Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wilhelmine Woltmann, German Serial Killer - 1872

NOTE: Some sources give the name as “Waltmann,” others use the spelling “Woltman” or “Woltmann.” Wilhelmene Woltmann" is the spelling used in German language sources.


1845 – Wilhelmine Woltmann, born Gustrow, Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
Apr. 3, 1872 – arrested.
Oct. 22, 1872 – Court of Assises gave verdict of death.
Dec. 21, 1872 – executed by ax beheading.

Child – knocked eye out
Martin – her own child.
Franz von During – first Husband, Brunswick.
Martin Wachter, Hanover – father-in-law
Lotta Wachter, Hanover – mother-in-law
Elizabeth Woltmann step-daughter.
Adalbert Woltmann – step-son.


FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2): Wilhelmina Waltmann, known as the “Borgia of the Stade,” a little city on the banks of the Elbe, recently surrendered her life on the scaffold to atone for its iniquity. Her career had been marked by continuous, premeditated cruelty. While at school she knocked out the eye of a companion. Being a woman of great beauty she became governess to the children of a wealthy man who had made her his mistress. Her lover’s wife having learned of the affair the young tigress poisoned her.

At Hamburg, soon after, her beautiful face attracted many admirers, but becoming reckless the police expelled her from the city, and she went to Brunswick, where an officer of the Ducal army fell in love with and married her. She poisoned him soon after, and then turned up in Hanover, where she married a merchant named Wachter, and avenged herself upon his parents, who opposed the match, by poisoning them. Wachter soon deserted her, and she married a widower named Waltmann, with two children. These latter became the victims of their murderous stepmother, and this last crime exposed her. Her antecedents were examined, her other victims exhumed, and the evidence came in copious enough to fix a dozen death penalties to her had it been possible.

Throughout her confinement prior to her death the wild beast in her underwent no subjugation and though chained to the wall she undertook to attack a clergyman who visited her with spiritual consolation. Her beautiful hair was cut off before taking her to the scaffold, and she was arrayed in a low black muslin dress, which left the neck exposed. She was then forced to kneel in front of the block before a crowd of witnessed; her bead was strapped to it, and with one blow of the executioner’s axe it rolled into the basket.

[“The End of a ‘Borgia,’” The Coshocton Democrat (Oh.), Feb. 4, 1873, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): Although the 3d of December last was a bitter cold day, from the earliest hour in the morning vast crowds of people filled the streets of the little city of Stade, on the bank of the Elbe river, nearly opposite the great North German seaport of Hamburg. By 9 o'clock at least 20,000 people had arrived in Stade, and the police had the utmost difficulty in keeping order in the surging multitude. The occasion which had caused all these thousands to flock to Stade was the beheading of a woman, refined, attractive and intelligent. The name of the doomed woman was Wilhelmina Woltman, and the career of this extraordinary woman, almost from her earliest youth, had been marked by an uncontrollable and wicked temper. When at school she had knocked out the eye of one of her young companions. A few years after she became the governess of the children of a wealthy landed proprietor, who had fallen in love with her and made her his mistress. Her lover's wife having discovered the liaison, the girl poisoned the woman; and there is suspicion that she also caused the death of her own child. She buried herself thereupon for a time in a whirl of fashionable dissipation in Hamburg, where her extraordinary beauty attracted numerous admirers. But, becoming very reckless, the police expelled her from the city, and she went to Brunswick, where an officer of the ducal army fell in love with and eventually married her. She returned his devotion by poisoning him. She next turned up in Hanover, where she became acquainted with a merchant named Wachter, who married her. Wilhelmina revenged herself upon the opposing parents by poisoning them. The cholera raged at the time, and, in consequence, it remained a secret for years. Wachter soon afterwards became a bankrupt, and deserted his wife, who went to Stade and married a widower named Woltman, who had two children. These also became the victims of the murderous passions of their stepmother, and then her criminal career was brought to a close. She was arrested, her antecedents closely examined into, and her victims exhumed, her trial took place at Stade on the 2d of October, and the result was that she was convicted and sentenced to death.

Pastor Decker made, on the morning of the day on which she was to be executed, a determined effort to move her stony heart. The woman was fastened to the wall by a chain ten feet long, which was attached to her left wrist. After listening to the reverend gentleman for two or three minutes, she made a sudden attack on him, compelling him to beat a hasty retreat. Reiflenberg, the executioner, saluted his victim respectfully, and informed her who he was. "What do you want of me?" she said to the headsman, fixing her large, lustrous eyes inquiringly upon him. "I want to prepare you or the scaffold." he answered. "Oh," "she said, carelessly, "I am prepared." "Not quite," he rejoined. He then unchained her hand and began to cut off her hair. Then he threw a heavy fur cape over her shoulders, and the toilet for the scaffold was finished. He thereupon left her cell, and the next visitor was the warden of the prison, who asked her if she wanted anything. "Only a glass of water," she said, dryly. It was then about half-past 1, and her last moment rapidly drawing nigh. Ten minutes afterward the Judge and Clerk of the Criminal Court appeared before her, and the death warrant was read to her a last time. The presiding Judge urged her in feeling words to confess her crimes, and make her peace with her God. She responded by shaking her head impatiently. They left her, and then the headsman and his assistants took her to the scaffold. When she appeared in the open air the biting cold caused her to shiver; but she bore the glance of the thousands of eyes, which the multitude riveted upon her, without flinching.

The scaffold was a coarse, wooden structure, about eight feet in diameter. Wilhelmina Woltman ascended it with a firm step, and walked to the fatal block in its middle without betraying any nervousness. The warden of the prison asked her if she had anything to say. "No, no!" she answered angrily; "Make haste! make haste!" The next moment the two assistants of the executioner caused her to kneel in front of the block. They took the fur cape from her shoulders, and pressed her head upon the top of the block, to which they fastened it by means of a leather strap. She shook convulsively for a moment or two, until the executioner, who had meanwhile taken his flashing ax from a sort of scabbard, hastily stepped up to her. He took his position at the left side of the block, lifted up his ax, and struck heavily upon the beautiful white neck of the woman. He had done his work well, for the head fell down in front of the block, while the trunk raised itself convulsively, a stream of dark, red blood spouting in the air. The headsman and his assistants sprang to one side of the scaffold, in order not to be stained by the blood of the murderess.

[“Brinvilliers At Stade. - A Beautiful Poisoner Brought to the Scaffold.” Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 44, Number 6808, Jan. 28, 1873, p. 1]



FULL TEXT (translated from German): A criminal trial was recently held in front of the Court of Assises in Stade, Hanover, whose story reminds us vividly of the times of the notorious Lucretia Borgia. Wilhelmine Woltmann, a 25-year-old woman of extraordinary beauty, was found guilty by a jury of six-fold poisoning, and was unanimously condemned by the judges to death by ax. On the 21st of December, the executioner's art ended a career which, albeit in the lower sphere, does not such the horrible any less than that of the notorious Italian woman. Wilhelmine Woltmann was born in 1845 in Gustrow, Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Her father, a teacher at the Lyceum there, gave the daughter, who was so great in beauty, an excellent education. In her 13th year she was sent to a guesthouse in Kostock. Wilhelmine had to leave it after three years, because she knocked out the eye of a playmate in anger.

Some time after the return of the daughter to the parental home, the father found himself obliged to remove her for improper conduct. He arranged a job for her with a landowner, Herr Schalburg of Herzberg, who needed a governess for his children and a companion for his ailing wife. A few months after Wilhelmine's entrance into the house of the still young bon vivant, it was obvious that the handsome blond governess had been quarried as mistress. The poor wife suffered unspeakably and died after a few months, from, it was said, a broken heart. Later revelations, however, discclosed another more terrible mode of death. The scandal finally became so bad that Schalburg was forced to dismiss Fraulein Woltmann. Thn she went to Schwerin and initiated a lawsuit against the landowner through lawyer Holbein because of the paternity of a child born in the meanwhile. A compromise was achieved by paying 1000 Thalers.

With the money Wilhelmine went to Hamburg and led there such a devastating life that she soon became an inmate of the workhouse for dissolute women. A corporal punishment, which the young, impulsive creature had to endure, probably did little to turn the well-bred child into that shenanig that reveled in the torments of his fellow-men.

First we meet Wilhelmine in Braunschweig, where she knew how to seduce a young aristocratic officer with her dance in such a way that he shook off his status, family and connections in order to lead the woman to the altar. The marriage was not happy. A child sprouted from the same died in the autumn of 1864. At that time, cholera spread throughout Braunschweig. A few days after the death of the boy, the father, as the physicians attested, was due to the cholera. No one suspected the mourning widow was a Borgia, famously taken by the executioner. When the usual year of mourning was over, Wilhelmine sold the property of the divorced husband. With the proceeds, eight thousand thalers, she went to Hanover and knew how to draw a wealthy young merchant into her net. Despite the parries of his parents, the wedding took place.

For six years, the couple lived apparently in peace, the parents-in-law having fallen victim shortly after the marriage. Two children sprang from the union. Wachter, the husband, became bankrupt in 1871 and fled to America.

PART 2: Wilhelmine cried no tears to the heartless, but packed up their belongings and children and made a pilgrimage to Stade. There she met the teacher Woltmann, a widower with two children, while not yet divorced from the fleeing one. The bliss of the good schoolmaster married to the beautiful woman was soon to be disturbed. Woltmann, a man of sincere, moral character, became accustomed to the scandalous nature of the woman, and carried the yoke as long as it was possible. But the man expressed his disapproval one day, and informed the woman in a quiet ​​but definite manner that he intended to achieve a partial separation for his children. Wilhelmine accepted the words without any response, but a stinging, fanatical glance made the unhappy man shudder, as he later remarked to the jury. For several days the couple did not say a word. Suddenly, Wilhelm's stepchildren fell ill and died of fearful cramps after a few days.

The doctors may well suspect, because, despite of the protests of the stepmother was made a post-mortem investigation – and found arsenic. On April 3, the woman was arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department and the procedure started. The investigation by the Crime Department, conducted with due care, identified the poisoning by arsenic of the first husband from During, the first-born child, the Wachter in-laws, the Woltmann children, and most likely Mrs. Schalburg. On October 22, the Court of Assises, through its president, gave the following verdict:

"Wilhelmine Woltmann! In my long and eventful career as judge, I have never before seen such an inhumane criminal, who, right before me, laughed at all natural instincts. It seems that nature has banished the blackest soul to its most beautiful form. You are, by a jury of free men, without prejudice and with all justice, the poisoning of Adalbert and Elisabeth Woltmann, your step-children, Franz von During, your first jusband, Martin and Lotta Wachter, your parents-in-law, and Martin, your own child, found guilty. Wilhelmine Woltmann, 26 years old, is ordered to have been put to death on the morning of 21 December 1872 by the sword of life for these crass crimes. And God be merciful to your soul.”

Calm, without expression or movement, the woman received the verdict. With a smiling countenance, gracefully bowing, modern Borgia left the courtroom and, having arrived at the prison, asked the director for a rich meal.

["A modern Borgia. A woman who has six murders on her conscience. "Salzburger Volksblatt (Austria), 23 & 24 January 1873. p. 1]


FULL TEXT: Vor dem Assisenhofe zu Stade, Hanover, wurde vor Kurzem ein Kriminalprozez verhandelt, dessen Geschichte uns lebhast an die Zeiten der berüchtigten Lucretia Borgia erinnert. Wilhelmine Woltmann, ein 25jähriges Weib von ausserordentlicher Schönheit, wurde von einer Jury des sechsachen Giftmordes schuldig besunden, und von den Richtern einstimmig zum Tode durch das Beil verurtheilt. Am 21. Dezember hat die Art des Scharfrichters eine Laufbahn beendet, welche, wenn auch in niederer Sphäre, des Schrecklichen nicht weniger in sich schliesst, als diejenige der berüchtigen Italienerin. Wilhelmine Woltmann wurde im Jahre 1845 in Gustrow, Mecklenburg-Strelitz geboren. Ihr Vater, Lehrer am dortigen Lyceum, liess der zu grosser Schönheit heraublühenden Tochter eine votzügliche Erziehung angedeihen. Im 13. Jahre in eine Pension nach Kostock gesandt, musste Wilhelmine dieselbe bereits nach drei Jahren wieder verlossen, weil sie einer Gespielin im Zorn ein Auge ausgeschlagen.

Der Vater sah sich einige Zeit nach der Rücklehr der Tochter in das elterliche Haus genöthigt, dieselbe ihrer ungeziemenden Aussührung wegen zu enfernen. Er erwirkte ihr eine Stelle bei einem Gutsbesitzer Herrn Schalburg zu Herzberg, der eine Gouvernante für seine Kinder und eine Gesellschafterin für seine kränkelnde Gattin bedurste. Wenige Monate nach Wilhelminens Ginstritt in das Haus des noch jungen Lebemannes war es ein offenkundiges Gehimniss, dass die hübsche blonde Gouvernante zur Maitresse erboben worden. Die arme Gattin litt unsäglich und starb nach wenigen Monaten, wie es hiess, an gebrochenem Herzen. Spätere Enthüllungen liessen jedoch eine ausdere schrecklichere Todesart konstatiren. Der Skandal wurde schliesslich so arg, dass Schalburg sich gezwungen sah, die Woltmann zu entlassen. Diese begab sich nach Schwerin und leitete gegen den Gutsbesitzer durch nach Advokaten Holbein einen Prozess wegen der Vaterschaft eines mittlerweile geborenen Kindes ein.Ein Kompromiss wurde durch Zahlung von 1000 Thaler erzielt.

Mit dem Gelde ging Wilhelmine nach Hamburg und führte dort ein so ausschweisendes Leben, dass sie bald ein Infsalle des Arbeitshauses für liederliche Weiber wurde. Eine körperliche Züchtigung, welche das junge, impulsive Geschöpf zu erleiden hatte, trug wohl nicht wenig dazu bei, aus dem wohlerzogenen Kinde jenes Schensal zu machen, welches in den Qualen seiner Mitmenschen schwelgte.

Zunächst treffen wir Wilhelmine in Braunschweig, wosetbst sie einen jungen adeligen Offizier mit ihren Reigen so zu sesseln wusste, dass derselbe Stand, Familie und Konnexionen abschüttelte, um das Weib zum Altar zu führen. Die Ehe war nicht glücklich. Ein derselben entsprossenes Kind starb im Herbst 1864. Damals grafjirte die Cholera in Braunschweig. Wenige Tage nach dem Tode des Knäbleins folgte der Vater, wie die Aerzte bescheinigten, an der Cholera. Niemand vermuthete in der trauernden Wittwe die Borgia, welche einst noch dem Henker versallen sollte. Als  das übliche Trauerjahr vorüber war, verkaufte Wilhelmine das Eigenthum des geschiedenen Gatten. Mit dem Erlös, achttausend Thalern, ging sie nach Hannover und wusste dort einen vermögenden jungen Kaufmann in ihr Netz zu ziehen. Trotz der Widerrede der Eltern sand die Hochzeit statt. Sechs Jahre selbte das Ehepaar scheinbar in Frieden, nachdem die Schwiegereltern kurz nach der Heirath der Giftmischerin zum Opfer gefallen waren. Zwei Kinder entsprossen der Ehe. Im Jahre 1871 wurde Wachter, der Gatte, bankerott und floh nach Amerika. (Schulss folgt.)

PART 2: Wilhelmine weinte dem Herzlosen keine Thränen, sondern pacte ihre Siebensachen und Kinder auf und wallfahrte gen Stade. Dort, lernte sie den Lehrer Woltmann, einen Wittwer mit zwei Kindern, kennen, dem sie noch erlangter Scheidung von dem flüchtigen Wachter in aller Form angetraut wurde. Die Glückseligkeit des guten Schulmeisterleins in der Ehe mit dem wunderhübschen Weibe sollte bald gestört werden. Woltmann, ein seinfülender, moralischer Charakter, wurde von der screchen Natur des Weibes angeekeit und trug das Joch so lange es eben möglich war. Doch eines Tages rasste der Mann sich aus und theilte dem Weibe in ruhiger, aber bestimmter Weife mit, dass er seiner Kinder wegen eine partielle Trennung zu erzielen gedenke. Wilhelmine nahm die Worte ohne alle Erwiderung entgegen, allein ein stechender, fanaticher Blick liess den unglücklichen Mann schaudern, wie er selber vor den Geschworenen bemerkte. Mehrere Tage wechstelte das Ehepaar kein Wort. Plötzlich erkrankten Wilhelmens Stiefkinder und starben unter furchbaren Krämpfen nach wenigen Tagen.

Die Aerzte mochten wohl verdacht schöpfen, denn trotz der Proteste der Stiefmutter wurde eine post mortem Untersuchung vorgenommen und – Arsenik gefunden. Am 3. April wurde das Weib von der Kriminal-Behörde eingezogen und das Verfahren eingeleitet. Die mit vieter Umsicht geführte Untersuchung durch den Kriminalsenat konstatirte die Vergiftung durch Arsenik des ersten Gatten von During, des erster Ehe erzeugten Kindes, der Wachters’chen Schwiegereltern, der Woltmann’schen Kinder, und liess serner diejenige der Frau Schalburg als wahrscheinlich annehmen. Am 22. Oktober fällte der Assisenhof durch seinen Präsidenten folgendes Urtheil:

“Wilhelmine Woltmann! In einer langen und ereignissreichen Laufbahn als Richter habe ich nie eine so unmenschliche und allen Naturtrieben hohnlachende Verbrecherin vor mir geseben. Es scheint, als ob die Natur die schwärzeste Seele in die schönste Form gebannt. Sie sind von einer Jury frier Männer, ohne Vorfurteil und noch allen Formen Rechtens, des Giftmords von Adalbert und Elisabeth Woltmann, Ihrer Stiefsinder, von Franz von During, Ihres ersten Gatten, von Martin und Lotta Wachter, Ihren Schweigereltern, und Martin, Ihres eigenen Kindes, schuldig befunden worden. Für diese schrusslichen Verbrechen sollen Sie, Wilhelmine Woltmann, 26 Jahre alt, am Morgen des 21. Dezember 1872 durch das Schwert vom Leben zum Tode gebracht werden. Und Gott sei Ihrer Seele gnädig.”

Ruhig, ohne irgend welche Vewegung zu äussern, empfing das Weib den Urtheilspruch. Lächelnden Antlitzes, graziös sich verbeugend, verliess die moderne Borgia den Gerichtsaal und bat, im Gefängniss angekommen, den Direktor um ein reichliches Mahl.

[“Eine moderne Borgia. Ein Weib, das sechs Morde auf dem Gewissen hat.” Salzburger Volksblatt (Austria), 23 & 24 Jänner 1873. p. 1]




For more examples, see Step-Mothers from Hell.


More cases: Female Serial Killers Executed


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