A small, chubby bespectacled man,
Rudolf Pleil took to murder immediately after trying it for the first
time. But no one knew the extent of his crimes until he was sent off to
prison on a charge of manslaughter for the clubbing of a salesman with
an ax in 1947.
The jury, during the course of the
trial, decided that the harmless looking man did not intend to kill the
victim, and that the crime was "spur of the moment."
However, sentenced to twelve years for
the crime, Pleil spent his time in prison writing his memoirs, which he
entitled "Mein Kampf". His subtitle for the work? "Rudolf Pleil-Death
It was around the same time that a
young woman came to the police with a story of the recently imprisoned
man, laying out a new scenario, one that would eventually lead to yet
another German "monster" responsible for scores of murders.
The women told of the time she crossed
paths with Pleil, who was working as a border guard after the war. She
was trying to escape East Germany, and Pleil offered to help. He did in
fact manage to get her over the the west side of the wall, however, once
he had her in a desolate area, he started to beat her until, he thought,
she was unconcious.
Actually, the woman faked being beaten
senseless, and when Pleil left her, presumedly for dead, she ran off to
The police followed up on the story
and began to dig a little deeper into the young man's past. It wasn't
long before they uncovered a history of multiple murders, apparently
born out of the second World War while he served as a German soldier.
It seems that Pleil, along with so
many others in the German army during the war, discovered his penchant
for human suffering while witnessing first hand the atrocities of war
victims at the hands of Nazi death squads. He claims that his first
"sexual experience" was when he saw naked, battered bodies being thrown
like garbage into a freshly dug pit by the Gestapo near his military
After the war he put his new found
tastes into action by posing as a border guard in the no-man's land near
Saxony seperating the East and West and picking up desperate women
trying to flee the Eastern Bloc.
Usually he raped, then killed the
women, leaving them for dead wherever they lay. His weapons changed
every time. He would use hatchets, knives, a hammer or a stone. Some of
the items were found, some were part of his personal arsenal.
He even had two accomplices at one
point who helped trap the victims. However, when it came to murdering
them, it was all Pleil. Oddly, he had a falling out with one of them
because of an incident where the accomplice insisted on decapitating the
victim, enraging Pleil who could not understand why he would suggest
such a barbaric action.
It wasn't until the uncharacteristic
murder of the male salesman that Pleil was imprisoned for a crime,
leading to the uncovering of the others. The police reworked the case
and eventually charged Pleil with nine counts of rape and murder, to
which Pleil insisted he be charged with the "correct" number of 25,
stating that,"You underestimate me, I am Germany's greatest killer. I
put others, both here and abroad, to shame." He also insisted that he be
known as "the best death-maker in Germany."
Sentenced to life in prison, Pleil
lasted until 1958, when he hanged himself in his cell.
Rudolf Pleil made an unlikely-looking
monster. Fat and jovial, he radiated charm and a disarming sense of
humor, worming his way into the confidence of the women who became his
victims. None would see the darker side in time to save themselves, but
it existed all the same, concealed within a man who called himself
Germany's "champion death-maker." As Pleil once explained,
"Every man has his passion. Some prefer whist. I prefer killing
His taste for blood surfaced early in life, when Pleil tortured and
killed a cat at age seven. Later, as a teenage soldier during World War
II, he had an opportunity to witness victims stripped and starved to
death by the Gestapo, recalling the grisly spectacle as "my finest
In March 1946, Pleil claimed his first human victim, braining Eva Miehe
with an ax and dumping her body in a canal. Others would follow, through
1946 and early 1947, with Pleil impersonating a policeman, offering to
escort female refugees across the frontier from East Germany into the
western zone. Instead of sanctuary, they found death, invariably raped
by Pleil, then killed and mutilated as he tried his hand with hatchets,
hammers, knives and stones. In 1947, he was charged with manslaughter
and sentenced to twelve years in prison after impulsively axing a
salesman to death. Marking time in his cell, he prepared a diary titled
Mein Kampf: signing it "by Rudolf Pleil, death dealer (retired)."
The killer's hopes for freedom were demolished when a lone survivor of
his murder spree, Frau Lydia Schmidt, identified Pleil as the man who
bludgeoned her and then did "indescribable things" to her
prostrate body. Police launched a full-scale investigation, ultimately
charging Pleil with nine rape-slayings. Five of the victims were never
identified, but detectives did name two accomplices. At his trial in
Brunswick, in November 1950, Pleil would share the dock with 36-year-old
Karl Hoffman, charged in six slayings, and 22-year-old Konrad Schuessler,
linked with two murders and one bungled attempt.
Pleil's behavior was bizarre and arrogant throughout the trial. Whenever
prosecutors made a reference to his estimated body count, he interrupted
them indignantly. "It is 25," he insisted. "I had 25
victims but they can find only nine bodies. You underrate me. I am
Germany's greatest killer. I put others, both here and abroad, to shame."
Pleil angrily denied that any of his victims had been killed for
purposes of robbery, maintaining that the random slaughter had been
"necessary for my sexual satisfaction." "What I did is
not such a great harm," he declared, "with all these surplus
women nowadays. Anyway, I had a good time."
Convicted across the board, all three defendants were sentenced to life
imprisonment. Pleil passed his time by writing to authorities and
offering the whereabouts of new remains, in exchange for an "airing"
to visit the scene of his crimes. On one occasion, he wrote to the mayor
of a town, offering his services as a hangman; his credentials for the
job could be determined by examining an old well on the city's outskirts
- where authorities retrieved a woman's strangled corpse.
In time, Pleil tired of the sadistic game and made good on his promise
that "I'll hang myself one day." In February 1958, a jailer
found him dangling in his cell, the final victim of his own desire to
Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia
of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans
"You underrate me, I am Germany's greatest
killer. I put others, both here and abroad, to shame."
Rudolf Pleil was a
little chubby guy. He always seemed happy, smiling constantly. He served
in Hitler's army, working on Germany's East/West border. this is where
Pleil decided to look for a new career.
In the beginning Pleil
was just a thief. He'd find lone refugees crossing to the West and rob
them, occasionally touching them up a bit along the way. This changed in
Pleil beat Eva Miehe,
then raped her. For some reason he chose to take this one a step further
and smashed he skull in with a single blow from an axe. He later said
the murder was for 'sexual gratification'.
Pleil went on to copy
this M.O. frequently. At time he had accomplices with him during the
murders. Karl Hoffmann and Konrad Schuessler went out with Pleil
occasionally, although it was always Pleil who finished the victim off.
The only changes in his M.O. is the choice of weapon. He variously
changed between axes, knives, mallets, rope and bricks.
Pleil's murders were
eventually stopped when he killed a travelling salesman, the only male
victim, with an axe. He was charged with, and found guilty of,
manslaughter. He was sentenced to twelve years jail.
While in prison he set
about writing his memeoirs, which contained descriptions of 25 murders.
Once this was discovered police looked into his crimes. Obviously at
this time it was hard to track down people in Germany, and the case was
going nowhere until Lydia Scmidt came forward to tell a rather
interesting story about her run in with Pleil. She had been raped,
beaten and left for dead. Luckily for her, but not for pleil, she had
survived and now the police had something. When questioned about the
murders he had written about Pleil wasted no time admitting to them. He
also had no trouble ratting on his friends. Karl Hoffmann and Konrad
Schuessler were charged for various crimes, included some of being
accessory to murder.
Pleil was charged with,
and found guilty of, 9 murders. He was sentenced to life in prison.
In February 1958 Pleil carried out his final act. He was found hanged in
his prison cell
"Every man has his passion; some like
whist, I prefer killing people."
Pleil seemed to have a weird set of ethics. He had
no problem with the rape and murders, but on one occasion he bashed one
of his accomplices for beginning to decapitate one of the victims. It
seemed that Pleil thought the act of decapitation was disgusting.
In jail he wrote his life story, calling it 'Mein
Kampf' (sound familiar???). Pleil signed it "by Rudolf Pleil, death
During Pleil's trial it came out that Pleil had
applied for the job of Hangman. On his application he had written that
if they needed any convincing of his skill they should check out a
certain well. Obviously this was laughed at and ignored. When eventually
checked, there was a strangled corpse found in the well.
During Pleil's trial he continuously interrupted,
demanding the charges be lifted to 25 murders, not 9.
The Wacky World of Murder
M RACE: W TYPE: T MOTIVE: Sex./Sad.
Mutilation-slayer of random victims, mostly women
12 years for manslaughter in ax murder of a salesman, 1947; life for
nine rape-murders, 1950; suicide by hanging in prison, Feb. 1958
Karl Hoffman (1914- ) sentenced to life on six counts, 1950; Konrad
Schuessler (1928- ) sentenced to life for two murders and one attempted