Almost 100 years after his terrible series of murders, a previously unknown reference file on serial killer Peter Kürten (1883-1931) has surfaced. The file was created by the then investigating judge and later judge at the Federal Court of Justice, Carl Hertel, said the head of the Düsseldorf City Archives, Benedikt Mauer, in Düsseldorf.

Hertel left the file to the Attorney General Max Güde, whose son discovered it in his father’s estate and sent it to the city archive. Mauer handed over the file to the responsible state archive of North Rhine-Westphalia on Wednesday, which documents the Kürten case with the 223 court files. The reference file contains original letters from the serial killer and interrogation records. It was a “stroke of luck,” said historian Martina Wiech from the state archive.

Vampire of Dusseldorf

The crime series of the “Vampire of Düsseldorf” is considered the most spectacular criminal case of the Weimar Republic and caused a sensation worldwide. Kürten murdered nine people and committed at least ten other murder attempts. He was sentenced to death and beheaded in Cologne on July 2, 1931. Director Fritz Lang addressed the case in his 1931 film “M – Eine Stadt sucht ein Mörder”.

Investigating judge Hertel had documented Kürten’s interrogations in the file and also letters from the serial killer after his arrest. Kürten was surprised that he hadn’t heard from his wife and wrote her a letter, but she coolly told the judge: “Please tell him to refrain from all of this. It’s all over and too late. The remorse is too late.”

The serial killer’s wife suffered a nervous breakdown after his misdeeds became known. There was no divorce before Kürten’s execution: Auguste Kürten became a widow and, with the support of the judge, changed her name to Schmitt after she had been exposed as Krüger.

According to the letters, Kürten probably did not expect his execution. Before his planned transfer back from the Bedburg sanatorium to the Ulmer Höh prison in Düsseldorf, he asked for a freshly painted cell on the sunny side of the prison. Sometimes he shows himself to be insightful: “My views at the time when the crimes were committed were probably wrong,” he writes. In the meantime, however, he had withdrawn his confession.

In 1929 Kürten had committed eight of his nine murders – mostly of children and women – as well as a number of muggings and attempted murders, with which he had thrown the population of the Rhineland into hysteria.

desire to kill

Kürten had at least ten siblings, his father was a violent alcoholic who beat his wife and children and even molested a daughter. As a child, he watched his neighbor, an animal catcher, at work and even then felt his desire to kill.

A surviving woman finally led the investigators to Kürten’s home address. His wife is arrested in the apartment. Kürten himself sensed trouble and broke away at the last moment. At the Rochuskirche in Düsseldorf, Kürten is finally arrested on a fictitious date with his wife – and confesses.