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Fritz Haarmann- The Butcher Of Hannover
Fritz Haarmann was born in Hanover Germany in October 1879. He was the sixth child of a couple where the mother was an invalid and the father was socially inept. His parents sent him to military school in 1895 but he was discharged after the first year as he begun to suffer from epileptic seizures.
In Hanover he returned to the family home but was sent to the asylum in 1898 by local magistrates as he had been caught molesting small children and this was thought at the time to be a mental illness and doctors had concluded that he was unfit to stand trial. After six months Haarmann escaped the institution and ran away to Switzerland where he lived and worked for two years before returning to Germany.
In 1900 Haarmann was accepted into the German army under a false name and remained there until discharged in 1903 . Haarmann's father tried to get his son declared insane, but when that failed he set his son up in a fish and chip shop. He had a history of stealing the takings of the shop, which were due to his father but in 1914 he was caught committing a burglary and therefore spent the majority of the first world war in prison. He was released in 1918 and took up two new roles, that of police informant but also that of a smuggler.
Post war Germany was in chaos, the fall of the Kaiser had created a society where many changes were happening and there was a large amount of confusion and uncertainty. Haarman used this as a backdrop to continue his activities with the children. He received a short jail sentence for molesting a child.
Upon his release Haarman met a young gay man Hans Grans and they toured the city picking up young boys and sodomizing them and then killing them. They dismembered some bodies and unbelievably sold their body parts to butchers- such was the food shortage that this was eaten without question. If not sold,some body parts were thrown into the river. Grans looked at each victims clothing, keeping that which fitted or was fashionable, before selling the rest. In May 1924 the first skull was found in the River Leine. In July of the same year a sack was found containing more bones and another skull. The police had the river dragged and found bones amounting to at least 27 young men and boys.
As a known molestor Haarmann was a suspect, despite the fact that he was working for the police as an efficient informer. He was placed under surveillance and was observed prowling on 22nd June 1924 at Hanover railway station. After trying to lure a boy to his apartment he was arrested on a charge of indecency with a boy. When the police visited his home a search found bloodstains and clothes belonging to the missing boys.
Initially the questioning of Haarmann did not proceed well. He denied knowing anything of the deaths and just stated that he sold clothes wherever possible. The German economy was so fractured at this point that many people were trying any means just to keep fed and housed. 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. The police then subjected him to more questioning and offerred to help him unburden his conscience. The evidence plus the change in police tactics led to Haarmann making a full confession.He took the city magistrates on a tour of the city showing them where the murders had taken place and the location of more bones and body parts. 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 declined counsel at his trial and represented himself. Participants in the court noted thata he was immature and irresponsible in his actions. The medical experts stated that although Haarmann had a "pathological personality" he was not insane.
Haarman was tried at the Hanover Assizes in December 1924 where he confessed to killing perhaps 30 or 40 boys. He was found guilty of killing 24 young people and was sentenced to death. He was executed by guillotine on 15th April 1925.
Hans Grans was arrested and jailed for twelve years. He died in 1980.
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"
There is more.. but I cant' bear to write it. Certainly this man was a butcher, perhaps one of the sickest and most depraved men who has ever lived,
A well-liked, respected, caring pillar of the community – or an outsider, socially inept and with a frightening appearance? Wearing many different masks, serial killers are among the most disturbing and dangerous violent criminals in existence.
Ray Black is an investigative journalist based in Brighton. He has spent the past 25 years specialising in police cases, crimes and criminals and has written many highly regarded newspaper and magazine articles about his investigations.