Beier, the 22 year old daughter of the
Mayor of Freiburg in Saxony, was
guillotined for the murder of her fiancée, a civil engineer named
Proffler, whom she had poisoned for
Grete was in love with another man, Hans
Merker, of whom her father didn't approve.
Her father had forced her into the engagement with Kurt
Proffler, whom he felt had much better
prospects than Merker.
case attracted international attention due to her age, sex,
personality and the elaborate nature of the crime. She was seemingly a
happy and fun loving girl from a good background.
her trial, she admitted that on May 13th, 1908, she had visited her
fiancée's house and given him potassium cyanide in a drink she mixed
for him, and then to make sure of his death, shot him in the mouth
with his own revolver.
then did her best to make the scene look like a suicide, placing the
gun carefully at his side, leaving a forged will in her favour on his
desk and with a final note to herself, also forged, saying that he
feared to lose her love, because of a relationship that he had had
with a woman in Italy who was now accusing him of desertion and
threatening to tell Grete everything.
These forgeries were good enough to initially deceive the police and
Coroner. She fell under suspicion when about a month later a letter
was found that she had written to another man hinting at what she had
done, when he was arrested for an unrelated crime. She was arrested
and made a detailed confession to the murder. She hoped by confessing
that she would be granted a lesser sentence but, as the crime was a
premeditated poisoning, she was sentenced to death.
execution took place on the morning of July 23rd, 1908 in the yard of
the regional court building before some 190 people. The guillotine had
been erected earlier in a corner of the yard and at around 6.25 a.m.,
the public prosecutor, Dr. Mannl, the
judges who had heard her case, including their chairman Dr.
and the 12 official witnesses came into the yard. The public
prosecutor and the judges all wore their official robes.
precisely 6.30 a.m., a bell was rung as the signal to bring out the
prisoner. She was led through the gardens by her lawyer and the prison
chaplain, her hands folded and her eyes on the ground, walking slowly
but upright and unaided. She was very pale but seemed calm and showed
no emotion. She wore a black dress, that
had been cut down at the neck.
was led onto the platform of the guillotine by the executioner and his
assistant and strapped to the board which was then tilted into the
horizontal and slid forward, so that she could now see directly into
the bucket in which her head would land.
This was too much for Grete, who was
beginning to lose her composure. She cried out, "Father, into your
hands I lay my soul – Father." The upper part of the neck ring had
been closed about her and at this moment the blade fell.
executioner took off his hat and announced to the public prosecutor in
the traditional German fashion that the judgement of death had been
executed. The prosecutor requested the witnesses to depart quietly.
The whole execution had taken just 3 minutes.
Grete's body was taken away in a hearse decorated with flowers
and buried next to her late father.
Marie Margarete Beier
Marie Margarete (Grete) Beier was a 22 years old
Fräulein from Brand - a small town just outside Dresden.
Grete was in love with a young man, Hans Merker.
Unfortunately her father - the local Mayor - didn't approve of her
love, and forced her into engagement with Kurt Pressler, a richer but
also much older man.
Grete never forgot her love to Hans, and on May 13,
1908 she poisoned Kurt and shot him in the head making it look like a
suicide. She wrote a fake suicide letter according to which she
inherited all his money.
Unfortunately her correspondence with Hans revealed
her deeds. Grete had no option but making a detailed confession and
hope for clemency. None was granted, and on July 23, 1908 her head was
to fall in the guillotine before the eyes of 190 especially invited
At precisely 6.30 a.m. a strident bell sound gave
the signal to the start Grete's last way. Everyone's look was directed
to the backside from where, through flowering gardens, the condemned
was supposed to appear.
Slowly she came along, at her side the defender in
the robe, to her left the prison parson in his ornat. Grete Beier kept
the hands folded and looked to the ground, but she walked upright the
head slightly inclined forward. She was very pale but showed no
emotion. Slowly, almost hesitating she walked forward. She wore a
black dress, that left her neck completely exposed.
Thus she approached her prosecuter and the judges,
who were standing at the stairs of the guillotine next to the
executioner, dressed in black.
The executioner and an assistant slowly led Grete
to the scaffold, whose board had been provided with an supplementary
fifth step, in order to adapt it to Grete's small stature.
Then everything took place very fast. The buclets
closed behind Grete's back. The board was tilted into horizontal
At this point, looking directly into the bucket in
which her head will land, she starts to loose her self control. She
cried out in a fearful and almost begging way:
Father, into your hands I lay my soul ---
The ring at her neck was closed, and the blade
The executioner took off his hat and announced to
the public prosecuter, that the verdict had been executed. The
prosecuter requested the people who were present at the execution to
It took 3 minutes from the time Grete left the
prison until her pretty head was off.
Grete Beier, German Serial Killer, Murdered Her
Three Babies in Succession and Later Murdered Her Husband - 1908
Note: The correct spelling of the name is “Beier,” but it was
frequently spelled “Beyer.”
“She Was An Angel – But Not One of the Heavenly Kind.”
[The Fort Wayne News (In.), Mar. 23, 1908, p. 12]
FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 3): Berlin, March 24. – “The face of an angel
and the heart of a fiend,” they say of Grete Beyer, pretty flaxen
haired daughter of the mayor of Brande, soon to be put on trial for
the murder of her lover.
In addition to this crime, it is alleged she murdered three
illegitimate children born to her.
Hers is one of the most remarkable eases on record. Although of good
family and refined education, she is a virtual demon.
All her life she has moved in cultured and educated circles. She went
to the beat schools, enjoyed exceptional advantages, and was
accomplished in music and art. For years she cleverly concealed her
double At seventeen she entered into improper relations with a young
Dresden commercial traveler named Merker. Three children were born to
them and she murdered each immediately after birth, it is claimed.
She disposed of the infants so skill skillfully that no suspicions
While still carrying on her intrigue with Merker her parents
introduced her to a wealthy engineer named Pressler, hoping that she
might, make a good match. Pressler became infatuated with her and they
All the time she was continuing her relations with Merker, and
together they were plotting how they could obtain possession of
One day she left home and went to Chemnitz, where Pressler lived. She
went straight to his apartments and found him there.
“I have a great surprise for you,” she said, ‘‘but you must shut your
eyes and -open your month.” Suspeting nothing more than some girlish
prank, Pressler obeyed without hesitation.
Then the girl thrust a pistol in Pressler’s open mouth, and blew out
his brains at a single shot. He fell dead at her feet. No one heard
the shot, and she proceeded with cool determination to complete her
Seated at his desk she wrote with deliberation and perfect clearness,
a will which left the whole of hi? Property and fortune to herself.
She previously had informed herself regarding the necessary legal
language for such a document. Then she forged his signature.
Altogether she spent more than an hour in the room with the corpse,
and in leaving took all the cash she could find, something near $500.
She inclosed the will, in an envelope and locked in. an inner
compartment of the desk, where it was later discovered. Pressler’s
dead body was found in such a position that it appeared a clear case
of suicide, and the investigating judge returned a verdict to that
Not until weeks afterward, when doubts had arisen regarding the
authenticity of the will did suspicion fall upon the girl. Detectives,
set to watch her, discovered her relations with Merker, and eventually
she was arrested. Subsequently she made a full confession.
Merker was also arrested and will he charged with inciting her to
“Sentenced To Death.”
[Otago Witness (Dunedin, N.Z.), Jul. 8, 1908, p. 27]
FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 3): Berlin, July 1. – Grete Beyer, a beautiful
young woman of 22, the daughter of a former burgomaster at Brand
(Saxony), has been sentenced to death for killing Pressler, her
fiance, of Chemnitz, after forging his will in her favour and other
documents suggesting that he had committed suicide.
Grete Beyer, the daughter of the late burgomaster of Brand, Saxony,
who killed her fiance in order to secure possession of £500 he had
willed her as a marriage gift, was as nonchalant a prisoner as German
gaolers have ever watched over. Although charged with murder, forgery,
and embezzlement, in collusion with her mother and another lover, a
Dresden merchant named Meiker, her manner was one of utter
indifference, bordering on light-heartedness.
She was a strikingly good-looking girl, a typical blonde, blue-eyed
Saxon, of somewhat buxom figure. She was noted in Brand for her good
humour, friendly disposition, and tasteful clothes, in which she
displaced a partiality for light-coloured silks. She was always
accompanied by a powerful St. Bernard dog. Her father, once a
coal-miner, became head of the town savings bank, and eventually
burgomaster. He left a considerable fortune; but, following his death,
irregularities were discovered which caused some suspicions as to his
business integrity. The mother, who was seriously involved in her
daughter’s embezzlement and forgery accusations, came from a cobbler’s
family. Although Grete was engaged to the engineer Pressler, whom she
shot in May, 1907, after blindfolding him on the pretence that he was
to have a pleasant surprise, she had continued since 1906 a former
intimacy of some years standing with Meiker, as the result of which
two dead children were born. In September Grete, her mother, and
Meiker were arrested on charges of forgery of a will in connection
with the mysterious death of Herr Kraener, superintendent of the local
poorhouse, a wealthy relative of the Beyers. Grete subsequently
confessed that she had killed Pressler after having forged his will,
written a letter indicating- that he had taken his own life, and left
the pistol beside his bed in a position suggesting suicide.
“The Execution of Grete Beier.”
[Unknown German-language, newspaper, Jul. 23, 1908, translated]
FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 3): The last act in the great tragedy of the
Beier family took place this morning. The head of Grete Beier fell
under the blade of the Guillotine.
The father dead, suspected of perjury, the mother in the prison, the
daughter on the scaffold.
The drama of this family was no longer capable of a further increase,
and the whole shaking tragedy, which fell over the concerned persons,
was again remembered this morning in the northern yard of the Freiberg
regional court building. The witnesses of these dark moments, over
which laid a depressing silence, will never forget it.
In the yard of the district court building gathered about 200
gentlemen, under them numerous officers of the local battalion, law
officers, different members of the jury, teachers of the local high
school, physicians etc.
In the corner at the wing centre the Guillotine had been erected. The
side door in the wing of the public prosecutor’s office opened five
minutes before 6.30 p.m., and led from the public prosecutor. Dr.
Mannl, prosecutor in the murder trial against Grete Beier, the judges
under her chairman Dr. Rudert, as well as the twelve witnesses (for
the most part gentlemen of the local high school), Mr.
Oberstaatsanwalt Bernhard, the mayor of Blueher, and some other
gentlemen came out. The public prosecutor as well as the judges were
Some fearful seconds passed, the public prosecutor spoke still few
words with the national executioner, who was waiting dressed in black
together with its two assistants at the stairs of the Guillotine.
At precisely 6:30 a strident bell sound gave the signal to the start
of the prisoner’s last walk. Everyone’s look was directed to the
backside from where, through flowering gardens, the condemned was
supposed to appear.
Slowly she came along , at her side her defender in the robe, Mr.
Rechtsanwalt Dr. Knoll from Dresden, to her left the prison parson
in his ornat, Mr. Pastor Schmidt, which gave to the condemned woman
words of courage and comfort.
Grete Beier kept the hands folded and looked to the ground, but she
walked upright the head slightly inclined forward.
Just as in the two-day trial, nothing in her face betrayed the
feelings of the murderess, she was completely calm – and this stony
calmness looked almost frightful.
Slowly, almost hesitating she walked forward. On her black dress,
the neck was exposed. Thus she approached the prosecutor and the
judges. Public prosecutor Dr. Mannl stepped forwards, with elevated
voice spoke he the following: “Maria Margarete Beier from Erbisdorf
has been condemned to death by the District Court of Freiberg. The
judgment has been confirmed. His majesty the king did not feel
compelled to make use of the power of pardon. Therefore the judgment
is to be carried out. Mr. Landesscharfrichter Brandt, I transfer the
delinquent to you.”
In the meantime the clergyman and the defender had withdrawn. The
executioner and an assistant slowly led the condemned to the
scaffold and the five steps up.
Grete Beier approached the scaffold, whose platform had been
provided with an added step in order to adapt it the small stature
of the condemned. What followed now took place quickly. The buckles
closed behind the back of the delinquent. The board was tilted into
Then the girl called out. It sounded fearful, anguished, like a long
retained despair: “Father, into Your hands I lay my soul ---
Father!” then the neck-ring closed and the blade rushed down.
The executioner took off his hat and announced to the public
prosecutor: “Herr Staatsanwalt, the judgment is executed.”
The last act, from the instant when the young woman left the prison
building up to the execution took only three minutes.
The public prosecutor requested the people who were present at the
execution to depart calmly. When the witnesses of the execution left
by a side way, in which already waited the flower-decorated hearse,
which will bring the body of Grete Beier to Dresden, a huge crowd
The body will be buried beside the grave of the father.
Grete Beier remained until her death an unresolved mystery. Until
her last minutes she showed a self-control which a man in the same
condition would hardly have shown.
Note: English-language newspapers incorrectly described the
execution as having been performed with an axe rather than a