Wassertraeger Koenig

Wassertraeger Statue

Wassertraeger Statue

'Hummel, Hummel!' 'Mors, Mors!' is the most popular salute in Hamburg. Unveil the secret of Hamburg's mysterious saying.

Wassertraeger ─ Water Carrier

Before the local water system was introduced in Hamburg in 1848, Wassertragen (lit. carrying water) was a popular profession. One of these 'Wasserträger' became a famous symbolic figure for the city. He was originally born as Johann Heinrich Bentz on January 21st, 1787, but people called him Hans Hummel instead. Nobody's exactly sure, but historians assume that Bentz got his nickname by moving into the apartment of soldier Daniel Christian Hummel after his death. The real Hummel was much-loved by the kids in the streets for his adventurous war stories.

The same kids then made fun of the new 'Hummel' by yelling at him 'Hummel, Hummel' as they saw him passing by with his filled buckets. Some of them even showed him their naked butts, well-knowing that 'Hummel' couldn't chase them with his heavy load. Allegedly, he therefore just replied by yelling back 'Mors, Mors!' which means 'Kiss my ass!' in a local dialect called Plattdeutsch. Bentz was described as a grumpy person, and very different to the real Hummel who was said to be funny and kind.

Sadly, the water carrier Hummel lost his job in 1848 and died in a poorhouse six years later. But ever since, the phrase 'Hummel, Hummel!' 'Mors, Mors!' has been a popular salute in Hamburg. When HSV (one of the city's two popular football teams) scores a goal, the stadium speaker calls the name of the scorer, then 'Hummel, Hummel!' and the crowd replies with 'Mors, Mors!'

Hamburg used to be home to many colourful Hummel sculptures that were spread all over the city. This outdoor exhibition took place until 2006, when most of the artworks were sold. The proceeds were donated to homeless people in Hamburg. Nowadays, a few Hummel figures still can be found around the city, i.e. close to the City Hall. You can also visit the little square at the corner of Rademachergang and Breiter Gang where a memorial remembers the 'false' Hummel. If you take a closer look, you'll even see the kids pulling down their pants.