This cruel serial killer still fascinates today

100 years ago, a criminal was arrested in Hanover and sentenced to death about ten months later for the murder of at least 24 boys and men. What traces remain today?

Hanover, Friedrich Fritz Heinrich Karl Haarmann (* October 25, 1879 in Hanover; April 15, 1925 in Hanover) was a serial killer, sentenced to death for the murder of 24 boys aged 10 to 22.

Friedrich Fritz Heinrich Karl Haarmann was sentenced to death by the Hannover Assize Court.

Serial killer Fritz Haarmann. A photo of his room, provided by the criminal investigation service.

A photo of his room, provided by the criminal investigation service.

Serial killer Fritz Haarmann. A reconstructed cell with a photo of serial killer Fritz Haarmann is on display at the Lower Saxony Police Museum.

A reconstructed cell with a photo of serial killer Fritz Haarmann is on display at the Lower Saxony Police Museum.

Serial killer Fritz Haarmann. The photo file in the Fritz Haarmann murder case: it is the 100th anniversary of the killer's arrest.

The photo file in the Fritz Haarmann murder case: it is the 100th anniversary of the killer’s arrest.

Serial killer Fritz Haarmann. The alleged instrument of serial killer Fritz Haarmann.

The alleged instrument of serial killer Fritz Haarmann.

Serial killer Fritz Haarmann. Photos from the case of serial killer Fritz Haarmann are on display in the Lower Saxony Police Museum.

Photos from the case of serial killer Fritz Haarmann are on display in the Lower Saxony Police Museum.

Serial killer Fritz Haarmann. Children once found bones on the Leine. This is how Fritz Haarmann's murder series was first revealed.

Children once found bones on the Leine. This is how Fritz Haarmann’s murder series was first revealed.

Serial killer Fritz Haarmann

Serial killer Fritz Haarmann. Hanover, Friedrich Fritz Heinrich Karl Haarmann (* October 25, 1879 in Hanover; April 15, 1925 in Hanover) was a serial killer, sentenced to death for the murder of 24 boys aged 10 to 22.

Hanover, Friedrich Fritz Heinrich Karl Haarmann (* October 25, 1879 in Hanover; April 15, 1925 in Hanover) was a serial killer, sentenced to death for the murder of 24 boys aged 10 to 22.

Serial killer Fritz Haarmann. Friedrich Fritz Heinrich Karl Haarmann was sentenced to death by the Hannover Assize Court.

Friedrich Fritz Heinrich Karl Haarmann was sentenced to death by the Hannover Assize Court.

Serial killer Fritz Haarmann. A photo of his room, provided by the criminal investigation service.

A photo of his room, provided by the criminal investigation service.

Serial killer Fritz Haarmann. A reconstructed cell with a photo of serial killer Fritz Haarmann is on display at the Lower Saxony Police Museum.

A reconstructed cell with a photo of serial killer Fritz Haarmann is on display at the Lower Saxony Police Museum.

Serial killer Fritz Haarmann. The photo file in the Fritz Haarmann murder case: it is the 100th anniversary of the killer's arrest.

The photo file in the Fritz Haarmann murder case: it is the 100th anniversary of the killer’s arrest.

Serial killer Fritz Haarmann. The alleged instrument of serial killer Fritz Haarmann.

The alleged instrument of serial killer Fritz Haarmann.

Serial killer Fritz Haarmann. Photos from the case of serial killer Fritz Haarmann are on display in the Lower Saxony Police Museum.

Photos from the case of serial killer Fritz Haarmann are on display in the Lower Saxony Police Museum.

Serial killer Fritz Haarmann. Children once found bones on the Leine. This is how Fritz Haarmann's murder series was first revealed.

Children once found bones on the Leine. This is how Fritz Haarmann’s murder series was first revealed.

One hundred years after the arrest of the notorious serial killer Fritz Haarmann in Hanover, interest in this sinister criminal case remains as strong as ever. At the Nienburg Police Museum, you can see a reconstruction of a Hannover police custody cell under the Weimar Republic.

This is where Haarmann was incarcerated after his arrest on June 22, 1924. In addition, visitors can see an ax that, according to legend, the criminal possessed. Museum director Dirk Götting wants the exhibition to be presented objectively.

The case

“Haarmann is a pedophile serial killer,” emphasizes Götting. According to him, it is a strange phenomenon that murderers in history sometimes acquire a “harmless touch” over time. In Hanover, the criminal with the cleaver appeared as a character on an Advent calendar.

Between 1918 and 1924, this criminal known to the police murdered at least 24 boys and young men aged 10 to 22. Haarmann strangled his victims and, according to his own words, cut their throats. Many of them were runaways and were not initially reported missing. He dismembered the bodies with an ax and took them to the River Leine. When children found bones on the banks of the Leine in the spring of 1924, these were the first clues to the series of murders.

Photo from the judicial police: human bones found after the level of the Leine was lowered.
Photo from the judicial police: human bones found after the level of the Leine was lowered.

Archivbild: imago images/localpic

After the First World War, Haarmann provided the police with information on the world of prostitution. He was first arrested on June 22, 1924 solely because he had argued with a youth at the central station. During the search of his apartment, the police later found clues to the crimes committed. Methods police officers used to extract confessions, such as physical mistreatment, were already banned at the time, Götting said.

According to the museum director, the “vampire” trial, as Haarmann was also called, even received media coverage in the United States. Haarmann received the death penalty and was beheaded in April 1925. His head preserved in formalin was stored for decades at the Göttingen Forensic Medicine and was only cremated and buried anonymously in 2014.

Haarmann, a material for artists

Historians and artists regularly examine this unprecedented criminal case. In 1995, Götz George played Haarmann in the award-winning film “Der Totmacher” (The Killer), and a musical was created at the Hannover Theater.

Numerous files relating to the case are kept in the state archives of Lower Saxony. According to the authorities, they are still in high demand and are now only available in digital form for users in the reading room. The Haarmann affair is also regularly treated on a literary level, notably in the form of a graphic novel. In Hanover, there are guided city tours following in the footsteps of the notorious criminal.

dpa

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