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Model of Arnold Bernstein’s Cargo Steamer "Max"

Photo: Model of Arnold Bernstein’s Cargo Steamer "Max"

Model of Arnold Bernstein’s Cargo Steamer "Max"
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

Arnold Bernstein (1888-1971) was born in Breslau. In 1919, he founded a shipping company in Hamburg and named his first ship "Max" after his father. A model of this ship, complete with "AB" on the chimney and the merchant flag at the stern, was presented to him on the 10th anniversary of the founding of his company in 1929.

At that time, Arnold Bernstein’s fleet boasted several ships that transported cars from the USA to Europe and no longer coal, ore, and wood as in the company’s early years. His innovative ideas brought the shipowner great success, so that in just a few years he was running the world’s largest car transport fleet. When the Great Depression began to affect exports to Europe in the early 1930s, Bernstein converted his freight carriers into passenger ships. Now they were carrying no longer cars but tourists across the Atlantic.

Arnold Bernstein’s career came to an abrupt end in 1937, when he was arrested for alleged breach of exchange control regulations and sentenced to several years imprisonment and a heavy fine. Shortly before the Second World War began, he was released. Robbed of all his possessions, he just managed to emigrate to the USA in time. There Bernstein also entered the shipping industry and had established his own passenger line by the end of the 1950s.

As a reminder of the beginnings of his successful career in Germany, Arnold Bernstein took the model ship with him when he emigrated. It was given to the Jewish Museum as part of the shipowner’s extensive bequest by his son Ronald Barnes in 2007.

Object Details:
Model of Arnold Bernstein’s Cargo Steamer "Max"
Hamburg 1929
Wood, glass, fabric
45 x 90 x 30 cm (showcase)

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