Name: Fritz Haarmann
Born – 1879 / Deceased – 1925
Number of victims: from a known 27 up to 100
Accomplice: Hanz Grans
Born in a dysfunctional family, during his childhood the young Fritz was witness to the beatings his father would apply on the family and the degradation of his parents due to alcohol consumption. He was also emotionally abused by his mother as she would dress him up like a girl and give him the old puppets of his sisters.
It is thus that as a teen he became a homosexual and at 17 he was kicked out of the military school his father had enrolled him in because he sexually abused the younger attendants.
Back in Hanover he was caught molesting small children but escaped judgment because he was diagnosed with epilepsy and he was sent to an asylum; he was set free after six months.
When in 1914 he was caught burgling a warehouse he got a sentence of five years in prison. He was paroled in 1918 and became simultaneously a smuggler and police informant.
When the war came and passed he reinvented himself as a butcher and, at least as first, the meat was of animal origin.
Haarmann was jailed one more time for molesting a minor and on his release, in September 1919, he met and fell in love with 24-year-old Hans Grans, a gay pimp. It is around that period that the hunt began!
Taking advantage of the general confusion after the war, Fritz started to lure teens from the Central Station with promises of a meal and roof while he helped them to get a job.
That if how so many ended up voluntarily entering the residence he owned on Neustrasse [and that he shared with his accomplice and lover].
Here the young men would be humiliated and tortured in the most cruel ways as they were raped and sodomized by the two older men. When they got bored of a boy Haarmann would simply slash their neck with his teeth so that they would bleed out.
The corpses were them dismembered and the flesh prepared either for personal use or it would be sold at a low price in the neighborhood the next day.
Some items were kept as tokens and whatever was too big to burn in a household fire was disposed of in the river Liene.
It was only 5 years later, in May 1924, that a couple of strays found a skull on the river bank and alerted the police. The river was dragged and more than 500 bones, belonging to 27 young men and boys, were found. Of course we will never know if the body count was really that or if a skeleton was comprised of bones from several victims that just happened to mach up [remember that in those days they did not have the same precision as modern CSIs].
The investigation proceeded slowly because since Fritz was a police informant he was practically excluded from the circle of suspects despite the fact that that specific sector of the river flowed right past his house.
Only fate made it that he was arrested on June 22, 1924 on a charge of indecency with 15-year-old Karl Fromm. When police searched his home at 8 Neuestrasse, they found bloodstains.
In the back area they were shocked by the sight of a room [where the two would prepare the “food”] smeared with blood and flesh, with pieces of bones on the floor and sausages on a table.
The belongings recovered from Haarmann’s apartment were put on public display and a family notified the police that a jacket belonged to their missing son. The jacket was found to have the boy’s name marked inside it.
People began to come forward to the police, identifyying more clothing or bringing in clothes that they had bought from Haarmann which had been taken from the dead.
Haarmann is quoted as telling the police:
” 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. 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”
This wasn`t the only time he claimed that an entity possessed his body and made him commit all the horrors he described in detail. He mentioned having episodes where he would completely black out thus leaving the possibility that the number of victims was far greater.
He claimed that he wasn`t insane and that he wanted to be put to death so that he can escape his torment.
Haarman was tried at the Hanover Assizes in December 1924 where he confessed to killing perhaps 30 or 40 boys.
It was a media sensation that captivated the nation. But what seamed to enrage the people and was 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.
When information broke out that the human flesh was sold as porc meat the community spread in two sides: some refused to believe such a thing was possible but if it was they excused themselves stating that it did taste like porc to them. Other were furious because several complaints were made in respect to the bones Fritz was selling allegedly because they were too white to be of animal origin – it is supposed that the police protected the butcher against these complaints because the information he would provide them with was more valuable so that they could make other arrests.
Even more so, the vampire of Hanover had a badge that would attest his authority in town. It would make it easy for him to hide under the appearance of a respectable man and that probably why so many young men believed that he could help with finding a job.
But the failure of the police didn`t end there… in 1919 they had a window of opportunity when they could have stopped this mad man after his first kill. Friedel Rothe was last seen in his company and when his parents declared him missing officers searched the home of their informant due to his past. But they only looked in the first rooms and did not see any evidence thus not insisting on going to the back chambers.
Haarmann was found guilty of killing 24 young people and was sentenced to death – mainly due to the high number of witnesses; 130 in total.
Many doctors said his place is in a medical institution because he was a sick man but interesting enough, Fritz himself asked to be punished by death. He said that the treatments he received while in asylums only numbed the entity that possessed him.
He was beheaded by guillotine on April 15, 1925. His last words before he was beheaded were: “I repent, but I do not fear death.”
Hans Grans was arrested and jailed for twelve years. He died in 1980.
1. The remains of Haarmann’s victims were buried together in a communal grave in Stöckener Cemetery in February 1925. In April 1928, a large granite memorial in the form of a triptych, inscribed with the names and ages of the victims, was erected over the communal grave.
2. 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.
3. The case inspired many books and movies over the years.
– “The Tenderness of the Wolves” [Die Zärtlichkeit der Wölfe] from 1973 with Kurt Raab in the role of the murderer.
– In 1995 “The Deathmaker” [Der Totmacher] with Götz George, based on the psychoanalysis of the murderer.
Full list of victims [that he was trialed and sentenced for]:
– Friedel Rothe, 17 [September 25, 1918], Haarmann claimed to have buried Rothe in Stöckener cemetery
– Fritz Franke, 17 [February 12, 1923], initially from Berlin
– Wilhelm Schulze, 17 [March 20, 1923], an apprentice writer
– Roland Huch, 16 [May 23, 1923], a student, vanished from Hanover station
– Hans Sonnenfeld, 19 [May, 1923], runaway from the town of Limmer
– Ernst Ehrenberg, 13 [June 25, 1923], disappeared whilst running an errand for his parents
– Heinrich Struß, 18 [August 24, 1923], Haarmann was in possession of Struß’ violin case when arrested
– Paul Bronischewski, 17 [September 24, 1923], vanished while on his way to visit his Uncle
– Richard Gräf, 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 and his bicycle was later sold by Haarmann
– Hermann Wolf, 15 [October 24 or 25, 1923], the victim’s 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, 17 [November 11, 1923] an apprentice carpenter, witnesses saw Haarmann approach Hannappel
– Adolf Hennies, 19 [December 6, 1923], disappeared whilst looking for work in Hanover
– Ernst Spiecker, 17 [January 5, 1924], disappeared on his way to appear as a witness at a trial
– Heinrich Koch, 20 [January 15, 1924], 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, 16 [February 8, 1924] an apprentice electrician
– Alfred Hogrefe, 16 [April 6, 1924], an apprentice mechanic; all of Hogrefe’s clothes were traced to Haarmann or Grans
– Hermann Bock, 22 [April, 1924], last seen by his friends walking towards Haarmann’s apartment
– Wilhelm Apel, 16 [April 17, 1924], disappeared on his way to work
– Robert Witzel, 18 [April 26, 1924], Haarmann admitted dumping Witzel’s remains in the Leine River
– Heinrich Martin, 14 [May 9, 1924], apprentice locksmith, 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, 10 [May 26, 1924], the youngest victim, his remains dumped in the Leine River
– Friedrich Koch, 16 [June 5, 1924], vanished on his way to college, last seen in the company of Haarmann
– Erich de Vries, 17 [June 14, 1924], Haarmann led police to Erich’s remains after his arrest.
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† Vampiric Murderers