Felix Graf von Luckner

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Felix Graf von Luckner
Felix Graf von Luckner (1964, left)

Felix Nikolaus Alexander Georg Graf von Luckner (born June 9, 1881 in Dresden , † April 13, 1966 in Malmö ) was a German naval officer, commander of the auxiliary cruiser SMS Seeadler in World War I and a writer .

Family - Life Before World War I.

Luckner with Ingeborg von Luckner (1938)

The Luckner family comes from the Upper Palatinate . Your family line begins with Johann Jakob Luckner († 1707), citizen, hop trader and city ​​treasurer in Cham . His grandson Nikolaus von Luckner , royal French lieutenant general, commander-in-chief of the French army on the Rhine and marshal of France , was elevated to the rank of count by the Danish king in Copenhagen on March 31, 1784 after a Danish baronate (1778) .

His great-grandson, Felix Nikolaus Alexander Georg Graf von Luckner, was born on June 9, 1881 in Dresden and grew up on Gut Pennrich near Dresden. His father was the royal Prussian lieutenant Heinrich Ludwig Wilhelm Georg Graf von Luckner, his mother his second wife Marie nee Lüdicke. He was closely related to the Counts of Luckner, who resided in a well-known castle in neighboring Old Franconia . But while the pompous castle in Lucknerpark was sold and torn down in 1939, the comparatively modest Pennrich estate is now in a carefully restored condition.

The later “sea devil” broke off all family ties when he was just under 13, looked for adventure and hired the Russian sailor Niobe under the false name “Phylax Lüdecke”. In 1903 he acquired the helmsman's license at the Lübeck navigation school and in 1907 the master's license at the Papenburg navigation school . After serving as a one-year volunteer with the Imperial Navy from 1903 to 1904 , Luckner was appointed an active officer in 1910 on the personal instructions of Prince Heinrich , brother of Wilhelm II and Commander-in-Chief of the Navy.

Luckner was married twice. His first wife was Petra Schultz from Hamburg, this marriage was divorced on November 24, 1914; on September 24, 1924 he married Ingeborg Engeström from Sweden in Malmö.

The monkfish

Full ship Pass of Balmaha , the later sea ​​eagle
Body search of Luckner after his retrieval by the USS Iris

During the First World War , he took part in the Battle of Skagerrak in 1916 as an artillery officer on the ship of the line Kronprinz . Von Luckner achieved fame when he broke the British naval blockade as a lieutenant captain and in command of the auxiliary cruiser Seeadler , a sailing ship with an additional engine. To do this, he camouflaged the ship as a Norwegian freighter.

In his book Seeteufel , published in May 1920, he describes the abortion of 16 enemy ships in a period from December 1916 to December 1917. According to the war diary of the “Sea Eagles”, he had 14 ships sunk. Only one seaman was killed in the course of these operations. It happened when the freighter Horngarth from Cardiff was arrested , when a shell of the "sea eagle" hit a steam pipe and a British seaman died as a result of the injuries caused by the escaping hot water vapor.

On August 2, 1917, the sea ​​eagle crashed on a reef off the South Pacific Atoll Mopelia , which belongs to the Society Islands, due to an improperly chosen anchorage or due to the carelessness of the watch officer . After the shipwreck, Luckner sailed with Lieutenant Carl Kircheiß and four other seamen - the rest of the crew stayed with the prisoners on Mopelia - around 2300 nm in an open boat six meters in length through the Pacific (stations: Atiu , Aitutaki and capture on Wakaya ). He was imprisoned on Motuihe Island in New Zealand's Hauraki Gulf . On December 13, 1917, Luckner managed to escape with Kircheiß and his crew on the island commander's hijacked motorboat Pearl . They boarded the schooner Moa , but were captured around 900 km from Motuihe by the crew of the steamer Iris near Macauley Island . Luckner was transported back to Motuihe. In 1918 he was released from captivity.

His willingness to undertake daring ventures at sea, including for the Imperial Navy , earned him the nickname “anglerfish”.

His life after the First World War

Luckner (right) upon his arrival in Bremen, 1930

In January 1921 the Reichsmarine called Luckner back into service. Although she gave him command of the training ship Niobe in March , his parallel lectures took up so much time that he - as he himself admitted - could not combine the two activities. But other reasons - criticism of his ship's command, unauthorized participation with the ship in commercial film recordings - led the Reichsmarineleitung to suggest that he quit the service. Since Luckner thought the lecturing activity was more important, he accepted the offer and resigned from the Reichsmarine on June 1, 1922 with the promotion to Korvettenkapitän.

On May 21, 1921, Luckner was admitted to the Masonic Lodge at the Golden Ball ( Great State Lodge ) in Hamburg .

In 1922 he played a commander in the film Mabel and their suitors from Vera-Filmwerke AG under his pseudonym Phylax Lüdecke .

Several books appeared under his name after the end of the war. However, he used some ghostwriters , including Carl Kircheiß , and only some of the texts come from his pen. Seeteufel was the title of his main work. Depending on the political situation, he adapted the text accordingly.

In 1925 the Graf von Luckner circumnavigation of the world association was founded in preparation for worldwide lecture tours . He acquired a four-masted gaff schooner built in 1919 on the west coast of North America with a length of 70 m and a width of 13 m at 1,335 GRT, the sail area was 1,700 m². This was renamed Vaterland , expanded for the trip to the Norderwerft in Hamburg and, among other things, prepared for a sample show of German goods abroad. After her crew of hundreds of volunteers had been put together, the Vaterland set sail from Bremen on September 19, 1926 for the planned circumnavigation, which, however, was to end in the United States only two years later. On October 22, 1926, the ship reached New York; on October 27, 1926, Count Luckner was officially received in the city.

The captain of the fatherland was the Cape Hornier Adolf Coltzau (1875–1950) from Delve . He was the captain of the Caesarea , on which Luckner sailed during his apprenticeship as an ordinary seaman. They met in the port of Hamburg during the ship purchase phase.

Luckner gave a variety of lectures in the United States from 1926. He used his international popularity and wanted to convince the Americans of the "true German patriots". It is not true, however, that Count Luckner was made an honorary citizen of the city in San Francisco, among other places .

1933 Luckner was a book about Julius Lauterbach out of the First World War pinch officer of SMS Emden was and an equally illustrious figure such as Luckner. Lauterbach has also reported on his experiences in books and lectures.

His life in the time of National Socialism

Graf Luckner 1938 (dedication page from the "Seeteufel")

Luckner returned to Nazi Germany in June 1933. He adapted his behavior to the political circumstances in order to achieve two main goals in particular: the financing of his lecture tours and the maintenance of his ships by the Nazi government. Luckner's behavior between June 1933 and April 1945 was characterized by propaganda lectures for Adolf Hitler's politics , collaboration with the Nazi rulers, courtship from the Nazi party celebrities and connections to the most influential functionaries of the Hitler regime. However, the motivation for his behavior was non-political. He cannot be called a staunch National Socialist, nor did he join the NSDAP.

In 1939 Luckner had to answer before a "special honorary court of the Führer". He was accused of intercourse with his daughter from his first marriage and the abuse of two underage girls (8 and 11 years old), but there was no conviction. The complete final report of the Nazi court has been handed down and is publicly available. According to this, proof of guilt was provided in the two counts of “incestuous” and “fornication with minors”. Luckner is a "... person who, when exposed to temptation, is too weak to really offer serious resistance to his instinctual disposition".

Under circumstances that can no longer be clarified today, Luckner was probably involved in the rescue of a Jewish woman from deportation to an extermination camp. The victim, Rosalie Janson, confirmed this in letters to Luckner in 1951. However, Luckner's own account of the incident contains so many contradictions that it cannot be used as a source. Efforts to posthumously award Luckner the " Righteous Among the Nations " award on the basis of this act failed because the evidence was insufficient for the Yad Vashem examination committee .

His role at the end of the war in Halle (Saale)

In addition to other people, such as the chemist and first post-war mayor of Halle Theodor Lieser and his so-called anti-fascist “Lieser Group”, it is also thanks to Luckner's personal commitment that the city of Halle an der Saale was not destroyed during its conquest in World War II has been. In April 1945, the Americans threatened the massive bombing of Halle if the city did not surrender. Accompanied by the major a. D. Karl Huhold managed Luckner to get through to the US Army . After speaking to the commander of the 104th US Infantry Division (also called "Timberwolves"), which was supposed to storm Halle, both of them were able to convince the German city ​​commander to withdraw from Halle. This happened against an express order from the Führer to defend the city “to the last”. The German troops withdrew to the south and Halle became an open city. Allied bomber groups that were already ready to take off remained on the ground. In this way, Huhold and Luckner were able to prevent the city from being destroyed through negotiations. Luckner was named honorary colonel of the 104th US division "Timberwolves" after the war. When the US troops later withdrew and handed the city over to the Red Army , Luckner went to the West, where he continued to give lectures and published books.

Despite his contribution to the peaceful and non-fighting handover of Halle, there is no street in Halle that is named after Luckner. Such requests were repeatedly rejected in the city council, on the grounds that he was close to the Nazi regime and his pedophile tendencies. Count Luckner was invited to Halle to celebrate the millennium of the city of Halle in 1961. In three places in the city memorial plaques commemorate Luckner and the other rescuers.

post war period

Grave of Felix Graf von Luckner and Ingeborg Countess von Luckner

His memoirs reached millions of copies in the United States . The Americans awarded the German , who was already highly decorated by the German Empire , over 100 honorary titles. Graf von Luckner died in April 1966 in Malmö, where he had lived with his Swedish wife Ingeborg Engeström. He was buried in the Ohlsdorfer Friedhof in Hamburg near the Nordteich directly on the Stillen Weg (grid square AB 13). Young members of his Hamburg sailing club, the Alsterpiraten , provided the guard of honor. A delegation from the German Navy also attended the funeral.

Because of his adventurous life, Luckner was an honorary member of the Nerother Wandering Bird .


Luckner was a member of the AICH, founded in St. Malo in 1937, and thus KapHoornier. Theodor Heuss awarded Luckner the Great Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1953 . This was only possible because Luckner's ambivalent attitude during the Nazi era and his alleged moral offenses were not known to the public at that time. It was only with the publication of Norbert von Frankenstein's book "Truth and Legend" in 1997 that these pages from Luckner's life came to light for the first time. It is also spicy that the award was made on the initiative of Luckner's manager Dorothea Schneider-Lindemann . Schneider-Lindemann had been friends with Theodor Heuss and especially his wife Elly Heuss-Knapp since the 1930s . Both families lived in the immediate vicinity in Berlin-Lichterfelde for years (Kamillenstrasse / Limonenstrasse), and the fact that Heuss-Knapp was active in the advertising industry often gave me the opportunity to work together.

Luckner was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Eugene McDonald in 1956 . However, since the entrepreneur had no right of proposal, the proposal was not considered by the Nobel Prize Committee .

Walter Heyer composed the monkfish Graf Luckner March in his honor .


On the occasion of his 125th birthday, Deutsche Post paid tribute to Luckner with the publication of a special postal matter . In Halle an der Saale and in Kiel there were special stamps for this on June 8, 2006 . On the same day the Graf-Luckner Society published a limited edition commemorative medal with the likeness of the count.


Felix Graf von Luckner confirms that on January 11, 1935, he tore up an imperial address book with approx. 8960 pages in the Cafe Kobelius in Bad Liebenwerda .

Graf von Luckner was known for tearing up a phone book with his bare hands and for crushing coins with his fingers during his appearances . In order to further strengthen his enormous hand strength, he consulted the trainer for weight training Theodor Siebert (1866–1961) in his body school in Alsleben (Saale) as early as 1906 .

Luckner belonged to the fraternity of Normannia in Heidelberg , the fraternity of Rugia Hannover and the fraternity of Cheruscia Königsberg , which later became the Bonn fraternity of Germania . He was also a member of the fraternity Alsatia Braunschweig and honorary member of the fraternity Rhenania Hall and the country team Hasso Guestfalia Marburg .

In 1960 Luckner was made an honorary member of the Farger Schützengesellschaft in Bremen.

In Kiel-Schilksee - as in some other German cities (Papenburg, Nordhorn) - Graf-Luckner-Strasse is named after him, in Würzburg Graf-Luckner-Weiher.


Felix Graf von Luckner Society

In Halle (Saale) the “Felix Graf von Luckner Society e. V. “, which has set itself the goal of continuing Luckner's work and attitude to humanity and international understanding in today's world. The erection of a memorial and a museum for Count Luckner is also being considered. After just a few months, the association had more than 100 members from 14 nations. In 2012 the Luckner Society had over 250 members from 21 nations.


  • Count Luckner . 39-episodic television series , Germany and France 1973–1975.
  • The emperor's pirates: The legendary sea eagles' sea eagle's voyage under Felix Graf von Luckner . Docu-drama , Germany 1999, 45 min, director: Jürgen Stumpfhaus.
  • Count Felix Luckner - Pirate of the Kaiser & Savior of Halle . Docu-drama , Germany 2008, 45 min, director: Lew Hohmann . As an episode of the series History of Central Germany , the documentary was broadcast by MDR in 2008 under the title Felix Graf Luckner - Der Retter von Halle .


  • Anglerfish conquers America. Koehler & Amelang, Leipzig 1928
  • A buccaneer's life. Wodni & Lindeke, Dresden 1938.
  • Sea devil's world voyage. C. Bertelsmann Verlag, Gütersloh 1951
  • From seventy years of life. Koehler, Biberach / Riss 1955
  • Monkfish. Adventure from my life. Koehlers VG, Herford 2002, ISBN 3-7822-0803-X .
  • Sea devil's world voyage. Autobiography. Ullstein, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-548-25768-2 .


  • James N. Bade: From Luckner. A reassessment, Count Felix von Luckner in New Zealand and the South Pacific. 1917–1919 and 1938. Lang, Frankfurt / M. 2004, ISBN 3-631-52005-0 .
  • Ulrich Berns: On the trail of the sea devil. Graf Luckner on German television , Herford (Koehler) 1971. ISBN 3-7822-0053-5
  • Robin Bromby: German Raiders of the South Seas. Doubleday, Sydney 1985, ISBN 0-86824-093-1 .
  • James Cowan: The Pirate of the Pacific. German Naval Officer's daring Escape from his Prison Island and Recapture in Mid-Ocean. In: The Wide World Magazine. July 1918, pp. 253-260.
  • Helge Dvorak: Biographical Lexicon of the German Burschenschaft. Volume I: Politicians. Volume 3: I-L. Winter, Heidelberg 1999, ISBN 3-8253-0865-0 , pp. 317-319.
  • Norbert von Frankenstein: "Seeteufel" Felix Graf Luckner. Truth and legend. DSV-Verlag, Hamburg 1997, ISBN 3-88412-282-7 .
  • Eleanor Fraser: Count Felix von Luckner and the "Pinmore". In: Sea Breezes. Vol. 66 (1992), pp. 772-776.
  • Robert Gardiner (Ed.): Conway's all the world's fighting ships 1906-1921 . Conway Maritime Press, London 1985, ISBN 0-85177-245-5 .
  • Uwe Greve, Jürgen Joachim Wenzel: Auxiliary cruiser "Seeadler" - a sailing ship as auxiliary cruiser - with Count Luckner to success. In: SMS - Ships, People, Fates. No. 147, Verlag Rudolf Stade, Kiel 2006.
  • Thomas Lowell: Count Luckner, the Sea Devil. Doubleday, Doran and Co, Garden City, NY 1928
  • Matthias J. Maurer: Our Way to Halle. The march of the timber wolves to Halle. Fly Head Verlag, Halle 2001, ISBN 3-930195-44-5 .
  • Elisabeth Müller-Luckner:  Luckner, Felix Graf von. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 15, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1987, ISBN 3-428-00196-6 , p. 282 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Henry Newbolt: History of the Great War Based on Official Documents. Naval Operations. (Vol. 4). Longmans Green and Co., London 1928
  • Kathrin Orth: Count Luckner and Fritz Otto Busch . Two naval officers between Seemansgarn and propaganda , in: Jürgen Elvert / Lutz Adam / Heinrich Walle (eds.): The Imperial Navy in War: A Search for Traces , Stuttgart (Franz Steiner Verlag) 2017, pp. 149–158. ISBN 978-3-515-11824-8
  • Blaine Lee Pardoe: The cruise of the Sea Eagle. The amazing true story of Imperial Germany's gentleman pirate , Manchester (Crécy) 2009. ISBN 978-0-85979-120-5
  • W. Ruffell: The Search for Von Luckner, Part 1. In: The Volunteers. New Zealand Military Historical Journal. Vol. 5, no. 5, pp. 14-20.
  • Carl Ruhen: The Sea Devil. The Controversial Cruise of the Nazi Emissary from Luckner to Australia and New Zealand in 1938. Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst, NSW 1988, ISBN 0-86417-178-1 .
  • Hans D. Schenk (Ed.): Count Luckner's "Seeadler": the war diary of a famous pirate voyage. (edited by Uwe Schnall for the German Maritime Museum), Die Hanse / Carlsen, Hamburg 1999, ISBN 3-551-88480-3 .
  • Wolfgang Seilkopf (ed.): From the life of the "sea devil". Letters and Notes. Mitteldeutscher Verlag, Halle 2000, ISBN 3-89812-020-1 .
  • Wolfgang Seilkopf: Count Luckner the sea devil - A biography in pictures. Mitteldeutscher Verlag, Halle 2013, ISBN 978-3-89812-917-6 .
  • Alexander Sperk : Felix Graf von Luckner and his biography in the time of National Socialism, in: Yearbook for Halle City History 2012, pp. 10–46. ISSN  1612-8192 , ISBN 978-3-89923-298-1 .
  • Paul Tichener: The Von Luckner Incident. Lodestar Press, Auckland 1978.
  • John Walter: The emperor's pirates. German trade troublemakers 1914–1918. Motorbuch-Verlag, Stuttgart 1996, ISBN 3-613-01729-6 .
  • Vaughan Yarwood: The History Makers. Adventures in New Zealand Biography. Random House, Glenfield, Auckland 2002, ISBN 1-86941-541-8 .
  • Genealogical manual of the nobility . Adelslexikon Volume VIII, Volume 113 of the complete series, CA Starke Verlag, Limburg (Lahn) 1997, ISSN  0435-2408 .
  • Alexander Sperk ; Daniel Bohse: legend, opportunist, self-promoter. Felix Graf Luckner and his time in Halle (Saale) 1919–1945, Mitteldeutscher Verlag Halle (Saale) 2016, ISBN 978-3-95462-607-6 .

Web links

Commons : Felix Graf von Luckner  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Fritzsche, Werner. The Counts of Luckner at Castle Altfranken and from the Pennrich estate . Dresden, 2006, p. 30.
  2. Alexander Sperk; Daniel Bohse: legend, opportunist, self-promoter. Felix Graf Luckner and his time in Halle (Saale) 1919-1945, Halle (Saale) 2016, p. 12
  3. There are several versions of it, e.g. B. at www.stamm-grafluckner.de ( memento of April 30, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) - the story of the tidal wave is a protective claim that should cover up carelessness.
  4. The story of his capture - the master in deception himself was tricked - is described in a report in the NZObserver, Vol.XXXIX / 46 of July 19, 1919, p. 17.
  5. http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/auckland/places/motuihe-recreation-reserve/historic-motuihe-island/
  6. Alexander Sperk; Daniel Bohse: legend, opportunist, self-promoter. Felix Graf Luckner and his time in Halle (Saale) 1919-1945, Halle (Saale) 2016, pp. 12–13
  7. Eugen Lennhoff, Oskar Posner, Dieter A. Binder: Internationales Freemaurer Lexikon. Herbig Verlag, 5th edition, ISBN 978-3-7766-2478-6 .
  8. ^ Michael Töteberg : Filmstadt Hamburg , page 55
  9. Phylax Lüdecke at filmportal.de
  10. The seaquake probably only raged in Luckner's imagination , in: Informationsdienst Wissenschaft from September 1, 1999, accessed on January 15, 2010
  11. Peter Petersen: Capt. Adolf Coltzau from Delve. Series Seemannsschicksale Vol. 47 Seafaring Memories , published by Jürgen Ruszkowski
  12. ^ Felix Graf von Luckner: Seeteufels Weltfahrt. C. Bertelsmann Verlag, Gütersloh 1951, p. 260 f .; P. 268ff.
  13. Alexander Sperk; Daniel Bohse: legend, opportunist, self-promoter. Felix Graf Luckner and his time in Halle (Saale) 1919-1945, Halle (Saale) 2016, pp. 15-18
  14. Thomas Lowell: My friend July-Bumm: The adventures of the captain Lauterbach of the Emden. Translated from the American edition into German by Fritz von Bothmer, edited by Felix Graf von Luckner, Koehler & Amelang, Leipzig 1933
  15. Lauterbach, Julius: 1000 pounds head price - dead or alive: Escape adventure of the former prize officer SMS "Emden". Berlin 1917
  16. Alexander Sperk; Daniel Bohse: legend, opportunist, self-promoter. Felix Graf Luckner and his time in Halle (Saale) 1919-1945, Halle (Saale) 2016, pp. 58–60
  17. a b Felix the Liar . In: Der Spiegel . No.  13 , 1998, pp. 100 ( online - March 1998 ). Quote: “For generations he has been considered a sea hero and successful author. Findings now show what Felix Graf von Luckner was still - a child molester. "
  18. Heiber, Heinrich (edit.): Files of the party chancellery of the NSDAP. Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich, https://books.google.de/books?id=xqjyCQAAQBAJ&lpg=PA479&ots=6VzUx-1WFE&dq=H%20101%2029913%20%E2%80%93%2031&hl=de&pg=PA479#v=onepage&q = H% 20101% 2029913% 20% E2% 80% 93% 2031 & f = false , microfiche signature H 101 29913 - 31 (1628) and K 124 03955 - 64 (363) https://books.google.de/books ? id = xqjyCQAAQBAJ & lpg = PA325 & ots = 6VzUx-1WMv & dq = K% 20124% 2003955% 20% E2% 80% 93% 2064 & hl = de & pg = PA325 # v = onepage & q = K% 20124% 2003955% 20% E2% 80% 93% 2064 = false .
  19. Alexander Sperk; Daniel Bohse: legend, opportunist, self-promoter. Felix Graf Luckner and his time in Halle (Saale) 1919-1945, Halle (Saale) 2016, pp. 55–88
  20. Alexander Sperk : Felix Graf von Luckner and his biography in the time of National Socialism, in: Yearbook for Hallische Stadtgeschichte 2012, pp. 11–46.
  21. ^ Theodor Lieser, by Gregor Brand, In: Eifelzeitung
  22. Alexander Sperk; Daniel Bohse: legend, opportunist, self-promoter. Felix Graf Luckner and his time in Halle (Saale) 1919-1945, Halle (Saale) 2016, pp. 61–83
  23. See for example the article in “Halle im Bild”: in Carl-Robert-Straße ( memento from May 29, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) (since 2002), at the Red Tower ( memento from February 1, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) and Markt Ecke Schmeerstraße ( Memento from September 13, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) (both revealed in 2012), accessed on May 29, 2016.
  24. Luckner's grave
  25. ^ Paul Lüders: Darling Lichterfelde. Accurat-Verlag, Berlin 2006.
  26. ^ Copy of the original letters to the Nobel Prize Committee
  27. ^ Brigitte Haberland: Count Luckner in Alsleben. In: Civitas Alslebiensis Alsleben / Saale e. V. - Heimatverein Alsleben an der Saale, year 2007, issue 18, pp. 69–70.
  28. Willy Nolte (Ed.): Burschenschafter Stammrolle. List of the members of the German Burschenschaft according to the status of the summer semester 1934. Berlin 1934. S. 304.
  29. a b Helmut Kraus Muller and Ernst Anger: The history of the General German lads Federal (ADB) 1883-1933 and the fate of the former ADB Fraternities. Giessen 1989 (Historia Academica, issue 28), p. 103.
  30. 1960 - 1963: Consecration of youth flags by Count Luckner. In: Chronicle of the FSG. Farger Schützengesellschaft v. 1895, accessed January 11, 2020 .