Until 1913, the German town of Giessen was home to people with a unique profession. This gig was known as “Schlamp-Eiser,” the men who walked the city and collected the feces of the citizens of town.
Relatively early in the Middle Ages, people in Giessen came up with a latrine innovation: They built small wooden boxes on the outside of the walls of the houses. These included a pit latrine connected to a wooden pipe, which led feces down into a wooden bucket.
When the buckets were full, the feces had to be brought somewhere, but the spaces in between the houses were extremely narrow and it was hard to reach the buckets. Hence the Schlamp-Eiser was born. Using a long bent iron bar, men pulled out the filled buckets, collected the feces in a large cart, and transported the waste to the Rodtberg outside the town.
Word of the strange innovative waste system spread fast and spiteful onlookers started calling the citizens of Giessen “Schlammbeiser,” which roughly translates to “shit-eater.”
In 1904, a sewer system was built in Giessen and the Schlamp-Eisers went to work in the sewers, cleaning blockages. The last Schlamp-Eiser, Eberhard Blaurock, retired in 1913 after 55 years collecting waste buckets.
The old-fashioned profession might have been forgotten by now, if it hadn’t been for the nickname, which has stuck around until this day. Citizens came to embrace the nickname, and today the Schlammbeiser name is used in cultural facilities, clubs and other places around the town. There is even a statue dedicated to the old Schlamp-Eiser. The bronze statue, built in 2005, is located right in the city center in front of the house where the last Schlamp-Eiser lived.
Know Before You Go
The "Schlammbeisser" can be visited at all times. Because it's in a pedestrian area, it can be reached only by foot.