Armin Meiwes, the cannibal of Rotenburg

Armin Meiwes was born on December 1, 1961, in Essen, Germany, near Düsseldorf. At the age of eight, his father, Dieter Meiwes, a police officer, abandoned him along with his mother Waltraud, and his two half-brothers Wolfgang and Ingbert from his mother’s previous marriage. Shortly afterward, his half-brothers also left the Wüstefeld house (a small town part of Rotenburg), leaving Armin and Waltraud alone in the vast family mansion with 50 rooms. His mother, a very authoritarian figure, made Armin her scapegoat, leading him to become introverted and solitary, creating an imaginary companion named Franky. In his mind, Franky was tall, blond, and strong. As Armin Meiwes gradually discovered his homosexuality, he also developed fantasies of sadomasochism and cannibalism. In his wildest dreams, he envisioned killing and devouring some of his classmates. During his adolescence, Armin Meiwes often visited the infamous German occultist Ulla Von Bernus, a close friend and neighbor of his mother.

At the age of 19, Armin Meiwes joined the army to see the world, but he was stationed at a barracks less than half an hour from Rotenburg. He returned home every night to take care of his ailing mother. Despite having little leisure time, he had a passion for indoor activities, particularly in the field of computers, which later became his profession as an IT specialist. Some of his colleagues described him as kind, affable, and discreet, while others portrayed him as a potential recluse, lacking friends and pretending to show interest in women.

Taking advantage of the internet’s development, Armin Meiwes quickly sought to connect with men who shared his obsessions. Unaware of her son’s monstrous inclinations, his mother passed away in 1999, leaving Armin with the mansion, which he rearranged according to his fantasies. He spent most of his time on the early stages of the internet, browsing through homosexual sites and forums, as well as more specialized ones focusing on torture, sadomasochism, and cannibalism. Armin Meiwes adopted the pseudonym “Franky the butcher” on these networks. In the mansion’s old smoking room on the second floor, he created a fully equipped tiled torture chamber with an ingenious system of pulleys and hooks, along with a dissection table. At the age of 38, Armin Meiwes accumulated a large number of video tapes and homosexual pornographic magazines, storing conversations from forums on hundreds of floppy disks and dozens of hard drives, along with numerous photos of tortured men. He acquired a set of knives and butcher equipment for hanging carcasses, turning his fantasies into reality.

In 2001, Armin Meiwes placed several ads on various homosexual sites, particularly on the specialized website forum “The Cannibal Café,” stating: “Franky [alias Armin Meiwes] is looking for a well-endowed candidate aged 18 to 30 for immediate slaughter and consumption.” He did not expect anyone to take it seriously, but soon realized some individuals were interested. Several men responded to the ad, but all backed out when they realized the seriousness and determination of the author, who allowed them to leave. The one who seemed most determined trembled and vomited when Armin Meiwes was about to disembowel him. Disappointed, he released the terrified man, who did not report the incident to the police. Approximately ten men visited his house before he could finally realize his fantasy.

One day, a certain Cator responded positively to the ad. Behind this pseudonym was Bernd Jürgen Brandes, a 43-year-old engineer from Berlin, homosexual, and a fan of extreme suffering. A committed sadomasochist, he volunteered for the project, and the two men met on the night of March 9 to 10, 2001, at Armin Meiwes’ residence. Suffering from personality disorders, Bernd Jürgen Brandes wanted to end his life in an unprecedented way. He assured Armin Meiwes that he had sold everything and settled his affairs before dying. He also reassured him by saying he had deleted all their forum conversations to prevent any connection. Before visiting Armin Meiwes, Bernd Jürgen Brandes ingested a large quantity of sleeping pills, about twenty, and drank schnapps. After multiple sexual acts and lengthy discussions, the two men got down to business. Armin Meiwes activated his video recording system, and Bernd Jürgen Brandes lay naked on the dissection table to be tied up willingly. Despite being conscious when his lover severed his penis with his consent, the effects of the sleeping pills and alcohol left him numb, and he did not scream while watching Armin Meiwes walk away with his severed member to prepare it in the kitchen. Attempting to roast it by flambéing it with rum, Armin Meiwes found the penis overcooked and impossible to chew. Bernd Jürgen Brandes himself made this observation as Armin fed him pieces of his own penis.

Losing more and more blood, Bernd Jürgen Brandes began to lose consciousness. Armin Meiwes led him to the bathroom to immerse him in a warm bath. While he bled to death, Armin Meiwes went to his living room to read a Star Trek story, occasionally checking on Bernd Jürgen Brandes. Eventually, he emerged from the bath, stumbled, and collapsed on the house floor. Armin Meiwes slit his throat with one of his kitchen knives to bring him from life to death. He suspended the body in his private slaughterhouse using his pulley system and began to dismember it. As the entire scene was filmed from start to finish, the facts could be verified by the prosecution. He froze the consumable pieces and buried the bones in the garden. For several weeks, he enjoyed several kilograms of meat at each meal, deriving sexual pleasure from it. He created refined menus, accompanied by good sauces and fine wines. In a documentary, he described his crime: “I decorated the table with pretty candles. I took out my best tableware and cooked a piece of rump steak from his back. I made what I call princess potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Then I ate. The first piece was very strange. It’s a feeling I can’t describe. I had waited 40 years for this, dreamed of it (…) His meat tasted like pork, but stronger.”

After his act, Armin Meiwes boasted on forums that he had fulfilled his fantasy and desired a new candidate to continue his erotic-cannibal interests. One of his internet contacts, an Austrian student, reported him to the police. Without evidence at the moment, authorities placed Armin Meiwes under surveillance, eventually establishing a correlation between him and the disappearance of Bernd Jürgen Brandes, who had not been heard from in ten months. Searches at Armin Meiwes’ home led to numerous discoveries, including the infamous video recording of his willing victim’s death. Lasting over nine hours, the recording horrified investigators. Sealed as evidence, only a few images leaked on the internet. Armin Meiwes was arrested on December 10, 2002, more than a year and a half after his crime.

Germany was horrified to discover the incredible story of Armin Meiwes and his lover Bernd Jürgen Brandes. His sensational trial made headlines in all media. Upon his arrest, Armin Meiwes was placed in a psychiatric institution for evaluation. Authorities feared he might have committed other crimes, but, as Armin Meiwes was very talkative, they quickly understood that he had killed only once. Eventually declared criminally responsible for his actions, he was incarcerated. Despite a defense based on his victim’s consent and the notion of assisted suicide, on January 30, 2004, the Kassel court sentenced him to eight and a half years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.

Behind bars, Armin Meiwes admitted to cannibalizing Bernd Jürgen Brandes and expressed regret for his actions. He started writing his autobiography, allegedly bought for a high price by a major publisher, with the aim of dissuading anyone tempted to follow in his footsteps. However, his account was never published. In April 2005, the prosecution deemed his sentence insufficient and appealed to the Federal Court of Germany for a retrial on charges of sexually motivated murder. The trial began on January 12, and life imprisonment was sought by the prosecution. The case gained widespread attention as it raised the question of whether killing someone with their consent could be considered murder. On May 9, 2006, the Frankfurt Regional Court sentenced Armin Meiwes to life imprisonment.

By the end of 2007, Armin Meiwes declared himself a vegan and became involved in a nature conservation group, allegedly becoming its leader within the prison, according to fellow inmates. Prison authorities claimed that theoretically, they could leave the doors of his cell open all day without any issues. In 2020, the court allowed Armin Meiwes to make supervised and incognito outings outside the prison to stroll in another city. Wearing a cap, sunglasses, and escorted by two police officers, he could take short walks as part of his rehabilitation. However, in January 2020, a parole was denied by the Frankfurt prosecutor, stating that there was no “favorable social prognosis.”

Influence in popular culture: The German industrial metal band Rammstein released a song titled “Mein Teil,” included in the 2004 album “Reise Reise.” The music video features the lead singer dressed as a chef pushing a huge cauldron, from which, between bursts of flames, one of the band members playing the role of Jürgen Brandes emerges. Another Rammstein musician portrays Armin Meiwes’ mother. The film “Grimm Love” was released in 2010, inspired by the Armin Meiwes case. The plot follows an obsessive student, fascinated by cannibalism and the Armin Meiwes case, as her research for her thesis turns into an obsession. It’s a rather mediocre and dull film. Less publicized, the 2006 film “Cannibal,” directed by the German Marian Dora, is much better. The dark and experimental film from the underground director masterfully portrays the relationship between Armin Meiwes and Bernd Jürgen Brandes, leading up to the grand final crime.

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