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.)