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Friedrich HAARMANN

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 


A.K.A.: "
The Butcher of Hannover"
 
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Homosexual - Dismemberment - Rumour had it that Haarmann would also peddle meat from the bodies of his victims as canned black market pork, although there was never physical evidence to confirm this
Number of victims: 27 +
Date of murders: 1918 - 1924
Date of arrest: June 23, 1924
Date of birth: October 25, 1879
Victims profile: Boys and young men
Method of murder: Strangulation / Biting through their throats
Location: Hannover, Lower Saxony, Germany
Status: Executed by guillotine on April 15, 1925
 
 

 
 
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Fritz Haarmann (October 25, 1879 – April 15, 1925) was a notorious serial killer born in Hannover, Germany.

From 1919 to 1924, Haarmann committed at least 24 murders, and possibly many more. Haarmann's victims were young male vagrants who hung around railway stations, whom Haarmann would lure back to his apartment and then kill them by biting through their throats in a kind of sexual frenzy. Rumours had it that Haarmann would then peddle meat from the bodies of his victims as black market pork, but there was no evidence. His accomplice, Hans Grans, sold the clothing of his victims, and Haarmann claimed Grans urged him to kill handsome boys, but was otherwise not involved in the murders.

Haarmann was eventually apprehended when numerous skeletal remains, which he had dumped into the river Leine, washed up. His trial was very spectacular; it was one of the first major media events in Germany. There were no concepts or expressions for his crimes; he was called a "werewolf", a "vampire" and a "sexual psychopath" at the same time. But apart from the cruelty of what Haarmann had admittedly done, even more scandalous — shaking German society at the very core — was the involvement of the police in the case: Haarmann cheated on thieves and dealers. He had also been used as an informant by the police who failed to identify Haarmann as the murderer.

Haarmann was beheaded, though it was not entirely clear if he would rather have to be locked up in an asylum for being in a state of diminished responsibility. But public opinion was heated and would not have approved of Haarmann just being locked away. Haarmann was found guilty and executed, even though serious doubts about his state of mind remained. Grans received a 12-year sentence. What became of him after his release is not known.

Haarmann became known as "The Butcher of Hanover." A film titled The Tenderness of the Wolves was released in Germany in 1973 dramatizing Haarmann's crimes. It starred Kurt Raab as the killer and featured Rainer Werner Fassbinder in a minor role. Another film based on the murder spree, Der Totmacher (The Deadmaker; 1995), starred Götz George as Haarmann. It was based on the protocols of the psychiatric examinations of Haarmann by Erich Schultze, one of the main psychiatric experts in the trial.

The classic film M, directed by Fritz Lang and starring Peter Lorre, was inspired by Haarman's crimes, as well as those of Düsseldorf child killer Peter Kürten (Haarman is mentioned by name in the film, along with another well-known German serial killer, Karl Grossmann).

The American heavy metal band Macabre have made two songs about him: "Fritz Haarmann, the Butcher" on Gloom and "Fritz Haarmann, Der Metzger" on Murder Metal.

Literature

Tartar, Maria [1995]. Lustmord. Sexual Murder in Weimar Germany. Princeton UP.

Thomas Kailer: Werewölfe, Triebtäter, minderwertige Psychopathen. Bedingungen von Wissensgenerierung. Der Fall Haarmann. In: Carsten Kretschmann (Hg.): Wissenspopularisierung. Berlin 2003, S. 323-359.


Friedrich "Fritz" Haarmann (October 25, 1879 – April 15, 1925) was a notorious serial killer born in Hanover, Germany, who is believed to be responsible for the murder of 27 boys and young men.

Early life

Fritz Haarmann was born on October 25, 1879, the sixth child of poor parents. Fritz was a quiet child who shunned many boys' activities such as sports and preferred to play with his sisters' toys. He was also a poor scholar.

At the age of 16, at the urging of his parents, Haarmann enrolled in a military academy at Neu Breisach. He initially adapted to military life, and performed well as a training soldier. After just one year in the academy, however, he began to suffer seizures and was discharged for medical reasons.

Haarmann returned to Hanover and took employment in a cigar factory. He was arrested in 1898 for molesting children, but a psychologist declared Haarmann was mentally unfit to stand trial, and he was sent to a mental institution indefinitely. Six months later, Haarmann escaped and fled to Switzerland, where he worked for two years before he returned to Germany.

He again enlisted in the military, this time under an alias, but in 1902, he was again discharged under medical terms. He was awarded a full military pension, and returned to live with his family, and took employment in the small business his father had established.

After an argument with his father, Ollie, led to a violent fight between them both, Haarmann was arrested, charged with assault and again sent for psychiatric evaluation. This time, a doctor did not diagnose Haarmann as mentally unstable. A court discharged Haarmann and he again returned to live with his family. Shortly afterwards, Haarmann attempted to open a small shop, but the business soon became bankrupt.

Criminal career

For the next decade, Haarmann lived as a petty thief, burglar and con-man. He was frequently arrested and served several short prison sentences. He gradually began to establish a relationship with Hanover Police as an informer, largely as a means of redirecting the attention of the Police from himself, and later admitted that the Police began to view him as a reliable source of information regarding Hanover's criminal network.

In 1914, Haarmann was convicted of a series of thefts and frauds and was imprisoned just as the First World War began. Upon his release in 1918, he was struck by the poverty of the German Nation as a result of the loss the nation had suffered in the Great War. The country was bankrupt. Fritz Haarmann immediately reverted to the criminal life he had lived before he was arrested in 1914. The new state of Germany provided him with even more opportunities to operate on the fringes of the criminal network, and because of the increase in crime as a result of the poverty the nation was enduring, Police again began to rely on Haarmann as an informer.

Crimes

From 1918 to 1924, Haarmann committed at least 24 murders, although he is suspected of murdering a minimum of 27. Haarmann's first known victim was a 17-year-old youth named Friedel Rothe. When he disappeared, his friends told Police he was last seen with Fritz Haarmann.

Under pressure from Rothe's family, Police raided Haarmann's apartment, where they were dismayed to find their informer in the company of a semi-naked teenage boy. They had no choice but to charge Haarmann with sexual assault. Released after serving nine months, Haarmann quickly reverted to the same lifestyle he led before his arrest. Again, he regained the trust of the Police and became an informer.

Haarmann's subsequent victims largely consisted of young male commuters, runaways, and, occasionally, male prostitutes who hung around Hanover's central railway station, whom Haarmann would lure back to his apartment and then kill by biting through their throats, sometimes while sodomizing them. All his victims were dismembered before they were discarded, usually in the river Leine.

The possessions of several victims were either sold on the black market or retained by either Haarmann or his lover, Hans Grans. Rumour had it that Haarmann would also peddle meat from the bodies of his victims as canned black market pork, although there was never physical evidence to confirm this. TruTV Crime Library claims he did indeed do this.

His accomplice and live-in partner, Hans Grans, sold the possessions of several of the victims cheaply on the black market, and kept other possessions for himself, and Haarmann initially claimed that although Grans knew of many of his murders, and personally urged him to kill two of the victims so he could obtain their clothing and personal possessions, was otherwise not involved in the murders.

Haarmann was eventually apprehended when numerous skeletal remains, which he had dumped into the river Leine, washed up downstream in May and June 1924. The Police decided to drag the river and discovered more than 500 human bones which were later confirmed as having come from at least 22 separate human individuals. Suspicion quickly fell upon Haarmann, who had convictions for molesting children and had been connected to the disappearance of Friedel Rothe in 1918.

Haarmann was placed under surveillance and on the night off 22 June, was observed prowling Hanover's railway station. He was quickly arrested after trying to lure a boy to his apartment. His apartment was searched and the walls were were found to be heavily bloodstained. Haarmann tried to explain this as a by-product of his illegal trade as a butcher. However, clothing and personal items known to be possessions of several missing youths were also found in his home.

Under interrogation, Haarmann quickly confessed to raping, killing and butchering young men since 1918. When asked how many he had killed, Haarmann claimed 'somewhere between 50 and 70'. The Police, however, could only connect Haarmann with the disappearance of 27 youths, and he was charged with 27 murders. It is interesting to note that only a quarter of the personal items found in his apartment were identified as having belonged to any of the victims.

Trial

Haarmann's trial began on 4 December, 1924. Haarmann was charged with the murder of 27 boys and young men who had disappeared between 1918 and June that year. The trial was very spectacular; it was one of the first major media events in Germany. The term "serial killer" had not yet been coined, and the public and press were lost for words to describe the case; he was simultaneously referred to as "werewolf", a "vampire", and the "The Wolf Man".

Apart from the cruelty of what Haarmann had admittedly done, even more scandalous - shaking German society to the core - was the involvement of the police in the case: Haarmann was a police informant who frequently gave up other criminals to investigators; until Haarmann was arrested, it had never occurred to police that the serial killer they were looking for was well-known to them and right under their nose, even though some of the victims were last seen in his company. The trial lasted barely two weeks.

On 19 December, Haarmann was found guilty of 24 of the 27 murders and sentenced to death. He was acquitted of three murders which he denied, even though the personal possessions of the boys were either in his possession or acquaintances of his at the time of his arrest. He was beheaded with a guillotine on April 25, 1925.

Grans was initially found guilty of enticement to murder in the case of Adolf Hannappel, an apprentice who vanished from Hanover's railway station on November 11, 1923. Witnesses had seen Grans, in the company of Haarmann, pointing to Hannappel, Haarmann claimed this was one of two murders committed upon the insistence of Grans and for this reason, Grans was sentenced to death. The discovery of a letter from Haarmann declaring Grans's innocence later led to a second trial and a 12-year prison sentence for Grans. After serving his time, Grans continued to live in Hanover until his death around 1980.

The remains of Haarmann's victims were buried together in a communal grave.

After his execution, Haarmann's head was preserved in a jar by scientists to examine the structure of his brain. Haarmann's head is now kept at the Göttingen medical school.

The case stirred much discussion in Germany about the death penalty, the correct approach towards mentally ill offenders, police investigation methods, and homosexuality.

Victims

Name Age Date of disappearance Notes
Friedel Rothe 17 September 25, 1918 Haarmann claimed to have buried Rothe in Stoekner cemetery
Fritz Franke 16 February 12, 1923 Franke was initially from Berlin
Wilhelm Schulze 17 March 20, 1923 An apprentice writer
Roland Huch 15 May 23, 1923 Student. Vanished from Hanover railway station
Hans Sonnenfeld 18 May, 1923 A runaway from the town of Limmer
Ernst Ehrenberg 13 June 25, 1923 Disappeared whilst running an errand for his parents
Heinrich Strauss 18 August 24, 1923 Haarmann was in possession of Strauss' violin case when arrested
Paul Bronischewski 17 September 24, 1923 Vanished on his way to visit his Uncle
Richard Graf 17 September, 1923 Disappeared after telling his friends a detective from Hanover had found him a job
Wilhelm Erdner 16 October 12, 1923 Disappeared from Hanover station. Haarmann sold Erdner's bicycle
Hermann Wolf 16 October 24, 1923 The victims clothes were traced to Haarmann and his acquaintances
Heinz Brinkmann 13 October 27, 1923 Vanished from Hanover station after missing his train home to Clausthal
Adolf Hannappel 15 November 11, 1923 An apprentice. Witnesses saw Haarmann approach Hannappel.
Adolf Hennies 19 December 6, 1923 Hennies disappeared whilst looking for work in Hanover
Ernst Speiker 17 January 5, 1924 Disappeared on his way to appear as a witness at a trial
Heinrich Koch 18 January 15, 1924 Koch was known to be an acquaintance of Haarmann
Willi Senger 19 February 2, 1924 The victim's clothes were found in Haarmann's apartment after his arrest
Hermann Speichert 15 February 8, 1924 An electrical apprentice
Alfred Hogrefe 16 April 6, 1924 An apprentice mechanic. All Hogrefe's clothes were traced to Haarmann
Hermann Bock 22 April, 1924 Bock was last seen by his friends walking towards Haarmann's apartment
Wilhelm Apel 15 April 17, 1924 Disappeared on his way to work
Robert Witzel 18 April 26, 1924 Haarman admitted dumping Witzel's remains in the river Leine
Heinz Martin 14 May 9, 1924 An apprentice locksmith. Martin disappeared from Hanover station
Fritz Wittig 17 May 26, 1924 Haarmann insisted Grans ordered him to commit both this murder and the murder of Hannappel
Friedrich Abeling 11 May 26, 1924 The youngest victim. Remains dumped in the river Leine
Heinrich Koch 16 June 5, 1924 Vanished on his way to College. Koch was last seen in the company of Haarmann
Erich de Vries 17 June 14, 1924 Haarmann led police to Erich's remains after his arrest

In popular culture

Haarmann became known as "The Butcher of Hannover." The classic film M (1931), directed by Fritz Lang and starring Peter Lorre, was inspired by Haarmann's crimes, as well as those of Düsseldorf child killer Peter Kürten (Haarmann is mentioned by name in the film, along with another well-known German serial killer, Karl Grossmann).

A 1973 German film The Tenderness of the Wolves (Die Zärtlichkeit der Wölfe) dramatizing Haarmann's crimes. It starred Kurt Raab as the killer and featured Rainer Werner Fassbinder in a minor role.

Another film based on the murder spree, Der Totmacher (The Deadmaker; 1995), starred Götz George as Haarmann. It was based on the records of the psychiatric examinations of Haarmann by Erich Schultze, one of the main psychiatric experts in the trial. The film's plot centers around the last days of Haarmann's life, as he is being interviewed by a court psychiatrist

Kim Newman included Haarmann as a minor character in his novel The Bloody Red Baron (1995), serving as a "batman" (military servant) to Manfred von Richthofen, the "Red Baron."

In 2007, the Hannover Tourism Board (Hannover Tourismus) caused controversy by including Haarmann in its cartoon-style advertising calendar, along with other well-known people from the city.

The calendar became a best-seller, and the initial print run of 20,000 calendars was expected to run out in November 2007, rather than lasting through Christmas as planned. Allegedly, Haarmann also featured in the 2006 issue, but the inclusion drew no attention at the time. The 2008 calendar included a new picture of Haarman in handcuffs. According to the Hannover Tourism Office, Haarmann will also be included in 2009.

Beton Kopf Media, the record label behind german electro-industrial project :Wumpscut:, uses a picture of Fritz Haarmann as company logo (which has often been mistaken to be a picture of Adolf Hitler due to Haarmann wearing a similar mustache).

Margit Sandemo used Haarmann for the evil character Lynx in her Isfolket book series.

Haarmann has also been the subject of the song "Fritz Haarman [sic] Der Metzger" ("Fritz Haarman the butcher") by death/thrash metal band Macabre.

Wikipedia.org


Fritz Haarman: The Butcher of Hannover

by Alexander Gilbert

The First Finds

After the relative crime watershed of World War I, the 20th Century entered the "age of sex crime." Perhaps predictably, the country where this first became apparent was Germany, where the miseries and deprivation of hyperinflation and food shortage made their maximum impact. Hannover, an elegant municipality in the centre of lower Saxony, was one of the cities most affected and it was in this sleepy hollow that Fritz Haarmann committed one of the most extraordinary series of crimes in modern times.

On 17th May 1924, some children playing at the edge of a river near the Herrenhausen Castle found a human skull and, on May 29th, another washed up on the riverbank. The town was sent in to frenzy on the 13th June when two more skulls were found included in the river's sediment. An autopsy proved the first two crania to be that of young people aged between 18 and 20 and the last skull found from a boy of approximately 12. In all cases, a sharp instrument had been used to separate the skulls from the torso and the flesh had been entirely removed.

It was initially thought that the human remains originated from the anatomical institute in Gottingen or that they had been flung into the river by grave-robbers fleeing from capture. Yet these theories remained unproven and the mystery gained further publicity when boys playing on a marshland unearthed a sack containing human bones. It had become impossible for the authorities to keep these grisly finds a secret and, whilst young boys continued to be reported missing (the number in 1923 grew to almost 600), the Hannoverian population was gripped by terror. The investigation highlighted that those missing were mostly aged between 14 and 18 and rumours were circulating that human flesh had been on sale at the public market.

On Whit Sunday in 1924, hundreds of people left Hannover and descended on the small paths and bridges of the Old Town, where they started searching for human remains. The vastness of this expedition was unprecedented in German criminal history and was spurred on primarily by the talk of a "werewolf" or "man-eater" at large. After a multitude of bones had been discovered, the city's central River Leine was dammed and inspected by policemen and municipal workers. The finds were horrific. More than 500 parts of corpses were detected, proved later to be the remains of at least 22 people, a third aged between 15 and 20. Approximately one half had been in the water for some time and the joints of many of the fresh bones had smoothly cut surfaces.

Every thief and sexual deviant in Hannover was questioned and, through dogged detective work and a series of strange coincidences, a suspect by the name of Friedrich (known as Fritz) Haarmann was taken to the court prison. The man was already known to the police as both a 'dealer' in clothing and meat and to the criminal investigation department due to his publicly homosexual status. His appearance and mannerisms in the ultra-reserved days of inter-war Germany redefined the conventional impression of murder and murderers.

Haarmann was certainly sympathetic in appearance, a simple man with a friendly, open expression and a courteous nature. Of average height, broad and well built, he had a rough 'full-moon' face and neat, cheerful eyes. His features were generally small and as unprepossessing as the rest of his appearance, the only notability a well-groomed, light brown moustache. Fritz's expression closed up completely as soon as the atmosphere became embarrassing and investigating officers soon realised that their suspect was a man of deep contrast. At times cagey and calculating, yet also talkative and hyperactive, desperately seeking sympathy and attention. His soft, white hands moved nervously, plucking and pulling constantly at his long fingers.

Whilst Haarmann's body was strong and coarse, it was also slightly feminine and his speech "was like the querulous voice of an old woman." The killer's almost constant defensiveness and embarrassment was reflected in his automatisms and stereotypes: the wiggling of his behind, the licking of his lips - even the constant blinking of his eyes. Haarmann loved 'feminine' pastimes, such as baking and cooking, but would smoke strong cigars at the same time. Although his appearance was, as the Hannover police stated, "far from evil", Fritz Haarmann entered the record books as Germany's most prolific killer.

A Reign of Terror

Haarmann had begun his crime rampage in September 1918, a time in which Germany was suffering economic depravation and severe food shortages. A young runaway by the name of Friedel Roth disappeared from home on the 25th, writing to his mother only to say that he would not return home until "she was nice again." Various friends of the boy were forthcoming with information and eventually led the police to no.27 Cellerstrasse, the home of a man they claimed had seduced Friedel. A detective surprised one Fritz Haarmann in bed with a young boy and he was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment for seducing the juvenile. Unbelievably, the rooms were not searched and, upon interrogation five years later, Haarmann confessed that the "murdered boy's head was stuffed behind the stove wrapped in newspaper."        

The murderer's story was to take a dramatic turn in late 1919 when he met young Hans Grans at the Hannover railway station. A petty thief, Hans had run away from home and now earned his living selling old clothes at the station. The young boy approached the openly homosexual Haarmann with the purpose of prostituting himself for money. Remarkably, a friendship soon developed and Grans began living with the old man, where a bond of "madness and spiritual parasitism developed." The relationship was more than sexual and the insane ideas that surfaced in Haarmann's conscience always involved his young housemate.

Having carefully avoided his jail sentence throughout 1919, Haarmann served his penance from March until December 1920. Grans thieved his way around Germany during this time and, upon reunion at Christmas 1920, there followed a period of uninterrupted bliss until August 1921. The two thieves appeared as well-dressed, decent gentlemen and earned respect amongst the local people. Needless to say, however, the two men had more illicit intentions and plied their trade by begging or stealing laundry and selling it to the public.

In early 1922 the two men moved to no.8 Neuestrasse in the heart of the so-called 'haunted area". Haarmann was earning a good income; the thieving was accompanied by social security payments (he had been declared an invalid and therefore unable to work) and also his newfound role as a police informer. Haarmann double-crossed everybody and became a "custodian of the law and an information office for all criminal matters." Amazingly, the clothes that Haarmann passed around Hannover earned him the reputation as a benefactor of the homeless. His obvious homosexuality further hushed up any theories people may have had as to the origin of the garments. This was just as well as, in February 1923, Haarmann returned to his murderous past.

The killer detained two youths at Hannover station on the pretence that he was an officer inspecting the waiting rooms. The less attractive lad was sent away and Fritz Franke accompanied the phoney officer home. Haarmann later claimed that Grans had turned up unexpectedly whilst the corpse of Franke was still in the room. Shocked, he simply stared at Haarmann and said, "When shall I come back again?"

The murders now gained pace and in the following nine months 12 more young men's lives were taken. In almost every scenario, the victim was met at the train station and offered accommodation or work; or apprehended on the pretence that his abductor was a police officer. This guise was used so often that on one occasion, after a youth welfare worker had asked the guard as to whether Haarmann was employed in the same capacity, the station official replied, "No, he's a detective." Once in the Neuestrasse room the boy would be killed, according to Haarmann, by biting through his windpipe. Always with a view to his commercial instincts, the body would then be dismembered and the clothes and meat sold through the usual channels for smuggled goods. The useless portions were thrown into the River Leine.

One year later, when the items confiscated from the killer were on public display, victim's families discovered a wealth of personal artefacts, many kept as souvenirs and the remainder sold on through Haarmann's impressive distribution network. On each occasion there was normally an array of witnesses who had seen the recognisable Haarmann (and often Grans) approach and leave with the stranger. Such was the respect that the two men had now earned for themselves, however, that no incident was ever reported. On one such circumstance Haarmann even had the audacity to reply to an announcement in the paper offering a reward for information. He appeared at the family door under the guise of a criminologist, yet was said to have spent most of his time "laughing hysterically."

The murders continued unabated throughout early1924, Haarmann honing his remarkable knack of spotting disillusioned young tearaways at the station and then removing them casually into the night. Due to the nature of the victims, angry or estranged parents and friends often took a while to even report the disappearance. By then, the clothing and meat of the victims had been speedily distributed around Hannover and were practically untraceable. Without that sort of hard evidence, the police were at a virtual dead-end, although there were some particularly close calls. On one such occasion, a portion of the trader's meat was taken to the police because the buyer thought it was human flesh. The police analyst unequivocally pronounced it pork!

The disappearance of Erich de Vries on 14th June 1924 signalled the end of the killer's reign. In classic fashion, it was an offer of cigarettes at Hannover station that tempted the young lad to join the friendly stranger in his room. It was estimated at this time that the fugitive had murdered around 27 boys in less than 16 months: an average of almost two a month.

Despite the enormous manhunt now in operation, the killer had still not been apprehended and Hannover was at the point of public outcry. By late June of 1924 sheer terror had gripped the city and the "Werewolf" was still on the loose.

Discovery and Confession

Throughout the panic that engulfed Hannover in 1924, Fritz Haarmann remained a definite suspect. Along with every other local sex offender, he was investigated repeatedly during May and June, yet no conclusive evidence could be found. Meanwhile, press announcements appeared giving details of the skulls in the hope of obtaining clues from the general public. The quantity of skulls and corpses still being discovered was generating a nationwide furore and a general lack of confidence in the German police force.

With the pressure mounting, the following course of action was agreed upon: as Haarmann already knew the town officials, two young policemen would arrive from Berlin at Hannover train station, pretending to be homeless and looking for a place to stay. They would then focus on the suspect's activities and hope to catch him in the act. Once again, however, the killer's incredible luck conspired against them as Fritz was found arguing with 15-year-old Karl Fromm, a boy who had spent several days at Haarmann's apartment. Fromm was being particularly "cheeky and supercilious" on this evening and, amazingly, Haarmann had the audacity to report him to the railway police, claiming that he was travelling on false papers. Once at the police station, though, Fromm turned the tables on the older man by accusing him of sexual harassment during his stay. Coincidentally, a member of the vice squad was at the station at this time and, in the knowledge that the police were hoping to arrest Haarmann, the officer decided to apprehend the suspect immediately. Before any unnecessary suspicions could be aroused, Haarmann was taken to prison on the morning of 23rd June.

The killer later claimed that he had only arranged to have Fromm taken into custody because he knew he was going to murder the boy and was afraid he would not be able to resist the urge for much longer. If this statement is to be believed, here was the first time that Haarmann's actions were motivated by any moral scruples and these alleged feelings of guilt were to prove his downfall.

Yet the case was not nearly as clear cut as the substantial evidence would imply. Several hundred items of clothing found in Haarmann's room or confiscated from his acquaintances were collected and identified as the property of the missing children, but there was no evidence to declare he had been responsible for even one of the deaths. Haarmann inevitably claimed that the property in his possession was due to his business of trading and dealing in used clothes. He admitted having sexual relations with some of the children, yet denied any knowledge of the victims' current whereabouts and gave plausible explanations for the traces of blood present in the garments.

The suspect once again displayed considerable skill at avoiding taxing questions and prolonging the inquisition. Haarmann was an astute man and, understanding the rather secretive nature of homosexuality at the time, subsequently knew it would be difficult for the police to obtain incriminating evidence from his victims and their families.

One of these victims was a boy named Robert Witzel, whose parents had continually besieged the police since their son's disappearance on April 26th 1924. When the first skulls were found later that year, Herr Witzel was persuaded to examine the evidence in order to confirm that his son's irregular jawbone was one of the discovered crania. All that was known at this time was that Robert had visited the local circus on the night of his disappearance with his best friend, the "sly and girlish Fritz Kahlmeyer." Fritz, silent throughout the entire ordeal, would only say that the boys had travelled to the circus with a "police official from the railway station." The reason for the boy's secretive nature was understandable; he too had been approached and sexually abused by Haarmann, who subsequently procured him for homosexual "society gentlemen." Items of Witzel's clothing were found in the killer's apartment, yet Haarmann would still not confess.

The breakthrough came when a couple walked into the police station and passed the Witzel family who sat outside the Chief Commissioner's office. Frau Witzel immediately recognised the man's jacket and asked as to where he had obtained the garment. The man admitted that he had acquired the coat from Haarmann and even provided an identification card in the trousers bearing the name 'Witzel'. The lady accompanying him was Frau Engel, Haarmann's landlady, who happened to be in the police station making enquiries concerning her tenant's military pension. An enormous stroke of luck in addition to the fabric evidence and, more importantly, one which finally convinced Haarmann to concede defeat.

The prisoner was consequently subjected to incessant and severe questioning, before being given relief and encouragement commensurate with the "unburdening of the conscience." After seven days of maniacal and emotional rages Haarmann broke down and asked for the superintendent and examining magistrate, to whom he would make a full confession.

The killer then took the court officials on a murder tour of Hannover. They were shown parts of corpses hidden in bushes, bones dredged from a lake and skeletons concealed around the city. Inevitably, more and more people stepped forward who had obtained clothing or meat from either Haarmann or Grans and the evidence snowballed.

Haarmann's character also changed during this period. He now opened up to the investigating authorities and displayed the helpful, childish and often sarcastic side to his nature. Only if confronted by the parents of his victims or if discussing the act of decapitation would the killer withdraw himself again. The general impression was that he felt relieved of a terrible burden by being able to discuss the darkness and fear of his abnormal sex-life. There was also a distinct degree of pride in having duped mankind, of whom Haarmann always spoke badly.

As a result of the information secured, Hans Grans was arrested on 8th July and the two men met on several occasions before their trials began. At these times, Haarmann was always troubled, where as Grans appeared indifferent to the entire affair. Haarmann remained in the prison until 16th August, before being sent to nearby Gottingen for psychiatric examination. The trial, unprecedented in German judicial history, contained 60 volumes of files and opened on 4th December 1924.

Trial and Sentence

The trial was conducted at the Hannover Assizes and lasted through 14 days and almost 200 witnesses. The much publicised opening decree stated that Fritz Haarmann was "accused of killing 27 persons intentionally and deliberately" from September 1918 to June 1924.

Haarmann insisted on conducting his own defence and remained entirely nonchalant throughout the trial, at one point complaining that there were too many women in the courtroom. He was allowed remarkable freedom and was notably immature and irresponsible, frequently interrupting the proceedings. At one stage he demanded indignantly why there were so many women in the court; the judge answered apologetically that he had no power to keep them out. On another occasion, when a mother became too distraught to give evidence about her son with clarity, Haarmann got bored and asked to be allowed to smoke a cigar. Permission was immediately granted.

Nonetheless, the murderer's naive combination of fiction and fact was generally agreed as refreshing in contrast to the legal speak of the jurists and the confused hypocrisy of the authorities. To the journalists he once said reproachfully, "You are not to lie; we know you are all liars," and to the jury, "Keep it short. I want to spend Christmas in heaven with Mother."" Haarmann was constantly amused by the proceedings and, remarkably, even brought a smile from the public on more than one occasion.

In contrast, Hans Grans, accused in two cases of instigating murder, appeared as a tough and unbreakable character. The jury subsequently branded him as the more dangerous (yet the more innocent) of the two. Grans was entirely focused on self-preservation, an attitude that was to prove his downfall as Haarmann became concentrated on his devilish desire for revenge; to take the one he loved the most with him to the dark land. Hence, Fritz formed incredible and completely inaccurate accusations of murder against his partner that the court whole-heartedly believed. Once he had achieved his aim of not going to death alone, Haarmann quietened down and let Grans do the talking.

Inevitably, though, the most chilling tale of all came when Haarmann took the stand to explain his murder method in the most graphic of detail.

"I never intended to hurt those youngsters, but I knew that if I got going something would happen and that made me cry ... I would throw myself on top of those boys and bite through the Adam's apple, throttling them at the same time."

Haarmann explained the guilt he often felt at this point, regularly collapsing on the dead body and covering the face with a cloth so "it wouldn't be looking at me."

"I'd make two cuts in the abdomen and put the intestines in a bucket, then soak up the blood and crush the bones until the shoulders broke. Now I could get the heart, lungs and kidneys and chop them up and put them in my bucket. I'd take the flesh off the bones and put it in my waxcloth bag. It would take me five or six trips to take everything and throw it down the toilet or into the river. I always hated doing this, but I couldn't help it - my passion was so much stronger than the horror of the cutting and chopping."

The skulls were smashed to pieces and thrown in the river or marsh, the clothes given away or sold. The more often this process occurred, the more efficient it became and, whilst the city of Hannover utilised the meat and clothing of its victims, Fritz Haarmann remained out of the authorities' reach.

Some boys he denied killing - for example a boy named Hermann Wolf, whose photograph showed an ugly and ill-dressed youth, Haarmann declared that the boy was far too ugly to have interested him.

The killer repeatedly claimed that he was driven by beauty and sensuality, not the cynical interpretation of sex or profit. In his eyes, it was easier to kill someone you loved - that way you brought them peace.

"Often, after I had killed, I pleaded to be put away in a military asylum, but not a madhouse. If Grans had really loved me he would have been able to save me. Believe me, I'm not ill - it's only that I occasionally have funny turns. I want to be beheaded. It'll only take a moment, then I'll be at peace."

The experts then submitted their reports to the effect that, although the killer had a "pathological personality", he had not been devoid of free will and responsibility and therefore bore no manic depressive insanity. Grans and Haarmann continued their petty squabbles throughout the summing up, their behaviour towards each other remaining the same until the bitter end.

At 10am on 19th December 1924, Haarmann received 24 death sentences in 24 cases and Grans one death sentence for his supposed incitement to murder in the Hannappel case. Upon announcement of the verdict, Haarmann proclaimed,

"I want to be executed on the marketplace. On the tombstone must be put this inscription: 'Here Lies Mass-Murderer Haarmann'." The court acceded to neither request and Haarmann was duly decapitated within the walls of Hannover Prison. Grans's appeal was rejected and the death sentence pronounced correct and final.

Yet this story contains one final twist. A Hannover messenger named Lueters found a letter addressed to Albert Grans, father of the man under sentence of death, lying on the street. He made sure the letter was passed on to the addressee, who in turn passed it on to the court. The note was a four-page confession from Fritz Haarmann, written whilst being taken by car to the police station.

The letter summarised the relationship of Grans and himself and, most importantly, professed the innocence of the younger man.

"Hans Grans has been sentenced unjustly and that's the fault of the police and also because I wanted revenge ... Put yourself in Grans's position: he will question the existence of the Lord and justice just because of me ... May Hans Grans forgive me for my revenge and humanity."

The exact intention of this letter has never fully been understood. Was Haarmann truly troubled by his conscience, or was this simply a devious attempt to delay his own execution? It is now the common view of experts that the verdict of the Hannover court is an unsatisfactory one in the sense that Haarmann was undoubtedly put under pressure by certain authorities throughout the trial. It is most probably the case that a neglected and innocent young man has been sentenced to death solely as a result of statements made by a man pronounced mentally ill by five different psychiatrists. In this sense, as said by Theodor Lessing, a commentator on the Haarmann affair, "a judicial murder was committed." Like his other victims, Fritz Haarmann killed the one he loved, this time by using the German legal system as his weapon.

After the two men's deaths, another letter from Haarmann was found, this one explaining his actions purely as an attempt to take revenge against the police. The statement concludes,

"You won't kill me; I'll be back - yes, I shall be amongst you for all eternity. And now you yourselves have also killed. You should know it: Hans Grans was innocent! Well? How's your conscience now?"

The Making of a Killer

Friedrich Heinrich Karl Haarmann was born the youngest of six children on October 25th 1879. His mother, 41 at the time of his birth, spoiled and pampered him as a child and encouraged young Fritz to play with dolls instead of more masculine games. Most crucial to the interests of a psychologist, Fritz disliked his father from an early age and was to continue this loathing throughout his life.

The parents were indeed an ill-assorted couple. 'Old Haarmann' was a morose and cantankerous locomotive stoker who was to be found at night rampaging his way around the seedy bars of the Old Town. His wife, Johanna Claudius, was seven years his senior and provided him with a dowry of several houses and a small fortune, making him a wealthy citizen in this time of rapid economic expansion. Johanna was a simple-minded, slightly stupid woman and managed to ignore her husband's continuous drunkenness and womanising. The birth of her sixth child left her sick and she spent much of her remaining twelve years in bed.

As for Haarmann's siblings, the eldest son, Alfred, became a lower-middle class factory foreman with upright Philistine and family values. The second son, Wilhelm, was sentenced at an early age for a sexual offence and the three sisters, all of whom divorced their husbands early in married life, proved to be particularly obsessive and compulsive characters. Frau Rudiger was to meet a premature death in the Great War and Haarmann never got on with the fourth child, Frau Erfurdt. It was therefore left to the youngest sister, Emma, to provide Fritz's sole family connection.

From a young age Haarmann and his father argued and constantly threatened each other, the father to have his son put in an asylum and Fritz to have his father thrown in jail for the supposed murder of a train driver. The only occasions of unity were exhibited when the men would combine to either carry out a swindle or to appear in court to exonerate the other. In contrast, Haarmann always felt a deep bond with his mother and she remained the only person he spoke of with warmth and sentimentality.

The anecdotes relating to Haarmann's childhood show two distinct traits. The first is the notable feminine (possibly transvestite) tendencies that were exhibited throughout his school life. The second is the pleasure in causing fear and horror. Haarmann enjoyed tying up his sisters and regularly tapped on windows in the dead of night, awakening a dormant fear of ghosts and werewolves. The child was spoilt and easily led, yet lively and popular amongst his peers.

The boy failed his locksmith apprenticeship and so was sent to the training school for non-commissioned officers at Neu-Breisach in April 1895. Fritz was a good gymnast and an obedient soldier, but soon began suffering from periodic lapses in consciousness and epileptic fits. This was blamed on a concussion contracted whilst performing bar exercises or sunstroke suffered during the exercise. Haarmann dismissed himself from the sick bay in November 1895, saying that he "didn't like it there any more" and soon began working for his father.

Whilst Haarmann's laziness and inefficiency continued, his sexual development was progressing rapidly. Sexual offences against children occurred almost every day and it was not long before the molestation accusations began mounting. Eventually and inevitably, the pervert was deemed incurably deranged by the town doctor and was sent to an asylum shortly after his 18th birthday. It was here that the young man suffered some form of trauma that was to affect him for the rest of his life and his intense fear of the asylum caused him later to say, "Hang me, do anything you like to me, but don't take me back to the loony bin." Lacklustre security soon allowed the patient to escape, however, and Haarmann fled to Switzerland.

At the age of just 20 he returned to Hannover and around 1900 achieved a sexually normal period when he seduced and married a large, pretty girl by the name of Erna Loewert. The engagement had the blessings of both sets of parents, who fervently hoped that the union would put an end to the young delinquent's reckless abandon. This was not to be the case, though, as Haarmann soon deserted the girl and their unborn child for military service.

He settled well into army life and, like the killer William Burke before him, became an excellent soldier; "full of obedience and esprit de corps." Haarmann was later to refer to this time as "the happiest of his life." A year went past with no incident until, in October 1901, Haarmann collapsed during a company exercise and was admitted to the military hospital for four months. It was diagnosed that the soldier had a mental deficiency and was deemed "unsuitable for use in community service."

Once again, Fritz was sent back to his quarrelsome family and resumed his life-long battle with his father. 'Old Haarmann' attempted to have him committed to an asylum, but the town doctor regarded him as merely "morally inferior" and, at the ripe old age of 24, Fritz Haarmann was released into society.

Numerous burglaries and confidence scams soon became a feature of Haarmann's life and, after 1904, he spent one third of the following 20 years either in custody or in prison. In 1914 he was sentenced to five years in jail for theft from a warehouse. Released in 1918, he joined a smuggling ring and conducted a prosperous business as a smuggler, thief and police spy (the latter activity guaranteed that his activities were not too closely scrutinised.) For a man supposedly struggling with sanity, Haarmann showed impressive signs of preparation and calculation in his crimes. The sexual offences also continued, although he was rarely convicted of such misdemeanours as the partners were too ashamed to report him to the police.

Upon release from prison in April 1918 Haarmann surfaced briefly in Berlin and then again in Hannover. The murders soon began.

Inside the Mind of Haarman

Having analysed the life of one of Germany's most depraved sons, it is now perhaps appropriate to ask ourselves what we have learned about the inner dimensions of a sex-killer's mind. Even though it has long since been accepted that there is no single reason for serial crime, the same contributing factors rear their evil head in the case of nearly all killers of this type. Fritz Haarmann is no exception and exhibits the same ugly traits as so many before and since.

Little was known of the workings of a psychopath at the time of Haarmann's murders, but the awareness and understanding of such crimes has now come a long way. Yet sex-killers cannot be detected by their appearance, domestic situations or day-to-day behaviour. The sexual impulse is primarily a mental process and germinates within a secret, interior universe. Whilst the profilers are learning, as yet it is only through bloody hindsight.

Generally, serial sex murderers are classified in three broad types: the biological killer, whose crimes are triggered by a physical defect or injury of some sort; the psychologically predisposed killer (usually stemming from an all-female or particularly traumatic childhood); and the sociological or 'made' killers. The traits of young Haarmann noted in the previous chapter bring us to the frightening conclusion that Fritz is a strong candidate for all three of the above categories.

The biological influence is evident if we consider Haarmann's repeated head injuries and epileptic fits in his early adulthood. Indeed, a surprisingly large number of killers have a history of head injuries in their youth. Whether the troublesome youngster was truly turning the corner at the training school we shall never know, yet it does remain a tragedy that an ordinary accident seemed to put an end to an honourable attempt at obedience.

As to the second category, the child was pampered and mollycoddled from a young age and his features of feminism and sadistic pleasure are consistently repeated factors in the analysis of serial killers' childhoods. Haarmann was inherently incapable of holding on to abstract ideas; any impressions he received had to become reality immediately. When talking about sexual matters he would reach automatically for his genital area, even when being questioned in the courtroom. His upbringing developed a "raw creature, without logic and morals; yet also without logical and moral hypocrisy."

The so-called "made" killers are those who feel that life has cheated them and owes them more. In his early years Haarmann welcomed prison as confinement imposes structure on life and provides a meaning and order to existence. A crucial sociological feature of the case and one that is typical of the 20th Century penal system is that whenever Haarmann was released from jail both his craftiness and his crimes increased. Until the bitter end Haarmann pursued his 'rage against the machine'. It was later admitted that he was beaten whilst under police interrogation and his payback to Hans Grans was a perfectly executed attempt at embarrassing the authorities he so loathed. The court eventually had to change Grans's sentence to 12 years' imprisonment, yet only in Hannover would Grans have received any initial punishment.

This idea of vengeance and atonement is, in Haarmann's case, rooted in sadism and is a mask for the sexual feeling. His actions towards his supposed friend, Hans Grans, were an act of revenge using the last remnants of power that the accused could exercise.

Indeed, the relationship between Grans and his mentor is certainly one of the most fascinating aspects of the case. Grans understood the older man's "wild, sick urges" and realised that he could thereby ensure his own power and control over Haarmann. Yet there was also a distinct gratitude and sympathy between the two,

"I had to have someone I meant everything to. Hans often laughed at me. Then I got mad and threw him out. But I always ran after and fetched him back. I couldn't help it; I was crazy about the boy."

Haarmann did love Grans and Grans took advantage of it. He was the cleverer of the two and thus continually toyed and jested with his companion. As irony would have it, he was to receive the harshest possible payback for his efforts at manipulating Haarmann. Those who toy with the devil are sure to be burned!

As a further scope for evaluation, the question of Haarmann's sanity is one that has never fully been resolved. Expert evaluation is entirely contrasting, although it is agreed that he was not ruled by the urge to torment others, but by the urge to kill at the height of his sexual desire.

Psychoanalysts declare that the criminal differs from the man who adjusts himself to society in that he fails to sublimate the aggressive primitive urges. The wounds inflicted upon him by injustice motivate these actions. There can be no doubt that Haarmann suffered harshly in his early life and in this way he obtained the subject matter for an easy later rationalisation.

Haarmann's psychological examiners at the time believed that he saw his execution as one final, intense orgasm and the excitement of this possibility exceeded anything he had experienced in his day-to-day life. He rejected the inhibitions that society attempts to place upon us and manipulated love and crime into a sexual game and "comfortable semi-luxury." Haarmann murdered for profit, both sexual and financial - and yet, whilst often racked with remorse, he never at any time in his life felt the burden of fear upon him. Fritz Haarmann lived his entire life with a desire for his own destruction.

Bibliography

Due to the unusual era and location of the crimes, there are consequently very few books with detailed information on Fritz Haarmann.

Bolitho, W.  Murder for Profit (1926);

Lessing, T.  Monsters of Weimar: Haarmann - The Story of a Werewolf (1993);

Marriner, B.  A New Century of Sex Killers (1992);

Wilson, C. and D. World Famous Serial Killers (1992);

CrimeLibrary.com
 


FRITZ HAARMANN

The Butcher of Hannover

After the relative crime watershed of World War I, the 20th Century entered the "age of sex crime." Perhaps predictably, the country where this first became apparent was Germany , where the miseries and deprivation of hyperinflation and food shortage made their maximum impact. Hannover, an elegant municipality in the center of lower Saxony , was one of the cities most affected and it was in this sleepy hollow that Fritz Haarmann committed one of the most extraordinary series of crimes in modern times.

On 17th May 1924, some children playing at the edge of a river near the Herrenhausen Castle found a human skull and, on May 29th, another washed up on the riverbank. The town was sent in to frenzy on the 13th June when two more skulls were found included in the river's sediment. An autopsy proved the first two crania to be that of young people aged between 18 and 20 and the last skull found from a boy of approximately 12. In all cases, a sharp instrument had been used to separate the skulls from the torso and the flesh had been entirely removed.

It was initially thought that the human remains originated from the anatomical institute in Gottingen or that they had been flung into the river by grave-robbers fleeing from capture. Yet these theories remained unproven and the mystery gained further publicity when boys playing on a marshland unearthed a sack containing human bones. It had become impossible for the authorities to keep these grisly finds a secret and, whilst young boys continued to be reported missing (the number in 1923 grew to almost 600), the Hannoverian population was gripped by terror. The investigation highlighted that those missing were mostly aged between 14 and 18 and rumors were circulating that human flesh had been on sale at the public market.

On Whit Sunday in 1924, hundreds of people left Hannover and descended on the small paths and bridges of the Old Town , where they started searching for human remains. The vastness of this expedition was unprecedented in German criminal history and was spurred on primarily by the talk of a "werewolf" or "man-eater" at large. After a multitude of bones had been discovered, the city's central River Leine was dammed and inspected by policemen and municipal workers. The finds were horrific. More than 500 parts of corpses were detected, proved later to be the remains of at least 22 people, a third aged between 15 and 20. Approximately one half had been in the water for some time and the joints of many of the fresh bones had smoothly cut surfaces.

Every thief and sexual deviant in Hannover was questioned and, through dogged detective work and a series of strange coincidences, a suspect by the name of Friedrich (known as Fritz) Haarmann was taken to the court prison. The man was already known to the police as both a 'dealer' in clothing and meat and to the criminal investigation department due to his publicly homosexual status. His appearance and mannerisms in the ultra-reserved days of inter-war Germany redefined the conventional impression of murder and murderers.

Haarmann was certainly sympathetic in appearance, a simple man with a friendly, open expression and a courteous nature. Of average height, broad and well built, he had a rough 'full-moon' face and neat, cheerful eyes. His features were generally small and as unprepossessing as the rest of his appearance, the only notability a well-groomed, light brown moustache. Fritz's expression closed up completely as soon as the atmosphere became embarrassing and investigating officers soon realized that their suspect was a man of deep contrast. At times cagey and calculating, yet also talkative and hyperactive, desperately seeking sympathy and attention. His soft, white hands moved nervously, plucking and pulling constantly at his long fingers.

Whilst Haarmann's body was strong and coarse, it was also slightly feminine and his speech "was like the querulous voice of an old woman." The killer's almost constant defensiveness and embarrassment was reflected in his automatisms and stereotypes: the wiggling of his behind, the licking of his lips - even the constant blinking of his eyes. Haarmann loved 'feminine' pastimes, such as baking and cooking, but would smoke strong cigars at the same time. Although his appearance was, as the Hannover police stated, "far from evil", Fritz Haarmann entered the record books as Germany 's most prolific killer.

Deadly Combination

Haarmann had begun his crime rampage in September 1918, a time in which Germany was suffering economic depravation and severe food shortages. A young runaway by the name of Friedel Roth disappeared from home on the 25th, writing to his mother only to say that he would not return home until "she was nice again." Various friends of the boy were forthcoming with information and eventually led the police to no.27 Cellerstrasse, the home of a man they claimed had seduced Friedel. A detective surprised one Fritz Haarmann in bed with a young boy and he was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment for seducing the juvenile. Unbelievably, the rooms were not searched and, upon interrogation five years later, Haarmann confessed that the "murdered boy's head was stuffed behind the stove wrapped in newspaper."

The murderer's story was to take a dramatic turn in late 1919 when he met young Hans Grans at the Hannover railway station. A petty thief, Hans had run away from home and now earned his living selling old clothes at the station. The young boy approached the openly homosexual Haarmann with the purpose of prostituting himself for money. Remarkably, a friendship soon developed and Grans began living with the old man, where a bond of "madness and spiritual parasitism developed." The relationship was more than sexual and the insane ideas that surfaced in Haarmann's conscience always involved his young housemate.

Having carefully avoided his jail sentence throughout 1919, Haarmann served his penance from March until December 1920. Grans thieved his way around Germany during this time and, upon reunion at Christmas 1920, there followed a period of uninterrupted bliss until August 1921. The two thieves appeared as well-dressed, decent gentlemen and earned respect amongst the local people. Needless to say, however, the two men had more illicit intentions and plied their trade by begging or stealing laundry and selling it to the public.

In early 1922 the two men moved to no.8 Neuestrasse in the heart of the so-called 'haunted area". Haarmann was earning a good income; the thieving was accompanied by social security payments (he had been declared an invalid and therefore unable to work) and also his newfound role as a police informer. Haarmann double-crossed everybody and became a "custodian of the law and an information office for all criminal matters." Amazingly, the clothes that Haarmann passed around Hannover earned him the reputation as a benefactor of the homeless. His obvious homosexuality further hushed up any theories people may have had as to the origin of the garments. This was just as well as, in February 1923, Haarmann returned to his murderous past.

The killer detained two youths at Hannover station on the pretence that he was an officer inspecting the waiting rooms. The less attractive lad was sent away and Fritz Franke accompanied the phony officer home. Haarmann later claimed that Grans had turned up unexpectedly whilst the corpse of Franke was still in the room. Shocked, he simply stared at Haarmann and said, "When shall I come back again?"

Fritz Haarman's Reign of Terror

The murders now gained pace and in the following nine months 12 more young men's lives were taken. In almost every scenario, the victim was met at the train station and offered accommodation or work; or apprehended on the pretence that his abductor was a police officer. This guise was used so often that on one occasion, after a youth welfare worker had asked the guard as to whether Haarmann was employed in the same capacity, the station official replied, "No, he's a detective." Once in the Neuestrasse room the boy would be killed, according to Haarmann, by biting through his windpipe. Always with a view to his commercial instincts, the body would then be dismembered and the clothes and meat sold through the usual channels for smuggled goods. The useless portions were thrown into the River Leine.

One year later, when the items confiscated from the killer were on public display, victim's families discovered a wealth of personal artifacts, many kept as souvenirs and the remainder sold on through Haarmann's impressive distribution network. On each occasion there was normally an array of witnesses who had seen the recognizable Haarmann (and often Grans) approach and leave with the stranger. Such was the respect that the two men had now earned for themselves, however, that no incident was ever reported. On one such circumstance Haarmann even had the audacity to reply to an announcement in the paper offering a reward for information. He appeared at the family door under the guise of a criminologist, yet was said to have spent most of his time "laughing hysterically."

The murders continued unabated throughout early1924, Haarmann honing his remarkable knack of spotting disillusioned young tearaways at the station and then removing them casually into the night. Due to the nature of the victims, angry or estranged parents and friends often took a while to even report the disappearance. By then, the clothing and meat of the victims had been speedily distributed around Hannover and were practically untraceable. Without that sort of hard evidence, the police were at a virtual dead-end, although there were some particularly close calls. On one such occasion, a portion of the trader's meat was taken to the police because the buyer thought it was human flesh. The police analyst unequivocally pronounced it pork!

The disappearance of Erich de Vries on 14th June 1924 signaled the end of the killer's reign. In classic fashion, it was an offer of cigarettes at Hannover station that tempted the young lad to join the friendly stranger in his room. It was estimated at this time that the fugitive had murdered around 27 boys in less than 16 months: an average of almost two a month.

Despite the enormous manhunt now in operation, the killer had still not been apprehended and Hannover was at the point of public outcry. By late June of 1924 sheer terror had gripped the city and the "Werewolf" was still on the loose.

Incarceration of Fritz Haarmann

Throughout the panic that engulfed Hannover in 1924, Fritz Haarmann remained a definite suspect. Along with every other local sex offender, he was investigated repeatedly during May and June, yet no conclusive evidence could be found. Meanwhile, press announcements appeared giving details of the skulls in the hope of obtaining clues from the general public. The quantity of skulls and corpses still being discovered was generating a nationwide furor and a general lack of confidence in the German police force.

With the pressure mounting, the following course of action was agreed upon: as Haarmann already knew the town officials, two young policemen would arrive from Berlin at Hannover train station, pretending to be homeless and looking for a place to stay. They would then focus on the suspect's activities and hope to catch him in the act. Once again, however, the killer's incredible luck conspired against them as Fritz was found arguing with 15-year-old Karl Fromm, a boy who had spent several days at Haarmann's apartment. Fromm was being particularly "cheeky and supercilious" on this evening and, amazingly, Haarmann had the audacity to report him to the railway police, claiming that he was traveling on false papers. Once at the police station, though, Fromm turned the tables on the older man by accusing him of sexual harassment during his stay. Coincidentally, a member of the vice squad was at the station at this time and, in the knowledge that the police were hoping to arrest Haarmann, the officer decided to apprehend the suspect immediately. Before any unnecessary suspicions could be aroused, Haarmann was taken to prison on the morning of 23rd June.

The killer later claimed that he had only arranged to have Fromm taken into custody because he knew he was going to murder the boy and was afraid he would not be able to resist the urge for much longer. If this statement is to be believed, here was the first time that Haarmann's actions were motivated by any moral scruples and these alleged feelings of guilt were to prove his downfall.

Yet the case was not nearly as clear-cut as the substantial evidence would imply. Several hundred items of clothing found in Haarmann's room or confiscated from his acquaintances were collected and identified as the property of the missing children, but there was no evidence to declare he had been responsible for even one of the deaths. Haarmann inevitably claimed that the property in his possession was due to his business of trading and dealing in used clothes. He admitted having sexual relations with some of the children, yet denied any knowledge of the victims' current whereabouts and gave plausible explanations for the traces of blood present in the garments.

The suspect once again displayed considerable skill at avoiding taxing questions and prolonging the inquisition. Haarmann was an astute man and, understanding the rather secretive nature of homosexuality at the time, subsequently knew it would be difficult for the police to obtain incriminating evidence from his victims and their families.

Discovery and Confession

One of these victims was a boy named Robert Witzel, whose parents had continually besieged the police since their son's disappearance on April 26th 1924. When the first skulls were found later that year, Herr Witzel was persuaded to examine the evidence in order to confirm that his son's irregular jawbone was one of the discovered crania. All that was known at this time was that Robert had visited the local circus on the night of his disappearance with his best friend, the "sly and girlish Fritz Kahlmeyer." Fritz, silent throughout the entire ordeal, would only say that the boys had traveled to the circus with a "police official from the railway station." The reason for the boy's secretive nature was understandable; he too had been approached and sexually abused by Haarmann, who subsequently procured him for homosexual "society gentlemen." Items of Witzel's clothing were found in the killer's apartment, yet Haarmann would still not confess.

The breakthrough came when a couple walked into the police station and passed the Witzel family who sat outside the Chief Commissioner's office. Frau Witzel immediately recognized the man's jacket and asked as to where he had obtained the garment. The man admitted that he had acquired the coat from Haarmann and even provided an identification card in the trousers bearing the name 'Witzel'. The lady accompanying him was Frau Engel, Haarmann's landlady, who happened to be in the police station making enquiries concerning her tenant's military pension. An enormous stroke of luck in addition to the fabric evidence and, more importantly, one which finally convinced Haarmann to concede defeat.

The prisoner was consequently subjected to incessant and severe questioning, before being given relief and encouragement commensurate with the "unburdening of the conscience." After seven days of maniacal and emotional rages Haarmann broke down and asked for the superintendent and examining magistrate, to whom he would make a full confession.

The killer then took the court officials on a murder tour of Hannover . They were shown parts of corpses hidden in bushes, bones dredged from a lake and skeletons concealed around the city. Inevitably, more and more people stepped forward who had obtained clothing or meat from either Haarmann or Grans and the evidence snowballed.

Haarmann's character also changed during this period. He now opened up to the investigating authorities and displayed the helpful, childish and often sarcastic side to his nature. Only if confronted by the parents of his victims or if discussing the act of decapitation would the killer withdraw himself again. The general impression was that he felt relieved of a terrible burden by being able to discuss the darkness and fear of his abnormal sex-life. There was also a distinct degree of pride in having duped mankind, of whom Haarmann always spoke badly.

As a result of the information secured, Hans Grans was arrested on 8th July and the two men met on several occasions before their trials began. At these times, Haarmann was always troubled, where as Grans appeared indifferent to the entire affair. Haarmann remained in the prison until 16th August, before being sent to nearby Gottingen for psychiatric examination. The trial, unprecedented in German judicial history, contained 60 volumes of files and opened on 4th December 1924.

The Trial of Fritz Haarmann

The trial was conducted at the Hannover Assizes and lasted through 14 days and almost 200 witnesses. The much-publicized opening decree stated that Fritz Haarmann was "accused of killing 27 persons intentionally and deliberately" from September 1918 to June 1924.

Haarmann insisted on conducting his own defense and remained entirely nonchalant throughout the trial, at one point complaining that there were too many women in the courtroom. He was allowed remarkable freedom and was notably immature and irresponsible, frequently interrupting the proceedings. At one stage he demanded indignantly why there were so many women in the court; the judge answered apologetically that he had no power to keep them out. On another occasion, when a mother became too distraught to give evidence about her son with clarity, Haarmann got bored and asked to be allowed to smoke a cigar. Permission was immediately granted.

Nonetheless, the murderer's naive combination of fiction and fact was generally agreed as refreshing in contrast to the legal speak of the jurists and the confused hypocrisy of the authorities. To the journalists he once said reproachfully, "You are not to lie; we know you are all liars," and to the jury, "Keep it short. I want to spend Christmas in heaven with Mother." Haarmann was constantly amused by the proceedings and, remarkably, even brought a smile from the public on more than one occasion.

In contrast, Hans Grans, accused in two cases of instigating murder, appeared as a tough and unbreakable character. The jury subsequently branded him as the more dangerous (yet the more innocent) of the two. Grans was entirely focused on self-preservation, an attitude that was to prove his downfall as Haarmann became concentrated on his devilish desire for revenge; to take the one he loved the most with him to the dark land. Hence, Fritz formed incredible and completely inaccurate accusations of murder against his partner that the court whole-heartedly believed. Once he had achieved his aim of not going to death alone, Haarmann quieted down and let Grans do the talking.

Inevitably, though, the most chilling tale of all came when Haarmann took the stand to explain his murder method in the most graphic of detail.

"I never intended to hurt those youngsters, but I knew that if I got going something would happen and that made me cry ... I would throw myself on top of those boys and bite through the Adam's apple, throttling them at the same time."

Haarmann explained the guilt he often felt at this point, regularly collapsing on the dead body and covering the face with a cloth so "it wouldn't be looking at me."

"I'd make two cuts in the abdomen and put the intestines in a bucket, then soak up the blood and crush the bones until the shoulders broke. Now I could get the heart, lungs and kidneys and chop them up and put them in my bucket. I'd take the flesh off the bones and put it in my waxcloth bag. It would take me five or six trips to take everything and throw it down the toilet or into the river. I always hated doing this, but I couldn't help it - my passion was so much stronger than the horror of the cutting and chopping."

The skulls were smashed to pieces and thrown in the river or marsh, the clothes given away or sold. The more often this process occurred, the more efficient it became and, whilst the city of Hannover utilized the meat and clothing of its victims, Fritz Haarmann remained out of the authorities' reach.

Some boys he denied killing - for example a boy named Hermann Wolf, whose photograph showed an ugly and ill-dressed youth, Haarmann declared that the boy was far too ugly to have interested him.

The killer repeatedly claimed that he was driven by beauty and sensuality, not the cynical interpretation of sex or profit. In his eyes, it was easier to kill someone you loved - that way you brought them peace.

"Often, after I had killed, I pleaded to be put away in a military asylum, but not a madhouse. If Grans had really loved me he would have been able to save me. Believe me, I'm not ill - it's only that I occasionally have funny turns. I want to be beheaded. It'll only take a moment, then I'll be at peace."

The End?

The experts then submitted their reports to the effect that, although the killer had a "pathological personality", he had not been devoid of free will and responsibility and therefore bore no manic depressive insanity. Grans and Haarmann continued their petty squabbles throughout the summing up, their behavior towards each other remaining the same until the bitter end.

At 10am on 19th December 1924, Haarmann received 24 death sentences in 24 cases and Grans one death sentence for his supposed incitement to murder in the Hannappel case. Upon announcement of the verdict, Haarmann proclaimed,

"I want to be executed on the marketplace. On the tombstone must be put this inscription: 'Here Lies Mass-Murderer Haarmann'." The court acceded to neither request and Haarmann was duly decapitated within the walls of Hannover Prison. Grans's appeal was rejected and the death sentence pronounced correct and final.

Yet this story contains one final twist. A Hannover messenger named Lueters found a letter addressed to Albert Grans, father of the man under sentence of death, lying on the street. He made sure the letter was passed on to the addressee, who in turn passed it on to the court. The note was a four-page confession from Fritz Haarmann, written whilst being taken by car to the police station.

The letter summarized the relationship of Grans and himself and, most importantly, professed the innocence of the younger man.

"Hans Grans has been sentenced unjustly and that's the fault of the police and also because I wanted revenge ... Put yourself in Grans's position: he will question the existence of the Lord and justice just because of me ... May Hans Grans forgive me for my revenge and humanity."

The exact intention of this letter has never fully been understood. Was Haarmann truly troubled by his conscience, or was this simply a devious attempt to delay his own execution? It is now the common view of experts that the verdict of the Hannover court is an unsatisfactory one in the sense that Haarmann was undoubtedly put under pressure by certain authorities throughout the trial. It is most probably the case that a neglected and innocent young man has been sentenced to death solely as a result of statements made by a man pronounced mentally ill by five different psychiatrists. In this sense, as said by Theodor Lessing, a commentator on the Haarmann affair, "a judicial murder was committed." Like his other victims, Fritz Haarmann killed the one he loved, this time by using the German legal system as his weapon.

After the two men's deaths, another letter from Haarmann was found, this one explaining his actions purely as an attempt to take revenge against the police. The statement concludes,

"You won't kill me; I'll be back - yes, I shall be amongst you for all eternity. And now you yourselves have also killed. You should know it: Hans Grans was innocent! Well? How's your conscience now?"

Early Life of Friedrich Haarmann

Friedrich Heinrich Karl Haarmann was born the youngest of six children on October 25th 1879. His mother, 41 at the time of his birth, spoiled and pampered him as a child and encouraged young Fritz to play with dolls instead of more masculine games. Most crucial to the interests of a psychologist, Fritz disliked his father from an early age and was to continue this loathing throughout his life.

The parents were indeed an ill-assorted couple. 'Old Haarmann' was a morose and cantankerous locomotive stoker who was to be found at night rampaging his way around the seedy bars of the Old Town . His wife, Johanna Claudius, was seven years his senior and provided him with a dowry of several houses and a small fortune, making him a wealthy citizen in this time of rapid economic expansion. Johanna was a simple-minded, slightly stupid woman and managed to ignore her husband's continuous drunkenness and womanizing. The birth of her sixth child left her sick and she spent much of her remaining twelve years in bed.

As for Haarmann's siblings, the eldest son, Alfred, became a lower-middle class factory foreman with upright Philistine and family values. The second son, Wilhelm, was sentenced at an early age for a sexual offence and the three sisters, all of whom divorced their husbands early in married life, proved to be particularly obsessive and compulsive characters. Frau Rudiger was to meet a premature death in the Great War and Haarmann never got on with the fourth child, Frau Erfurdt. It was therefore left to the youngest sister, Emma, to provide Fritz's sole family connection.

From a young age Haarmann and his father argued and constantly threatened each other, the father to have his son put in an asylum and Fritz to have his father thrown in jail for the supposed murder of a train driver. The only occasions of unity were exhibited when the men would combine to either carry out a swindle or to appear in court to exonerate the other. In contrast, Haarmann always felt a deep bond with his mother and she remained the only person he spoke of with warmth and sentimentality.

The anecdotes relating to Haarmann's childhood show two distinct traits. The first is the notable feminine (possibly transvestite) tendencies that were exhibited throughout his school life. The second is the pleasure in causing fear and horror. Haarmann enjoyed tying up his sisters and regularly tapped on windows in the dead of night, awakening a dormant fear of ghosts and werewolves. The child was spoilt and easily led, yet lively and popular amongst his peers.

The boy failed his locksmith apprenticeship and so was sent to the training school for non-commissioned officers at Neu-Breisach in April 1895. Fritz was a good gymnast and an obedient soldier, but soon began suffering from periodic lapses in consciousness and epileptic fits. This was blamed on a concussion contracted whilst performing bar exercises or sunstroke suffered during the exercise. Haarmann dismissed himself from the sick bay in November 1895, saying that he "didn't like it there any more" and soon began working for his father.

Young Adulthood

Whilst Haarmann's laziness and inefficiency continued, his sexual development was progressing rapidly. Sexual offences against children occurred almost every day and it was not long before the molestation accusations began mounting. Eventually and inevitably, the pervert was deemed incurably deranged by the town doctor and was sent to an asylum shortly after his 18th birthday. It was here that the young man suffered some form of trauma that was to affect him for the rest of his life and his intense fear of the asylum caused him later to say, "Hang me, do anything you like to me, but don't take me back to the loony bin." Lackluster security soon allowed the patient to escape, however, and Haarmann fled to Switzerland .

At the age of just 20 he returned to Hannover and around 1900 achieved a sexually normal period when he seduced and married a large, pretty girl by the name of Erna Loewert. The engagement had the blessings of both sets of parents, who fervently hoped that the union would put an end to the young delinquent's reckless abandon. This was not to be the case, though, as Haarmann soon deserted the girl and their unborn child for military service.

He settled well into army life and, like the killer William Burke before him, became an excellent soldier; "full of obedience and esprit de corps." Haarmann was later to refer to this time as "the happiest of his life." A year went past with no incident until, in October 1901, Haarmann collapsed during a company exercise and was admitted to the military hospital for four months. It was diagnosed that the soldier had a mental deficiency and was deemed "unsuitable for use in community service."

Once again, Fritz was sent back to his quarrelsome family and resumed his life-long battle with his father. 'Old Haarmann' attempted to have him committed to an asylum, but the town doctor regarded him as merely "morally inferior" and, at the ripe old age of 24, Fritz Haarmann was released into society.

Numerous burglaries and confidence scams soon became a feature of Haarmann's life and, after 1904, he spent one third of the following 20 years either in custody or in prison. In 1914 he was sentenced to five years in jail for theft from a warehouse. Released in 1918, he joined a smuggling ring and conducted a prosperous business as a smuggler, thief and police spy (the latter activity guaranteed that his activities were not too closely scrutinized.) For a man supposedly struggling with sanity, Haarmann showed impressive signs of preparation and calculation in his crimes. The sexual offences also continued, although he was rarely convicted of such misdemeanors as the partners were too ashamed to report him to the police.

Upon release from prison in April 1918 Haarmann surfaced briefly in Berlin and then again in Hannover . The murders soon began.

Inside the Mind of Fritz Haarmann

Having analyzed the life of one of Germany 's most depraved sons, it is now perhaps appropriate to ask ourselves what we have learned about the inner dimensions of a sex-killer's mind. Even though it has long since been accepted that there is no single reason for serial crime, the same contributing factors rear their evil head in the case of nearly all killers of this type. Fritz Haarmann is no exception and exhibits the same ugly traits as so many before and since.

Little was known of the workings of a psychopath at the time of Haarmann's murders, but the awareness and understanding of such crimes has now come a long way. Yet sex-killers cannot be detected by their appearance, domestic situations or day-to-day behavior. The sexual impulse is primarily a mental process and germinates within a secret, interior universe. Whilst the profilers are learning, as yet it is only through bloody hindsight.

Generally, serial sex murderers are classified in three broad types: the biological killer, whose crimes are triggered by a physical defect or injury of some sort; the psychologically predisposed killer (usually stemming from an all-female or particularly traumatic childhood); and the sociological or 'made' killers. The traits of young Haarmann noted in the previous chapter bring us to the frightening conclusion that Fritz is a strong candidate for all three of the above categories.

The biological influence is evident if we consider Haarmann's repeated head injuries and epileptic fits in his early adulthood. Indeed, a surprisingly large number of killers have a history of head injuries in their youth. Whether the troublesome youngster was truly turning the corner at the training school we shall never know, yet it does remain a tragedy that an ordinary accident seemed to put an end to an honorable attempt at obedience.

As to the second category, the child was pampered and mollycoddled from a young age and his features of feminism and sadistic pleasure are consistently repeated factors in the analysis of serial killers' childhoods. Haarmann was inherently incapable of holding on to abstract ideas; any impressions he received had to become reality immediately. When talking about sexual matters he would reach automatically for his genital area, even when being questioned in the courtroom. His upbringing developed a "raw creature, without logic and morals; yet also without logical and moral hypocrisy."

The so-called "made" killers are those who feel that life has cheated them and owes them more. In his early years Haarmann welcomed prison as confinement imposes structure on life and provides a meaning and order to existence. A crucial sociological feature of the case and one that is typical of the 20th Century penal system is that whenever Haarmann was released from jail both his craftiness and his crimes increased. Until the bitter end Haarmann pursued his 'rage against the machine'. It was later admitted that he was beaten whilst under police interrogation and his payback to Hans Grans was a perfectly executed attempt at embarrassing the authorities he so loathed. The court eventually had to change Grans's sentence to 12 years' imprisonment, yet only in Hannover would Grans have received any initial punishment.

Vengeance and Atonement

This idea of vengeance and atonement is, in Haarmann's case, rooted in sadism and is a mask for the sexual feeling. His actions towards his supposed friend, Hans Grans, were an act of revenge using the last remnants of power that the accused could exercise.

Indeed, the relationship between Grans and his mentor is certainly one of the most fascinating aspects of the case. Grans understood the older man's "wild, sick urges" and realized that he could thereby ensure his own power and control over Haarmann. Yet there was also a distinct gratitude and sympathy between the two, "I had to have someone I meant everything to. Hans often laughed at me. Then I got mad and threw him out. But I always ran after and fetched him back. I couldn't help it; I was crazy about the boy."

Haarmann did love Grans and Grans took advantage of it. He was the cleverer of the two and thus continually toyed and jested with his companion. As irony would have it, he was to receive the harshest possible payback for his efforts at manipulating Haarmann. Those who toy with the devil, are sure to be burned!

As a further scope for evaluation, the question of Haarmann's sanity is one that has never fully been resolved. Expert evaluation is entirely contrasting, although it is agreed that he was not ruled by the urge to torment others, but by the urge to kill at the height of his sexual desire.

Psychoanalysts declare that the criminal differs from the man who adjusts himself to society in that he fails to sublimate the aggressive primitive urges. The wounds inflicted upon him by injustice motivate these actions. There can be no doubt that Haarmann suffered harshly in his early life and in this way he obtained the subject matter for an easy later rationalization.

Haarmann's psychological examiners at the time believed that he saw his execution as one final, intense orgasm and the excitement of this possibility exceeded anything he had experienced in his day-to-day life. He rejected the inhibitions that society attempts to place upon us and manipulated love and crime into a sexual game and "comfortable semi-luxury."

Haarmann murdered for profit, both sexual and financial - and yet, whilst often racked with remorse, he never at any time in his life felt the burden of fear upon him. Fritz Haarmann lived his entire life with a desire for his own destruction.

All text that appears in this section was provided by www.crimelibrary.com (the very best source for serial killer information on the internet). Serialkillercalendar.com thanks the crime library for their tireless efforts in recording our dark past commends them on the amazing job they have done thus far).

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