Nazi ship docked here in 1936

Remember When

September 29, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

The controversial 10-day visit to Baltimore in April 1936 of the German light cruiser Emden with 600 Nazi naval trainees aboard resulted in demonstrations as well as the flying of swastikas over the Port of Baltimore and inside City Hall.

The Emden's arrival was of such interest that thousands jammed the waterfront to see and tour the 494-foot long vessel, which was docked at Recreation Pier at the foot of Broadway in Fells Point.

Delegations opposed to the visit demanded that Gov. Harry W. Nice and Mayor Howard W. Jackson not receive or hold any public receptions for the visiting Nazis.

Baltimore Rabbi Edward I. Israel -- who headed a group of objectors including the League Against War and Fascism, American Jewish Congress, Baltimore Federation of Labor, the People's Unemployment League and several members of the Johns Hopkins University faculty -- said that "any recognition of the visit of the German vessel would be offensive to large numbers of Baltimoreans."

Israel "declared that the Nazi regime had moved the world nearer to war and added that all believers in democracy have been profoundly shocked and disturbed by the Nazi regime of suppression and terrorism," reported The Evening Sun.

City Councilman Sydney R. Traub wired Nice, urging him to ask the State Department to cancel permission for the ship to come to Baltimore.

In response, Jackson said, "I have frequently stated my personal opposition to the principles and actions of the Nazi Government, but I do not believe I have any right to let my views interfere with the proper performance of my duty as the Mayor of Baltimore."

On April 20, while steaming up the Chesapeake, the Emden stopped and anchored five miles off Chesapeake Beach, in order to celebrate Adolf Hitler's birthday.

"On the eve of their visit to Baltimore, the entire personnel of the Emden -- 624 officers and men -- stood in formation today as Capt. Hans Bachman delivered an appropriate address in observance of the birthday of Adolf Hitler," reported The Sun.

"At the conclusion of the ceremonies all those present shouted 'Heil Hitler' three times, while their arms were extended in the Nazi salute," reported the newspaper.

The next morning, as the ship steamed past Fort McHenry on its way to docking, a courtesy salute was fired.

As crowds of the curious began gathering, Police Commissioner Charles D. Gaither worried about potential trouble and ordered policemen to work 12-hour shifts.

On April 23, some 2,000 anti-Nazis gathered, carrying signs that read, "We're with the German People Against Hitler," "Don't Let it Happen Here," and "Congratulations on Murdering Labor Leaders, Persecuting Minorities and Burning Books."

Demonstrators shouted derogatory remarks to the ship's crew as they boarded streetcars, and police moved in to calm the crowd. In the resulting melee, one Baltimorean was arrested after a shoving match broke out.

Official visits were exchanged between Jackson and Nice and ** Bachman aboard ship and in City Hall.

Crew members were entertained by the city's German-American organizations, including the German Sports Club, which played the Emden's soccer team to a 4-4 tie at Gwynn Oak Park.

The captain and his officers were feted at the Emerson Hotel and later at a ball at the Alcazar. Other visits were made to the Naval Academy and Washington.

On May 2, while the ship's band played "Deutschland uber Alles," "Muss Ich Denn" and finally "Anchors Aweigh," the Emden slowly moved down the harbor.

"We leave Baltimore with the sincere wish," said Bachman, "that our German-American friends and all the people of Baltimore may look forward to a happy future."

While praising the Emden's crew for its courteousness, a correspondent wrote in The Evening Sun: "Officially and as a community the city lived up to its reputation as a hospitable and tolerant place. It would be less than just not to add that the Jewish community here behaved during what was to them a trying period, with signal dignity and restraint."

During World War II, the Emden was heavily damaged during an Allied raid on Oslo, Norway, and, at war's end, was found sunk at Kiel in northwest Germany.

Pub Date: 9/29/96

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