Luistania victim photos


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Have just come across some not so nice pictures of Luistania victims in a book ! I imagine these pictures were taken for identification purposes at the time. However I don’t see the need to publish pictures of these people which have died in books ? There is also a picture of a corpse of someone whom died on the Titanic up for sale.

I certainly would not want pictures of my dead body to appear in publications, even 90 years from now. I would be horrified to think when I was alive this would happen to me. I would not be around to say please don’t put that picture in your book — really it’s not exactly the most complimentary one of me, I’m dead & as you can see I died in quite a lot of pain ! These people can’t speak up when pictures of there corpses go on sale etc. What do you guys think ? Maybe there are good reasons for this. I’m happy to change my opinion — but so far I can’t help but feel it’s disrespectful to the dead and also a bit creepy.
 
Dec 13, 1999
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Miles,

Having seen all of the Lusitania "identification" photographs, I can assure you that those that appear in commercially produced books, are the very mild ones. These photographs were taken to aid identification of victims and in my opinion, should have been destroyed after a period of a couple of years. I can see little or no reason for publishing these pictures in modern day books.
Fortunately, our attitude towards such things has changed greatly over the last century - I can remember my grandmother having a photograph album which contained a photograph of her deceased sister as a baby in her coffin, taken around 1890. It was considered quite usual in those days, but then the Victorian attitude towards death was completely different to ours - thank goodness!

Geoff
 
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Guest (R17)

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Hello Geoff,

Thanks for you reply. I understand Victorian attitude was different in other areas also. For example a lot of children's story books were quite harsh/scary in victorian times - almost as if they were made to make the child cry.

I can understand these photo's being kept maybe for a few years after, as you never know someone might have still been able to make an identification. I don't know where such things would be kept these days ? Its a good job that the ones you are talking about do not go into books also.

I never understood why so many more people could not have survived the Lusitania ! Maybe this sounds very stupid, but she was so close to land and the water would not have been freezing like the Titanic. Makes me think people could have stayed alive for quite a while in the water swimming after the sinking. I suppose what I say is easier said than done & there must be reasons why they died in the water. But the thought always crosses my mind that a ship close to land, without the freezing temperatures of the Titanic surly people could have clung onto life a bit longer ? At least until help came. It was so close to land some people even watched the sinking ! I know a lot of people would have died with falling funnels, suction, propellers still going and all the dangers that would have gone on. But once in the water surly you could have sustained life just swimming for quite a period !
Whenever I watch or see anything about the Lusitania I always think I would have swam - but then I'm sure there were people who were a lot stronger than me that swam and died, so there must be reasons to why they died.
.
 
Dec 13, 1999
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Hello Miles,

I think we ust remember that many of those aboard the Lusitania did not die from drowning, but were injured by the explosion and even more so, by the attempted launching of the lifeboats. Many were crushed on deck by lifeboats swinging inwards, breaking loose and rolling down the deck. Many others never reached the deck as they struggled to find their way up staircases which were by now at an angle almost impossible to climb.
Then we have the situation where there were many women and children on board - the women's restrictive clothing would both drag them down and make breathing difficult. Many simply did not know how to wear their lifebelts and died because of this.
We must also remember that the body is soon affected by hypothermia - and that is not only in freezing water. In many cases, help did not arrive for hours, by which time it was too late.
The rescuers did not know the basics of first aid as we know it today - they thought a drop of brandy was a cure for everything!
Many swimmers were pulled down by others unable to swim. Given the horrendous situation, I'm amazed that so many people actually did survive.

Geoff
 
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Guest (R17)

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Well compared to the Titanic it must have been a lot longer/more drawn way to die for some cases that did survive what you mentioned. Was anyone picked up alive from the water ? Still it was so close to land - makes me wonder. Did they have time to radio for help. I suppose it happened so quick.
 
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Hey actually without getting morbid there was an elevator people got into while Lusitania was sinking and as the electricity failed shortly after the poor people were trapped in-side. One survivor remembered seeing this — and the poor people were caged in. What a terrible way to die!
 
Jul 11, 2001
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I would imagine trying to find your way up from a lower deck in the dark was near impossible. The fortunate ones were no doubt up top or in the public rooms with plenty of windows. Imagine the added horror if said event happened at night?

The Titanic was lucky to have had electricity to the near end at least.

DavidinHartford
 
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Michael Bezek

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Miles,Yes the Lusitania did radio for help. When the electricity failed, Operator Bob Leith flipped on an emergency generator, and was able to keep transmitting until almost the very end. Several large ships heard his distress signals and started to the scene, but one of them sighted a periscope, and told the others that the distress signals were a German trick, so they all turned around and sailed away. The Lusitania's survivors were mostly saved by fishing boats, and other small craft that took hours to reach the scene.
 
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Guest (R17)

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Was anyone held accountable for turning round? Or was it just one of those things. When you say most the saved were picked up by small fishing boats do you mean from the water ? Did anyone manage to stay alive long enough in the water to be picked up !
 
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Michael Bezek

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Yes, a lot of people were directly plucked from the water-as a matter of fact, Captain Turner was one of them. Somehow, a lot of these people managed to stay alive clinging to wreckage for 4-6 hours, and you're right, it is a wonder any of them survived! I'd reccomend a book called the Last Voyage of the Lusitania by A.A. and Mary Hoehling to get an idea of the ordeal these people went through. As for the ships that turned around, I don't think anything was ever held against any of the captains, because after all, they were in a war zone, and had to think of the safety of their own ships, which were inviting targets for U-boats-as a matter of fact one of the ships that turned around was an oil tanker! By the way, did you know one of the survivors was named Isaac Lehmann? Did you ever research your family tree-you might be related!
 
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Guest (R17)

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That’s interesting but Lehmann is a German name, although my grand father was British and survived 4 years in the trenches in the world war one. His father was German. I have a family tree but I think it is from my grand-mothers side of the family and she was French. Who knows — I will see if there is a family tree for that side of the family. Even if it is not a relation of mine which I suppose is likely it is interesting that someone was travelling on the Lusitania in in World War One with a german name. But thanks for pointing that out. Very interesting !
 
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Having said that then my grandfather was fighting against the Germans in WW1 with a German surname. It’s interesting though, my father can remember people coming round to the house during WW2 and having to ask questions because of the name, although he was very apologetic to my grand-father - all the same he had to do so !
 
Apr 24, 2002
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Fortunately those photo's of the unidentified victims held by the Cunard archives will never see the light of day again, i believe that the Cunard Line have now requested that they not by seen/shown to the public anymore

Cliff
 
Jul 9, 2000
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If I recall correctly, the water temperature there was in the fifties, and it doesn't get that much higher even in the summer time. For those who are interested, one may find Cold Water Survival Times to be of some use.

In water between 40°F to 50°F, the average survival time is only 1 to 3 hours. For 50°F to 60°F, it goes up to 1 to 6 hours. It should be remembered that with land a good 10 miles away and a harbour with potential rescue craft rather further, it would have taken at least an hour and perhaps longer to get out there...and that's if you have an instant response Which IIRC, didn't happen. It didn't help that the first rescue craft on scene were fishing vessels which didn't even come close to having the room needed to take everyone aboard who was in the water.
 
Mar 20, 1997
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In the mid 1990s (shortly after the A&E Titanic documentary came out), I saw on PBS, a documentary on the Lusitania with interviews with several survivors including Edith and Edward Williams and Mary Lines.

Immediately after recounting the sinking, there was a sequence where dozens of Lusitania victim photos were shown rapid fire one after the other. While there had been calm Enya music playing for the opening credits, this sequence featured one Enya piece that is very dark and intense.

While this was a tad sensationalist and gratuitous, it did effectively drive home the enormity of this tragedy. I was quite shocked as I had no idea they would show such photos and more than a handful were of child victims.

Arthur
 
May 3, 2002
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Arthur,

I remember that film as well as the Enya music and thought it worked, imho. It did make the point with the photos of the victims. The film was the National Geographic doco on Dr Robert Ballard's 1993 visit to the Lusitania.

It is regrettable that these images have been censored. Why?!? So as not to frighten the women and children? how neo Victorian. We need to see these images on a regular basis in the context of this story to remind us and our "society" of the consequences of total war. It is important that our children see this also so they can learn and make the connection when they see that their own peers died in this act of war. Yes I am generally against censorship and cocooning people from the real world.

Martin
 
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Guest (R17)

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But what about respect for the dead. Would you like to know ( while alive ) that the main picture people will see of you once your gone is a picture of your twisted corpse with a look of terror on it's face - all over T.V and in books ! These people can't speak up.

There is plenty of stuff around today to remind us of the terrors of war - without the need to show something that happened 90 odd years ago.
 
Dec 13, 1999
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Martin, If we need to be reminded of the cosequences of war, we can consult the many history books concerning the subject which often show us masses of nameless, faceless casualties. I can see little point in making the Lusitania's photographs into a peepshow for the mawkish. These were once living human beings and their memory surely deserves better than being used as some type of anti-war propaganda. We know wars cost lives, we've all seen what a corpse looks like, the sole point of taking the photographs was so that relatives who were unable to travel to Ireland could hopefully identify their loved ones. Cunard has finally decided to treat these innocent victims with the respect that they deserve.It may have taken almost ninety years, but to my mind it is a step in the right direction.
 
Mar 20, 1997
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I would tend to agree with Miles at least in terms of photos of victims of these disasters that happened in the early 20th century and since. The only constructive purpose they serve is to assist in identification.

At the risk of being a tad political, the concealment of victim pix isn't censorship since they aren't needed to prove some kind of crime that was perpetrated in secret by people or a government. There is no reason to think there is a hidden conspiracy surrounding the Lusitania or Titanic that can only be uncovered if people were shown victim pix.

On the other hand, as gruesome as they were, the photos and films of victims of Nazi concentration camps were a sad neccessity, since much of the world still needed their eyes opened to what Hitler perpertrated. When I was a small child, my mother (who had as a child in London experienced the daily air raids from the Germans) made sure I saw these films when PBS did documentaries on the war but would closely supervise to provide guidance and detailed explanation. This drove home the importance of never forgetting the Holocaust but also making sure I was not traumatized in the process.

I do agree that things like the government's clamp down on photos of coffins bringing fallen servicemembers home are blatent censureship since there is nothing in the pictures to offend the senses or feelings of loved ones and the public at large and no crucial national security secret at stake.

I am of a somewhat different mind about the photos taken in the 19th century of deceased loved ones for a couple reasons. Primarily, one must keep in mind that especially in the 1840s - 60s, photography was still a rare practise and it is likely there simply had been no opportunity for the loved one to have been photographed when alive. In order to have at least one final image of their loved one, many families of those times quite understandably opted to have a photo taken of their loved one posed in a way that is a meaningful reflection of their life.

Also, the subjects of those photos were at least presentable and dignified compared to the Lusitania photos we are debating. Finally, in spite of their subject matter, I view any photos from the mid 1800s to be invaluable from a purely historical aspect as photography was still in it's infancy and clear images from those times are rare treasures indeed. I have surfed a few websites that feature early Daguerriotype pictures and there are a few post mortum pix mixed in with the others and I honestly wasn't offended or shocked in viewing those in contrast to my reaction of the Lusitania documentary or photos in Eaton and Haas' Titanic book.

I understand this is a touchy topic and I hope we all continue to disagree and debate respectfully.

Best Wishes,
Arthur
 
May 3, 2002
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Arthur, Geoff and Miles

Thanks for your consideration of my ideas. yes you all make sound arguements for respect of the dead. the arguement that does cause concern is that we all will learn from history.
Sorry but the evidence before me on TV does not support that. Some of us do and from your dialogue I include you in the group that does.

However, We have had 50-60 years since we liberated the concentration camps in Europe and we have countless docos on the history channel about the wars of the 20th century. yet as a species we have learned nothing. Can someone please explain to me how a society that teaches the history of Nazi Germany as a warning to its school children comes to be in a position where its actions abroad are questioned in the light of places like Gauntanamo Bay and Abhu Ghraib?

Before anyone takes offence consider that I very rarely touch on current affairs of this nature on ET but sometimes it is necessary.

we know war are terrible, wasteful of life and property but why do we still wrap ourselves up in our respective national flags and ignore the lessons of history?

yours truely

Martin
 
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