Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Haarmann

Haarmann is a graphic novel about the German serial killer Fritz Haarmann. It's done in beautiful graphite pencil drawings, very detailed and very fitting for this story. It's told pretty much faithfully to the true story and it concentrates not only on the murders Haarmann committed, but also on the lives of the people around him and the effort of the police to cover up the murders as much as possible - once they finally do investigate them. Haarmann was an informer and at first, the police was very reluctant to accept him as a suspect, despite strong evidence pointing to him.

Haarmann comic

The book also paints a very vivid picture of life in Germany in 1924, which was not at all easy for many people, in particular in the poor district where Haarmann lived. He was well known for selling meat and clothes cheaply and while it was never proven, there are strong hints that he may have sold human flesh.

My grandmother still knew the song about Haarmann by heart: Wait, wait but a little while, then Haarmann will come for you, with his little axe and he will mince you too..." It was immensely popular in various versions and you can listen to it on Youtube.

Haarmann is my 35th book for the Library Challenge

There are also several movies about or at least inspired by Haarmann and the most impressive in my opinion is Der Totmacher, based on the transcripts of interviews with Haarmann that were held to ascertain his criminal responsibilities.

It needs to be watched twice. The first time around, you will have eyes only for Götz George as Fritz Haarmann, he's absolutely amazing in that role and more than a bit scary, despite or because of the friendliness of his character. The second time around, Jürgen Hentsch in the much less conspicuous role of Professor Schultze will make just as big an impression. He's pitch-perfect as someone who has to walk a line between professionalism, disgust and fascination. Do yourself a favour and watch the movie in German, with subtitles - it's a movie about two people sitting at a table and talking, any dubbed version will have lost the main part of the performance.

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