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Ship disaster 109 years ago: A Bad Honnef man on the Titanic

Ship disaster 109 years ago : A Bad Honnef man on the Titanic

On April 14, 1912, the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage to New York. Alfred Nourney from Bad Honnef was also on board. The new book on the disaster by Jens Ostrowski reveals what became of him.

It is 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912, and a sailor on the most modern passenger ship of the time sounds the alarm. Too late. There is a collision with a 20-meter-high iceberg. The sinking of the Titanic exactly 109 years ago still moves people today - twelve films alone have been made about this maritime disaster in which 1496 people lost their lives. There are more than 3000 books about the maiden voyage of this ship of the British shipping company White Star Line. Jens Ostrowski now contributes another exciting story about the luxury liner that sank 300 nautical miles southeast of Newfoundland.

The special feature: Under the title "The Titanic was their fate," the journalist from Dortmund writes of the 22 German passengers and crew members out of a total of 2208 in his book. "There has not been much to read about them so far," says the author. Among his protagonists is Alfred Nourney, who lived for years in Bad Honnef and was buried in the Melaten Cemetery in his hometown of Cologne in 1972. Nourney was one of the 712 survivors of the disaster.

German passengers were hardly reported on

Alfred Nourney was one of the few German passengers reported on, Ostrowski noted, "but not particularly in depth." He therefore did extensive research, reading press reports, watching television interviews with Nourney, and while gathering facts, he also spoke with the daughter of Titanic passenger Nourney, who lives in Bad Honnef. "Frequently, false information was taken provided without being asked - by journalists or even by eyewitnesses themselves," Ostrowski said. "Many statements are simply not true."

For example, it was told that Alfred Nourney and also the steward Alfred Theissinger had swum for their lives in the cold water. Ostrowski: "That's not true. They got into a lifeboat." But they can't be blamed for climbing into the boats as men, the author asserts. "For when their boats were launched, hardly anyone believed the Titanic was sinking; so the boats were only half occupied. The men had nothing to be ashamed of in their rescue."

Nourney did not always tell the truth

Jens Ostrowski writes in his exciting piece, "In order not to look like a coward in public, when so many women and children went down with the ocean liner, Nourney invented an alternative story." Thus he told his Cologne friend Ernst Groll on a postcard a few days after the drama that he had swum for his life. Ostrowski: "The laws of nature alone made that impossible. The chances of survival in the ice-cold ocean at that time were a few minutes." Instead, the twenty-year-old was in boat number seven, the first to touch down on the ocean's surface. Nourney did not hide that fact later, but he still portrayed his rescue very dramatically.

For example, in a full-page article in the Honnefer Volkszeitung in 1952, Nourney also described the moment when he entered the boat to the editor and later mayor of Bad Honnef, Franz Josef Kayser: „The crowd is unstoppable. This is chaos. The unrestrained current sweeps me away. I can cling to the third boat. One pull and I'm lying inside. Women's voices shrill. Children crying. Moaning, roaring, howling. The crowd is blinded by fear ...". Alfred Nourney also said 40 years after the disaster, "I hear a siren from the disaster site. It's not a siren. It's the death cries of more than 1,000 people. They are struggling not to freeze to death in the freezing water. We cannot help them. Hundreds of hands would drag our boat into the watery grave."

Whenever Alfred Nourney later spoke about the sinking of the Titanic, he embellished his eyewitness accounts with details that did not exist, Jens Ostrowski found out. Thus he had also reported in the HVZ about a spiral staircase, over which he had climbed to reach the boat deck. "That did not exist at all in the construction plans of the Titanic." Also the dance events on the evening of the sinking had not existed in such a way as presented by Nourney.

He had spun the truth as he pleased. So he had a first-class cabin given to him on the very first day on board and traveled as Baron von Drachstedt in order to gain admission to higher social circles. In 1962, Alfred Nourney agreed to an interview with Süddeutscher Rundfunk, even though he was "sick to death" of the Titanic affair. On one condition: a television set as a reward.

(Original text: Roswitha Oschmann/ Translation: Mareike Graepel)