Our correspondent reports from Berlin on case of a real-life Hannibal Lecter that has horrified a nation and revived memories of the darkest days of war
The Times (England), Dec. 13, 2002
By Roger Boyes
Germany was transfixed in horror yesterday by a case of cannibalism in which an apparently respectable software specialist mutilated and ate a microchip engineer.
The cannibal says his victim volunteered to be slaughtered. The man confessed after police thwarted his attempt to find a new victim over the internet: at least five men had already declared their willingness to be eaten.
The tabloid daily Bild expressed concern that cannibals could be roaming German streets. “They are invisible behind their glasses, their hairstyles, their families, their work, their seemingly unblemished innocence,” wrote Franz Josef Wagner, a columnist for the paper. “These sick people are hiding among us, they are in our very midst.”
Cannibalism not only breaches moral and social taboos, it hits a nerve for a whole generation of Germans who remember the desperate eating of human organs during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
Bodies of fallen soldiers frozen in the snow sometimes had to provide meat for the half-starved Wehrmacht in retreat.
The three months of hand-to-hand fighting in the icy ruins of Stalingrad during the winter of 1942-3 saw — as German veterans now admit — a frenzied resort to human flesh. After the war, when the soldiers started to trickle back from Soviet captivity, some of the horrific stories were passed on to families.
For German literature however wartime cannibalism remained a forbidden subject. This latest case of cannibalism plainly stems from sexual perversion. But the ghost of wartime hunger and the buried secrets of a generation hung over the public debate yesterday.