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Last Survivor of Hindenburg 'Did Not Talk About It'

Werner Doehner's father and sister were killed in the 1937 disaster
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 17, 2019 10:45 AM CST
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The German dirigible Hindenburg crashes in flames on May 6, 1937, in Lakehurst, New Jersey.   (AP Photo/Murray Becker, File)

(Newser) – Werner Gustav Doehner, who was an 8-year-old passenger on the Hindenburg when it burst into flames in 1939, has died. Doehner, 90, was the last of the 62 passengers and crew members who survived the disaster, which killed 36 people, including one crew member on the ground. "He did not talk about it," the AP reports his son said. "It was definitely a repressed memory. He lost his sister, he lost his dad." Werner Doehner was traveling from Frankfurt, Germany, after a vacation with his parents and older brother and sister when the ship's hydrogen sparked as the Hindenburg attempted to dock at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey. "Suddenly, the air was on fire," Doehner said. The two boys, then their mother, jumped to the ground from the observation windows, per USA Today. Irene Doehner, 14, instead rushed back into the ship, apparently to look for her father. She died of burns that night in a hospital.

Doehner and his brother needed skin grafts and spent months in the hospital. He lived in Colorado until last year and was always invited to the annual service in New Jersey. He went just once, in 1987. Doehner did talk about his gratitude for the people who helped his family after the disaster. "He was forever grateful to all the sailors and nurses at Lakehurst who helped him," the head of the historical society there said. Until she died at 99 in 2008, Doehner exchanged letters with Molly Shannon, a nurse who helped care for the survivors. (Read more Hindenburg stories.)

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