Hamburg – Hamburg Museum of History (Executing Pirates)

Back in the fourteenth century, and indeed for centuries afterwards, pirates gave Hamburg and other cities in the Hanseatic League a real problem. They interrupted trade routes, stole goods, damaged ships and kidnapped crews. So, the Hamburg authorities wanted to look like they were being tough, and they executed every pirate that they could find. They then displayed their dead bodies at Grasbrook, so that every incoming boat would see them.

One of the museum’s pride and joys was a skull with a nail through it which was discovered during construction work in 1878. It was found where pirates were buried and it was thought that the skull might have been that of Klaus Störtebeker. It was a bit awkward for the museum as someone pinched it in 2010, although fortunately the police found it in 2011 and gave it back.

I’m not actually sure where the skull now is, as I couldn’t find it in the museum. But they do have some replicas on display which are visible in the above photo. The wheel in the photo was used to torture prisoners by breaking their bones before they were executed. What a lovely place Hamburg must have been……