Henry Schloss

Baltimore Maritime Company Owner Was A Prominent Zionist Who Helped Outfit The Doomed 'Exodus' Ship

July 08, 2009|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Henry "Sonny" Schloss, president of a Southwest Baltimore manufacturing plant who was prominent in Baltimore Zionist circles and assisted in the refitting of the ship that became the doomed Exodus in 1947, died July 1 of complications from Alzheimer's disease at the Arden Courts assisted-living facility in Pikesville.

The longtime Pikesville resident was 86.

Mr. Schloss, who was born in Baltimore and raised in the 2200 block of E. Baltimore St. near Patterson Park, attended city public schools.

In 1939, he went to work for his father, Moses M. "Captain Mo" Schloss, who founded Industrial Sales Co., a marine salvage business located on Chase's Wharf, in 1908.

FOR THE RECORD - An obituary published for Henry "Sonny" Schloss misnamed the vessel that became the Exodus in 1947. It was the Old Bay Line steamer President Warfield.
The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

In the early days of the business, the elder Mr. Schloss would row out to sailing ships anchored in the harbor to buy their old equipment, mainly rope.

By the 1930s, the business had become one of the largest of its kind in the nation, as Moses Schloss filled his Thames Street warehouse with "tons of rope of various kinds and qualities, lifeboats, life preservers, oars, mattresses and the like," reported The Sun at the time of his death in 1971. "He sold the material to stevedores and shipyards, and much of the old rope to paper mills."

"When my father joined the business in 1937, there were only four or five employees and it was the Depression. He was also very impressed by his father's work ethic in keeping the business solvent," said Henry Schloss' son, Howard M. Schloss of Stevenson, who joined the company in 1974 and has been president and CEO since his father stepped down in 1996.

With the outbreak of World War II, Mr. Schloss enlisted in the Army in 1942 and was assigned to the Signal Corps.

After the Dachau concentration camp was liberated by the U.S. 5th Army in April 1945, Mr. Schloss, who had become fluent in French and German while in the service, was sent to the camp to interrogate survivors and photograph what he found there.

"He had copies of those photos and could never look at them without crying," his son said. "He finally destroyed them."

After being discharged from the Army in 1946, Mr. Schloss returned to Baltimore and his old job at the company's plant at Patapsco and Barney streets.

He joined his father, who was an ardent Zionist, in the movement that led to the conversion of the Old Bay Line steamer, Governor Warfield, into the Exodus in 1947. Loaded with 4,554 Holocaust survivors from Europe, the ship tried unsuccessfully to run the British blockade and land in what was then called Palestine.

In the ensuing action, British warships stopped and rammed the Exodus. Three passengers were killed and 145 injured. The refugees were removed from the vessel and returned to the German detention camps from which they had come.

"All this effort, all this agony, and they were going back to Germany," Mr. Schloss recalled in a 1997 article in The Sun commemorating the event.

During the postwar years, Industrial Sales Co., which later changed its name to INDUSCO, expanded its operations under Henry Schloss' leadership.

Mr. Schloss was also credited with introducing in 1954 a German splicing machine that replaced splicing wire cable by hand and could produce 10 cables in the time it took to make one using the former method.

After a 1960 fire destroyed its former facility, the company moved to its current plant on West Hamburg Street.

Mr. Schloss became president and CEO of the company in 1971 after the death of his father.

"He turned a three-man operation into a nationally respected firm during his tenure. He was an outgoing man and always forward-looking," his son said. "And like his father, he had a reputation for fairness and kindness, and he worked hard at keeping that family-owned-business feeling."

"Old Mr. Schloss was very committed to remaining in the state, and Henry carried out that commitment to the hilt and in doing so helped the port of Baltimore thrive," Helen Delich Bentley, the former congresswoman and chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission, who had been maritime editor of The Sun, said yesterday.

Mr. Schloss served as vice president and later president of the Baltimore Zionist District. He had been active in campaigns of the Associated Jewish Charities and Welfare Fund. He also had been an active member of the Baltimore Committee for State of Israel Bonds.

He was a Mason and a member of Oheb Shalom Congregation.

"Henry was a gentleman, a very strong family man and a top-flight citizen," said retired Baltimore Circuit Judge Edgar P. Silver. "He was very proud of his heritage and Judaism."

He enjoyed boating and golf, and spent winters at a second home in Palm Beach.

His wife of 66 years, the former Bernice Roseman, died this year.

Services for Mr. Schloss were Friday.

Also surviving are two daughters, Emily Singer of Owings Mills and Leslie Goldman of Pikesville; nine grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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