Hinz&Kunzt vendor Peter gets the send off he deserves

By Benjamin Laufer and Simone Deckner, Hinz&Kunzt

For 15 years, this used to be Peter’s daily tour. From the opera house at the Spielbudenplatz through the streets left and right of the Reeperbahn with some side trips into local pubs and table dance bars. Every night at half past 12, his tour ended at the Silbersack. The Hinz&Kunzt vendor was welcome everywhere – and was very proud of it. He liked to say: “I am the only man who leaves the Dollhouse with more money compared to when I entered.” Even there he sold the street paper. Peter and the Kiez – these two simply belonged together.

Credit: Lena Maja Wöhler

Since April, Peter hasn’t done the tour anymore. After a bad fall, he was admitted to hospital. On 21 April, at the age of 67, he passed away. This was a massive loss for his friends, the Hinz&Kunzt team and many people from his hood. It happens far too often that poor people are forgotten after their death. But not Peter. To honour him and say goodbye to him, about 50 friends, colleagues and companions met at the Spielbudenplatz on 30 May. In a sort of funeral procession, the march slowly walked through the South of St. Pauli, up the Davidstraße, pass the statue of Hans-Albers, until they arrive at Peter’s favourite pub, the Silbersack. Many carry signs with a picture of Peter.

The procession is led by pastor Sieghard Wilm, the band plays music from the home of jazz – New Orleans. Sometimes melancholic, sometimes happy and slightly crooked. The group moves in dignity through the rainy streets of St. Pauli. Residents and pub owners look out of their open doors and windows. Someone wrote on a sign: “At St. Pauli, we say Cheerio!” Peter would have liked that.

Credit: Lena Maja Wöhler

Pastor Wilm had the idea to organise a funeral march for Peter. The white robe he threw over covers his light summer shoes. The rain that started at the beginning of the march cannot deter him. And so, can’t anybody else.

After half an hour, when the funeral party enters the Silbersack, the rain stops and the sun comes out. “The sky wept itself out”, Wilm says. People tell stories about Peter in this famous pub in the Silbersack Street. Hinz&Kunzt social worker Stephan Karrenbauer talks about Peter’s first days with Hinz&Kunzt. How selling the street paper didn’t only give Peter work in the Kiez area, but gave him a home. How he benefitted from the reward and respect St. Pauli people showed him. How much he hoped to get off the drugs and bring stability into his life.

His biggest wish was to find the love of his life. He would have taken her on a trip around the world in a little camper. “This was his dream”, Karrenbauer says. But this did not happen. On the contrary, Peter’s last love ended tragically: The woman was a drug addict and so, after many clean years, Peter had a relapse.

Credit: Lena Maja Wöhler

And yet, Peter usually stood his ground: A surgery stiffed his cervical vertebra, he couldn’t move easily, had to stoop. After that, he sorted his things out, even wrote down his will, just in case. Still, he continued his life: A rollator and electric wheel chair enabled him to sell the street paper.

Peter was well connected in the hood. One day, when his wheel chair got stolen, his neighbours from the Schmidt theatre raised money and gifted him a new wheel chair.

The guests at the Silbersack walk down memory lane while the jukebox is playing the songs Peter wished for his funeral in his will. Pink and yellow roses in water filled juice bottles stand on the dark wooden tables in the smoky pub. People who knew Peter sit around the tables: long-established Kiez inhabitants, colleagues from Hinz&Kunzt, female students from the neighbourhood that Peter used to greet with a warm smile. And four bikers who were accidently sitting at the Silbersack when the funeral party came in. Even these guys knew Peter: One of them tells that he bought a street paper from Peter, every time he was in Hamburg. “I have never met a more thankful street paper vendor”, he said.

Credit: Lena Maja Wöhler

Peter’s last evening ended after hours only. Pastor Sieghard Wilm is really touched: “This is one of the most beautiful moments, I have experienced in my professional life. That people don’t forget someone that has passed away.”

Video of the funeral march can be seen here:

Translated from German into English by Jessica Michaels