Saturday, September 17, 2011

“Babies Burned In A Stove”: German Child Care Provider Elizabeth Wiese - 1903


Wikipedia (Article 1 of 3): As a young woman she worked as a mid-wife. She already had a daughter, Paula, when she married the tradesman Heinrich Wiese. After being convicted of carrying out illegal abortions she was prevented from carrying out her profession, and money grew scarce. Tensions grew between herself and her husband. She tried to murder him on several occasions, firstly by poisoning his food and then by attempting to cut his throat with a razor while he slept. She was not successful and was sent to prison after being convicted of several crimes.

Upon release from prison she offered her services as a child-carer to women who could not raise their children themselves, or who had illegitimate children. Initially she charged the mothers a one-time fee for handing the children over to adoptive parents, who in turn had to be paid. However, she did not always pay the adoptive parents, who returned the children to her, so they had to be gotten rid of. She then informed the mothers of babies left in her care that she had had the babies adopted by rich families in distant countries. What she actually did was poison the babies with morphine and burn their bodies in a stove in her apartment. However, suspicions grew about the fate of these babies and investigations began.

As she had to distance herself from dealing in babies, Wiese forced her daughter Paula into prostitution. Paula fled to London, but became pregnant. She returned to Hamburg and gave birth in a cellar. Immediately after the birth Wiese drowned Paula's baby and burnt the body in the stove. When the police started investigating the case they searched Wiese's apartment and discovered her cache of morphine and poisons. As she lived in St. Pauli, a suburb of Hamburg, she became known as "the angel-maker of St. Pauli.”

On 10 October 1904 Wiese was convicted in court of fraud, living off immoral earnings and the murder of five children. She was executed by guillotine in 1905.

In March 2010 the story of Elisabeth Wiese was filmed by NDR in Germany.

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 3): Berlin, Monday, Oct. 5. – Sensational new evidence has been furnished to the Hamburg police against Frau [Elizabeth] Wiese, who is alleged to have killed a child entrusted to her guardianship, and later, it is further charged, tried to poison her husband.

As a result of offering a reward for proof of fresh crimes it is asserted that the woman received for adoption in the family of a certain doctor in London the son of a Hamburg servant girl. The woman received thirty shillings for promising to place the child in London, but all trace of him soon after disappeared.

There is no reason to believe that the woman not only deliberately made away with two children given her for adoption, but also the child of her daughter, who was employed in the London doctor's family, by burning them in her kitchen stove. She is said to have had the stove enlarged for the special purpose of carrying out her fiendish work.

The neighbours state that they had often observed that the kitchen was heated to an intense degree and also that horrible odours used to emanate from it. The woman kept such a hot fire going that the stove plates burst.

Frau Wiese protests her innocence and says that the children were killed by others.

[“Terrible Charges Against A Berlin Baby Farmer.” Daily Mail (London, England), Oct. 6, 1903, p. 5]

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FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 3): Berlin, Nov. 1.—The Hamburg baby farmer, Elizabeth Wiese, has been found guilty of the murder of five infants and a long series of other grave crimes. In accordance with German law she has been sentenced five times to death, once for each murder. For perjury and forgery she was sentenced to six years’ penal servitude. Another curious pendant to her sentence was the loss of honor for the remainder of her natural life.

The details of the trial were revolting in the extreme, proving the woman to be a monster of iniquity. The story of her career is one of the most revolting in the criminal annals of the empire. It appeared from the evidence given at the trial that she was born in Hanover, in 1859. her maiden name being Berkefeld. After a somewhat checkered career in her native province, where several prosecutions and imprisonments for illegal operations and imposture had rendered it impossible for her to carry on her calling of midwife, she moved to Hamburg, renting an expensive residence in one of the fashionable thoroughfares.


Here she established herself; as a professional foster-mother. Her method of procedure was to insert in both German and foreign papers prominent advertisements, in which the adoption of children born out of wedlock was promised in return for a single monetary payment. These notices brought her many clients from the fashionable, as well as from the humble ranks of society. For instance, it is stated that for taking over a child whose parents belonged to the highest circles of the town of Hanover she received a fee of $1,000 in addition to $250 in hush money.

At the same time she inserted in the papers other advertisements to the effect that a “young and beautiful girl” appealed to noble-minded gentlemen for temporary pecuniary assistance, and forced her own illegitimate daughter. Paula, into improper relationships with the men who replied to these thinly veiled enticements. She visited London and the names of persons said to be resident in the English metropolis were mentioned in the course of the trial just closed. It was further alleged against her, though on this count she has been acquitted, that, she attempted to poison her husband, who found her proceedings not to his liking.

One of the children adopted by her is said to have been the child of an English woman of title. Of the children whom she was paid to take those whose age made the proceeding profitable were corrupted. Others she poisoned with morphine, throwing their bodies into the Elbe, or burning them in her kitchen fireplace. The crime of the infanticide was brought home to her in no fewer than five specific cases, and how far that number was from completing the gruesome tale of her iniquities there is no means of knowing. A dramatic feature of the trial was the appearance of the woman’s husband and daughter as witnesses against her.

[“Baby Farmer Must Die. – Notorious German Woman Receives Five Capital Sentences.” Syndicated (Bulletin Press Association), Oshkosh Daily Nortwestern (Wi.), Nov. 1, 1904, p. 4]

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For more cases of “Baby Farmers,” professional child care providers who murdered children see The Forgotten Serial Killers.

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