Pietsch moved to Japan in 1990 to become insei under the master Kobayashi Chizu. He later became a disciple of Kobayashi Satoru. In 1997, he reached 1-dan professional with the Nihon Ki-in. In the same year, he managed to beat Yoda Norimoto by half a point in the first round of the 1st LG Cup (see game commentary here). By 2000, he had been promoted to 4-dan.
Pietsch was shot and killed in an armed robbery on January 16th, 2003, while on a promotional tour for the Nihon Ki-in in Guatemala. He was posthumously promoted to 6-dan by the Nihon Ki-in on January 21st, 2003 for his great contributions to the worldwide promotion of Go, and was also awarded the 36th Kido International Award.
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We very much regret to have to report the death of Hans Pietsch, professional 4-dan at the Nihon Ki-in. Hans was on a go-instruction tour of three Central American countries, accompanied by Nagahara Yoshiaki 6-dan. After attending the Havana International Tournament in Cuba, the two proceeded to Guatemala on 13 January. On the 16th, they went on a sightseeing trip, guided by Edgardo Caceres, president of the Guatemalan Go Association. After leaving their hotel in Guatemala City at 7 a.m., they visited an observatory at Lake Amatitlan at about 7:40. When they returned to their car at about 7:50, in an otherwise deserted parking lot, they were attacked by two gunmen just after they had got back into the car. Although they handed over their money and other valuables, one of the gunmen shot Hans in the side, puncturing the peritoneum. Hans was sitting in the back seat, so the actual shooting was not seen by either Nagahara or Caceres, in the front seats; their attention was on the other gunman, who still had his gun pointed at them. No one knows why the gunman felt it necessary to shoot Hans.
Because Lake Amatitlan is an isolated area, it took awhile for an ambulance to arrive. After it arrived at Amatitlan National Hospital, Hans was declared dead, at 8:52 a.m. The cause of death was loss of blood.
Tragedy was succeeded by farce: the Guatemalan police seemed to regard Nagahara and Caceres as suspects, testing both for gunpowder residues. Nagahara was let go on representations being made by the Japanese Consul, but Caceres was held over the weekend, presumably on the suspicion that he was in league with the criminals and had arranged to meet them at Lake Amatitlan. It was not till Monday that Caceres could secure a hearing before a judge, who dismissed the grounds for arresting him as being without merit. The incompetence of the Guatemalan police doesn't inspire confidence they will apprehend the criminals.
Hans's death was a great shock to the Nihon Ki-in and Japanese go fans. He became a professional in 1997 and thereafter earned rapid promotion, reaching 4-dan in 2000. Hans was a very popular figure at the Nihon Ki-in: he was always cheerful and friendly and recently he had achieved a high profile, being featured in Nihon Ki-in advertising as the teacher of a popular beginners' class. His untimely death is a great blow to the go world.
Otake Hideo, Honorary Gosei, paid Hans a tribute: "Hans Pietsch was gentle and courteous and was loved by his fellow go professionals. His loss is all the greater because he was an indispensable figure for the internationalization of go."
Hans was posthumously promoted to 6-dan (the first-ever such promotion by two ranks). He was also awarded the International Prize among the Kido Prizes for 2002. We extend our sincere condolences to Hans's family in Bremen and to all his friends.
Source of this letter is http://web.archive.org/web/20050228122926/http://goprat.com/hans.htm. Translation below.
Dear Go Colleagues
These lines are the first I am writing of the many things I must and want to do after the tragedy.
At 10 am yesterday, Tuesday January 21, 2003, I was released from prison by order of the judge from the 9th Court of First Hearing, who dismissed the charges for lack of evidence; the accusation was no less than the murder of Hans Pietsch. From there, without going home, I went directly to the funerary home where Hans' body was stored. With permission from the German embassy we requested to take the sealed coffin from the cold room and we displayed it in a chapel where we performed a Yoga farewell ritual with some people from the I Go Club of Guatemala and my family members; we stayed there until 5 pm, at which time the funerary home must put him back in the cold room for the trip to Bremen, Germany, where his relatives await him.
Nagahara-sensei must at this very moment be arriving in Tokyo after having left late for Mexico City on Monday, January 20. As for my side of the story, I will try to repeat what I have already said many times to the press, detectives, prosecution and judiciary. Although this was always the same story and it agreed with the one given by Nagahara-sensei, the prosecution, in their rush to apprehend some suspect, accused me of being the murderer, first voluntarily, then unvoluntarilym and lastly indirectly in association with the attackers.
At 11 pm on Monday, January 13 Rodrigo and I arrived at the airport to pick up the senseis, and we took them to the Camino Real hotel where they were staying. At their request we started the day at 11 am on Tuesday the 14th in the Sakamoto Electronic Workshop, where the Club meets regularly. At 2:30 pm we visited the JICA office, with the intention of arranging for an Amateur Dan Japanese volunteer to come here for a year with the support of JICA. At 4 pm we were received by the ambassador of Japan, Mr. Ueno Kagefumi, with whom we have already had several conversations always around the promotion of Go in Guatemala. A few minutes before coming in with the Ambassador were assembled in the waiting woom Nagahara-sensei, Hans, two other Club members and I, and Ms. Hiromi Yokoi, from the cultural section of the embassy. Our original plan was to spend the three days studying Go in Guatemala City, but Ms. Hiromi insisted that we must take them sightseeing, which Hans agreed to because it was his first visit to Guatemala; the final agreement was that on Tuesday I must take them to Antigua and on Wednesday to Chichicastenango, because there is a huge market there on Thursdays; no route was specified. We then went in to speak with the Ambassador, and we talked about how difficult it was to convince teachers of the value of spending time on Go; we even commented that the teachers at the Japanese School had refused to offer an appointment to the senseis to promote Go in that venue. That night we stayed in the home of the ingeneer Sakamoto, where we played until 11 pm.
At 9am on Wednesday the 15th I took them to the old Guatemala City, 37 km from the capital, where we visited the ruins of Capuchinas, Santa Clara and the Arts and Crafts market of Santa Clara. There we talked about the atrocious public safety situation, and I told them they could kill you for your shoes. Nagahara-sensei was extremely surprised that there could be such soulless people in a supposedly civilized country. At lunchtime we visited a German friend, former Go player, and we happily shared a typical Guatemalan lunch. From there we went directly to the National Palace, where we had rented a hall to hold a seminar and Go demonstration. Unfortunately, although the Japanese embassy had made a press release the previous week at our request, not a single newspaper had published it or included the event in their calendar. As a result, very few people attended, but we still spent the time we had planned introducing the game to the attendees. That night we had a special Japanese dinner prepared by the engineer Sakamoto at his home, where we played Go until 10 pm only, since the next day we had a long trip starting at 7am. Before saying good-bye that night I asked each of them to get a pillow from the hotel, for their comfort during the trip.
On the fateful Thursday the 16th I picked them up from the hotel at 7 am sharp, and as we started our trip I asked Hans in English, which was the language we used to communicate, whether they wanted to take a longer route along the southern coast of Guatemala, to which he immediately agreed. Then we went on to talk about how on that longer route we would have a chance to see the volcanos of Guatemala in all their glory, how the volcanos were a symbol for Mother Earth, and the pyramids a form of hand-made hills for worship. We arrived at a shop on the way, where we bought drinks, ice and sweets, and our first stop 4 km after the shop was the Amatitlán viewpoint at Santa Elena Barillas. The view was splendid, and the place was completely empty. We stepped out of the car, took pictures, got back on the car 5 minutes later, and I was about to start the car again when two people approached us through the front windows with guns in their hands, dressed in old police uniforms and wearing bullet-proof vests, saying: "this is a robbery, give us all your money, the cameras and the car keys". I understood immediately the severity of our situation and I pulled out my wallet and gave them a roll of Q100 bills I was carrying (approximately US$140 total); the man on the passenger side, where Nagahara was traveling, reached in and took the keys from the ignition. I begged the attacker on my side to leave us alone already, and he reacted by hitting me over the head with his hand and insisted that we give them everything, starting with Nagahara's watch; when I saw that Nagahara refused, I myself started to take it off him, and then the guy on my side (the left) went over to the back window to take Hans' things, repeating (in Spanish, of course) that we must give them everything. Then we heard a loud sound and Hans said "No!". I dismayed for a second because I assumed we were all going to die right there; I heard fighting behind me, and I didn't dare to look back because I knew that looking at an attacker carefully is an invitation to be killed. Shortly afterward the attackers fled on foot, taking with them Nagahara's bag (with his Passport, camera, money...). Nagahara and I immediately left the car and saw both men running uphill. I came up to Hans to ask him where he was wounded. He pointed to his left inner thigh. I opened his trousers but found no wound; by Hans' paleness I knew immediately that the situation was dire. They had taken the car keys, and it was approximately 7:45 am. The first thing I could think of was to come out to the road (abot 9 meters away) to ask a passing car to help us carry the wounded or call the authorities, and tell them we urgently needed an ambulance. No car dared to take us to the capital about 30 km away. Fortunately, I had not given my cell phone to the attackers, so the first thing I did was to call my relatives so they could tell the authorities. Then I tried to communicate with the Japanese Embassy, but it was too early. Then I asked engineer Sakamoto to do it himself, making him aware of the gravity of the situation, and I also asked them to communicate with the German Embassy. I went back to the car to raise Hans' feet above his head and wait for an ambulance. He looked very bad, and I asked him to concentrate on Prana, a science he studied as a Yoga practitioner. After a few endless minutes we heard an ambulance ring in the distance and we prayed that it arrived on time to save Hans' life. When the fire department ambulance finally came, we put the stretcher on the ground next to the car and took Hans out of it. I asked them to bring out their venoclisis (?) equipment and I started looking for a suitable vein. Outside the car we realized that the bullet wound was in the left side, just under his ribs, and with no exit wound. I could not find a vein, because by that time Hans was in hypovolemic shock. The paramedic also tried, unsuccessfully.
We decided to take him even in that state to the nearest hospital. Due to the rush hour when all the traffic is coming onto the city, the firemen said that the best would be to take him to the Amatitlán hospital, about 25 km away around the lake. I asked Nagahara to get in the ambulance with him and I stayed behind to wait for the authorities. Shortly thereafter my eldest son arrived, and I decided to leave the vehicle behind, locked, and follow the ambulance to the Amatitlán Hospital, since Nagahara did not speak Spanish. I asked my son Rodrigo throughthe phone to find the replacement keys and come with a friend to take the car away.
When I arrived at the hospital, which I knew from having practiced there, I went into the Emergency Room, where Hans had already been pronounced dead and Nagahara was making a statement in English with difficulty. We hugged with sorrow and I began to give my statement to the police. After a long while, about 1 hour, Ms. Hiromi from the Embassy came and the first thing she did was to scold me for switching from a more direct route to the more remote scenic route we took. I explained that our destination was always Chichicastenango (where a national politician was equally murdered a few years back without the crime being solved), but that we had chosen to take a more scenic route.
From there we went with the body to the hospital morgue, where we decided to take his clothes off, which I then hugged for 4 hours before handing it over to the prosecuting detectives. In the morgue I made two statements for TV news, with a summary of the events. Then we were taken away from the morgue so they could carry out the required autopsy, and we were interviewed by one after another police investigator, the press, and the prosecution for two hours while we stood in the sun. When the Japanese decided to leave there to go to the emergency room, I joined their group since, by then, my eldest son had already gone to accompany Rodrigo in the investigation of the car in the town of Santa Elena Barrillas. A policeman ordered us to stay in the sun waiting for the detectives from the SIC (Criminal Investigation Service), so I called back the Japanese (Nagahara, Hiromi and another employee of the Embassy) to go outside the morgue, where I protested that they were making us wait in the sun. The police then allowed us to sit in the Hospital courtyard. At 1pm the detectives arrived, with great prepotence and a hostile attitude towards me, and after asking me a few questions which did not go beyond what I had already said in my previous statements, they decided that there were inconsistencies between my version and Nagahara's, argued that I had changed the route in order to meet the attackers. They then decided to make gunpowder tests on Nagahara and me, the results of which were never disclosed by the prosecution but which I presume were negative. By then I began to realize that I was being accused of being the perpetrator of the crime.
From this point on I can summarize the facts more.
The letter continues with an account of the circumstances of Cáceres detention and liberation
... and getting to work on two projects for which I hope to get the collaboration of all of you
- gather all the information on the life of Hans Pietsch that I can find in a week, with which I intend to write a long article to publish in the Guatemalan press, to let the Guatemalan citizens know who was that person who came to give his life here while promoting Go.
- form a committee to administer a fund to build a monument-plaque remembering Hans Pietsch in the place of the attack.
If you have any questions, words or insults for me, I'll be at your disposal at the usual addresses.
Dr. Edgardo Cáceres Estrada.
Club de I Go de Guatemala
Condolences and confused news from Guatemala: 17/1/03, 23:22 GMT
(Edgar Caceres, who was arrested, was a Go player and represented Guatemala in the WAGC years ago. His son Ernesto, also a Go player, sent this message to friends in Spain)
At the moment confusing stories are being circulated, there are the facts:
We were visited in Guatemala by two Go professionals, a Japanese and a German. The day after the presentation they had planned to go sightseeing around Guatemala with my dad. Unfortunately, at a viewpoint over the beautiful Amatitlan lake they were assaulted at gunpoint and, regrettably, the German died.
In their stupidity and incompetence, since they have no suspects and they have the press and the politicians all over them, the police have arrested my father unjustly and with prepotence. We ask you that we pray that this is cleared soon.
My family thanks you for your support, and we send our more deeply felt condolences to the Go community, since we have lost an important and magnificent personality.
EGF annoucement: 17/1/03 11:12
The Japanese Yomiuri paper have just reported that Hans Pietsch was shot and killed on the morning of 16th local time on a Go-related trip to Guatemala. He was on a promotion trip with Mr Nagahara 6 dan to Cuba, Guatemala and Mexico from 9th to 22nd January.
Hans had been professional since 1997 and had been 4 dan since 2000. It is sad to lose a go friend so young (34) and I am sure the EGF and German Go Federation will find some suitable way to mark his contribution to the game we all love.
Within two days of Congress approving a resolution condemning the wave of violence and ask that President Portillo remove the Minister of the Interior (Ministro de Goernación), a group of criminals shot dead the 34-year old German tourist Hans Reinhard Pietsch, at the Santa Elena Barrillas Viewpoint (Guatemala).
The German citizen arrived in Guatemala last Monday (January 13) with Ioshiaki Najuhoba, an officer of the Nihon-Kiin.
On Wednesday they made a presentation in the National Palace of Culture and yesterday they were on their way to Sololá and Chichicastenango (Quiché) in Edgar Cáceres' vehicle, who was also a member of the (Guatemalan) association.
Officers of the SIC (Criminal Investigation Service) stated that there were differences between the versions given by the Japanese and the Guatemalan. Najuhoba said they were going west, but Cáceres insisted that they visit the Viewpoint.
The Guatemalan, on the other hand, said that they had planned to go to that place. According to the investigators, a pillow was found in the vehicle where Pietsch was shot, which is assumed to have been used by the assassins as a silencer.
Pietsch was taken in Cáceres' car to the Hospital at Amatitlán, where he died on arrival. The autopsy revealed a 9mm bullet lodged next to his spine, according to the police.
Representatives of the German Embassy requested that the Minister of the Interior, José Adolfo Reyes Calderón, investigate the murder of their countryman. This happend during a public event in a Hotel in the capital. The police arrested Cáceres.
Translation: (note: this item keeps referring to "a Chinese" - I have translated that as "Japanese" this is one day earlier that the previous one and probably not as accurate)
Two criminals with ski masks killed the 34-year old German businessman Hans Reinhard Pietsch in an ambush at the Santa Elena Barillas Viewpoint, where he was with a Japanese citizen and his elder son when the two unknown persons arrived and shot him point blank, wounding him twice.
Unit 475 of the 54th company of volunteer firefighters, based in Villa Canales, transported the pacient to the Hospital at Amatitlán, but he died on the way. Meanwhile, police criminal investigators started searching for the perpetrators at the crime scene.
The attack took place shortly before 8 am, and around noon official sources would not make a statement, since they did not have a concrete version of the events. All they said whas that an investigation was under way.
It was mentions that the deceased, his son, and a Japanese were at the Viewpoint, but the reason of their presence there is unknown. The police are now trying to find the deceased's son and the Japanese citizen to find out more about what happened.