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Carl Gröpler
Prussian executioner

Carl Gröpler

Carl Gröpler
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Prussian executioner
Was Executioner
From Germany
Gender male
Birth 22 February 1868, Magdeburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany
Death 30 January 1946, Magdeburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany (aged 77 years)
The details (from wikipedia)


Carl Gröpler (22 February 1868, Magdeburg – 30 January 1946, Magdeburg) was Royal Prussian executioner (German: Scharfrichter) from 1906 to 1937. Responsible for carrying out capital punishment in the Prussian provinces, he executed a total of at least 144 people, primarily by beheading with an axe, but also with guillotines. Gröpler was one of the most famous executioners in Germany.


Franz Friedrich Carl Gröpler was born as a child of the railway worker and service man Heinrich Gröpler and his wife Auguste, born Anton, in Magdeburg. He was first a musician, then spent five years as a postal worker. Gröpler learned the horse butcher's trade and business and ran a laundry in Magdeburg named "Aegir".


Executioner Carl Gröpler was described as a man who wore a traditional tailcoat, top hat, and white gloves.

Gröpler was first assistant to the main Prussian executioner Lorenz Schwietz. When the Prussian executioner Alwin Engelhardt was dismissed in 1906, Gröpler took over his duties. Together with his successor Ernst Reindel, Gröpler was one of the last executioners in Germany performing executions by beheading with an axe. Depending on local circumstances he also operated the guillotine. Once Gröpler to have said before an execution to a prison officer: "Well, ... you passed an ugly night in the cell. Or don't you believe in God? I – yes! Otherwise I could not do that. Thou shalt not kill – who sheds blood, his blood shall be shed again – our laws are his (God's) laws –. In this knowledge I fulfill my duties." The prison officer been on death watch with a man condemned to death in his last night, discussing with him, prior to his decapitation, whether there was any sense in having a clergyman attending executions. Theodor Lessing nicknamed Gröpler (who had executed Fritz Haarmann in 1925) of "the red judge".

In April 1924 Gröpler signed a contract that made him the de facto sole executioner in Northern Germany. In addition to a regular flat-rate fee of 136,- Goldmarks per month, for every execution of a fee of 60,- Goldmarks for themselves and 50,- Goldmarks for each of its agents. At the end of the Weimar Republic, Gröpler had only a few execution orders. This only changed with the increasing number of executions since the takeover by the Nazis in 1933 Gröpler renewed its annual contract with a salary of 1.500,- Reichsmarks per year and a fee of 50,- Reichsmark per execution. That Gröpler summoned the Nazi salute during the executions at each interim report, earned him an admonition to refrain from such practices.

On the July 2nd 1931, the 48-year-old German serial killer Peter Kürten, who once described himself as the Vampire of Düsseldorf and as a wild animal, was executed in the Cologne prison, Klingelpütz, with the Fallbeil. The execution was carried out by Carl Gröpler. The Fallbeil, that he had brought with him from Magdeburg, had not been used for five years. Time quoted on 13 July 1931: "Herr Groepler, a stolid individual whose profession forces him to lead a rather unsocial existence, left his cosy home in Magdeburg last week with a bag of tools and a coil of new rope. He took the train to the Prussian State Prison at Klingelpuetz, near Cologne. In the prison yard he disappeared into a dusty, dilapidated shed. Prisoners tense in their cells heard him hammering, hammering, filing metal all day long."

One of the last executions with the ax were the executions of the Baroness Benita von Falkenhayn and her friend Renate von Natzmer. The two had been sentenced by the People's Court on charges of espionage and were beheaded by Gröpler on 18 February 1935 in Plötzensee Prison.

Carl Gröpler was attributed to at least 144 executions in his 30 years of service. In 1937, he was forced to retire. He was replaced by his assistant, the knacker Ernst Reindel from Gommern.


In 1945, Carl Gröpler was arrested by the Soviet military at his residence in Magdeburg. The arrest was based presumably on the execution of four communists, which he had made in 1934 in Hamburg Remand Prison (cf. to the process, the executions and to its literary and cinematic processing: Heinrich Jauch (1894–1945), First prosecutor to Hamburg). Gröpler died on 30 January 1946 in the remand.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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