What’s Black, White, and Red All Over? A Mercedes, A Blonde Prostitute, and an Unsolved Murder. The tale of this young woman, murdered in 1957, spawned one of the biggest scandals in postwar Germany, involving prominent politicians and businessmen.
Rosalie Marie Auguste Nitribitt (1933-1957), known as Rosemarie, was one of the most notorious prostitutes in German history, both in life and in death. Nitribitt was known for her great beauty, unconventional displays of self-made wealth, and her untimely death at the age of twenty-four—a brutal strangulation—by a culprit who remains undiscovered.
Rosemarie openly celebrated the luxury that her gritty romps with Frankfurt’s high society men afforded her. The young red-lipsticked blonde prowled Frankfurt streets for new Johns in a 1956 jet-black Mercedes-Benz, which she customized with bright cherry red leather seats and stark white wall tires. This model, the convertible Mercedes 190 SL, is still often called, “The Nitribitt Mercedes”, forever marrying its streamlined curvature with the image of this beautiful, tragic woman.
She was often accompanied by her white poodle, Joey, and was known for dressing in the latest fashions, seductively propositioning German men in English and French. She lived in an elegant apartment in Eschenheimer tower in the affluent Stiftsstraße 36 area. Nitribitt was unabashedly proud of her profession and reveled in the sex and glamour that accompanied it, earning a reputation among the horny young men of Frankfurt’s rising elite class—her main clientele—and a vicious distaste for the local police.
Rosemarie’s casual attitude toward high-class prostitution and the outward display of wealth that came with it contrasted with the dull conservatism of postwar 1950s Germany. Germany after the war was a grey, crumbling country in disarray, and women during that time were pressured to display a generic humility and subservience. The national obsession with alluring, curvy seductresses had ended, and bombshell personas—like that of ex-pat Marlene Dietrich—were criticized. There was a national push to focus on stark morality, discipline, and domestic matters.
“Decent” women were left to fantasize about the types of hot sexual acts that were Rosemarie’s every day. Scarce were the places in Germany where one could engage in lurid sexual desires and abandon the fear of judgement from prudish peers—especially if you had to worry about Mommy and Daddy cutting you out of the family fortune. Rosemarie’s naughty persona provided a fantasy experience in a luxury package that the rich were used to, proving to be a very lucrative business model.
Undress for the job you want…that’s how the phrase goes, right? She became the premiere escort among the young spoiled brats of Frankfurt, earning the nickname, “The Countess.” The sex-starved wives of drab Frankfurt had a few less complimentary names for her.
Nitribitt’s origin story reads like any other generic rags-to-riches tale, apart from one notably tragic event. She was born on February 1, 1933 in Düsseldorf—the illegitimate child of an 18-year old maid. She and two half-sisters had spent a childhood in Nazi Germany shuffling between bleak juvenile centers and neglectful foster parents. At eleven, she was raped by a local eighteen-year-old boy, who suffered no consequences for the brutal attack. Because the city failed to protect young Rosemarie, she spurned the societal norms for “nice girls” and sought power through financial independence. She befriended two prostitutes and found refuge on the streets.
The rebellious teenage Rosemarie was arrested countless times for solicitation, and eventually fled Dusseldorf for Frankfurt in April 1953 to pursue a short-lived career as a model and waitress. Rosemarie quickly developed a taste for elegance far beyond the income of a waitress. She adopted the name, “Rebecca,” which came with a sultry persona to match. Rosemarie reveled in using her beauty and wit to charm clients out of large sums of money and gifts. Local lawyers, politicians, industry leaders, and doctors became enamored with Rosemarie, and she rapidly rose up the ranks to become the most popular call girl in Frankfurt.
One Turkish suitor bought her a vehicle—an Opel Kapitän—which became the precursor to the notorious black Mercedes. With the newfound freedom that a car provided, Nitribitt could now find clients past the range of local bars and restaurants near the Frankfurt train station. She could now hunt for generous patrons with the glib satisfaction of a cat-in-heat. Soon thereafter she upgraded to the infamous inky-black Mercedes, similar to the seductive sheen of a black patent high-heeled shoe. The [now] 24-year-old temptress was unsuspecting of how abruptly her newfound success would end.
On the morning of November 1, 1957, Rosemarie’s maid arrived to stacks of unopened bread deliveries left outside of the apartment door. The maid reportedly heard the wailing cries of Rosemarie’s starving trapped poodle and opened the door to a macabre scene. The blonde bombshell lay lifeless on her velvet couch with a silk stocking tied tightly around her neck. Her platinum curls were matted and tinged pink with blood, and her bloated, limp body had been left unattended for several days.
When German police arrived, they failed to follow standard crime scene protocol and opened a window before taking the temperature of her body—destroying evidence of exact time of death. Few details were noted before objects were moved and tampered with, and police reports were markedly vague and inefficient. The police noted that 18,000 marks had been stolen, but nothing else from Nitribitt’s posh belongings appeared missing.
The contemporary German newspaper, Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) published previously unreleased police files on the Nitribitt case in 2014. These files revealed that a broken red wine bottle containing a set of unknown fingerprints was found at the scene. The police file also revealed that four affluent Germany high society men were Rosemarie’s regular customers—the Krupp heir Harald von Bohlen und Halbach, the billionaire entrepreneur Harald Quandt, and the industrial sons Ernst Wilhelm and Gunter Sachs.
[One small digression…while researching Quandt I had discovered that liaisons with a prostitute were minor infractions compared to the revolting acts he had previously committed. Quandt’s mother—Magdalena Behrend Rietschel—divorced his father and later married Joseph Goebbels on December 19, 1931. His mother was known as, “the First Lady of Nazi Germany” and Harald Quandt served as a Luftwaffe lieutenant until 1947. Magda Goebbels committed suicide (with her monstrous husband) after they murdered their six children. Harald Quandt, Nazi-turned-billionaire, solely inherited his industrialist father’s fortune and seemingly attempted to sweep his past under the rug.]
The released file reveals many dramatic love letters from von Bohlen und Halbach to Rosemarie, addressing her in pet names and even listing all the gifts he’d sent her during their relationship. All of the prominent men were sloppily interrogated and alibis were not closely checked. The preferential treatment of these suspects due to their social standing and the “delicate” nature of Rosemarie’s profession is one of the many dismal aspects of the handling of her case. Files were destroyed, family names were redacted, and valid leads were left to grow stale. It is believed that the corrupt police were paid off in order for the upper echelon of Germany to remain unscathed.
Interestingly, Heinz Pohlmann, a prominent friend of Nitribitt, reportedly paid off gambling debts to the tune of 18,000 marks a short time after the murder. He was later accused of being the murderer but a lack of evidence led to his release in July 1960 by the district court of Frankfurt.
Rosemarie’s true murderer was never caught, and her gruesome tale became a staple in German pop-culture history. Four separate movies have been made about her story, the first being the 1958 biopic Rosemary, directed by Rolf Tiele. This film was based on the bestselling book by journalist Erich Kuby, Rosemarie: The Favorite Child of the Economic Miracle.
Most recently, was the made-for-TV movie A Girl Called Rosemary (1996) and a musical based on her life, which was staged in 2004.
Much like America’s fixation with the gruesome unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short—The Black Dahlia—these decade-old cold cases continue to gain cult status in the annals of time. We share a collective obsession with the motif of a beautiful woman snuffed out and denied justice, as if a mere glint in an exploding flashbulb.
A band called Nitribitts recorded this rocking tribute to Rosemarie: