Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Emilie Imhof

Emilie Imhof 
Crew Member

  Age: 47

  Hometown: Harburg, Germany

  Occupation: Stewardess

  Location at time of fire: Passenger cabins, B-deck

  Died in wreck

Emilie Imhof was the first Zeppelin stewardess, having joined the Deutsche Zeppelin Reederei on September 25th, 1936. She was born Emilie Sahling in the village of Harburg (just south of Hamburg) on August 29, 1892, where she later operated an inn with her husband. Widowed by her early 30s and fluent in multiple languages, she went to sea as a stewardess for the Norddeutsche-Lloyd line in the late 1920s. She spent about ten years working on various ocean liners, including the Columbus in 1935 (which, coincidentally, had originally been christened Hindenburg until it was renamed following WWI.) and the Gneisenau during the first part of 1936.

Press photo of Emilie Imhof that accompanied announcement of her hiring as first airship stewardess, circa September 1936. (photo courtesy of the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmBH Archive)

Frau Imhof assisting with passenger baggage before a flight in the hangar at Rhein-Main Flughafen in Frankfurt, circa 1936. (photo courtesy of the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmBH Archive)

Frau Imhof and passengers in Hindenburg's music room in 1936. Note the aluminum baby grand piano in background at left. (photo courtesy of the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmBH Archive)

Emilie Imhof in one of the Hindenburg's passenger cabins, circa 1936.

Hired by the DZR specifically to look after female and child passengers, Frau Imhof flew aboard the Hindenburg's 9th North America flight of the 1936 season, as verified by the discovery of a postcard from her posted onboard the ship during the return leg of that flight. She may very likely have flown on the 10th North American flight of 1936 and possibly the "Millionaire's Flight" that same year, however the logs from those flights have been lost and therefore this information has not yet been verified.

Emilie Imhof's location at the time of the fire, in passenger cabins on B-deck.

Emilie Imhof was aboard the Hindenburg on its first North American flight of the 1937 season. As the flight drew to an end and the Hindenburg came in to land at Lakehurst on the evening of May 6th, 1937, Frau Imhof was likely downstairs in the new passenger cabins on B-deck preparing them for the return flight scheduled for midnight that evening, when the fire suddenly broke out. She never made it out of the ship, and was later identified by the fillings in her teeth.

Special thanks to Dr. Cheryl Ganz for providing information on Emilie Imhof's steamship career and on the mail she sent while onboard the Hindenburg, and to Barbara Waibel at the Zeppelin Archive for making some factual corrections to this article.

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 Frau Imhof's career, and to Dr. Cheryl Ganz for providing me with a copy of the article.


adi said...

Hello, This is my first time visiting here. Your blog is a nice,I thought I would leave my first comment. :)

Greets from Adi,

Kenali dan Kunjungi Objek Wisata di Pandeglang

Patrick Russell said...

Hello Adi!

I'm very sorry that I didn't reply to you sooner. I was just looking through Frau Imhof's article a couple of minutes ago and saw your comment.

I'm glad you are enjoying the blog. There are certainly a lot of stories to be told here! I am hoping to have more information to add for some of the passengers very soon.

Take care,

prabal, india said...

JUST superb. You can write a book actually

Anonymous said...

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Unknown said...

Ela parecia extremamente simpática e muito dedicada ao seu trabalho,que Deus tenha acolhido sua nobre alma

Unknown said...

I just finished "Flight of Dreams" by Ariel Lawhorn and she referenced your site in her notes. It is nice to put a face with the characters and learn more about them. I know this is a time consuming labor of love. Thank You.

Mary Ruiz said...

My father in law, Harry Wilkison, was in the US Coast Guard on leave in New York when he hears a radio broadcast requesting enlisted men to report immediately to Manchester in New Jersey at Naval Air Station Lakehurst. When Harry arrives, there is chaos. On the ground is the massive, smoldering duralumin frame of the German passenger airship LZ 129 Hindenburg. Harry is assigned the grisly task of assisting in the retrieval of the bodies of those who perished. He recalls helping two other men recover the body of a stewardess. It is 47-year old Emilie Sahling Imhoff who was the first stewardess hired for work on the Zeppelins. The next day, the destruction of the Hindenburg plays on newsreels in the New York movie houses. Film crews sent to record the transatlantic arrival among waiting friends and family instead capture the fiery explosion that destroys the zeppelin and traps many on board in the inferno. The commentary of Herbert Morrison’s eyewitness account for his Chicago radio station is dubbed onto the newsreel footage. His distress makes the disaster visceral for New Yorkers, “Oh, the humanity…”

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