Berta Rapp, Osias Rapp were survivors of the sinking of the Athenia

My mother (Berta Rapp) and grandfather (Osias Rapp) were survivors of the sinking of the Athenia. They were refugees from Austria, via Belfast, Ireland.  Is there a way I can find out which ships rescued them and where they were brought?  I know they were on two separate ships.  Thanks for any leads you can give me.
Helene Wallenstein, Teaneck, New Jersey, USA


My thanks for your mail.

Two merchant ships picked up Athenia survivors, City of Flint, and the Norwegian tanker Kanute Nelson, in general I have those survivor lists. In addition three Royal Navy destroyers, Electra, Escort and Fame picked up some survivors and transported them to the Clyde in Scotland, those survivors I have not been able to find on any lists that I have uncovered.

The Rapps do not appear on the survivor lists I have, so it is likely that two of the British destroyers may have rescued them and taken them off to the Clyde.

It is suprising that the Destroyer survivor lists do not seem to have been published, maybe they were at the time, but no matter where I seek they elude me.

I continue to be amazed at the detail about the ship and her demise that still surface so long after that day the first of WW2 on Sunday September 3rd. 1939. 

Again my thanks for taking the trouble to write to me, we are always interested in any detail we may add to our Athenia Pages on AHOY.

Sorry Helene I am not really able to assist you.

Best regards,
Mac. Gregory.

Mr. Gregory,

Thanks for your quick response.  Your response makes some sense to me, in that I remember my mother (age 22 at the time) saying that she must have passed out on the lifeboat, and that she doesn't have any recollection of being rescued, but only remembers waking up on a rescue boat wearing a sailor suit. I thought somehow, however, that it may have been a Norwegian boat, but I am unclear about that and that was what I was trying to ascertain. She did not know whether her father survived until they were reunited on shore.

She also indicated that when they were brought back to shore (Scotland?) they were interned as "enemy nationals," because they spoke German and all their papers went down with the ship. (in fact, they were Jewish refugees from Austria with visas and affidavits to come to the US). A delegation of their friends from the Jewish community in Belfast, where they had been living for several months prior to the voyage, came to help secure their release, bringing food, clothing etc. When the community in Belfast heard of the sinking, they fasted and prayed, and were apparently overjoyed to learn that the two of them had survived. My uncle, my Mom's brother who had preceded them to America, indicated that it took several weeks for him to learn that they had survived, I guess because their names did not appear on the lists of survivors. He eventually received a telegram. Again thanks for your help, and for your website,  and I would welcome any further suggestions you might have as to where to further research these events.

Helene Wallenstein


Thank you for sharing that with me, a little more in the jig saw that was the Athenia tragedy.

I believe we could add the names of both your Mother and Grandfather to our Ahoy page that lists those survivors we believe were saved by the Royal Navy destroyers and landed in Scotland.

At this stage I am unable to suggest any further sites that may help.

The Transport Museum at Glasgow is going to open an Athenia display in 2008, and I have been in touch with their Curator there.

Any further news about that when it comes to hand I will pass on to you.

Best regards, 

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