Sunday, October 25, 2009

Crew of LZ 129 Hindenburg - May 3-6, 1937

The following is a list of the 61 crew members of the Hindenburg on its last flight, with links to the biographic articles for each.

Those who died as a result of the crash are listed in italics.


Captain Max Pruss


Captain Albert Sammt

Captain Heinrich Bauer

Captain Walter Ziegler


Captain Ernst Lehmann


Captain Anton Wittemann


Max Zabel

    Max Zabel


Franz Herzog


Eduard Boetius

Christian Nielsen


Ernst Huchel — (Senior Elevatorman)

Kurt Bauer

Ludwig Felber


Kurt Schönherr — (Senior Helmsman)

Alfred Bernhardt

Helmut Lau


Willy Speck — (Chief Radio Operator)

Franz Eichelmann

Egon Schweikard

Herbert Dowe


Rudolf Sauter — (Chief Engineer)

Eugen Schäuble

Wilhelm Dimmler

Raphael Schädler

-Engine #1 (starboard aft)-

Walter Banholzer

Rudi Bialas

Josef Schreibmüller

-Engine #2 (port aft)-

August Deutschle

Adolf Fischer

Alfred Stöckle

-Engine #3 (starboard forward)-

German Zettel — (Chief Mechanic)

Jonny Dörflein

Willi Scheef

Wilhelm Steeb

-Engine #3 (port forward)-

Eugen Bentele — (Chief Mechanic)

Richard Kollmer

Theodor Ritter

-Trim Watch-

Albert Holderried

Robert Moser

Alois Reisacher


Philipp Lenz — (Chief Electrician)

Josef Leibrecht

Ernst Schlapp


Ludwig Knorr — (Chief Rigger)

Hans Freund

Erich Spehl


Heinrich Kubis — (Chief Steward)


Wilhelm Balla


Fritz Deeg


Max Henneberg


Severin Klein

Eugen Nunnenmacher


Max Schulze


Emilie Imhof 2

   Emilie Imhof


Dr. Kurt Rüdiger


Xaver Maier (Head Chef)

Fritz Flackus

Alfred Grözinger

Richard Müller

Albert Stöffler


Werner Franz


Anonymous said...

In the footage of the disaster (for example: about at minute 3.09/3.11) you can see a man who drops from the bow when it's almost on the ground, and a second after the bows collapses on him. I wonder, has this man ever been identified?

Patrick Russell said...

Unfortunately, since almost all of the men in the bow section died either in the fire or shortly afterward, there is no way to positively identify the man you mention. Best I can do is to let you know who it isn't.

There were 12 men in the bow section at the time of the fire. Alfred Bernhardt, Ludwig Felber, Erich Spehl and Ernst Huchel had official landing stations on the mooring shelves in the very tip of the bow, and had been there since shortly after the landing station signal was sounded.

Also, Kurt Bauer was originally supposed to have a landing station on the mooring shelves, but Felber, a trainee crewman, was ordered to substitute for him at the last minute. So Bauer found a hatch about halfway between the bow and the control car from which to watch the landing.

Then, a minute or two before the landing ropes were dropped, six men were sent forward to help to trim the ship using their collective body weight. Those were Alfred Groezinger, Alfred Stoeckle, Josef Leibrecht, Richard Mueller, Fritz Flackus and Walter Banholzer. They all took spots along the sides of the keel walkway just aft of the bow, except for Groezinger who positioned himself across the keel from Bauer, also to watch the landing through an open hatch.

Also, according to the crew location diagram provided to the Board of Inquiry, Chief Rigger Ludwig Knorr was also in the bow section at the time of the fire, although his official landing station was up on the axial catwalk, where he would walk along and keep an eye on the gas cells and valves.

(A bit of a long setup, I admit, but I figure that it's better to get everything laid out as clearly as I can.)

So... three men survived the disaster because they were far enough aft that the flames weren't as intense as they were further forward. These survivors were Groezinger and Bauer (who jumped out of the hatches through which they'd been watching the landing) and Leibrecht, who held on to a girder until the ship was on the ground and then ran out of the wreckage.

Bernhardt, Spehl and Felber all managed to escape from the mooring area after the ship was on the ground, though all were burned badly enough that none of them survived the night.

Ernst Huchel leapt from the bow when it was still high in the air (he can be seen in the newsreels) and died on impact rather than from burns.

Banholzer also initially escaped the fire, although he remained in the wreck for a few minutes before he got out. I'd say he probably didn't fall from the ship and have the wreck fall on top of him. Likely, he held on like Leibrecht did, but was trapped by wreckage long enough to sustain critical burns.

So, that leaves Stoeckle, Flackus, Mueller, and Knorr. One of these men could be the one you're seeing in the newsreel.

Remember, too, that several men can be seen dropping from the bow in the newsreels. First Huchel falls from the very tip of the bow, then, right after that, another man drops through a rip in the outer cover just outboard of the keel.

Then once the ship nears the ground, three other men (including the one you mention) drop from the ship and don't get up before the wreck falls on top of them.

That would actually seem to account for everyone. But again, since so few of the men in the bow survived and none of them saw what happened to the others, we'll never really know for sure who jumped from where.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, I suspected something similar. But I have one doubt: in Leibrecht's page, I read "For the rest of his life, Leibrecht would remember the awful image of the men on the stairs ahead of him gradually losing their grips one by one and falling to their deaths.". Did ever Leibrecht mention who these men were? Is the order of the men stationed on the stairs in the bow's diagram (Banholzer and Knorr near Leibrecht; Stockle, Flackus and Muller a few further forward) merely hypotetical? If I have understood correctly, Knorr, Muller, Stockle and Flackus all jumped from the airship, but either jumped too early or too late. I noticed that Huchel's body wasn't burned at all, so the wreckage didn't fall on his corpse. Were all the other bodies burned, including that of the man who jumped just after Huchel (I can't see him in the footage, can you show me the minute)?

Patrick Russell said...

Actually, I think I probably ought to remove that line from Leibrecht's article. It's a remnant of my original draft of the article from when I was beginning my research, and it mainly comes from Mooney's book... and Mooney was, to put it lightly, very loose with the facts - especially when it came to creating drama.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to update articles in months now, because Blogspot "improved" the site and appears to have completely screwed up article formatting. I haven't yet figured out how to post updates without the text going all over the place.

I would suggest, however, that we continue this particular topic via email. Though I do like to provide as much information as I can here, I'm also aware that relatives of the passengers and crew often read these articles. This thread might be a bit much for some of them if we continue it here, know what I mean?

Please feel free to drop me an email at and we can take it from there.


Anonymous said...

I understand what do you mean; in fact, I had some doubts about asking such a question. Unfortunately, I have some problems with the e-mail. However, don’t mind, it was not an important question. Instead, I have some other questions (If the first is, how to say, tactless, don’t answer: it’s not a problem):

1) (Whithout making any names) Is it known how many people actually died in the fire/crash/wreck? Out of a total of 35 people who lost their lives (22 crewmembers and 13 passengers), apart from the civilian ground crew member, six crewmembers and three passengers are known to have died from injures, while six other crewmembers and eight passengers are known to have died in fire/crash/wreck. This leaves further ten crewmembers and two passengers who are mentioned as died either in fire/wreck or in the infirmary shortly after.

2) What was the Engineering Officers’ “hierarchy”? Rudolf Sauter was the Chief Engineer and Wilhelm Dimmler was, if I had understood right, the Fourth Engineer (but this would make one engineering officer missing – First, Second or Third –; or the Chief Engineer and the First Engineer were, on an airship, the same person?). What was the rank of Raphael Schadler and Eugen Schauble?

3) Willy Speck was the Chief Radio Officer, but was there a hierarchy among the remaining Radio Operators (Schweikard, Dowe and Eichelmann)?

Patrick Russell said...

To take your questions in order:

1.) There's no way to really know that for sure. Nobody was really keeping track of that at the time, as the airfield was a mass of confusion following the crash. I think at least a few people made it as far as the air station infirmary before they passed away, but I'm pretty sure nobody kept a list of them.

2.) Actually, I think that all three flight engineers held Fourth Officer status. My understanding is that Schaeuble was senior among the flight engineers and that Dimmler and Schaedler had been made flight engineers more recently.

3.) There wasn't really a hierarchy among the radio operators. Schweikard and Eichelmann were official members of the Hindenburg's crew, and Dowe was normally the radio chief on the Graf Zeppelin, but was flying on the Hindenburg to gain experience with the new ship, since the old Graf was going to be retired from service later that year and replaced on the South American route by the LZ 130.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the information. I was reasoning about the men in the bow. Isn't a third way to communicate, other than e-mail? Maybe a sort of 'hidden' comments?

Patrick Russell said...

If you genuinely can't use email, and really want to discuss this further, leave a comment here:

It's an old sample blog of mine that doesn't really get any traffic.

Anonymous said...

Thank you; I left a comment there.

Anonymous said...

theres only one cabin boy?????

Patrick Russell said...

Yes, Werner Franz was the Hindenburg's only cabin boy. And he had only been hired toward the end of 1936, and he was on his first flight to the United States when he escaped the Hindenburg fire.

They had also just added a ship's doctor to the crew in early 1937. But of course, they were just in the early phases of establishing regular airship service using the new Hindenburg-class Zeppelins, so new crew positions and passenger amenities would likely have been added as they went along.

Anonymous said...

Please add Ulla to the list of those that perished. She was a German Shepherd brought along by the acrobat.

Elizabeth said...

Thank you for your research.

I just finished reading Ms. Ariel Lawhon's book, FLIGHT OF DREAMS, and was thrilled to find background information on the main characters/passengers she incorporated into her novel.


Anonymous said...

I am reading FLIGHT OF DREAMS right now and I am using your research to put a face to her characters.

Patrick Russell said...

I'm very glad to hear that the blog is proving useful in this way. I've not yet read Flight of Dreams (didn't even know about it until after it was already out) but having read fictionalized accounts of the last flight of the Hindenburg in the past, I know all too well how important it is to have a resource that allows one to get the real story behind the people who were aboard.

In fact, the original impetus for me to finally begin serious research on the Hindenburg's passengers and crew was a novel published in 2000 that created heavily fictionalized characters out of several actual people aboard the last flight about whom little was known. One passenger was reimagined as a Gestapo agent, etc. It wasn't a bad little read, and the author made it very clear that he didn't intend for the fictionalization to be taken as anything other than artistic license.

But still,it got me thinking that the real stories of all of these folks needed to be told once and for all, so that they would no longer just be names on a list. This blog is the result, and it's incredibly gratifying to know that it's being used for a purpose that's so close to its original inspiration.

By all means, if you have any questions about any of the people about whom I've written here, please feel free to drop me a note at

Take care,

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

I have somewhat of an odd question.
As a child, my grandmother had shown me an article of fabric and she claimed it was from the Hindenburg crash. At this point in my life, I do not know what happened to the piece in question. I'm just wondering, as I watch the footage, could this have been an actual piece of The Hindenburg?

Patrick Russell said...

Hello Nicole,

Without seeing the actual piece of fabric it is, of course, impossible to tell whether or not it was actually from the Hindenburg.

But yes, it certainly could have been. There were large swaths of fabric at various spots on the Hindenburg wreck, especially on the tail fins, that did not burn. There were also pieces that fell loose from the ship as it crashed which then self-extinguished when it landed on the wet, sandy ground of the airfield. There were plenty of pieces of Hindenburg fabric that were taken from the wreck and kept as souvenirs, and it is always possible that your grandmother came into possession of one of these pieces of fabric.

Again, no way of knowing for sure now that the piece is lost, but it is indeed possible that it was the real thing.


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You are probably having a flood of visitors to your site after the release of Flight of Dreams. For me it is a very unique experience to read the book and at the same time look at their actual faces and read their real stories on your website. Thank you so much for spending the time and providing us with this huge amount of information about ordinary people that otherwise would be forgotten. In Judaism it is considered that "every human being is the whole world" therefore life is most sacred and no-one is ever considered not important enough to be remembered. Thanks again for all the work and efforts.

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