Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Fritz Haarmann: The Butcher of Hannover


This idea of vengeance and atonement is, in Haarmann's case, rooted in sadism and is a mask for the sexual feeling. His actions towards his supposed friend, Hans Grans, were an act of revenge using the last remnants of power that the accused could exercise.

Indeed, the relationship between Grans and his mentor is certainly one of the most fascinating aspects of the case. Grans understood the older man's "wild, sick urges" and realized that he could thereby ensure his own power and control over Haarmann. Yet there was also a distinct gratitude and sympathy between the two, "I had to have someone I meant everything to. Hans often laughed at me. Then I got mad and threw him out. But I always ran after and fetched him back. I couldn't help it; I was crazy about the boy."

Haarmann did love Grans and Grans took advantage of it. He was the cleverer of the two and thus continually toyed and jested with his companion. As irony would have it, he was to receive the harshest possible payback for his efforts at manipulating Haarmann. Those who toy with the devil, are sure to be burned!

As a further scope for evaluation, the question of Haarmann's sanity is one that has never fully been resolved. Expert evaluation is entirely contrasting, although it is agreed that he was not ruled by the urge to torment others, but by the urge to kill at the height of his sexual desire.

Psychoanalysts declare that the criminal differs from the man who adjusts himself to society in that he fails to sublimate the aggressive primitive urges. The wounds inflicted upon him by injustice motivate these actions. There can be no doubt that Haarmann suffered harshly in his early life and in this way he obtained the subject matter for an easy later rationalization.

Haarmann's psychological examiners at the time believed that he saw his execution as one final, intense orgasm and the excitement of this possibility exceeded anything he had experienced in his day-to-day life. He rejected the inhibitions that society attempts to place upon us and manipulated love and crime into a sexual game and "comfortable semi-luxury." Haarmann murdered for profit, both sexual and financial — and yet, whilst often racked with remorse, he never at any time in his life felt the burden of fear upon him. Fritz Haarmann lived his entire life with a desire for his own destruction.

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