Albert Ballin reinvented the ocean liner, transforming a dull and dirty form of transportation into a fleet of floating palaces that awed and pampered passengers.
The pioneering general manager of Hamburg Atlantic Line (HAPAG), was born on 15 August 1857 (in Hamburg, of course). Ballin was responsible many important innovations, including cruises (in the modern sense of the term), eye-popping interior decor, specialty restaurants and the decent treatment of steerage passengers.
Ballin literally lived for his ocean liners. It could also be said that he died for them, too. During the closing days of World War I, depressed by the prospect of a future without a significant ocean liner remaining in the entire HAPAG fleet (most were sunk or awarded to the victors as war reparations) Ballin took his own life on 9 November 1918. He was 61.
In 1922, HAPAG celebrated the life of its beloved former leader by naming a new liner after him. The 20,815 GRT Albert Ballin was 602.4 feet long and carried 1,650 passengers. She primarily sailed a Hamburg-New York route.
In 1935 the Nazis, in a typically despicable move, renamed the ship Hansa. The reason: Ballin was Jewish.
The liner hit a mine and was wrecked during the closing days of World War II. In 1949, she was refloated and refitted by the Soviets. Renamed Sovetsky Soyuz, she operated out of Vladivostok, serving Far Eastern ports until 1981 when she was scrapped.
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