Ballin, Albert

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BALLIN, ALBERT (1857–1918), German shipping magnate. He was the 13th child of a Danish Jew who settled about 1830 in Hamburg, where he opened a wool-dyeing shop. Later his father established an agency for shipping immigrants, which young Ballin expanded after his father's death. During the large-scale emigration of the 1880s, Ballin, as chief passenger agent for the English Carr Line, adapted the company's vessels for the transportation of steerage passengers. After keen competition with Hapag (the Hamburg–America Line), Germany's leading shipping line, the two companies merged in 1886; Ballin became head of the passenger department and in 1899 he started to lead the company. Hapag rapidly grew into one of the world's foremost shipping lines. This success was due mainly to Ballin's foresight and his setting of new standards of speed and comfort. His capacity for negotiation and compromise enabled him to form the first trans-Atlantic shipping conference, called the North-Atlantic Steamship Lines Association. In 1901 he established the International Mercantile Marine Company, in cooperation with Morgan's shipping interests. Kaiser William ii frequently turned to him for counsel on economic matters. Ballin became a behind-the-scenes negotiator. He was one of the few Jews, like Emil *Rathenau and Walther *Rathenau, who could get close to the antisemitic emperor. As an unbaptized Jew he married a Protestant woman. Not being close to the Jewish community of Hamburg he followed the ideal of acculturation as a Jew. Before World War i he failed in his efforts, together with Sir Ernest *Cassel, to create the basis for German-British agreement on naval armaments. In 1914, Ballin undertook the organization of food supplies for the blockaded Reich and set up its central purchasing agency. During the war he remained a moderate in his ideas about "Mitteleuropa" and his plans concerning possible territorial gains by the Reich. These views conflicted with those of the military and reduced his influence with the Kaiser around 1917. In 1918 Ballin was entrusted with negotiations for an armistice and peace preparations. On Nov. 9, revolution broke out in Germany. Kaiser William ii fled the country and Ballin – in despair over the collapse of his company and the loss of the monarchy that he admired – presumably committed suicide.


P.F. Stubmann, Ballin: Leben und Werk eines deutschen Reeders (1926, 19272, abr. 1957, 19603); L. Cecil, Albert Ballin: Business and Politics in Imperial Germany 18881918 (1967); E. Rosenbaum, Albert Ballin: A Note on the Style of his Economic and Political Activities, in: ylbi, 3 (1958), 257–99. Miscellany ("…iii. A Postscript to the Essay on Albert Ballin," in: ylbi 4 (1959), 267–70; H. Tramer, "Die Hamburger, Kaiserjuden," in: Bulletin des Leo Baeck Instituts, 3 (1960), 177–89; R. Hauschild-Thiessen, "Albert Ballin," in: G. Ahrens et al. (eds.), Die Reeder: Laeisz. Ballin (1989), 34–68; S. Wiborg, Albert Ballin, (2000); E. Straub, Albert Ballin: Der Reeder des Kaisers (2001); C. Schoelzel, Albert Ballin: "Ein Schiffsherr ist's … ein Kaiser neigt sich vor dem jüdischen Mann…" (2004).

[Joachim O. Ronall /

Christian Schoelzel (2nd ed.)]

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Ballin, Albert

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