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Fritz Haarmann (October 25, 1879-April 15, 1925) was a notorious serial killer born in Hannover, Germany.

From 1919 to 1924, Haarmann committed at least 24 murders, and possibly many more. Haarmann's victims were young male vagrants and male prostitutes who hung around railway stations, whom Haarmann would lure back to his apartment and then kill them by biting through their throats in a kind of sexual frenzy. Rumours had it that Haarmann would then peddle meat from the bodies of his victims as black market pork, but there was no evidence. His accomplice and live-in partner, Hans Grans, sold the clothing of his victims, and Haarmann claimed Grans urged him to kill handsome boys, but was otherwise not involved in the murders.

Haarmann was eventually apprehended when numerous skeletal remains, which he had dumped into the river Leine, washed up. His trial was very spectacular; it was one of the first major media events in Germany. There were no concepts or expressions for his crimes; he was called a "werewolf", a "vampire" and a "sexual psychopath" at the same time. But apart from the cruelty of what Haarmann had admittedly done, even more scandalous, shaking German society at the very core, was the involvement of the police in the case: Haarmann cheated on thieves and dealers. He had also been used as an informant by the police who failed to identify Haarmann as the murderer.

Haarmann was beheaded, though it was not entirely clear if he would rather have to be locked up in an asylum for being in a state of diminished responsibility. But public opinion was heated and would not have approved of Haarmann just being locked away. Haarmann was found guilty and executed, even though serious doubts about his state of mind remained. Grans received a 12-year sentence. What exactly became of him after his release is not known, only that he continued living in Hanover until about 1980, when he presumably died.

The case stirred much discussion in Germany, not only about the death penalty but also about the correct approach towards mentally ill offenders, about investigation methods of the police and the role of their informants, and last but not least about homosexuality - the case, of course, fuelled prejudice against homosexuality.

Popular culture


  • Haarmann became known as "The Butcher of Hanover." A film titled The Tenderness of the Wolves was released in Germany in 1973 dramatizing Haarmann's crimes. It starred Kurt Raab as the killer and featured Rainer Werner Fassbinder in a minor role.
  • Another film based on the murder spree, Der Totmacher (The Deathmaker; 1995), starred Götz George as Haarmann. It was based on the protocols of the psychiatric examinations of Haarmann by Erich Schultze, one of the main psychiatric experts in the trial and features the last days of Haarmann where he´s interviewed by a court psychatrist.
  • The classic film M, directed by Fritz Lang and starring Peter Lorre, was inspired by Haarman's crimes, as well as those of Düsseldorf child killer Peter Kürten (Haarman is mentioned by name in the film, along with another well-known German serial killer, Karl Grossmann).


  • American death metal band Macabre have made two songs about him: "Fritz Haarmann, the Butcher" on Gloom and "Fritz Haarmann, Der Metzger" on Murder Metal.
  • German music label Beton Kopf Media uses a picture of Haarmann for its logo. BKM's founder has made a song named "Totmacher", whose title possibly refers to the film.


  • Maria Tartar, “Lustmord. Sexual Murder in Weimar Germany”
  • Thomas Kailer: Werewölfe, Triebtäter, minderwertige Psychopathen. Bedingungen von Wissensgenerierung. Der Fall Haarmann. In: Carsten Kretschmann (Hg.): Wissenspopularisierung. Berlin 2003, S. 323-359.
  • The World's Most Infamous Crimes and Criminals. New York: Gallery Books, 1987. ISBN 0-8317-9677-4

See also

Related links

Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.