how my grandfather created an island…

my grandfather was a sea-faring man.1

my grandfather was a sea-faring man, and, what is more, he helped create an island… an island that is still visible today.

he was employed by the North German Lloyd aka Norddeutscher Lloyd as an officer, his last ship was the steamship goslar. shortly before the outbreak of world war II the goslar was on its way back to germany and had just passed the panama canal when adolf the terrible declared war on poland. to avoid being captured by the british marine (who was patrolling the atlantic) and also avoid US ports (and the US coast guard) the crew of the goslar had disguised the ship as at first a russian merchant ship and later apparently even sailed under american flag and where slowly making their way along the north-east south american coast until they reached suriname, then a dutch colony, where they anchored during the night of september 5, 1939, and applied for asylum.

at first things seemed to have been fairly relaxed, with the officers of the goslar even being invited by the citizens of paramaribo, that, however, changed on may 10, 1940, when germany invaded holland. the captain of the goslar had the ship moved into the middle of the river suriname and instructed the crew to scuttle the ship in the middle of the river — there are different reports regarding the reasons, and unfortantely, my grandfather has long since died otherwise i could have asked him. one version of the story is that the goslar was sunk to prevent it from falling into allied hands, another version, reported in the june 27, 1943, edition of the st petersburg times, is that the goslar was sunk in the hopes of blocking the harbour and bringing the bauxite export to a standstill (or at least slowing it down). there is even an implied link to an attempted coup to overthrow the government of the dutch colony, as reported in the december 1, 1941 edition of the pittsburgh press according to which the goslar was scuttled as part of the attempted coup. perhaps all stories are just different sides of the same coin.

the crew of the goslar along with my grandfather was then interned in suriname as prisoners of war. apparently there were a couple attempts of escaping from the internment camp, but none of them successful.

the goslar was never raised. according to the report in the st peterburg times it actually helped improve the harbour and bits and pieces of it were re-cycled by the US troops then stationed in suriname. if you look at google maps, you can still see the goslar today!

(larger view)

so, in a way, my grandfather (and the crew of the goslar) created an iron island…

  1. now that is a rather enticing beginning to a blog entry 😀 — but he really was. 

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