The Work of Albert Ballin: a Modern Paradox
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The Work of Albert Ballin: a Modern Paradox

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It is the irony of fate that one of the most vital nerves of Germany’s economic life most disastrously hit by the Jewish boycott was built up largely by the efforts of a Jew. I am referring to Germany’s mercantile fleet, in the history of which the name of Albert Ballin, the director general of the Hamburg-American Line, is the most outstanding. Ballin, the Jew and friend of the Kaiser, is the man whose genius contributed greatly to what German shipping is in our times. Her merchant marine in Germany’s commerce plays a vastly more important role than American shipping for our trade. The pride the Germans take in their shipping industry borders on veneration. The average New Yorker pays little attention to and is perhaps not even conscious of the fact that his port is the busiest in the world. Not so in Germany. In its most important harbors, Hamburg and Bremen, everything radiates the life breath of ships and maritime trade.

However, no longer’ is it what it was before the advent of Hitler and the Nazi propensity for “Coordination” including shipping. The boycott has put Germany’s erstwhile pride into a deplorable condition, although the Germans are not too rash to admit this. Yet, empty cabins on German crack liners and vacant cargo-ships speak volumes, and any comment would be meaningless. Even the kosher kitchens which are ready to serve foods prepared according to the Jewish dietary laws do not seem to be much of an inducement to prospective Jewish passengers.


Thousands and thousands of American Jews have made use of the services of German ships. Thousands have used them for their passage from their old homes to these shores. Yet, the name of Albert Ballin has probably never struck their ears, although in Germany it is a byword.

In 1886 Albert Ballin entered the Hamburg-American line, at which time the company was a completely run down affair. Ballin was to put it into shape and rebuild it into power in the maritime trade. He was just the man for this job. At that period, immigration from Western Europe began to assume immense proportions and this traffic was handled in the main by English lines. The Germans were eager to capture this trade from the British. With unequalled zeal, Ballin proceeded with the reorganization of his line. He established an efficient organization or agencies in Germany and in important foreign cities. Modernized combination passenger and cargo ships were put into service and regular routes to and between foreign ports were established. Large dormitories for emigrants, mainly Jews, from Eastern Europe going to the United States, were built in Hamburg. Ballin originated the idea of excursions, going from New York to the Mediterranean and then to all parts of the world.


Ballin’s line, under his shrewd leadership made enormous profits during the Boer War, transporting English troops to South Africa and later in the Russian-Japanese War, selling large amounts of tonnage to the Russian government and transporting coal for the Russians. The company grew, after the entrance of Ballin, to enormous proportions in ships and profits under the leadership of this man. Shortly before the War, it added to its possessions such ships as the giant liners now known as the Leviathan, Majestic and Berengaria, The recovery of the German merchant marine after the war is due to no small extent to the marvelous organization established by Ballin, which the Allies could not very well take away from the Germans.

The Kaiser honorod Ballin with his friendship and took a great interest in his work. He visited his Jewish friend many times at his villa in Hamburg where they dined together.

The day of the German Revolution in November, 1918, Ballin, died, as it is said, by his own hand, because his Imperial friend blamed him for the defeat of Germany in the war. Ballin strenuously opposed the submarine warfare. His end may have been tragic but it spared him the sight of his life work boycotted by his Jewish brethren luc to their persecution by the present regime in his Fatherland.

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