Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Fritz Haarmann: The Butcher of Hannover

Inside the Mind of Haarmann

Having analyzed the life of one of Germany's most depraved sons, it is now perhaps appropriate to ask ourselves what we have learned about the inner dimensions of a sex-killer's mind. Even though it has long since been accepted that there is no single reason for serial crime, the same contributing factors rear their evil head in the case of nearly all killers of this type. Fritz Haarmann is no exception and exhibits the same ugly traits as so many before and since.

Little was known of the workings of a psychopath at the time of Haarmann's murders, but the awareness and understanding of such crimes has now come a long way. Yet sex-killers cannot be detected by their appearance, domestic situations or day-to-day behavior. The sexual impulse is primarily a mental process and germinates within a secret, interior universe. Whilst the profilers are learning, as yet it is only through bloody hindsight.

Generally, serial sex murderers are classified in three broad types: the biological killer, whose crimes are triggered by a physical defect or injury of some sort; the psychologically predisposed killer (usually stemming from an all-female or particularly traumatic childhood); and the sociological or 'made' killers. The traits of young Haarmann noted in the previous chapter bring us to the frightening conclusion that Fritz is a strong candidate for all three of the above categories.

The biological influence is evident if we consider Haarmann's repeated head injuries and epileptic fits in his early adulthood. Indeed, a surprisingly large number of killers have a history of head injuries in their youth. Whether the troublesome youngster was truly turning the corner at the training school we shall never know, yet it does remain a tragedy that an ordinary accident seemed to put an end to an honorable attempt at obedience.

As to the second category, the child was pampered and mollycoddled from a young age and his features of feminism and sadistic pleasure are consistently repeated factors in the analysis of serial killers' childhoods. Haarmann was inherently incapable of holding on to abstract ideas; any impressions he received had to become reality immediately. When talking about sexual matters he would reach automatically for his genital area, even when being questioned in the courtroom. His upbringing developed a "raw creature, without logic and morals; yet also without logical and moral hypocrisy."

The so-called "made" killers are those who feel that life has cheated them and owes them more. In his early years Haarmann welcomed prison as confinement imposes structure on life and provides a meaning and order to existence. A crucial sociological feature of the case and one that is typical of the 20th Century penal system is that whenever Haarmann was released from jail both his craftiness and his crimes increased. Until the bitter end Haarmann pursued his 'rage against the machine'. It was later admitted that he was beaten whilst under police interrogation and his payback to Hans Grans was a perfectly executed attempt at embarrassing the authorities he so loathed. The court eventually had to change Grans's sentence to 12 years' imprisonment, yet only in Hannover would Grans have received any initial punishment.

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