Arnold Bernstein: Memories of a Successful Career as a Shipowner

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This model cargo steamship, complete with the "AB" insignia on the chimney and the merchant flag at the stern, was presented to the Hamburg shipowner Arnold Bernstein (1888–1971) in 1929 as a gift for his company's tenth anniversary. It's a replica of the very first ship that Bernstein bought, which he named Max after his father.

Model steamship

Model of Cargo Steamer "Max", Arnold Bernstein’s first ship; Jewish Museum Berlin, Gift of Ronald Barnes, photo: Jens Ziehe

Coal, Cars, and Tourists

At that time, Arnold Bernstein already owned several vessels. Instead of shipping coal, ore, and wood as in the company's early years, he now transported cars from the United States to Europe. 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 tourists across the Atlantic, no longer cars.

An Abrupt Career Halt

Arnold Bernstein's career came to an abrupt halt 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 managed to emigrate to the United States just in time.

New Start in the US

There Bernstein re-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 our museum as part of the shipowner's extensive bequest by his son Ronald Barnes in 2007.

Title Model of Cargo Steamer "Max", Arnold Bernstein’s first ship
Manufacturer Josef Baron Werkstätte für Feinmechanik und Modellbau
Collection Material Culture
Location and year of origin Hamburg, 1929
Medium Wood, glass, fabric
Dimensions 45 x 90 x 30 cm
Acquisition Gift of Ronald Barnes
Selected Objects (10) Material Culture Collection Show all

Material Culture Collection

Our objects from material culture recount Jewish life stories from Germany, attesting to athletic achievements, weddings, professional and military careers, but also disenfranchisement, persecution, and emigration.

Flag with the Star of David

In 1935, Martin Friedländer hung a blue and white flag from his window, making a confident statement against the racist Nuremberg Laws.

Frieda Neuber's Leather Pouch

Shortly before being deported to Theresienstadt, Frieder Neuber gave this leather pouch to her niece. The letters inside it document her desperate attempts to leave the country.

Memmelsdorf Genizah

In February 2002, workers renovating a house discovered a burlap sack filled with papers and personal items when they opened up a section of the ceiling. The house had been owned by Jews from 1775 to 1939.

Model of the Cargo Steamer Max

The Hamburg shipowner Arnold Bernstein received this model of his first ship in 1929 as a gift for his company's tenth anniversary. Eight years later, his career ended abruptly. He was detained and only managed to escape Germany at the last minute.

Max Haller's Collection of Medals

Max Haller fought in the First World War for the Imperial German Navy. When SA members threatened him during the April Boycott of 1933, he pointedly placed a velvet cushion with his military distinctions in the shop window.

Cardboard Key for the Korants’ Wedding

Margarete Apt and Georg Korant received an unusual gift for their wedding on 4 October 1903 in Breslau. The dark brown key is made of cardboard and can be opened.

Dr. Oscar Hirschberg's Office Signs

A total of seven office signs used by Dr. Oscar Hirschberg document both his career as a practicing physician and the political changes and antisemitic exclusion during the period of Nazi rule.

The Sommerfelds’ Thirty-One Keys

Thirty-one keys – that's all that remains of the luggage the Sommerfeld family took with them when they emigrated from Berlin. They only managed to leave for England at the very last minute – just before the Second World War broke out.

Challenge Trophy from the Oberspree Jewish Rowing Club

The member of the Oberspree Jewish rowing club who logged the most kilometers in the water over the course of a year was awarded a challenge trophy. Fred Eisenberg won the award three years in a row.

Stamping Hammer, Invented by Gustav Maletzki

This stamping hammer, made around 1930, is one of the patented inventions for which the apparel furrier earned several awards. In 1938, Gustav Maletzki was forced to escape Germany and brought the hammer to exile in Bolivia.

Arnold Bernstein (Shipowner)

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