Bernstein, Arnold

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BERNSTEIN, ARNOLD (1888–1971), German shipbuilder. Born in Breslau, Germany, Bernstein served in the German Army during World War i and was awarded the Iron Cross. After the war he began a small shipping business. His first successful venture came as a result of his construction of ships, called "floating garages," on which uncrated automobiles could be shipped without risk of damage. The process involved a substantial saving in automobile transportation, and at one time his ships carried more than half the automobiles exported from America to Europe. With the sharp decline in tourism in the difficult economic period of the early 1930s, Bernstein converted his ships into combined freight-passenger vessels and introduced one-class tourist cabins. He bought the Red Star Line with the profits from this venture. Shortly thereafter he established the Palestine Shipping Company, which included the Tel Aviv, the first ship fully manned by a Jewish crew. After difficult negotiations with the Nazi government and in cooperation with Zionist organizations Bernstein was able to rescue many Jewish emigrants from Germany to Ereẓ Israel on his ships beginning from 1935. During a visit to Germany in 1937 he was arrested by the Nazis on the charge that he had violated currency regulations. A prison sentence and a fine of $400,000 were imposed on him. The Holland-America Line gained control of all his ships in return for payment of the fine, except those belonging to the Palestine Shipping Company. Some months later the latter went into bankruptcy. Upon Bernstein's ransom in 1939 he moved to New York where he organized the Arnold Bernstein Shipping Company and in the 1950s, the Atlantic Banner Line. This failed because it could not meet the competition of the airlines. In 2001, his autobiography was published posthumously in German translation (Von Breslau ueber Hamburg nach New York).


Biographisches Handbuch der deutschsprachigen Emigration nach 1933, 1 (1999), 59. add. bibliography: A. Kludas, Geschichte der deutschen Passagierschiffahrt, 5 (1990), 100–9.