As horror fans, we are drawn to the darker side of life — and that often includes a preoccupation with true crime. Sure, we all have seen the countless (mostly terrible) movies based on Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, the usual round-up. I have so many books on the subject of serial killers, that if I were ever to be arrested, they would just put me away without trial.
And speaking of trials… Can you believe that even the Nazis hunted serial killers?
What’s scarier than Nazis? A serial killer operating in Nazi Germany. Paul Ogorzow, born in 1912, ran amok in Berlin at the height of Nazi power. A multiple murderer and rapist, he preyed on his victims during wartime blackouts caused by Allied bombings.
At the age of 18, he joined the Nazi Party, and was a member of its paramilitary branch. Ogorzow did fairly well for himself in the party, working up to the title of Scharfuhrer — squad leader. He would later start working for the railroad system known as the S-Bahn, and committed most of his crimes near Karlshorst in Berlin.
Ogorzow married in 1937 and had two children — one boy and one girl. They lived with his mother before moving to an apartment in Karlshorst. After his arrest, neighbors described him as a family man, who was often seen playing with his kids in the garden or tending to his small orchard. His wife, on the other hand, described him as abusive, obsessive, and violent.
Why aren’t we more familiar with these crimes? Well, Nazis really didn’t want the stories getting out that wives of men fighting for the Fatherland were being horribly murdered. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda, made sure there were no crime reports published.
His first attempts at murder were failures: Ogorzow attacked and stabbed three different women — between August 1939 and July 1940 — who survived to testify against him. In August of 1940, he bludgeoned and raped another woman, whom he thought he had killed, but was just unconscious. He would fail three more times before changing his M.O. — which, unfortunately, became more successful.
In October of 1940, Ogorzow broke into Gerda Ditter’s home and stabbed her to death. She was 20 years old and a mother of two, with a husband off fighting in the war. Two months later, under the guise of his rail worker uniform, he crushed Elfriede Franke’s skull with an iron bar and flung her body from the moving train. Less than an hour later, while walking home, he came across 19-year-old Irmagard Freese, whom he raped and bludgeoned to death.
Having successfully murdered three women over the course of two months, Ogorzow continued his game at a rapid speed. Between December 22nd of 1940 and February 11th of 1941, his body count reached seven — including a young pregnant woman whom he attempted to strangle and then threw from the fast-moving train. She later died in the hospital from her injuries and exposure.
Finally, once remains of the second victim, Johanna Voigt, were found on February 11th, the police realized they had a serial killer on their hands, and began searching for one person. Because the media was controlled by the Nazi regime, no news coverage was broadcast to let women know someone was hunting them. Instead, Berlin police commissar (and SS officer) Willhelm Ludtke had to implore female officers to act as bait, doubled police patrols on the S-Bahn and selected people to personally walk unaccompanied women through the area. Amazingly, Ogorzow himself actually volunteered for this duty.
Playing true into the stereotype of serial killers, Ogorzow couldn’t seem to keep his mouth shut about his fascination with killing and misogynist comments. He often said such things to and about his co-workers, which piqued the interest of investigators. Ludtke ordered all of Ogorzow’s rail uniforms to be inspected… and found numerous suspicious bloodstains.
Paul Ogorzow was arrested on July 12th, 1941, and was put face-to-face with his surviving victims and various skulls of others. He cracked and willingly confessed to his crimes — but blamed them on alcoholism, and claimed a Jewish doctor had treated him incorrectly for gonorrhea.
He was expelled from the Nazi Party (I guess even they had standards?) and confessed to eight murders and six attempted murders. He was immediately sentenced to death for “criminal violence,” and executed via guillotine at the Plotzensee Prison on July 26th, 1941.
It disturbs but doesn’t surprise me that a majority of these murders and attempts could have been easily prevented, had there not been such a lockdown on media coverage by the Nazi party.
As a side note, the producers of ZODIAC are currently in pre-production on a feature focusing on the events,
If you want a more in-depth chronicle of Paul Ogorzow, I highly recommend the book “A SERIAL KILLER IN NAZI BERLIN: THE CHILLING TRUE STORY OF THE S-BAHN MURDERER by Scott Andrew Selby.