Images of a crime: The crime scene footage shows traces, including footprints in the snow. © Munich State Archives
Ulrike Claudia Hofmann deals with a case from 1951 in Starnberg in her current book.
Starnberg – December 12, 1951: Sonja Bletschacher (47) is brutally murdered in her rented apartment in Starnberg's "Haus Adlon", also known as Villa Adlon. But who was this woman? What role does landlady Ottilie Adlon play? Do appearances match the truth? Suddenly, rumours are heard, even linking "the Bletschacher" with the Abwehr. The two detective superintendents of the Fürstenfeldbruck branch of the Upper Bavaria rural police entrusted with the case are unable to shed any light on the matter, despite extensive interrogations. On the contrary, the deeper they dig around the dead, the more inconsistencies come to light. To this day, the case of Sonja Bletschacher has not been solved. The last investigation ended in March 1971, the file was closed. Dr. Ulrike Claudia Hofmann, contemporary historian and archivist in Munich, went in search of clues with original files and published her research in the recently published book "True Crime Lake Starnberg – Murder in the House of Adlon".
How she came across the Bletschacher case, Hofmann can no longer say. "It fell into my hands at some point." And: "It has always been important to me to bring hidden things to light, which of course also fits in with my training as a historian. And crime novels have fascinated me since I was young." Whether current criminal cases or so-called "cold cases", long unsolved cases, does not matter. "Even if a historical 'cold case' naturally offers room for exciting speculation."
Bletschacher was a fascinating woman who did not show her cards. "She tried to lead a life according to contemporary values and morals – but consciously broke through them again and again." It was also interesting for the historian to gain insights into the lives of the people in Bletschacher's environment.
The research was not easy. "One challenge was not to violate any personal rights, even though the case took place more than 70 years ago." After all, contemporary witnesses are also alive or can still be alive today. "Like, for example, the victim's niece, a key witness." Hofmann even made contact with the great-grandson of Ottilie Adlon and a stepson of Sonja Bletschacher. "They gave me some more information." Likewise, the structure and management of the investigation files were not necessarily manageable. "In a case with an identified perpetrator, such a file usually contains an indictment and usually a verdict with detailed reasons," says Hofmann. Both provide basic information and an initial overview. "That's what's missing in the 'cold cases'. You find yourself in the thicket of all kinds of traces and it takes time before you can assess them."
Some questions will still not be able to be answered one hundred percent. For example, Bletschacher once had a relationship with Dr. Otto Praun. It is said that he was involved in arms and money deals. He, too, was later murdered – together with his housekeeper Elfriede Kloo. In 1962, Vera Brühne and Johann Ferbach were sentenced to life imprisonment for these crimes. Both denied their guilt. Brühne, on the other hand, in an effort to have her case reopened, slipped a note to the lawyer Dr. Maximilian Girth, who was one of Ferbach's defense lawyers. In 1969, he forwarded it to the Munich II public prosecutor's office. Its content: She claimed that Praun had told her that Kloo had killed Sonja Bletschacher with a stiletto. "The lawyer wanted to have found an explanation that Elfriede Kloo could have been shot by Dr. Praun," Hofmann said. However, Brühne was never asked about this information.
"In retrospect, some of the people who turned up in the course of the investigation are conceivable as perpetrators," Hofmann concludes. What remains are many ambiguities.
True Crime Lake Starnberg – Murder in the House of Adlon
by Dr. Ulrike Claudia Hofmann has been published by Allitera Verlag (ISBN 978-3-96233-380-5). On Friday, June 30, the author will read in the reading café of the Starnberg City Library (19 p.m.). Detective Ludwig Waldinger takes over the classification from a police point of view.