A CASE OF CHILD ABUSE, VIENNA 1894
Reported in the Neue Freie Presse, 11 July 1894:
A horrible case of child abuse by foster parents aroused public indignation everywhere…A woman punished a ten-year old girl for stealing three pennies by sticking her hands into the glowing hot stove.
The couple, Eduard and Marie Springer, were taken to court. Neighbours reported that the girl, a niece of Eduard Springer, had been beaten black and blue with a cattle whip and had her head banged against the edge of the table.
On 20 June neighbours heard her cry out Please, aunt, don’t burn my hand! although Marie Springer pressed her mouth shut so forcefully that one of her teeth came loose.
The girl was called to the witness stand.
Judge: How old are you?
Girl: I will be eleven on 25 July.
Judge: Where is your father?
Judge: Where is your mother?
Girl: In Bohemia.
Judge: Where did you live earlier on?
Girl: In a convent.
Judge: Why didn’t you stay there?
Girl: Because I was bad.
Judge: Do you want to testify against your aunt and uncle?
Girl: No, no!
Testimonials from the convent school she attended described the girl as immoral and a habitual liar. Two other testimonials from schools she had attended described her as pugnacious. This was confirmed by the nurses in the hospital where she was recovering.
The Springers were convicted on the testimony of neighbours and the evidence given by the court physician and condemned to eight and five months respectively of penal servitude, the most severe form of incarceration.
|An ugly house like this?|
When the girl, who was waiting in the corridor, heard of the sentence, she wept bitterly for her uncle and aunt who had to stay “in an ugly house now”.