Werner Franz

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Werner Franz

Werner Franz Signed Photo of Hindenburg Ablaze - 1937

Spectacular photograph of the German airship Hindenburg ablaze, signed by then 14-year old cabin boy Werner Franz. A contemporary 8″ x 10″ black and white print on thick semi-gloss lab stock, signed in black Sharpie and in fine condition.

The Hindenburg disaster occurred on May 6, 1937, as the German passenger airship Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed during its attempt to dock with its mooring mast at the U.S. Naval Air Station Lakehurst in Manchester Township, New Jersey. Of the 97 people on board (36 passengers and 61 crewmen), there were 35 fatalities. One worker on the ground was also killed, raising the final death toll to 36. The disaster was the subject of spectacular newsreel coverage, and photographs, shattering public confidence in the giant, passenger-carrying rigid airship and marked the abrupt end of the airship era.

Werner Franz, the 14-year-old cabin boy, was initially dazed by the realization that the ship was on fire. As he stood near the officer’s mess where he had been putting away dishes moments before, a water tank above him burst open, and he was suddenly soaked to the skin. Not only did this snap him back to his senses, as he later told interviewers, but it also put out the fire around him. He then made his way to a nearby hatch through which the kitchen had been provisioned before the flight, and dropped through it just as the forward part of the ship was briefly rebounding into the air. He began to run toward the starboard side, but stopped and turned around and ran the other way, because the flames were being pushed by the wind in that same direction. He made it clear of the wreck with no injuries, and lived to be the last surviving crew member when he died at age 92 on August 13, 2014.