Sep 29, 2008

Mysterious pictures found at a dump in Wrocław

The neat picture of a saw, a pickaxe and some knives are part of a series of mysterious photographs found dumped at the Medical Academy of Wrocław in the mid 1980's.

A total of 1200 pictures (medium format glass negatives and positives) were dumped during a renovation at the medical college of Wrocław. They belonged most probably to the German Institute of Forensic Medicine in Breslau until 1945, when the city became Polish Wrocław.

Tadeusz Dobosz, the man who found them - then scientific employee, now professor of Molecular Techniques at the Department of Forensic Medicine of the Medical Academy of Wrocław - was able to interpret most of them, but a dozen frames remained quite a puzzle.

Four of them depicted human bones, one showed a table full of meat, human bones and a pair of suspenders (made of human skin, as we know today), then on another photograph one could see more suspenders with some rags and old shoes.

Two pictures showed jars and pots in some interiors.

With these came 3 single pictures: a house from the outside, a wooden shed and a portrait of a deadman (this particular glass negative was shattered and could not be scanned by prof. Dobosz but it is the same picture as we know as the only portrait of Karl Denke).

Prof. Dobosz suspected a cannibal story behind these pictures but couldn't find any trace of such a story. (Here is an article in Polish about the findings).


Only last spring - after meeting Marcin Tosz, a local journalist familiar with the Denke case - could prof. Dobosz link the pictures he had to a specific story - that of Karl Denke.

The wooden shed in Denke's garden was destroyed after World War II by the new Polish owners of the house. They soon unearthed a few skulls and some human bones. Thus the gory legend of the cannibal from Muensterberg soon became common knowledge in the village of Ziębice (as Muensterberg is called today).

Sep 24, 2008

Fritz Haarmann

Friedrich "Fritz" Haarmann (1879 - 1925) is the best known and most mythicized of the three most notorious German cannibal-killers of the 1920's: Georg Carl Grossmann and Karl Denke are the two others.

His deeds were rather well described on many occasions, so we can refer here to an article in the New Criminologist: here.


Just like Grossmann and Denke, Haarmann used to accost his potential victims at a train station. Just like the others, he was aiming at the feeblest and destitute. Like Grossmann but unlike Denke, he was a sexual deviant.


All three of them committed their worst crimes during the peak of recession in Germany - in the years after World War I. They all profited of the crimes. Although it has never been proved, they have all allegedly sold, eaten or offered meat of their victims to others (sometimes to their next victim as a prelude to another killing).


There have been a few movies based on Haarmann's story. Karmakar's Totmacher (1995) was a reconstruction of Haarmann's interrogation by a psychologist at the police station (it has been made made into a theatre piece by the Berliner Kriminal Theater just recently), while Lommel's Die Zärtlichkeit der Wölfe (1973) focused on the last months of Haarmann's killing spree - a period when he was employed by the Hannover police as an informer (in reality he was both an informer and the main suspect in the case of the killings of boys).


The following scenes show Fritz Haarmann (played by Kurt Raab) in Die Zärtlichkeit der Wölfe as an undercover police officer, a gay pedophile killer and cannibal entrepreneur.

Sep 8, 2008

Carl Großmann

Georg Carl Großmann (known as Carl Großmann).

His story is often considered to be very similar to that of Karl Denke. He lived and died in the same time, same country. Just as Denke, he committed suicide in jail awaiting trail. He murdered people and there are prerequisites to think that he was using his victims' flesh to make sausages, he was later selling at the Silesian Station. And, just as in Denke's case, he has become a character of popular culture, inspiring songs, poems, movies and novels.

We have just one picture of him:

Information about him is extremely scarce. We know that he was born in Neuruppin in 1963 as a son of a ragman and was a trained butcher. Between 1879 and 1895 he lived as beggar in Berlin and his criminal career started around this period. In 1899 he was sentenced for 15 years imprisonment for sex crimes (one of his young victims - a 4 year old girl died soon after). In 1913 - after his release - he returned to Berlin to occupy a studio at Lange Straße 88/89 in Friedrichschain district - one of Berlin's poorest and most notorious for crime at that time (it was nicknamed "Chicago Berlin").
Großmann picked most of his victims (mostly prostitutes and unaccompanied women) in the area of Andreasplatz and took them home. Maybe he used to accost young women coming to Berlin's Silesian Station as well.

Andreasplatz in 1899

A total of 23 dismembered corpses of women were found in the area of Engelbecken, in the Luisenstraße municipal channel and around the Silesian Railway Station (now East Station) between 1918 and 1921.
On August 21, 1921 Carl Großmann was caught at his home beside the remnants of his last victim and evidence of two more girls being killed and dismembered in his studio during the last few weeks. He was accused of 3 murders, but the real figure would be more than 20 (some say, he could have killed more than 100 women). He was sentenced to death but hanged himself on July 5, 1922 before the due date of the execution.

The myth:

Carl Großmann had a sausage stall at the Silesian Station. When meat was in short supply after WWI, he would butcher cats and dogs to augment his wares. Although the taste of the Wursts was suspicious, nobody really made complaints about this. Within a few years however Großmann's sausages earned a much better reputation. It is said that to make them, he was using the flesh of his female victims (their bodies were usually dismembered and the one found in his home was mutilated as well).

These rumors - although highly plausible - were never entirely proved.


Großmann's legend has been linked to another myth of that time: that of Anastasia - the Russian grand duchess believed, by some, to have escaped the Bolshevik firing squad that killed nearly all her family. Wilson and Pitman state in their Encyclopedia of Murder: "At one point it was annouced that 'Anastasia' was really an imposter named Franziska Schamzkovski, a Polish girl from Bütow in Pomerania [today Bytów]. Franziska's family was told their daughter had been murder by Grossmann on 13 August 1920; an entry in his diary on that date bore the name 'Sasnovski'."