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1. 1959 - Brigitte, Germany to New York - ship Berlin



christmas letters

family tree





My first sea voyage

It is necessary that I go back a little. At the beginning of the year 1959 the whole family was gathered at my grandmothers, a common Sunday occurrence. On this particular Sunday my Aunt Annie read us a letter from America . It asked if she knew of anyone who might be interested in being an au pair in America for a year. After some deliberation, I said that I was interested. l had finished high school in the past year and was working in the office of a small business. I quickly got the ball rolling and applied for my emigration papers. By September it was time to leave.

My father was worried about his 18 year old daughter traveling to America for a year, and tried to talk me out of it.

My mother and aunt took me to Munich (my trunk had been sent in advance). From there I traveled by sleeper train to Bremerhaven . I shared my train compartment with a nice old lady, who shared her breakfast with me and astounded, “Such a young thing wants to go to America ”.

On September 18th 1959, I boarded the MS Berlin. It was built in 1924 and originally named Gripsholm. In 1955 it was renamed the Berlin , and in 1959 bought by new owners, Hapag Lloyd. Being an old ship, it was placed out of service in 1966.

As we sailed out of the harbor to the sound of “Nun ade, du mein lieb Heimatland” (Now farewell, my beloved homeland) playing, I was moved. Here I was standing all alone and with no one to wave to. When I got to my cabin, I noticed that I was sharing it with three older women, who were not exactly friendly towards me. I easily solved this problem, however, by spending very little time in the cabin. And my table companions, in contrast, were very nice. They were comprised of an older couple and two young women a few years older than me. The older couple had the feeling they should take care of me and were endearingly protective.

The crossing took 11 days and was cold and gray. The entertainment was not very impressive. Yet, for me it was still very exciting because it was all so new, and I was filled with great anticipation over what awaited me in New York .

On September 29th the MS Berlin docked in New York , and I was picked up by my sponsor.

Brigitte Clusener, 2011





© Gerhard Clusener all rights reserved
Last Updated: November 14, 2013