Müller, P; (2011) Covering Crime, Restoring Order. The Berlin Jack-the-Ripper” (1909) and the Press Policy of the Berlin Criminal Investigation Department. Crime, History & Societies , 15 (1) , Article 4.
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This article highlights the interdependent interlacing of semi-official sensationalist media coverage and its appropriation by ordinary people in Imperial Berlin, by examining the criminal case of a knifer in 1909 and its repercussions in the urban arena. In 1909, contemporaries swiftly associated “the misdeeds of the knifer” with the London Jack the Ripper Case of the year 1888. In spite of the intriguing Ripper tag particular characteristic distinguished the Berlin knifer: the proactive press policy of the Criminal Investigation Department and the cooperation of Berlin’s newspapers. My contention is that the well established semi-official cooperation between Department IV and Berlin’s press was instrumental in ‘the making of the case’. The police instigated a public search for the wanted perpetrator, and the success of this undertaking crucially relied on the effective cooperation of the police and the urban population. However, the public investigation of the case was not without frictions and misunderstandings, revealing a rather ambiguous relationship between the authority and the “subjects”, the inhabitants of Berlin. Furthermore, the daily circulation of clues of the ongoing investigation went with the proliferation of “the misdeeds of knifer”. Consequently, particularly in this criminal case copycat action was rife, and the suppression of the “stabbings” was achieved only by extending the ordinary means of the public search coordinated by the police. The examination of this criminal case reveals an essential phase of the urban crime drama in Imperial Berlin, paying particular attention at the interdependent interlacing of the police’ public combat of crime, the semi-official media coverage, and the multifaceted and wayward opportunism of the urban population.
|Title:||Covering Crime, Restoring Order. The Berlin Jack-the-Ripper” (1909) and the Press Policy of the Berlin Criminal Investigation Department.|
|Keywords:||Berlin, Imperial Germany, History of Crime, Media History, Jack the Ripper, History of Police, Press Policy, Popular Culture, Reception|
|UCL classification:||UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > SSEES|
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