I believe the nightmare was born sometime between 1865 and 1881, in the little village of Kłodawa, in Russian Occupied Poland. This particular village, 100 miles west of Warsaw, was small and unremarkable. But the antisemitism preached and practiced by the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches left the 4,000 gentile citizens fearing, despising, and envious of the less than 1,000 Jews in their midst. The Yiddish speakers were residents but not citizens of Klodawa – their existence perhaps best described as schizophrenic.
Abram Jozef Kosminski was a “ petty bourgeois” Jewish tailor in Klodawa. While he and his wife Golda were financially successful enough to raise 4 children, every spring saw more beatings, rapes and the burning of Jewish property, and every year the Jews of Klodawa found the laws less protective and more restrictive.
The Czar, Alexander II, freed the serfs in Russia, but when the Jews “beyond the Pale” appealed for fairness, the Czar's Premier responded, “The western frontier is open to you.” And in the late 1860's the Kosminski eldest son, Abraham – born about 1847 - took that advice and made the 700 mile journey to London. We do not know why he left by himself, but it seems likely family dynamics and not money was the deciding factor.
Limited by religious travel restrictions within Poland, the eldest Kominski daughter, Matilda, born in 1856, married a cousin on her mother's side, Morris Lubnowski. The youngest daughter, Betsy, born in 1857, married another cousin - 4 years older than her - a tailor named Woolf Abrahams This left the youngest child, Aaron Mordke Kosminski, born in 1865, alone in the home. It was in 1873 the 8 year old suffered what Doctor Eric Hickey has called a "destabilizing event(s). His father, Abram, died. In the child's mind he abandoned Aaron. And sometime during the next 8 years the nightmare took over his life. We know none of the details. But we do know something about what his childhood, based on the work of John E. Douglas, employed by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation as a “Profiler” .
Special Agent Douglas described the man who murdered at least 5 women in Whitechapel during the “Autumn of Terror” in 1888 as having been "raised by a domineering mother and weak, passive and/or absent father. " Aaron's home was cold, the family bonds violated, under the double pressure of internal personalities and the external hatred.
Agent Douglas believed the mother "drank heavily and enjoyed the company of many men" Humiliated by either his mother, sisters, gentile gangs from Klodawa, or all three., Aaron was made to feel worthless, continued wetting the bed into his adolescence, developed a deep hatred for sexually active middle aged women, and came to believe that his family -could not or would not defend him, or even themselves.
Neither would the village Aaron was raised in. The community at best passive endorsed antisemitic violence, which seemed designed to produce serial killers on both sides. As Aaron grew the anarchy and violence around him disguised the fires he set, and hid the small animals he tortured.
We also know that Aaron began to have trouble sleeping. His concentration began to waver and he became withdrawn, lethargic and disaffected. None of these latter behaviors was odd for a teenager, except Aaron suffered from one other affect, which he shared with very few others. He began hearing and then seeing people and things which were not real. Aaron experienced the nightmare violence haunting his life through the prism of his developing schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is rare – about 1% of the total population – and the precipitate cause is unknown at present. But we do know that a fetus exposed to a viral infection, fetal malnutrition, childhood abuse or trauma, and repeated exposure to alcohol, and born to older parents. are at greater risk of developing the condition. But an even greater predictor of adult onset schizophrenia is genetics. Children of schizophrenics have a 10% risk of developing schizophrenia. And children of a schizophrenic mother may combine all her risk factors because of her illness while they were still in her womb. But even then, violent schizophrenics are rare, and serial killer schizophrenics rarer still – about 0.0000001% of the general population.
Then in March of 1881 Czar Alexander II was murdered in St. Petersburg, and like a string of firecrackers, pogroms ignited across The Pale, setting off the greatest diaspora since the destruction of the Second Temple
The Russian government endorsed lynchings, rapes and beatings (above). These forced both Kominski daughters and their husbands to leave Poland in late 1881 or early 1882.
They took 16 year old Aaron with them, leaving Golda behind to fend for herself. Was that a sacrifice or an escape? Whichever, Whitechapel now made its contribution to the making of “Jack the Ripper”.
One contemporary described the first contact between refugees from a small village with the cannibalistic capitalism that was the East End of London, as “indescribable confusion...cries and counter cries, the horse laughter of the dock loungers at the strange garb and broken accents of the poverty stricken foreigners: the rough swearing of the boatmen at passengers unable to pay the fee for landing.
"In another ten minutes 80 of the 100 newcomers are dispersed in the back of the slums of Whitechapel: In another few days the majority of these are robbed of what little they possess and are...destitute and friendless.” Yiddish actor, Jacob Adler, described his first view of the city, "The further we penetrated into this Whitechapel, the more our hearts sank. Was this London? Never in Russia, never later in the worst slums of New York, were we to see such poverty as in the London of the 1880s."
Abraham Kominski had prepared the way, as best he could. He was living north of Whitechapel Road, at 76 Goulston Street, and smoothed the transition of Matilda and Morris Lubnowski to a room at 16 Greenfield Street, less than half a mile to the south, just north of Commercial Road. Morris found work as a boot riveter. Betsy and Wolf Abrahamson found a room in between, in a building at 3 Sion Square, 1 block south of Whitechapel Road , just east of St. Mary Matfin Church. Woolf worked as a tailor making women's clothes.
Back in Poland Aaron had been apprenticed as a woman's hairdresser. But at an age when most London residents had ten years work experience behind them, 16 year old Aaron found nothing, because he did not look.
Over the next 6 years Aaron moved between the three addresses – Goulston Street Sion Square and Greenfield Street, living with one sibling, then another, and occasionally when he had the money, taking a coffin bed in a doss house. He picked up the barest sprinkling of English, a mixture of Cockney slang and Yiddish. But he never held down a steady job.
Some time before 1888, Golda Kominski, Aaron's mother, also emigrated to London. Her arrival may have been the precipitation event that sparked the final act of a Greek Tragedy which had began in Poland but was played out in the black, back alleys of London's history.
What came of that tragedy were five brutal murders, which became more violent and erratic over time. As Special Agent Douglas noted, “In each homicide, the victim was a prostitute with a reputation of drinking quite heavily...(and) were targeted because they were readily accessible. Jack the Ripper did not have to initiate the contact. This was done for him by the prostitute.” The "profiler" suggests the killer did not have the courage to draw the knife until after the victim was incapacitated and silenced. He then used the knife to mutilate, after he had used his hands to kill.
Douglas suggested the killer “...would spend time drinking...in the pub...(which) lowered (his) inhibitions....” This explained why most of the Ripper's murders took place in the early morning hours, after the pubs had closed. Agent Douglas also hypothesized “'He would not be visibly shaken or upset if directly accused of the homicides....'Jack the Ripper believed the homicides were justified and he was only removing perishable items - who were like garbage.” Who were, in other words, like his mother or sisters.
Doctor Scott Bonn of Drew University, writing in the January 2014 edition of “Psychology Today” noted that, “ Disorganized (serial) killers will often “blitz” their victims—that is, use sudden and overwhelming force to capture and kill them. The victim’s body is usually left where the attack took place and the killer makes no attempt to hide it. In all of these regards, Jack the Ripper is a classic example of the disorganized serial killer.”
What stopped him after the butchery of Mary Kelly was not remorse, or prison, or even a fulfillment of his fantasy, but the mental disorder which was consuming his twisted mind at the age of 23 and left him unable to function anymore.
Was Aaron Kominski a serial killer? According to Paul Begg, author of the 2004 book “Jack the Ripper, The Facts”, Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Sir Robert Anderson (above) - who ran the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) after Munro resigned in August...
...And Scotsman Chief Inspector Donald S, Swanson - directly in charge of running the investigation in Whitechapel - “...believed (that) he was. They were there and they were in a position to know.” Swanson even noted that Kominski had been watched at his brother's home on Goulston Street - half a block from where the bloody apron was found after the Mitre Square murder. Yet no details of that surveillance have been found in the MET files. Where are the detective's reports and observations? It appears there are none.
Clearly some of the most important investigative work was being done “off the books”. What Anderson and Swanson knew from the infamous bloodhound incident and a dozen other fiascoes less well publicized, was that the upper management of Matthews and Warren (above) and Munro and their underlings - was treating the Ripper investigation as a political “football”, kicking it back and forth to score points against each other, not to find the killer.
But the detectives (above) and constables of Whitechapel, having found the man they believed was responsible for terrorizing their district, were preserving the integrity of their investigation by hiding him from the press and from their own bosses. And, unfortunately, from history.