The gravedigger worked around the clock – as the Cholera epidemic in Hamburg raged

It was a Saturday, the 13. August, 1892, as a canal worker named Sahling from Hamburg – Altona worked with around 80 colleagues on Siel. On Sunday, he complained of diarrhea and vomiting. On Monday, he was dead. On Tuesday, another worker, the Mason journeyman Kähler died in the Eppendorfer hospital. A day later, four more men are diagnosed. They all worked to a large Filter, that should clean the drinking water from the Elbe. Because the wastewater of the city were simply discharged into the Elbe. But before this much-needed facility was completed, Cholera broke out.

The disease was for the Hanseatic nothing New. In the years 1831, 1866, and in 1873, the city had to deal with with the disease. However, in the very hot and dry summer of 1892 thousands should die of the disease.

Cholera in 1982 in Hamburg

But first, the city took no action. The deaths at the port could not be brought as rumors through the streets. The Cholera was again raging. A ship’s carpenter and a cigar worker from St. Pauli were among the dead, it said. How exactly is the order of death, knows no more. Diseased Sailors could have left Hamburg by ship, without anyone of them would have taken note. And deaths in the densely built-up quarters on the harbour were rarely explored. The cause of death was simply “wasting” – a term that under-nutrition, but also cancer or Cholera – hide could.

The Newspapers appease: “In the last days repeatedly occurred deaths. The same were, at least, still says on Saturday, officially on the Cholerine, or, as it is also, of Cholera Nostra, is returned. The rapid course of the disease wore, of course, a suspicious character. But on the other hand, the fact appeared again, comforting(!), that the previously reported 26 cases of the disease (in reality, there were already 450) not in the same area, but at various points of the city were, during a real epidemic, usually of a Centrum on the basis of this spread.” In the hot Season Cholerine cases would be “”, it said in the foreign sheet. No need to worry. 20. August, the staff physician, Dr. White recognizes that in the case of the disease to the dangerous Cholera asiatica. The city still does not respond, up to 23. August are already ill, 450 people, 200 died.

Cholera – a horrible death

And those deaths were horrible. For hours the body of stool and vomit emptied within just a few hours, the people lost a quarter of their body fluid. Cramps and pain shake it, the kidney failure, the cycle breaks down. And then they were soon dead.

To know what this time, none: The Cholera pathogen have long since penetrated into the water lines. The diseases are only the tip of the iceberg, because the following drinking water temptation will shake Hamburg hard.

23. August, the authorities give the disease for alarm. Old carriages are being bought, the upholstery out of grissen and converted into makeshift ambulance transports. Diseased, the Cholera symptoms, will be transferred to the hospitals in Eppendorf and in the lohmühlenstraße. There Pavillions have been built, in order to minimize the contagion. Doctors need to piece of paper to fill out for their patients with red forms, the so-called Cholera, to report them to the authorities. The Newspapers print every day the number of illnesses and deaths.

Advertising pillars are the teachings placarded, in order to bring the people the basic principles of disinfection in detail. A pitiful attempt, certainly well – intentioned, but ineffective. Because the Cholera wütetet especially in the slums. Robert Koch, discoverer of the Cholera Bacillus, was sent from Berlin to Hamburg, in order to make a picture of the epidemic. And what he saw shocked him zutief: “I have yet to caves never such unhealthy apartments, Plague, and sites for each contagion hatching encountered germ, like in the so-called gears-quarters of that was shown to me at the port, to the stone street, the hospital road or the low road.” And puts it in his letter to the Emperor and to the point: “I forget that I’m in Europe.”

Tiny courtyards and narrow alleys

Because what he saw were the living spaces, which increased the outbreak of a large epidemic. Around 24,000 dock workers had lost some years previously, without any compensation to their apartment, to the construction of the memory of the city. To keep living in the vicinity of the port and thus the work place – they had to in tiny courtyards, and narrow streets in the old town come under. Seepage pits and chamber pots were common as the water closet, in the densely built-up narrow corridors could extend the Cholera. The hygienic Standards fueled the expansion of the disease. It also disinfection squads, mobile food stalls to supply the people with non-contaminated food and Pumpwagen with water could change nothing.

Those who could, left the city. So life comes in the Hanseatic city to a Standstill. The trade is set up, schools close and also the port, nothing more. The now unemployed port workers, but quickly find a new job: On the cemetery of ohlsdorf you have to dig up graves. 125 workers are on round-the-clock so, usually there are mass graves. Alone at 27. August more than 400 people are buried. “You have no concept, as in here the black death prevails”, wrote the Poet Detlev of Liliencron in a letter. “The yelling, the medical officers all drunk raw; the carcass is ripped out of their houses, some medical officials blow up the tassels with the great Painters, whether of the Dead or the Sick, large crowds chlorinated lime.” In fact, around rolling on the streets Drunk, because it holds the assumption that alcohol protects against infection. Also, the carrier and driver of health and body transports to endure the gruesome Scene, usually only in the noise.

Hamburg responded to the disease

Why the disease was able to spread so furious in the city, about that there is a Consensus among historians to a large extent. Eastern European immigrants have had the dangerous disease unknowingly in their Luggage. Russian migrants were leaving by the Thousands to the Russian Empire and wanted in the USA and rose in Hamburg on Board the transatlantic ships. Alone, in 1892 to be around 100,000 emigrants from Hamburg to New York has been brought. But before it went over the ocean, waited for the immigrants in wooden barracks without any sanitary Standards or sought a district in the vicinity of the port. The Cholera pathogen came to the water from the Elbe.

Ten weeks, the disease kills the Hamburger then. Almost 9000 people have died due to the disease. And the city responded: A Filter for water from the Elbe river was completed in 1893, a waste incineration plant and a port doctor is used. New zoning laws are intended to prevent such a Drama repeatedly.

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