Mugshot of Peter Kürten circa. 1931

"I have no remorse. As to whether recollection of my deeds makes me feel ashamed, I will tell you. Thinking back to all details it not all unpleasant. I rather enjoy it." 

- Peter Kürten 

Peter Kürten (May 26 1883 - July 2 1931) was a German serial killer and sadistic child-murderer known as "The Vampire of Düsseldorf" who raped and murdered at least nine people between 1913 and 1929. He was beheaded by Guillotine for his crimes.  Kürten's case was the inspiration for Fritz Lang's famous film "M". He has gone down in history as one of the world's most notorious serial killers.

Early Life

Peter Kürten was born in Mullenheim-am Reinh, Germany into an abusive and poverty-stricken family on May 26 1883. His controlling and alcohlic father often sexually abused his mother and two sisters. At a young age Kürten began to sexually assault his sisters as well. He would later claim he comitted his first murders at the age of five, when he drowned two friends of his with which he had gone swimming. In 1894 he moved to Düsseldorf were he engaged in petty theft and breaking and entering. He was encarsirated several times. He as well confessed to torturing and killing animals. He got a job as a dog-cather. He would later fall in unemployment several times during his lifetime. In 1913 he broke into the bedroom of 9-year old Christine Klein. He raped her, choked her to death and afterwards cut her throat with a large butcher-knife.

Reign of Terror 

In the following years he attacked several people including women and children. He attempted to rape and kill them but they managed to escape.  On February 8 1929 Kürten abducted an 8-year old girl who he molested and strangled. On February 13 he savagely attacked 45-year old mechanic Rudolf Scheer who he stabbed twenty times in the neck with a large and sharp knife. He would later claim he derived sexual pleasure from watching blood flow. On March 9 1929 he killed 8-year old Rosa Holiger who he abducted, dragged behind a fence, assaulted and stabbed thirteen times with the knife.

On August 24 1929 Kürten abducted 13-year old Luise Lenzen and 5-year old Gertrude Hamascher two young sisters from the street and took them to a nature-rich meadow just outside of Düsseldorf where he raped, strangled and stabbed them. That same evening he attempted to kill another girl Gertrud Schulte who he stabbed many times. She managed to escape and give the Police a detailed description of the man who was  now known as  "The Vampire of Düsseldorf". 

The city was gripped by fear. His next victim was 20-year old Maria Hahn who was stabbed twenty times just a few miles from the rooming house were Kürten rented a room. In October 1929 he assaulted 31-year old             Ida Reuter, a local servant girl. He raped her and battered her to death with a hammer. A few days later he bludgeoned another servant girl Elizabeth Dorrier. The Police had little leads and there were 900.000 potential suspects listed. On November 7 1929 Peter Kürten claimed his final attack. 5-year old Gerti Albermann was stabbed 36 times with a pair of scissors. He sent a letter to the local newspaper in which he  pin-pointed the area he had buried her body. In May 1930 he abducted Maria Budlick who he took to his appartment and raped. He willingly released her which sealed his fate. 

Maria Budlick let police to the rooming house where he resided. Police inspectors rushed in on May 24 1930 and arrested  Peter Kürten.

Trail and Execution 

Peter Kürten confessed as many as 79 offences to police after his capture. He was charged with nine murders and seven attempted murders. He told investigators he derived sexual pleasure from his actions and felt no emphaty for his victims. He confessed to drinking of the fresh blood of two of his victims after their death. In April 1931 he was convicted and sentenced to death by beheading. 

In prison, while awaiting execution Kürten was interviewed by acclaimed psychiatrist Dr. Karl Berg who preformed a psychological analysis on him. During the many interviews he had with him, Kürten revealed that had found he could only achieve sexual sadisfaction throw the stabbing or killing of other human beings. Blood would be an extra stimulation to him. He also claimed that he commited his crimes "to strike back at an opressive society." 

On July 2 1931, Peter Kürten was escorted from prison to Calcone, Germany where he was executed by  beheading by Guillotine "The Vampire of  Düsseldorf" was 48 years old. 

Karl Berg used the confessions made by Kürten as the groundwork for his book "The Sadist " published in 1938. 


The head of Peter Kürten was mummified and kept. It can to this day be seen on display in a Museum in Wisconson, America. His crimes continued to haunt the citizens of Germany for years afterwards. Kürten was one of the most brutal serial killers in history. At least 9 killings have been confirmed, but it is suspected more than 80 people might have been murdered by him. 

In 1931 filmmaker Fritz Lang used the case of Peter Kürten as the inspiration for the classic film: "M" in which a child-murderer terrorizes Berlin. 

The 1965 film "The Vampire of Düsseldorf" by French director Robert Hussein is based upon the life of the child-murderer. 

In 1991 the life of Peter Kürten was adapted in a play by Anthony Neilson which was made into a film entitled "Normal" in 2009. 

Indipendent documentary filmmaker John Borowski has announced plans for a feature lenght documentary-film on Peter Kürten in the wake of three previous films of his: "Dr. H.H. Holmes: America's First Serial Killer" (2004),    "Albert Fish: In Sin He Found Salvation" (2007) and "Carl Panzram: Spirit of Hatred And Vengance" (2012). 


Although the complete number of Peter Kürten's victims remains ambigious there are certainties on some of his victims: 

  • Christine Kein (9) ca. 1913 - raped, choked to death and throat cut with knife.
  • Unidentified girl (8) - February 8 1929 - raped and strangled to death.
  • Rudolf Scheer (45) - February 14 1929 - stabbed twenty times in the neck with knife. 
  • Rosa Ohilger (8) - March 9 1929 - sexually assaulted and stabbed thirteen times with knife. 
  • Luise Lenzen (13) and Gertrud Hamascher (5) - August 24 1929 - raped, strangled and stabbed with knife. 
  • Maria Hahn (20) - ca. September 1929 - raped and stabbed with knife twenty times.
  • Ida Reuter (31) - September 29 1929  - battered to death with hammer.
  • Elizabeth Dorrier (age unknown) - October 1929 - battered to death with hammer.
  • Gerti Albermann (5) - November 7 1929 - Stabbed thirty-six times with pair of scissors.


  • Unidentified boy (age unknown and Unidentified boy (aged unknown) - ca. 1892 - claimed to have drowned while swimming at age 5.


  • Gertrud Schulte (age unknown) - August 24 1929 - stabbed numerous times, escaped.
  • Maria Budlies (age unknown) - May 1930 - raped, attempted to strangle.

Points of intrest 

Peter Kürten's crimes have a strong resamblance to those of also German, butcher [file:///wiki/Fritz_Haarmann Fritz Haarmann] who murdered and cannibalized at least 24 young men in Hannover, Germany in 1924 and 1925. 

He also bares a resemblance to American sadomasochistic serial killer Albert Fish who was executed in      New York in 1936 for the murder and cannibalization of two children in 1927 and 1928. 


Type of butcher's knife presumably used by Kürten to assault many victims.

Another 1931 mugshot of Peter Kürten

Head of Peter Kürten

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