Friday, February 6, 2009

The Doehner Family


Ages: Hermann – 49
Matilde – 41
Irene – 14
Walter – 10
Werner – 8

Residence: Mexico City, Mexico

Mr. Doehner's Occupation: General Manager of Beick, Felix y Compania

Location at time of fire: Passenger decks, portside dining room

Hermann – died in wreck
Matilde – survived
Irene – died in hospital
Walter – survived
Werner – survived

Hermann Doehner was general manager of Beick, Felix y Compania, a prominent German wholesale drug company headquartered in Mexico City, Mexico. Born in Erfurt, Prussia, on September 22, 1887, Doehner emigrated to Mexico in 1908 or 1909 when he was approximately 21 years old. He eventually became a naturalized Mexican citizen.

In December of 1936, Hermann Doehner traveled to Germany to reorganize a Beick, Felix y Compania affiliate in Hamburg, bringing with him his wife Matilde (born Matilde Schiele in Pergamino, Buenos Aires, Argentina on August 20, 1895), their 14 year-old daughter Irene, and two of their sons – Walter, age 10, and Werner, age 8. 17 year-old Hermann Jr. stayed behind in Mexico City, and their eldest son, Kurt, 21, was already in Germany working toward his doctorate in chemistry at Darmstadt Technical University.

Mr. Doehner had flown to Europe from South America via Akron, OH on the Graf Zeppelin four years earlier in 1933, on the Graf Zeppelin's so-called "Triangle Flight". Now, he thought that it would be a treat for his family to travel by airship on their homeward journey, and bought tickets for his family to fly to the United States on the Hindenburg.

Mrs. Doehner, however, was apprehensive about the flight and did not particularly want the family to travel by air. But Mr. Doehner insisted that it was the best, most comfortable way to cross the Atlantic, and that it would get them home a full two days faster than the normal steamship route would. So it was that the five Doehners boarded the
Hindenburg on the evening of May 3rd, 1937 for the airship's first North American flight of the 1937 season. Hermann and Matilde had wanted Kurt to join them for the flight, but he was too busy with his studies and couldn't take the time off from school to make the trip.

The Doehners got a chance to take a closer look at the airship before they boarded, and Werner would later recall being amazed by the immense size of everything, particularly the large tires under the control car and the lower tail fin, as well as the massive propellers mounted at the rear of the four engine gondolas.

When the passengers were brought aboard the Hindenburg, the Doehners were shown to their room. Unlike most of the cabins assigned to the various passengers, double-occupancy cabins upstairs on A-deck, the Doehners' cabin was one of the new ones down on B-deck aft of the smoking room. Added during the previous winter, it was a family-sized room with four bunks (the only such cabin on the ship) and a small row of windows built into the floor at the far end of the room.

Oddly enough, two of the Doehners' fellow passengers on this flight had direct familial connections to passengers who had flown with Mr. Doehner back to Germany on the Graf Zeppelin in 1933. Marie Kleemann of Hamburg was the mother of Mrs. John Bolten, who had flown with her husband on the final leg of the Graf Zeppelin's 1933 "Triangle Flight". Now, Mrs. Kleemann was flying to the United States to help her daughter recuperate after an operation, and her son-in-law, John Bolten, would be meeting her at Lakehurst. Otto Reichhold of Vienna was making the trip in order to meet with his brother, Henry Reichhold, about their family business. Henry Reichhold had also made the 1933 Graf Zeppelin flight with Mr. Doehner, and like John Bolton he would be at Lakehurst to meet his brother. And as if that weren't enough, one of the passengers booked for the Hindenburg's return flight, George Willens of Detroit, had also been a passenger on the same 1933 Graf Zeppelin flight as Mr. Doehner, the Boltens, and Henry Reichhold.

The Doehner family's Hindenburg flight was to be, however, rather uneventful, without much to see outside the passenger decks' long rows of observation windows for most of the voyage besides the grey clouds through which the Hindenburg was flying. Mr. Doehner passed some of the time filming his family and the interior of the ship, using the home movie camera he'd brought. Mrs. Doehner spent much of her time during the flight sitting in the lounge knitting while Walter and Werner played nearby. One of the playthings they'd brought along was a little toy tank, given to Werner by his great-aunt before they left Germany. However, it made sparks when the boys ran it across the carpeted floor of the lounge, and Chief Steward Heinrich Kubis had to confiscate it for the remainder of the flight, explaining to the boys that the sparks could be very dangerous on a hydrogen-filled airship.
Werner, Walter, and Irene Doehner pose for their father's movie camera during the Hindenburg's last flight.

At about 2:00 PM on the last day of the trip, May 6th, the children watched excitedly as they flew over New York, which was bustling with mid-afternoon activity. They were particularly thrilled by the massive Empire State Building, and also by the fact that the ships in the harbor below all began blowing their steam whistles as the Hindenburg flew overhead. They were too high up to hear the sound of the whistles, as Werner would later recall, but they could easily see the steam blowing up into the air.
Nearby, their parents were also enjoying the broad aerial view of New York. Mr. Doehner turned to his wife and asked, “Now aren’t you glad we took the Hindenburg and saved two days? We might still be at sea.”

Mrs. Doehner, still very uneasy about flying, replied, “I’ll be glad when we’re on the ground.”
She would still have to wait awhile yet. The Hindenburg was already running almost half a day behind schedule due to excessive head winds, and the original 6:00 AM landing at the Naval Air Station at Lakehurst, NJ was now scheduled for 6:00 PM, more than three hours away.
The ship flew over the airfield at 4:00 that afternoon, but the ground crew would not be assembled and ready to moor the Hindenburg for at least another two hours. Of the 240-man landing crew, 138 of them were local civilian workers from the Lakehurst area, hired by the Zeppelin Company. Most of them would not be free to report to the airfield until their regular work days ended, and the air station’s steam whistle would not summon them until 5:00 PM.
Unfortunately for Mrs. Doehner and her anxiousness for her family to be safely landed and off the ship, heavy thunderstorms approaching Lakehurst from the west would further delay the landing. 6:00 came and went, with the Hindenburg cruising along the Jersey shore waiting for the bad weather at the airfield to clear.

Finally, at about 7:00, the Hindenburg returned to Lakehurst. The thunderstorms had passed, and the ship had been cleared to land. The Doehners gathered with other passengers in the portside dining room to watch the landing maneuver through the big observation windows. As the ship approached the mooring mast and dropped its landing ropes, Mr. Doehner went downstairs to their cabin on B-deck to get another roll of film for his movie camera. Mrs. Doehner and the three children were sitting at a table near the aft-most windows. Steward Severin Klein stood nearby, answering the boys' questions as they watched the landing crew connecting the ship's landing lines to the mooring tackle on the ground below.

Mrs. Doehner would later recall that as the ship drew closer to the mooring area and the moment approached when she could stand once again with her family on solid ground, the fear that she had suppressed throughout the voyage began to return.

Mrs Doehner and Children location
The location of Mrs. Doehner and the children in the portside dining room at the time of the fire.

Hermann Doehner location
Hermann Doehner's possible location on the starboard side of B deck at the time of the fire.

Suddenly the Hindenburg shook and the floor begain to tilt aft as the ship began to fall to the ground . The Doehners and Klein were thrown to the rear wall of the dining room, along with quite a few of the other passengers standing ahead of them. As the ship began to settle to the earth and the floor began to level back out, Mrs. Doehner saw Klein and another steward, Fritz Deeg, drop through the window they'd just been looking through moments before. Her husband was nowhere to be found, still somewhere on the other side of the passenger deck. She gathered her children together as a few more people nearby leaped to the ground ahead of them, then she made her way to the window as the fire began burning its way into the dining room.

The ship's hull was now on the ground, but had landed in such a way that the portside observation windows were still about 15-20 feet in the air. Mrs. Doehner saw Deeg standing on the ground below, calling to them. She picked up Walter and dropped him out of the window. As Deeg caught him and tossed him clear of the wreckage, she tried to drop Werner through the same window, but he bounced off of the window frame and she had to grab him a second time and try again. The boy's hair and face were burning by the time she got him out the window, but Deeg caught him, patted out the fire, and quickly carried him to safety.

Mrs. Doehner then turned to Irene, who was screaming for her father and refusing to jump. She tried to pick Irene up and toss her through the window, as she'd done with the boys, but Irene was too heavy for her to lift. The girl ran toward the central cabin area where she'd last seen her father, and Mrs. Doehner had no choice but to follow her sons out the window. She tried to keep her feet underneath her, but she landed badly and injured her pelvis. Severin Klein had just run back to the ship as Mrs. Doehner landed, and he helped Chief Steward Kubis to carry her away from the wreck as she called out for her daughter.

At about this time, rescuers began entering the wreckage of the passenger decks to lead the remaining passengers to safety. Emil Hoff, a tanker truck driver for Veedol/Esso who was onhand to help to land and refuel the ship, had just returned to the wreck after leading Chief Electrician Philipp Lenz to safety from the ruins of the ship's electrical center. Hoff entered the wreckage through a broken window downstairs on B-deck, and climbed up the gangway stairs to the dining room.

There, he found Irene Doehner sitting in a daze at one of the tables. She was badly burned and in shock, and Hoff evidently decided that lowering her down the gangway stairs and out through the bottom of the ship (as was being done with other passenger survivors) would take too long and might risk injuring her further. So he led her to one of the dining room windows and tried to get her to jump. The window was still about 15 feet above the ground, and rescuers were still on the ground below.

One of these rescuers, steward Eugen Nunnenmacher, had just made his way back to the wreckage and looked up to see Irene standing in the window, her hair and clothes afire, hesitating as Emil Hoff tried to get her to jump. Nunnenmacher called to her from down below, and she finally leapt from the window. Nunnenmacher tried to catch her. She landed in his arms and the two of them tumbled to the ground. Nunnenmacher frantically tried to extinguish the fire on her back and in her hair, burning his own hands in the process. Captain Heinrich Bauer, who had escaped from the control car, came running up to help, and the two men put out the fire and dragged Irene away from the wreck.
clip_image002One of the Hindenburg’s female passengers, most likely Matilde Doehner, is carried away from the scene on a stretcher.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Doehner and her two sons were taken to one of the limousines that had been onhand to shuttle the passengers to the hangar. She was asking about her husband and daughter, but Hermann had never made it out of the wreck, and Irene was burned so badly that Kubis and the others didn't want her mother to see her.

Matilde Doehner, her two sons, Walter and Werner, and her daughter Irene were taken to Point Pleasant Hospital that night. Irene was still alive when they brought her in, but was burned badly enough that one of the attending nurses actually fainted at the sight of her injuries. Irene Doehner died during the night.
Hermann Doehner was still listed in the newspapers as “missing” the following morning. His body was recovered that day, and he was later identified by his wedding ring.

Mrs. Doehner's pelvis was broken in three places, and she had suffered a number of burns while trying to save her children. Walter sustained minor injuries, but was mainly in shock. Werner was more badly injured, his face and head having burned while his mother was trying to get him through the window. His eyes were swollen shut, and his mother was afraid that perhaps he'd lost his sight (or even his eyes) until the swelling went down four days later. The boy's eyes were fine, but between his burns and Mrs. Doehner's injuries, the three of them would have to stay in hospital for some time.

Gustav Schiele, Mrs. Doehner's brother, flew in from Chicago immediately after he heard that she and the boys had been saved. He later wrote a letter to the US Commerce Department's Board of Inquiry on behalf of his sister, who had received a request from the Board asking her for her impressions of what had happened during the Hindenburg fire. But as she had no knowledge of what might have started the fire, she mainly just told Gustav to write a brief note to the Board and tell them where she had been at the time of the fire, and that she'd dropped her children out of a window and jumped after them.

Kurt Doehner sailed from Germany two days following the disaster on Saturday, May 8th, aboard the steamship Europa. His studies would have to wait while he traveled to the United States to be with his mother and brothers, and it occurred to him that his busy school schedule, which had precluded his ability to join his family on their voyage, may very well have saved his life.

The press, meanwhile, was taking great interest in telling the stories of the Hindenburg’s survivors. Perhaps even more than the others, it was the Doehners with whom they most wanted to speak. Reporters (and at least one photographer, whose hastily-snapped photos of Mrs. Doehner, Walter, Werner and Irene lying in their hospital beds were subsequently – and rather tastelessly – published that weekend in the New York Daily News) located the family at Point Pleasant Hospital within hours of the disaster.

Despite the fact that Matilde and her children were badly injured and in shock, the newspapermen tried to get quotes and photographs, Mrs. Doehner responded with a brief description of their escape, but she had soon had enough. Though reporters would continue to turn up at the hospital for the rest of the family’s stay there, Mrs. Doehner dismissed most of their questions, telling one New York Times writer wearily, “I don’t want to go through that. I have been through too much to go through that.”

Reporters, undaunted by this, began interviewing doctors and nurses at the hospital about the Doehners, and continued to piece together newspaper stories from these second-hand accounts into the summer. To be fair, their admiration of Mrs. Doehner and her role in not only saving her sons from the fire but also in keeping their spirits up as their injuries slowly healed. One New York Times reporter called it “as heroic a story as a mother has ever written.”

Perhaps somewhat less hyperbolically, Mary Shannon, one of the attending nurses throughout the Doehners’ stay at Point Pleasant Hospital, would recall for Joel Siegel on ABC’s “Good Morning America” 50 years later how strong Mrs. Doehner remained for the sake of her two sons. "She was a wonderful woman. And she just kept those two children's morale right up and you would never know from speaking to her during the day that she was mourning the loss of her husband and her only daughter."

Matilde Doehner and her two youngest sons remained at Point Pleasant Hospital for 92 days before leaving on August 7th and returning by train to Mexico City. Kurt Doehner, meanwhile, returned to Germany to finish his studies. However, as Germany moved closer and closer to war over the next couple of years, Kurt became concerned that his German name and ancestry would end up getting him drafted into the German military. He finished his doctorate as quickly as he could, and then left Germany via Switzerland and then made his way to Sweden, later crossing the Atlantic to New York before finally returning to Mexico City.

According to his daughter, Mariana Doehner Pecanins, Walter Doehner died of cancer 20 years after the Hindenburg crash, at the age of 30. Matilde Doehner passed away in Mexico on August 16, 1981, four days before her 86th birthday.

Matilde Doehner 1963Matilde Doehner - 1963

Werner Doehner went on to have a career with the Comision Federal de Electricidad in Mexico. During a skiing trip in Germany in the late 1960s, Werner met his future wife and in 1972 Werner and Elin Doehner’s son Bernd was born. In the early 1980s, Werner left the CFE and moved his family to the United States, where he took a job with General Electric in the Philadelphia area. He continued to work in the energy industry until his retirement in 2000. Until about the age of 80 he continued to travel regularly in pursuit of his avid interest in Native American archaeology as well as to indulge his love of downhill skiing.

As of September, 2014, Werner Doehner is the last living Hindenburg survivor, after the passing in mid-August of  the Hindenburg's cabin boy, Werner Franz. However, it was many years before Doehner was finally able to bring himself to talk publicly about the disaster that had claimed the lives of his father and sister. He subsequently paid a visit to Lakehurst and gave interviews for several documentaries on the Hindenburg disaster. For the most part, however, he still prefers to avoid the subject altogether.

Special thanks to Karen Doehner for sharing information with me about her family history.

Carl Close for researching and providing the 1963 photo and additional biographical information on Matilde Doehner.


Anonymous said...

This is an amazing page! So much information, setting details, quotes... really great job. I'm writing a story about Irene Doehner, and when I found this, i was awestruck at how much information I was able to dig up... thank you so much!

Patrick Russell said...

I'm really glad the article ended up being a good resource for you! I hope your story comes together well. Best of luck!


Anonymous said...


david helms said...

does anyone know how i can get in touch with werner doehner? would love to make contact with him. thanks for assistance.

david helms

Patrick Russell said...

Hi David,

Unfortunately, no. Mr. Doehner is a very private individual and does not usually like to discuss his Hindenburg experiences (for the obvious reasons.) I have always respected this and have not contacted him myself. I do not even have his contact information.


Megan Doehner said...

Actaully, This really is tragic and fascinates me because after much ancestry research and talking to my grandmother, I am absolutley related to the Doehner family that died on the hindenburg.My fathers side of the family is the Doehners.

Jbub10 said...

Megan, I am very sorry to hear that, that must be very painful to think of that horrible accident happening to a part of your family. I hope you the Best,Josh

Patrick Russell said...

Hi Megan,

I'm glad that you were able to find the article here about the Doehner family. It is a very sad story, although it could have been a far worse story had Matilde and the boys not survived. But it is part of your family history, and it's good that you are researching your ancestry. I am very sorry about what happened to Hermann and Irene and their family, though.

I'm just curious - How are you related to Hermann? Are you related to one of his siblings, or to a cousin of his?

If you have any questions that I can help you with, please feel free to email me.

Take care,

Anonymous said...

This page gives a lot of good information on the Hindenburg:

Alif danial said...

Why there are two more living passenger there is no more than two?

Patrick Russell said...

Hi Alif,

Well, it has been 76 years since the Hindenburg disaster. Most of the survivors died many years ago. Werner Doehner and Werner Franz (the ship's cabin boy) are the only ones still living today, because of course they were very young at the time of the disaster.

Take care,

Aldendoehner said...

For Megan:
I too am curious to know how you are related to the Doehners, as I've never heard about you and wasn't aware of many Doehners in the U.S.

Hermann Doehner (senior) was my grandfather; Herman Doehner (junior) is my father; Werner Doehner is my uncle (it is actually his birthday today).

For Patrick:
I am assuming that you are responsible for the detailed report here. You have done a wonderful job in satisfying my curiosity about the details of the day. This was a topic that was not discussed much in my home.

Also, I appreciate your sensitivity for my uncle's need for privacy. Indeed, he would rather keep the event in his past.

my best,
Karen Doehner

Patrick Russell said...

Hi Karen,

First of all, I'm very glad that you found my article on your family and that you enjoyed it. If there are any questions I can try to clear up for you, just let me know.

I hope that the article came across as being tasteful and respectful. I know that the press hounded your grandmother and your uncles pretty badly while they were in the hospital, and the last thing I wanted was to convey that sort of impression here.

It has never even been a question for me but that I'd respect your uncle's privacy. I can't imagine having a horrific experience like that as a child, and no way would I ever want to ask him to think back on it. I'm just glad that your uncle has managed to mostly put this memory behind him and live a nice long (hopefully happy) life.

And on that note, I wish your Uncle Werner a very Happy Birthday! ;^)

Take care,

Anonymous said...

I am glad that I have looked back to this page for updated information. You are doing a great job with it all Patrick. I've talked to you before about my Great Grandfather Emil Hoff, the man who helped Irene (as well as others)out of the wreckage that horrible day. I only wish there would have been a better outcome for her and her family. My respect and prayers go out to the Doehner family as well as all others involved this day. I will find some pictures of him (Emil) that you can include in your research info. I look forward to new facts,information and photos in the future.
~Chandra Rivera

Inge Boelkins said...

This is a fascinating article. My father, Kurt Doehner, is one of Hermann Doehner's younger brothers. (born 1891) He was in WW1 and afterwards things looked very dismal in Germany. Hermann invited him to come and stay with his family and continue his studies at the Humboldt University. My father finally made the move and lived with Hermann's family from 1921-1928. He finished his studies, got his Dr.en letras in Spanish and taught at the university. He was very fond of his nephews and niece. He returned to Germany formost to see his mother in Erfurt and in Berlin he found that his Dr.en letras was not valid in Germany. He went back to the University in Berlin where he got his 2. PhD in Spanish. It probably was easier this time around. He met my mother at the Berlin University who was a student of art history, French and Italian and English. They married in 1932. He applied for the position of principal at the Deutsche Schule in Madrid but instead he got the same position at the Deutsche Schule in Rome in 1933.
I am Inge,the oldest of Kurt Doehner's 5 children. My father loved his Mexican family. Over the years we became familiar with the tragic Hindenburg story. I married an American in 1954 and moved the same year to MI. We are thankful to have met these cousins.Inge

Patrick Russell said...

Hello Inge,

I'm happy that you were able to find my article about your uncle and his family. I have never known much about Hermann Doehner's family in Germany, so I was interested to hear your father's story. It sounds like he lived an interesting life, living in places like Mexico and Rome as he did.

If you feel like talking more about your family with me, please feel free to email me at

Take care, and be well!

Anonymous said...

Dear Patrick,
Thank you for posting this article. It has helped me very much much as I am extremely curious about the tragedy.

AllySomething said...

thank you for posting this article. it has been very helpful indeed

Patricio Guerrero said...

I personally met Werner, I worked with him in Ecuador. He is the best electrical engineer i have ever worked with and the best teacher i ever had.
Patricio Guerrero
February 28 2014

Anonymous said...

The webmaster updated
Werner Franz's page, but this
page also needs an update:
"As of 2013, Werner Doehner is one of only two living Hindenburg
survivors, the other being the Hindenburg's cabin boy, Werner

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

Dear Patric,

Project 2014
The new world and the following of the traces of mountain biking

Maybe you have heard about us – or read about us in bike, Europe’s biggest cycling magazine. For more than 21 years now, we have realized our biennial, at times spectacular projects all over the world, projects that have often been covered by television and that seek to discover traces and stories of German expatriates abroad. But our history tours are always linked to cycling challenges – in 1998, we established a yet unsurpassed Guinness Book world record, and have mastered with our bikes the icy bobsleigh run Winterberg, the world’s highest dune Welt in Namibia, the Great Chinese Wall, and the 160-m-high roofscape in Osaka, Japan.

“The New World – On the track of Mountain Biking out and about in the USA”, is the motto of our new project in 2014. Thus now in September, we will follow the traces of German expats and the trails of mountain biking first in California and afterwards in New York City.
Our research is getting into top gear, and we have already made rich finds. For example, we discovered a hot scent in Colmar leading to the ancestor of the Statue of Liberty’s creator who had not been French. He had indeed been German, and Hessian. And, what is more: his wife had married him in the church (in which she had been confirmed) of the Central-Hessian 500-souls village Oberhörlen – that is the same church in which Jörg and me had also been confirmed and in which I had married. Other interesting facts are that Heinz Ketchup has Hessian roots, and that the oldest brewery in the USA has been founded by a man from Wetzlar - the beer is still on the market. These are only 3 out of 13 first-class traces we have discovered so far.

We will have one of the original Leica cameras with us, which got badly damaged by the big fire during the disaster/ tragedy of the Hindenburg airship and which got highly valuable because of that. To our tour we will bring along one of the original Leica Hindenburg Cameras that had been severely damaged during the Hindenburg disaster and, by that fact, has become a priceless historical object.
So we are looking for some informations about Werner Doehner. Would he be ready for a short interview and where is he living ?

Mit freundlichen Gruessen / kind regards

Ulrich Weigel

Leica Camera AG
Bereichsleitung Einkauf
Im Leitz-Park 5, 35578 Wetzlar/Germany /
Telephone +49(0)6441-2080-565 / Fax +49(0)6441-2080-271
Mobil +49(0)175-2266348

Patrick Russell said...

Hello Ulrich,

That sounds like a very interesting project! Best of luck with everything.

Unfortunately, I do not have contact information for Werner Doehner and, given Mr. Doehner's desire for privacy, I do not intend to make any attempt to locate him.

Werner Doehner has held this horrible memory of the Hindenburg disaster (and moreover, the deaths of his father and sister) almost all of his life, and I firmly believe that he should be allowed to leave the past in the past if that is his wish.

I'm sorry that I cannot be of any assistance to you on this.

Take care,

Patrick Russell said...


Hello, everyone. I'm very glad that you've all found the "Faces of the Hindenburg" blog, and I understand the interest that some of you have in personally contacting the last living survivor of the Hindenburg disaster.

However, please understand that I am as serious as I can be about protecting Werner Doehner's privacy. I have deliberately avoided tracking down his contact information myself, and I would not agree to share that information even if I did have it.

My understanding from mutual acquaintances is that Mr. Doehner does not wish to discuss the Hindenburg disaster any longer, and I believe that he deserves to be allowed to live the rest of his life without having to dredge up a childhood trauma that few (if any) of us could begin to imagine in our wildest nightmares.


I recently had to delete such a post, and will continue to do so if it happens again.

Again, this is all in the interest of allowing an elderly gentleman to enjoy his remaining years without having to be repeatedly asked to focus on a horrible memory that any one of us would desperately wish to forget if we were in his shoes.

Thank you for understanding.


Unknown said...

Hi Patrick,l
we fully respect this especially by this backgroung and we will not report any contact detail. To know that he is stlll alive and ok is enough for our project.
Please confirm



Patrick Russell said...

Hi Uli,

Thanks! I appreciate that, and I am sure that Mr. Doehner would too.

As far as I know, he is indeed still alive and well. :^)

By the way, please don't take my second post this morning as having been aimed directly at you. I have a lot of people contact me through this site wanting me to connect them with Mr. Doehner, and I did have to remove some contact information that was posted here recently.

Your request was completely reasonable. I just thought that, since he has very recently become the last living Hindenburg survivor, now would be a good time to post something explaining my position on the matter of connecting people directly with Mr. Doehner.

Take care, and best of luck with your project!


TpBr said...

Patrick, your article does not state how long Matilde Doehner lived after surviving the Hindenburg disaster. Have you any history about Matilde, beyond her departure from the hospital with her youngest sons? Thanks.

I am happy to know that Werner is still alive. One thing that you didn't point out in the comments section (probably because it should be obvious) is that Werner's witness account has already been recorded in detail; there is nothing more to add. In my opinion, any further intrusion - after one learns of Werner's desire for privacy - is likely done to selfishly draw attention to a cause or to bolster a resume, without regard for Werner's pain.

I appreciate your detailed contribution to such a significant historical event! :)

Anonymous said...

I have a storywork magazine with this.

Unknown said...



Unknown said...

In 1975 I was 15 years old and living in Mexico City with my parents. My mom had fallen and needed medical assistance. I vaguely recall that the physician said that his sister died in the Hindenburg. Could the very kind, attentive, physician have been a Doehner? Thank you, for this amazing blog.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article i knew nothing of the Hindenburg disaster until we were asked at school to write an essay about our ancestors and found out through my grandmother that i am a close relative of matilde Doehner through my great grandfather Luis Schiele.I am 17 yrs old i live in Cordoba Argentina my name is Isobela Alberta Irena Schiele

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick Russell said...

Hello Günther,

I'm glad you contacted me, and that you enjoyed my article on the Doehners. I will try to get your message to somebody in the Doehner family and see if they can be of any help to you in your family research. And perhaps one of them will also see your message here.

Please feel free to write to me at so that we can continue this correspondence there.

Take care,

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

What an amazing story, i am from africa, i just saw a tv programme about hindenburg, just touched by the story, that lead me to search for more info.

Unknown said...

Does he still not want to be contacted? I am doing a presentation on the Hindenburg and would want to skype with him during my presentation, to make it interesting.

Thank you,

Jack Dunphy

Nicole said...

it was truly amazing I mean the mother just dropping her children out of a window I men that takes some guts for her and the children while wondering where her husband is (in heaven)

Tabea Köhler said...

Thanks a lot for this article. I am related to de Döhner family (by the Strenge family). My uncle and me are very interested in completing the family tree (Doehners, Boelkins, Pecanins, Aldenderfer, etc). So if you can help us out please write us (

honkyghost said...

Nicely written. A wealth of information. Thank you.

Douglas OKeeffe said...

Thank you for publishing this information. Absolutely fascinating! I appreciate you making the Hindenburg passengers' names real people. Well done!

Unknown said...

Thanks for this excellent article.

My name is Enrique Martinez. I personally met Ing. Werner Doehner. It was in 1986 when I entered work at the Unidad de Ingeniería Especializada of Comisión Federal de Electricidad in Mexico City and Mr. Doehner moved to Philadelphia in the United States to work at GE. Nevertheless, his great works and contributions to the power engineering in Mexico are very recognized until today. Now many of us are retired from CFE, however, when we meet frequently we ask ourselves about Mr. Doehner.
There are many anecdotes and stories that we remember. We all remember him as a great teacher with that peculiar sense of humor but above all, we remember a great friend, partner and a great person. We send him many greetings and blessings.

Thanks Patrick for this opportunity.


Enrique Martínez

Anonymous said...

I remember reading Judy Blume's semi-autobiographical novel about her childhood. She wrote in second person by the POV of a young girl named Sally Freedman. Sally remembered her dad getting the family tickets to ride the Goodyear blimp and how nervous her mom was about going up. Her mom was remembering the Hindenburg and her dad said it was 1948 and the blimp used helium and not hydrogen. Sally's mom refused to go up in the blimp even though the tragedy happened 11 years earlier. In a way, I don't blame the mom!

Jim Richardson said...

Ignore the previous three posts which are spam- I don't know why the administrator has allowed them to stay on here.

By now, most of us Hindenburg enthusiasts have heard the sad news that Werner Doehner, the last survivor, passed away on November 8th 2019 at a hospital in Laconia, NH where he'd been living. Doehner was age 90.

He lived a long life without his sister and father who died in the disaster. God bless him.

F. Schiele said...

This is for Isabela Alberta Irene Schiele in Cordoba, Argentina. I read your post re the Hindenburg crash and think we may be related. I had a great uncle Franz Anton Schiele who went to Pergamino, Argentina circa 1877. He was a pastry chef who had invented a type of candy which he sold in that country. My maiden name was Schiele and my father was born in Pergamino.

Mathilde said...

Hello F. Schiele and Isobela Schiele! Franz Schiele, who started a confectionery in Pergamino in 1879, the year he got married, is my great-great-grandfather. I would love to know what our distant family ties are like as I am trying to piece together our origins. I hope they can be contacted through this sad story that unites us. Lorena AF

F. Schiele said...

Hello Isabela and Lorena! I am excited to hear from you. I am writing a history about the women in my family for my grandaughters which, of course, includes the Schiele family. My brother Carl, some years ago before computers, spent much time tracing the Schiele family so I may have some information which could be of interest to you. Of course I would like to know more about my Great Uncle Franz Schiele since I only know what you mentioned. The only Schieles I know of now live in the United States and Mexico. After my family moved to Mexico I came to know my Aunt Matilde well in the years after the crash. My cousin Werner and another cousin Ruth Holden(daughter of Elsa Schiele) and I were all born in 1929. Of course I heard much about my cousin Irene and there are still many pictures of her. Please feel free to contact me and maybe we can both learn more about our family ties. F.Schiele (now Chowning)

Mathilde said...

Exactly. We are talking about the same family branch. Gustav Adolf had 4 children (Elsa, Eugenio, Gustavo and Matilde) and he settled in Mexico in 1924 with his wife Mathilde Kabel.
I understand that Gustav married Freda Richter and they had Gustav, Carl and Fritzi (is that right?).
In Argentina there are different branches, in Córdoba and another of Frederick William (which I was never sure if he was Franz's brother or uncle).
I would be delighted to be able to exchange information, my email is
Franz only had a female daughter and the offspring with the bearing of the surname was lost.
Sorry if my writing is bad but I'm not used to using English.

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