Moritz Feibusch and the Hindenburg
On Thursday, May 6th, 1937, the German Zeppelin LZ 129 Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed as it tried to dock at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Of the 97 people on board, 35 of them lost their lives in the disaster. Moritz Feibusch, aged 57, was one of the victims.

Feibusch was a food broker, who traveled the world importing foreign delicacies. He, and his wife Mignon, lived near Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Feibusch was born on April 24, 1880, in the village of Rogasen, Poland. He was the second-oldest of fourteen children.

In 1897, Moritz emigrated to the United States, an apprentice tailor. He became a naturalized citizen in 1900, but returned to Germany in 1906, following the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco. He took up lodgings with some of his brothers in Berlin, but remained only two years before returning to San Francisco and taking a job with Praeger's Dry Goods, eventually becoming the company's buyer.

In 1911, Moritz married Mignon Schocken, who was an accomplished violinist and composer, and who worked with the San Francisco Symphony. She was a Christian Scientist, and thus, in 1928, when she and Moritz traveled to Germany for surgery for a brain tumor she has been suffering from, she abruptly refused the operation and she and Moritz returned to the United States. Her condition continued to worsen until 1934, when she and Moritz returned to Germany for the operation. Unfortunately, it was too late, and Mignon passed away a few weeks following surgery.

Throughout the 1920's, Moritz Feibusch found his business ventures becoming more successful. In 1932, he gained a 50% share of stock in Calbear Canneries and traveled abroad to directly manage the buying and selling for Calbear. By 1933, political tensions were increasing in Germany, and Adolf Hitler became Chancellor that January. Because of Feibusch's business connections and American citizenship, Feibusch was able to help his family members escape Germany.

In 1937, during his annual trip to Europe, Feibusch learned of the Hindenburg and its trans-Atlantic flight. As an early birthday present to himself, he decided to return home via Zeppelin, which would be faster and more luxurious.

Moritz was one of two Jewish passengers on the Hindenburg. He reportedly bore some anti-semitism while onboard, having been seated at meals away from other passengers and with the only other Jewish passenger, Mr. William Leuchtenberg.

Hindenburg historian Patrick Russell suggests that, at the time of the explosion, Moritz Feibusch was standing on the starboard side of the airship, near a window, in the A-deck or near the B-deck passenger cabins. As a result, he was unable to escape the inferno. His body was identified several days later, his movie camera under his body (the camera has since gone missing).

These documents were brought to the Magnes by Aaron Feibusch in 1970 and placed in storage. They were rediscovered by Perian Sully and Francesco Spagnolo whilst inventorying unmarked storage boxes. They were scanned, catalogued, and uploaded by Perian. She would like to extend her deep gratitude to Patrick Russell, for his scholarship and communication about Mr. Feibusch. His website, Faces of the Hindenburg, was an invaluable resource for understanding the life of Moritz Feibusch and the biographical information presented here was learned from Mr. Russell.

To read more about the life of Moritz Feibusch, please visit Moritz Feibusch: Faces of the Hindenburg. To learn about the Hindenburg itself, www.airships.net/hindenburg offers a comprehensive look at the design and structure of the Zeppelin.

Please visit the Magnes Collections Online. These materials and the rest of the Western Jewish History Archives is housed at the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.

(WJHC 1970.018 AR1)
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