In their recent photoplasty, 23 Creepy Unsolved Mysteries Nobody Can Explain, Cracked has talked about Charley Project MPs Garnell Moore, Amy Bradley, Zachary Ramsay, Tara Calico, and of course the Sodder children.
Archive for the ‘historical’ Category
Two murderers named William were judicially fried on this date in 1897. Both crimes were pretty typical and I wouldn’t have bothered to write this one up except that they were the first to be executed in Ohio’s electric chair.
This is actually from several days ago, but I forgot to post it earlier. The unlucky man here is Private Benjamin Hopper, an American serviceman who was executed for murder in France in 1945.
I spend quite a bit of time reading history books and true-crime books on the lookout for executions to write about for Executed Today. I don’t write about every execution I encounter, though; far from it. A case has to be interesting, or at least have some detail about it that catches my eye, for me to make the effort to do an entry for it.
The Hopper case certainly isn’t interesting at all: a perfectly ordinary, mundane drunken murder. But there was a detail about it that got my attention: the pathetic letter Hopper wrote to General Eisenhower, with all the misspellings. This guy had the mental capacity of a child and should never have been in the army in the first place. Though I suppose by 1945 they were really scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Why is the the NCMEC all the sudden profiling disappearances from 1915? I mean, I appreciate that the boy was never found and everything, but isn’t a case that old a bit beyond the scope of their operations? Are they actually going to do an age progression to 115 years? Cause that’s how old Noel Elijah Davis would be by now.
I don’t know whether to add him or not. I suppose there’s nothing in the Charley Project’s own guidelines saying I can’t, and the Dorothy Arnold case is older than that, but I’ve got thousands of cases waiting for me to put them up and more requests coming in every day and I’d rather focus on people who have a snowball’s chance of being located.
All month I’ve had a certain person on my mind: Rywka Lipszyc. I read her diary over the first few days of this month. Just published last year in an exquisite glossy, coffee-table like edition, it looks like the book is already out of print. I count myself lucky to have snapped up a good condition used copy at the reasonable price of $30.
Rywka (pronounced “Riv-ka”) was a Polish-Jewish girl in the Lodz Ghetto and kept a diary there for a six-month period from the fall of 1943 to the spring of 1944. She was sixteen, I believe. After liberation, a Red Army doctor found the diary in the ruins of the crematoria at Auschwitz. The doctor’s family kept the book for 60 years before one of them moved to San Francisco and donated it to the Holocaust Center of Northern California. It is that organization that published the book.
It is a valuable historical document and very well researched and annotated and so on. But what interests me most about the diary is not Rywka’s writing or the life she was leading in the ghetto but rather, what happened to her later.
The diary’s researchers were able to track down two of Rywka’s cousins. The three of them had been in Bergen-Belsen when that camp was liberated. All of the camp’s inmates were starving and very ill, and the cousins were evacuated to Sweden for medical treatment. However, Rywka was too sick to be moved and doctors told her cousins she would probably not live for more than another couple of days. Gradually the two girls recovered and got on with their lives. They assumed Rywka had died and one of them made a page of testimony for her.
Except she didn’t die. Further research found Rywka staying at a German hospital several months after her cousins left Bergen-Belsen. And that’s when her story ends. All the records stop: no discharge certificate, no death certificate, nothing. Rywka was just gone. She disappeared. I’ve read over 50 Holocaust diaries and this is the first I’ve come across where the author’s fate is unknown.
I have lately found myself mulling over her potential fate in my mind. Now, when a Jewish person goes through the Holocaust and their fate is unknown, you generally have to assume they were killed. But we know for a fact that Rywka survived, for a little while at least. I think it’s entirely possible that she recovered from her ordeal, cut her ties with the past and changed her name. She was very young, I think around seventeen. Everyone in her immediate family had been killed and so had everyone in her extended family, except those two cousins. And in the chaos of postwar Europe, it would have been easy to change your identity and vanish.
If the theory of a voluntary disappearance is correct, Rywka could have gone virtually anywhere. America. Canada. Israel. Australia. Brazil. Etc. She could have married, perhaps to another survivor, and started a family of her own, and had kids and grandkids. I know that many if not most Holocaust survivors chose to throw themselves into their postwar lives and never talk about the past. Rywka could, conceivably, be alive today. She’d be in her late eighties by now, but plenty of people live to be that age.
Oh, I know that the balance of probabilities is that Rywka is dead and has been dead for decades. But there’s still that sliver of possibility there, and it’s been poking at my mind all week.
Per me, John Price Posey was executed on this day in 1788. He was a bit of a n’er-do-well, committing the crimes of theft, assault, jail escape and arson before it all caught up with him when he was 35 and he was hanged. None of this is terribly unusual, but Posey’s background is. Click on the link if you want to hear more about it.
Karolina Juszczykowska (how does one pronounce that?), an otherwise unremarkable middle-aged kitchen lady, was executed 70 years ago today for hiding Jews in her apartment in Tomaschow, Poland.
Thomas Jones, who (possibly together with his 13-year-old daughter) killed his niece in 1868.
This week’s Flashback Friday case is Ricky Jean “Jeannie” Bryant, a four-year-old girl missing from Mauston, Wisconsin since 1949. Her circumstances of her disappearance are similar to the Sodder siblings case: a terrible fire, no body found in the ruins, and hope that she could still be alive.
I really don’t know what to think about this. From what little I know it seems unlikely that Jeannie survived the fire, but the police must have reopened the case for SOME reason. If she’s still alive she’d be 68 today.