Successful autodidact with a passion for seafaring: The DSM mourns the death of Arnold Kludas

Pioneering library director, profound connoisseur of maritime history and passionate collector and donor of maritime photographs: The German Maritime Museum / Leibniz Institute for Maritime History (DSM) mourns the death of its first library director Arnold Kludas, who died on February 25 at the age of 93.

He was restless, always in search of new insights and photographic subjects, determined and persistent in doing so, imbued with a deep passion for seafaring. "We mourn the loss of a dedicated leader, a profound connoisseur of German passenger shipping history and a passionate collector of maritime photography who donated significant collection holdings to our museum," said DSM Director Prof. Dr. Ruth Schilling. "His memory will be cherished. Our deepest sympathies go out to his relatives."

Born in Hamburg on October 18, 1929, Arnold Kludas' enthusiasm for passenger shipping awoke in 1937 at the St. Pauli Landing Bridges at the sight of the departing CAP ARCONA: "The fascination of this first encounter with a ship has never let me go."
However, before Kludas could fully indulge in his passion, he had to take longer and quite unusual detours. In 1943, the bombing of Hamburg took him to a boarding school in Mecklenburg, whose closure at the end of the war also meant the end of his planned educational path. After various jobs, for example in the notorious uranium ore mining industry in Saxony, his outspoken rejection of the communist regime ultimately led him to flee from imminent arrest to West Germany in 1951 without completing his education, where he found employment as a crane operator at Blohm + Voss in 1955. This was followed by a rapid and consistent rise to the position of head of the company's own specialist library, aided by his broad knowledge in the fields of shipping and shipbuilding as well as Hamburg history. In the meantime, the gifted autodidact had published his first book in 1971, the success of which encouraged the Gerhard Stalling publishing house in Oldenburg to offer him the position of responsible editor and publisher of maritime publications.
In 1976, another career step followed. Kludas became head of the library at the newly opened German Maritime Museum. With élan, he opened up the then still largely unsorted literature holdings, separated them from the archival materials, and created a cataloging system that still holds up today. When he retired in 1992, he had developed the DSM's maritime library into one of the most important institutions of its kind.
Kludas is also remembered as the author of well over 100 books and essays on maritime history. As early as the 1970s, his treatise "Die großen Passagierschiffe der Welt" (The Great Passenger Ships of the World) in five volumes, which was also published in English, made him one of the most important authors in the field.

Numerous publications on German shipping fleets and lines followed, before he published his main work, the likewise five-volume "Geschichte der deutschen Passagierschifffahrt" (History of German Passenger Shipping), in the DSM's scientific series between 1986 and 1990. Even in retirement, he remained active as an author; his last publication dates from 2020.
Kludas also made a name for himself as a photographer. Since his return to Hamburg, he had documented shipping in the Port of Hamburg, on the Lower Elbe and on the Kiel Canal in thousands of photographs. He thus became an important pictorial chronicler of the last phase of general cargo shipping and the dawn of the container age. In addition, he also built up a large private collection of historical shipping photographs by other photographers, many of which he later donated to the DSM.



Thomas Joppig

+49 (0)471 482 07 832

Arnold Kludas 2009

Photo: Kirk Roderick Williams, Wikipedia


Arnold Kludas 1979

Photo: Klaus-Peter Kiedel


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