In­side his­tory

Ger­many, 1931-1937

All About History - - CONTENTS -

What was it like to travel on the Hin­den­berg air­ship?

The LZ 129 Hin­den­burg was the largest pas­sen­ger air­craft that has ever taken to the skies. This jaw-drop­ping feat of Ger­man engi­neer­ing was

245 me­ters long (803 feet) and usu­ally took off weigh­ing 210,000 kg (232 tons), pow­ered by four diesel en­gines adapted from the lat­est mo­tor tor­pedo boats.

Mar­keted as the ‘ho­tel of the sky’, the air­ship was de­signed to carry up to 70 pas­sen­gers in lux­ury and com­fort. There was a restau­rant, lounge, cock­tail bar and, per­haps most sur­pris­ingly, a smok­ing room. Walls were lined with silk painted scenes of great his­toric voy­ages and ex­otic lo­cales, while its fur­nish­ings were in an ul­tra-mod­ern Bauhaus style.

While its cab­ins were small they were equal to that of an ocean liner or sleeper car. From 1936 on­wards, the air­ship car­ried the rich and fa­mous from Frank­furt to Rio to de Janeiro, in Brazil, and New Jersey, in the United States.

Al­though the Hin­den­burg was in de­vel­op­ment be­fore the Third Re­ich came to power, the

Nazis quickly coopted it for their own means. Pro­pa­ganda min­is­ter Joe­sph Goebbels in­sisted the Hin­den­burg’s maiden voy­age should be in March 1936, so it could rally sup­port for a ref­er­en­dum rub­ber-stamp­ing the re­oc­cu­pa­tion of the Rhineland. For four days, the di­ri­gi­ble trav­elled Ger­many, blar­ing pa­tri­otic mu­sic and pro-hitler an­nounce­ments from loud­speak­ers, while leaflets were scat­tered over cities. The Hin­den­burg also had a star­ring role in the open­ing cer­e­mony of the 1936 Ber­lin Olympics.

To­day the Hin­den­burg is best re­mem­bered for its cat­a­strophic demise. On 6 May 1937, the colos­sal zep­pelin burst into flame as it came into dock at an air­field in Lake­hurst, New Jersey. Thirty-five of the 97 peo­ple on board were killed, plus a mem­ber of the ground crew. The disas­ter was cov­ered by Her­bert Morrison’s eye­wit­ness ra­dio re­port ex­claim­ing, “Oh, the hu­man­ity!”

The cause of the fire was likely a build up of static in the ship’s gas­bags, which were filed with highly flammable hy­dro­gen.

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