Throughout the center of the city of Hamburg, lifelike statues of human beings proliferate—often placed right in the middle of sidewalks. Such statues are everywhere.
Some of these statues commemorate historic persons, some statues commemorate fictional characters, and some statues commemorate archetypes.
The statues are generally not crafted from marble or stone. The statues are occasionally made from bronze, but more often they are made from lightweight metals and even plastics. Many of these statues look cheap and out of place in such a handsome city.
Three of the statues were of some interest to us.
One is the statue of Zitronenjette.
This bronze statue very near Saint-Michaelis-Kirche depicts a small woman holding a basket on her right arm while offering spectators a lemon with her left hand. The statue was erected in 1986.
This is Zitronenjette (“Lemon Jettie”), one of Hamburg’s genuine and unique and original characters. Henriette Johanne Marie Muller (1841-1916) sold lemons during the day at Hamburg Harbor and in the evening she walked from one inn to another, shouting “Zitroon, Zitroon”. Lemons were not widely available in Hamburg at the time.
Zitronenjette was attacked on the streets several times, and became insane. In 1894 she was consigned to a hospital and during her final days she was looked after in a nursing home at public expense.
In 1900, the first play about her life was staged, while she was still living, and a popular operetta followed in 1920, after her death. The operetta is still staged in Hamburg, and the role of Lemon Jettie in the operetta is customarily played by a male actor.
Persons passing the monument generally touch Zitronenjette’s finger for luck. As a result, that particular finger now has a brassy shine.
The Hummel Statue, only a few blocks from Zitronenjette, commemorates the water carriers of Hamburg, a fixture of the city before Hamburg established a city water utility.
The Hummel Statue was erected in 1938 and pays tribute to a genuine original Hamburg character known as The Hummel.
The Hummel was a water carrier, and the specific Hummel honored by The Hummel Statue was Johann Wilhelm Bentz (1787-1854), the last of Hamburg’s water carriers. Bentz is portrayed walking the streets of Hamburg with two water buckets over his shoulders.
Today, in addition to the 1938 original, there are many statues throughout Hamburg’s city center paying tribute to The Hummel. In fact, there are now over 100 different Hummel statues in Hamburg, created by many different artists, of men carrying buckets of water.
Klaus Stortebeker is a part mythical, part historic figure associated with the history of the city of Hamburg.
This bronze statue, erected in 1982, portrays the famous pirate Klaus Stortebeker (1370-1401) near Hamburg Harbor. The statue shows Stortebeker, hands tied, looking towards the Speicherstadt, the canal-laden warehouse district of Hamburg, where he was executed in 1401.
The name “Stortebeker” is only a nickname, meaning “Down The Hatch” in Old German, and refers to Stortebeker’s supposed ability to empty a four-liter mug of beer in one gulp. Like most of the pirates of his day, Stortebeker used to hide on Helgoland, an island North of Germany. Helgoland pirates captured merchant vessels for their livelihood, and caused great damage to Hamburg’s commerce.
In 1401, a Hamburg fleet captured Stortebeker and 72 of his men, and they were brought to Hamburg and tried. All were found guilty and sentenced to death by beheading. Their heads were tarred on one of the Speicherstadt’s streets before they were taken to their place of execution near the site of this statue.
According to legend, Stortebeker saved several of his men by walking along his lined-up crew after being decapitated. The men he passed were allegedly reprieved.