Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ernst Schlapp

Crew Member

Age: 37

Hometown: Sprendlingen, Germany

Occupation: Electrician

Location at time of fire: Electrical center - switch room

Died in wreck

Ernst Schlapp, born in Sprendlingen on May 4th, 1900, was one of three electricians who flew on the Hindenburg, the others being Josef Leibrecht and Chief Electrician Philipp Lenz. Schlapp had originally been hired by the Deutsche Zeppelin Reederei on October 2nd, 1935, and was assigned to serve as one of the electricians aboard the LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin. When the LZ 129 Hindenburg went into service in March of 1936, Schlapp transferred over to the new ship, and flew on virtually every flight throughout 1936.

Schlapp was also aboard the Hindenburg on its first 1937 flight to the United States, which began on May 3rd. On the second day of the flight (Tuesday, May 4th), he celebrated his 37th birthday.

Ernst Schlapp was on standby watch at the time of the fire, and as such he was with Chief Lenz in the switch room in the amidships power station, just aft of the generator room. Schlapp and Chief Lenz had inspected everything in the room, all was in order, and they were free to watch the landing operations from the windows in the floor of the room. Suddenly, they heard a dull explosion and saw the reflection of fire on the ground outside the windows. As the ship began tilting down by the stern, Schlapp immediately ran out the door of the switch room to the keel walkway. This likely cost him his life, as the power station was located in the portion of the ship's frame which telescoped in upon itself as the bow pointed skyward. While Chief Lenz, who remained behind in the switch room, was protected by the insulating properties of the sealed power station, Schlapp was most likely trapped among the collapsing girders, wires, and fuel tanks which lined the keel walkway.

Ernst Schlapp's location at the time of the fire (diagram is top view of the ship.)

Ernst Schlapp died, either on the field or in the infirmary shortly after the fire. His body was returned to Germany and buried at the Frankfurter Hauptfriedhof cemetery in a common grave along with six other Frankfurt-area crew members who were killed at Lakehurst. His name, along with those of the others, is inscribed on a monument over the grave site.

Ernst Schlapp's name inscribed on crew memorial in Frankfurter Hauptfriedhof cemetery.

Thanks also to Herr Manfred Sauter of the Freundeskreis zur Förderung des Zeppelin Museums e.V., whose memorial article on the Hindenburg crew members who lost their lives at Lakehurst (Zeppelin Brief, No. 59, June 2011) provided additional details on Schlapp's career, and to Dr. Cheryl Ganz for providing me with a copy of the article.


AndrewSchlapp said...

This was a relation in some way to my family. My name is Andrew T. Schlapp Jr and My Father was Andrew T. Schlapp. My Mother Louise Schlapp and My Sister Arlene Schlapp all lived in Forest Hills New York in the 1950's. Our Grand Father Willy Schlapp came to the USA when he was 29. He married my Grand Mother Francis Demling. My email is if any other Schlapp's would like to contact me about this or any of the other Rich History of our Schlapp Family Heritage.
Andrew T. Schlapp Jr.
New York

Patrick Russell said...

Hi Andrew,

Glad to see my article helped to add to your overall genealogical knowledge. If I ever learn any additional details about Ernst Schlapp, I'll be sure to drop you an e-mail and will, of course, add the info to the article here as well.

Take care,