In the 60s Hamburg officials planned to demolish a fishing village to make space for a new container terminal. As port cities struggle to keep up with an ever-changing industry, how will Hamburg face the challenges of the next generation?
One morning in the late 80s, a pick-up truck full of sinister looking men came to a halt in front of Heinz Oestmanns house in Altenwerder, a historic fishing village on the outer edges of Hamburgs port. Oestmann, a fisherman and lifelong Altenwerder resident, could make out a pile of crowbars, wooden slats and gardening tools on the trucks loading area all manner of objects to break things with, he later recalled in his memoir.
From their bedroom window, Oestmann and his wife watched as a bespectacled man from the city council got out of the truck to inspect the property. When the fisherman tried to confront the official, he got no response. Eventually, Oestmann took a swing. The man from the council landed on his backside, his glasses snapped in two.
A month later, a judge cleared Oestmann of criminal assault. Three of the councils henchmen had confessed that theyd been asked to cut the buildings power supply, break the water pipes and smash the windows. It was not the first time, the judge said, that the city council had resorted to unlawful measures in order to bully the last remaining residents out of the 13th-century village. A dangerous logic was driving officials in the city to ever more desperate measures: Altenwerder had to die so that Hamburg could live.