The Carl Hau Homepage
Born February 3, 1881, Died February, 1926
This site has been established to discover details about the life of Carl Hau (sometimes, probably orignially, spelled Karl Hau), a citizen of Germany and the United States. He was born in the village of Grosslittgen (some sources say he was born in Bernkastel - since 1905 Bernkastel-Kues) Germany and held a law degree from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and was an instructor in the law school there, an expert in Roman law. He was the defendant in one of Germany's most famous murder trials in 1907. He was accused, and later convicted, of the murder of his mother-in-law, Josephine Molitor (nee Josephine Stadelhofer) on November 6, 1906 in Baden-Baden, Germany. Click here for more information about Josephine Molitor and her two daughters, Olga Molitor and Lina Hau (nee Molitor).
Before the trial, which took place in 1907, Carl Hau's wife, Lina, committed suicide. Public opinion in Germany was unusually passionate in this case and there were large demonstrations during and after the trial in Karlsruhe which required the military to intervene. Hau was found guilty due to circumstantial evidence and was sentenced to death. This happened despite the fact that several eyewitnesses and individuals who were near the scene presented evidence that Hau could not have been the murderer. Later his sentence was reduced to life imprisonment.
Many observers saw the case as a terrible example of a flawed justice system, as well as misconduct by the presiding judge, Dr. Eller and the District Attorney, Dr. Bleicher. Key witnesses were not allowed to testify and the jurors discussed the case freely with local townspeople in the evenings during the trial. Most likely the jurors felt Hau must be guilty because of unsavory aspects of his life that came out during the trial. Nonetheless, when he was found guilty, many people felt that the trial itself was a sham. (At that time in Germany, the legal system in some parts of the country - including Baden Baden - did not conform to federal legal standards. That was changed in 1918, due in part to the Hau trial.) Moreover, Josephine Molitor's heart was displayed in the courtroom. It stood on a table in front of the judge, preserved in alcohol and kept in a glass jar so that everyone could see it.
Carl Hau remained in prison until 1924 (his sentence had been shorted earlier) when he was released on parole. This was a year earlier than would otherwise have been the end of his sentence. A condition of this "early release" was that he would not publish anything about the case, probably because the authorities did not want more unfavorable publicity about the trial. During the time Hau was in prison, there were numerous books and articles written on this topic and the authorities knew that Hau himself had been writing extensively on the topic while in prison.
Despite the conditions of his parole, Hau almost immediately published two books about his experiences, Das Todesurteil ("Death Sentence"), Berlin, 1925 which is a free downloard here and can be purchased here from Amazon and Lebenslšnglich ("Imprisonment for Life"), Berlin 1925. Click here to read English translations . Click here for an eBook version of Das Todesurteil
Immediately, steps were taken to put him back in prison. He fled to Italy, possibly because he believed the Italian police would be less diligent in searching for him than the police of other countries. In 1926, Carl Hau died in Tivoli, Italy. It seems likely that he committed suicide.
Carl Hau, sometime in the 1920s (Photo courtesy of Thomas Kugler)
A great many books and articles have been written about this case, mostly during the first half of the 20th Century. At least 2 movies had been made based on the case, one in 1925 and one in 1949.
If you have any information to share - or would like to see some of the information collected by me - please contact me at this Email Contact. It would be helpful if you placed the words "Carl Hau" in the subject line. Unfortunately, I do not speak German. I have also created an Email discussion group on the topic of Carl Hau and the Molitor family at http://groups-beta.google.com/group/carlhau?hl=en
Why am I so interested in this case? The reason is simple: Carl Hau was my grandfather, Lina Hau my grandmother and Josephine Molitor my great-grandmother. My mother, born in Washington, D.C. in 1903 was the only child of Carl and Lina Hau. She was originally named Olga Hau (Olga after the first name of her aunt) but her name was changed to Ruth Dorothee Masters after the trial because before she died, Lina had requested it - presumably to protect her from the vast amount of publicity the case generated. Her name, after she married my father in 1932, became Ruth Dorothee Masters Rickover. I am Robert Masters Rickover, her son. It was several years after her death in 1972 that I learned about Carl Hau and the Molitor family and I'm interested in finding out more.
Among the areas I'd like to know more about:
1. Any material that would shed light on Hau's guilt or innocence. It seems likely to me now that he was guilty, but I am not totally sure.
2. Information about Carl and Lina Hau's life in Washington, D.C.
3. Information about what happened Lina's sister, Olga Molitor, the "other woman" in the relationship between Carl and Lina. Also, information about Carl Molitor, Lina and Olga's brother and about decendents of the Hau and Molitor families.
4. The Generallandesarchiv, an archive in Karlsruhe has an extensive collection of documents about the case. Any help in gaining access to those documents would be much appreciated.
5. Information about the Platenius family who adopted my mother in 1911 and then moved - apparantly briefly - to the United States. I know my mother was living in Germany during World War I and went to university there before moving back to the United States in 1925. In the book Hau by Bernd Schroeder (see below) he provides information about her adoption and the notification of Carl Hau - pages 292 and 293.
In addition, I would very much appreciate any help with translating German documents into English - or even providing short English summaries. Like so many Americans, my foreign language skills were never well developed!
I have made English translations of Carl Hau's two books as well as some other material published about the case which I am happy to share. I plan to add other references to this site over time.
Berend Blocker has created a website that contains information in German and photos relating to the Carl Hau case. Here are the pages of a recent article about the Hau case by him: Magazine Cover - Page 1 - Page 2 - Page 3
Wikipedia page about Carl Hau - in German
Karl Hau und Die Emordung Der Frau Josefine Molitor (Karl Hau and the Murder of Josephine Molitor) by Paul Lindau, Berlin, H. Hoffman and Comp., 1907. This book was written a few months after the trial. "One thing is clear..seldom has there been a trial in which the most important facts remained so unexplained..", Lindau wrote. Like many others who have written about the subject, he concludes that while Carl Hau had some deep personal faults, he could not have been guilty of the murder. Click here to read an English translation and the full German text
On the Resumption of Hau's Trial: The 'Gray-bearded Man' behind the Molitor Women on November 6, 1906, and my Challenge to the District Attorney Dr. Bleicher to a Duel with Pistols by Baron von Reitzenstein, retired Army captain. (I have this only in English translation. The date of publication appears to be 1908.) This has to be one of the most bizarre documents to come out of the Hau case. The Baron's wife, Baroness von Reitzenstein, was a key witness in the case. Her testimony, if heard in full by the jurors, would have cast serious doubt on Hau's possible guilt. Because of the way the District Attorney used only parts of her testimony and implied she was mistaken in the rest, the Baron challenged him to a duel. The challenge was rejected, and Reitzenstein was imprisoned for one month for violating the prohibition against dueling. Because of his military status, he spent that time in very comfortable surroundings in an army fort. He makes an impassioned plea to re-open the case, based on the testimony of his wife, as well as other eyewitness accounts. Click here to read an English translation
Dr. Dietz, Carl Hau's attorney, wrote his thoughts about the case 2 months after the trial. Click here to read this document . Click here to read an English Translation
"The criminal procedure against attorney Karl Hau" (English translation of the title) by Haehling von Lanzenauer
"The case Carl Hau, a cause celebre in Baden's Criminal History" (English translation of the title) by Karl Zippallus (1976)
The Maurizius Case by Jacob Wasserman, Carroll & Graf Publishers, New York, 1985 (originally published in 1929). A novel based loosely on the Hau case, Wasserman is clearly of the belief that Hau was wrongly convicted.
Maurizius Forever by Henry Miller, Fridtzof-Karla Publications, Michigan City, Indiana, 1959. Henry Miller uses the Wasserman novel as a starting point and goes on to a far-reaching analysis of crime.
Der Kriminalroman ("The Crime Novel"), by Alfred Lichtenstein. A literary and forensic-medical study. With an appendix: "Sherlock Holmes on the Hau case." Edited, and with an afterward by Oliver Bruhns. This study, originally published in 1908, is one of the earliest broader analyses of the mystery genre, focusing on Poe, Conan Doyle and many of their fellow authors. In the appendix, Lichtenstein makes Sherlock Holmes investigate the case of Carl Hau. The afterward by Oliver Bruhns takes a closer look at the Hau case, providing a good overview on the whole case and the consequences it had for Germany's legal system. (Published in 1998 by the German Sherlock Holmes Society "Von Herder Airguns Ltd." in conjunction with Baskerville Buecher, Cologne, and can be ordered from that firm.)
I Swear by the witness Lenk (I have this only in English translation) Lenk was Carl Hau's cellmate while Hau was awaiting trial. The authorities tried to get Lenk to testify against Hau, based on their conversations in jail, but Lenk refused as he was absolutely convinced of Hau's innocence. I Swear may be part of the official court record in the case - I'm not sure. Lenk's final sentence reads: "Carl Hau is no murderer!" Click here to read an English translation
Schutz von der Justiz! - Apparently an appeal for justice on Carl Hau's behalf. I don't have an English translation.
Aber der Fall des Carl Hau wurde "Unter den Eichen" verfilmt und feierte hier Kinopremiere - German newspaper article about the case
Familie Molitor - Molitor family tree and photographs taken from the 2007 Exhibition about the murder at The Generallandesarchiv, in Karlsruhe
Das Verbrechen des Karl Hau - By Reiner Haehling von Lanzenauer, former head of the Prosecutor's Office in Baden-Baden. I have a full copy of this article in German - not yet translated into English
Two short articles in the New York Times, November 8, 1907 and February 6, 1908 about Carl Hau's arrest in London and his trial in Germany
A great many addlitional New York Times articles in pdf format concerning the case can be found here They deal with Carl Hau's arrest, the trial, conflicting testimony, appeals, attempt as escape from prision and much more.
Mother-in-law troubles - English language article in the Toronto Sun newspaper about the case
The Mother in law Murder - English language article in the New York Daily News (lots of factual errors)
New York Times Articles about Carl Hau's appeal and the scheduling of a new trial (As far as I know there never was a new trial. Also, the second article is full of factual errors.)
Das Verbrechen des Karl Hau
Article by Gregor Brand
Carl Hau Photos from Murderpedia
Der Fall Arbogast, by Thomas Hettche, purlished by DuMont Buchverlaag, Germany in 2001 is a novel that contains some parallels to the Carl Hau case. Indeed, it references the Hau case (pages 92-96 of The Arbogast Case, an English translation published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2003) and provides some historical information about the prison at Bruchsal where Carl Hau was incarcerated for 17 years. As the book states: " It was modeled on the Pentonville Penitertiary outside of London. It was the first prison on the Continent constructed according to the principle of the panopticon - a sanitary and finely tuned machine......It was the first prison in Germany to introduce the incarceration of prisoners in individual cells...Bruchsal was the model of which all subsequent German prisons were constructed...The prisoner was kept in his cell at all times. He not only slept there but ate there and worked there, too. When he left his cell to attend church or went into the courtyard, he wore a mask that rendered him unrecognizable to others, and he was not permitted to speak on the way there. As for the time a prisoner spent in the courtyard, he was still kept isolated - in a small wedge-shaped walled compartment of a larger circular courtyard...In church, the prisoners sat in separate enclosed seats, which were referred to as 'stalls' and allowed only a direct view of the pulpit." (page 51 - 53).
Hau - A novel by Bernd Schroeder, published in 2006 by Hanser in German, is a fictional version of Carl Hau's life (No traslation yet available) Book Review 1 . Book Review 2 . Book Review 3 . Book Review 4 . Book Review 5. English Book Review l . English Book Review 2 . English Book Review 3 (If anyone would like to provide addlitional reviews or summaries of this book in English, I would be glad to publish them here.)
Verbrechen im Zwiellcht - Berühmte Kriminalfälle aus den letzten Jahrzehnten by Heinz Liepman, IM Bertelsmann Lesering, 1959. Chapter 3, "Der Fall Hau" is an overview of the case. It includes a photo of Carl Hau and a photo of the murder scene. (No translation yet available.)
Click here to view some photos related to the murder of Josephine Molitor and the murder trial of Carl Hau
My Email Contact
(more material will be added as it becomes available)