The Complete Story about the life and Times of Joachim Kroll

aka Jockel aka The Ruhr Hunter

and how The Jockel Project originated & developed


Table of Contents:

  1. The Jockel Biography
  2. The Jockel-Project
  3. True Crime Art
  4. The Outset
  5. The Field Trips
  6. The Art-Exhibitions

The Jockel Biography

Joachim Georg Kroll was born on 17 april 1933 in Hindenburg, Northern-Silesia, Germany. He was the sixth of nine children. His education took just five years of primary school and jobs as odd-hand on farms. His father spent the War in Russia, and remained POW there afterwards. Joachim moved to the free West with his mother and six of his sisters, where they would spend the next ten years living in two rooms. On 21 january 1955, his mother dies, and just 2 1/2 weeks later he commits his first murder. Irmgard Strehl, a 19-year-old is raped and stabbed to death in a barn near Lüdinghausen. A year later 12-year-old Erika Schuleter is raped and strangled in Kirchellen.

In 1957 Kroll moves to Duisburg, it takes him two years to adapt to his new environment, and on 24 march 1959, 23-year-old Erika is attacked just off Moerser Straße, near the Rheinbrucke in Rheinhausen. She puts on a fierce fight and manages to survive. Two months later, on 16 june, 24-year-old Klara Frieda Tesmer is strangled and raped on the exact same spot.

KNODT Getting all rigged up, it takes little over a month, before Kroll rapes and strangles 16-year-old Manuela Knodt in the Stadtwald of Essen. On this occasion a new fact emerges in the crime-pattern, whereas previous attacks seemed to have generated from an immense strong sex-drive (due to large amounts of sperm found on some of the bodies, the police are booking them as gang-rape-murders), now Jockel sets in to define his own standards that will etch him into the annals of Germany's Most Famous; he removes slices from Manuela's buttocks and tighs to take home.

Another aspect, also typical for the Kroll Saga, appears as well; On 13 february 1960, 23-year-old Horst Otto walks into the Essen police-station and confesses to the murder of Manuela Knodt. He will later withdraw his confession, but the police are convinced of his guilt and he will be tried and sentenced to 8 years in prison.

Kroll in the meantime keeps roaming the streets, either criss-crossing the Ruhr-area with public trains and buses, or scaling the streets of Duisburg with his moped. In 1962, 12-year-old Barbara Bruder is killed in Burscheid, and on 23 april of the same year, 13-year-old Petra Giese is raped and throttled in Dinslaken-Bruckhausen, both her buttocks as well as her left forearm and hand are missing.

TAFEL On 4 june 1962, 13-year-old Monika Tafel, is found strangled and partly eaten on the spot, a cornfield in Walsum. The public is outraged at these crimes and the failure of police to come up with any suspects. As a matter of fact, the police have hardly any idea of what's happening, and haven't made connections between crimes in different areas. On 5 october 1962, tired of being harassed and mistreated by the people of Walsum, 34-year-old pedophile Walter Quicker commits suicide by hanging in a wood.

For three years Kroll lays back, at least there's no crimes that we know about, but undoubtedly he still hunts the area for young girls' meat. In the meantime he probably satisfies his needs with his collection of inflatable dolls, and his loads of hi-fi equipment neighbours see him hauling with his moped.

In 1965, the need has risen high. On 22 august he wanders around the lovers' lanes in Grossenbaum, a wooded area south of Duisburg. He gets sight of Rita A., making love to 25-year-old Hermann Schmitz in their Volkswagen. The urge is great, and Kroll has to come up with a strategy to get Schmitz out of the way. He punches a knife through a tire of the car, whereupon Schmitz gets out to see what happens, Kroll leaps forward and stabs him in the chest, turning to the girl. The girl has watched in despair her boyfriend collapse and jumps in the driver's seat, disregarding the flat tire, hoots the horn like frantic and drives straight off onto Kroll, who barely manages to turn his heels and make his escape. While Schmitz bleeds to death in the arms of his girlfriend, the area is soon swarmed with alarmed drivers but no trace of the mysterious attacker is found.

A year later Kroll is back on the scene, on 13 september 1966, 20-year-old Ursula Rohling is strangled and raped in Foersterbusch Park in Marl, a field trip for Kroll, for whom the grounds around Duisburg have maybe become a bit hot since the police were at that time tracking at least two more child-killers.

HARKE On 22 december 1966, he's cruising the Ruhr-area's local trains again when he encounters 5-year-old Ilona Harke . He takes her on a train from Essen to Wuppertal, some 20kms, then probably takes a bus and gets out in the middle of nowhere to disappear into the forest near the Feldbachtal. There he rapes the girl and drowns her in the small river, he removes some steaks from buttocks and shoulders.

On 4 january 1967, another secondary victim of Kroll's rampage enters the black list; 27-year-old Adolf Schickel commits suicide by drowning in the river Main near Wiesbaden. He was Ursula Rohling's boyfriend, and endlessly questioned by the police, cleared but condemned by the local pupulation he was driven to his fate.

22 june 1967, Kroll has taken a trip north, to Kirchellen. In a cornfield he encounters 10-year-old Gabrielle Puetman, he shows her pornographic pictures but she panics, he strangles her but is alarmed due to a change of shifts in the nearby mine of Prosper which causes the area to be flooded with miners going home. Again he manages to turn his heels unnoticed, leaving Gabriele unconscious and in a coma for eight days. Again Kroll seems to lay back. Until 12 july 1969, when he wanders around the Hardenberger Ufer of the Baldeneysee, a small time tourist resort south of Essen. There he meets 61-year-old Maria Hettgen, whom he strangles and rapes on the spot.

RAHN On 21 may 1970 he's bushwalking again, stumbling upon 13-year-old Jutta Rahn, who takes a shortcut between the Hösel trainstation and her house on the Essener Straße in Breitscheid. She's raped and strangled. Her neighbour and some-time boyfriend, 20-year-old Peter Schay is suspected and on 9 june taken into custody. He will spend 15 months in prison before being released due to lack of evidence, even then he moves to Holland to avoid harassments by the locals. By 1976, Kroll supposedly has kept quiet for 6 years, 10-year-old Karin Toepfer is strangled and raped in Dinslaken-Voerde, but it would take until 3 july of that year before the world would know about Joachim Kroll, The Ruhr Hunter.

FRIESENSTRASSE On this 3 july 1976, police are enquiring in the area of Friesenstraße, Duisburg-Laar about the disappearance of 4-year-old Marion Ketter. She was playing outside in shorts just the day before, when `Uncle' Kroll lured her into his top-floor three room dwelling. There he strangled her and cut her to pieces. When a neighbour told the police about a blocked drain, Kroll told them he only slaughtered a small rabbit, but soon led the astonished investigators to his kitchen where they found Marion's hand, boiling in a pot with carrots ands potatoes, and some packs of tender meat wrapped in plastic in the fridge.

Taken into custody and put under questioning Kroll readily admitted to the crime, he said he was aware that he was sick, needed some treatment, and wanted to go back home as soon as possible. A couple of days later `Achim' was already joking with his guards, enjoying the good meals and games of cards. Then he sa id there were actually more `things'. In the course of a few days he confessed to 14 murders, committed in the last 20 years. He recounted from his memory details the police even didn't know about, and asked to be taken to locations of unsolved crimes to see if he could remember them. Within a week the German tabloids had the whole story of horror screaming from their front pages.

TRIAL It would take some time though, and a lot of mysterious moves, before Kroll would be brought to court and sentenced. The trial didn't start until 1979, and took some 142 days in court, stretched until 1982, before he was found guilty and sentenced to nine terms of life-imprisonment. He was taken to the prison of Rheinbach, where he died of a heart-attack on 1 july 1991.

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The Jockel-Project

The Jockel-project came into action due to an exchange program `Transfer' for artists from Nordrhein-Westfalen and Belgium, organised by Kultursekretariat NRW in Wuppertal. I was chosen amongst 15 Belgian and 15 German artists to work in this program. The program included a `stipendium' from NRW, a studio in a German city for a period of two months and three group exhibitions, covering the results of our stay in the guest-studio's.

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True Crime Art

My work has been influenced by true crime for several years now. Basically I've been interested in crime, disaster and mayhem as long as I can remember, but since the mid-80's, the interest has been showing extensively in my visual artwork. Also since 1987 I've been corresponding with convicted killers in order to test my opinions to the real thing, and get access to the core of my subject itself.

BUNDY I started out with making an exhibition about Ed Gein in 1987, where I made reproductions of his artefacts, and also built a life-size Guillotine. Later on I made sculptural installations referring to famous cases, the largest being an installation of 25 knife-wielding machines depicting the Manson Family. Then I made some 'portraits' of selected Serial Killers, like Ted Bundy, Dean Corll, Son of Sam,...

For Transfer, it was obvious a special project had to be set out, I had the chance to spend quite some time in Germany on a fixed base, there were a reasonable amount of funds to cover expenses, and I expected a good bit of support through the official institut `Kultursekretariat'. Scrolling through my archives, I came undoubtedly upon Joachim Kroll, The Ruhr Hunter, one of Germany's most famous criminal minds, about whom yet quite little was known. I decided Kroll would be my main target for a larger installation.

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The Outset

Transfer offered the possibility to pick from several towns in Nordrhein-Westfalen as a basis for our work. Since Joachim Kroll had his own headquarters in Duisburg, I opted for Duisburg. Unfortunately Duisburg wasn't in the pack. I didn't want a very sociable or `cultural' city like Düsseldorf or so, I preferred a large studio, as rough as possible, where I could live and work at the same spot, eventually in Spartan conditions. Upon inquiries, the city of Bochum proved worth checking. They had the highest suicide-rate in NRW and the studio would be far outside the city, in an abandoned coal-mine. The way from Antwerp to Bochum is just straight on one highway; Antwerp-Eindhoven-Venlo-Duisburg-Essen-Bochum, the best part of it is called `Ruhrschnellweg'. STUDIOOUT The coal-mine was off the last exit, BO-Gerthe. The grounds were quite impressive, built late 1800's, a bit Jugendstil with a bit of dereliction. In through a large gate onto a courtyard surrounded by large buildings, some were offices, some empty and some completely neglected. From the small office of the Kulturdienst, I was led on several flights of steel stairs to the top floor of what once had been the warehouse. This measured about 15x50m, one big space, windows all around and no accomodation except an occasional power-outlet. The sight out of the windows was a large piece of wasteland, with no signs of human interference, a perfect dumping-ground for bodies.

STUDIOIN On march 1st, 1993 I left Antwerp in the LandRover, stacked with a basic survival kit, and most of the collected data on Kroll. Three hours later I moved the portable office into the warehouse and set off to launch project Jockel. The same night I painted two large portraits on the walls, Jockel-faces of about 2,00m high would be watching me and the outset of the project.

The first initiative was to get access to all available information. I had only two accounts about the case in booksd by John Dunning and Colin Wilson, which wasn't really much to start from. I wrote a `first report' and mailed this to all my contacts and also to some German newspapers and weekly magazines. At the same time I had applications going via NRW to the Kriminalpolizei, the prison authorities of Rheinbach (where Kroll died in 1991), and the Ministry of Justice, in order to get accurate information concerning the crime-scenes, since these considered my prime interest.

Probably two days later the first envelope arrived in the mail: BILD. They sent a small selection of articles that had appeared just when Kroll was arrested, and when he confessed to more crimes. The following days articles arrived from Stern, Die Welt, Quick, Die Zeit, Der Spiegel and Frankfurter Allgemeine. In the meantime I had also found the way to the Bochumer Stadtarchiv, where I could check all issues of Westdeutsche Allgemeine and Ruhrnachrichten, but unfortunately couldn't make photocopies.

In the meantime NRW made some work of their enquiries for official cooperation, but these didn't turn out to be very fruitful. The prison authorities of Rheinbach had forbidden any of their co-workers to discuss anything about Joachim Kroll, no archives were to be opened, no visits would be allowed. The Kriminalpolizei just refused to give any information at all, not even any reason why all the information remained closed. The Ministry of Justice didn't see any reason to subject these rules to change, so basically all the official lines closed off.

With new reports going out, I had broadened my request for information, and especially written again to Bild, since I suspected them from keeping a bunch of articles behind. Also I spent more time in the Stadtarchiv, where I started out tracing copies of the newspapers that appeared on the actual dates of the crimes, to get details about thez exact locations. This search for locations was quite important since one of my intentions was to recreate a scaled map of the Ruhr-area in my studio, and make different installations with actual materials and impressions from the crime-scenes. The different locations proved to vary in several publications. One of the first trips went to Duisburg, to find out Friesenstraße 24, where Dunning/Wilson located Kroll's dwellings. It turned out there wasn't even any number 24, the street only went as far as 22! It turned out to be number 11. The field trips weren't going to be easy either.

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The Field Trips

HARKETATORT One of the most intriguing cases was the abduction and murder of 5-year-old Ilona Harke, taken on a train from Essen to Wuppertal, then on a city bus, and then through a patch of wood, all on a bitchy-cold december 22nd, 1966, down to the Feldbachtal. A detailed map shows the location of the Feldbach, a small river, not more than a ditch, wandering through some meadows, wooded areas and forming pittoresque small lakes here and there. The drive went from Essen to Wuppertal, then direction Remscheid-Hueckeswagen, a small road through the village of Winterburg, just a few houses, leave the LandRover on a country road and then on foot through dense wood. Very appropriate it was raining, which made it easier to imagine Kroll dragging this little child through the cold, rain, mud to meet her fate in the icy cold water of the Feldbach. But then also Kroll took his time raping, drowning and cutting her to pieces, his senses blinded from the environmental elements by his uncontrollable urge. In one of his confessions (Der Spiegel) he mentioned the grass not being so high at the time of the murder, so this was a definite element in his fetish-imagination. To document this trip, I set up the camera with auto-shutter, removed all my clothes and made pictures of myself as imagined victim. Then I recovered some of the long grass and vegetation from the area around the ditch, packed it all in plastic bags and returned to the Jockel-headquarters. Back there I painted the portrait of Ilona on a wall and added the map and recovered grass from the scene.

Correspondence had also continued, I had written to the Polizeimuseum in Dortmund, Thyssen AG, where Kroll worked at the time of his arrest in Duisburg, Polizei Essen, Stadtarchiv in Duisburg and Essen, Ruhruniversität/Jura in Bochum, and many other odds. Some of my contacts had sent in more information, and soon the file of newspaper-articles reached over 70 items.

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The Art-Exhibitions

3LUIK As I continued to collect material and archives and also samples of earth, vegetation and debris from the crime-scenes, these were used as materials for a series of works. By 1993 they were presented in some exhibitions. The first one was in the medieval St.Pietersabdij in Gent (B). I presented an installation in the crypt with some photo-works, specially made for this space. For the occasion I covered the floor with dead leaves, taken from one of the crime-scenes, it was as if some tiny atom could still be in there that also actually was there when the crime was committed. Further works there included 'Bett des Jägers' (Bed of the Hunter), which is a wooden bed-like structure with a drawn map of the Ruhr-area scattered with dates, place-names and pictures. Also a selection of correspondence was shown.

RECKLING In january 1994 there was a show in the Kunsthalle of Recklinghausen (D). The building used to be a shelter during WWII, and it has massive bright white rooms and black granite floor. I decided to show all the newspaper-articles I had collected until then. This mounted up to 200 pieces. I put them in black frames, and hung them chronologically in a large square measuring about 3,5 by 3,5 meters. 'Bett des Jägers' stood as an explicatory legend before it.

CHARLEROI The next exhibition was in Charleroi (B), in the Town Hall. Since the building also housed a police-station, I figured they would have holding-cells somewhere too. These were located in the basement, and pretty out of use. I transformed one of the cells into a Jockel-memorial, again with dead leaves on the floor, his face painted on the wall, and a selection of children's underwear, printed with the Jockel-logo and his face, hanging on the walls.

July 1994, some works were shown in the Corridor-exhibition by Triple-X in the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam (NL). I showed the framed articles, Bett des Jägers, and in a separate small room, once more dead leaves and some of the photo-works.

ELZENVELD Finally the last main exhibition so far took place in Elzenveld, Antwerp (B). I had been collecting more articles in the Stadtarchiv of Duisburg, and the pile staedily grew to 4OO, about twice the amount of the previous shows of them in Recklinghausen and Amsterdam. Elzenveld promised some sponsorship to provide more frames, but in the end this was called off. To make this situation visible, I made a layout of how the work would look like with all the frames, transferred this to the Elzenveld's largest wall, drove 400 nails into it, and proceeded to hang the frames in chronological order, leaving blanks where the unframed articles were supposed to be. These were presented in a metal/glass container next to the wall. Again Bett des Jägers' made the setup complete.

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