The Swedish Lutheran Immigrant Home
New York 20 / 4
Beloved parents Wife and Children
My beloved, you have probably heard about the terrible katastrophy which stroke us and what a night I've experienced since I last wrote to you. Probably you have received the letter I wrote from England and the telegram which I sent at my arrival. We departed Southampton at the 10th and everybody was happy and content everyday for food and everything was the best we could wish, but then the terrible night came. They woke us up at 12 AM and told us to enter the after-deck because we had [hit] an iceberg, nobody believed it was any danger, the boat was unsinkable as they told. At that time nobody was sorry until they started to send down the lifeboats. Then there was panic and everybody who wanted to jump into the lifeboats without permission was shot. Women and children first, men had to save themselves as they could. When Elna and I came up all lifeboats were crowded at that time no rescue was found. We stood together all the time, so we agreed to accompany each other into the deep. But as the boat sunk and the water started pouring over the deck there was a terrible sight and scuffle and that separated us. Then I heard Elna saying "Tell Wilhelm and my parents and sisters if you get rescued." Then I didn't see her any longer because then we were all washed overboard. When I came into the water I sunk several meters below the surface so as I came up again, I had a roof of wreckage over my head. I managed to come up in it and got hanging for a good while, but when the last part of the boat started to sink, so I had to leave the wreckage and try to swim away, otherwise I once again had got dragged down into the deep. As I lied there and swam, I saw how people in the water tried to rescue themselves in an overloaded boat but as they hanged on the gunwale and all drowned and the boat turned the keel upwards, then I saw how some people climbed up on it, then I swam away towards it and was taken up. On this boat was only Italians and it was that crowded, that it floated nearly one meter below the water. There I had to lie for six hours with the water up to my shoulders. Then we were taken up in a lifeboat that rowed us to the big boat that had come to rescue us. You can not imagine how it was as thousands of people lied [sic] in the water crying for help and no help was available. But don't grieve to [sic] deeply my beloved, we can thank God that anybody of us got rescued amongst so many thousand people that lost their lives. For this katastrophy tears are shed all over the world, but no doubt it is terrible to know that Elna and little Telma no longer exist. I don't know how it will be to come to Wilhelm because I don't believe that she got rescued, but here are so many in the hospitals, but I have not seen her name in the newspaper because here all rescued are registered, we are some Swedes staying in this hotel. As you can see our photograph were taken by all newspapers, all motion-picture theaters all bookshop-windows. We got received in a very friendly way as we arrived. We were three that had no caps and overcoats. We were let in first and got clothes from top to toe and 15 dollars because I had not a single penny when I disembarked. Now we can stay in this hotel where we get good food and nice rooms free of charge. All societys and theatres collect money for us, so we probably get more money after a while, so don't be worried about me, I feel well though I thought I would not stand myself after the bath because I was totally stiff with cold as I came up. On that boat that rescued us we were wrapped up in bed and could rest for ten days. Then we got up and tried to dry our clothes because nobody cared to help us with that. We didn't arrive in New York until Thursday night and the Katastrophy occurred on Sunday night so you can imagine how far we were from land. This boat rescuing us was a real pigsty. It was a boat trading from Italy so there were only blackies, so then you understand how it was, but yet we are satisfied to be on dry land. I have posted a card to Aunt Anna, her address I by accident got from Elna otherwise I would not have known whom to contact because anybody else I didn't have. Well now my beloved I have given you a brief report about what happened. You will get information later on because it is impossible to put any more of these sheets in the envelope and any other paper I don't have. I hope you are all healthy and don't grieve too deeply so you get sick from it. I will look out for a job and save money so I can probably come home again because I will not expose my beloved wife and children for the same voyage that happened to me. And farewell for a while, I shall write as soon as I arrive in Chicago you will get my address so I can hear from you. Many warm greetings and solace to you my beloved in Sweden from your castaway son, husband and small boys father.
You my beloved wife was with me in the water. It was the only photography I owned and it faithfully sat in my pocket. The first I did as I was on dry land was to pick you up and look at you and the I started to cry. Then I got a feeling that you smiled at me and then I calmed down.
Now I have got a newspaper so you can see us rescued Swedes in this hotel.
I should have liked to send home to you a newspaper with our photographs, but they are all sold out and the newspapers in the hotel we are not allowed to take. In a newspaper there is a photography of me in almost life-size. It is the best photography of me I ever saw.
The last moment I saw my dear sister she stood squeezing little Telma in her arms.
I can't find words to describe how dreadful everything was, but you might get an idea as 3000 died and only 500 were rescued.
This is a translation of the original text which was in Swedish, Ernst spoke no English when he arrived in America. Errors of translation remain in the text.