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Serial Murderers in Germany from 1945 to 1995: A Descriptive Study

NCJ Number
Homicide Studies Volume: 5 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2001 Pages: 311-334
Stephan Harbort; Andreas Mokros
Date Published
November 2001
24 pages
This article describes the characteristics of serial murderers in Germany from 1945 to 1995.
The definition of the serial murderer in the present research is: "The fully or partially culpable perpetrator commits alone or with accomplice(s) at least three completed murders, each of which has to be premeditated and characterized through a new, hostile intent." The inspection of various German print media over the last 5 years revealed reports of approximately 212 serial murderers that had presumably killed more than 2,400 victims worldwide. If the prevalence rates were compared over time, it became evident that they showed a continuous increase since 1965. The surprising prevalence over the last 55 years, combined with the limited success in apprehending and convicting the perpetrators, coincides with a lack of knowledge about the phenomenon. The sample of participants consisted of all serial murderers who had been convicted within the period of 1945 until the end of 1995. The analysis of the prosecution files was approached in three steps. First, 232 variables (including age, education level, and employment) were identified. Second, the data were collected and scored in a standardized manner for every individual. Finally, descriptive and inferential statistical analyses were conducted. Results showed that, although most of the individuals were endowed with sufficient intellectual capability, the majority failed at school and in employment. Dysfunctional development in primary socialization processes could be observed for 89.1 percent of the sample. This was likely to have increased the risk for social maladjustment. About two thirds came from families with low economic status. The average age at the time of commission of their first homicide was 27.5 years. For 88.5 percent, personality and conduct disorders had been diagnosed. Moreover, the high degree of suicidal tendency deserves attention. Future studies should address the question of differential behavioral consistency in more detail. 4 tables, 2 notes, 58 references