Prof­its came be­fore the safety of pas­sen­gers

The Jewish Chronicle - - Features -

peace­ful and calm amidst all the up­roar and strife of the strug­gling hun­dreds at the boats”. Re­fus­ing the of­fer of a lifeboat, “these two old per­sons stood calmly await­ing death which was in­evitable”. As the lifeboats drew away, the wit­ness “could see the pair to­gether still arm in arm, Straus bend­ing to­wards the part­ner of his de­clin­ing years, giv­ing her a farewell kiss. It was an in­spir­ing picture”.

Mil­lion­aire banker Ben­jamin Guggen­heim was equally sto­ical — ac­cord­ing to the re­port of the dis­as­ter in the JC, he also re­fused a place in a lifeboat. “I will not go. No woman shall re­main un­saved be­cause I was a coward”, he is quoted as say­ing. The pa­per added that, hav­ing “as­sisted the of­fi­cers nobly in get­ting the women in the boats”, he died “with a jest upon his lips”.

With some re­lief an ed­i­to­rial in the JC com­mented that: “The whole in­ci­dent shows that the Jewish race, af­ter cen­turies of tram­pling un­der foot, re­tains its ca­pac­ity for throw­ing up great types, and that even Jewish mil­lion­aires — the sport, some­times, of so much idle and sense­less decla­ma­tion — may be num­bered with the no­blest breeds of men”.

It is a sad re­flec­tion of the times a cen­tury ago, as Richard Daven­port-hines has sug­gested in his Ti­tanic Lives (2012), that in such ac­tions “Guggen­heim, like Straus, wished to be­lie the an­ti­semites”.

Also re­flect­ing the con­tem­po­rary mores, the JC de­voted lit­tle space to the or­di­nary Jews trav­el­ling steer­age who per­ished in great num­bers. Some names were given but lit­tle else. But Jewish brav­ery was cer­tainly not con­fined to first-class, and it was re­ported in de­tail by ri­val news­pa­per, the Jewish World, in re­la­tion to a young man, Ger­shon­co­hen,born­in­whitechapelin1892. A for­mer mem­ber of the Brady Club, he had trained as a com­pos­i­tor but had saved up for a third-class ticket to join his un­cle in Brook­lyn with the hope of open­ing a hab­er­dash­ery busi­ness.

The pa­per re­pro­duced his let­ter to his par­ents writ­ten on board the Carpathia as it awaited en­try into New York. A mix­ture of Boy’s Own ad­ven­ture and Bri­tish im­pe­rial un­der­state­ment, Ger­shon re­lated how he jumped into the sea, man­ag­ing to swim to a lifeboat. Although in­jured, he was one of only three men in the boat and he helped row it away from the swell of the fastsink­ing Ti­tanic. Five hours later, they were picked up by the Carpathia.

His “ad­ven­tur­ous” life was far from over. At the start of the war he came back to Bri­tain to join the army where he was wounded twice and left blinded. In the Sec­ond World War he sur­vived the Blitz and died at a ripe old age in Southend. Not sur­pris­ingly, his nick­name was “the cat”. Cer­tainly his op­ti­mism ra­di­ates from his let­ter back home — de­spite the hor­rors he had wit­nessed. In his sec­tion

Charts show­ing the num­bers of pas­sen­gers and crew lost when the Ti­tanic sank. The fig­ures are drawn from of­fi­cial in­for­ma­tion given in the House of Com­mons. The break­down shows that just over 37 per cent of the 322 first-class pas­sen­gers, died (115 men and five women); 58 per cent of the 277 sec­ond-class pas­sen­gers died (147 men and 15 women), while of the 709 third-class pas­sen­gers, 399 men, 81 women and 53 chil­dren died — a to­tal of 75 per cent. Some 686 men and two women crew mem­bers died

The JC re­port of the dis­as­ter — and its wealth­ier vic­tims — in April 1912

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