“The Butcher of Hanover”
Fritz Haarmann was born in Hanover, Germany, on 25 October 1879, the sixth child of an odd couple. His father was nicknamed Sulky Ollie and his mother was an invalid. A mummy’s boy, he was sent to military school in 1895 but was discharged because of his epilepsy. Back in Hanover, he was sent to an asylum after being caught molesting small children but escaped after six months.
In 1900 he rejoined the army to escape his pregnant girlfriend and was discharged in 1903. His father at first tried to have Haarmann declared insane and then financed him to open a fish and chip shop. He stole the takings and then in 1914 was caught burgling a warehouse and sentenced to five years in prison. He was paroled in 1918 and became simultaneously a smuggler and a police informant.
Near the end of the First World War Germany was in chaos and Haarmann used the confusion to pick up boys and teenagers. It was estimated that in 1923 more than 600 went missing. Haarmann was soon jailed for molesting a minor and on his release, in September 1919, he met and fell in love with 24-year-old Hans Grans, a gay pimp. They began to pick up and kill boys and young vagrants after sodomizing them.
The bodies were then dismembered and sold to butchers as pork or beef. Some parts were thrown into the River Leine. Grans kept items of their clothing that he took a fancy to and sold the rest. One teenager was murdered because Grans liked his trousers. On 17 May 1924 a skull was found near the river, another five days later and two more in the river’s sediment on 13 June. The police believed it was part of an elaborate, if macabre, practical joke but changed their minds on 24 July when children found a sack containing bones and another skull on the riverbank.
The river was dragged and 500 more bones, belonging to 27 young men and boys, were found. Coincidentally, Haarmann was arrested on 22 June 1924 on a charge of indecency with 15-year-old Karl Fromm. When police searched his home at 8 Neuestrasse, they found bloodstains and clothes belonging to missing boys.
8 Neuestrasse, Hanover, Germany
September 1918-June 1924
Haarmann confessed to killing “30 or 40… I don’t remember”. He became known as “The Butcher of Hanover”. He was tried on 4 December 1924 at the Hanover Assizes and convicted of 24 murders. He was guillotined on 15 April 1925 at Hanover jail. Grans was arrested on 8 July 1924, jailed for 12 years and died in 1980.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Haarmann told police, “I never intended to hurt those youngsters, but I knew that if I got going something would happen and that made me cry… I would throw myself on top of those boys and bite through the Adam’s apple, throttling them at the same time. I’d make two cuts in the abdomen and put the intestines in a bucket, then soak up the blood and crush the bones until the shoulders broke. Now I could get the heart, lungs and kidneys and chop them up and put them in my bucket. I’d take the flesh off the bones and put it in my wax cloth bag. It would take me five or six trips to take everything and throw it down the toilet or into the river. I always hated doing this, but I couldn’t help it — my passion was so much stronger than the horror of the cutting and chopping.”