Sunday, April 6, 2014

Husband-Killing Syndicates in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, 1882-1889


In the period dealt with here, “Hungary” was commonly used to refer to any region within the Austro-Hungarian Empire outside Austria proper. The husband-killing syndicates collected by The Unknown History of MISANDRY  contain cases which occurred in present-day Hungary, Romania and Romania which were reported as having taken place in “Hungary.” Some of the reports of this type of crime would refer to earlier cases noting that such organized poisoning rackets were common in the region. The following article is of particular interest in that in addition to the news report of a new case in 1899, it makes note of three earlier cases: from 1882, 1897 and 1890. Out of these four only one took place in present-day Hungary; two were in Serbia; one took place in Romania.

Below the article you will find the synopses of the four cases mentioned (taken from the comprehensive collection of “Husband-Killing Syndicates.” Such cases continued to be reported in the region up to the mid 1930s (1900, 1901, 1903, 1905, 1906, 1911, 1912, 1926, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1933, 1935).

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FULL TEXT: London, July 4. – An extraordinary criminal trial has taken place in Hungary, 18 married women being charged with poisoning their husbands and children with arsenic.

Nine of them were acquitted, and the other nine were found guilty, and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment.

[The wholesale poisoning of husbands by their wives is a crime that of late years has been peculiar to Hungary. In August, 1882, some 25 women were convicted of poisoning their husbands at Gross Bedakerch, a woman named Theckla Popov being said to be the head of the conspiracy. In July, 1890, 10 women were tried at Mitrowitz for poisoning their husbands with arsenic. Two were acquitted and four were sentenced to death, and four to penal servitude. In July, 1897, four women were sentenced to death for poisoning husbands, and other relatives, at Buda Pesth.

[“Hungary Poisoning. – Terrible Crimes In Hungary. – Nine Women Convicted.” The Argus (Melbourne, Australia), Jul. 6, 1899, p. 5]

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Leaders: Thekla Popov, active more than two years (1880-1882), Anna Minity, Sophia Ivanovitch;
over 100 women implicated; court cases continued into at least 1889
Method: bottles of "red liquid poison" priced at 50-100 florins
Victims: over 100

Leader: Esther Sarac (“witch or herbalist”); 10 women arrested
Method: arsenic extracted from flypaper
Victims: 60 estimated, over a period of 10 years 

Leader: Mari Azalai Jager
Accomplices: "a band of poisoners" 3 men & 2 women (including Gulyas Kis-Samuel, male)
Method: Three poisons, belladonna, arsenic and chloride of mercury
Jul. 24, 1897, Budapest: Trial of 12 women & 2 men; 4 sentenced to death; 1 to life in prison (man who killed his mother); 1 to 6 years in prison
Victims: estimated at over 100

Leaders: George Korin, apothecary, ringleader, and Dr. Johann Mayer, village physician
Perpetrators: Maria Nikodem (murdered 2 husbands); Lisa Triku (murdered 4 husbands)
Method: arsenic
Victims: 14

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A note on names: It should be note that names of persons and places from there regions are spelled in numerous different ways since a great many ethnicities resided these and used a great variety of languages. For example, Serbian was spoken in Serbia, but German was the official language of the ruling empire while the following other languages being spoken there include Albanian, Hungarian, Romanian, Slovak, Rusyn, Croatian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Romani, Czech, Bosnian, Vlach, Bunjevac, Macedonian, Montenegrin.

Further, English language transliterations of these names use many different spellings for the same name and vary in their choice of which original language form as the basis for their transliteration. In short, working with English language sources is extremely messy and confusing work.

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Explanations for the Hungarian murder syndicates that are commonly found are based on theories that are now being demonstrated to be faulty. Thus we must resist interpreting the phenomenon of the various Eastern European murder syndicates – with all their individual differences and complexities – through the simpleminded theories and claims that have been put forth in the standard literature thus far.

An effort is now being made to take an objective look at the family in Eastern Europe without being hampered by the constraints of old-fashioned “patriarchy” theories and “social constructionist” reductionism, as is indicated by a recent call for papers by The Hungarian Historical Review. Here is an excerpt from that call for papers:

“Historians who studied personal narrative sources that had survived in large numbers (such as correspondences, diaries, and memoirs) fervently disputed the Ariés-Hajnal-Stone thesis, according to which given the extended nature of the family, the role of emotional bonds in family life was negligible in Eastern Europe. The opponents of the thesis argue, however, that behind the image of patriarchal family life that emerges from the wealth of literature on matrimonial and marital counseling, one finds innumerable everyday gestures expressive of loving, amicable, and supportive relationships between spouses.”

[Sándor Horváth, Call for journal articles – “The History of Family, Marriage and Divorce in Eastern Europe,” The Hungarian Historical Review, 2013]

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For more than two dozen similar cases, dating from 1658 to 2011, see the summary list with links see: The Husband-Killing Syndicates

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