resident named Kosminski who, like Silver, was a Polish Jew. At the time, Londoners speculated the killer was Jewish, leading to fears of an anti-Jewish backlash. Van Onselen believes Silver fits the psychological profile of the Whitechapel murderer and he places his subject at the center of the scene of the Ripper murders. The evidence that Silver was in Whitechapel at the time of the Ripper murders includes the birth of his daughter there, van Onselen said. As pimp and brothel keeper, Silver would have been familiar with the prostitutes working in the area ..."

Even in the nineteenth century, organized crime in the Western world was largely the purlieu of the Jew. Yahoo goes on: "Silver, who was born in Poland , arrived in Johannesburg in 1898 fresh from a stint in Sing Sing for burglary and a stay in London a decade earlier. Shortly after arriving in Johannesburg, Silver set up a string of cafes, cigar shops and police-protected brothels. Silver was litigious, wrote bold letters to newspapers and had an array of mocking aliases. Jack the Ripper is believed to have taunted police with brazen letters to the papers. Van Onselen, the son of a detective, tracked Silver across Africa, the Americas and Europe , 'staggered by how mobile this guy was.' In the end, Silver was executed as a spy in Poland in 1918." Since the new Soviet regime was trying to take over Poland and actually sent an army into Poland commanded by the young Joseph Stalin, and since Soviet Bolshevism was almost entirely Jewish, I think we can imagine who Silver was spying for. "Van Onselen points to similarities between the subject of his book and the Whitechapel murderer, both psychopaths with a deep hatred of women. Silver had bitter, violent relationships with women all his life. 'In terms of a template for this person, in terms of age, personality, mental illness, pattern for rest of life, this is the best fit there has ever been,' he said."

At the time of the murders in 1888, the East End of London was teeming with Jewish immigrants, and it was clear from the killer's ability to move around in the area while going unnoticed that he was familiar with Whitechapel and the Spitalfields area, and that he was someone who belonged sufficiently so as not to excite suspicion. After the murder of Catherine Eddowes on the night of September 30, 1888, the Ripper even chalked a mocking message on a wall over a public tap where he washed the blood off his hands and left several bloody rags: "The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing." Of course, this could simply mean that the killer was just plain half-educated and almost illiterate--or that English was not his native language.

Finally, the frenzied and bloodthirsty nature of the attacks indicated a kind of ferocity and hatred directed against weaker and highly vulnerable victims which has always been the mark of the Jew down through history, a kind of glory in bloodshed for its own sake which is very Jewish—and five of the six victims were slaughtered kosher-style, with a single powerful slash across the throat, before the killer began his ghastly mutilations. This is another reason why the authorities at the time were suspicious of Jews, and why if through some historical fluke the identity of the Ripper ever does become known, he will more than likely be "of the Mosaic persuasion," as they said back in 1888.