Many serial killers of the 20th century are characterized solely by the enjoyment derived from inflicting physical and mental anguish. Usually deemed sociopaths, this gratification is the only drive for slaughtering victims. Few killers have used these sadistic tendancies to earn a living. Fritz Haarmann presents a twisted tale where murdering not only provided food for himself, but also the impoverished German town of Hanover.
Fritz Haarmann was born in 25 October, 1879 to Herr Haarmann, a railway worker with the nickname Sulky Olle, and Johanna Claudius. The youngest of 6 children Fritz was a spoiled child. Fritz' mother suffered dehibilitation at Fritz' birth and never recovered, spending the last 12 years of her life as an invalid. Throughout his entire life Fritz showed a great dedication to his mother. In the end she was the only person he spoke warmly of. Contrastingly, he loathed his father. They constantly argued and threatened one another. Fritz to turn Herr in for supposedly murdering a train conductor and Herr to commit Fritz to the mental institution. Interestingly enough, Fritz' older brother served time in prison at a young age for molesting children.
During his younger years two dominant characteristics became evident in Fritz' personality. The first involves his effeminate behavior. Fritz mother always encouraged him to play with dolls. Apparently this trait staid with him, developing into borderline transexuality. As an adolescent he frequently dressed up in his sister's clothing as a favorite pass time. The second characteristic worth noting was Fritz' extreme enjoyment in causing horror and fear. Under the cover of night young Fritz tapped windows of neighbors to incite fears of vampires and werewolves. On several occasions Fritz bound his sisters in restraints.
After a failed locksmith apprenticeship Fritz returned home to work for his father. He began to draw negative attention with his mounting accusations of molestation. Eventually after his 18th birthday he was put in the town asylum. The town judge deemed him incurable. Less then water tight security allowed Fritz' escape and flight to Switzerland. Unfortunately for his small town he was to return two short years later...
Buckets of Blood
The Harrmann crime spree began in September of 1918. Germany was in a time of horrible suffering. Trainloads of undesirables and beggars arrived daily. Harrmann just being released from jail liked the world he saw.
On September 25th Fridel Roth, a 17 year old runaway, disappeared. Police questioning led them to Fritz' home were they surprised him in bed with a young boy. He was sentenced to nine months in prison for seducing a minor. Little did police know this was just the beginning.
Once Harrmann regained his freedom he soon began to share an apartment with his 22 year old lover Hans Grans. Though it is believed that his I.Q. was low Fritz proved to be charming and moved easily amongst those of the crime world. This access allowed him to easily become a police informant. In fact, Harrmann was so useful to Hanover police that he received a badge. This very badge lured young runaways from train stations with the promise of a good meal.
Chillingly sadistic Fritz' modus operandi varied little. After enticing young boys from the train stations he showed them to his apartment where he seduced and/or attacked them. After sexually gratifying himself he tore out the victim's jugular with his teeth often engaging in necrophiliac activities.
The Business Man
Hans and Fritz operated a small stall at the local market selling second hand clothes and meat. Fritz sold his meat for cheaper prices then any other vendor calling it horse meat. However, soon after his arrest police discovered the blood encrusted attic of the Fritz' apartment. In that room Hans chopped the desecrated bodies of his victims into smaller pieces. Later neighbors claimed they heard chopping noises at all hours but assumed it to be normal butchery. Often Fritz was seen carrying buckets of blood downstairs, even giving bones to neighbors to use in soups. The bones were too white and began to raise murmurs amongst the neighbors at which point Fritz promptly stopped handing them out.
Dealing with the bones was always the difficult part. Typically he tossed them into the river that passed close by, an action that began his demise.
The Noose Tightens
By 1923 Fritz was under heavy police protection. They relied on him for information so although questions surrounding disappearing youths led them to his door time and time again they asked few questions. After his arrest Fritz remarked that during his first arrest he hid the head of young Friedal Roth behind the stove wrapped in some newspaper. However the media of Hanover felt no need to protect police corruption and publicized the disappearances highly. One newspaper claimed at least 600 missing boys a year. This pressure combined with a human skull that washed ashore beside River Leine in May1924 pushed police into action. They dammed the river and dredgers were brought in to search the muck. They unearthed more then 500 human bones.
Suspicion of Haarmann drenched the town. Police began to watch him. Then, near the end of June 1924 Haarmann tried to assault a boy at a railway station, When the boy contacted police Haarmann was immdiatly arrested. Nothing could prepare police teams for what they found when they searched Haarmann and Hans' apartment. They found the bloodstained room and heaps of the victims' clothing. Haarmann denied it all claiming he was merely a butcher and clothes trader, until the mother of one of the victims recalled seeing a neighbor wearing her son's coat. This broke the dam and Fritz Haarmann confessed it all.
Fritz instantly implicated his lover Hans Grans and on 4 December, 1924 they both stood trial, Fritz age 45 and Hans age 25. Throughout the trial Hans remained silent but Fritz showed nothing but contempt for the court often interrupting proceedings with vulgar comments. Court watchers were horrified when asked how he killed his victims Fritz replied apathetically: "I bit them through their throats."
Off With His Head
Much to the surprise of the public Haarmann did not try to plead insanity. Instead he requested to be beheaded in the very market where he delt his wicked trade. Two psychiatrists found Haarmann to be of sound mind and he and Hans were found guilty of murdering 24 boys. Haarmann received his wish and was beheaded. Hans was sentenced to life imprisonment but only served 12 years.