Aug 31, 2008

Münsterberg, du schönes Städtchen

Although Karl Denke is considered a "forgotten cannibal" today, he had a moment of fame in the mid 1920's. Here come the lyrics of a Moritat (murder ballad) about him:

Münsterberg, du schönes Städtchen,

Münsterberg, du schöne Stadt,

Drinnen wohnte Meister Denke,

Der so viel geschlachtet hat.


Schöne junge Handwerksburschen

Lud er sich zum Schreiben ein

Und in schöne neue Fässer

Pökelte er sie alle ein.


Jüngst da kam ein Handwerksbursche,

Bittet um ein Stückchen Brot,

Denke lud ihn ein zum Schreiben,

Schlagen wollte er ihn tot.


Doch der Ärmste, der durchschaute

Diesen frechen Mörderplan,

Und mit angehacktem Schädel

Griff er diese Bestie an.


Doch dem armen Handwerksburschen

Glaubt die Polizei kein Wort,

Sondern steckt den armen Sünder

An den wohlverdienten Ort.


Hätt´ sich Denke nicht erhangen,

Weiter ging die Pökelei,

So jedoch kam man dahinter,

Und der Schleier riß entzwei.


...


And here's a rough translation:


...


Münsterberg, beautiful little town

Münsterberg, beautiful town

Here lived master Denke,

Who who had so many butchered.


Nice young apprentices

Were invited to write letters

And then found themselves pickled

In nice new barrels.


Recently an apprentice went there,

Asked for a slice of bread,

Denke asked him to write a letter,

But wanted to knock him dead.


However the poor guy have foreseen

This bold murder plan

And with a severed head

Resisted the beast’s assault.


Police didn’t believe a word

Of the poor worker’s story

And put the sinner

In a place he deserved.


Had Denke not hang himself

The meat processing would still go on,

However some light went on

And the curtains opened wide.


...

The song's origin is uncertain. Its words were noted by Mark Benecke after a speech he had in Herbrechtingen monastery in 2003. An old woman stood up after the speech and sung the song to the surprise of the researcher and his audience. She said her mother used to sing this song.


...


Unfortunately I was unable to track down the song's tune but it's possible it was based on a very popular operetta song by Walter Kollo:


Warte, warte nur ein Weilchen,

bald kommt auch das Glück zu Dir...


...


Kollo's song has had multiple covers. The most famous one is made into a moritat about another famous serial killer / alleged cannibal of the 1920's Friedrich "Fritz" Haarmann




Warte, warte nur ein Weilchen,

Bald kommt Haarmann auch zu dir

Mit dem kleinen Hackebeilchen

Und macht er Leberwurst aus dir.


...


(Wait, oh wait a while,

Soon Haarmann will come to you

With his little chopper

And will make liver sausage out of you)


...


Some German metal and gothic bands cover this song (for instance G.I.E.Z), but there's a jazz version too:








It was used as well by Fritz Lang in his M (you can watch the whole movie online here):


video




Recently Armin Rütters - a researcher on Karl Denke's case - has emailed me this short poem, he was told by a lady who had met Karl Denke personally when she was 4:



Dort in Münsterberg der Denke, hat sich auch ans Werk gemacht,
dass man seiner oft gedenke, hat er Menschen umgebracht,
Menschen sind da oft verschwunden, meistens Handwerksburschen nur,
niemals hat man sie gefunden und entdeckt nicht eine Spur.
Und ich wette ohne Spaß, daß wohl keiner es vergaß, das er Menschen hat geschlachtet
und das Fleisch von ihnen frass.


(There in Münsterberg the Denke, he has got to work too,
he is much remembered for he slew people
People often disappeared, but mostly craftsmen
and nobody ever found a trace of them.
And I bet he will not be forgotten for the men he slaughtered
and the flesh he devoured.)


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