Monday, August 17, 2009

Emil Stöckle


Age: Unknown

Residence: Frankfurt, Germany

Occupation: Mail Inspector, Deutsche Zeppelin Reederei

Location at time of fire: Portside hallway to passenger cabins


Emil Stöckle worked for the Deutsche Zeppelin Reederei, and was in charge of the freight and mail department in the DZR's Frankfurt office. During the first week of May, 1937, he was on his way to the United States via the Hindenburg to take a position as a DZR sales agent. It was Stöckle's second time flying on an airship, with his only previous flight having been a 14-hour trip over Germany (possibly the Hindenburg's flight over the Olympics in Berlin on August 1, 1936.)

On the Hindenburg's flight to America, Stöckle had no official DZR duties, although once the ship had landed and the freight and the mail had been offloaded, he was to have supervised the DZR freight and mail department at Lakehurst for this trip. On the second day of the flight, around 11 o'clock in the morning, Stöckle accompanied elevatorman Ernst Huchel back to the kennel basket near the stern of the ship to look after the two dogs who were stored there.

As the
Hindenburg prepared to land at Lakehurst on the evening of May 6th, Stöckle was standing with other passengers on the starboard observation deck watching the ground crew take up the landing lines. Estimating that the ship was perhaps 80 to 100 meters in the air, he watched as the sailors took up the starboard line and began to carry it off towards the starboard yaw car. Stöckle then went to his cabin to get a coat out of his suitcase, which the stewards had left just outside his cabin door.

Emil Stöckle's location in the A-deck passenger cabin area at the time of the fire.

Stöckle had just reached the door of his cabin, which was located about halfway up the portside corridor on A-deck, just forward of the dining room pantry, when he heard a muffled detonation and felt the floor underneath him suddenly tilt, throwing him against a wall. As the ship tilted even more steeply, he slid aft along the floor of the corridor until he reached the portside stairs leading down to B-deck, and began to make his way downstairs. When he was about halfway down the stairway he could see the reflection of the fire on the wet ground through the windows at the base of the stairs. He could tell that the ship was still too high for him to jump, so he stayed where he was and waited.

As the ship hit the ground, the shock knocked one of the windows down on B-deck loose from its frame, and Stöckle finally noticed the sound of the passengers upstairs running back and forth. He then climbed toward the broken window and jumped through it to the ground. As he was getting up to run away, he looked over his shoulder and saw that the entire ship was afire behind him and that girders were still falling to the ground. He ran clear of the wreck, and shortly afterward he met up with Chief Steward Heinrich Kubis and cabin boy Werner Franz, and then returned to the ship to see if he could help any of the other survivors.

Emil Stöckle testified before the U.S. Commerce Department's Board of Inquiry into the
Hindenburg disaster on May 14th. Then, sailing on the steamship Europa on May 16th, Stöckle returned to Germany. He served as an officer in the Luftwaffe during WWII, and later retired in Friedrichshafen.

Emil Stöckle circa 1985

(Many thanks to Mr. Herman De Wulf for providing various details, as well as the photo of Herr Stöckle, which was taken onboard a Lufthansa 747 flight to the United States in 1985. Mr. De Wulf had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Herr Stöckle, and later interviewed him for Belgian television station BRT.)


Dan said...

Always great to see a post! Not that many left, sadly. Kind of like a favorite TV show coming to an end. :-)

Scott said...

I check back here at least once a week to see what's new. I agree with Dan. Kind of a drag that we get ever closer to an ending here.

Patrick Russell said...

Yes, we are coming down to the last half dozen or so biographies. I may have a few other things to post occasionally after the bio articles are all up, of course, but for all intents and purposes we're coming to the end of the new posts.

HOWEVER... I will continue to update the existing articles as I get new information, and have actually been doing some of that this week already. I wish there was a setting where I could make it known that I'd edited an article, but so far I haven't found it.

Obviously, though, none of these articles are set in stone, and many still have a lot of missing information that I hope to fill in as time goes on and relatives write to me and other sources of info become known to me. This page isn't done yet. Not by a long shot.

Nicole Boza said...

It says they were checking up on 2 dogs but I was under the impression there was only 1 dog that was on board. Who did the dogs belong to again? I remember vaguely 1 was brought for one of the survivors children who actually got upset w/him for returning w/no dog (the acrobat perhaps?)!!Who else took a dog on board w/them?

Patrick Russell said...

One dog was being carried by a passenger who survived the crash, (Joseph Spah, the vaudeville acrobat) and the other was being shipped as freight to somebody in the United States (As I recall, the information I've got indicates that this second dog was being shipped to a Mr. Fred Muller in Philadelphia.)

Sadly, both dogs were in a kennel area in the rear part of the ship and neither one of them survived the crash.

Emma said...

I'm confuesd
at bigining of story you sayd he named Emil stöckle then you sayd In thank you thing at end he named Herr Stöckle
I not understanding

soory if my english tipeng not so good
it is no my frst langige

pleese help

Patrick Russell said...

Hi Emma,

No apology needed - I understand your English just fine.

"Herr" is not Stöckle's first name. It is German for Mr./Mister. In other words, it's a title rather than a name. ;^)


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Anonymous said...

Is he still alive?

Patrick Russell said...

I would very seriously doubt it. The Hindenburg disaster was almost 86 years ago, and though I have no date or year of birth for Herr Stöckle, I assume that he was at least in his mid-20s at the time, and very possibly older, given his managerial position with the Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to learn any more about Herr Stöckle than what appears here in my article on him, so I cannot absolutely confirm if or when he passed away.

Anonymous said...

Very late response, i also doubt he's alive, but i wish we had more information about Herr Stöckle. Great work you've done on this site, i've read most of it, i imagine it was pretty hard getting all this information