E.S. Robert Ley
Sister ship to the Wilhelm Gustloff
With the success of the Wilhelm Gustloff, it was time to launch the second ship being built for the KdF which would take the Gustloff's place for flagship of the fleet. She was named the Robert Ley, after the name of the DAF leader in Germany. Her keel was actually laid before that of the Wilhelm Gustloff. The ceremony was held at Howaldtswerke Hamburg for the first rivet / keel laying of the new KdF ship on May 2nd, 1936. Her construction took almost two years when she was launched on March 29th, 1938. After outfitting, the DAF took delivery of the new ship on March 24th, 1939 and after trials left for her maiden voyage on April 18th, 1939.
Most considered the Robert Ley 'less aesthetically pleasing' than her sister with a more top-heavy look, but she still maintained wide open spaces and equal accomodations for passengers and crew. In May of 1939, she joined the rest of the KdF fleet for the Legion Condor voyage to Spain and back. The Robert Ley only completed 13 voyages compared to the Wilhelm Gustloff's 50 by the outbreak of World War II on September 1st, 1939. Because of this, information on the Ley was very scarce until our inclusion of the liner into the collection.
She joined the Gustloff as Lazarettschiff B on August 25th, 1939 and remained a hospital ship until November 22nd, 1939. She was then changed over to an accomodation liner in 1940 and according to feldgrau.net, her services were as follow:
1940 - Served as an accommodation ship for the 1.Unterseeboot-Lehr-Division, Neustadt
1940 - Served as an accommodation ship for the 21.U-boot Flotilla, Neustadt
1942 - Served as a garrison ship.
July 29, 1944 - Served as a VTS (VTS = Verwundeten-Transportschiffe/Transport ships for wounded and sick soldiers during large evacuations).
Sept 9, 1944 - Served as an accommodation ship for the 1.Unterseeboot-Lehr-Division/II.Abteilung, Hamburg-Finkenwärder
The Robert Ley participated in the same evacuations that had sunk the Wilhelm Gustloff in January of 1945, but she survived and went onto serve as a transport in Hamburg until March of 1945. On March 9th, 1945, however, bombers of the British Royal Air Force found the former flagship at berth in Hamburg and soon the liner had bombs exploding on her decks and she was in flames from stem to stern. Accounts vary as to the deaths from the ship, but some numbers are placed between 3,000 and 5,000 - though it is pure speculation at this point.
After the fires were out, the wreck laid in Hamburg until being towed to England in 1947 to be scrapped. This exhibit focuses on the Robert Ley and her short life story from 1939 until 1945.
E.S. Robert Ley as a Passenger Liner - 1939
The Robert Ley's Lounge
On this page you will find memorabilia & souvenirs combined with the opening information from the Robert Ley exhibit. I will begin with one of the well documented pieces of the collection - a Krupp-Berndorf coffee pot that was absconded from the liner.
Perhaps one of the most interesting items from the ship to surface came from the collection of Hans Haase, who was an electrician and onboard film director for the Robert Ley from 1939 until 1945. His personal collection of paperwork and artifacts from onboard the Ley was unfortunately broken up and sold at auction in Germany, June of 2008. Records of the auction include a silver bread tray 5.2cm high, 29.2cm long, and 18cm deep (bottom marked WMF Cromargan, KDF) (A photo can be viewed in the RL Photograph section where a similar piece is photographed), Original photos of Hans working onboard the liner (below), his discharge papers dating July 23, 1945 (oddly after she was bombed by the RAF - below), and a program from "An evening with Maria Paudler" from September of 1942. (below) Also included was a complete copy of the discharge letter from 1945 for documentation purposes.
The one item we acquired from this collection is photographed at right. Shown right is an original coffee pot which was part of the Ley's onboard silver service and taken by Haase during one of his disembarkments from the ship. The design is by Cromargan and it can hold 2 liters. The bottom is stamped "Krupp Berndorf" with the logo "NICRO" and an animal figure, followed by "DAF 200cl." The spout looks as if it was repaired at one point. This onboard service silver may be one of a handful of original onboard pieces used by her passengers, since it is likely that all of it was destroyed when she was bombed while at berth in 1945.
Hans Hasse (left) and Mr. Hasse working onboard the Robert Ley's Radio Room (right).
Copy of Testimonials: (Roughly Translated from German)
Mr. Hans Hasse, born 1-29-08 in Altona, let it be known since March 14, 1939 up to March 13, 1945 actively served as the radio technician on the K.d.F. ship "Robert Ley". The ship had an extensive broadcast and cinema movie plant, which helped in preserving the K.d.F. journeys and served very well in protecting the war efforts, when the ship served in the war as a submarine training ship, where the largest demands were made.
Mr. Hasse led the plants in an expecially exemplary manner and received many regognitions of the supreme command of the navy.
Apart from the activity as radio technician and filmmaker, Mr. Hasse together with the electricians of the ship had to provide for the maintenance of the electrical system.
We always give the certification to Mr. Hasse that he served his duties always and consciously helped to have our satisfaction fulfulled. His guidance onboard, his untiring eagerness for work and his flawless character traits offer awareness of those around him, and he completed tasks posed at any given time.
Due to the situation which emerged by the war in sea navigation, we sincerely regret that Mr. Hasse will depart from the services of the Hamburg America Line and we wish him the best for the organization of his further future and imminent and full success.
Hamburg, July 23, 1945
Hamburg America Line
Discharge Letter - See Below
Program with Maria Paudler
Souvenirs of the Robert Ley - 1939
Mützenband of the E.S. Robert Ley - Nazi flag at left, Kraft Durch Freude flag at right.
Souvenir Nautical Flag Bracelets -
Spells out E - S - R - O - B - E - R - T - L - E - Y.
*This bracelet is usually found with a Nazi flag (below left) at the beginning clasp and a KdF flag (below right) at the opposite end. The one at top is complete from a June 7th to 13th, 1939 voyage.
Souvenir Cobalt Blue Vase
with handpainted image of the Robert Ley on the front.
Above Right: Tea cup & saucer.
Souvenir perfume bottle with handpainted image of the Robert Ley. Mint condition and complete with original box.
Robert Ley Souvenir Pins
Top Left & Right: Non-standard pins
Above Left: DAF Version - Above Right: Standard Nazi Flag: Image courtesy of Jo Rivett
Pin above also has a KDF flag variation.
While not an official souvenir, someone must have enjoyed the book enough to take it out of the Robert Ley's onboard library. The book is entitled "The Men At The Fiery Oven" #175 in the library collection.
All books on the libary had the sticker at right to show where the book belonged.
Not a souvenir piece, but an interesting and hard to find flag. This is an original 1930s H.A.P.A.G. Flag - or Hamburg Amerikanische Packetfahrt Actien Gesellschaft. As flown on the Wilhelm Gustloff & Robert Ley. 58" tall, 84" wide. Marked Komp-F1 H.
Robert Ley Model Plans - 1:200 Scale
Produced in 1941 for 1.45 Reichmarks.
Stamped "Made in Germany", "Eibenstock, 19, Nov 1943."
Robert Ley Menus
*An original life jacket from the Robert Ley can be found under the Robert Ley: 1939-45 page as well.
Souvenir pencil with a gold image of the ship and her name. Tin toy model of the Robert Ley - 1939
Maiden Voyage mützenbands of the E.S. Robert Ley - Nazi flag at left, Kraft Durch Freude at right.
Reproduction / Fake - Reproduktion / Gefälschte
Robert Ley onboard camera with original leather case.
Type: Zeiss Ikon Box Tengor 54/2 - Made from 1928-1934.
Inside sticker: "Property of the Kraft Durch Freude, MS Robert Ley."
I've been researching these cameras for some time now. While it is true that box cameras could be purchased or loaned to passengers onboard, it never made sense as to why they would use outdated cameras that were 10 years old on the flagship of the KdF fleet. After dealing with these cameras for some time, I recently purchased another in the style shown at this LINK. The realization came when I found out that this camera wasn't made until 1948 - a full 3 years after the Robert Ley was bombed and 9 years after her last peacetime voyage. This instantly made the three markings on them fake. Two are shown below and the other inside the case states: Eigentum der KDF Robert Ley.
There are also a large collection of Wilhelm Gustloff "onboard library books" with similar markings and the same stamp for "Eigentum der KDF -Bordbücherei-MS-Wilhelm Gustloff" that have been coming up online. These are also fakes and are not to be purchased for an authentic piece. To view the fake library books, please view the Souvenir section of the museum site.
Ich habe geforscht diese Kameras seit einiger Zeit. Es ist zwar richtig, dass Box-Kameras gekauft werden konnte oder geliehen Passagiere an Bord, es nie Sinn gemacht, warum sie veraltet Kameras, die mit 10 Jahren auf dem Flaggschiff der KdF-Flotte waren zu verwenden. Nach dem Umgang mit diesen Kameras seit einiger Zeit habe ich vor kurzem gekauft ein anderes in der Art in diesem LINK gezeigt. Die Erkenntnis kam, als ich herausfand, dass diese Kamera wurde erst 1948 - eine volle 3 Jahre nach der Robert Ley bombardiert wurde und 9 Jahre nach ihrem letzten Friedenszeiten Reise. Dies machte sofort die drei Markierungen auf ihnen fake. Zwei sind im Folgenden dargestellt und die andere im Inneren des Gehäuses fest: eigentum der KDF Robert Ley.
Es gibt auch eine große Sammlung von Wilhelm Gustloff "onboard Bücher aus der Bibliothek" mit ähnlichen Markierungen und demselben Stempel für "eigentum der KDF-Bordbücherei-MS-Wilhelm Gustloff", die nächsten haben online. Diese sind auch Fälschungen und sind nicht für ein authentisches Stück erworben werden. Um die gefälschte Bücher aus der Bibliothek zu sehen, lesen Sie bitte den Abschnitt Souvenir des Museums vor Ort.
*A coffee pot identical to this can be seen on the dining room table onboard the Robert Ley at right. There is also another one in use for the Christmas party under the Wilhelm Gustloff Accomodation Ship photo album. It is highlighted in a red box on said photo.
The same flag being flown on the stern of the Robert Ley in 1939.
Image Courtesy of Life.com
Image Courtesy of Life.com
Image Courtesy of Life.com
Image Courtesy of Life.com
E - S - R - O - B - E - R - T - L - E - Y
Leisure time with the Wilhelm Gustloff & Robert Ley in Hamburg harbor - 1939
By: Karl Hoeffkes
1:200 Scale Model of the E.S. Robert Ley
Built March 7th - 25th, 2012 based on the plans above. I was pressed for time to get her completed - made out of hardstock paper and a styrofoam base with modeling water.
The first 10 photos below are the trial set. I was anxious to get her to the bay to photograph her, but the sun was already setting and it was windy, so it was hard to get good shots.
On April 1st, conditions were so much better that I decided to wrap the base in saran wrap and set her afloat on the bay for a few images. The remaining 16 images are from that day.
Souvenir life ring from the Robert
- Plastic lifering with rope & tape at
four points. Glass with a color postcard image on blue backing.
Backmarked with a sticker half damaged.
**ERN** HOPRR 7 Hamburg Glockengiesserwall
Handkerchief from the Robert Ley
mint condition silk handkerchief sold onboard. 10" by 10".
Souvenir Plate from the Robert Ley
- 6" in diamater. Made by Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur.
Left: Launch Invitation for the launch of the E.S. Robert Ley from the Howaldt-Werft Shipyard. March 29th, 1938.
Below: Rede des Führers in Hamburg anlässlich des Stapellaufs des KdF Schiffes "Robert Ley" am 29. März 1938.
Speech by the leader in Hamburg to mark the launching of the KDF ship "Robert Ley" on March 29, 1938.