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SS Europa/SS Liberté

Liberté photos courtesy of Kevin Tam, webmaster of Ships of State

Europa photos are from the Ships of the Line Collection.

The defeat of Germany in 1918 by the Allied forces left the German merchant marine non-existent.  All of Germany's liners were given to the victorious nations.  With no ships to call their own the North German Lloyd Line (NDL) quickly set upon building new ships to compete with the British and French.  In 1929, roughly ten years after the armistice, the liners Bremen, and Europa were launched.  These German "greyhounds" were the most technologically advanced ships in the world.  First off the two were welded together instead of being riveted.  Also the two were the first ships to employ the new "bulbous' bow scheme to reduce drag.  The ships both captured the Blue Riband for fastest crossing of the Atlantic.  The world was stunned that the Germans so quickly built these express steamers, AND captured the speed record from the British Mauretania.   These two ships alone made the entire British merchant marine from the Olympic to the Aquatania obsolete.

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photo courtesy of Masters of the Blue Riband

Competition from other nations soon emerged, though with the launch of the Italian Line's Rex in 1931, the French Line's Normandie in 1932, and Cunard's Queen Mary in 1935.  In the mid-30's came Hitler's rise to power.   Many passengers of the Europa could find many copies of 'Mien Kampf' in the ship's store.  Actress Marlene Deitrich upon seeing the "Hitlerazation" of these liners, vowed never again to sail on a German ship.  Tensions began to mount between the European nations the ships carried that tension to the see.  It was customary that when two liners pass each other they blow their whistles three times.   When Normandie and Europa passed on time, they did not salute each other, a sign of things to come.   With war looming on the horizon the all liners were on full alert because should war be declared then the ships if armed could open fire on one another.  In one such occasion the Queen Mary was on her return trip to England when word came that the Bremen was ahead, and Europa was behind.  Fearing that they were armed the Queen Mary beat her own west-to-east crossing record. Hitler uses the Europa along with other liners in a secretive rearmament program that was strictly denied by the Versailles Treaty.  In the summer of 1939 the Normandie was being followed by the Bremen the captain of the Normandie ordered all windows blacked out and proceeded on a zig-zag course.   The Bremen found herself trapped in New York when war is declared on September 1, 1939.  With British cruisers waiting just outside American waters to destroy her, the Bremen secretly escaped and arrived at Bremerhaven just to be sunk by anti-Hitler Germans.  The Europa painted in the 'dazzle' scheme used in the first world war by the allies, is captured in 1945 by Allied armies in Bremerhaven. 

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A captured Europa serving as an American troop transport in 1945.

photo source-Ships of the Line Collection

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Liberté departing New York: photo courtesy of Kevin Tam, webmaster-Ships of State

With the end of World War II, once again the European nations found their merchant marine non-existent.  Again German ships were awarded to the victorious nations.  The French were awarded the Europa in reparation for the loss of the Normandie.  Unfortunately the Europa drifted into the wreck of the Paris and sunk in the Port of Le Harve.  This caused her post-war conversion to be delayed while she was raised and remodeled to reflect French taste.   In August of 1950 she had her maiden voyage as the Liberté.  Paired with the Ile de France, Liberté carried the French Line through the 1950's.  Liberté was retired in 1958, and docked in Le Harve alongside the new French liner France.   With her future unknown some attempts were made to have her become a hotel in Seattle, Washington during the 1962 World's Fair.  That didn't work out, and Liberté was towed to Italy for scrapping.

page updated on 5 June, 1999

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