In 1924 when Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau's "The Last Laugh" was made, Thomas Mann's "The Magic Mountain" appeared, and Adolf Hitler was charged in Munich with high treason, a criminal case in Hannover caused a stir among the German public.
By the 1920s, Fritz Haarmann was known as a successful seller of secondhand clothes and was beloved by housewives for his endless supply of cheap meat until they learned how he harvested both of his products from slain runaway boys.
Friedrich Heinrich Karl "Fritz" Haarmann also known as just Haarmann Fritz was born in Hanover on 25th October on 1879.He was the sixth and the youngest child born to poor couple Johanna Charlotte Auguste Haarmann and Carl Friedrich Haarmann also known as Ollie Haarmann.Since the beginning he was subjected to a terrible environment.He was neglected by his parents during his time of youth development.According to her sisters and close relatives,he rarely came out of the house and when ever he did,he would just sat around a corner.His mother was struggling to cope up with her treacherous husband and did not had enough time to look after her kids.As a result Haarmaan was often pushed and motivated by his mother to play with his sisters' dolls instead of boys' activities. As a result, Haarmann seemed to have a bit of a feminine personality right from the very start of his life.
The couple would quite often get into quarrels with each other.These constant fights and quarrels among the parents were creating an adverse effect on their kids.They were gradually becoming distraught, worried, anxious, and hopeless.
Things were not going so well for the family.The eldest son in the family , Alfred Haarmaan,grew up to become a lower-middle class factory foreman with upright Philistine and family values. The second son, Wilhelm Haarmaan , however did not have such great values in his life.He was sentenced, at an early age for a sexual offence.The three sisters, all had to face terrible times in their married life.Growing up in that environment ,would have seriously hampered their relationship.The were unable to manage their married life in the same way,their parents had to deal with.All of them divorced their husbands early in their married life.They showed particularly obsessive and compulsive characters in them . Frau Rudiger Haarmaan was to meet a premature death in the Great War. Haarmann never got on with the fourth child, Frau Erfurdt Haarmaan. It was therefore left to his youngest sister, Emma Haarmann.She was the second member in the family who tried to console Haarmann and help him.Its rumoured the his older brother Wilhelm Haarmaan used to abuse him physically,which for quite a long time no one knew.
Haarmaan Fritz was a quiet child, with few friends of his own age or sex and who seldom socialized with any children other than his siblings outside of school.He was lost in himself,in his own world. From a very early age, Haarmann's behaviour was noticeably effeminate. He was different from everyone and often used to stay away from activities that boys of his age would love to do. He would shy away from other boys playing around and instead played with his sister's dolls and often used to dress in her clothes. He didn't think of himself any different from his sister.As a child he would often make false accusations and rumours about coming in contact with supernatural powers.He also developed a passion for both needlework and cookery,and would develop a close relationship with his mother who was somewhat responsible for his odd behaviour,as she completely spoiled her youngest child.
Haarmanns father Carl Friedrich Haarmann was a notorious womaniser.And had several affairs prior to his marriage.He was also an alcoholic and was known as a history sheeter.He was quite popular as a petty thief.He quite often stayed behind bars mostly because of stealing and shoplifter.Although in one account Haarmaan stated that he knew that his father was involved in the murder case.He would return home late and would misbehave with his wife.Carl Friedrich Haarmann married Johanna Charlotte Auguste Haarmann, when she was 41 years old, and seven years his senior.He only married her because of her wealth and the substantial dowry their marriage would eventually bring him.From his early childhood Haarmaan begun to develop a sense of bitter hatred and rivalry towards his father mostly because Haarmaan loved his mother and seeing his father's behaviour and negligence towards his mother made him extremely angry and frustrated.This early stages of guilt anger and frustration was gradually growing inside him.Carl Friedrich Haarmann was known to be argumentative and short-tempered who, through several affairs,that he conducted throughout his marriage, would contract syphilis in his later years.Despite his being an authoritarian who had little time for his children and a notorious womaniser, Haarmann's parents remained together until his mother's death in the April of 1901.One could only imagine the type of condition young Haarmaan had to go through.These troubled family life created an adverse effect on his mind.
Following this frustration and anger, Fritz grew a fascination with knives, and would loiter around the butcher's stalls, watching the cutters at work.It was obvious gradually he began to lose control of his emotions.
The anecdotes relating to Haarmann's childhood developed two distinct traits. The first is the notable feminine character and the voice of an old woman that were exhibited throughout his school life. The second is the pleasure in causing fear and horror. The child was spoiled and easily led, yet lively and popular amongst his peers.
In 1886, Haarmann began his schooling, where he was noted by teachers to be a spoiled and mollycoddled child who was prone to daydreaming. He seemed to be completely out of this world .Both due to the chaotic environment at the house as well as the confusions on his young mind.Although his behavior at school was noted to be exemplary, his academic performance was below average and Haarmann had to repeat a school year twice. But the years were about to go really hard in him .One day , when he was about eight years old,Haarmann had to suffer a tragic event which would eventually be his modus operandi in his later years.One day at his school, he was roaming alone,minding his own business,but little did he knew that a teacher was watching him from a distance.He took advantage of the situation and took him into a separate classroom where he molested Haarmann.He was shaken by this event so much that he didn't tell it to his family or to anyone and kept it a secret for a very long time.And the type of environment he was being raised at,there's fewer chance that his family would have believed him,let alone take up the responsible steps to tackle this situation.This was a major incident on his life,that created a long lasting dreadful memory and that what forever changed him.
Haarmann grew up into a trim, physically strong youth.With his parents' consent, he finished his schooling in 1894. Upon leaving school, he briefly obtained employment as an apprentice locksmith in Neuf-Brisach before opting, at age 15, to enroll in a military academy in the town of Breisach.Although it was his father's decision to forcefully send him out.His military training began on 4 April 1895 at Neu Breisach.
As a young man in military school, Haarmann fell on his head during gymnastics practice and suffered a concussion, which sparked epileptic fits and blackouts which would eventually lead to an end in his military career.
During this period,at the tender age of 16, Haarmann committed his first known sexual offense, all of which involved young boys whom he would lure to secluded areas typically cellars before proceeding to sexually abuse them.He was first arrested for committing offenses of this nature,just after his 18th Birthday in July 1896. Following further offenses of this nature, the Division for Criminal Matters opted to place Haarmann in a mental institution in the city of Hildesheim in February 1897. Although briefly transferred to a Hanover hospital for psychiatric evaluation, he would be certified as being "incurably deranged, and unfit to stand trial by a psychologist named Gurt Schmalfuß. Schmalfuß ordered Haarmann to be confined at the mental institution for an indefinite time. Haarmann was returned to the mental institution on 28 May 1897.
Seven months later, Haarmann escaped the mental institution. With apparent assistance from his mother, Haarmann fled to Zürich, Switzerland. Here, he lived with a relative of his mother, and obtained employment as a handyman in a shipyard. Haarmann remained in Zürich for 16 months before he returned to Hanover in April 1899. Early in the following year, he managed to get himself into a relationship when he got engaged to a woman named Erna Loewert.He thought that his life would find a steering if he settles down.Erna Loewert Haarmann soon became pregnant with his child.In the October of 1900, Haarmann received notification letter that he has to rejoin the military to perform his compulsory military service.
On 12th October 1900, Haarmann was deployed to the Alsatian city of Colmar to serve in the Number 10 Rifle Battalion. Throughout his service, Haarmann earned a reputation among his superiors as an exemplary soldier and excellent marksman, and he would later describe his period of service with this battalion as being the happiest of his entire life with no one forcing him to do anything.But his military was soon to be cut off.Ever since he heard the terrible news of his mother's demise,he begun to feel homesick and witnessed a mental shock.Then one day while on a routine exercise with his battalion in October 1901,he suddenly collapsed and fell onto the ground.His colleagues took notice of it and took him to the medical team.As days passed Haarmann began to suffer dizzy spells, and was subsequently hospitalized for well over four months.He was later deemed "unsuitable for military service and work" and was dismissed from military service on 28 July 1902.Once again, Fritz was sent back to his quarrelsome family and resumed his life-long battle with his father.After his discharge, his father made repeated attempts to have him thrown back in the asylum permanently, but Fritz managed to evade him every time.
Discharged from the military under medical terms described as being "probable" dementia, Haarmann was awarded a monthly military pension of 21 gold marks. Upon his military discharge, Haarmann returned to live with his fiance in Hanover, briefly working in the small business his father had established, before unsuccessfully filing a maintenance lawsuit against his father, citing that he was unable to work due to the ailments noted by the military. His father successfully contested Haarmann's suit, and the charges were dropped. But their disputes continued.The following year, a violent fight between father and son resulted in Haarmann's father himself unsuccessfully initiating legal proceedings against his son, citing verbal death threats and blackmail as justification to have his son returned to a mental institution. These charges were dropped due to a lack of corroborating evidence. Nonetheless, Haarmann was ordered to undertake a psychiatric examination in May 1903. This examination was conducted by a Dr. Andrae, who concluded that, although morally inferior, Haarmann was not mentally unstable.But deep inside he was slowly entering into the world of madness.
With financial assistance from his father, Haarmann and his fiance opened a fishmongery. Haarmann began to work as an insurance salesman, before being officially classified as disabled and unable to work by the 10th Army in 1904. As a result, his monthly military pension was slightly increased. The same year, his fiance, got pregnant with his child,however she terminated their engagement, and according to Haarmann this was because he was accused by his fiance of having an affair with a student.Soon after their separation,she aborted their unborn child.As the fishmongery was registered in her name, Erna Haarmann simply ordered her husband to leave the premises.Now he didn't have a place to leave,he was homeless,and starving to death.This was another major incident in his life.
For the next decade, Haarmann made his living primarily as a petty thief, burglar and con artist. Although he did occasionally obtain legitimate employment, he invariably stole from his employers or their customers. Beginning in 1905, he served several short prison sentences for offenses such as larceny, embezzlement and assault. On one occasion when working legitimately as an invoice clerk, Haarmann became acquainted with a female employee with whom, he later claimed, to have robbed several tombstones and graves between 1905 and 1913 .Consequently, Haarmann spent the majority of the years between 1905 and 1912 in jail.
By late 1913 the police were getting fed up with his repeated crimes and threw the book at Haarmann.Haarmann was arrested for burglary when a search of his home revealed a hoard of stolen property linking him to several other burglaries. Despite protesting his innocence, Haarmann was charged and convicted of a series of burglaries and frauds. He was sentenced to five years' imprisonment for these offenses.By this time Haarmaan had grown an attraction towards males specially minors and tennagers.
On 28th July 1914 ,the first world war also known as the Great war broke up following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria.He and his wife Sophie were shot to death by a Bosnian Serb nationalist during an official visit to the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo on June 28, 1914.Following these incident and other political uprising the war officially started.
As the war started, Germany stood behind its ally Austria-Hungary in a confrontation with Serbia, but Serbia was under the protection of Russia, which was allied to France. Germany was the leader of the Central Powers, which included Austria-Hungary at the start of the war, and later included the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria; arrayed against them were the Allies, consisting chiefly of Russia, France and Britain at the beginning of the war, Italy, which joined the Allies in 1915, and the United States, which joined the Allies in 1917.
Germany entered into World War I on August 1, 1914, when it declared war on Russia. In accordance with its war plan, it ignored Russia and moved first against France declaring war on August 3 and sending its main armies through Belgium to attack Paris from the north. The German invasion of Belgium caused Britain to declare war on Germany on August 4. Most of the main parties were now at war. In October 1914, Turkey joined the war on Germany's side, becoming part of the Central Powers.
In July, 1917, the British launched a huge offensive in Flanders, Belgium. France had done the same in April at the Chemin des Dames, a crushing failure that led to mutinies in the French army.
In October, Italian forces suffered a disastrous defeat at Caporetto, leaving 300,000 prisoners in the hands of German and Austrian forces.
Freed to focus on the Western Front following the Brest-Litovsk treaty that ended Russia's involvement, German forces launched an all-out attempt to break through Allied lines before the arrival of American troops, succeeding in the spring of 1918.
They were once more within reach of the French capital, shelling Paris, when they were stopped by Allied forces placed in April under the unified command of French General Ferdinand Foch.
The Germans, who had seemed poised for victory, collapsed over the summer as the Allies reclaimed northern France with a series of counter-offensives culminating in the Second Battle of the Marne in July.
At the same time the Austro-Hungarian empire, Bulgaria and the Ottoman empire suffered a string of crushing defeats that were to force them into surrender.
On November 9th, German Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated, two days before an armistice was signed that sealed the Allied victory.
The years following the loss of World War I ,Germany who once was a major world power,lost everything.The country saw an increase in poverty, increasing crime rate, and black market trading in the Weimar Republic.Germany had used one third of its assets at war which resulted in a huge economic disruption.Making many people homeless,jobless and starving for food.
Due to the food shortage, numerous illegal animal slaughter of dogs, cats and goats took place. Haarmann took advantage of the general situation during the inflationary period and, above all, the desperate situation of young people and offered them shelter for one or more nights in return for sexual favors.
Due to compulsory conscription resulting from the outbreak of World War I, Germany saw a shortage of available domestic manpower. In the final years of his prison sentence, Haarmann was permitted to work throughout the day in the grounds of various manor houses near the town of Rendsburg,with instructions to return to prison each evening. Upon his release from prison in April 1918, Haarmann initially moved to Berlin, before opting to return to Hanover, where he briefly lived with one of his sisters before renting a single room apartment in late August of 1918.
Haarmann was greatly struck by the poverty of the German nation as a result of the loss, the Nation had suffered in World War I.Through his initial efforts to both trade and purchase stolen property at Hanover Central Station, Haarmann established several criminal contacts with whom he could trade in contraband property, and he immediately reverted to the criminal life he had lived before his 1913 arrest.
By 1918, a male prostitution market was opened in the gardens around Café Kröpcke , around 500 of which were registered in the police files. Haarmann lived in an apartment on Neue Straße, which was located in Calenberger Neustadt , where there were other meeting places for homosexuals.
Despite police knowledge that Haarmann was both a known criminal and a known homosexual , Haarmann 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 in his own criminal activities, and to facilitate his access to young males. By 1919, he is known to have regularly patrolled Hanover station, and to have provided police with information relating to Hanover's extensive criminal network. With the cooperation of several police officials, Haarmann devised a ruse whereby he would offer to fence or store stolen property at his premises, then pass this information to police, who would then raid his property at agreed times and arrest these contacts. To remove any suspicion as to his treachery reaching the criminal fraternity, Haarmann himself would be arrested in these raids. Moreover, on numerous occasions, he is known to have performed citizen's arrests upon commuters for offenses such as travelling on forged documents. As a result of these activities, police began to rely on Haarmann as a reliable source of information regarding various criminal activities in the city, and he was allowed to patrol Hanover station largely at will.And soon he was picking up his spots and targets.
Haarmann's subsequent victims largely consisted of young male commuters, runaways and, occasionally, male prostitutes, whom he would typically encounter in or around Hanover's central railway station.
Haarmann's first known victim was a 17-year-old runaway named Friedel Rothe. When Rothe disappeared on 25 September 1918 his father set out to find his son, his friends told him that young Friedel had been friendly with Haarmann, who often took young boys over to his apartment for a bit of fun.Yet when Rothe's father brought this clue to authorities, police were reluctant to interfere with their most valuable spy.At the time of his first known murder,he resided in a single room apartment at 27 Cellerstraße. Under pressure from Rohe's family, police raided Haarmann's apartment in October 1918, where they found their informant in the company of a semi-naked 13-year-old boy. He was charged with both the sexual assault and battery of a minor, and sentenced to nine months' imprisonment. Haarmann later said to detectives that when they searched his apartment, the head of Friedel Rothe,which he wrapped in an old newspaper, was stowed behind his stove.
Haarmann avoided serving his sentence throughout 1919. That October, he met an 18-year-old youth named Hans Grans,who had run away from his home in Berlin following an argument with his father on 1st October. Hans Grans spent his early years as a petty thief before running away from his home, making his living by selling old clothes. He soon met Fritz Haarmann at Hanover's central station after offering to prostitute himself in exchange for money. The two soon became friends, and then lovers. From March 1920 to December of the same year, Grans traveled through Germany, committing petty robberies before returning to Hanover and reuniting with Haarmann on Christmas.Shortly after their initial acquaintance, Haarmann invited the youth to move into his apartment, and Grans became Haarmann's lover and criminal accomplice. According to Haarmann, although he was smitten with Grans, he gradually became aware the youth manipulated and, occasionally, mocked him. A few times Grans was evicted after heated arguments only for Haarmann to plead with him to come back. Despite the manipulation Haarmann endured at the hands of his accomplice, he later claimed to tolerate the capitulation as he craved Grans' companionship and affection, adding: "I had to have someone I meant everything to."
By 1919, Germany was in dire economic straits, and many families struggled to keep food on the table.Haarmann became well-known as a black-market butcher, popular among people of the area for his friendliness and his irresistibly affordable meat.Throughout the early 1920s, Haarmann spent much of his time loitering around Hanover's train station, scouting for teenage boys to coax home with promises of food and comfort. Thousands of children were running away from home at this time due to postwar hardships, so he had plenty of victims to choose from.
Haarmann served the nine-month prison sentence imposed in 1918 for sexual assault and battery between March and December 1920. Upon his release, he again regained the trust of the police and again became an informer. Haarmann initially resided in a hotel, before he and Grans lodged with a middle-class family.
Through criminal contacts, Haarmann became aware of a vacant ground-floor apartment located at 8 Neue Strabe. The apartment was located in a densely populated, old house located alongside the Leine River. Haarmann secured a letting agreement with the landlady, ostensibly to use the property for storage purposes. He and Grans moved into 8 Neue Straße on 1 July 1921.
The second murder Haarmann is known to have committed occurred on 12 February 1923. The victim was a 17-year-old pianist named Fritz Franke, whom Haarmann encountered at Hanover Central Station and invited to his Neue Straße residence, where he introduced the youth to Hans Grans and two female acquaintances one of whom was Grans' female lover. According to Grans' lover, that evening, Grans whispered in her ear: "Hey! He's going to be trampled on today."The following day, both these acquaintances returned to Haarmann's apartment, where they were informed by Haarmann that Franke had travelled to Hamburg.
Speculation remains as to Grans' knowledge of Haarmann's intentions towards Franke when he made this comment to the two female acquaintances. According to Haarmann, following this murder, Grans arrived unannounced at his apartment, where he observed Franke's nude body lying upon Haarmann's bed. Grans had then simply looked at him and asked, "When shall I come back again?"
Five weeks after the murder of Franke, on 20 March, Haarmann encountered a 17-year-old named Wilhelm Schulze,an apprentice writer at Hanover station.Schulze had been travelling to work when he encountered Haarmann. No human remains identified as belonging to Schulze were ever found, although most of his clothing was in the possession of Haarmann's landlady, Elisabeth Engel, at the time of his arrest. Two more victims are known to have been murdered at 8 Neue Straße before Haarmann vacated the apartment in June.A 16-year-old called Roland Huch, who disappeared on 23 May after informing a close friend he intended to run away from home and join the Marines but went missing and 19-year-old Hans Sonnenfeld,a runaway from the town of Limmerwho disappeared on or about 31 May and whose distinctive yellow overcoat Haarmann is known to have worn after the youth's murder.
On 9 June 1923, Haarmann moved into a single-room attic apartment at 2 Rote Reihe. Two weeks after moving into this address, on 25 June, Ernst Ehrenberg, the 13-year-old son of Haarmann's neighbour, disappeared running an errand for his father. His school cap and braces would be found in Haarmann's apartment following his arrest.Two months later, on 24 August, an 18-year-old office clerk named Heinrich Strub was reported missing by his aunt with whom he was living.
Strub's murder would be followed one month later by the murder of a 17-year-old named Paul Bronischewski,who disappeared en route to the city of Bochum, having worked with his uncle in Saxony-Anhalt throughout the summer. Subsequent police enquiries suggested Bronischewski had likely alighted the train at Hanover, whereupon he encountered Fritz Haarmann. Bronischewski's jacket, knapsack, trousers and towel would all be found in the possession of Haarmann following his arrest.
Haarmann killed his next victim on or about 30 September 1923. The victim was 17-year-old Richard Gräf, who last informed his family that he had met an individual who was supposedly a detective at Hanover station at that the detective from Hanover had found him a job. Two weeks later, on 12 October, a 16-year-old Gehrden youth named Wilhelm Erdner went out on his daily route to his work but failed to return home.
Subsequent enquiries by Erdner's parents revealed the youth became acquainted with a Detective Fritz Honnerbrock, a pseudonym used by Haarmann shortly before his disappearance. Both Haarmann and Grans subsequently sold Erdner's bicycle on 20 October. Within a week of having sold this bicycle, Haarmann killed two further victims one of them was 15-year-old Hermann Wolf, who disappeared from Hanover station on 24 October, and 13-year-old Heinz Brinkmann, who was seen by a witness standing in the entrance to Hanover station at 11 p.m. on 27 October,after missing his train home to the town of Clausthal.
On 10 November 1923, a 17-year-old apprentice carpenter from the city of Düsseldorf named Adolf Hannappel disappeared from Hanover station. He was seen by several witnesses sitting upon a trunk in the waiting room. These witnesses also positively identified Hans Grans in the company of Haarmann pointing towards the youth, who shortly thereafter was observed walking towards a café in the company of these two men. One month later, on 6 December 19-year-old Adolf Hennies disappeared. He had been seeking employment at the time of his disappearance. None of the human remains recovered were identified as belonging to Hennies, whom Haarmann specifically admitted to dismembering, but denied killing. In subsequent court testimony vehemently disputed by Grans, Haarmann claimed he returned home to find Hennies's body missing his signature "love bite"lying naked on his bed, with Grans and another criminal acquaintance named Hugo Wittkowski stating the youth was, "One of yours." Neither Haarmann nor Grans were convicted of Hennies's murder due to conflicting testimony.
The first victim killed by Haarmann in 1924 was 17-year-old Ernst Spiecker, who disappeared on 5 January. Although subsequent trial testimony from a friend of Spiecker indicated Haarmann had became acquainted with this youth before his murder, Haarmann stated he would simply have to "assume" this youth was one of his victims due to all his personal possessions being found in his or Grans' possession following his arrest. Ten days later, Haarmann killed a 20-year-old named Heinrich Koch, whom he is also believed to have been acquainted with prior to the youth's murder. The following month, Haarmann is known to have killed two further victims: 19-year-old Willi Senger, who disappeared from the suburb of Linden-Limmer on 2 February, having informed his sister he was to travel with a friend; and 16-year-old Hermann Speichert, who was last seen by his sister on 8 February.
Haarmann is not known to have killed again until on or about 1 April, when he is believed to have killed an acquaintance named Hermann Bock. Although cleared of this murder at his trial, Haarmann was in possession of Bock's clothing when arrested, and he is known to have given the youth's suitcase to his landlady; moreover, Haarmann is known to have actively dissuaded several of Bock's acquaintances from reporting the youth missing. One week later, on 8 April 16-year-old Alfred Hogrefe disappeared from Hanover station, having run away from home in the town of Lehrte on 2 April. Hogrefe's murder would be followed 9 days later by that of a 16-year-old apprentice named Wilhelm Apel, whom Haarmann encountered on his "patrols" of the Hanover-Leinhausen station.
On 26 April 18-year-old Robert Witzel disappeared after borrowing 50 pennies from his mother, explaining he intended to visit a travelling circus. Enquiries by the youth's parents revealed their son had accompanied an "official from the railway station" to the circus. Haarmann himself would later state he killed Witzel the same evening and, having dismembered the youth's body, had thrown the remains into the Leine River.
Two weeks after the murder of Witzel, Haarmann killed a 14-year-old named Heinz Martin, who was last seen by his mother on 9 May and who is believed to have been abducted from Hanover station. All his clothing was later found in Haarmann's apartment. Less than three weeks later, on 26 May, a 17-year-old travelling salesman from the town of Kassel named Fritz Wittig, whom Haarmann would later state he killed upon the insistence of Grans as he had worn a "good new suit" Grans coveted,was dismembered and discarded in the Leine River. The same day Wittig is believed to have been killed, Haarmann killed his youngest known victim, 10-year-old Friedrich Abeling, who disappeared while truanting from school. His murder would be followed less than two weeks later by that of 16-year-old Friedrich Koch, who was approached by Haarmann on 5 June as he walked to college. Two acquaintances of Koch would later testify at Haarmann's trial that, as they walked with Koch to college, Haarmann approached Koch and tapped the youth on the boot with his walking stick and stated: "Well, boy, don't you recognize me?"
Haarmann killed his final victim, 17-year-old Erich de Vries, on 14 June 1924. De Vries encountered Haarmann at Hanover station. His dismembered body would later be found in a lake located near the entrance to the Herrenhausen Gardens. Haarmann would confess it had taken him four separate trips to carry de Vries's dismembered remains carried in the leather bag which had belonged to Friedrich Koch to the location he had disposed of them.
But his murdering spree would soon come to an end.On 17 May 1924, two children playing near the Leine River discovered a human skull. Determined to be that of a young male aged between 18 and 20 and bearing evidence of knife wounds, police were skeptical as to whether a murder had been committed or whether the skull had either been discarded in this location by grave robbers, or placed there in a tasteless prank by medical students. Furthermore, police theorized the skull may have been discarded in the river at Alfeld, which had recently experienced an outbreak of typhoid. Two weeks later, on 29 May, a second skull was found behind a mill race located close to the scene of the earlier discovery. This skull was also identified as having been that of a young male aged between 18 and 20. Shortly thereafter, two boys playing in a field close to the village of Döhren discovered a sack containing numerous human bones.
Two more skulls would be found on 13 June,one upon the banks of the Leine River; another located close to a mill in west Hanover. Each of the skulls had been removed from the vertebrae with a sharp instrument. One skull belonged to a male in his late-teens, whereas the other belonged to a boy estimated to have been aged between 11 and 13 years old. In addition, one of these skulls also bore evidence of having been scalped.
For more than a year prior to these discoveries, rumors had circulated in Hanover about the fate of the sheer number of children and teenagers who had been reported missing in the city. The discoveries sparked fresh rumors regarding missing and murdered children. In addition, various newspapers responded to these discoveries and the resulting rumors by harking to the disproportionate number of young people who had been reported missing in Hanover between 1918 and 1924.
On 8 June, several hundred Hanover residents converged close to the Leine River and searched both the banks of the river and the surrounding areas, discovering a number of human bones, which were handed to the police. In response to these latest discoveries, police decided to drag the entire section of the river which ran through the centre of the city. In doing so, they discovered more than 500 further human bones and sections of bodies, many bearing knife striations, which were later confirmed by a court doctor as having belonged to at least 22 separate human individuals. Approximately half of the remains had been in the river for some time, whereas other bones and body parts had been discarded in the river more recently. Many of the recent and aged discoveries bore evidence of having been dissected ,particularly at the joints. Over 30 percent of the remains were judged to have belonged to young males aged between 15 and 20.
The city of Hanover panicked.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 also known as Fritz Haarmann was identified as a suspect.He was already known to both the police and the criminal investigation department as a homosexual who had encountered 15 previous convictions dating from 1896 for various offenses including child molestation and the sexual assault and battery of a minor.Moreover, Haarmann had been connected to the 1918 disappearances of Friedel Rothe and a 14-year-old named Hermann Koch ,who had disappeared weeks prior to Rothe.Soon, two detectives from Berlin arrived on the scene to take over the investigation.Haarmann was placed under surveillance.Being a trusted police informant, Haarmann was known to frequent Hanover Central Station. As he was well-known to many officers from Hanover, two young policemen were drafted from Berlin to pose as undercover officers and discreetly observe his movements. The surveillance of Haarmann began on 18 June 1924.
On the night of 22 June, Haarmann was observed by the two undercover officers prowling Hanover's central station. He was soon observed arguing with a 15-year-old boy named Karl Fromm, then to approach police and insist they arrest the youth on the charge of travelling upon forged documents. Upon his arrest, Fromm informed police he had been living with Haarmann for four days, and that he had been repeatedly raped by his accuser, sometimes as a knife was held to his throat. Haarmann was arrested the following morning and charged with sexual assault.
Following his arrest, Haarmann's attic apartment at No. 2 Rote Reihe was searched.Inside was a nightmarish scene. The walls and floor were stained all over with blood, and more than 100 pieces of victims' clothing were found.
Haarmann had lived in this single room apartment since June 1923. The flooring, walls and bedding within the apartment were found to be extensively bloodstained. Haarmann initially attempted to explain this fact as a by-product of his illegal trading in contraband meat.Various acquaintances and former neighbours of Haarmann were also extensively questioned as to his activities. Many fellow tenants and neighbours of the various addresses in which Haarmann lived since 1920 commented to detectives about the number of teenage boys they observed visiting his various addresses. Moreover, some had seen him leaving his property with concealed sacks, bags or baskets ,invariably in the late evening or early morning hours. Two former tenants informed police that, in the spring of 1924, they had discreetly followed Haarmann from his apartment and observed him discarding a sack into the Leine River.
The clothes and personal possessions found at Haarmann's apartment and in the possession of his acquaintances were suspected as being the property of missing youths ,all were confiscated and put on display at Hanover Police Station, with the parents of missing teenage boys from across Germany invited to look at the items. As successive days passed, an increasing number of items were identified by family members as having belonged to their sons and brothers. Haarmann did initially attempt to dismiss these successive revelations as being circumstantial in nature by explaining he acquired many of these items through his business of trading in used clothing, with other items being left at his apartment by youths with whom he engaged in sexual activity.
The turning point came when, on 29 June, clothes, boots and keys found stowed at Haarmann's apartment were identified as belonging to a missing 18-year-old named Robert Witzel. A skull which had been found in a garden on 20 May which was not initially connected with later skeletal discoveries was identified as that of the missing youth. A friend of Witzel identified a police officer seen in the company of the youth the day prior to his disappearance as Haarmann. Confronted with this evidence, Haarmann briefly attempted to bluster his way out of these latest and most damning pieces of evidence. When Witzel's jacket was found in the possession of his landlady and he was confronted with various witnesses' testimony as to his destroying identification marks upon the clothing, he broke down and had to be supported by his sister
Faced with this latest evidence, and upon the urging of his sister, Haarmann confessed to raping, killing and dismembering many young men in what he initially described as a "rabid sexual passion" between 1918 and 1924. According to Haarmann, he never actually intended to murder any of his victims, but would be seized by an irresistible urge to bite into or through their Adam's apple,often as he manually strangled them,in the throes of ecstasy, before typically collapsing atop the victim's body. Only one intended victim had escaped from Haarmann's apartment after he attempted to bite into his Adam's apple, although this individual is not known to have reported the attack to police.
His gruesome details of the dismembering process was truly frightening as well as haunting."After I had killed them 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 wax cloth 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 ,because my passion was so much stronger than the horror of the cutting and chopping."As for the skulls, they were smashed to pieces and thrown in the river or marsh.
All of the bodies of the victims of Haarmann's murdering spree was disposed of via dismemberment shortly after their murder, and Haarmann was insistent that he found the act of dismemberment extremely unpleasant; he reportedly stated, that he had been ill for eight days after his first murder. Nonetheless, Haarmann was insistent that his passion at the moment of murder was invariably "stronger than the horror of the cutting and the chopping" which would inevitably follow, and would typically take up to two days to complete.
To fortify himself to dismember his victims' bodies, Haarmann would pour himself a cup of strong black coffee, then place the body of his victim upon the floor of this apartment and cover the face with cloth, before first removing the intestines, which he would place inside a bucket. A towel would then be repeatedly placed inside the abdominal cavity to soak the collecting blood. He would then make three cuts between the victim's ribs and shoulders, then "take hold of the ribs and push until the bones around the shoulders broke."The victim's heart, lungs and kidneys would then be removed, diced, and placed in the same bucket which held the intestines before the legs and arms would be severed from the body. Haarmann would then begin paring the flesh from the limbs and torso. This surplus flesh would be disposed of in the toilet or, usually, in the nearby river.
The final section of the victims' bodies to be dismembered was invariably the head. After severing the head from the torso, Haarmann would use a small kitchen knife to strip all flesh from the skull, which he would then wrap in rags and place face downwards upon a pile of straw and bludgeon with an axe until the skull splintered, enabling him to access the brain. This he would also place in a bucket, which he would pour, alongside the "chopped up bones" in the Leine.
Haarmann was insistent that none of the skulls found in the Leine belonged to his victims, and that the forensic identification of the skull of Robert Witzel was mistaken, as he had almost invariably smashed his victims' skulls to pieces. The exceptions being those of his earliest victims which he killed several years prior to his arrest and that of his last victim, Erich de Vries. Although insistent that none of his murders were premeditated, investigators discovered much circumstantial evidence suggesting that several murders had been planned hours or days in advance, and that Haarmann had both concocted explanations for his victims' disappearances and dissuaded acquaintances of his victims from filing missing persons' reports with Hanover police. Investigators also noted that Haarmann would only confess to murders for which there existed evidence against him; on one occasion, Haarmann stated: "There are some victims you don't know about, but it's not those you think."
When asked how many victims he killed, he casually replied "Thirty or forty, I don't know." Later Haarmann claimed that the actual number could be "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,some of which he claimed were committed upon the insistence of Hans Grans, who was arrested on 8 July, and formally charged with being an accessory to murder one week later.
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.And the victims were then being identified.
On 16 August 1924, Haarmann underwent a psychological examination at a Göttingen medical school; on 25 September, he was judged competent to stand trial and returned to Hanover to await trial.
In those times the term serial killer was not yet coined so Haarmaan was reportedly nicknamed as the Wolf,vampire and the Wolfman of Hanover.
In court, Haarmann looked incredibly calm and insulted everyone present there . Once, looking at a photo of one missing boy, he shouted at the boy's grieving father that he could never have had anything to do with the child as he was far too ugly.He 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 and 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.
The trial of Fritz Haarmann and Hans Grans began on 4 December 1924. Haarmann was charged with the murder of 27 boys and young men who had disappeared between September 1918 and June 1924. In 14 of these cases, Haarmann,who insisted upon conducting his own defense, acknowledged his guilt,although he claimed to be uncertain of the identification of the remaining 13 victims upon the list of charges. Grans pleaded not guilty to charges of being an accessory to murder in several of the murders.Initially, following a thorough security search, all members of the public were permitted access to the courtroom, although by the third day the judge excluded all spectators from the courtroom in the opening days of the trial as each murder was discussed in detail, due to the ongoing carnal and gruesome nature of the revelations.
The trial was one of the first major modern media events in Germany, and received extensive international press coverage, being described as the "most revolting case in German criminal history." Varying sensational headlines in which Haarmann was variously referred to by such titles as the "Butcher of Hanover," the "Vampire of Hanover," and the "Wolf-Man of Hanover"continuously appeared in the press.
Although Haarmann denied any premeditation in the crimes,and remained adamant the ultimate reason he killed was a "mystery" to him,he readily confessed to having killed 14 of the victims for whose murder he was tried and to retaining and selling many of their possessions, although he denied having sold the body parts of any of his victims as contraband meat. Haarmann's denial that he had either consumed or sold human flesh would be supported by a medical expert, who testified on 6 December that none of the meat found in Haarmann's apartment following his arrest was human.
When asked to identify photographs of his victims, Haarmann became taciturn and dismissive as he typically claimed to be unable to recognize any of his victims' photographs; however, in instances where he claimed to be unable to recognize his victims' faces but the victims' clothing or other personal belongings had been found in his possession, he would simply shrug and make comments to the effect of, "I probably killed him,"or: "Charge it to me; it's alright with me."For example, when asked to identify a photograph of victim Alfred Hogrefe, Haarmann stated: "I certainly assume I killed Hogrefe, but I don't remember his face."
Numerous exhibits were introduced into evidence in the opening days of the trial, including 285 sections of the skeletal structure,particularly skulls and thigh bones recovered from the Leine River and forensically determined as belonging to young men under 20 years of age which had been retrieved from the Leine River, the bucket into which he stored and transported human remains, and the extensively bloodstained camp bed upon which he had killed many of the victims at his Rote Reihe address. As had been the case when earlier asked whether he could recognize the photographs of any of his victims, Haarmann's demeanour became dismissive upon the introduction of these exhibits; he denied any of the skulls introduced into evidence belonged to his victims, stating he had almost invariably "mashed" the victims' skulls, and had thrown only one undamaged skull into the river.
Several acquaintances and criminal associates of Haarmann testified for the prosecution, including former neighbours who testified to having purchased brawn or mince from Haarmann, whom they noted regularly left his apartment with packages of meat, but rarely arrived with them. Haarmann's landlady, Elisabeth Engel, testified that Haarmann would regularly pour chopped pieces of meat into boiling water and would strain fat from meat Haarmann claimed was pork. This fat would invariably be poured into bottles. On one occasion in April 1924, Haarmann's landlady and her family became ill after eating sausages in skins Haarmann claimed were sheep's intestines. Another neighbour testified to the alarming number of youths whom he had seen entering Haarmann's Neue Straße apartment, but whom he seldom observed leaving the address. This neighbour assumed Haarmann was selling youths to the Foreign Legion; another neighbour testified to having observed Haarmann throw a sack of bones into the Leine River. Two female acquaintances of Hans Grans also testified how, on one occasion in 1923, they discovered what they believed to be a human mouth boiling in a soup kettle in Haarmann's apartment; these witnesses testified they had taken the item to Hanover police, who simply replied the piece of flesh may be a pig's snout.
By the second week of the trial testimony, it was clear how much the police really knew about Haarmann's criminal activities after his 1918 release from prison. The police apparently never suspected him for any of the cases of missing boys and young men in Hanover in 1923 and 1924, even though some of the victims were last seen in his company, and he had a long criminal record that included charges of sexual assault and battery.
Haarmann was acquitted of three murders at his trial: those of Adolf Hennies, Hermann Wolf, and Hermann Bock. In each instance, strong circumstantial evidence existed attesting to his guilt.
In the case of Hermann Wolf, police established that prior to the youth's disappearance, he had informed his father he had conversed with a detective at Hanover station. Haarmann is known to have given many of Wolf's clothes to his landlady in the days immediately following his 44th birthday (shortly after Wolf was reported missing).Moreover, the youth's distinctive belt buckle was found at Haarmann's Rote Reihe address. Haarmann only chose to deny this murder midway through his trial, following heated threats made against him by the father of the murdered youth.
Haarmann was acquitted of the murder of Adolf Hennies due to conflicting testimony regarding the circumstances as to whether he or Grans actually murdered the youth. Although Haarmann admitted at his trial to having dismembered Hennies's body, he claimed to have returned to his apartment and "found a dead body lying there," to which, he claimed, Grans simply replied, "One of yours." Grans would deny this claim, and would state that he had bought Hennies's distinctive coat from Haarmann for eight Marks, after having been warned the coat was stolen. Due to this conflicting testimony, and the lack of an actual witness to the murder, neither Haarmann nor Grans were convicted of Hennies's murder.
In the case of Hermann Bock, several friends of his testified at Haarmann's trial that, prior to Haarmann's arrest, they were actively dissuaded from filing a missing person report upon the youth with police; these witnesses testified that Haarmann was insistent on filing the report himself that he had never done so. Other witnesses testified to having acquired various personal possessions belonging to the youth from Haarmann. In addition, a tailor testified at Haarmann's trial to having been asked by Haarmann to alter the suit. Haarmann repeatedly contradicted himself regarding his claims as to how he acquired the youth's possessions. It is likely that Haarmann chose to deny this murder due to evidence suggesting the murder had been premeditated, as opposed to being committed in the throes of passion. He had known the youth for several years prior to his murder, and Bock was known to be heterosexual. Due to his denial of having committed this particular murder, Haarmann was acquitted.
The trial lasted barely two weeks, and a total of 190 witnesses testified. On 19 December 1924, court reconvened to impose sentence upon both defendants. Judged sane and accountable for his actions, Haarmann was found guilty of 24 of the 27 murders and sentenced to death by beheading. He was acquitted of three murders which he denied committing. Upon hearing the sentence, Haarmann stood before the court and proclaimed, "I accept the verdict fully and freely", before adding: "I shall go to the decapitating block joyfully and happily." Grans became hysterical upon hearing he had been found guilty of Incitement to murder and sentenced to death by beheading in relation to the murder of victim Adolf Hannappel, with an additional sentence of 12 years' imprisonment imposed for being an accessory to murder in the case of victim Fritz Wittig.Upon returning to his cell, hearing the verdict, Grans collapsed.
Haarmann addressed the court prior to sentencing in December 1924 saying,"Condemn me to death. I ask only for justice. I am not mad. Make it short; make it soon. Deliver me from this life, which is a torment. I will not petition for mercy, nor will I appeal. I want to spend just one more merry night in my cell, with coffee, cheese and cigars, after which I will curse my father and go to my execution as if it were a wedding."
Haarmann made no appeal against the verdict; claiming his death would atone for his crimes and stating that, where he was at liberty, he would likely kill again. Grans did lodge an appeal against his sentence, although his appeal was rejected on 6 February 1925.
In the case of Hannappel, several witnesses testified to having seen Grans, in the company of Haarmann, pointing towards the youth. Haarmann claimed this was one of two murders committed upon the insistence of Grans and for this reason, Grans was sentenced to death. In the case of Wittig, police found a handwritten note from Haarmann, dated the day of Wittig's disappearance and signed by both him and Grans, in which Grans agreed to pay Haarmann 20 gold marks for the youth's suit. As the note indicated Grans' possible knowledge in the disappearance of Wittig, he was convicted of being an accomplice to Haarmann in this murder and sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment.Haarmann made no appeal against the verdict;claiming his death would atone for his crimes and stating that, were he at liberty, he would likely kill again. Grans did lodge an appeal against his sentence, although his appeal was rejected on 6 February 1925.
The true tally of Haarmann's victims will never be known. Following his arrest, Haarmann made several imprecise statements regarding both the actual number of his victims he killed, and when he began killing. Initially, Haarmann claimed to have killed "maybe 30, maybe 40" victims; later, he would claim the true number of victims he had killed was between 50 and 70.
Haarmann is believed to have killed a 14-year-old named Hermann Koch, a youth who disappeared just weeks prior to his first confirmed victim, Friedel Rothe. Haarmann is known to have kept company with Koch. He is also known to have written a letter to Koch's school providing an explanation for the youth's prolonged absence.As had been the case in the disappearance of Friedel Rothe, police had searched Haarmann's Cellerstraße apartment in search of the youth, although no trace of Koch was found and charges against Haarmann in relation to the disappearance were dropped. Koch's father had petitioned in 1921 for Haarmann to be tried for his son's murder however his requests were officially rejected.
Haarmann is also strongly suspected of the murder of Hans Keimes, a 17-year-old Hanover youth who was reported missing on 17 March 1922 and whose nude, bound body was found in a canal on 6 May. The cause of death was listed as strangulation, and the body bore no signs of mutilation. A distinctive handkerchief bearing Grans' name was found lodged in Keimes's throat.
Prior to the discovery of Keimes's body, Haarmann is known to have both visited the youth's parents offering to locate their son and to have immediately thereafter informed police that he believed Grans was responsible for Keimes's disappearance. However, Hans Grans is known to have been in custody at the time of the disappearance of Keimes.
Two weeks prior to the disappearance of Keimes, Haarmann had returned to his Neue Straße apartment, having served six months in a labour camp for several acts of theft he committed in August 1921. Upon his return, Haarmann discovered that Grans had stolen much of his personal property and fraudulently obtained and spent his military pension while he had been incarcerated. This resulted in a violent argument between the two men culminating in Haarmann evicting Grans. Shortly thereafter, Grans and a criminal acquaintance named Hugo Wittkowski returned and further ransacked the apartment. It is likely Haarmann committed the murder of Keimes in an attempt to frame Grans in reprisal for the theft of his property and pension.
Haarmann was not tried for the murder of either Koch or Keimes. Officially, both cases remain unsolved.
No members of the press were permitted to witness the execution, and the event was seen by only a handful of witnesses.According to published reports, although Haarmann was pale and nervous, he maintained a sense of bravado as he walked to the guillotine. The last words Haarmann spoke were: "I am guilty, gentlemen, but, hard though it may be, I want to die as a man." Immediately prior to placing his head upon the execution apparatus, Haarmann added: "I repent, but I do not fear death."
At 6 o'clock on the morning of 15 April 1925, Fritz Haarmann was beheaded by guillotine in the grounds of Hanover prison.His executioner was Carl Gröpler. In accordance with German tradition, Haarmann was not informed of his execution date until the prior evening. Upon receipt of the news, he observed prayer with his pastor, before being granted his final wishes of an expensive cigar to smoke and Brazilian coffee to drink in his cell.Following Haarmann's execution, sections of his brain were removed for forensic analysis. An examination of slices of Haarmann's brain revealed traces of meningitis,although no sections of Haarmann's brain were permanently preserved. Nonetheless, Haarmann's head was preserved in formaldehyde and remained in the possession of the Göttingen medical school from 1925 until 2014, when it was cremated.
The remains of Haarmann's victims which had been recovered 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.
The discovery of a letter from Haarmann declaring Hans Grans' innocence subsequently led to Grans receiving a second trial. This letter was dated 5 February 1925, and was addressed to the father of Grans. In this letter, Haarmann claimed that although he had been frustrated at having been seen as little more than a "meal ticket" by Grans, Grans "had absolutely no idea that I killed". Furthermore, Haarmann claimed many of his accusations against Grans prior to his trial were obtained under extreme duress, and that he falsely accused Grans of instigating the murders of Hannappel and Witzel as a means of revenge. Haarmann claimed that his pastor would be informed as to the contents and the authenticity of the letter.
Hans Grans was retried in January 1926. He was charged with aiding and abetting Haarmann in the murders of victims Adolf Hannappel and Fritz Wittig. Although Grans stated in one address to the judge at this second trial that he expected to be acquitted, on 19 January, he was again found guilty of aiding and abetting Haarmann in both cases, although in this instance, he was sentenced to two concurrent 12-year sentences. After serving this 12-year sentence, Grans was extralegally interned in Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Following the conclusion of the Second World War, he continued to live in Hanover until his death in 1975.
Haarmann and Hans Grans' grisly crimes had one other tragic effect.With the lurid stories of Haarmann's sexual violence and Grans' sickening cruelty, a wave of homophobia swept through the country. As the hearts of most Germans hardened towards the plight of gay men, the path was cleared for the later campaign of murder against homosexuals carried out by the Nazis.
It was not until the 1990s that the publication of the memoirs of one of the commissioners responsible revealed that inadmissible interrogation methods were used in the Haarmann case. Haarmann would have been chained in a cell with a human skull in every corner. The skulls would have been prepared with red paper and lit with a candle behind them. Human bones were placed in a sack in the room. The investigators persuaded Haarmann that the souls of the deceased would haunt him if he did not confess. Haarmann was also beaten during the interrogation.
Though the people of Hanover were eager to get past Haarmann's horrifying murders, his crimes inspired the German expressionist filmmaker Fritz Lang's classic 1931 thriller M. In M, both the police and criminals in a large German city hunt for a serial killer who preys on young children.
But one thing for sure,no one really knows how many poor and innocent souls, mostly male hustlers and drifters from Hanover's train station district, were bitten to death by Haarmann and his colleagues in the attic in Red Row 2 in a sex frenzy.