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Fritz Heinrich ANGERSTEIN





Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Angerstein had been gripped by paranoia due to his embezzlement, and he was attempting to get rid of witnesses
Number of victims: 8
Date of murders: December 1, 1924
Date of arrest: 3 days after
Date of birth: January 3, 1891
Victims profile: Käthe Angerstein (his wife) / ... Barth (his mother-in-law) / Minna Stoll (maidservant) / Ella Barth, 18 (his sister-in-law) / Ditthart (bookkeeper) / Kiel (clerk) / Geist (his gardener) / Rudi Darr (gardener's assistant)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife / Hitting with an axe
Location: Hayger, Hesse, Germany
Status: Executed by decapitation with an axe in the courtyard of the Central Prison Freiendiez on November 17, 1925

Fritz Heinrich Angerstein (January 3, 1891 – November 17, 1925) was a German mass murderer who killed his wife and seven other people at his home in Haiger, German Reich on December 1, 1924. Later that day he set fire to the house, stabbed himself and claimed a group of bandits was responsible for the crime, though within three days he confessed to have committed the murders himself. After a sensational trial that was widely publicised by the media at that time, Angerstein was sentenced to death. The verdict was carried out on November 17, 1925.


Angerstein was born on January 3, 1891 in Dillenburg, the seventh of ten children. His father worked as a carpenter, and later as a steelworker, and was also the mayor of his community. From an early age Angerstein auffered from tuberculosis and had a rib surgically removed. At the age of 14 Angerstein began working for a land surveying bureau, before being employed by the Nassauische Bergbau AG. Since 1917 he was procurator of a limestone mine in Haiger, which was taken over by the firm van der Zypen in 1920.

In 1911 Angerstein married Käthe Barth, a devout methodist. The marriage was described as happy and Angerstein gave the impression of a loving and caring husband, even though he suffered under the ailing condition of his wife, who not only was afflicted with severe hysteria, but also fell ill with an unknown intestinal disease in 1920. All the while Angerstein himself suffered from various types of tuberculosis. The couple had no children, though Angerstein's wife miscarried six times.

The relationship with his mother-in-law was said to have been strained, because they were unable to have any children and because of her poor treatment of his wife. Angerstein related that she often reduced her daughter's diet to soup, due to her ailments, though apparently she often scorched the meal, whereupon his wife wouldn't eat anything at all. According to his own testimony Angerstein once whipped his mother-in-law with a dog whip, because of a burnt meal, after his wife had run away because of her. In the same instance Angerstein also decided to shoot his mother-in-law and himself should his wife not return home.

In 1921 Käthe wrote a letter to her husband, telling him that due to her illness she couldn't be the wife he needed. After Angerstein had talked to her about the matter they made the mutual decision to drown themselves, since they were both sick at that time. However, when Angerstein was carrying his wife into the water and they were already halfway in, they heard someone sing a song, whereupon they came, as he relayed, to their senses again and aborted their suicide attempt.

Also in 1921 Angerstein, together with his wife, mother-in-law and sister-in-law, moved to Haiger after he received free lodging in a villa belonging to van der Zypen. His salary was 390 Reichsmark per month. The ground floor consisted of five bureaus for Angerstein and his assistants, first floor living quarters for himself and his wife, his sister-in-law and mother-in-law, and the attic for their maidservant. Angerstein claimed van der Zypen owed him 90,000 Mark. Angerstein got into financial troubles, whereupon he began to embezzle money from his employer. According to court the total sum was 14,892 Reichsmark.

The fraud was discovered by one of Angerstein's colleagues in November 1924. On the Friday before the murders, Angerstein witnessed his wife put away a notebook containing her last wishes, stating she was expecting to die soon. Angerstein, in the night from Nov. 30 to Dec. 1 found and read the notebook.

On the Saturday before the murders, Angerstein met with procurist Nix, for wage accounting, paid salaries. Nix confronted him with the discrepancies in the accounting. Startled by six shots during the night in front of the house, his wife due to the agitation suffering from bloody diarrhea, vomiting, fainting, heart problems. Angerstein learnt the next day that the shots had been fired during a birthday party. Angerstein suffered from severe headaches.


In the night from November 30 to December 1, 1924 Angerstein damaged a telephone wire and water pipes. On December 1, between 12 and 1 am, Angerstein awoke. He and his wife suffered from severe heart pain. Angerstein wanted to call a doctor, but his wife held him back. Angerstein fetched his mother-in-law. After she returned to her bed, Angerstein sat beside his wife, who was lying in bed. She read him a letter. Angerstein then changed the pillowslip, stained by his wife's vomiting. Whilst doing this, Angerstein found the letter his wife had hidden in the linen cupboard.

Angerstein was agitated. He overheard his wife and mother-in-law talking about another letter, in which it was written that his brother-in-law had syphilis and that the disease could spread to other family members, agitating him even more. Angerstein then talked with wife about the letter. He remembered his wife once telling him that she wanted to die the same hour he died. He then decided to kill his wife and himself. When his wife fainted Angerstein fetched his revolver from an adjacent room. When he returned his wife was awake. She grabbed his hand and took his revolver from him, saying "His own wife, Lord forgive him!", before fainting again. Angerstein then fetched his hunting dagger and fatally stabbed his wife 18 times with it.

He then ran downstairs to his study and attempted to shoot himself, but both revolvers failed. He then ran down to cellar, looking for something with which to kill himself; finding an axe, he intended to cut off his own hand, but hearing his 50-year-old mother-in-law scream, he ran back upstairs and killed her because - as he later claimed - he was angry about her having treated his wife badly.

After killing his wife he realized that the maidservant Minna Stoll was standing in front of him. She ran away and up the stairs to the attic. Just before she reached the door to the attic, Angerstein caught up with her, grabbed her from behind and hit her over the head with the axe, whereupon she collapsed. Angerstein later stated that he killed her because she burnt meals, was unclean and because he and his wife were generally displeased with her. Her body was later found burnt on the first floor.

Angerstein then returned to his bedroom and again hacked at the bodies of his mother-in-law and wife, fearing they might get up again. His mother-in-law, at least, was still moaning. He then returned to the kitchen, washed the axe and his hands, sat down and slept. When his 18-year-old sister-in-law Ella Barth returned during the night from a train journey she went upstairs and into the bathroom. Angerstein followed her and killed her with the axe. He then covered her up because he couldn't stand to look at her.

At approximately seven o'clock on Monday, December 1 a bookkeeper, Ditthart, and a clerk, Kiel, arrived at the villa to work. One after the other Angerstein called them into his study, locked the door and killed them with the axe. During the course of the day he also killed the son of his gardener, Geist, and another labouror working for him, Darr, with a hatchet. He feared that they both might have seen the dead bodies. Angerstein's German shepherd was later found in the locked cellar, its head smashed in. Maschinenmeister Ebert arrived and Angerstein handed him a letter for his brother, before sending him away. Responding to questions about his dishevelled state, he answered that he was sick.

Afterwards, Angerstein poured out petrol (maybe brought with truck later found a few kilometres outside of the town) in his study on the ground floor and the rooms on the first floor. He then went shopping in the city, buying two chocolate bars, according to himself for his "dear wife", and a flashlight. He also visited a bookshop.

After sunset he went back home and set the petrol alight, though the ground floor didn't catch fire. He then stabbed himself several times, causing severe, but not life-threatening wounds, as well as his hat. He then called for help. He claimed he had been attacked by bandits, who had killed everyone in the house and left him for dead.

He subsequently claimed that he had committed the murders in a fit of madness. Angerstein told his helpers and the police that he was assaulted in his villa after he returning from town. Firefighters soon managed to extinguish the flames. Some witnesses claimed to have seen 15 to 25 bandits. Angerstein was brought to the hospital in Haiger, where he was operated on. Police were sent for from Siegen and Wetzlar for protection, and militias were formed.

Georg Popp helped in the investigation of the murders; the investigators raised doubts about Angerstein's story. Rigor mortis had already set in in the corpses, thus contradicting Angerstein's claims regarded when the killings had taken place.

Angerstein's fingerprints were found on the dagger and on the dead bodies. There were no signs of a robbery. During interrogation by the prosecutor, Angerstein denied having committed the killings himself, but made contradictory statements. Angerstein was arrested, though he remained in hospital. After the autopsy he was accused of having committed the murders, and Angerstein finally confessed to his brother in the presence of a police officer.


  • Käthe Angerstein, Angerstein's wife

  • ... Barth, Angerstein's mother-in-law

  • Minna Stoll, Angerstein's maidservant

  • Ella Barth, 18, Angerstein's sister-in-law

  • Ditthart, bookkeeper

  • Kiel, clerk

  • Geist, Angerstein's gardener

  • Rudi Darr, gardener's assistant


There was much speculation surrounding the motive behind the murders. It was assumed that Angerstein had been gripped by paranoia due to his embezzlement, and that he was attempting to get rid of witnesses. Reference was made in this context to Angerstein's suicide attempt. Rumors circulated to the effect that Angerstein was inspired by the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, which states that by killing nine people a seal may be activated that provides great riches.

Trial and execution

Out of fear that the public could turn against Angerstein he was brought to Limburg only two weeks before the trial started. Angerstein's trial began on July 6 at the court in Limburg an der Lahn. It was a media spectacle, gaining lots of publicity and media coverage, and even though it is largely forgotten today, it is, together with the trials of Fritz Haarmann and Peter Kürten, considered one of the great mass murderer trials of the Weimar Republic. Angerstein was accused of 13 counts, among them eight counts of murder, two counts of embezzlement, and one count each of forging documents, arson, and perjury. Angerstein claimed he did not embezzle money, but that van der Zypen instead owed him money. 153 witnesses were called and 27 experts. Angerstein admitted to committing bribery and embezzlement.

On July 13, after six days of trial, Angerstein was sentenced to death once for each of the eight murders and deprived of his civil rights for the rest of his life, while the other charges against him were dismissed. Angerstein accepted the verdict, stating that he did not want mercy and that his deed could only be expiated with his blood.

On November 17, 1925, at 8 a.m., he was decapitated with an axe by executioner Carl Gröpler in the courtyard of the Central Prison Freiendiez.


The case has gained some notoriety for allegedly being one ot the rare instances where an optogram, a photograph taken from a dead person's retina, played a role in identifying and convicting a murderer. According to reports a Professor Doehne of Cologne University photographed the retinas of two of Angerstein's victims, yielding one picture showing Angerstein's face, and a second one of Angerstein attacking his gardener with a hatchet. Substantial doubts have been raised about these claims though.


Fritz Angerstein


Photograph of the villa where Fritz Angerstein killed eight people.



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