Fritz Haarmann (October 25th, 1879 - April 15th, 1925) had begun his crime rampage in September 1918, a time in which Germany was suffering economic deprivation 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 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.”
Between 1918 and 1924, Haarmann is known to have committed at least 24 murders, although he is suspected of murdering a minimum of 27. All of Haarmann's victims were males between the ages of 10 and 22, the majority of whom were in their mid- to late-teens. The victims would be lured back to one of three addresses in which Haarmann is known to have resided throughout those years. He is known to have killed upon the promise of assistance, accommodation, work, or under the pretense of arrest. At Haarmann's apartment, the victim would typically be given food and drink before Haarmann bit into his Adam's apple, often as he was strangled.In many instances, this act would cause the victim to die of asphyxiation, although on several occasions, Haarmann would bite completely through his victims' Adams apple and trachea. (Haarmann would refer to the act of biting through his victims' neck as being his "love bite".)
The Leine River, into which Haarmann disposed of many of his victims' dismembered remains
All of Haarmann's victims were dismembered before their bodies were discarded, usually in the Leine River, although the dismembered body of his first known victim had simply been buried, and the body of his last victim had been thrown into a lake located at the entrance to the Herrenhausen Gardens.
The personal possessions of Haarmann's victims would typically be retained for the personal use of Haarmann or his lover, Hans Grans, or be sold on the black market through criminal contacts both men had established at Hanover Central Station, although the personal possessions of some victims were sold to legitimate retailers. In several instances, both Haarmann and Grans are known to have given possessions belonging to various victims to acquaintances as gifts.
Following Haarmann's arrest, rumors would circulate that the flesh of his victims had been consumed by Haarmann himself or sold upon the black market as pork or horse meat. Although no physical evidence was ever produced to confirm these theories, Haarmann was known to be an active trader in contraband meat, which was invariably boneless, diced and often sold as mince. To the various individuals who questioned where he had acquired the meat, Haarmann would explain he had purchased the product from a butcher named "Karl," although investigators would later note that the stories Haarmann told his acquaintances regarding the origins of this individual varied.
First known victim
Haarmann's first known victim was a 17-year-old runaway named Friedel Rothe. When Rothe disappeared on 27 September 1918, his friends told police he was last seen with Haarmann, who at the time of this first known murder resided in a single room apartment at 27 Cellerstraße. Under pressure from Rothe's family, police raided Haarmann's apartment in October 1918, where they found their informer in the company of a semi-naked 13-year-old boy. He was charged with both the sexual assault and battery of a minor, and sentenced to nine months' imprisonment. (Haarmann would later state to detectives that at the time they searched his apartment, the head of Friedel Rothe, wrapped in newspaper, was stowed behind his stove.)
Haarmann avoided serving his sentence throughout 1919. That October, he met an 18-year-old youth named Hans Grans, who had run away from his home in Berlin following an argument with his father on 1 October. Grans had slept rough in and around Hanover station for approximately two weeks—selling old clothes in and around the station to earn enough money to simply eat—before he encountered Haarmann.
Acquaintance with Hans Grans
In his subsequent confessions to police, Grans stated that, although his sexual orientation was heterosexual, he himself initiated contact with Haarmann, with the intention of selling his body, having heard of Haarmann's homosexuality through acquaintances he had established in Hanover. Haarmann himself stated following his arrest that he viewed Grans as being "like a son" to him, adding that he "pulled him [Grans] out of the ditch and tried to make sure he didn't go to the dogs."
Shortly after their initial acquaintance, Haarmann invited the youth to move into his apartment, and Grans would subsequently become Haarmann's lover and criminal accomplice. According to Haarmann, although he was smitten with Grans, he gradually became aware the youth manipulated and, occasionally, mocked him. On several occasions throughout the years Grans resided with Haarmann, the youth would be temporarily evicted following heated arguments in which he ridiculed or rebuffed Haarmann's threats or accusations against him, only for Haarmann to shortly thereafter plead with the youth to return to live with him. Despite the manipulation Haarmann endured at the hands of his accomplice, he later claimed to tolerate the capitulation as he craved Grans' companionship and affection, adding: "I had to have someone I meant everything to."
Haarmann served the nine-month prison sentence imposed in 1918 for sexual assault and battery between March and December 1920. Upon his release, he again regained the trust of the police and again became an informer. Haarmann initially resided in a hotel, before he and Grans lodged with a middle-class family.
Through criminal contacts, Haarmann became aware of a vacant ground floor apartment located at 8 Neue Straße. The apartment was located in a densely populated, old house located alongside the Leine River. Haarmann secured a letting agreement with the landlady, ostensibly to use the property for storage purposes. He and Grans moved into 8 Neue Straße on 1 July 1921.
Haarmann's subsequent victims largely consisted of young male commuters, runaways and, occasionally, male prostitutes, whom he would typically encounter in or around Hanover's central railway station. The second murder Haarmann is known to have committed occurred on 12 February 1923. The victim was a 17-year-old pianist named Fritz Franke, whom Haarmann encountered at Hanover Central Station and invited to his Neue Straße residence, where he introduced the youth to Hans Grans and two female acquaintances (one of whom was Grans' female lover). According to Grans' lover, that evening, Grans whispered in her ear: "Hey! He's going to be trampled on today." The following day, both these acquaintances returned to Haarmann's apartment, where they were informed by Haarmann that Franke had travelled to Hamburg.
Speculation remains as to Grans' knowledge of Haarmann's intentions towards Franke when he made this comment to the two female acquaintances. According to Haarmann, following this murder, Grans arrived unannounced at his apartment, where he observed Franke's nude body lying upon Haarmann's bed. Grans had then simply looked at him and asked, "When shall I come back again?"
Five weeks after the murder of Franke, on 20 March, Haarmann encountered a 17-year-old named Wilhelm Schulze at Hanover station. Schulze had been travelling to work when he encountered Haarmann. No human remains identified as belonging to Schulze were ever found, although most of his clothing was in the possession of Haarmann's landlady, Elisabeth Engel, at the time of his arrest. Two more victims are known to have been murdered at 8 Neue Straße before Haarmann vacated the apartment in June: 16-year-old Roland Huch, who disappeared on 23 May after informing a close friend he intended to run away from home and join the Marines; and 19-year-old Hans Sonnenfeld, who disappeared on or about 31 May and whose distinctive yellow overcoat Haarmann is known to have worn after the youth's murder.
Police photo of Haarmann's attic room at 2 Rote Reihe, Hanover
On 9 June 1923, Haarmann moved into a single-room attic apartment at 2 Rote Reihe. Two weeks after moving into this address, on 25 June, a 13-year-old boy named Ernst Ehrenberg—the son of Haarmann's neighbor—disappeared while running an errand for his father. His school cap and braces would be found in Haarmann's apartment following his arrest. Two months later, on 24 August, an 18-year-old office clerk named Heinrich Struß was reported missing by his aunt (with whom he lived). Many of Struß's belongings would also be found in Haarmann's apartment. Struß's murder would be followed one month later by the murder of a 17-year-old named Paul Bronischewski, who disappeared en route to the city of Bochum, having worked with his uncle in Saxony-Anhalt throughout the summer. Subsequent police enquiries suggested Bronischewski had likely alighted the train at Hanover, whereupon he encountered Fritz Haarmann. Bronischewski's jacket, knapsack, trousers and towel would all be found in the possession of Haarmann following his arrest.
Haarmann is next known to have killed on or about 30 September 1923. The victim was 17-year-old Richard Gräf, who last informed his family he had met an individual at Hanover station who "knows of a good job for me." Two weeks later, on 12 October, a 16-year-old Gehrden youth named Wilhelm Erdner failed to return home from work. Subsequent enquiries by Erdner's parents revealed the youth became acquainted with a Detective Fritz Honnerbrock (a pseudonym used by Haarmann) shortly before his disappearance. Both Haarmann and Grans subsequently sold Erdner's bicycle on 20 October. Within a week of having sold this bicycle, Haarmann killed two further victims: 15-year-old Hermann Wolf, who disappeared from Hanover station on 24 October, and 13-year-old Heinz Brinkmann, who was seen by a witness standing in the entrance to Hanover station at 11 p.m. on 27 October, having missed his train home to the town of Clausthal.[n 4]
On 10 November 1923, a 17-year-old apprentice carpenter from the city of Düsseldorf named Adolf Hannappel disappeared from Hanover station. He was seen by several witnesses sitting upon a trunk in the waiting room. These witnesses also positively identified Hans Grans—in the company of Haarmann—pointing towards the youth, who shortly thereafter was observed walking towards a cafe in the company of these two men. One month later, on 6 December, 19-year-old Adolf Hennies disappeared. He had been seeking employment at the time of his disappearance. None of the human remains recovered were identified as belonging to Hennies, whom Haarmann specifically admitted to dismembering, but denied killing. In subsequent court testimony vehemently disputed by Grans, Haarmann claimed he returned home to find Hennies's body—missing his signature "love bite"—lying naked on his bed, with Grans and another criminal acquaintance named Hugo Wittkowski stating the youth was, "One of yours." (Neither Haarmann nor Grans were convicted of Hennies's murder due to conflicting testimony.)
The first victim killed by Haarmann in 1924 was 17-year-old Ernst Spiecker, who disappeared on 5 January. Although subsequent trial testimony from a friend of Spiecker would indicate Haarmann became acquainted with this youth before his murder, Haarmann stated he would simply have to "assume" this youth was one of his victims due to all his personal possessions being found in his or Grans' possession following his arrest. Ten days later, Haarmann killed a 20-year-old named Heinrich Koch, whom he is also believed to have been acquainted with prior to the youth's murder. The following month, Haarmann is known to have killed two further victims: 19-year-old Willi Senger, who disappeared from the suburb of Linden-Limmer on 2 February, having informed his sister he was to travel with a friend; and 16-year-old Hermann Speichert, who was last seen by his sister on 8 February.
Haarmann is not known to have killed again until on or about 1 April, when he is believed to have killed an acquaintance named Hermann Bock. Although cleared of this murder at his trial, Haarmann was in possession of Bock's clothing when arrested, and he is known to have given the youth's suitcase to his landlady; moreover, Haarmann is known to have actively dissuaded several of Bock's acquaintances from reporting the youth missing. One week later, on 8 April, 16-year-old Alfred Hogrefe disappeared from Hanover station, having run away from home in the town of Lehrte on 2 April. Hogrefe's murder would be followed 9 days later by that of a 16-year-old apprentice named Wilhelm Apel, whom Haarmann encountered on his "patrols" of the Hanover-Leinhausen station.
On 26 April, 18-year-old Robert Witzel disappeared after borrowing 50 Pfennigs from his mother, explaining he intended to visit a travelling circus. Enquiries by the youth's parents revealed their son had accompanied an "official from the railway station" to the circus. Haarmann himself would later state he killed Witzel the same evening and, having dismembered the youth's body, had thrown the remains into the Leine River.
Two weeks after the murder of Witzel, Haarmann killed a 14-year-old named Heinz Martin, who was last seen by his mother on 9 May and who is believed to have been abducted from Hanover station. All his clothing was later found in Haarmann's apartment. Less than three weeks later, on 26 May, a 17-year-old travelling salesman from the town of Kassel named Fritz Wittig, whom Haarmann would later state he killed upon the insistence of Grans as he had worn a "good new suit" Grans coveted, was dismembered and discarded in the Leine River. The same day Wittig is believed to have been killed, Haarmann killed his youngest known victim, 10-year-old Friedrich Abeling, who disappeared while truant from school. His murder would be followed less than two weeks later by that of 16-year-old Friedrich Koch, who was approached by Haarmann on 5 June as he walked to college. Two acquaintances of Koch would later testify at Haarmann's trial that, as they walked with Koch to college, Haarmann approached Koch and tapped the youth on the boot with his walking stick and stated: "Well, boy, don't you recognize me?"
Haarmann killed his final victim, 17-year-old Erich de Vries, on 14 June. De Vries encountered Haarmann at Hanover station. His dismembered body would later be found in a lake located near the entrance to the Herrenhausen Gardens. Haarmann would confess that it had taken him four separate trips to carry de Vries's dismembered remains—carried in the bag which had belonged to Friedrich Koch—to the location he had disposed of them.