German cannibal had Hansel and Gretel fix, lived next to witch

February 2, 2004

KASSEL, Germany — Armin Meiwes, the mild-mannered and well-groomed computer technician who was convicted Friday of killing and eating a man, has had a life-long Hansel and Gretel obsession and grew up in a woodlands village farm house next door to a self-professed witch who was once taken to court for casting death spells.

He has spent over half of his 42 years in a rambling, half-timbered, 200-year-old farm house in central Germany in precisely the kind of setting one finds in fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm.

As a child, he remembered his mother Waltraud Meiwes inviting the neighbour lady over for afternoon coffee, talking about spells and curses and witchcraft.

He himself had sexual fantasies about other boys - twisted fantasies in which he would invite them home and carve them up and cook them and eat them.

No one in the village of Rothenburg in the rolling forest lands of central Germany knew of his fantasies. But thanks to the Internet, Meiwes was able to make them come true in March 2001.

That was when a Berlin man he had met in a gay Internet chat room took him up on his cyber-invitation to "let me gobble you up".

The man, Bernd-Juergen Brandes, himself a computer analyst with a Berlin information technologies company, had his own Hansel and Gretel obsession.

Brandes wanted to be castrated and mutilated. He dreamt of being taking bodily into another man - being ingested - becoming one with another man.

For both, it was as if some perverted fairy tale had come true.

Soon after he was arrested in December 2002, Meiwes told investigators he had a childhood obsession with the Grimm Brothers' fairy tale Hansel and Gretel, and was especially fascinated by the passage in which the storybook witch "fattened up little Hansel" in hopes of cooking and eating him.

This fixation may have been exacerbated when his family moved to the rambling, 30-room, half-timbered house in Rotenburg an der Fulda when he was 16.

The family's next-door neighbour was a self-avowed Satanist called Ulla von Bernus who published occult tracts and gave interviews to German print and broadcast media about her prowess at "casting death spells with 90 per cent reliability".

Von Bernus made headlines throughout Germany in the early 1980s when she was taken to court by a disgruntled woman who claimed she had paid von Bernus $15,000 to put a death curse on her husband - who then did not die. The woman wanted her money back.

A court ruled that von Bernus was guilty of an "illusory crime exempt from punishment" and ordered her to repay the money. The court in Kassel judged that the whole business "had been objectively impossible from the start".

Von Bernus was best friends with Waltraud Meiwes, the future cannibal's domineering mother. The suspect himself told investigators he was "in and out of Ulla's house all the time" until von Bernus died in 1998 at age 86.

Waltraud and Armin moved to Rotenburg in the mid-1970s. His parents had divorced when he was 8 and he rarely saw his policeman father or two step-brothers again.

Witnesses told the court Meiwes was firmly under the thumb of his mother, who ordered him about the house "like a drill sergeant" and who chaperoned him on his rare dates with women and who even insisted on accompanying him on field exercises when he was in the military.

"The other soldiers in his company thought that was pretty weird, to say the least," a witness testified.

When he was 20 she even had the temerity to post a stick-on label saying "Kinderzimmer" (Child's Room) on the door of Armin's bedroom.

He never removed the label, the witness said, even after his mother died in 1999.

"He was a mama's boy," a neighbour told reporters. "He was totally fixated on his mother, who he said never let him date girls. After she died, he began to thaw out." It was only after her death that Meiwes began talking about "horrible things" he had discovered while surfing the Internet in search of gay companionship, the witness said. –Sapa-dpa

Related links stories
German cannibal: 'I've had the kick of a lifeltime' [28/01/2004]



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