Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Waltraud Gruseck: The False Soprano

Small Village, Sensationalistic Crime


The small German village of Kappel-Grafenhausen, which is nestled between the fabled Black Forest and the French border just a few miles to the west, seems an unlikely venue for one of the most sensationalistic crime stories in 21st century Germany to unfold.

Kappel-Grafenhausen's main point of interest is the Taubergiessen wetlands located between the village and the Rhine River. From the village, tourists can take boat rides through the natural preserve. Besides the wetlands area, which is hardly a major tourist mecca, the town mainly serves as a stopping-off point for visitors traveling to the Black Forest, the French border, or Stuttgart, which is about a hundred miles away.

Kappel-Grafenhausen is not a village where someone would go to become a millionaire, either. But over the course of his life, Mr. Hilss managed to amass a small fortune in the village where he had grown up and lived as an adult. He did this by living frugally, giving boat rides to the occasional tourist through the Taubergiessen wetlands, fishing for trout and operating a fish hatchery next to his house for four decades. Mr. Hilss had remained a bachelor throughout his life before marrying Waltraud in 2005, and he had carefully saved his money and bought a few houses along the way, at least two of which he rented out.

Everyone truTV contacted for this story who did not have access to his financial records was surprised to learn that Mr. Hilss owned more than a million dollars in assets. He was seen as a modest yet respectable fisherman and a small boat tour operator. He definitely did not live the flamboyant lifestyle that someone might associate with a millionaire.


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