Arnold Bernstein (1888-1971)

Arnold Bernstein was a successful shipping magnate in Hamburg before immigrating to the United States under pressure from the Nazi Regime. Despite losing his company the Arnold Bernstein Schiffahrtsgesellschaft and most of his assets, Bernstein re-established himself in the United States, founding a new shipping company, Arnold Bernstein Steamship Corporation.

Updated: June 22, 2015


During all these long years this idea never left my mind. It was as if I were hypnotized. Was it due to ambition because I had fallen away from my important position in the world of shipping to a comparatively unimportant one, or wat [sic!] it that I missed the great adventure of participating in the most important trans-Atlantic passenger and cargo business, the competitive struggle with my big colleagues? I don’t know.[1]

With these words Arnold Bernstein (born January 23, 1888, in Breslau, Silesia; died March 6, 1971, in Palm Beach, Florida) summarized in his memoir the attempt to become again a successful shipping magnet on the other side of the Atlantic after his dramatic flight from Nazi Germany. Bernstein’s lifelong struggle for economic success, social justice, and recognition provides an interesting perspective on the difficult processes of migration experienced by many émigrés to the U.S. Bernstein’s attempt to portray himself as a loyal German Jew, a successful businessman, and an international shipping tycoon also symbolizes the challenging processes of re-defining a personal identity due to persecution, forced migration, and integration. It shows the enormous pressure on many émigrés/immigrants to fulfill the American Dream as a proof of their final victory in the fight for recognition. In addition, the study of Bernstein’s achievements to reestablish a transatlantic shipping company in the U.S. after the Second World War validates that migration not only influences the personal, but also the social and state level. Bernstein’s example reflects how migrants shaped the transformation processes in pre- and postwar Europe as well as in the U.S. and influenced the content and understanding of American-European relations. Thus, the unique example of Arnold Bernstein, an outstanding entrepreneur in his time, exemplifies the difficult transformation of former émigrés to U.S. citizens and shows the multiple difficulties of many immigrants in their search for security, freedom, and prosperity.

Family and Ethnic Background

Arnold Bernstein was born on January 23, 1888, to a German-Jewish family in Breslau, which was at that time the capital of the Prussian province of Silesia (today Wrocław, Poland).[2] Max and Francisca Bernstein, his parents, who were members of an evolving Jewish middle class, wanted to give their children Else, Arnold, Alice, and Rose the best available general education.[3]

Thus, they followed the path of acculturation, which many German Jews had taken, and felt reassured by the final emancipation of the Jews in the German Empire in 1871.[4] In his memoir, Bernstein recounted that “morality, love, good manners and hospitality”[5] were key elements of the parents’ household in Silesia. In contrast to the family values of Bildung and Kultur (education and culture), however, Bernstein described himself in his memoir as a “lazy, unruly and obstante [sic!]”[6] child, who was interested neither in learning nor in a good education. Due to this fact, his school years were not a success story and led to his appointment as an apprentice in the business of his father. Max Bernstein, who had worked for the company Jacob Hamburger & Sohn, which bought and sold alcohol, founded his own business in the same field of expertise in 1902 and introduced Bernstein junior to this business world.[7] This new atmosphere of strict work ethics and an honor code changed Arnold’s attitude towards life and work. Even though he later thought that the early years of his career could have been much more effective, he successfully finished his apprenticeship and established himself as a salesman in the Silesian setting. But his free spirit and eagerness to create something new eventually conflicted with the limited opportunities and restricted personal freedom in his hometown of Breslau. Consequently, in 1909 he decided to move to the vibrant Hanseatic port city of Hamburg, starting there as a young and promising, but relatively poor and inexperienced businessman all over again.

As an intern at the German branch of the U.S. company Quaker Oats in Hamburg, he established important business contacts and started his own business career. When he realized that his prospects at the Quaker Oats Company were limited, he decided to leave for London in order to gather international working experience and forge connections. In 1911, he returned to Breslau and joined the family business again, which, to his surprise, was ill-managed, misguided, and in severe financial difficulties. It eventually went bankrupt, which for young Arnold made his father and family appear in a different light.[8]

Until then my father had been the great business man, and working under him I felt safe and protected. Suddenly I became aware that he was a weak man, and I cannot describe how depressed this made me feel. I felt naked, just as an inexperienced sailor must feel if he suddenly has to take the wheel.[9]

The financial disaster of the family’s business spurred Bernstein’s decision to become an independent businessman. He left Breslau once more and restarted his career in Hamburg, where he already had some business contacts and friends.[10] Despite the financial and personal difficulties, his move to Hamburg emerged as an important step for Bernstein. In the free atmosphere of Hamburg, he celebrated his first economic successes and made the acquaintance of Lilli Kimmelstiel (born June 20, 1896, in Hamburg), who became his wife a few years later.[11] Lilli came from a well-to-do bourgeois Jewish family in Hamburg and symbolized the successful integration of Jews into the society of the Hanseatic port city.[12] She gave Bernstein a new sense of home and belonging, which he had neglected or even dismissed as unimportant up until then.[13] The engagement of Arnold and Lilli Bernstein—the marriage took place shortly after the First World War (April 30, 1919/May 1, 1919)—laid the basis for a specific perception of home based on traditional family values Bernstein greatly admired.[14]

Bernstein also developed a strong feeling of belonging to the German nation over the following years. In particular, his experiences during World War I were crucial for this new sense of national bonding and identity. In his memoir he admitted that his war experiences had altered his thinking; the time spent as a soldier in the field changed his attitude towards non-Jews, German society, and his homeland. As many other Germans at that time, he was excited about the war and perceived it as an adventure. He wrote in his war diaries, “One cannot deny admiration to a nation which sends the flowers of its manhood to a grim war, bedecked with flowers as if they were going to a dance.”[15]

Even though the German military establishment did not support Bernstein’s promotion into the officer corps due to his Jewish faith, he established a strong sense of unity and respect in the trenches.[16] This became obvious when he described an incident during the war in which his battalion had to fight Belgian troops. As part of the 17th Field Artillery corps, he fought for the German cause and even defended the German military actions at Louvain (Leuven, Belgium), which were heavily criticized by international media as inhumane war actions.[17]The Times (London) published an article on the destruction of the “Belgian Oxford” by the German “Huns” and the Jewish Chronicle (London) described the incident at Louvain as a clear symbol of the “brutality of German militarism.”[18] For Bernstein, however, it was clear that he belonged to the “Huns”, as evidenced by entries in his war diaries.

His experiences in major battles on the German Western front, e.g. at Noyon (1914), Ypern (1915), and at the Somme (1917) disillusioned him, but did not undermine his newly established sense of national belonging. As a reward for his exceptional war efforts, which he credited to his spirit of adventure, his youth, and national pride, he was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class (1914) and 2nd Class (1917) as well as the Hanseatic Cross (1916).[19] He was thus shocked by the Versailles peace treaty agreement, which he perceived as a personal degradation and a mistreatment of his German Heimat (homeland).

Business Development

After the First World War, Bernstein resumed his activities as businessman and reactivated his commercial company founded in 1912. As an expert in the import and export business he had traded with numerous goods before the war and earned a good reputation, which gave him the opportunity to reestablish himself in the difficult Hanseatic business networks after 1918. Former partners re-approached him and renewed business contacts. One of Bernstein’s commercial operations, for example, dealt with the transport of matches from Germany, which suffered from a major economic decline, to the Netherlands, where the situation was much more prosperous. The difficulties of finding adequate shipping spaces and affordable freight charges made Bernstein charter a small cargo ship and enter the shipping business.[20] In his memoir Bernstein thus described his shift from a broker to an independent shipping company manager as a coincidence, which he openly welcomed.

The early years of Bernstein’s activities in the shipping industries were dominated by the economic difficulties of the postwar situation. The Treaty of Versailles had imposed numerous political and economic restrictions on Germany, including reparations. It had implemented the cession of Alsace-Lorraine and other territories as well as the occupation of the Saar and the Rhineland, important regions of industrial production in Germany. In addition, as part of the demilitarization process the Versailles treaty also reduced not only the German army and air force, but also the navy and restricted any major investments in new ships or tonnage.[21] Thus, the insecure economic situation due to the decrease in industrial production, the war destruction, and the sweeping restrictions of investments directly affected the commercial shipping industries in Germany. Formerly well-known and influential shipping companies, e.g. the HAPAG or the North German Lloyd, could only slowly reestablish themselves on the world market.

Bernstein, too, was confronted with the difficult economic situation in Germany, but thanks to his willingness to make risky investments, he secured his company’s survival. Some of his business partners feared the increasing inflation of the German currency and were looking for investments in industrial or commercial activities. As the representative of an investment group, Bernstein bought a small ship, the SS Keilberg, and thus became a shipping company manager with his own small fleet.[22] Especially ore mining in the Rhineland, which was reestablished in the early 1920s and became the motor of economic growth, gave Bernstein the opportunity to expand his shipping activities. Old business partners, who had good contacts to the mining industries and political decision makers, supported Bernstein’s new interests. Until then he had relied on the expertise of others, e.g. captains and other well-established brokers, but eventually learned enough to see the potential of the ore transport option. In a risky investment Bernstein bought three ships of the Siegfried category, the SS Odin, Aegir, and Friethjof, which were demilitarized ironclads of the Imperial German Navy, and expanded not only in ore transportation, but also in other areas of cargo shipping.[23] He cleverly implemented and advertised new ideas of cargo transportation which revolutionized this field, e.g. the export of locomotives to the Soviet Union. In cooperation with other businessmen, Bernstein also initiated the German Russian Transport Society (DERUTA, Deutsch-Russische Transport-Aktiengesellschaft) in order to improve and increase German-Russian-Iranian trade. In addition, he established business contacts with Ford and its European representative George Carlson in Copenhagen, which secured him important deals in automobile transport from the U.S. to Europe as well as from the Danish production lines of Ford to all major European destinations.[24] His success relied on his personality as an experienced and courageous businessman but also on the generally stabilizing economy. Bernstein’s business investments took place in a phase of German industrial recovery based on the newly secured money market (1923: Rentenmark) and the stabilizing impact of the Dawes Plan (1924).

Against this backdrop Bernstein expanded his business activities. His business connection to Ford led to his first trip to the U.S., which changed his existing business networks and resulted in an increasing interest in transatlantic shipping.

So I made my first trip to America. […] I had never studied English in school or otherwise; what little I knew I had picked up. Cowley started a ten-minute speech, impossible to interrupt. The American pronunciation was new to me and I remember how he laughed when I confessed that I had not understood one word.[25]

Despite his language difficulties, Bernstein was able to build a network of business connections based on recommendations of his European trading partners. In addition, his frequent visits to the U.S. in the following years were crucial for his success on the other side of the Atlantic. Bernstein crossed the ocean more than eighty times and held numerous meetings with different business representatives. Especially his contact to the European representative of Ford in Copenhagen, George Carlson, with whom Bernstein had already cooperated and organized the European automobile transportation (Ford models), was important to enter the U.S. market. For example, his cooperation with Ford enabled him to negotiate with Erie Railroad, an important cargo railway business for Ford and other U.S. companies, about opportunities to collaborate in the transatlantic cargo business. Bernstein’s idea to import cars without the common wooden crate, employed in order to avoid damage to the new vehicles during transport, became a great success. The SS Falkenstein, SS Schleswig-Holstein, SS Gravenstein, SS Hohenstein, and SS Eberstein were reconstructed to suit the special needs of transatlantic car transport and made Bernstein and his company an important car shipping agent between the U.S. and Europe.

His success became visible when Mr. Aubussier, president of the Hamburg America Line (HAPAG), invited him to join the North Atlantic Freight Conference, in which almost every important shipping line serving the U.S.-Europe routes was represented.[26] Alongside the Hamburg America Line, the North German Lloyd (NDL), the United States Line, the Holland America Lijn, the Lloyd Royal Belge, and the Black Diamond Line, the Arnold Bernstein Shipping Company (founded in 1919) had become an important player in the transatlantic shipping business.[27] Bernstein’s direct business cooperation with Ford, Studebaker, Erie Railroad, and other important American and European companies as well as his excellent, newly established and European-wide working network of agents and partners, which efficiently facilitated trade between the U.S., Europe, and Russia, put him in a unique situation and made him an important personality in the cargo market and shipping industries. According to his own records, in the year 1929 alone Bernstein transported 19,000 cars from the U.S. to Europe and 20,000 tractors within Europe.[28] In the late 1920s Bernstein’s success in the cargo business led to a growing interest in expanding his business activities. Thus, he not only invested in his cargo ships, but also developed the idea of combining cargo and passenger shipping. While all of his ships were designed to transport goods, he wanted to offer a modern way of traveling and tourism and therefore restructured his whole company to focus also on the passenger sector.

The Rise of National Socialism and Repercussions for Bernstein

During the early 1930s, when Bernstein’s company under the name of Arnold Bernstein Schiffahrtsgesellschaft m.b.H. (restructured on September 11, 1930) had established worldwide cooperative ties from Russia to the U.S., the changing political and social climate in Germany disturbed Bernstein. He grew concerned about the growing anti-Semitism in his home country. After the First World War, he personally experienced this changing social climate, which stood in contrast to his established German-Jewish identity and understanding of Heimat.[29] Following official negotiations with high-ranking German governmental authorities to secure business deals with the U.S., he described the German bureaucrats as “typical Germans in the worst meaning of the word – arrogant, anti-Semitic, and I am sure that they later became faithful followers of Hitler,”[30] which reflects the ongoing changes in the German state and society. The rise of National Socialism put Bernstein under enormous pressure because suddenly his German identity was questioned on the basis of the racial laws of the newly established National Socialist “ethnic folk community,” the Volksgemeinschaft.[31] This was even more devastating for Bernstein because he did not consider himself to be a practicing religious Jew, nor did he maintain close relations with the Jewish community in Hamburg.[32] Being confronted with this racial intolerance and injustice led to his early decision to emigrate.[33] He noted in his memoir:

In March 1933, Hitler came into power and officially began the persecution of Jews. I was in a peculiar situation. Hamburg was international and liberal, and I enjoyed great respect. When Hitler became chancellor, he promised Hindenburg that he would not harm Jews who had fought in World War 1. I was an officer, decorated with the Iron Cross First and Second Class and the Hamburger Hanseaten Orden. However, I did not rely on Hitler’s promise, nor did I wish to live in a country where Jews were deprived of their rights. I talked it over with Li [Lilli Bernstein]. She was completely against leaving. She hated the idea of leaving her house, her friends, the city where she was born and had enjoyed a pleasant life all these years.[34]

In a time of growing political and social tensions, Bernstein continued to travel frequently all over Europe and almost every year—as the documents of the port authorities in the U.K. and U.S. demonstrate—to the United States.

His commitment to establish and preserve a strong network of business cooperative ties and partnerships based on personal contacts was essential for his business strategies. The “personalization of business contacts” was even enhanced by the fact that his wife and daughter often accompanied him on his trips.[35] Moreover, the great frequency of his international visits also was a strategy designed to test different possibilities to connect his German-based shipping industries with international partners and transfer his property. Bernstein not only founded the Palestine Shipping Company (1934), which emerged as an important link for Jewish emigration to Palestine during the late 1930s, but also bought the Red Star Line (1935), creating an international conglomerate of shipping companies.[36]

Bernstein’s emigration was part of the exodus of German Jews who tried to escape Nazi Germany. In 1933, 37,000–38,000 and in 1934, 22,000–23,000 German Jews left Germany and emigrated to different countries across the globe.[37] Other important figures of the German and Hamburg shipping industries such as Lucy Borchardt, for example, owner of the Fairplay Towboat Company (Hamburg), tried to transfer their businesses and emigrate from their former Heimat as well.[38] As in many other cases, Bernstein’s economic and international status did not protect him after the National Socialists rose to power and began persecuting Jews.[39]

Even though he described in his memoir that the decision to emigrate was an easy one to make, it took Bernstein several years to finalize this decision and accept the downside. How important his established networks already were at this point became obvious when he traveled to the U.S. in late 1933. Confronted with anti-Jewish Nazi regulations and restrictions in his homeland, he arrived in New York on the SS Ile de France via Le Havre and Southampton and immediately petitioned for naturalization of his whole family (October 31, 1933). The affidavits for his family were given by Joseph A. Bower and Laszlo K. Kerr, who were both working in the shipping business and were American partners of Bernstein.[40] Bower, vice president of the New York Trust Company, which later became the Chemical Bank, and Kerr, himself an émigré from Czechoslovakia (1923) and vice president of the Polaris Steamship Lines, were eager to give Bernstein the opportunity to immigrate to the U.S.[41] Even though he had started the process to become an American citizen, he went back to Germany and aimed to find a modus vivendi with the anti-Jewish Nazi legislation while simultaneously beginning to transfer his business. In 1937, he had finally organized his emigration papers and booked a passage for his entire family on the SS Queen Mary to the U.S., but was imprisoned in Berlin, transferred to Hamburg and interned in the concentration camp of Fuhlsbüttel.

I was no longer the respected Arnold Bernstein, proud of my record, strong and safe. Suddenly I felt that I was in the hands of ruthless enemies who would not respect either law nor human rights and that all my decent life and my merits would be of no help.[42]

His lawyers Mr. Stumme and to a lesser extent also Gerd Bucerius—after World War II the well-known publisher and editor of the German newspaper Die Zeit—defended Bernstein in his trial. Accused of illegal money transfers, however, the shipping magnate was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.[43] The Bernstein Schiffahrtsgesellschaft m.b.H., which was his life’s work, was restructured under the pressure of Nazi authorities. Bernstein had to agree to the former president of the HAPAG, Marius Boeger, with whom he was not on friendly terms, taking over his company.[44] He also had to approve an arrangement that basically included a complete renunciation of his private property. Faced with increasing harassment and personal threats, Bernstein’s wife sent the children abroad to secure their well-being.[45] After his prison sentence, Bernstein’s final release was made possible after a former business partner, the Chemical Bank (U.S.) under the vice presidency of Bower signed a guarantee of $30,000 (roughly equivalent to $500,000 in 2013).[46] On August 23, 1939, Bernstein and his wife left on board of the Holland America liner SS Nieuw Amsterdam to New York.[47]

Emigration to the United States and Further Business Development

When Bernstein arrived in the U.S. as an immigrant in 1939, his established identity as a German had been dramatically questioned and his economic status was in ruins. He knew that the only elements that remained unscathed after his forced emigration from Nazi Germany were his name and reputation.[48] Even in his memoir, in which he always portrays himself as a successful businessman, he had to admit that his start in the U.S. was slow and “painful.”[49] Entirely aware of his difficult position, he noted, “I would, in my fifty-second year, have to start from the bottom up, in a foreign country, a recent prisoner without capital.”[50] Due to his early petition of naturalization, he was able to obtain American citizenship quickly and restart a business.[51] In 1940 he founded the Arnold Bernstein Steamship Corporation, New York, and took a holding in different enterprises. However, his activities as a shipping broker in the early 1940s remained minor successes. After the war he immediately pushed for the restitution of his private and commercial properties in Hamburg and, most importantly, initiated court proceedings at U.S. district courts.[52] In 1946, Bernstein filed a court case against the Van Heyghen Frères Société Anonyme, a Belgian join stock company, which had bought the SS Gandia, one of the ships of the Arnold Bernstein Schiffahrtsgesellschaft m.b.H.[53] The fact that he was forced to give up his shipping lines under Nazi racial laws and was threatened by death was, however, held against him. The court decided that the transfers were done under “’German Government under the Nazi regime,’ and that, as the confiscation was within German territory, it was ‘not subject to review in our courts.’”[54] The two-to-one ruling of the court judges led to a legal discussion because the third judge (Clark) argued, ”I suspect that they as well as our enemies may be mystified by what must seem the vagaries of a policy looking to restitution to the Jews in Germany at the same time that it accepts the acts of Nazi oppression of the Jews as binding in American courts.”[55] In the following legal discussion, Victor House even complained in the California Law Review: “The Decision in Bernstein v. Van Heyghen fails to measure up what the United States represents. Basically, and disturbingly, it represents a failure to keep the faith.”[56]

His second court case (filed in 1945) against the Chemical Bank Trust Company and the Holland Amerika Lijn, which had signed a deal with the Nazi authorities and bought former properties of the Arnold Bernstein Schiffahrtsgesellschaft m.b.H./Red Star Line, was rejected according to a similar legal understanding.[57] Bernstein’s fight against these legal perspectives led to an appeal to the State Department, which announced in its statement of April 13, 1949, “The policy of the Executive … is to relieve American courts from any restraint upon the exercise of their jurisdiction to pass upon the validity of the acts of Nazi officials.”[58] These decisions paved the way for a renewal of both court cases and strengthened Bernstein’s trust in his new home country and its understanding of justice.[59] In the case of the Holland America Lijn, Bernstein decided to compromise on an agreement compensating him with a total of $450,000 (roughly equivalent to $3.9 million in 2013). The original claim covered $1 million but Bernstein was eager to end his economic insecurity, get the financial resources he needed to reestablish a transatlantic shipping company, and avoid a lengthy trial.[60]

With the help of his new financial resources, Bernstein chartered different ships to introduce a new service from the U.S. to Europe. He perceived the growing American tourist market to Europe as the most important market in the upcoming years. Consequently, he lobbied for plans to enlarge his U.S. fleet, talked to numerous senators, and emphasized the necessity to offer the growing American middle class affordable and well-organized options to visit Europe. This would not only fulfill the needs of a growing American middle class, as Bernstein put it, but would also give the American shipping industry the chance to become a major player in a global market.[61] With enormous effort, Bernstein pushed even further and applied for governmental subsidies for a possible new American-European shipping line.[62] He devoted his energy to the idea of reestablishing European-American shipping, relying on a network of German/European-Jewish émigrés and on former business connections that had survived the war and his emigration. He realized that his attempt to reestablish a successful business career in the U.S. shipping industry depended heavily on his existing networks and partnerships established in the 1920s and 1930s. In many letters and conversations, he stressed his success story in the interwar period and revived old business connections, which went back to the early years of the Arnold Bernstein Shipping Company, Hamburg, founded on July 1, 1919. This network combined old business partners, e.g. U.S. representatives of Ford, Chrysler etc., but also agents for other shipping companies in the U.S., who had worked for Bernstein before the war. In contrast to this situation in the United States, almost all contacts to business partners in Germany were not revived.[63]

Despite these difficulties Bernstein first re-started as an agent and later regained a position as president of a real shipping company. His passion and obsession to reestablish his American-European shipping line was based, among other reasons, on the desire to counterbalance the results of forced emigration as well as the influence of the Holland America Lijn, with which he just settled his court case. In a sense, he perceived this as an additional process to reinstitute justice.

Bernstein’s vision to reestablish a new shipping line (supported by state subsidies), which in the end had persuaded the governmental committees, included several ideas developed in the interwar period. This included the promotion of a single-class ocean liner intended to give the American middle class the perfect way of seaborne travel. Moreover, for Bernstein it also symbolized American society and its ideal of equality. Since most ships on the transatlantic routes still adhered to the three-class system, Bernstein’s vision attracted considerable attention in American shipping industry circles. While many American business partners remained skeptical of the idea, the savvy entrepreneur stressed his successful experience with the one-class system. In the 1930s, he had already implemented it on the SS Pennland and SS Westernland between Antwerp and New York and most importantly on the cruise liner SS Tel Aviv in the Mediterranean connecting Trieste and Haifa. Especially the SS Tel Aviv, which was designed to fulfill the needs of Jewish emigrants, was a major point of reference for Bernstein’s new and modern tourism in its American version.[64] He was convinced that this new idea would give him an advantage over the well-established shipping companies that dominated the market. He offered a modern and affordable, but not luxurious (1st class) or miserable (3rd class) way of traveling for the new middle class. A key element of his planning was the restructuring of his existing ships, but avoiding additional spending or unnecessary investments, e.g. cabin interior etc. While in the 1930s his idea included the transportation of the passengers’ automobiles as part of their modern way of traveling to Europe, after the war Bernstein concentrated on luxury and leisure for everyone on board. Despite his strong business connections, e.g. with Edward Riley, president of General Motors Overseas Corporation, or Paul G. Hoffmann, president of Studebaker and later director of the Marshall Plan Europe, and the announcement of governmental subsidies to Bernstein’s newly founded shipping company, the Korean War (June 25, 1950 – July, 27 1953) put a halt to his economic success.[65] The subsidies were canceled and his launch of a new shipping line had to be postponed.

When in 1957 Bernstein founded the American Banner Lines Inc., New York, he finally realized his vision and implemented his ideas of modern cruise tourism. He purchased the former C4 standard freighter Badger Marine and rebuilt it into the passenger cargo ship SS Atlantic.[66] His personal feeling of reinventing himself and reinstalling himself in the “right position” expressed itself in his choice of the old emblem for his new company (AB), albeit with altered background colors.

Bernstein noted with pride in his memoir:

I thought of nearly twenty years of hard work, never giving up my goal, and I had now finally succeeded. The old Arnold Bernstein flag would fly again on a trans-Atlantic line, and I was its president. I was already in the late sixties, but I did not feel my years. I was full of plans and eager to build up a modern tourist fleet.[67]

The American Banner Line campaigned extensively for the new SS Atlantic.[68] The cruise liner was designed according to Bernstein’s vision of a single-class liner, and the newly formulated slogan of the American Banner Line—“The new luxury concept in Tourist travel to Europe”—reflected some old ideas of the former Hamburg shipping magnate.[69] The advertisements called it “The American Banner way: To Europe with Pleasure...”

Take all your previous notions about tourist class travel and throw them out the nearest porthole. There’s a whole ocean of unfettered enjoyment awaiting you aboard the spanking new S/S Atlantic. On this newest, most modern of American trans-Atlantic liners, practically the entire ship is yours to enjoy. [...] Every inch of the ‘Atlantic’ is luxury-engineered to gratify your highest expectations of comfort, convenience and pleasure ... to make your European trip truly memorable.[70]

In contrast to the then still prevalent image of Europe, with all its references to destruction and post-war problems, the American Banner Line used Europe to project an image of a cultural center. Even though the major focus lay on the port of arrival in the Netherlands, the American Banner Line was very active in promoting trips to different European countries and in this way sought to take part in the transatlantic cruise business. Thus, Bernstein indirectly reconnected with his former cultural home through the campaigns. But in spite of traveling back to Germany and visiting his hometown, he found it difficult to see and understand himself as German again after the war. As an American citizen he reclaimed his arianized property, but felt a deep resentment toward his former home country, in which he had to fight for his rights even after the end of the Nazi regime. Bernstein saw his future in the U.S. and felt a strong sense of relief and justice when the SS Atlantic finally set sail as a symbol of his victory over persecution and destruction.

The late launching of the SS Atlantic, which had to be postponed twice due to construction difficulties in the shipyard, resulted in scores of cancellations and left the American Banner Line with a grim start.[71] In his memoir, Bernstein blamed the mismanagement on his partners and the shareholders. In contrast to the Arnold Bernstein Schiffahrtsgesellschaft m.b.H., the American Banner Line was a company with many shareholders. Bernstein, who had always acted as a president of his own company, had difficulties adjusting to a changing business atmosphere and structure. Being one shareholder among others was not the way he wanted to run his company, and on numerous occasions he was overruled in essential business decisions. He criticized the erosion of old business ethics and honor codes—essential components of Bernstein’s business strategies. He also claimed that a business policy which focused only on money, profit, and on viewing the company as an investment would destabilize any company. Bernstein had harsh words for the businessmen sitting in their offices with no passion for the work and business of pioneers like him. He concluded there was no room for a man who wanted to rule his own “kingdom” anymore.[72]

The American Banner Line had to deal not only with internal management problems but also with external ones. Bernstein’s attempt to reestablish transatlantic cruise tourism collided with the general decline of passenger traffic across the Atlantic. Airlines which offered a much faster and more modern way of travel superseded the transatlantic ocean liners and created a market upheaval. In 1957 the number of airline passengers exceeded that of the shipping lines on the North Atlantic routes for the first time.[73] Thus, Bernstein’s American Banner Line did not become the success story he had hoped for. Support for Bernstein within his own company waned, and after intense discussions with his colleagues and partners, he decided to leave the company. In 1959 the SS Atlantic was sold and the American Banner Line dissolved. In a letter to his friend Clarence G. Morse, on February 24, 1960, Bernstein reflects on the failure of the American Banner Line:

The SS ATLANTIC is all that I promised to you, the first American tourist vessel, and a credit to the American flag. She has already proven herself as a pioneer in the fight of our Merchant Marine for our participation in the growing tourist business.

More than by my heavy financial loss I was hurt by the knowledge that this disappointing end of a promising enterprise was so unnecessary and that the opportunity to build up a great tourist Line under the American Flag was lost.[74]

Social Status and Family Life

In his memoir, Bernstein openly stated that his experiences of German anti-Semitism in the interwar period, the disgraceful treatment by the Nazi authorities, his vilification as “the Jew Bernstein”,[75] the humiliating imprisonment in Fuhlsbüttel, as well as the long and only semi- successful struggle for financial restitution of his private and commercial properties after the war had undermined and even shattered his German-Jewish identity.[76] While his own family, his wife Lilli and his children Stephanie and Ronny, could emigrate to the U.S. and many other family members were able to join them later, the loss of loved ones to the Holocaust, especially the death of his sister Rose and her daughter Anita as well as of many friends and colleagues such as the Ledermann family (Breslau) burdened him greatly. When his mother-in-law, Ernestine Kimmelstiel and Ady van Biema, mother-in-law of Lilli’s brother Paul, arrived in New York via Russia, Manchuria, Japan, and California, he was appalled by the sight, “When I saw them, two old ladies dressed in black, sitting on the platform on their luggage and looking so lost, old and poor after a life of security and comfort, it really shook me.”[77] Thus, it is not surprising that he wanted to detach himself from his German past and connect better to his new country by writing his own memoir, and to do so in English and not in German, as many other German-Jewish émigrés had preferred to do. However, in contrast to this difficult personal relationship to his former home country, Bernstein’s cultural bond to a more universal and somehow elusive Europe remained intact. For him, Europe continued to be an important cultural center which should be visited and understood by every educated and cultivated human being. He pushed for further advertisements, stressing the importance of Europe as a new, fashionable, and educational tourist destination. Bernstein anxiously tried to get his furniture, books and paintings, of which the majority were pieces of European fine art, shipped to New York via Copenhagen and Oslo. In so doing, he sought to preserve not only his financial interest in these objects but also to reconnect with his own identity and past.[78]

In 1959, Bernstein sold his shares of the American Banner Line and retired to his house in Palm Beach, Florida, where he died twelve years later on March 6, 1971.[79] In one of the funeral orations, Dr. Eitel Proless honored Bernstein, “To speak of Arnold Bernstein cannot be taken lightly, for he was not an ordinary man. He was of unusual stature, highly impressive, often overpowering. ’Ein bedeutender Mensch’, ’ein Vollmensch. ’Voila un homme”.[80] In the presence of his wife Lilli Bernstein, his son Ronald Barnes, his daughter Stephanie Lanxner, and his two sisters Else Kugelmann and Alice Wolff, he was buried in American soil.[81] Lilli Bernstein died in 1993.

In 2001, Bernstein’s memoir was posthumously published in German. In 2007, his son Ronald Barnes and his granddaughter Susan Barnes donated his personal belongings and documents to the newly opened Jewish Museum in Berlin.[82]


Arnold Bernstein was a transatlantic mediator in many ways. His innovative ideas of transportation, transport, and leisure in the shipping business brought him into contact with many important businessmen and in the mid-1920s and 1930s, made him a center of a unique business network. These connections even survived his forced emigration to the U.S. or indeed made that emigration to the U.S. possible. After the war, the network continued to support Bernstein and his decision to reestablish an American-European shipping company and reinvent himself as a successful businessman. The transfer of ideas, e.g. the introduction of a single-class tourist liner, illustrates Bernstein’s capacity to counterbalance the devastating impact of Nazi terror and his eagerness to erase the years of oppression and persecution. As an émigré who quickly adjusted to the new society and country—and even transformed from a German Jew into an American patriot, from a German speaker to an English one—he also remained connected to his European cultural background or, more precisely, to his image of Europe. The advertising campaign for the SS Atlantic, which was heavily based on his understanding of Europe, helped to erect a cultural bridge across the Atlantic. On a personal level, the establishment of the American-European tourist line also included another important element, which answers the question Bernstein had raised in his memoir: Why did he start all over again? He answered this question as follows:

I believe in my subconscious burned the resentment that the Nazis had ruined me, robbed me of the fruit of twenty-five years of hard and successful labor, and that I could not come out victor I would never be satisfied without my former prestige.[83]


[1] Archive of the German Maritime Museum [Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum Bremerhaven, hereafter ADSM-B]: III A3180: My Life – Arnold Bernstein (Manuscript written 1962–64), 264.

[2] Archive of the Jewish Museum Berlin [Stiftung Jüdisches Museum Berlin, hereafter SJM-B] Sammlung Arnold Bernstein, K 579 Mp. 1, 2007/35/2 Geburtsurkunde von Arnold Bernstein (Nr. 410) Breslau 26.01.1888. For a general overview over the history of Breslau, see Norman Davies and Roger Moorhouse, Microcosm: Portrait of a Central European City (London: Jonathan Cape, 2002), 267–325.

[3] The records of the Jewish Community of Hamburg indicate that Bernstein was the second child and had three siblings: Else (born June 23, 1886), Alice (born June 14, 1890) and Rose (born December 10, 1891). On Bernstein’s family details, see State Archive of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg [Staatsarchiv der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg, hereafter StHH] 522-1 Jüd. Gemeinde, 922b Kultussteuerkartei der Deutsch-Israelit. Gemeinde Hamburgs, Eintragskartei Bernstein, Max.

[4] See David Sorkin, The Transformation of German Jewry 1780–1840 (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press 1987), 107–123.

[5] ADSM-B III A3180: My Life – Arnold Bernstein (Manuscript written 1962–64), 3.

[6] Ibid, 4.

[7] Ibid, 6.

[8] Ibid, 9–21.

[9] Ibid, 22.

[10] The Arnold Bernstein Company was founded and registered in 1912.

[11] Later Bernstein used different spellings of the name, e.g. Lilie, Lili, etc. Here, the author will follow the spelling preferred by the Jewish Museum Berlin: Lilli.

[12] On the complex situation of the Jewish community in Hamburg, see Rainer Liedtke, Jewish Welfare in Hamburg and Manchester, c. 1850–1914 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998).

[13] The Kimmelstiels were part of the Jewish bourgeoisie in the Hanseatic port city; they were well acculturated and integrated. On the history of Jews in Hamburg, see Ina Lorenz, Die Juden in Hamburg zur Zeit der Weimarer Republik: Eine Dokumentation, 2 vols. (Hamburg: Christians, 1987); Ina Lorenz, “Das ‘Hamburger System’ als Organisationsmodell einer jüdischen Großgemeinde: Konzeption und Wirklichkeit”,
in Jüdische Gemeinden und Organisationsformen von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, ed. Robert Jütte and Abraham Kustermann (Vienna/Cologne/Weimar: Böhlau, 1996), 221–255.

[14] While Bernstein dates the date of his wedding to May 1, 1919, his wife’s petition for naturalization, years later, says it was April 30, 1919. The couple had two children, Stephanie (born August 15, 1920) and Reinhard Adolph (May 13, 1922). After emigration to the U.S., Reinhard changed his name to Ronald Barnes. For the marriage certificate, see SJM-B Sammlung Arnold Bernstein, K 579 Mp. 1, 2007/35/8 Bescheinigung der Eheschließung, Hamburgisches Standesamt No. 3, Register No. 183 1919. See also ADSM-B III A3180: My Life – Arnold Bernstein (Manuscript written 1962–64), 83. For Lilli Bernstein’s petition for naturalization, see National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC: Petitions for Naturalization from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1897-1944; Series M1972: Roll 1321. Online at

[15] ADSM-B III A3180: My Life – Arnold Bernstein (Manuscript written 1962–64), 31.

[16] Only in 1915 was Bernstein accepted into the German Officer Corps, this due to the strong anti-Semitism in the German military and society. During the war, anti-Semitism remained pervasive and even led to the so-called Judenzählung (“Jews’ census”, October 1916), which was designed to document a lack of Jewish support for the war effort. The results of the census did not substantiate the anti-Semitic beliefs and images and thus were not published. On the difficult situation of German-Jewish soldiers, see David J. Fine, Jewish integration in the German Army in the First World War (Berlin: De Gruyter 2012), 10-18, 100-105; Jacob Rosenthal, "Die Ehre des jüdischen Soldaten": Die Judenzählung im Ersten Weltkrieg und ihre Folgen (Frankfurt a.M.: Campus 2007).

[17] On August 19, 1914, German troops entered Louvain/Leuven, the famous Belgian university city east of Brussels. The German military command feared civil resistance, franc-tireur (guerrilla) insurrection, or even Belgian military counterattacks. On August 25, 1914, shootings occurred, resulting in retaliatory measures by the German military. Houses were burned down, people shot, and the famous university library of Louvain destroyed. Shootings, expulsions, and destructions continued until August 28/29, 1914, and resulted in the devastation of Louvain. See John Horne and Alan Kramer, German Atrocities, 1914: A History of Denial (New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 2001), 38-41.

[18] The Jewish Chronicle, September 4, 1914; The Times, August 29, 1914. For further international coverage, see Daily Herald (London), September 3, 1914; The Sun (New York), September 20, 1914 [Image 36: The ruins of famous Louvain].

[19] SJM-B Sammlung Arnold Bernstein K 580, Mp. 8, 2007/35/104 Militär-Dienstzeitbescheinigung für A. Bernstein: Zentralnachweiseamt für Kriegsverluste und Kriegsgräber/Militär-Dienstzeitbescheinigung Leutnant der Reserve A. Bernstein, 20. Juni 1934, Berlin-Spandau, 1.

[20] Arnold Bernstein, Ein jüdischer Reeder: Von Breslau über Hamburg nach New York, trans. Lore Jacobi and Ursula Feldkamp (Hamburg/Bremerhaven: Convent Verlag 2001), 100-101.

[21] Germany was restricted to six ships of the category of ship Deutschland or Lothringen, six light cruisers, twelve destroyers, twelve torpedo boats and no submarines. The article 181-197 of the Versailles Treaty strictly prohibited any further expansion of the German Navy. A. Sharp, The Versailles Settlement: Peacemaking in Paris 1919 (New York: Palgrave, 1991), 102-129. For the economic aspects of the peace treaty, see E. Glaser, “The Making of the Economic Peace,” in The Treaty of Versailles: A Reassessment after 75 Years, ed. Manfred F. Boemeke, Gerald D. Feldman and Elisabeth Glaser (Washington: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 379-399.

[22] In his memoirs he described these transactions as a coincidence. One of his former business partners approached him and offered him one million marks for the investments, but wanted to be a secret partner. While he implies that these actions could also be understood as illegal money transfers, he stressed his successful investments. Bernstein, Ein jüdischer Reeder, 103-105. On the growing inflation and the difficult economic situation, see G. Stolper/K. Häuser/K. Borchardt, The German Economy: 1870 to the Present (New York/Chicago/San Francisco/Atlanta: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc, 1967), 82-89.

[23] Until 1924 Bernstein’s father, too, owned shares at the mentioned shipping company. For the three ships, see H. Hildebrand/A. Röhr/H.-O. Steinmetz, Die deutschen Kriegsschiffe: Biographien – ein Spiegel der Marinegeschichte von 1815 bis zur Gegenwart, Vol. 1 (Ratingen: Mundus Verlag, no year), 159-161, 186-188, 199-202.

[24] In 1919, Ford established its first European production plant in Denmark and introduced its system of  “Fordism,” as Lars K. Christensen calls it. From early 1920 to 1925, George Carlson became, due to his Swedish family background, the general manager of the Danish production plant. On Ford in Denmark, see Lars K. Christensen, “Between Denmark and Detroit: Unionized Labour at Ford Motor Company, Copenhagen, 1919–1939”, Labor History 55.3 (2014): 326–345, here 330.

[25] ADSM-B III A3180: My Life – Arnold Bernstein (Manuscript written 1962–64), 129–130.

[26] North Atlantic conferences had existed before. The first one was organized in 1908 and was supported by almost all important North American and continental shipping lines. In 1922, the North Atlantic Continental Freight Conference was founded and set sailings, rates, and schedules between North American (including Canada) and Dutch, Belgian, and German ports. See Kenneth J. Blume, Historical Dictionary of the U.S. Maritime Industry (Lanham [Maryland]/Plymouth [UK]: Scarecrow Press, 2012), 361. See for the systems of conferences: Francis E. Hyde, Cunard and the North Atlantic 1840–1973: A History of Shipping and Financial Management (London: MacMillan Press, 1975), 219–246; Daniel Marx,International Shipping Cartels: A Study of Industrial Self-Regulation by Shipping Conferences (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953).

[27] ADSM-B III A3180: My Life – Arnold Bernstein (Manuscript written 1962–64), 140–141.

[28] Ibid, 144.

[29] Anti-Semitism was not new in German society, see Shelley Baranowski, “Conservative Elite Anti-Semitism from the Weimar Republic to the Third Reich”, German Studies Review 19.3 (1996): 525–537; Frank Bajohr, “The ‘Folk Community’ and the Persecution of the Jews: German Society under National Socialist Dictatorship 1933–1945,” Holocaust Genocide Studies 20.2 (2006), 183–206.

[30] ADSM-B III A3180: My Life – Arnold Bernstein (Manuscript written 1962–64), 154.

[31] On the evolution of the idea of Volksgemeinschaft, see Michael Wildt, “Die Ungleichheit des Volkes: ‘Volksgemeinschaft‘ in der politischen Kommunikation der Weimarer Republik,” in Volksgemeinschaft: Neue Forschungen zur Gesellschaft des Nationalsozialismus, ed. Frank Bajohr and Michael Wildt (Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer Verlag, 2009), 24–40.

[32] In 1920, Arnold Bernstein joined the Jewish Community of Breslau, but transferred his membership to the Hamburg Jewish Community. Due to economic problems, he paid communal taxes only irregularly. On the communal statistics, see StHH 522-1 Jüd. Gemeinde, 922b Kultussteuerkartei der Deutsch-Israelit. Gemeinde Hamburgs, Eintragskartei Bernstein, Arnold.

[33] On the slow and general influence of anti-Semitism and the changing daily life in Hamburg, see John A. S. Grenville, The Jews and Germans of Hamburg: The Destruction of a Civilization 1790–1945 (London: Routledge, 2012).

[34] ADSM-B III A3180: My Life – Arnold Bernstein (Manuscript written 1962–64), 165–166.

[35] New York Passenger Lists 1820–1957, 1925: Arrival: New York, New York: Microfilm Serial T715, Microfilm Roll: 3669, Line 3, 6; New York Passenger Lists 1820–1957, 1925: Arrival: New York, New York: Microfilm Serial T715, Microfilm Roll: 4315, Line 1, 14; New York Passenger Lists 1820–1957, 1925: Arrival: New York, New York: Microfilm Serial T715, Microfilm Roll: 4468, Line 1, 2; New York Passenger Lists 1820–1957, 1925: Arrival: New York, New York: Microfilm Serial T715, Microfilm Roll: 4925, Line 14, 10; New York Passenger Lists 1820–1957, 1926: Arrival: New York, New York: Microfilm Serial T715, Microfilm Roll: 3971, Line 6, 52; New York Passenger Lists 1820–1957, 1928: Arrival: New York, New York: Microfilm Serial T715, Microfilm Roll: 4230, Line 26, 91.

[36] On the Palestine Shipping Company, see Björn Siegel, “Die Jungfernfahrt der ‘Tel Aviv’ nach Palästina im Jahre 1935: Eine ‘Besinnliche Fahrt ins Land der Juden’? in „Ihre Wege sind liebliche Wege und all ihre Pfade Frieden“ (Sprüche 3, 17): Die Neunte Joseph Carlebach-Konferenz Wege Joseph Carlebachs: Universale Bildung, gelebtes Judentum, Opfergang, ed. Miriam Gillis- Carlebach and Barbara Vogel (München/Hamburg: Dölling u. Galitz Verlag, 2014), 106–125. On the Red Star Line, see The New York Times, February 10, 1935.

[37] On the numbers of emigrants 1933–34, see Wolfgang Benz, Die Juden in Deutschland 1933–1945: Leben unter nationalsozialistischer Herrschaft (München: C.H. Beck, 1993), 738.

[38] See Ina Lorenz, “Seefahrts-Hachschara in Hamburg (1935–1938): Die einzige jüdische Reederin der Welt,” Zeitschrift des Vereins für Hamburgische Geschichte 83.1 (1997): 445–472; Daniela Ran, “The contribution of Jewish-German immigrants to maritime development in Israel,” Mediterranean Historical Review 15.1 (2000): 94–101

[39] On the situation in Hamburg, see Frank Bajohr, ‘Arisierung‘ in Hamburg: Die Verdrängung der jüdischen Unternehmer 1933–1945 (Hamburg: Christians, 1997), 27–58; Beate Meyer, “Die Verfolgung der Hamburger Juden 1933–1938”, in Die Verfolgung und Ermordung der Hamburger Juden 1933–1945: Geschichte, Zeugnis, Erinnerung, ed. Beate Meyer (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2006), 15–24.

[40] National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Washington (D.C.): Petitions for Naturalization from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1897–1944, NARA Series: M1972, Reference: (Roll 1239), Petition No. 345479 – Petition No. 345946.

[41] In 1923, Lazlo Keresztesi immigrated to the U.S. and changed his name to Kerr one year later. He was born on April 15, 1892, in Turna (Austria-Hungary – later Czechoslovakia) and married his American fiancée. His mother tongue was German. He died on December 6, 1986, in Newton, North Carolina. See U.S. Fifteenth Census of the United States 1930: Population Schedule, New York-Nassau-Hampstead, April 14, 1930.

[42] ADSM-B III A3180: My Life – Arnold Bernstein (Manuscript written 1962–64), 193.

[43] For the court documents, see StAHH Sign.: 213-11 00439/44 Bd. 1+2, Aktenbeschr.: Staatsanwaltschaft Landgericht Strafsachen, Akte: Arnold Bernstein, Berthold Gumpel, Albert Wolff, Heinz Grunsfeld, Rudolph Meyer, Robert Goltschalck: Devisenvergehen Jan.-April 1937; See also Bernstein, Ein jüdischer Reeder, 257–271;The New York Times, December 15, 1937; The New York Times, January 8, 1938.

[44] Marius Böger (1869-?) was the former general director of the Deutsch Austral and Kosmos Line and joined the board of the Hamburg America Line after the merger in 1926. He was a well-established figure in the German shipping industry: between 1920 and 1925 he was president of the Zentralverein Deutscher Rheeder (Central Association of German Ship Owners) and from 1922 to 1926 president of the Verein Hamburger Rheeder (Association of Hamburg Ship Owners). On the merger, see Gerhard A. Ritter, “The Kaiser and his Ship-Owner: Albert Ballin, the HAPAG Shiping Company, and the Relationship between Industry and Politics in Imperial Germany and the Early Weimar Republic,” in Business in the Age of Extremes: Essays in Modern German and Austrian Economic History, ed. Hartmut Berghoff and Jürgen Kocka, Dieter Ziegler (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 38. On Böger’s personal details, see The New York Times, January 4, 1938; Leibniz Informationszentrum Wirtschaft: P20 Böger, Marius; 1869-: Tagesneuigkeiten: Direktor M. Böger, stellv. Vorsitzender des Direktoriums der Hapag. begeht am 30. August seinen 60. Geburtstag (Hamburgischer Correspondent und Hamburgische Börsen-Halle, 1929-08-28), available online (accessed August 14, 2014).

[45] 1937 Stephanie was sent to Chambéry/Switzerland and Reinhard/Ronald to Bucks/UK. In 1938, they immigrated to the U.S. and lived until the arrival of their parents at the house of Paul Kimmelstiel, their uncle, in Richmond, Virginia.

[46] After the war Bernstein became aware that the negotiations between the American partners and the Nazi authorities did not explicitly include him as a person, but were primarily focused on economic advantages for both sides, which undermined the trust in his personal business network. On the “Aryanization” of the Arnold Bernstein Schiffahrtsgesellschaft m.b.H., see Bajohr, ‚Arisierung‘ in Hamburg, 204–208. Unless otherwise noted, all 2013 USD values calculated with http://www.measuringworth/uscompare (accessed April 6, 2015).

[47] According to his own memoir, the ship arrived in New York on September 1, 1939. See The National Archives/Kew, Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and Successors: Outwards Passenger Lists BT27; Records of the Commercial, Companies, Labour, Railways and Statistic departments. UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890–1960, Class BT26; ADSM-B III A3180: My Life – Arnold Bernstein (Manuscript written 1962–64), 232.

[48] [..., denn mein einziges Kapital waren mein Name und mein Ruf, ...]. Arnold Bernstein, Ein jüdischer Reeder: Von Breslau über Hamburg nach New York, trans. Lore Jacobi and Ursula Feldkamp (Hamburg/Bremerhaven: Convent Verlag 2001), 317.

[49] Bernstein, Ein jüdischer Reeder, 321.

[50] ADSM-B III A3180: My Life – Arnold Bernstein (Manuscript written 1962–64), 226.

[51] In 1940, Bernstein was naturalized; Lilie Bernstein was naturalized one year later. See for Arnold Bernstein: SJM-B Sammlung Arnold Bernstein K 579 Mp. 5, 2007/35/36 Certificate of Naturalization of Arnold Bernstein, 09.07.1940, 1. See for Lilie Bernstein: SJM-B Sammlung Arnold Bernstein – Lillie Bernstein K 582, Mp. 6, 2007/35/362.001 Certificate of Naturalization, No. 4977446 für Lillie Bernstein, 08.12.1941, 1.

[52] For court documents on restitution issues in Hamburg, see StAHH Sign.: 213-13 WIK 111/1951 (7364) Aktenbeschr.: Rückerstattungssache: Landgericht Hamburg Wiedergutmachungskammer Akte: Bernstein, Arnold (Rechtsanwalt Dr. Stumme); StAHH Sign.: 213-13 WIK 177/1951 (7363) Aktenbeschr.: Rückerstattungssache Motorleicher: Landgericht Hamburg Wiedergutmachungskammer, Akte: Bernstein, Arnold (Rechtsanwalt Dr. Stumme); StAHH Sign.: 213-13 I/Z2660 (7361) Aktenbeschr.: Wiedergutmachungsamt beim Landgericht Hamburg, Hamburg 36, Akte: Bernstein, Arnold

[53] He claimed the financial assets and the insurance for the mentioned ship.

[54] U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, Bernstein v. Van Heyghen Freres Societe Anonyme 163 F.2d 246, 163 F.2d 246 (July 10, 1947), 1–10, here 2, (accessed August 15, 2014).

[55] Ibid., 9, (accessed August 15, 2014).

[56] Victor House, “The Law gone awry: Bernstein v. Van Heyghen Freres,” California Law Review 37.1 (1949),38–62, here 62.

[57] U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, Bernstein v. Nederlandsche-Amerikaansche 173 F.2D 71 (2D CIR. 1949) (MARCH 25, 1949), 1–7, (accessed August 14, 2014).

[58] The Department of State Bulletin 20 (1949), Nr. 514, 592. See Helmut Steinberger, “Bernstein v. Van Heyghen Frères Fall,” in Wörterbuch des Völkerrechts, ed. Hans J. Schloehauer and Herbert Krüber, Hermann Mosler, Ulrich Scheuner, Vol. 1: Aachner Kongress bis Hussar Fall (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1960), 189–190. See also The New York Times, November 8, 1946.

[59] Only in 1954 was the court case against van Heyghen Freres resumed. See Steinberger, “Bernstein v. Van Heyghen Frères Fall,” 190.

[60] The New York Times wrote about a total of U.S. $11 million. In addition, the final agreement was signed only in 1955. Bernstein,Ein jüdischer Reeder, 352-358. See also The New York Times, June 6, 1954; The New York Times, July 1, 1954; The New York Times, March 17, 1955.

[61] On the the difficulties of American merchant shipping, see René de la Pedraja, The Rise and Decline of U.S. Merchant Shipping in the Twentieth Century (New York: Twayne, 1992).

[62] Bernstein, Ein jüdischer Reeder, 370-372.

[63] Whether this was because of Bernstein’s decision or of missing interests by German partners could not be verified.

[64] Siegel, “Die Jungfernfahrt der ‘Tel Aviv’ nach Palästina im Jahre 1935,” 106–125.

[65] ADSM-B: III A3180: My Life – Arnold Bernstein (Manuscript written 1962–64), 271–276.

[66] In 1957, the newspaper The Herold even published an interview with Bernstein and publicized his story to the American public. See SJM-B Sammlung Arnold Bernstein K 581, Mp. 1, 2007/35/167, Zeitungsartikel der Sonntagsblatt Staats-Zeitung und Herold (24.11.1957): Gespräch mit Arnold Bernstein: "Einstiger Hamburger Gross-Reeder hat es auch in New York wieder geschafft,“ 1.

[67] ADSM-B: III A3180: My Life – Arnold Bernstein (Manuscript written 1962–64), 296.

[68] For an American Banner Line’s brochure, see SJM-B Sammlung Arnold Bernstein K 580, Mp. 6, 2007/35/73-76 Werbebroschüren der American Banner Lines, die neugegründete Linie von Arnold Bernstein in den U.S., mit dem Schiff der SS Atlantik.

[69] The SS Atlantic had in fact some limited first-class cabins, but the overall majority (some 95%) were installed as tourist-class cabins, (accessed September 29, 2013).

[70] American Banner Brochure, “The New SS Atlantic: The American Banner way to Europe with pleasure”, (accessed September 29, 2013).

[71] On June 6, 1958 The New York Times reported about the return of the SS Atlantic on its maiden voyage to New York and called it the “first U.S. ship for tourist class passenger trade.” The New York Times, June 6, 1958.

[72] Bernstein, Ein jüdischer Reeder, 416.

[73] Wolfgang König, Geschichte der Konsumgesellschaft (Stuttgart: Steiner, 2000), 315.

[74] Bernstein, Ein jüdischer Reeder, 424.

[75] Ibid, 276.

[76] The loss of his sister Rose and her daughter Anita were additional problematic issues for Bernstein. Rose Treitel (née Bernstein), born on December 10, 1891 in Breslau/Wroclaw, was deported from her city of birth on April 13, 1942 to the Ghetto of Izbica. Already on November 16, 1941, Anita Treitel, born on January 29, 1919 in Breslau/Wroclaw, had committed suicide in her hometown. On Rose Treitel, see (accessed October 1, 2013). On Anita Treitel, see (accessed October 1, 2013).

[77] ADSM-B: III A3180: My Life – Arnold Bernstein (Manuscript written 1962–64), 240.

[78] Bernstein, Ein jüdischer Reeder, 322–324.

[79] For Arnold Bernstein’s death certificate, see State of Florida, Florida Death Index 1877–1998: Florida: Florida Department of Health, Office of Vital Records, 1998; Name: Arnold Bernstein. See also SJM-B Sammlung Arnold Bernstein K 579 Mp. 1, 2007/35/24 Todesurkunde von Arnold Bernstein 06.03.1971.

[80] SJM-B Sammlung Arnold Bernstein K 579 Mp. 2, 2007/35/32 Grabrede von Dr. Eitel Proless, maschinell, 03.1971 für A. Bernstein, 2.

[81] SJM-B Sammlung Arnold Bernstein K 581, Mp. 4, 2007/276/50 Arnold Bernstein dead at 83; Built Atlantic Shipping fleets, 1.

[82] From January 31, 2008 to June 15, 2008 the Jewish Museum Berlin held an exhibition titled “Changing Tides – The Shipping Magnate Arnold Bernstein” honoring the life of the German/US-American-Jewish shipping tycoon. See (accessed August 13, 2014).

[83] ADSM-B: III A3180: My Life – Arnold Bernstein (Manuscript written 1962–64), 264.


Cite this Entry

APA Style

"Arnold Bernstein." (2018) In Immigrant Entrepreneurship, Retrieved February 24, 2018, from Immigrant Entrepreneurship:

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Siegel, Björn. "Arnold Bernstein." In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 5, edited by R. Daniel Wadhwani. German Historical Institute. Last modified June 22, 2015.

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Arnold Bernstein on the "Atlantic," ca. 1957-1959

  • Arnold and Lilli Bernstein on board of one of his ships, ca. 1921-1930
  • Cars were loaded onto a Arnold Bernstein ship with the help of a special lift, ca. 1920-1929
  • Arnold Bernstein with his fiancée Lilli Kimmelstiel, Hamburg 1918
  • Arnold Bernstein and his three sisters, Photography Studio Lilly, Breslau 1895

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