Responsible for at least 24 brutal murders, Fritz Haarmann, later dubbed the "Vampire of Hanover", stayed under the radar for six years whilst working as a police informant.
During the 1920s, Fritz Haarmann was known locally as a trader who dealt in second-hand clothes and had an endless supply of discounted meat, this made him a particularly popular figure at the time - this was until his customers learned that his merchandise was the harvested products of his murdered victims.
The local community of Hanover described Fritz as somewhat of an oddball, but friendly and certainly harmless. He was even liked by the local police force, working for them as an informant whilst he was continuing with a brutal spree of murder right under their noses.
Later, Fritz Haarmann became known as the "Vampire of Hanover", this was because he killed his victims by biting through their adam's apple and windpipe, in what he later described as a "love bite". Some referred to Haarmann as the "Butcher of Hanover," eventually he was convicted of 24 murders, but was believed to be responsible for many more.
The Troubled Childhood Of Fritz Haarmann
Fritz Haarmann was born in 1879, his mother doted on him, but his father was an angry and depressed man who was nicknamed "Sulky Olle". Haarmann was the youngest of six siblings, he loved to wear dresses and play with dolls and tried his best to avoid other children, especially boys.
His Father, Olle, hated how his youngest son behaved, in an attempt to toughen him up he sent the then 16-year-old to military school in Breisach, southern Germany. Fritz Haarmann enjoyed his time at the school, but after a few months, it was discovered that he had epilepsy.
Due to his condition, he was dismissed from military school, he then went to work in his father's cigar factory, he worked there for a year before committing his first crime: sexually molesting young boys. Fritz Haarmann was arrested and charged by the authorities and was sent to a mental asylum. After just six months in the asylum, he managed to escape and went across the border to Switzerland.
During his time in Switzerland, he got engaged you a young woman called Erna Loewert. The engagement was cut short when she fell pregnant and Haarmann returned to Germany in 1900 to complete his compulsory military service.
Due to his epilepsy and a suspected mental illness, Fritz Haarmann was admitted to hospital in 1901 for four months and was dismissed from the military in 1902. Following his discharge, his father Olle tried repeatedly to have him admitted back to the asylum permanently, but somehow he managed to evade this every time.
Following his departure from the military, Haarmann survived on his pension, which was increased when he was finally classed as disabled in 1904. For the next ten years, he topped up his income by committing burglaries, cons, and petty crimes.
Towards the end of World War I, Fritz Haarmann's petty crimes escalated dramatically to murder.
First Murder Committed By Fritz Haarmann
By 1913, the police were tired of his continuous crimes and threw the book at him, after being convicted of burgling a warehouse in Hanover, Haarmann was sentenced to five years in prison.
Whilst serving his prison term, Haarmann met 24-year-old Hans Grans, with whom he quickly fell in love, upon their release, they moved in together.
In 1918 Fritz Haarmann was paroled whilst the German Empire was crashing, upon his release, he took up two jobs, one was working with a gang of smugglers, whilst at the same time working as an informant for the Hanover police, a position that played a huge role in his next project.
In September 1918, a 17-year-old boy by the name of Friedel Rohe ran away from home and vanished into the back streets of Hanover. When Rohe's father went out looking for him, he discovered that Friedel had been spending time with Fritz Haarman, who was known for taking young boys over to his apartment for "a bit of fun".
Friedel Rohe's father told the police what he had found out, however, the authorities were reluctant to interfere with their valuable informant, he was persistent with his requests, and eventually, the police went to visit Haarmann at his apartment.
When the police arrived at the home of Fritz Haarmann they found him in bed with a 13-year-old boy. Due to the laws of the time all they could do was arrest him for indecency with a minor, which they did, however, there was no sign of Friedel.
In a later interview, Fritz Haarmann pointed out that the police couldn't have looked very thoroughly, as the head of Friedel Rohe was hidden behind his stove the entire time they were there.
Fritz Haarmann's Brutal Killing Spree
Fritz Haarmann had already made somewhat of a name for himself as a black-market butcher, becoming popular amongst the local people for his friendliness and extremely cheap meat. In 1919, Germany was at the point of economic collapse and many families were struggling to keep food on the table.
During the early 1920s, Haarmann would spend most of his time loitering around the train station in Hanover, looking for young boys he could lure back home with the promise of food and comfort. At this time thousands of children were running away from home due to postwar hardships and struggles which offered him plenty of victims to choose from.
Once he had his chosen victims home, he would feed them, then kill them by biting through their throat in what he disturbingly called his "love bite," once they were dead he would sexually molest their bodies.
Haarmann would then proceed to dismember them before chopping them into cutlets or grinding their flesh into sausage meat to sell. The final remains of the victims were thrown into the nearby River Leine.
The police turned a blind eye to what Fritz Haarmann was up to whilst he was working as an informant, it is now believed that he murdered over 50 boys during this period, many of which were picked out by Grans out of jealousy of some item of clothing of theirs.
He became successful selling the clothes of his victims as well as their flesh, this continued even though more and more parents of missing children started arriving in Hanover to search for their loved ones.
Arrest And Trial Of Fritz Haarmann
It was in May of 1924 when children discovered a skull on the banks of the River Leine, after a search more skulls and more human remains were uncovered, this led to the River Leine being dragged, uncovering the bodies of at least 22 teenage boys or young men.
These recent findings sent the city of Hanover into panic and quickly suspicion grew around Fritz Haarmann due to his reputation for taking young runaway boys to his apartment.
As Haarmann was deemed as the local authorities' favourite informant, the Hanover police were not allowed to investigate him. Two detectives arrived from Berlin who were tasked with taking over the investigation.
It didn't take long before the Berlin detectives caught Fritz Haarman attacking a teenager in a dark corner of the train station. He was taken to jail while the officers went and searched his apartment, much more thoroughly this time.
What they found in his apartment was described as "something out of a nightmare". More than 100 pieces of clothing from the victims were strewn across the place, and the floor and walls were covered with bloodstains.
Whilst Fritz Haarman was being held in custody he quickly confessed to his crimes. When police questioned him on how many he had killed, he casually replied "Thirty or forty, I don't know." He later went on to say that he likely killed between fifty and seventy boys.
Police could only identify 27 of his victims and were unable to find the dozens of others. Fritz Haarman was charged with multiple counts of murder and the date for trial was quickly set.
During the trial, Haarman smoked cigars and insulted everyone that was present. When he was shown a photo of one missing boy, he shouted to the boy's grieving father exclaiming that he could never have had anything to do with the child as he was far too ugly.
Fritz Haarman was found guilty of 24 out of the 27 murders that he was charged with and was sentenced to be executed by guillotine.
His lover, Hans Grans was initially sentenced to life in prison, however, his sentence would later be commuted to just 12 years.
At 6 a.m. on 15 April 1925, at Hanover prison, Fritz Haarmann was beheaded for his crimes, his executioner was Carl Gröpler, on the evening before his execution he was granted his final wishes of an expensive cigar to smoke in his cell and a Brazilian coffee.
No members of the press were allowed access to witness the execution. Published reports stated that Haarman was pale and nervous but maintained a sense of bravado as he walked to the guillotine. His last words were: "I am guilty, gentlemen, but, hard though it may be, I want to die as a man, I repent, but I do not fear death."
Following on from his execution, Fritz Haarmann's head was preserved in formaldehyde and given to the medical school in Göttingen. In 1925, the remains of his victims that were found in the River Leine were buried in a mass grave in Stöckener Cemetery.
Now you have learned about the horrific crimes of Fritz Haarmann, make sure you read about Harvey Glatman "The Glamour Girl Slayer".