A Titanic survivor pretended to be an aristocrat before joining the Nazi SS.
German passenger Alfred Nourney was on board the RMS Titanic after being forced to travel to America in a scandal that resulted in a rich woman becoming pregnant.
The boat hit an iceberg and sank into the freezing cold waters of the North Atlantic, killing all but 705 of the 2,224 passengers on board.
Before the Titanic went under, Nourney had claimed to be the Dutch-born German gentleman Baron Alfred von Drachstedt in order to get additional privileges on board, writes journalist Jens Ostrowski in his new book.
The 20-year-old had been sent to America by his mother from his hometown of Cologne to stay with relatives after impregnating a young woman.
For a small additional charge, he managed to swap his second class ticket for a first class ticket, and he played with posh passengers to make influential contacts.
His ticket change paid off when he was one of the first to board a lifeboat.
He would later claim that he floated in freezing water before being rescued so as not to appear a coward.
While others rowed him to safety, Nourney sat smoking cigarettes and firing a pistol into the night sky until they were rescued by the RMS Carpathia at 5:10 a.m.
After his death and his brief stay in the USA, Nourney returned to Germany and started racing.
There he joined the NSDAP in 1937 and became a member of the Schutzstaffel (SS) in 1934.
The large paramilitary organization was founded by Heinrich Himmler and was guilty of some of the worst atrocities committed during this period, including enforcing Aryan racial policies and running the concentration camps.
It is unclear what role he played and what rank, if any, he received.
After the war, Nourney opted for a low profile and became a car salesman.
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After his death in 1972 he was buried in the Melaten cemetery in Cologne.
The Dortmund journalist Ostrowski described the fate of Nourney in his book “The Titanic was her fate: The history of German passengers and crew members”.