I try to find female killers from various locations and times. It is interesting to understand what made these women decide to take the lives of another. Greed seems to be a common reason to murder a person for women. We have seen it in female killers in the United States, England, Austria, Jordan, Japan, India. Their victims have been different. Some selected people close to them, and others preferred strangers. What was similar is in how they did it. Using poison. In Germany in the early 1800s, Anna Zwanziger poisoned out of delusions of grandeur. 

Who Was Anna Zwanziger?

Anna Schonleben was born on August 7, 1760, in Nuremberg, Bavaria. At five years old, she became orphaned and was moved around to live with different family members. Anna was lucky to eventually be sponsored by a wealthy guardian. Due to this, she was able to get a good education. When she was a teenager, 15 to be exact, she married a man twice her age: Herr Zwansiger, an attorney who was also an alcoholic. Anna Schonleben became Anna Zwanziger. The two didn’t marry for love. It was arranged by her wealthy guardian. Anna and Herr would eventually have two children together. It was even said that Anna had become a prostitute for a while to support the family because he was too busy drinking.

Anna eventually decided to divorce Herr. However, on the day the divorce went through, Anna and Herr remarried. They remained together until his death at the age of 48 in 1796. After his death, Anna tried starting her own business by opening up a shop, but it failed. She went back to prostitution. She finally decided to stop when she became pregnant. Anna decided to put the baby up for adoption. It is said that, unfortunately, the baby died. 

At this point, she was in her 30s, a single mother of two children, and was losing her looks. She decided to become a housekeeper and did it for over 20 years. Through the years, Anna’s mental health started deteriorating. Like Yoselyn Ortega, Anna Zwanziger started being envious of the houses’ mistresses that she cleaned. She decided she should be the woman of the house. How did she decide to do this? By poisoning the women. 

The Murders 

Her first known victim was Frau Glaser. On March 5, 1808, Justice Wolfgang Glaser employed Anna as his housekeeper. He was separated from his wife, so Anna thought this was what she was waiting for. However, he seemed to have consoled with his wife Frau Glaser, and she returned to the home. Anna was not happy. After being home for a while, Frau became sick. Frau started vomiting, having stomach pains, and diarrhea. Frau had returned July 22, 1808, and was dead a month later, on August 26, 1808.  

No one knows why she decided to leave Wolfgang Glaser’s home. He was now a widow, so she could have seduced him. It could be that she didn’t want to wait and realized that is what she would have to do. In September, Anna left his employment and went to work in the house of Justice Grohmann. Grohmann was unmarried but was confined to bed due to suffering from gout. Even though there was no threat to another woman, Anna decided she had enough. That spring Grohmann started suffering similar symptoms to Frau Glaser, as well as his skin was hot and dry, inflammation of the mouth and throat, constantly thirsty, ligament pain. On May 8, 1809, Grohmann passed away. Since he had been suffering from gout for so long, people assumed he died from it. 

The wife of another Justice, Frau Gebhard, hired Anna because she needed help during her pregnancy. On May 13, 1809, the baby girl was born, and both Frau Gebhard and her daughter were doing well. However, three days later, the mother was violently vomiting and having severe bouts of diarrhea. A week later, Frau Gebhard passed away. Before she did, Frau Gebhard turned to Anna and yelled, “Merciful Heaven! You have given me poison!” Even with others hearing this accusation, investigators did not take it seriously. 

Even with the police not doing anything, local people started whispering about Anna and how someone always died in the household. 

Two months later, Justice Gebhard had two guests, Mr. Beck and Mr. Alberti, over for dinner. These two men started having the same symptoms as Frau Gebhard. 

Johnny Krause came by another time to have a glass of port. When he noticed white powder in the glass, Johnny stopped drinking because he had her the whispers. 

A kitchen maid got sick after drinking a cup of coffee. Still, Anna remained employed and out of jail. 

It wasn’t until September 1, 1809, when Justice Gebhard had five friends over, that they all got sick after drinking beer. Finally, Justice Gebhard fired Anna. 

Before she left the household, Anna went to the saltbox in the kitchen cellar and filled it with salt. The kitchen maid who had gotten sick from the coffee saw her and thought to herself, why is she doing my job? 

Anna then made the kitchen maid and another maid coffee and gave the baby, now five months old, milk and cookies. No surprise that they were all laced with poison. 

All three became ill, and the kitchen maid, Barbara Waldmann, called the police. She told them about the saltbox. It tested positive for arsenic. 


The police finally arrested Anna Zwanziger. They found that she had arsenic in her possession. This caused the police to exhume the bodies of the other victims. Anna decided to come clean. She was sentenced to be executed, which was in 1811, by beheading with a sword. 

Closing Remarks

It is incredible to me how many people died by poisoning during these times. I read “The Poisoner’s Handbook” a while ago, and in there, it says that many people poisoned others for many reasons. More often, it was due to greed. They wanted what someone else had. Anna Zwanziger fit that. When she started losing her looks, she started to get a little twisted in what she felt she was owed. It doesn’t make sense why she had two chances to seduce the men because one was left widow due to her, and the other was bedridden and unmarried. My theory is that she got a taste of the rush of getting away with poisoning people she felt were more important than her, and that gave her a sense of power. Power can cause people to do crazy things. The way people were executed in the past is fascinating. Beheading with a sword makes me cringe, but I feel it’s what she deserved for people like Anna.    

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