Dastardly German Pirates

The pirates of olde were from all different countries, social classes and walks of life, but the ones we see in popular media tend to be either British, Spanish or Dutch thanks to books like Treasure Island and Captain Blood.

But despite their lack of representation in popular media the pirates who hailed from Germany were among the most dastardly and deadly buccaneers on the high seas.

Germany's most famous pirate was Kapitän Klaus Störtebeker, who was dubbed Störtebeker because he could down four litres of beer in one gulp. But drinking beer wasn't Klaus' only skill:

Born in Wismar in 1360, Kapitän Störtebeker was originally a legitimate privateer, engaging in daring exploits as commander of a privateer group known as the Victual brothers, or “Vitalienbrüder.” Following the removal of the Victual Brothers from the Island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea where their base was located in the port town of Visby, Störtebeker and several other prominent privateers went rogue, capturing and plundering Hanseatic ships of trade and defense plying the Baltic and North Sea willy-nilly.

Inflicting great damage to shipping and embedding himself as legend, the rogue captor of ships was himself captured after a standoff gone wrong with a Hamburgian Fleet under the command of Simon of Utrecht, a German privateer and Hamburg city council member. Sentenced to death in Hamburg, Kapitän Störtebeker was executed by sword in 1401 (as depicted above). According to legend, his headless corpse walked past some of the bodies of his men after making a deal that any of his men whom his corpse could pass while walking after decapitation would themselves be spared. His life and accomplishments are now immortalized through a statue placed in Hamburg, the city where he was executed. In modern times, a statue of Störtebeker stands in Hamburg, the city of his demise, to commemorate the pirate and his exploits as a key interest point in German culture and history.

Where Klaus was seen as a rather heroic figure his 14th century contemporary Hennig Wichmans was seen as a real brutal and savage bastard, the type of guy that made people live in fear of pirates:

A brutal sea raider, German Pirate Hennig Wichmann was known for having survivors thrown overboard amongst his exploits in North Sea shipping raids and Baltic Sea attacks in the late 1300s. Originally a privateer serving the Dukes of Mecklenberg as part of the Victual Brothers privateer group tasked with interrupting enemy shipping runs by the Danish, Wichmann and other remaining crew members formed the illegitimate organization of pirates known as the “Likedeelers,” a word meaning “equal sharers.”

Equally they may have shared, but their treatment of crew captured was less than reasonable in the majority of cases. Set on plundering the ships of the Hanseatic league in the North and Baltic seas long after an end to official hostilities, Wichmann was focused on the plunder of vulnerable ships, ignoring official policy, states of hostility or peace, and the well-being of those captured. Hated in his time for having gone rogue, little mercy remained for Wichmann once he was captured by the authorities at hand. Along with 73 members of his crew, he was executed in Hamburg in 1402, showing that those who live by the sword indeed may die by the sword.

Read 10 Dastardly German Pirates at TopTenz

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