The incredible true story of the largest airship ever built—and a terrifying accident that will never be forgotten. Reading Tip Historical Fiction: This play describes real events that took place in the 1930s. All of the characters are based on real people, but the words they say were made up to help tell the story. This is what makes the play historical fiction. Characters Check the character you’re going to read. *Starred characters are major roles. *Narrator 1 (N1) *Narrator 2 (N2) * Werner Franz, a 14-year-old boy Günter, Werner’s older brother * Heinrich Kubis, chief steward on the Hindenburg Max Pruss, captain of the Hindenburg Mr. Doehner, a passenger *Mrs. Doehner, his wife Irene Doehner, their daughter, 16 Walter Doehner, their son, 10 Herbert Morrison, a reporter Prologue N1: A giant silver aircraft soars through the sky. N2: It looks like a flying cruise ship. N1: Inside, celebrities and millionaires relax in large, comfortable rooms as they float through the clouds. N2: This might seem like a scene from the future, but it is a scene from the past. N1: It is 1936. For the past 30 years, airships, also called zeppelins, have ruled the skies. N2: Germany has just built the largest one ever made. It is nearly three football fields long! N1: People all over the world dream of traveling in this fast and fancy airship: the Hindenburg. Scene 1 N2: Werner and his brother, Günter, live in Germany. N1: Werner needs a job. Werner: Günter, are any hotels hiring? Günter: No. Werner: Maybe I can get a job at a restaurant ... Günter: Look up in the sky! Here comes the Hindenburg! Werner: It’s amazing! Günter: I wonder if you can get a job on that airship. Werner: That would make me the luckiest boy in the whole world. Scene 2 N2: Seven months later, Werner’s dream comes true. N1: He is the new cabin boy on the Hindenburg. N2: Chief Kubis gives Werner a tour of the ship. Kubis: Here are the sleeping rooms. It is your job to make the beds. Werner: There won’t be a single wrinkle in the sheets! Kubis: I like your attitude. N1: Kubis leads Werner up a flight of stairs. Kubis: This is the dining room, where passengers enjoy fine food and fantastic views. Werner: It feels just like being in a hotel. Kubis: It’s better! Our hotel can float through the clouds! Werner: Wow! Kubis: Just make sure none of the passengers have matches or lighters. N2: The Hindenburg is filled with hydrogen, which makes it float. But this gas burns easily. Kubis: A single spark could turn our entire airship into a ball of flames. N1: Captain Pruss walks by. Pruss: Don’t scare the boy, Kubis. It’s his first day! Scene 3 N2: Werner loves his job. N1: He enjoys several voyages on the Hindenburg. N2: On May 3, 1937, the Doehner family arrives at the airship for a trip across the Atlantic Ocean, from Germany to the U.S. Pruss: Welcome aboard. Mr. Doehner: Thank you! Kubis: Our cabin boy will help you with your luggage. N1: Werner carries away the family’s expensive bags. Mrs. Doehner: Look at the velvet curtains! Irene: I wonder if any movie stars are on board. Mrs. Doehner: This airship looks beautiful, but it feels dangerous. Kubis: Madame, zeppelins are the safest way to travel. Mr. Doehner: When are we going to take off? Irene (laughing): Father, we took off 10 minutes ago! Mr. Doehner: What?! N2: Mr. Doehner looks out the window. He is surprised to see that the ground is far below them. N1: Unlike airplanes, zeppelins float up gently into the air. Scene 4 N2: For the next two days, the passengers enjoy a smooth voyage. N1: But thunderstorms delay the airship’s landing in New Jersey. N2: Captain Pruss orders the crew to circle New York City while he waits for the weather to improve. N1: The passengers enjoy the amazing views. Irene: Look, there’s the Empire State Building! Mrs. Doehner: Walter, come see the big buildings! N2: Her son is busy playing with his toy truck. N1: He pushes it along the carpet and it makes a spark. Kubis: Oh no! N2: Kubis grabs the toy. Walter: Mama, he took my truck! Make him give it back! Kubis: I am very sorry, but I can’t do that. A tiny spark could cause a terrible fire on our airship. Scene 5 N1: After several hours, the Hindenburg floats toward Lakehurst, New Jersey. Pruss: The weather isn’t perfect, but we can’t wait any longer. Tell everyone we will be landing shortly. Kubis: Yes, sir. N2: Back in the lounge, the passengers look out the windows. Irene: Aren’t you glad we took the Hindenburg, mother? Mrs. Doehner: I’ll be glad when we are on the ground. N1: Outside, people wave at the passengers. Irene: Look at the reporters! N2: Walter makes faces at the crowd. Walter: Ha ha! You can’t ride in the zeppelin! Mrs. Doehner: Walter, stop that right now. Mr. Doehner: My camera is out of film. I’ll be right back. N1: Mr. Doehner rushes to his cabin to grab more film. Irene: Hurry! You don’t want to miss the landing. Scene 6 N2: Meanwhile, Werner helps clean up the kitchen. N1: BOOM! Suddenly, the airship shakes. N2: Werner falls to the floor in a pile of broken dishes. Werner: What was that? N1: WHOOSH! A ball of fire rushes toward him. Werner: Fire! Chief Kubis! There is a fire in the kitchen! N2: The ship tilts sideways. Then it begins to sink to the ground. N1: Werner slides toward the flames. Werner: Help! N2: Suddenly, a water tank explodes and puts out the fire around him. N1: Soaking wet, Werner snaps to his senses. N2: He looks around for a way to escape. Werner: The supply hatch! N1: He runs to a large door in the floor. Normally, it is used to load the kitchen with food. N2: But today, it is Werner’s only hope. He kicks open the hatch. N1: Outside, the ground rushes toward him. Werner: We’re crashing! N2: He waits until the last possible second. Werner: Three. Two. One! N1: Werner jumps out and lands on the muddy earth. N2: The flaming airship bounces off the ground as Werner runs to safety. Werner: I made it! I’m alive! Scene 7 N1: The back of the airship crashes to the ground, but the front is still 20 feet in the air. N2: Inside the lounge, the fire grows bigger. Kubis: Everyone stay calm. We need to exit through the windows. Mrs. Doehner: Walter, come quickly. Walter: Mama, did my toy cause the fire? Mrs. Doehner: No, sweetheart. Now I need you to be very brave. Walter: OK, Mama. N1: She picks up Walter and dangles him out of the window. N2: She spots Captain Pruss on the ground. Mrs. Doehner: Captain Pruss, can you catch my son? Pruss: Yes! Hurry! N1: She drops Walter, holding her breath as he falls through the air. Pruss: I got him! N2: Mrs. Doehner quickly pushes her daughter toward the ledge. Mrs. Doehner: It’s your turn, Irene. Irene: Where is Father? Mrs. Doehner: We can’t look for him now. We have to jump. Irene: Not without Father. Mrs. Doehner: Irene, please. We’re running out of time! N1: But Irene doesn’t listen. She runs into the smoke. Irene: Father! Where are you? Mrs. Doehner: Irene, stop! Come back! Kubis: We have to go NOW! N2: Fire roars toward them. N1: Mrs. Doehner and Kubis jump out the window just in time. Scene 8 N2: On the ground, Werner cries in fear. N1: Kubis runs by, carrying an injured passenger. Kubis: Werner! Pull yourself together. Go and see if you can help anyone. N2: Werner runs toward the airship. N1: But the zeppelin is burning fast. N2: In just 30 seconds, the Hindenburg is gone. N1: A news reporter, Herbert Morrison, talks into his microphone. Morrison: Oh, the humanity! This is the worst thing I’ve ever witnessed! N2: The sky fills with smoke. N1: Thirty-five people are dead, including Irene and her father. Scene 9 N2: The next day, the entire world hears Morrison’s radio broadcast about the disaster. Morrison: It has burst into flames, and it’s crashing! Get out of the way! N1: Back in Germany, Werner’s family gathers around the radio to listen. Günter: How could this happen to the Hindenburg!? N2: They wait nervously for news about Werner. Finally, the doorbell rings. N1: Werner’s parents turn pale with fear as Günter races to the door. Günter: It’s a telegram from Werner. He’s alive! N2: Everyone in the family cries tears of joy. Epilogue N1: What caused the fire that destroyed the Hindenburg on May 6, 1937? N2: Was it sabotage? N1: Maybe a spark lit up leaking hydrogen. N2: Recently, a scientist came up with another theory. The Hindenburg’s silver paint could have caught on fire due to static electricity in the air. N1: The true cause remains a mystery. N2: One thing is certain: news coverage of the disaster shook the world. N1: Nobody could forget the pictures of the Hindenburg bursting into flames. N2: The dream of flying in a zeppelin turned into a fiery nightmare. After the disaster, people stopped traveling by airship. N1: But Werner always fondly remembered his time working on the Hindenburg. Werner: Those were the best days of my life. —Kate Marks PAIRED TEXT/HISTORY Terror on the Titanic It was called “unsinkable.” But this enormous ship hit an iceberg, causing one of history’s worst ocean disasters. In 1912, the Titanic was the largest ship ever built. It weighed 39,000 tons and was 882 feet long. The Titanic was so fancy that a first-class ticket cost $4,300. That’s $115,000 in today’s money! On April 10, 1912, the ship set sail on its first voyage from England to the U. S. The ship carried more than 2,200 passengers and crew. Everyone on board was considered lucky to be traveling on the amazing ship. The passengers included some of the world’s richest people. A Shocking Night On the fourth night of the voyage, the sea was dark and calm. Suddenly, a warning bell echoed through the ship. A crew member had spotted an iceberg. The Titanic turned, but it was too late. The iceberg scraped the side of the ship, allowing water to pour in. Panic broke out. As the Titanic began sinking, some people escaped on lifeboats. But there weren’t enough lifeboats for everyone. Many passengers fell into the freezing water. They watched, horrified, as the ship broke in two. The builders of the Titanic had called it “unsinkable.” But on April 15, 1912, the ship sank to the ocean floor about three hours after it hit the iceberg. More than 1,500 people died. Only 705 survived. The tragedy shocked the world and forced ship companies to put better safety measures in place. Many years may have passed, but the Titanic has never been forgotten. Compare and Contrast Use this text and the play “The Hindenburg Disaster” to answer the questions. Write your answers on a separate sheet of paper. 1. In what ways was the disaster of the Hindenburg similar to that of the Titanic? How was it different? List two similarities and two differences that you found in the texts. 2. Today, many people still talk about the Titanic. Fewer people know about the Hindenburg. Based on what you learned in the texts, what is a possible reason for this?
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