Bertha Lehmann was born on 31 March 1895 in Switzerland.
It was a beautiful, warm spring day in Bern, Switzerland. The date was April 8 1912. and Bertha Lehmann was saying goodbye to her mother and sister, plus all her friends and school friends.
Her father accompanied her as far as Base; She remembered that when she left her home, and old lady asked her what she would do if the boat sank, and Bertha, in reply, said that the boat could not sink, and if it did, there would be plenty of wood for her to hang on to. Little did she know that it would actually happen in less than a week.
While walking to the depo, Bertha remembered that her father saying "Bertha, every time you come along with me I have some sort of bad luck. and I feel now like something is going to happen to you." She told him that nothing could happen to her.
It was difficult for Bertha's father to let her go, because she already had a sister and a brother in Iowa. Mr. Lehmann's train to work arrived before Bertha's train, and so they had to say their good byes before Bertha left the depot. She tried hard not to cry and she managed not to. Her father kissed her goodbye and said "I suppose I will never see you again."
Bertha left Basel about midnight and got to Paris at 6 a.m on Tuesday morning. Once she got off the train, she went to a hotel and had breakfast. After that, she went to a house, where her trunk was inspected. This was because they were not allowed to take any tobacco or liquor on the boat. Once her luggage was given the all clear, Bertha headed to Cherbourg, France on a train. She arrived there about Midnight. She went to a hotel, where she rested until about 3 p.m the following day. She could speak French fluently, and so communication while in France was not a problem for her.
Bertha boarded a small boat, which took her to the Titanic. According to Bertha, it took from three in the afternoon until sundown to reach the Titanic, because she was so far out in the water.
After boarding the Titanic, Bertha Lehmann could just make out the shoreline of France.
It suprised her how big the ship really was. She said that the tender which took her out looked like a small mosquito in comparison, and the Titanic looked like a cow.
She had a cabin to herself on the starboard side of the ship. It was an outside cabin so she could look out of the porthole. Although she was travelling second class, Bertha expected the ship to not be so beautiful as it was.
For the first two days, Bertha was sea sick and stayed below deck all the time until Saturday. At lunch, she found herself at a table with two little boys and their father.
The two little boys were Michel and Edmund Navratil, and Bertha got to know them well. On Sunday, Mr. Navratil asked Bertha if she might look after the boys while he played a game of cards, she agreed.
Sunday night, she went to the library to write some letters. After that, she retired for the night. The reason being that most of the second class passengers were English, and as Bertha could not speak English, she did not want to stay up and listen to something she did not understand. She had brought with her plenty of Swiss and French books, and so went to her cabin to read.
Bertha read until she got sleepy and then turned of the light. She was in asleep when all of a sudden she felt the sensation of a train grinding to a stop.
At first she thought they must have arrived in New York. She sat up, and then walked over to look out of the porthole.
It seemed to her that there were lights outside.
After hearing two English women return to the cabin next to her, Bertha decided she should get dressed and go and see what happened. Although she could not understand a word they had said, Bertha knew that something had happened by the tone in their voice.
Bertha Lehmann dressed and went on deck. She saw a French musician who she had met onboard talking to another lady. When the lady walked away, Bertha went to him and asked what had happened. His reply was that they would have to transfer to another ship, and that she should go and get her coat.
When Bertha got back, the same man fitted a lifebelt onto her and took her to another deck, where he informed the officers that there was another lady onboard.
Bertha noticed that there were women int he boat crying, and clinging to the arms of loved ones. On the deck there were a couple of women who refused to go because their husbands could not go with them. Then came her turn.
Because the gunwhale of the boat was level with the deck, when Bertha entered the boat, she fell and hit the bottom.
Then the time came to lower the lifeboat into the water. As they went down, soemthing went wrong, and one end of the boat went much lower than the other. All the occupants of the boat had to scramble to stay onboard.
Once in the water, there was no knife to cut the ropes. At last a man found one in his pocket. Once the ropes were cut, the men rowed the boat, inciedentially, the only men allowed into the boats were the ones who knew how to row.
They were not very far from the Titanic when they heard three very loud crashes, like thunder when it is really close. Bertha looked at the titanic and it had split in half. The front of the ship sank, and then the stern was left upright in the water, until that too sank - that was the last of the ship that could nto sink!
Bertha remembered that "All was silent for a while and then the people who were pulled under from the suction of the boat came up again and, of course those that had lifebelts on stayed up. We could hear them yelling and screaming for help."
That night was the longest one young Bertha Lehmann had ever known. It seemed to her that dawn would never come.
At last the Carpathia arrived to save them. Bertha remembered that the Carpathia lowered a basket in which she had to sit ina nd be pulled up. She was then taken to the dining room and given a blanket and hot coffee.
From the time she got onto the Carpathia until she reached New York, Bertha did not have a bed to lie down in. She had to sit all the time and did not have any clothes to change into.
Once the Carpathia arrived in New York Bertha was taken to a hospital. She had to stay there from the 18 April until the 22nd. There seemed to be no end to the questions she had to answer, but at last, Bertha Lehmann made her way to Iowa.
Her details on the Ellis Island manifest for the Titanic/Carpathia are:
|Where From||Switerl., Ger|
|Last Place of abode||Father, Jean Lehman, Kalznck, Berne, Switz|
|Where going to||Central City, Iowa|
|Who paid passage||Self|
|Ever in U.S. before||No|
|Address||Sister, Marie Zembrunnen, Central City, Iowa|
|Height||5 foot 3 inches|
|Color of Hair||Brown|
She lived in central city with her sister for over a year. Then she got married. Bertha's husband died during the first world war, leaving Bertha to care for their son, Elmer Zimmerman. After her husband died, Bertha went back to live with her sister. They all moved to Minnesota where she Met her second husband, Mr. Carl Luhrs. They were married in North Dakota and lived there for about four years. They then moved to Minnesota again. Bertha and Carl became parents to five children, one boy and four girls.
Bertha died on 5 December 1967 in Crow Wing, Minnesota.
** Carl Luhrs had been born on 9 September 1892. He died on 1 Jan 1978 in Crow Wing, Minnesota.
Biography written by Emma Skinner 9 June 2006
The Brainerd Daily Dispatch 2 December 1937
Minnesota Death Index, 1908-2002
1920 united states census
1930 united states census