Cologne school massacre
|Cologne school massacre|
|Date||June 11, 1964
9:10 a.m. (CET)
|Attack type||Mass murder, school massacre, murder-suicide, massacre|
|Weapon(s)||Flamethrower, lance, homemade mace|
|Deaths||11 (including the perpetrator)|
|Motive||Feelings of persecution|
The Cologne school massacre was a mass murder that occurred at the Catholic elementary school (katholische Volksschule) located in the suburb of Volkhoven in Cologne, Germany on June 11, 1964. The perpetrator, Walter Seifert, attacked the people at the school with a home-made flamethrower and a lance, killing eight students and two teachers, and wounding twenty-two others. When police arrived at the scene he fled from the school compound and poisoned himself. He was brought to a hospital, where he died the same evening.
On June 11, 1964, shortly after 9 o'clock, Seifert approached the schoolyard of the Catholic elementary school located at Volkhovener Weg 209-211, armed with a self-made flamethrower, a lance and a mace. The school consisted of one main building and four wooden barracks, each housing two classes with a total of eight teachers and 380 students.
As Seifert entered the school compound through the smaller of two gates he was observed by three crossing guards who mistook him for a mechanic trying to repair the gate's broken lock and asked him what he was doing there. Seifert ignored them and, after blocking off the gate with a wooden wedge, proceeded towards teacher Anna Langohr who was teaching a group of girls in sports at the schoolyard. When Langohr, who knew Seifert, asked him, if he could help them, he ignited his flamethrower and attacked her and the girls.
Seifert then went to one of the barracks, smashed in the windows with the mace, and aimed his weapon at the children in the classrooms, setting them on fire. He continued to attack the people running and jumping out of the burning building until his flamethrower ran out of fuel, whereupon he threw it away. When teacher Gertrud Bollenrath stepped out on the schoolyard Seifert fatally stabbed her in the chest with his lance and then approached the barrack where Ursula Kuhr and Mrs. Kunz were teaching. The two women tried to keep the doors shut, but Seifert managed to tear one of them open, making Mrs. Kuhr lose her balance. After she fell down the flight of stairs and landed on the ground in front of the building Seifert stabbed her in both legs and once between her shoulders.
Seifert then fled the school compound and swallowed E605, a poisonous insecticide, in hopes of committing suicide, but as the substance was diluted he did not die immediately. Chased by 20 to 30 people he ran towards a railroad embankment where he tried to fend off his pursuers with his lance. When police arrived at the scene at 9:38 a.m. he tried to stab one of the officers, but was eventually brought down with a shot in his leg. He was arrested and brought to the University Hospital in Lindenthal where he was questioned several times, before he died at 20:35 CET.
The attack had lasted for about 15 minutes. Ursula Kuhr died at the scene, while Gertrud Bollenrath succumbed to her wounds in hospital at 1pm the same day. Along with teachers Anna Langohr and Wiltrud Schweden twenty-eight students were brought to hospitals, some of them with burns to 90 percent of their body. Eight of the students succumbed to their wounds in the following weeks.
- Gertrud Bollenrath, aged 62
- Ursula Kuhr, aged 24
- Dorothea Binner, 9, died on June 15
- Renate Fühlen, 9, died on June 19
- Ingeborg Hahn, 9, died on June 30
- Ruth Hoffmann, 10, died on June 20
- Klara Kröger, 9, died on June 16
- Stephan Lischka, 9, died on June 16
- Karin Reinhold, 11, died on June 20
- Rosel Röhrig, 12, died on June 18
Willi Walter Seifert was born in Bickendorf, a district of Cologne, on June 19, 1921. He was the son of a glass-grinder and had one brother. From 1927 to 1935 he attended the Volksschule in Ehrenfeld, and afterwards started an apprenticeship as metal worker at a machine factory, which he successfully finished in 1939. In 1941 he was drafted into the Luftwaffe and attended the Waffentechnische Schule der Luftwaffe (Weapons Technical School of the Luftwaffe) for a year. At the end of the war he was Waffenunteroffizier of an anti-aircraft battery and afterwards was a prisoner of war for several months.
Seifert worked for a Cologne auto factory, before joining the Schutzpolizei on November 14, 1945. On August 23, 1946 he was treated for a bronchial catarrh, and an examination by a specialist on September 5 found him to suffer from tuberculosis in the right lung, resulting in his dismissal from the police on September 30, as he was unfit for service. From that point on Seifert attempted to enforce his claims for subsistence, feeling he was being treated unfairly by the government which he claimed was cheating him out of his war pension.
In 1953 his tuberculosis was found to be inactive and Seifert declared to have a reduced earning capacity of 30%, though any causality between his illness and his imprisonment after the war was denied. Seifert contested this, accused the physicians of creating false medical reports and complained in long letters to various authorities about his problems.
In August 1954 Seifert was examined by a public health officer, who was of the opinion that he was not in need of a regimen, but suggested that he could be sent to a sanatorium for observation. The doctor also noted in his report that Seifert was a mentally devious person with no will to recover. Seifert again contested the report and wrote a letter titled "Sozialpolitik — Sozialärzte — Sozialmord" (social politics — social doctors — social murder), whereupon he was examined by a medical specialist for neurology and psychiatry, who noted Seifert's quirky behaviour, his scattered train of thought, and his constant smile in inadequate situations. He also recorded that Seifert harboured paranoid thoughts about his physicians and showed a peculiar fanatical behaviour, coming to the conclusion that he was a paranoid schizophrenic, but since he did not show any violent or dangerous behaviour the doctor deemed it unnecessary to hospitalise him in a mental institution.
Around that time Seifert revealed to his brother that he had a plan to kidnap minor girls, to use them whenever he wished. According to his brother's statement, Seifert intended to ambush the girls on country roads, stun them, and then bring them home on his moped trailer to hold them captive in a subcellar, of which he had already made sketches.
On October 7, 1955 Seifert married Renata Urszula and reportedly fell apart when she died of an embolism during premature birth on February 11, 1961. Holding the doctors responsible for the death of his wife he wrote a 120 pages long letter titled "Muttermord — Einzelschicksal und Analyse eines Systems" (Matricide - Individual fate and analysis of a system), and sent it to agencies, physicians and pharmaceutical manufacturers. Therein he tried to prove that the treatment of his wife's embolism was done wrong, called society a criminal system and equated doctors with murderers, writing:
- The physician is the greatest mass murderer of the poor in the history of mankind (...) What to do? Appeal to their 'conscience' – useless, whoever does something like that has no conscience. Does the aforementioned science count before any court? No, thus begins the vigilante justice, the terror of the medical society in the pluralistic chaos of criminality. But terror can only be extirpated with counter-terror, and whoever denies me the protection of the law forces the cudgel into my hand.
Seifert had crafted all of his weapons about two months prior to the attack. The lance was made from a broomstick and a triangular scraper, while he used a pump bracket to create the mace. His flamethrower was made from an insecticide sprayer with a wire netting attached to the nozzle, and filled with a mixture of old motor oil and paint thinner.
- Both teachers who died had schools named after them.
- Anna Langohr, one of the surviving teachers, was presented with the Medal Cross by Pope Paul VI as well as other decorations from the city.
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- Das Todesdrama auf dem Schulhof, Neue Illustrierte Extra-Ausgabe (June 13, 1964)
- Anatomie eines Teufels, Neue Illustrierte (June 28, 1964)
- Der Blutrausch des Amokläufers, Bunte Illustrierte (June 24, 1964)
- Benecke, Mark: Mordmethoden; Bastei Lübbe, 2002. (pp. 288 - 302) ISBN 978-3785720998
- Peter, Barbara: Das Herz der Stadt stand still; Sh-Verlag, 2004. ISBN 978-3894981440
- Maniac Sprays Fire on Cologne Pupils, The New York Times (June 12, 1964)
- Maniac uses 'flamethrower' on pupils, The Windsor Star (June 11, 1964)
- German killer hazy on massacre, The Windsor Star (June 12, 1964)
- Death certificate of Walter Seifert, Digitales Historisches Archiv Köln (p. 167)
- Der 11.06.1964, Bürgerverein Köln-Volkhoven-Weiler e.V.
- Das Attentat von Köln-Volkhoven, Ursula-Kuhr-Schule
- Another child dies of attack by flamethrower, Star-News (June 16, 1964)
- Das 7. Todesopfer in Köln, Hamburger Abendblatt (June 19, 1964)
- Cologne Maniac's Toll Now 8, The New York Times
- Das 10. Opfer in Volkhoven, Hamburger Abendblatt (June 30, 1964)
- Sixth Cologne child dies, The Press-Courier (June 20, 1964)
- Drei Kinder ringen mit dem Tode, Hamburger Abendblatt (June 18, 1964)
- 5th Victim Dies After Fire Attacks at School, Chicago Tribune (June 18, 1964)
- Two children die of injuries, Star-News (June 21, 1964)
- Kiehne, Karl: Das Flammenwerferattentat in Köln-Volkhoven, in Archiv für Kriminologie, Vol. 136; F.C.W. Vogel, 1965.
- West Germany school tragedy, Associated Press (June 11, 1964) (Video)
- West Germany school attack, Associated Press (June 12, 1964) (Video)
- West Germany school tragedy, Associated Press (June 12, 1964) (Video)
- West Germany teachers' funeral, Associated Press (June 16, 1964) (Video)
- Ursula Kuhr Schule Page on the massacre (In German, with pictures)
- Wie lebende Fackeln stürzten Kinder ins Freie, Hamburger Abendblatt (June 12, 1964)
- Noch fünfzehn Kinder mit schweren Verbrennungen im Krankenhaus, Hamburger Abendblatt (June 12, 1964)
- Von Behörden als Querulant abgewiesen, Hamburger Abendblatt (June 12, 1964)
- Noch 10 Kinder in Lebensgefahr, Hamburger Abendblatt (June 13, 1964)
- Ein Kind in Köln heute früh seinen furchtbaren Verletzungen erlegen, Hamburger Abendblatt (June 15, 1964)
- Noch ernste Sorge um 16 Kinder, Hamburger Abendblatt (June 16, 1964)
- Für drei Kinder haben die Ärzte keine Hoffnung mehr, Hamburger Abendblatt (June 22, 1964)
- Lebensgefahr nicht gebannt, Hamburger Abendblatt (June 27, 1964)
- 550000 DM für die Opfer von Volkhoven, Hamburger Abendblatt (July 17, 1964)
- Großzügige Hilfe für die Opfer von Volkhoven, Hamburger Abendblatt (July 25, 1964)
- Furchtbares Blutbad in einer Schule, Passauer Neue Presse (June 12, 1964)
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- Die Ärzte kämpfen um das Leben der Schulkinder, Passauer Neue Presse (June 15, 1964)
- Erstes Kind an den Brandverletzungen gestorben, Passauer Neue Presse (June 16, 1964)
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- Befinden der Attentatsopfer gleich, Passauer Neue Presse (June 19, 1964)
- Letzte Meldungen - Viertes Kind gestorben, Passauer Neue Presse (June 19, 1964)
- Fünftes Schulkind an Brandverletzungen gestorben, Passauer Neue Presse (June 20, 1964)
- Kinder gedachten ihrer Mitschüler, Passauer Neue Presse (June 21, 1964)
- Ärzte ringen noch um das Leben von elf Schulkindern, Passauer Neue Presse (June 22, 1964)
- Noch zehn Kinder in Lebensgefahr, Passauer Neue Presse (June 24, 1964)
- 200 Schulkinder sollen Attentats-Schock überwinden, Passauer Neue Presse (June 25, 1964)
- Zwei weitere Volkhovener Schulkinder beigesetzt, Passauer Neue Presse (June 27, 1964)
- Achtes Schulkind ist seinen Verletzungen erlegen, Passauer Neue Presse (July 1, 1964)
- 350000 DM für die Opfer des Flammenwerfer-Attentats, Passauer Neue Presse (July 4, 1964)
- Kinderschutzbund erhebt Vorwürfe, Passauer Neue Presse (July 20, 1964)
- Stadt Köln hilft Volkhofenern, Passauer Neue Presse (July 25, 1964)
- Noch 19 Flammenwerfer-Opfer im Krankenhaus, Passauer Neue Presse (August 12, 1964)
- Drei Opfer des Flammenwerfer-Attentats entlassen, Passauer Neue Presse (September 28, 1964)
- Sechs Volkhovener Lehrerinnen geehrt, Passauer Neue Presse (December 10, 1964)
- Volkhovener Kinder in Salzburg, Passauer Neue Presse (December 29, 1964)
- Die Wunden in Volkhoven sind noch nicht vernarbt, Passauer Neue Presse (June 9, 1965)
- Sanfter Zwang im Interesse des Kranken, Der Spiegel (44/1968)
- Amoklauf mit Flammenwerfer: "Das Herz der Stadt stand still", Spiegel Online (June 11, 2004)
- Du bist nicht mehr heil, Der Spiegel (21/2002)
- Der Mann, der den ersten Schulamoklauf überlebte, Die Welt (March 9, 2012)
- „Eine böse Sache“, Focus (22/2004)
- „Ich war überzeugt, dass ich nur träume“, Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger (August 26, 2012)