The most infamous serial killers in German history

Warning: The following article includes graphic descriptions that some readers may find disturbing.

We constantly hear about horrible crimes that leave us utterly speechless and the following gruesome acts of violence are perfect examples. Although these crimes happened a long time ago and in another country, reading about them is still guaranteed to leave you with goosebumps. These are the most infamous serial killers in German history...

Jürgen Bartsch

Jürgen Bartsch was known as the "Kirmesmörder" (Carnival Killer). He was born in 1946 and spent most of his difficult childhood in group homes. At the age of 16 he began kidnapping young boys so he could sexaully assault them and then kill them. Between 1962 and 1966 he murdered four children:

March 31, 1962: Klaus Jung, 8 years old
August 6, 1965: Peter Fuchs, 13 years old
August 14, 1965: Ulrich Kahlweiß, 12 years old
May 6, 1966: Manfred Graßmann, 11 years old

Bartsch's fifth victim managed to escape and was able to notify the authorities. Bartsch was arrested a short time later and confessed his crimes openly claiming that abusing the boys had been sexually stimulating for him. Bartsch was sentenced to castration to bring his sexual compulsions under control. However, due to complications arising from the procedure, he died in April 1976 while still in prison.

Joachim Kroll

Joachim Kroll committed his horrible crimes not far from where Jürgen Bartsch perpetrated his murders. No one knows exactly how many people he actually killed, but one thing is certain: in the region surrounding Duisburg he murdered between 8 and 14 people and then ate their bodies. In the 1970s, Kroll worked as a cleaner and was known to be a bit quirky but also very inconspicuous. No one could have imagined that there was a cold-blooded killer hiding behind his mild-mannered facade.

In 1976 he was caught while trying to flush body parts of a 14-year-old victim down the toilet. When the police entered his apartment, they made a horrifying discovery: the "Duisburg Man-Eater" had been cooking the body parts of his latest victim. The police removed the lid from the pot on the stove to discover human feet, a part of the lower arm and an upper arm. Kroll refused to confess to his crimes and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He died in prison of a heart attack in 1991.

Marianne Nölle

Men aren't the only ones capable of serial murder and Marianne Nölle proved that. She was born in 1938 and became infamously known as the "Angel of Death from Cologne." While working as a caregiver at a retirement home she murdered at least 17 people, but she constantly denied killing anyone. Despite her protestations, an investigation proved that between 1984 and 1992 she had been killing the very people she was supposed to be taking care of. Her murder weapon of choice was a poison that she would inject into her helpless victims. Nölle was only caught by chance when a family reported her to authorities for stealing. She is still in prison today and the exact number of her victims is still not known.

Karl Denke


Karl Denke, also known as "Papa Denke," terrorized a region in western Germany at the end of the 19th century. He earned his nickname for taking care of the homeless and needy and for always being willing to offer them a warm meal. However, behind closed doors there was something very different and sinister going on. His dark secret was exposed when a homeless person managed to escape from Denke's home despite being badly wounded. While searching his house, police found more than 420 human teeth, 480 human bones and several dishes prepared with salted human flesh. The investigators became nauseous when they realized that Denke had killed and eaten at least 42 people. Frustratingly, Denke was never properly brought to justice; before his trial he managed to hang himself in his cell. To this day, it is still not clear how many deaths he was responsible for.

Carl Großmann

Carl Großmann was a serial killer who claimed his victims in Berlin between 1888 and 1922. Although he was only convicted of two murders, authorities had reason to believe that he had killed somewhere between 23 and 100 people, likely making him the serial killer with the most victims in Germany. His bloody "career" began when he was just 16. After being fired for making improper advances towards his employer's wife, Großmann moved to Berlin where he was repeatedly arrested for assault and sexual offences. Eventually, he opened a snack bar and used it to attract young women who were looking for work. He would promise them a job as housekeeper to lure them back to his apartment where he would strangle them to death. The police soon became suspicious when they found body parts in the canal near his apartment. Großmann was finally caught when neighbors heard screaming coming from his apartment and called the authorities. When they searched his apartment they found it full of chopped up body parts. He only confessed to three murders, but it was assumed that he had not only brutally killed his victims, but had also eaten their flesh and even used it to make the snacks for his business! Großmann hanged himself in his cell before the trial and took all of his dark secrets to the grave with him forever.

Fritz Haarmann


Fritz Haarmann has gone down in history as the "Vampire and Cannibal of Hannover" (also known as the Butcher of Hannover) who killed at least 24 boys between 1918 and 1924. Working with two accomplices, he would hang around at the main station in Hannover looking for potential victims. When he saw one, he would start a conversation and then invite the boy back to his home. Haarmann's own sexuality had been a constant source of frustration in his life and he used his victims to release this frustration in the form of horrible violence. He would bite open his victims' throats, chop their bodies into pieces, and even eat their flesh. Because Haarmann had worked as an informant for the police, it took a long time for him to come under suspicion. Eventually a store owner near Haarmann's apartment noticed that young boys would often go into his building and never come out. The police began to watch him and caught him red-handed trying to take another victim. Haarmann seemed almost relieved when he was arrested and is claimed to have said, "killing is no joy." He was sentenced to death, a fate he considered salvation from the constant torture of needing to kill, but he never considered himself guilty. When the day of his execution came, he enjoyed his last meal so much he even asked for a second portion. A few hours later he was executed by guillotine and his decapitated head was donated for scientific research.

It's scary to think that these people went unnoticed for so long and were able to commit such horrible crimes. It makes you wonder what's hiding behind the "normal-looking" facade of those around us. Fortunately, investigative methods have drastically improved and it's very unlikely that these killers would be able to escape justice for so long if they were around today. 




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