Arnold Bernstein

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Arnold Bernstein (23 January 1888 in Breslau - 1971, Palm Beach, Florida) was a German-American shipowner and pioneer of transatlantic car transport, which he revolutionised since he was transporting cars without boxing them up in wooden crates as was usual before and was thus able to reduce freight rates.[1] When the 1929 Great Depression made the use of 'swimming garages' impractical, Bernstein then turned his cargo ships into passenger ships, with just one travel class (which he called tourist class) rather than the three that were usual. One of the first Jewish 'merchant princes', he was one of the victims of the Nazi appropriation policies.


The eldest son of the Jewish businessman Max Bernstein and his wife Franziska Altmann, he fought in the German artillery during the First World War, fought in battles at Noyon, Ypern, and at the Somme, and was awarded the Iron Cross first class.[2]

Bernstein was tried in 1937 and imprisoned on charges of foreign exchange offenses, but released in 1939. At the time of his arrest, he was the owner of one of the largest Jewish businesses in Germany. After making a payment of $30,000 in U.S. currency, he was allowed to leave Germany for Holland. The funds were raised by friends, who withheld payment until Bernstein arrived at the border crossing. Bernstein and his wife Lilli left Europe for New York aboard the SS Nieuw Amsterdam at Southampton on August 25, 1939, and arrived in New York on September 1, the day that Germany invaded Poland. On board were 1286 passengers, about 150 more than normal capacity. The Nieuw Amsterdam, a ship owned by the Holland America Line, was called the "first war refugee" ship, since it was the first to take on passengers in excess of capacity because of the fear of war breaking out.[3]

In 1940 he founded the Arnold Bernstein Steamship Corporation in New York. In 1945, Bernstein sued in US District Court for the recovery of his two shipping lines, arguing that he had been forced under threat of death to sign them over to the Nazi government. Some ships from the Arnold Bernstein Line had been taken over by the Allies, but the Red Star Line had been sold to the Holland America Line. The two lines were valued at $4,800,000.[4] In 1957, Bernstein founded the American Banner Lines in New York for passenger transport, but in 1959, Bernstein retired from business. He spent the last years of his life in Florida.


Under German Flag

  • Max, Freighter
  • Keilberg, Freighter
  • Betty, Tugboat
  • Odin, Freighter
  • Aegir, Freighter
  • Frithjof, Freighter
  • Max Bernstein, Freighter
  • Falkenstein, Freighter
  • Johanna, Freighter
  • Charlotte, Lighter
  • Schleswig-Holstein, Freighter
  • Eberstein, Freighter
  • Hohenstein, Freighter, renamed the Tel Aviv in 1935
  • Gerolstein, Freighter & Passenger Ship
  • Königstein, Freighter & Passenger Ship
  • Ilsenstein, Freighter & Passenger Ship
  • Lichtenstein, Freighter
  • Lahnstein, Freighter
  • Traunstein, Freighter
  • Drachenstein, Freighter
  • Gravenstein, Freighter
  • Pennland, Freighter & Passenger Ship
  • Westernland, Freighter & Passenger Ship

Under non-German flag

  • Panamanian, Freighter
  • Orbis, Freighter
  • Continental, Passenger Ship
  • Europa, Passenger Ship
  • Silver Star, Passenger Ship
  • Atlantic, Passenger Ship


  1. ^
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "Times Wide World (1939, Sep 2). Fleeing Tourists Jam Arriving Ship: Nieuw Amsterdam Here With 1,286 Passengers. New York Times". 
  4. ^ "Our Staff Correspondents (1945, Jun 5). Return of Ships Sought; Claim of Forced Sale. Sydney Morning Herald". 

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