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Showcase Exhibition

"Changing Tides - The Shipping Magnate Arnold Bernstein"

Arnold Bernstein on the passenger liner "Atlantic" from the American Banner Lines, around 1957-59
© Jewish Museum Berlin, donation from Ronald Barnes

The exhibition is devoted to the life and work of the shipowner from Hamburg, Arnold Bernstein, whose bequest was given to the Jewish Museum Berlin last year.

Born in Breslau in 1888, Arnold Bernstein left the town after his father's company was dissolved and went to Hamburg. He founded his first shipping company in 1919. Ingenuity and a good head for business stood the innovative entrepreneur in good stead, and the "Arnold Bernstein Line" soon became one of the leading privately-owned shipping companies in Germany. He revolutionized the transport of cars between the USA and Europe by offering a lower cost alternative that dispensed of the wooden crates used for car transport up to then. When the Great Depression diminished the profits of the "floating garages" at the end of the 20s, Bernstein converted his freight carriers into passenger ships. Instead of the usual choice of three classes, his ships had only one tourist class. In just a few years, he had established three flourishing passenger routes between Europe and the USA and Palestine.

His exemplary career was interrupted suddenly when the Nazis arrested him for alleged breach of German foreign exchange regulations. Following a lawsuit, he was forced to hand over his company and was imprisoned. Shortly before the Second World War began, he managed to emigrate to the USA where he started anew but was not able to replicate his earlier successes. He died at the age of 83 in Palm Beach, Florida in 1971.


31 January to 15 June 2008


Libeskind Building, Rafael Roth Learning Center, basement


with the ticket for the permanent exhibition

The exhibition follows the life story of the ship owner chronologically. Remarkable exhibits are a model ship of Arnold Bernstein's first ship from 1929 with which he was presented on the 10th anniversary of his company, and a painting of the ship "Tel Aviv" – which sailed the Triest-Haifa route established by his shipping company for Jewish emigration – by the maritime painter Eduard Edler. Certificates, letters, advertising brochures, menus, and passenger lists from the shipping company, the deck plans of two passenger ships, a cap tally from one of the ships, and numerous photographs from Arnold Bernstein's bequest are exhibited.

We wish to thank Ronald Barnes and his daughter Susan Barnes, son and granddaughter of Arnold Bernstein, for their generous donation of materials.

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