The Life and Mystery of First Officer William Murdoch
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Titanic in Germany
There were a number of German passengers and crew aboard Titanic, including First Class passenger Alfred Nourney (Baron von Drachstedt), Father Josef Peruschitz and Emma Schabert and Leo Zimmermann.
One of the first film's to feature the Titanic was the 1943 Nazi propaganda film Titanic in which director Herbert Selpin was arrested by the Gestapo during the film's production and later died in his cell.
Also there is a German monthly satirical magazine founded in 1979 entitled "Titanic" which has a circulation of approximately 100,000.
Susanne Störmer: German Murdoch Biographer
German based Titanic researcher and author Susanne Störmer was born in 1969 in Eckernförde (Schleswig-Holstein). Her interest in Titanic began in 1977 when she was just 8 years old. "My interest in the Titanic began in Eckernforde, it developed there and in the local bookstores Goerke and Rohde I bought my first Titanic books." (Schleswig-Holsteinischer Zeitungsverlag, 14. April 2012, link)
Later, according to the German version of Amazon, she began an investigation into the Titanic disaster in 1990. She became a member of the British Titanic Society and the Irish Titanic Historical Society.
Her first book was printed in 1995 and entitled Goodbye, Good Luck: The Biography of William McMaster Murdoch. Limited to 500 copies, each signed and numbered, it later came with a "Mistakes and Misprints" half sheet.
"Susanne Störmer appointed The British Titanic Society to sell this book. Five hundred copies were printed for the First Edition, and three hundred had sold at £10 each by December 1997. A further hundred had definitely been sold by mid-April 1998, and by 24th October 1998 only eight were left unsold. This fascinating and sometimes dramatic book was the source for some of the photographs and the basic background. Mrs. Störmer is German, so the text has that accent, but her scholarship is excellent. Scott Murdoch and Ernie Robinson were both sources for this book, which served to set the scene for later detailed discussions. I regard it as a good companion volume for this Murdoch website...until I write my own." (Richard Edkins, Murdoch of the Titanic(1.))
In 1997 she wrote a non-Murdoch German publication entitled Titanic. Mythos und Wirklichkeit (Titanic. Myth and Reality). At 271 pages, this book is based on the minutes of the two committees that investigated the causes of the accident, leading her to "put together a puzzle, the parts are still missing - but the image is visible...Conflicts are resolved and legends destroyed.". As far as can be established it was never published in English (link).
In 2000 Störmer wrote Titanic: Eine Katastrophe zwischen Kitsch, Kult und Legende (Titanic - A Disaster Between Kitsch, Cult and Legend). The book describes how after the James Cameron film myths have developed and changed is described including the suicide of an officer and imposter "Third Officer" Max Dittmar Pittman. Interestingly, on pages 36-37 she included information from author George Behe regarding Captain Smith and Thomas Andrews' damage inspection after the collision.
Later in 2002, no doubt due to popular demand and to revise her earlier biography, she published William McMaster Murdoch, A Career at Sea. At 428 pages it is a self published work and only available directly from the author herself and to date the most comprehensive published biography on Titanic's First Officer. However the reviews were mixed, primarily due to the god-like portrayal of Murdoch to the detriment of his fellow officers:
"I just finished reading my copy of the Murdoch book. I am pleased with both the quality of the print job and the beauty of the book itself. It's a real treasure there. But I feel rather sad that she had to denigrate so many people just to make William Murdoch look good. Almost god like I think." (Melissa E. Kalson, (8.))
"William McMaster Murdoch, a Career at Sea is a tremendously impressive piece of research, and is valuable for its factual information about Will Murdoch's career. Ms.Stoermer records most of his ships and voyages-- I noticed one rather conspicuous absence-- but the majority are certainly there. She lists the men he sailed with. For that, I applaud her. Good job, and well done. However, I have the most serious reservations about the rest. It would appear that Murdoch was the only man on the Titanic who saw his duty and did it. E.J.Smith was incompetent, Lightoller was irresponsible, Harold Lowe could curse and little else... and so on down the line of deck officers. The crew and officers were divided as to "families"-- those who had served together on the Adriatic not quite meshing with those from the Oceanic. (Professional mariners, comments please-- does it really work like that?) Now I must say here that Murdoch is a difficult subject to capture personally-- I've heard that most of his correspondence has been either destroyed or lost. However, that is no excuse for passing a great deal of speculation as fact-- which is what happens here--and the speculative portrait is one of a humorless prig of a man. The book is worth the price of purchase for the crew lists alone, but approach with caution otherwise." (Patricia Bowman Rogers Winship, (8.))
"It makes me wonder if perhaps the author got a little too close to her subject at the expense of her objectivity. Will Murdoch was certainly no water walker and if he were around today, I think he would be the very first one to say as much." (Michael H. Standart, (8.))
"I did have serious reservations about some of the author’s conclusions....Störmer has arranged her facts in such a way that Murdoch is no longer the responsible officer in charge when Titanic has the fateful meeting with the iceberg....I was also disturbed by her negative portrayal of most of Titanic's other officers, especially Captain Smith, second officer Lightoller, and fifth officer Lowe, all of whom she treats almost with contempt. Captain Smith gets especially harsh treatment, the author practically accusing him of criminal negligence in the performance of his duties. Again, I found the evidence for her conclusions about these men unconvincing. It was also surprising to me that nowhere does she even mention the very strong friendship that existed between Lightoller and Murdoch." (Michael Tennaro, (8.))
" "I could go into greater detail as to why I strongly disagree with her characterization of the supposed Adriatic / Oceanic schism, which I think is a tremendous disservice to the professionalism of many men – among them James Moody, who was every bit as heroic as William Murdoch, and who does not deserve to be edited out because he doesn’t fit an author’s pet theory. ... One of my biggest reservations is that Susanne doesn't always distinguish between what is fact, what is based on fact, and what is speculation. H...She suggests that Murdoch felt the need to supplant his father (whom one could be forgiven for imagining was the most famous sea captain ever to sail into Liverpool from how she describes him), but rather than 'kill' him, he opts to go into steam as a way of carving his own identity without the figurative father murder. Murdoch's role is enhanced at the expense of most of his fellow deck officers (often with unintentionally amusing results). I found the effect the opposite of what was intended - rather than liking him more, I began to feel rather less enthusiastic about Practically Perfect Will. Had to keep in mind why I regarded him highly in the first place! If you are very interested in Murdoch, however, I would recommend looking into the book. Much as I emphatically disagree with many of Stormer's interpretations and conjectural readings of the evidence, there are photos and information that you won't easily find elsewhere." (Inger Sheil, (8.))
Störmer has also traveled around the world in her efforts to research her biographies including Scotland, England and New Zealand, where she has met relatives of First Officer Murdoch and survivors of the Titanic disaster such as Eva Hart.
Above: The SPIEGEL.TV (Germany) news report on 2nd of February 1997, in which Susanne Störmer is interviewed in regard to American author Diane Bristow's opinion that many Titanic passengers could have been saved if the radio operators had accepted the offer of assistance from a German ship. It is interesting to note footage of Störmer in her office with her 1995 book "Good-bye, Good Luck: The Biography of William McMaster Murdoch".
In 1997 she was the co-founder of the Titanic Information Center Germany, which is registered in Elmshorn and by 1998 was a popular television interviewee in the wake of the James Cameron "Titanic" film.
She has again published another book, the 138 page German book Dampfer Titanic: Eisberg voraus: Die letzten Stunden vor der Kollision neu untersucht (Steamship Titanic: Iceberg Ahead: The last hours before the collision re-examined) which was released on 21 November 2007.
Störmer surprised many when she wrote an article published on George Behe's Titanic Tidbits website (article here) entitled "The Officer Who Shot Himself -- An Alternate Solution" that proposes that Sixth Officer Moody was in fact the officer who committed suicide. Although seeming to offer an explanation as to why Moody cannot be discounted from the names of officers who were possibly involved, her reasoning caused author Inger Sheil to call it "a tremendous disservice...extremly bigoted and one-sided attempt to put the responsibility for the suicide on one candidate, without offering any rebuttal or opportunity to rebut this monstrous editing of history. Whatever injustice Stormer feels has been done to Murdoch, she has repaid it tenfold upon an innocent man." (link) (8.)
Her theory suggests that Moody committed suicide at lifeboat no 16, which was launched at approximately 1:20am -an hour before the ship sank. A discussion of the evidence she uses and the arguments for and against are discussed in a separate article.
She presently lives in Elmshorn, Germany and works in Hamburg, and in early 2012 was taking a final Master of Business Administration exam. She explains "The Titanic will be with me forever, but it can not feed me." Nevertheless, research for Störmer is a means of relaxation. "Others spend their free time at beaches, I prefer to rummage in the archives," she says.(Schleswig-Holsteinischer Zeitungsverlag, 14. April 2012, link)
When asked about her fascination with Titanic she answers: "It is a misfortune that has everything one needs, a great 'story," She points to the fact that it was the largest ship of its time, that there were contradictory statements from survivors and incomplete records of committees and other inconsistencies that would thus provide the basis for legend. "For this reason I was expecting hype over the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking." She also mentioned that since a ship is like a self-sufficient city, an emergency evacuation is a logistical challenge, even with today's modern ships. To illustrate she points to the recent disaster of the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia, in which insufficient stairs and language problems continued to pose issues.(Schleswig-Holsteinischer Zeitungsverlag, 14. April 2012, link)
When asked if she would like to go on a cruise herself she answers: "No, I would find that find boring." She says she would prefer to travel as a passenger on a cargo ship, because otherwise she is disturbed by the many ports of call. "If I would go on such a trip, I would only do it if there were many days at sea. Then I could spend days watching the water, the rain coming down and the waves. I like to be aboard ships, but not in port."(Schleswig-Holsteinischer Zeitungsverlag, 14. April 2012, link)
Above: During the centenary, Titanic researcher Susanne Störmer was interviewed on German Breakfast Television. (please note this is in German).