Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Airship President - Part 4

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            Once Eckener and his government restored the peace, it was time to move forward. Work on the Autobahn and the newly instituted Deutschebahn railway network intensified. Eckener expanded the “Build for the Future” program to include the construction of airports in Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, and Munich, complete with Zeppelin sheds. After much consideration, Eckener had Zeppelin nationalized to provide additional support. In addition to this, state funding for technological development increased. New factories were built, new shops were opening, and Germany was finally pulling out of the Depression by mid 1934, though full recovery wouldn’t be achieved until the end of the decade.
            As Germany’s internal affairs began to stabilize, Eckener finally had the time to focus on his foreign affairs promises that he’d made in the ’32 election. Starting in France, then on to Britain and then the United States, Eckener went out and met with each Allied leader to discuss the renegotiation of the Versailles Treaty and the establishment of better relations between those countries and Germany.
- Liebermann, Dr. William. The Zeppelin President."Chapter 4: The New Versailles and the New Germany (1934-1936)” Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003

BERLIN, JUNE 3- President Eckener is in Paris today for a four day meeting with the French Government on the start of a summer Foreign Tour. The primary reason for his three country tour which will also include the United Kingdom and the United States is to convince the allied powers to renegotiate the infamous Versailles Treaty that ended the Great War in 1919 and caused a lot of hardships for the German people.  Before he left the Berlin Templehof Airport on the Graf Zeppelin bound for Paris, President Eckener stated that “I am confident that the recent progress we as a people have made in moving away from radicalism and towards democracy will go a long way towards convincing the old Great War allies to resettle the Versailles Treaty on terms more favorable to Germany.”
            Eckener’s government in Berlin stated that they hope to get Germany’s war debt reduced if not totally forgiven. In addition, they want the military restrictions removed in order to provide better defense for the country. There is also talk of removing the “War Guilt” clause from the treaty. Detractors at home and abroad say that Eckener is wasting his time and that France in particular will not concede any of Germany’s requests.
“Eckener Goes Abroad,” Frankfurter Zeitung, June 4, 1934.

June 9, 1934- Well, Paris went better than expected. Taking the Graf over the Channel now, and taking with us promises from the French agreeing to meet with at Versailles with the other allies to discuss our proposal, and some of the French Ministers were even favorable to some of our requests. This fills me with much needed confidence.  France was our biggest hurdle to overcome.
- From the personal diary of President Hugo Eckener “Personal Documents of President Eckener.” The Zeppelin Institute, Friedrichshafen.

LONDON, JUNE 10- After a successful trip to Paris, German President Hugo Eckener has arrived in London to meet with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to discuss the possibility of renegotiating the Versailles Treaty. His arrival has sparked mixed emotions among Londoners. While Eckener remains very popular among the British public, due in large part to his work with the Zeppelins, many in this country are weary of altering the Versailles Treaty and removing the ‘safety restrictions’ placed on Germany after the Great War.
            Regardless of their political worries, people all over the city stopped what they were doing to stare up in the sky as Eckener’s airship, the Graf Zeppelin, flew overhead, and several hundred people gathered outside the city to see it land.
“German Chancellor Lands in London,” The Times (London), June 11, 1934

WASHINTON, JUNE 18- Making a grand appearance in Washington, German President Hugo Eckener arrived in the nation’s capital this afternoon onboard the German airship Graf Zeppelin, which Eckener made famous in 1929 during his round-the-world flight. Eckener has come to the United States as the third and final stop in a special foreign tour aimed at convincing the Great War allies to rewrite the Treaty of Versailles. Thus far, the German leader has met nothing but success, with both Britain and France agreeing to meet sometime this year in Versailles to discuss the old treaty and the requests now being made by the German government. It is expected that President Roosevelt will agree as well, though no official word has yet been made by the President or by White House staff.
-“Eckener and the Graf Land in Washington,” The Washington Post, June 19, 1934.

June 22, 1934- Now headed back to Germany, and we couldn’t have had a better trip. President Roosevelt was a gracious host, and was very supportive of our cause and stated that the U.S. would agree to a meeting at Versailles. I’ve asked Konrad to get to work drafting the details, and he’ll probably be headed back to Paris once we are back in Europe to work everything out with his French counterpart.
            There will be a lot to do when we arrive back in Berlin, so I am trying to rest on our flight home. The final submissions will be in for the new flag that will be introduced soon. There are two lead designs that have the biggest following, in addition to the SDP-dominated crowd in support of keeping the flag as is. One group wants the old imperial flag restored, and the other wants to add the Iron Cross to the current flag.  I myself support the latter, but it is up to the Flag Committee within the Reichstag to decide. In addition to that, Luftschiffbau Zeppelin is going to be launching the LZ-129 on July 1. I’m so excited for the launch of this ship. The crash of the British R101 weighed heavily on my mind.  Some members of the engineering team even suggested that the LZ-129 be redesigned to us helium instead of hydrogen!  But the loss of life was minimal and the R101 was quite badly designed to begin with and was rushed into service to soon.  Hydrogen had nothing to do with her crash, it is perfectly safe.  Using helium simply is not economic.  The LZ-129 should carry around 90 to 100 passengers on a normal flight, and has the most luxurious amenities ever to be put into an airship.
- From the personal diary of President Hugo Eckener “Personal Documents of President Eckener.” The Zeppelin Institute, Friedrichshafen.

FRANKFURT, JULY 1- Today was an exciting day for the citizens of Frankfurt, as Deutsche Zeppelin launched the largest airship ever built at the Rheine-Main Air Station. President Eckener was in attendance as the giant vessel was pulled from the new Hangar 1 at RMAS. The ship, christened the Hindenburg in honor of Eckener’s predecessor, is 278 meters (910 feet) long and can carry 100 passengers when fully booked. The President stated at the ceremony that “this magnificent ship represents the height of modern aviation technology, and the height of German know-how. All Germans should be proud of this ship and the advances that were made just to build her.”
            The ships passenger flights are to start on August 1, with the inaugural flight to the United States.
-“Newest Zeppelin Launched,” Frankfurter Zeitung, July 2, 1934

BERLIN, JULY 10- The German government announced today that as of August 1, the current flag of Germany would no longer be used, being replaced by a new flag that was chosen by the Reichstag yesterday. The new flag will be basically the same as the current red-black-gold flag, but will now have the Germanic Iron Cross in the center, a nod to the old imperial times and a compromise with the more conservative members of German society.
-“Germans Adopt New Flag,” The Times (London), July 11, 1934.

LAKEHURST, NJ, AUG 3- The newest German airship, the 910 foot LZ-129 Hindenburg, arrived at the Naval Air Station at Lakehurst, New Jersey, at 6:00 this afternoon after its first successful trans-Atlantic crossing. The 86 passengers on boards were treated to the amazing sights of the New England seaboard earlier today, flying first over Boston and then New York, where the people stopped what they were doing to watch the floating giant fly overhead. On board the craft was German Foreign Minister Konrad Adenauer, who is in the United States to work out final details for the upcoming Versailles Conference, which is now scheduled for March 3 of 1935.
            Piloting the airship was Captain Ernst Lehmann, who has headed the German Zeppelin Company since 1932, when then company head Hugo Eckener was elected President of Germany. The Hindenburg will return to Germany in a week, and in the meantime, Captain Lehmann will be in Akron, Ohio, meeting with officials at the Goodyear Company, discussing the possibility of working on an American passenger airship. Lehmann told reports that “it is essential for America to have an operating airship service if our own service is to do well. America and Germany need one another in order for there to be a fully functional airship service in the world.”
-“New Zep Arrives!” The New York Times, August 4, 1934.

August 27, 1934- The Hindenburg has performed better than hoped, and the public love the new ship. Ernst called me this morning and told me that DELAG was already planning out next year’s flying schedule, so that they could start taking reservations for 1935. It’s all very exciting.
            It’s now officially election season. The Reichstag elections are set for November 10, and it shall be interested.  A new party is now on the scene, the Monarchist Party, and they are growing in popularity. They want to see a return of the Hohenzollern Monarchy, and have a lot of support in the military. Yesterday Adenauer asked me if they worried me.  I told him no.  It’s not that I necessarily agree with them, but I could see why the people would support them. No surprise, Vogel can’t stand them. And he’s worried that they might upset the power balance in the Reichstag, and that they SDP will loose their control over the Reichstag. I guess we will just have to wait and see.
- From the personal diary of President Hugo Eckener “Personal Documents of President Eckener.” The Zeppelin Institute, Friedrichshafen.

BERLIN, NOV 11- The Social Democrats are still the largest party in the German Reichstag, but they no longer hold such a large edge over the other parties. The SDP went from 245 seats down to 179 seats.  The Centre Party increased from 119 seats to 143 seats. And the new Monarchist Party received 77 seats in the new Reichstag.  There is now a clear shift in power and in popular opinion going on in Germany.
            Our political analysts in Berlin believe that the reason the SDP had such a large number of seats after the 1932 election was due to solely to the assassination of Chancellor Otto Wels. People left en mass from the right to either the Center or the Left.  Now it seems that the pendulum is starting to head back to the Right. Now that the Nazis are out of the picture, the more conservative parties are gaining their appeal once again amongst average Germans.
            There is now talk in amongst those in the government that Chancellor Vogel may have to step down.  It just depends on whether the Centre party will continue support of the SDP politician or if they will work with the Monarchists and have Adenauer return to that office.
-“SDP Looses Edge in Reichstag Elections,” Frankfurter Zeitung, November 12, 1934

            After the 1934 election, the SDP would be on the downward slope for decades. On November 27, the Reichstag voted to pull their support of Chancellor Vogel, with the Centre Party siding with the Monarchists. On December 1, 1934, Konrad Adenauer again became Chancellor of Germany. Adenauer and his coalition of Centrists and Monarchists would shape Germany for the next several years.
            Vogel became Foreign Minister, and he would head up the preparations for the Versailles Conference in 1935. The Conference’s success is largely credited to him, even more so than Eckener. On March 3, 1935, Eckener, accompanied by both Adenauer and Vogel, met with British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, French President Albert Lebrun and Prime Minister Pierre Étienne Flandin, and U.S. Vice President Garner and Secretary of State Cordell Hull. Although the press and politicians from all the countries had their doubts, the 10 day meeting was an overall success for the Germans. All remaining war debt for all parties was forgiven, in an effort to let everyone move forward. In addition, the US and UK agreed to start working with the Germans in the development of airships for worldwide service. Germany agreed to send technicians to the US and the UK to help further along the American and British programs. And on the touchy subject of the war guilt, those present agreed to drop that from the new treaty completely. And, with slowly growing fears of the Soviet Union, the powers present agreed to allow Germany to gradually rearm, with all restrictions to be fully lifted by 1937.
            On March 14, 1934, the New Versailles Treaty was signed, marking the beginning of a new era for Germany and all of Europe.
- Liebermann, Dr. William. The Zeppelin President."Chapter 4: The New Versailles and the New Germany (1934-1936)” Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003

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