The Story Of The Century


As for Hauptmann’s possession of a hoard of ransom money, Reilly alleged that Fisch had left it with Hauptmann for safekeeping before returning to Germany to die in 1934, and that Hauptmann had helped himself to a portion of the funds in repayment of a debt owed him by Fisch. A brother and sister of Fisch came from Germany to the trial to rebut every aspect of Hauptmann’s story.

In the final analysis, in any event, Hauptmann was no ordinary hard- working family man plucked from nowhere to serve as a scapegoat. A World War i machine gunner at seventeen, he was unable to get work in the early Weimar period and turned to crime. He did a prison term for mugging two young women on the street and burglarizing, among others, a burgomaster’s house. Released on probation after four years in prison, he was soon rearrested for a series of factory burglaries but escaped jail and, with extraordinary determination, suffered hunger and extreme discomfort to stow away three times on German ships before finally making it to the United States in 1923—and to his death in the electric chair thirteen years later.