Friedrich Heinrich Karl “Fritz” Haarmann (October 25, 1879 – April 15, 1925), also known as the Butcher of Hanover and the Vampire of Hanover was a German serial killer who is believed to have been responsible for the murder of 27 boys and young men between 1918 and 1924. He was convicted, found guilty of 24 murders and executed.
Fritz Haarmann was born in Hanover in 1879, the sixth child of poor parents. Haarmann 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 student. 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 trainee 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, 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 went bankrupt.
 Criminal career
For the next decade, Haarmann lived as a petty thief, burglar and con artist. 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 World War I 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 World War I. 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.
Detectives search a stove inside Haarmann’s apartment
Between 1918 and 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 Rothe disappeared in September 1918, his friends told police he was last seen with Haarmann. Under pressure from Rothe’s family, police raided Haarmann’s apartment, where they found their informer in the company of a semi-naked teenage boy. They charged Haarmann with sexual assault, and he was sentenced to nine months imprisonment. Haarmann avoided serving his sentence throughout 1919, and during this time, met a young runaway named Hans Grans, who was subsequently to become his lover.
Haarmann served his 9-month imprisonment between March and December 1920. Again, he regained the trust of the police and became an informer. Shortly after his release, Haarmann moved into a new apartment: number 27 Cellerstraße. Shortly afterwards, Hans Grans moved into Haarmann’s apartment.
Detectives point towards the entrance to Haarmann’s apartment
Haarmann’s subsequent victims largely consisted of young male commuters, runaways and, occasionally, male prostitutes who hung around Hanover’s central station, whom Haarmann would lure back to his apartment and then kill by biting through their throats, sometimes while sodomizing them. All of Haarmann’s victims were dismembered before they were discarded, usually in the Leine River. The possessions of several victims were either sold on the black market or retained by either Haarmann or his younger lover, Hans Grans. Rumor also had it that Haarmann would peddle meat from the bodies of his victims as canned black market pork. Although no physical evidence was ever produced to confirm this, Haarmann was known to be an active trader in contraband meat.
Haarmann’s 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.
Police photo of Haarmann’s bedroom
Haarmann was eventually apprehended when numerous skeletal remains, which he had dumped into the Leine River, 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 of June 22, was observed prowling Hanover’s central station. He was quickly arrested after trying to lure a boy to his apartment. His apartment was searched and the walls 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.
Fritz Haarmann being led into court in December 1924
Fritz Haarmann’s trial began on December 4, 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 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 at a loss for words to describe the case; Haarmann was simultaneously referred to as the “werewolf”, a “vampire”, and “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.
Haarmann (seated in front of chalkboard sketch of his apartment), during his trial in 1924
The trial lasted barely two weeks. On December 19, 1924, 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. Haarmann made no appeal against the verdict.
Haarmann was beheaded by guillotine on April 15, 1925. His last words before he was beheaded were: “I repent, but I do not fear death.”
The communal grave of Haarmann’s victims
Hans Grans was initially found guilty of enticement to murder in the case of Adolf Hannappel, a 17-year-old apprentice carpenter who vanished from Hanover’s railroad 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’ innocence later led to a second trial and a 12-year prison sentence for Grans. After serving his sentence, Hans Grans continued to live in Hanover until his death in 1975.
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.
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.
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.
Mel Gibstein comments:
Levi Aron, a Brooklyn Hasid and a butcher was caught with a young Jewish boys feet in his refrigerator. Is there a connection to all of these brutal murders throughout time? Have we really checked the common denominators in them?
Levi Aron does not have a wiki page on him yet (and of course wiki does not always tell the truth (the whole truth) ever. This is taken from another page.
The case has drawn comparisons to the 1979 kidnapping and murder of Etan Patz, a six-year-old SoHo resident who was snatched while walking to his school bus for the first time.
The truth is there are far more comparisons that need to be made to all of these mass murderers throughout time from Jack the Ripper to Jeffrey Dahmer, Richard The Iceman Kuklinski, the Italian and Russian Mafia, etc. etc. and so on. They are not human folks and they are walking our streets ready to make these killers look like choir boys. Are there similarities that go far deeper into the hearts of these creatures? You can stake your life on it.