What causes a person to crave the taste of human flesh or the desire to drink human blood? For Friedrich Heinrich Karl Haarman, it seemed to be there his whole life.
Freidrich, known as Fritz, was born in October of 1879. The sixth and youngest child to his parents, Johanna and Ollie Haarman. He was a quiet child and didn’t have many friends his own age. He rarely socialized with children outside of school, besides his siblings. It was also apparent that from an early age Fritz was rather effeminate. He would often be found playing with his sister’s dolls and dressing in their clothes, Fritz would also develop a passion for needlework and cooking. His mother spoiled her youngest child, and they had a close relationship with each other.
Fritz was discharged for medical reasons from a military school and then went to work in his father’s cigar factory. It was when Fritz was sixteen that he committed his first sexual offenses. He lured young boys to secluded areas, usually cellars where he would then proceed to sexually abuse them. It was for these crimes that he was arrested in July of 1896. Fritz was committed to a mental institution instead of prison. He was diagnosed as being “incurably deranged.”
In December of 1897, with help from his mother, Fritz escaped the mental institution and made his way to Zurich, Switzerland. There he lived with a relative of his mother’s and worked in a shipyard. He was in Zurich for sixteen months before he returned to Hanover. Fritz’ mother passed away in April 1901, and he had been discharged from the actual military due to disability, and when his pregnant fiancé left him, Fritz resorted to the only thing he knew he was good at. Criminal acts.
During the next 10 years, Fritz lived as a petty thief, burglar and con artist. He began serving prison sentences in 1905 for larceny, embezzlement, and assault. In 1913 he was charged with and convicted of a series for burglaries, for which he was sentenced to five years in prison. In late August 1918, after being released from prison, Fritz was living in Hanover and was renting a single room apartment.
Starting in 1918, Fritz began committing murder. His known victim count is 24, but he is suspected of murdering a minimum of 27. All of his victims were male, between the ages of 10 and 22. Fritz lured them to one of three addresses he was known to reside at and there he killed them. The victims were usually given food and drink before Fritz bit into their Adam’s apple, usually while they were being strangled. Normally the victim would die of asphyxiation, but several victims had their throats completely bit through. Fritz would refer to this as his “love bite”.
After the victims were dead, Fritz would dismember them and discarded them primarily in the Leine River. But for his first victim, Fritz took the time to actually bury the remains. His last victim was thrown into a lake.
Any personal belongings of the victims were either kept, sold on the black market, or given away as gifts. After the news of his acts were released, rumors started that he had eaten the flesh of victims or sold it on the black market as either pork or horse meat. As he was known to trade in contraband meat, it’s possible that he may have done this. But there is no evidence to ever confirm it.
In October of 1919, Fritz met, an 18-year-old named Hans Grans. Hans had run away from his home in Berlin. He had been “living” at the Hanover train station, selling clothes to make money to eat. He was there for two weeks before he met Fritz. Hans approached Fritz first, and Fritz stated he viewed him as a son. However shortly after meeting, Fritz invited Hans to move into his apartment and soon the two were lovers and Hans became Fritz’ criminal accomplice.
- Friedel Rothe – 17 years old, a runaway. Murdered September 1918.
- Fritz Franke – 17 years old, a pianist. Murdered February 1923.
- Wilhelm Schulze – 17 years old. Murdered March 1923.
- Roland Huch – 16 years old. Murdered May 1923.
- Hans Sonnenfeld – 19 years old. Murdered May 1923.
- Ernst Ehrenberg – 13 years old, a neighbor’s son. Murdered June 1923.
- Heinrich Struss – 18 years old, office worker. Murdered August 1923.
- Paul Bronischewski – 17 years old. Murdered September 1923.
- Richard Graf – 17 years old. Murdered September 1923.
- Wilhelm Erdner – 16 years old. Murdered October 1923.
- Hermann Wolf – 15 years old. Murdered October 1923.
- Heinz Brinkmann – 13 years old. Murdered October 1923.
- Adolf Hannappel – 17 years old. Murdered November 1923.
- Adolf Hennies – 19 years old. Murdered December 1923. Neither Fritz nor Hans was convicted of this murder due to conflicting testimony.
- Ernst Spiecker – 17 years old. Murdered January 1924.
- Heinrich Koch – 20 years old. Murdered January 1924.
- Willi Senger – 19 years old. Murdered February 1924.
- Hermann Speichert – 16 years old. Murdered February 1924.
- Hermann Bock – 22 years old. Murdered April 1924. Fritz was cleared of this murder.
- Alfred Hogrefe – 16 years old. Murdered April 1924.
- Wilhelm Apel – 16 years old, an apprentice. Murdered April 1924.
- Robert Witzel – 18 years old. Murdered April 1924.
- Heinz Martin – 14 years old. Murdered May 1924.
- Fritz Wittig – 17 years old, travelling salesman. Murdered May 1924.
- Friedrich Abeling – 10 years old. Murdered the same day as Fritz Witting, May 1924.
- Friedrich Koch – 16 years old. Murdered June 1924.
- Erich de Vries – 17 years old. Murdered June 1924.
In May 1924, two children playing near the Leine River found a human skull. It was a young male between 18 and 20, showing evidence of knife wounds. The police were skeptical that a murder had occurred, and suggested that it was from grave robbers, or a prank by medical students.
Two weeks later a second skull was found near the scene of the first discovery. It was also a young male aged between 18 and 20. Shortly after the second discovery, two boys playing in a field found a sack containing human bones.
Skull kept turning up, two more were found in June one was by the Leine river; another was located closer to a mill. They all were similar in their dismemberment, where the skull had been removed from the vertebrae.
After the last two skull, residents in Hanover searched the banks of the river and surrounding areas. They found numerous bones which were turned over to police. The police then dragged the river and discovered over 500 human bones, and sections of bodies.
Suspicion quicky fell on Fritz as he was a known homosexual and had a criminal history of child molestation and sexual assault. Fritz was placed under surveillance by undercover police officers from Berlin.
On June 22, Fritz was seen arguing with a 15-year-old boy named Karl Fromm. Fritz even approached police to have the boy arrested and charged with travelling with forged documents. When he was arrested, Karl stated that he had been living at Fritz’s apartment for the last four days and had been repeatedly raped, sometimes at knifepoint.
Fritz Haarmann was arrested the next day. His apartment was searched, and the flooring, walls, and bedding were all heavily stained with blood. His various neighbors commented that they had seen many teenage boys around his apartment and at unusual times, Fritz would leave with concealed baskets, bags, or suitcases. One neighbor followed him and saw him discarding the sack into the river.
On June 29, Fritz was confronted with the possessions of Robert Witzel. A friend of Robert’s identified a police officer seen with the victim as Fritz Haarmann. Unable to talk his way out of this, he broke down and had to be supported by his sister.
Upon the urging of his sister, Fritz confessed to raping, killing, and dismembering many young men between 1918 and 1924. He described in great detail how he would dismember the bodies, and how he discarded the remains in the river.
The police were only able to connect Fritz to 27 murders, of which he would be convicted of 24. Fritz claimed that he had killed between 50 and 70. Hans Grans was also arrested and charged with accessory to murder. The trial lasted two weeks, and on December 19, 1924, the verdict was read; Fritz Haarmann was found guilty of 24 murders and sentenced to death by beheading. Hans Grans was found guilty of accessory to murder for Fritz Wittig and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He was also found guilty of incitement to murder for the death of Adolf Hannappel. Hans was sentenced to death by beheading.
On April 15, 1925, at 6 o’clock in the morning, Fritz Haarmann was beheaded by guillotine. His last words were, “I am guilty, gentlemen, but, hard though it may be, I want to die as a man.” As his head was placed on the “block” he stated, “I repent, but I do not fear death.”
Hans Grans was retried and found guilty again. This time he was sentenced to two consecutive 12-year sentences. After serving his 12 years, he was extralegally interned at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. After the war, he lived in Hanover until his death in 1975.
Fritz Haarmann’s victims were all buried communally in the Hanover cemetery.
Stay Curious my Friends!