Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Fritz Haarmann: The Butcher of Hannover

Young Adulthood

Whilst Haarmann's laziness and inefficiency continued, his sexual development was progressing rapidly. Sexual offences against children occurred almost every day and it was not long before the molestation accusations began mounting. Eventually and inevitably, the pervert was deemed incurably deranged by the town doctor and was sent to an asylum shortly after his 18th birthday. It was here that the young man suffered some form of trauma that was to affect him for the rest of his life and his intense fear of the asylum caused him later to say, "Hang me, do anything you like to me, but don't take me back to the loony bin." Lackluster security soon allowed the patient to escape, however, and Haarmann fled to Switzerland.

At the age of just 20 he returned to Hannover and around 1900 achieved a sexually normal period when he seduced and married a large, pretty girl by the name of Erna Loewert. The engagement had the blessings of both sets of parents, who fervently hoped that the union would put an end to the young delinquent's reckless abandon. This was not to be the case, though, as Haarmann soon deserted the girl and their unborn child for military service.

He settled well into army life and, like the killer William Burke before him, became an excellent soldier; "full of obedience and esprit de corps." Haarmann was later to refer to this time as "the happiest of his life." A year went past with no incident until, in October 1901, Haarmann collapsed during a company exercise and was admitted to the military hospital for four months. It was diagnosed that the soldier had a mental deficiency and was deemed "unsuitable for use in community service."

Once again, Fritz was sent back to his quarrelsome family and resumed his life-long battle with his father. 'Old Haarmann' attempted to have him committed to an asylum, but the town doctor regarded him as merely "morally inferior" and, at the ripe old age of 24, Fritz Haarmann was released into society.

Numerous burglaries and confidence scams soon became a feature of Haarmann's life and, after 1904, he spent one third of the following 20 years either in custody or in prison. In 1914 he was sentenced to five years in jail for theft from a warehouse. Released in 1918, he joined a smuggling ring and conducted a prosperous business as a smuggler, thief and police spy (the latter activity guaranteed that his activities were not too closely scrutinized.) For a man supposedly struggling with sanity, Haarmann showed impressive signs of preparation and calculation in his crimes. The sexual offences also continued, although he was rarely convicted of such misdemeanors as the partners were too ashamed to report him to the police.

Upon release from prison in April 1918 Haarmann surfaced briefly in Berlin and then again in Hannover. The murders soon began.