Hitler on a Cruise, 1939 – Adolf Hitler chats with several young women on a promenade of the German cruise ship Robert Ley (named after a prominant Nazi labor leader) on its maiden voyage in April, 1939.

Cruise History: The Germans (Nazis) developed the VW and built the first ships designed exclusively for cruising.

The SS Robert Ley

The Swimming Pool aboard the SS Robert Ley

The Robert Ley and her older sister-ship Wilhelm Gustloff would go into history as the first purpose-built cruise ships ever.

Unlike every other ship built at the time, the two new Germans’ passenger accommodations were not divided into separate classes.

It was made sure that the passengers and the crew members were given the same kind of cabins. Equality had for the first time reached the high seas, ironically in a Nazi ship.

The Robert Ley was managed by the Hamburg-Amerika Line, although she was technically owned by the DAF.

The Robert Ley served as a Kdf cruise ship for about two months, but was called in for other duties in May of 1939.

German forces known as the Legion Condor had been busy in Spain helping Franco’s nationalists seize power of the country. Now they needed transport back home to the Reich, and for this purpose the Robert Ley, Wilhelm Gustloff, Stuttgart, Der Deutsche, Sierra Cordoba and Oceana were called in.

The Robert Ley alone took on 1,416 men and on May 30th the convoy returned to Germany.

Later the Robert Ley was commissioned and converted into a hospital ship for the German Kriegsmarine on August 25th.

In January the Robert Ley’s sister ship Wilhelm Gustloff was lost when she was sunk by a submarine in the Baltic Sea, taking with her more than 5,000 people.

By March 1945, the Robert Ley had been sent back to Hamburg for further transport duties.

These tasks, however, she would never be able to perform. On March 9th, the British Royal Air Force made a bombing raid over the city, and the Robert Ley lying in the nearby waters was simply too good a target to resist.

Soon the bombs were falling down on the former cruise ship, and it was not long before fires were ravaging her.

When these eventually extinguished, all that was left of the Robert Ley was a burned-out hull.



About Michael L. Grace

During the mid-80s, Michael Grace worked as a writer on the TV Hit Series THE LOVE BOAT. He wrote many of the two hour special featuring great stars of the past, including Lana Turner, Claire Trevor, Anne Baxter, Ethel Merman, Alexis Smith, etc. The public’s access to these stars, in familiar dramas and comedies, made them want to go on a cruise. They could see the stars in an ordinary world as “regular” people. The phenomenally successful series was responsible for creating the cruise industry as we know it today. By the time he was writing for Love Boat, the great steamship companies and their liners were flying hand me down foreign flags, painted like old whores, scrapped or doing three day cruises to the Bahamas. He had sailed on over thirty ships and liners with his parents, aunt and grandmother in late 50s to early 70s. The very successful CRUISING THE PAST website has been an outgrowth of Michael’s strong interest in cruise and social history. Drawing on his own knowledge and a vast maritime and social history collection, he is able to produce a very successful website. Michael is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. He has written for television and films. Read more by going to "About" (on the above dashboard) and clicking "Editor"…