Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Hometown: Pforzheim, Germany
Occupation: Engine mechanic
Location at time of fire: Engine gondola #1, starboard aft.
Died, either in wreck or in infirmary
Rudi Bialas was born in Pforzheim on January 14, 1914. Trained as a mechanic, Bialas was hired by the Deutsche Zeppelin Reederei in October of 1936 to serve as an engine mechanic aboard the LZ 129 Hindenburg. He was aboard the Hindenburg's first North American flight of the 1937 season, and was assigned to engine gondola #1, starboard aft, with Walter Banholzer and Josef Schreibmüller.
As the Hindenburg came in to land at Lakehurst at the end of the flight on the evening of May 6th, Bialas was on watch in engine car #1, as was Schreibmüller. When the ship caught fire a short while later and the stern fell to the ground, the engine car was buried under the surrounding framework, and both mechanics were trapped. Rudi Bialas died either in the fire or in the air station infirmary shortly afterward.
Note: The landing station of Rudi Bialas has been erroneously given as having been in the bow section of the ship since several days after the disaster when the U.S. Commerce Department's Board of Inquiry assembled a diagram of crew locations at the time of the fire. This mistake has been repeated in every book written since that time about the Hindenburg disaster in which Bialas' name has been mentioned.
With the assistance of Herr Michael Pavlovic, I was able to determine the proper location of Walter Banholzer, Bialas' fellow engine mechanic from engine car #1. Banholzer, who had been listed as having been stationed in engine car #1 with Josef Schreibmüller at the time of landing, was in fact off watch in the crew's mess, and was one of the six men sent forward to the bow to help trim the ship.
This, of course, places Rudi Bialas in engine car #1 at the time of the fire, and I have edited his biographic profile to reflect that.