Sunday, November 16, 2008

Max Schulze

Crew member

Age: 60

Hometown: Frankfurt, Germany

Occupation: Bar steward

Location at time of fire: Smoking room bar, B-deck

Died in crash

Full name: Julius Max Schulze. He was the Hindenburg's bartender, and had been part of the Zeppelin family since the beginning of 1936. He was born June 4, 1877 in Weissenfels, Thüringen. In October of 1935, he married Marie-Anne Eugenie Alexandrine Wisniewski, in Hamburg. Schulze had been a steward and bartender for the Hamburg-America steamship line for about 25 years, and eventually wished to get in a few years flying on passenger Zeppelins to cap off his career as a steward. He had written the Zeppelin Company a number of times during the early 1930s, asking whether they needed a bar steward, but until the Hindenburg was built the only ship the Zeppelin Company had was the Graf Zeppelin, and there was no bar onboard. When the Hindenburg went into service in 1936, however, it was equipped with a state-of-the-art bar and smoking room, and on March 10, 1936, Max Schulze was hired to man it.

Max Schulze during his years as a steward on the Hamburg-America Line

Max Schulze (right) with his wife (center) and Chief
Engineer Hermann Pfaff of the LZ-127 Graf Zeppelin (left).

As the steward in charge of the Hindenburg's bar and smoking room, it was Max Schulze's job to not only serve drinks, but also to man the pressurized door leading from the bar to the starboard hallway on B-deck. It would have been quite easy for a passenger with a few drinks in them to accidentally walk out of the smoking area carrying a lit cigarette, and Schulze had to keep an eye open to make sure that this didn't happen. Schulze apparently had some trouble with some of the American cocktail recipes during the 1936 season (the DZR's end-of-the-year report for 1936 mentions specifically that American passengers were surprised to learn that Schulze had never heard of a Manhattan), but the amiable "Max the Bartender" was quite popular with both the passengers and the crew. He was still manning the bar at the beginning of the 1937 season, as the Hindenburg made her first North American flight of the season during the first week of May.

"Max the Bartender" serves cigars to passengers in the Hindenburg's smoking room, circa 1936. (photo courtesy of the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmBH Archive)
Schulze at bar airlock door 
Schulze admits a passenger through the airlock door into the bar, circa 1936. (photo courtesy of the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmBH Archive)

Max Schulze helps passengers down the Hindenburg's gangway stairs after landing at Lakehurst in 1936. (photo courtesy of the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmBH Archive)

Max Schulze (upper center, white jacket) assists the dining room staff in waiting tables during a particularly crowded flight in late summer or early autumn, 1936.

As the Hindenburg came in to land at Lakehurst on the evening of May 6th, Schulze was in the bar cleaning up, having served his last customers a short while before. Chief Steward Heinrich Kubis was probably the last person to see him alive, as Kubis quickly checked the smoking room for any stray passengers before going upstairs to prepare for landing. It's not certain exactly what happened to Max Schulze when the Hindenburg suddenly caught fire 15 or 20 minutes later. He was apparently in either the bar or the adjacent smoking room at the time. He may perhaps have been injured by bottles falling from above the bar as the ship tilted aft, or since the bar was on the starboard side of the ship he may have (like a number of passengers on that side of the passenger decks) been either caught in collapsing wreckage or else overcome by the fire and smoke that was being blown by the wind towards the starboard side of the ship. In any case, he didn't make it out of the wreck alive. On his death certificate, dated May 10, 1937, Ocean County coroner Raymond Taylor listed Schulze's cause of death as "Zeppelin explosion, severe burns".

Max Schulze's location at the time of the fire

Max Schulze's body was shipped back to Germany along with the bodies of a number of his crew mates. He was buried in a common grave at Frankfurter Hauptfriedhof cemetery alongside Chief Radio Officer Willy Speck, Captain Ernst Lehmann, radio operator Franz Eichelmann, electrician Ernst Schlapp, cook Fritz Flackus, and Helmsman Alfred Bernhardt.

(Special thanks to Les Bluestein, who provided details about Max Schulze's life and a number of rare photos (including two that appear here), all of which contributed greatly to my own research on Herr Schulze.)


Dog Knows said...


Quack! Quack!

Absolutely top-notch and totally fascinating.

Thanks for your diligence.

You know who . . .


Patrick Russell said...

LOL! Hey there, compadre! Glad you like the site here. (And trust you to have managed to post your comment under the bio profile for the ship's bartender!)

I'm about 99% positive that nobody's ever compiled bio info on all of the people who were onboard the Hindenburg's last flight. Should have been done 40 or 50 years ago when people were still alive and relatively young and could have passed on a lot more info and anecdotes. But, I'll do what I can now.

Les said...

Great job Patrick.Nice that Max Schulze will be remembered & not just a post script on the bottom of a page.
All thanks to your hard work & dedication.

Patrick Russell said...

Thanks, Les. I'm glad to be able to contribute in some small way to Herr Schulze and the others being remembered.

Couldn't have done Schulze's bio nearly as well without your help, though. Thanks again for sharing all those photos and documents with me.

Take care!