Cologne school massacre

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Cologne school massacre
File:Attentat von Volkhoven - Gedenktafel (0060).jpg
Commemorative plaque
Location Cologne, West Germany
Date June 11, 1964 (1964-06-11)
9:10 a.m. (CET)
Attack type
Mass murder, school massacre, murder-suicide, massacre
Weapons Flamethrower, lance, homemade mace
Deaths 11 (including the perpetrator)
Non-fatal injuries
Perpetrator Walter Seifert
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, West 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.[1][2][3]


File:Map Volksschule Volkhoven 1964.png
Seifert's path through the school

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.[4]

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.[5][6]


File:UrsulaKuhrGrabstein Koeln.jpg
Gravestone for Ursula Kuhr on Cologne Südfriedhof


  • Gertrud Bollenrath, aged 62
  • Ursula Kuhr, aged 24


  • Dorothea Binner, 9, died on June 15[7]
  • Renate Fühlen, 9, died on June 19[8]
  • Ingeborg Hahn, 9, died on June 30[9][10]
  • Ruth Hoffmann, 10, died on June 20[11]
  • Klara Kröger, 9, died on June 16[12]
  • Stephan Lischka, 9, died on June 16[13]
  • Karin Reinhold, 11, died on June 20[14]
  • Rosel Röhrig, 12, died on June 18[8]


File:Walter Seifert.jpg
Walter Seifert

Willi Walter Seifert was born in Bickendorf, a district of Cologne, on June 19, 1921.[4] 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 (Weaponry Technology School of the Airforce) 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 inappropriate 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[4] 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-page 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.[15]


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.[15]


  • 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 with the Medal of Merit ("Verdienstmedaille"), the lowest class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, and the "Rettungsmedaille of the State of North Rhine Westphalia", a Lifesaving Medal presented to those who risked their lives in the pursuit of saving another person's life.[6] After her death in 1990, aged 93, an elementary school in a neighbouring suburb was named after her.

See also


  • 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


External links

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