Wednesday, 20 May 2015
My friend showed me this medal which commemorates the sinking of the passenger liner Lusitania. The original was made by the German medalist, Karl Goetz, in August 1915. The side at the top shows people queuing for tickets at Cunard Line's office with the motto "Geschaft uber alles" (Business above all). A skeleton sells the tickets. On the left is a man reading a paper on which are the German words for "U-boat danger", while behind him is the figure of the German ambassador, Count Johann-Heinrich von Bernstorff, raising a finger as a reminder that the Germans had placed a warning advertisement in the same newspaper as the Cunard Lines sailing schedule.
The obverse shows the Lusitania sinking with armaments on deck and two German inscriptions. The one at the top says "No contraband goods!" and the one at the bottom "The liner Lusitania sunk by a German submarine 7 May 1915."
The ship was returning from New York to Liverpool in May 1915 and the German Embassy in Washington had issued a warning two weeks before that she may be in danger. She was torpedoed by a U-boat off the coast of Ireland, killing 1198 passengers. The US and the UK denied there were armaments on board and the incident led to America's involvement in the war. They were also appalled that Goetz could make such a medal and both governments made many copies of it and used them as anti-German propaganda.