Here, on the sandbank off Scharhörn, the Greek freighter “Emmanuel M” ran aground on a stormy night. And the “pirates” were three Neuwerkers who revived the centuries-old island tradition of beachcombing for the last time and thoroughly cleaned out the “Emmanuel M”, which had been abandoned by the crew. Lüder Griebel (64), who was the youngest “pirate” at the time, is now the landlord of the Neuwerk cult pub “Anker”.
The Neuwerk beachcombers have little in common with the ten Somali pirates who are currently standing trial in the Hamburg Regional Court on charges of attacking shipping and extortionate human robbery. However, what the islanders did on the shipwreck 41 years ago was also punishable. The police just couldn’t prove anything against them. And after 30 years, the statute of limitations expired. At the same time, the Neuwerkers were always under suspicion. The pirates had left nothing on the ship that could be carried away – except two Ostgroschen, the newsreel reported at the time. They even took the captain’s binoculars with them. But the police could never catch the beach robbers – the silence of the islanders could not be broken.
With his father, who was the last Neuwerker to be convicted of piracy in Cuxhaven in the 1960s, and Hein vom Kroge, Lüder Griebel, then in his early 20s, had crept aboard the “Emmanuel M”. He was sent up the steep side of the ship by his father – then lowered a ladder from the deck. “I was afraid I wouldn’t fit through the porthole,” laughs the landlord, who is also Hamburg Island’s fire chief. But everything worked out. Although his father and Kroge were no longer the youngest, they really came alive during their buccaneering adventure. “A 100-pound hatch cover, pockets full of nails, dragged Kroge off the ship,” Griebel recounts, pacing up and down in front of the “Anker” counter with his back arched to imitate the packed Kroge.
From the “Anker” the view falls on the Neuwerker lighthouse, with 700 years the oldest building of Hamburg. The mighty square brick tower was erected on the then still uninhabited island of “Nige O” to secure shipping on the Elbe against the then omnipresent sea and beach raiders.
In the meantime, the small car-free island (which, by the way, belongs administratively to the Mitte district) is a tourist magnet in the summer months. Now the former “pirate’s nest” is quiet in winter, but from April 1, the ferry “Flipper” will be sailing from Cuxhaven again. And if you’re lucky, you’ll experience an evening of local history at the “Anker”: with “Hamburg’s last pirate” Lüder on the mariner’s piano.