M: "Noooo!" The horrified screams of the onlookers echoed across the airfield in Lakehurst, New Jersey, as the Hindenburg burst into flames and crashed on the 6th of May, 1937. 35 of the 97 people on board and one member of the ground crew died in the blazing inferno. Albert Sammt, who served as first officer on the flight, was seriously injured with extensive burns, but he survived.
F: And yet it had all started so pleasantly:
M: Silently it floated through the air – a cigar-shaped zeppelin, around 200 metres or 650 feet long. Albert Sammt, born in Niederstetten in 1889 as the son of a rope-maker, also hoped to fly high. From an early age, he was fascinated by aviation. Then, at the age of 23, he met Count Zeppelin, the man who’d developed the rigid airship. And he was hooked. He set out on a career in aviation.
F: At first, he worked as ordinary crew. But slowly and steadily, he worked his way up. In 1924, at the age of 35, Albert Sammt took part in the first Atlantic crossing by a zeppelin. He was in charge of the altitude control system.
M: And then came the 6th of May 1937, when the Hindenburg went up in flames and left First Officer Albert Sammt seriously injured. But just eighteen months later, on the 17th of September 1938, Sammt was back in action as commander of the LZ 130 "Graf Zeppelin II". Less than a year later, he undertook the last zeppelin flight on board the LZ 130.
F: If you’d like to know what the ill-fated airship looked like – there’s a large model of the LZ 129 Hindenburg suspended above the stairs!
M: For almost 30 years, Albert Sammt commanded and piloted these "airborne marvels". During that time, he covered around two and a half million kilometres, over one and a half million miles, crossed the Atlantic 140 times and circled the globe once.
F: Albert Sammt died in 1982 at the age of 93. He was a freeman of the town of Niederstetten and Germany’s last surviving airship captain.
M: You can find his birthplace at Bahnhofstrasse 22 / corner of Albert-Sammt-Strasse. He was buried in Niederstetten cemetery.
F: Our next stop, in the left-hand corner of this room, is devoted to the memory of our local poet, Gottlob Haag.
Fotos: © Trüpschuch