Tuesday, June 16, 2015


The passenger list from the S.S. Deutschland with my 2x great grandparents names on the fourth & fifth lines.

This past Saturday, June 13th, was the anniversary of the arrival of my German 2x great grandparents Charles Offinger and Joanna Luick's arrival in New York in 1870. I mentioned
it on Facebook, along with the fact that the ship that brought them here was the S.S. Deutschland, out of Bremen, Germany. Terri Kallio, one of my Facebook genealogy friends, asked me if it was the same ship that sank in 1875. I had to admit I didn't know, so Terri sent me a link to a Wikipedia article about the ship, and yes, indeed, it was the same ship. It ran aground neat Kent, England on 6Dec 1875 and it wasn't until the next day that the 135 survivors could be rescued. By then, 78 crewmen and passengers had died.

Terri also sent me a link to a poem about the tragedy. It turns out that among the passengers who died in the shipwreck were five German Catholic nuns headed to America to escape religious persecution.  The English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins who was a Catholic priest wrote a long poem about it, The Wreck of the Deutschland. The link Terri sent me was to a YouTube version which uses a clever bit of animation to make it seem as if a portrait of Hopkins is reciting the poem.

When I went looking for a printed version of it, I discovered it was much longer. I won't
show the complete poem here, but there are a few verses in the second part about the
first few hours after the wreck occurred:

        On Saturday sailed from Bremen,   
        Take settler and seamen, tell men with women,   
            Two hundred souls in the round—   
    O Father, not under thy feathers nor ever as guessing   
    The goal was a shoal, of a fourth the doom to be drowned;   
        Yet did the dark side of the bay of thy blessing          
Not vault them, the million of rounds of thy mercy not reeve even them in?   

            Into the snows she sweeps,   
            Hurling the haven behind,   
        The Deutschland, on Sunday; and so the sky keeps,   
            For the infinite air is unkind,           
    And the sea flint-flake, black-backed in the regular blow,   
    Sitting Eastnortheast, in cursed quarter, the wind;   
        Wiry and white-fiery and whirlwind-swivell├Ęd snow   
Spins to the widow-making unchilding unfathering deeps.   

            She drove in the dark to leeward,           
            She struck—not a reef or a rock   
        But the combs of a smother of sand: night drew her   
            Dead to the Kentish Knock;   
    And she beat the bank down with her bows and the ride of her keel:   
    The breakers rolled on her beam with ruinous shock;           
       And canvas and compass, the whorl and the wheel   
Idle for ever to waft her or wind her with, these she endured.   

            Hope had grown grey hairs,   
            Hope had mourning on,   
        Trenched with tears, carved with cares,           
            Hope was twelve hours gone;   
    And frightful a nightfall folded rueful a day   
    Nor rescue, only rocket and lightship, shone,   
        And lives at last were washing away:   
To the shrouds they took,—they shook in the hurling and horrible airs.

So the German steamship that had brought my 2x great grandparents to America came
to an untimely end five years later, along with other German immigrants who would not
live to see their American dreams come true.

Thanks to Terri Kallio for helping me discover this story.

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