Shadow Voyage: The Extraordinary Wartime Escape of the Legendary SS Bremen
Escaping to sea, she took refuge in Murmansk, a Russian Arctic port then friendly thanks to the Russo-German treaty. Three months later, with a skeleton crew, she steamed for home. On the way, the British submarine Salmon intercepted her, but the submarine's captain refused to fire on a liner that was apparently unarmed and not escorted. Her triumph was short-lived, however, because an arsonist destroyed her at pierside in One suspects Huchthausen of some reconstructed dialogue, but the thoroughness of his research is above reproach; it even includes many German sources not commonly studied and interviews with surviving Bremen crew and their descendants.
A combination of espionage and sea story that reads like a thriller, the book will also throw new light on a good many aspects of WW II, such as the day-to-day operations of the German merchant marine and Nazi efforts to infiltrate it and the workings of the Russo-German rapprochement in The resulting positive pressure meant that the boiler rooms were only accessible through airlocks. The steam was generated in 20 oil-fired water tube boilers, eleven double-enders and nine single-enders in four banks fired by a total of oil burners.
For harbour operation three boilers with their own blower were available, so that during work periods the main boiler airlocks could remain open. Each of them had a high pressure, a medium pressure, low pressure and a reverse turbine. The V electric power on the ship came from four diesel generators with a total output of kW. On board, there were total of electric motors, approximately 21, lamps, electric cookers and 20 elevators. Bremen was to have made her maiden transatlantic crossing in the company of her sister Europa , but Europa suffered a serious fire during fitting-out, so Bremen crossed solo, departing Bremerhaven for New York City under the command of Commodore Leopold Ziegenbein on 16 July She arrived four days, 17 hours, and 42 minutes later, capturing the westbound Blue Riband from Mauretania with an average speed of This voyage also marked the first time mail was carried by a ship-launched plane for delivery before the ship's arrival.
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The mailplane was launched on the eastbound voyage in the English Channel near Cherbourg carrying 18, letters to Bremerhaven where it delivered the mail many hours ahead of the ship's arrival. On 26 July a group of anti-Nazi demonstrators boarded Bremen just before she sailed and tore the Nazi flag from the jackstaff and tossed it into the Hudson River. At the time there was a dual flag law, by which both the black-white-red horizontal tricolor previously the flag of the German Empire , and the swastika flag were simultaneously official national flags of Germany.
Shadow Voyage: The Extraordinary Wartime Escape of the Legendary SS Bremen by Peter A. Huchthausen
As the ship's swastika flag was the one tossed into the river, US authorities claimed that no symbol of Germany had been harmed. On 15 September Germany changed its flag law, removing the status of the black-white-red flag of imperial Germany with which the Nazis on coming to power had replaced the black-red-gold flag of the Weimar Republic as co-national flag.
Bremen started her South America cruise on 11 February , and was the first ship of this size to traverse the Panama Canal. On 22 August , she began her last voyage to New York. After ten years of service, she had almost transatlantic voyages completed. On 26 August , in anticipation of the invasion of Poland , the Kriegsmarine high command ordered all German merchant ships to head to German ports immediately.
Bremen was on a westbound crossing and two days from New York when she received the order. Bremen ' s captain decided to continue to New York to disembark her 1, passengers. She left New York without passengers on 30 August and on 1 September, coincident with the start of the Second World War, she was ordered to make for the Russian port of Murmansk. Underway, her crew painted the ship grey for camouflage.
Bremen was also equipped with a Heinkel floatplane, which was catapulted from a revolving rail located between the stacks and could be launched up to six hundred miles from the destination port to deliver priority mail. In , with the improvement of wireless and telephone communications, the floatplanes were discontinued and the catapult was replaced by a large garage used for storing automobiles and excess baggage. Many of her design aspects were unique; for example, the swimming pool was built directly above the keel below G deck surrounded by two boiler rooms, keeping it sufficiently warm to use in winter.
An alternative first-class restaurant was placed between the stacks on the sun deck, boasting a glorious panoramic view of the sea. When Bremen was due on her maiden voyage, on July 22, , thousands of New Yorkers had gathered by midday on the streets, roofs, and anywhere else they might find a view to observe her arrival. In addition, it was not unusual to see celebrities such as W. It was also popular for New York luminaries to receive gilded invitations to splendid arrival dinners aboard Bremen, flown in aboard the mail floatplane a full day before the ship arrived.
When Norddeutscher Lloyd resumed hauling passengers to and from New York in the early s, their liners proved too long for the old pier in Hoboken, New Jersey, and were forced to use the Brooklyn army piers until adequate piers became available. Due to the crowning success of the new express liners, Hoboken also proved too distant from Manhattan for efficient passenger service.
Drechsel was named chief superintendent of the new Hapag-Lloyd North Atlantic Union, whose masters were advised that, when in U. Some unique German traditions spread in New York during these happy days. In December Bremen arrived in New York with lighted Christmas trees atop both masts, thus starting a tradition observed to this day by many ships and yachts. So successful was Bremen in capturing the image of a top liner that Norddeutscher Lloyd proclaimed proudly, No liner in modern times has so caught the imagination of the public.
Already she has become a legend and a classic. Her name gleams like a new planet. Captain William Drechsel provided the U. Ferber later wrote the book Eight Glass using the pen name Tintoretta, describing life aboard the luxury liner during the period leading up to World War II.
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Passengers relaxing in a first-class cabin. Hanns Tschira—courtesy of Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum, Bremerhaven. The reputation of the German passenger ships as the epitome of North Atlantic luxury travel began to deteriorate shortly after Adolf Hitler came to power, and significantly so when he sought to spread Nazi political influence abroad with cadres of Nazi Party Sturm Abteilung SA; Storm Troopers. The first maritime SA Bordsturm was established in Hamburg in , and by more than thirty thousand SA personnel were assigned aboard German merchant ships.
When open anti-Semitism and racial cleansing began in earnest in German society, German shipping companies were ordered to release all Jewish crewmembers. By , when the firms were required to be free of Jews, the Norddeutscher Lloyd management quietly disregarded the Nazi Party order and successfully retained some of their highly qualified and experienced crewmen who happened to be Jewish.
Norddeutscher Lloyd then further encouraged many of their most seasoned Jewish crewmen to change their identities in the records and largely ignored the purging order. The Nazi racial bias irked most German sailors, who, like their foreign maritime counterparts, were primarily men of the sea and true internationalists. As the climate in Germany grew more fanatically Nazi, however, individual cases of hardship occurred. He was fired as a crewman, then his astonished wife divorced him for deceiving her. The following year he was deported to a concentration camp and murdered by Nazi guards.
In resentful response, the local Nazi Party, initially reluctant to openly confront the popular and socially influential commanding officer, initiated an annual series of Christmas concerts at the Columbus Pier called Green Is the Meadow, at which a uniformed band from the Strength through Joy Kraft durch Freude; KdF organization played nationalist songs and led sailors and their friends in patriotic songs.
Courtesy of Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum, Bremerhaven. This sometimes-not-so-subtle Nazi infestation led to some dramatic yet discreet struggles aboard Norddeutscher Lloyd ships as the new German regime sought to replace the more independent-minded and internationally accepted masters and crewmen with more obedient party Germans. Such a struggle festered aboard Bremen as Commodore Ziegenbein continued to resist the Nazis until , when, after steadfastly refusing to end his correspondence with the required salutation, Heil Hitler, the popular first commander of Bremen took early retirement after forty-seven years at sea, at the age of sixty-two.
He stated that he could not in good conscience represent that party abroad. His replacement, Captain Adolf Ahrens, was an experienced master of several Norddeutscher Lloyd ships, most recently Columbus , and had several times replaced Ziegenbein as a supernumerary master of Bremen. The anti-Nazi feelings also grew in the management of Norddeutscher Lloyd. He had converted the line into a low-cost carrier of tourist class and cargo only, catering to the increasing flow of refugees leaving Europe. The Nazis seized the line in and threw Bernstein into a concentration camp until his U.
He later became a U.
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Many thousands of German emigrants who had settled in the United States had joined the core of the U. Their achievements in industry, especially in the engineering and scientific fields, had contributed to the exponential growth of U. The restrictions on German military construction and development in industry, dictated by the Versailles Treaty following World War I, provided the burgeoning Nazi intelligence services the impetus to focus their collection efforts against the leading-edge technology in the defense industries, especially in the rapidly developing U.
A large segment of the successful business society of the United States was made up of well-to-do citizens of German origin, who still participated openly in various German American friendship organizations: the German American Bund, the German American Friendship Guild, the Friends of the New Germany, and the Steuben Society. Also used for this purpose were New York , St. Louis , Reliance , and their sister ships. The German ships, with their high ratio of crew to passengers, provided an excellent arena for absorbing intelligence couriers and agent handlers, whose presence on secure territory of the German-flagged ships seemed impenetrable.
By the crews of each of the express liners were fully augmented with SA Bordsturm Brown Shirts, and who, although seldom aboard in uniform, provided excellent security for the intelligence work by the agents operating undercover as crewmen. He had seen significant combat on the eastern front and had been captured by the Russians during the Battle of Tannenberg.
He spent three years as a prisoner of war in Murmansk and prided himself for his virulent hatred of all communists, Russians in particular. Nevertheless, Schulwitz wore his civilian clothing as if he were in uniform, and he tended to march instead of walk.