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Greed is one of the seven deadly sins. It is an insatiable longing for a tangible item. Usually, when people think of greed, money is what comes to mind. As Eartha Kitt was once quoted by saying, “Greed is so destructive. It destroys everything. “ In today’s episode, we will find a woman who allowed the greed of money to cause her to kill people, even her own child. Her name was Martha Marek and we will discuss this female killer who poisoned for greed.
Martha Lowenstein was born in Vienna in 1904 to a poor family. She had an unfortunate childhood and became an orphan when she was very young. She was eventually adopted by a poor family. When she was about 13, Martha started working in a dress shop where she caught the eye of wealthy 74-year old department owner Moritz Fritsch. She would become his ward or as we call it nowadays, a sugar baby. Martha became used to living a life of wealth. Fritsch even sent her to finishing schools in France and England.
Martha started a secret affair with a young engineer Emil Marek, who would eventually become her husband. When Fritsch passed away, Martha inherited his estate. She would also marry Emil and became Martha Marek. The young married couple dwindled Fritsch estate and even lost the mansion. Instead of learning the errors of their ways and trying to find an honest living, Martha and Emil concocted a plan to stage an accident to get insurance money. The plan? It was for Emil to chop off his leg with an ax and say it was an accident when chopping wood. You have to wonder who is the one who came up with the plan. The kooky plan failed when it took a few times to chop some of the leg. The insurance company became suspicious due to the multiple hacks to the leg, which Emil’s doctor confirmed that it was intentional.
The Mareks were charged with attempted fraud. Martha tried bribing a nurse to say that the doctor was lying for the insurance companies, which backfired. The fraud charges were dismissed, but the Mareks went to jail for four months for the attempted bribery.
After serving their prison time, the Mareks moved away to Algiers where they settled down and had two children – a son, Alfons, and a daughter, Ingeborg. The two still had no success and became very poor. Martha, who was used to the lavish life given to her by Fritsch, was forced to sell vegetables on the street. A while later, Emil became ill. He was having issues swallowing and was having numbing feelings all over his body. Emil eventually passed away. The cause of death was said to have been caused by tuberculosis. A few weeks later, Martha’s infant daughter Ingeborg also died with the same symptoms. From their deaths, Martha received life insurance money. After that money ran out, Martha visited her ailing aunt Susanne Lowenstein. Susanne started having the same symptoms as Emil and Martha’s daughter. It was hard to swallow and numb limbs. She died as well, and Martha inherited her estate. She will quickly spend that money as well.
Martha got the idea to rent rooms out to boarders. Two boarders arrived. One of them is an elderly lady named Kittenberger. In no time, she was dead and Martha was the beneficiary of her life insurance policy. She also decided to hide her murdered aunt’s paintings in a warehouse and report them stolen. Her level of greed became her downfall.
Marek didn’t think that the same investigator who was in charge of the Chopping Leg plan that landed her husband her in jail would also be the one in charge of the paintings. Ignatz Peters. With this past act, Peters was instantly suspicious and started searching for the paintings, which he found. She was arrested once again for insurance fraud.
This alerted Kittenberger’s so, and he went to the police with suspecting that Martha potentially killed his mother. Kittenberger’s body was exhumed. The police didn’t stop there. They also exhumed the bodies of Emil Marek, Martha’s seven-year-old daughter, and her elderly aunt Susanne Lowenstein. What was discovered? Each of the bodies had thallium in their body.
What is thallium? Thallium is an ingredient in rat poisons and insecticides. It’s very dangerous due to its being colorless, odorless, and tasteless. So unless you are looking for it, you won’t realize that it’s there.
Detective Peters went looking for Martha’s second child, Alfons. When Peters found the boy, he was suffering the effects of thallium poisoning. It was found out that before the boy fell ill, Martha had taken out a life insurance policy out on him. Fortunately, Alfons was able to recover from his mother’s attempted poisoning.
Martha Marek went on trial in 1938. Even though she said proclaimed her innocence, it was found out that she was a regular customer of a Chemist who sold thallium to her.
She was found guilty and sentenced to death. Executions had just begun due to the Nazi Party getting into power. Martha sent a Mercy Application to Hitler to stop the execution. However, Hitler rejected it. It didn’t help her cause that she was half Jewish, but I am not sure if he would have accepted it even if she wasn’t. She was the first woman to be executed in 60 years.
On December 6, 1938, Martha Marek was beheaded by a single blow from an ax. This time it didn’t take but once for the ax to chop her head off.
Martha Marek allowed greed of money to consume her to the point of poisoning her children, husband, and others. The worst part of it all is that she was lucky and got out of poverty with the help of a benefactor and lived a life of lavish wealth. However, her lack of being smart with money made her desperate and instead of trying to get better in spending money, she decided to kill.