The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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7 April 1933

Menu on board the Ilsenstein

The Ilsenstein, a passenger and cargo steamer, sailed the Antwerp—New York route under the flag of the Hamburg-based Arnold Bernstein Shipping Company. The picture on the front of the menu shows the vessel‘s smokestack with the initials AB. The menu for 7 April features a six-course dinner in the ship‘s spacious dining hall. This was the first voyage the Ilsenstein made as a passenger ship.

Arnold Bernstein (1888–1971) started out as a cargo shipper and did not offer passenger services until the early 1930s. At that time, he also began converting his cargo vessels into single-class passenger ships. The cabins on his ships were comfortable, and the prices moderate. As an additional service, the resourceful businessman offered travelers the option of taking their cars with them across the Atlantic.

The Ilsenstein was added to Bernstein‘s fleet in 1928 and was initially refitted to transport automobiles. In 1933, it was converted into a passenger and cargo vessel at the Deutsche Werke shipyards in Kiel. The ship had a crew of 146, and 145 cabins with space for 190 passengers. The voyage across the Atlantic took eleven days, during which the passengers could entertain themselves with various recreational and sporting activities.

With more than 1,000 employees, Bernstein‘s shipping line was one of the largest Jewish businesses in Germany in 1937. But that year, its successful history came to an end. Bernstein was convicted of alleged currency violations, his company was placed under a trusteeship and in the following months, he was stripped of his holdings. The Ilsenstein was scrapped.

After Bernstein was released from prison in August 1939, he immediately emigrated to the United States. He went back into shipping, but was not nearly as successful as he was in Germany.

Franziska Bogdanov

Categorie(s): businessmen | Hamburg
Menu on board the Ilsenstein passenger vessel operated by the Arnold Bernstein Line, 7 April 1933
Gift of Ronald Barnes