Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Fritz Haarmann: The Butcher of Hannover

Deadly Combination

Haarmann had begun his crime rampage in September 1918, a time in which Germany was suffering economic depravation and severe food shortages. A young runaway by the name of Friedel Roth disappeared from home on the 25th, writing to his mother only to say that he would not return home until "she was nice again." Various friends of the boy were forthcoming with information and eventually led the police to no.27 Cellerstrasse, the home of a man they claimed had seduced Friedel. A detective surprised one Fritz Haarmann in bed with a young boy and he was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment for seducing the juvenile. Unbelievably, the rooms were not searched and, upon interrogation five years later, Haarmann confessed that the "murdered boy's head was stuffed behind the stove wrapped in newspaper."

The murderer's story was to take a dramatic turn in late 1919 when he met young Hans Grans at the Hannover railway station. A petty thief, Hans had run away from home and now earned his living selling old clothes at the station. The young boy approached the openly homosexual Haarmann with the purpose of prostituting himself for money. Remarkably, a friendship soon developed and Grans began living with the old man, where a bond of "madness and spiritual parasitism developed." The relationship was more than sexual and the insane ideas that surfaced in Haarmann's conscience always involved his young housemate.

Having carefully avoided his jail sentence throughout 1919, Haarmann served his penance from March until December 1920. Grans thieved his way around Germany during this time and, upon reunion at Christmas 1920, there followed a period of uninterrupted bliss until August 1921. The two thieves appeared as well-dressed, decent gentlemen and earned respect amongst the local people. Needless to say, however, the two men had more illicit intentions and plied their trade by begging or stealing laundry and selling it to the public.

In early 1922 the two men moved to no.8 Neuestrasse in the heart of the so-called 'haunted area". Haarmann was earning a good income; the thieving was accompanied by social security payments (he had been declared an invalid and therefore unable to work) and also his newfound role as a police informer. Haarmann double-crossed everybody and became a "custodian of the law and an information office for all criminal matters." Amazingly, the clothes that Haarmann passed around Hannover earned him the reputation as a benefactor of the homeless. His obvious homosexuality further hushed up any theories people may have had as to the origin of the garments. This was just as well as, in February 1923, Haarmann returned to his murderous past.

The killer detained two youths at Hannover station on the pretence that he was an officer inspecting the waiting rooms. The less attractive lad was sent away and Fritz Franke accompanied the phony officer home. Haarmann later claimed that Grans had turned up unexpectedly whilst the corpse of Franke was still in the room. Shocked, he simply stared at Haarmann and said, "When shall I come back again?"

We're Following
Slender Man stabbing, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Gilberto Valle 'Cannibal Cop'