Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Butcher of Hanover

As I love to pick up old books and browse through their pages, I discovered one this weekend that mentioned the horrors of a early 1920's serial killer. I confess, being a horror movie buff I've often wondered just what makes a serial killer tick? or explode might be the more appropriate term. I've read quite a few case studies that go from suggesting cruel parents to traumatic childhood experiences, to traumas of war as the cause. Truth is we may never know.

Most of us today know of Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dalmer as two of the scariest and most abominable serial killers of the past century. Bundy because he was so normal looking and acting, and Dalmer because he ate the flesh of some of his victims. But.........what if I told you about THEE serial killer? The one whose actions actually coined the phrase "Serial" killer?

His name was Friedrich Haarmann (known as Fritz) and the place and time were ripe for such a monster. It was Post WWI Germany and Fritz was on the prowl. What puts Fritz at the top of the Serial Killer chart is not that he killed with abandon or that he killed some of his victims by biting them through their throat, but that his meat packing enterprise sold the flesh of his victims to post-war German citizens suffering from economic and social chaos. That is surely a crime against humanity and a crime which fittingly had newspapers of the day dubbing him "The Butcher of Hanover." Kind of reminds me of the Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man."

Excerpt from the book "The Victims by Jack Gratus, describing the times, the crime and the criminal:

After the First World War Germany suffered from economic and social chaos. Families were broken up as men drifted away from the small villages and towns to the larger cities in search of work. All the security they had ever known had been totally destroyed. Hanover railway station was one of the main receiving centres for this large drifiting population of the unemployed.

Into this crowd of lonely homeless men came Fritz Haarmann, a man who by 1919 had been convicted many times for indecent assault, burglary, pickpocketing and petty fraud. His father had tried twice to have him certified insane. In 1918, after a five-year sentence for theft, he took to smuggling and made enough money to set himself up in respectable lodgings. A homosexual, Haarmann offered comfort, friendship and the security of a decent home to the young boys hanging about the station. But the security did not last long. Soon after they had been brought to his lodgings Haarmann would kill his victims - at least twenty-seven of them - some by biting them through their throats. Their carcasses were then cut up and sold through Haarman's meat-smuggling enterprise to the unwary but hungry public. In a few cases parents came from the distant homes to complain about their missing sons, but the police could only shrug and point to the never-ending stream of drifters coming daily into Hanover. The missing boys could be anywhere; they might not even be in the city.

At last, however, the reports, together with the discovery of human remains close to Haarmann's home, made the police suspicious. After being closely watched by detectives, he was arrested for indecency. He then decided to CONFESS. In December 1924 he was sentenced to death by decapitation.

See: Crime Library-The Butcher of Hanover

Also see: Albert Fish, a "Real" Hanibal Lecter. What I remember reading about Albert Fish is that when they first tried electrocuting him in the electric chair it shorted out. Albert had confessed to sticking metal pins into his groin for sadistic gratification. Xrays had already confirmed that some pins were still inside his body, between rectum and scrotum, causing a short in the first electrical surge. Unfortunately, the sick bastard probably enjoyed the fatal second jolt of juice.

Excerpt from Crime Library on Albert Fish:
Fish was not happy with the verdict, but the prospect of being electrocuted had its appeal to him. A Daily News reporter wrote, "his watery eyes gleamed at the thought of being burned by a heat more intense than the flames with which he often seared his flesh to gratify his lust."

No comments: