R.M.S. Lusitania medal, complete in the case along with the rare Dutch leaflet.
This medal is the bronze variant instead of the iron one, with the date of 5 May instead of 7 May.
The case, however, does state the correct date.
Read on for more on this special piece.
Karl Goetz (°Augsburg, 28 June 1875 – † Munich, 8 September 1950) was a well-known German medallist. His oeuvre contains over 800 works, including a series of 175 satirical medals and medallions themed around the First World War. The 'Lusitania medal' and 'The Black Shame' are his most famous works.
The RMS Lusitania was a ship of the Cunard Line shipping company that was torpedoed by the German U-20 submariner on 7 May 1915, about 3 years following the Titanic disaster, near Kinsale, Ireland. The Germans did this because they suspected that, in addition to passengers and regular cargo, the ship also had war equipment for the Entente/Allied forces on board. It claimed 1,198 victims. Despite this heavy death toll, public attention for the RMS Lusitania is rather limited compared to the RMS Titanic, the story of which still captures the imagination of many.
Karl Goetz has created this medal in light of this event. Unfortunately, he mixed up the dates for the first set of medals, thinking the Lusitania was torpedoed on 5 May and not on 7 May 1915. Afterwards, he would claim he'd read the wrong date in the newspaper, but in truth the man was quite chaotic and sometimes outright sloppy. The true story will forever be unknown.
Fact is that the medal, bearing the wrong date, gave the Allied forces the impression that the Germans would have sunken the Lusitania with deliberate intentions, and that they'd already had the medals made beforehand but that the plan needed to be delayed a couple of days due to circumstance. Rumour also had it that the crew of the U-boat (U-20) was bestowed with these medals, which of course wasn't the case at all.
Both the German authorities and Karl Goetz himself tried to remove the erroneous medals from circulation as much as possible, but the damage had already been done, and it would come to haunt Karl Goetz for the rest of his life.
The Allies took advantage of Karl Goetz's mistake in an anti-Germany propaganda campaign, whereby especially in Great Britain large quantities of copies of the medal were distributed along with a pamphlet in which the German attack was strongly condemned. Also in the United States copies were distributed among the people with that same goal in mind, which was realised by Sandstorm & Mahood.
Until that point, the United States had kept their distance from the First World War, but the torpedoing of the Lusitania was for them the trigger to actively engage themselves in the conflict.
The obverse of the medal shows the sinking Lusitania (stern-first, contrary to reality), loaded with various war materials and with the overhead text 'Keine Bannware [no prohibited goods]'. The text below is translated as 'The steamship Lusitania, sunk by a German submariner, 7 May 1915'.
On the reverse we can see a ticket window of the Cunard Line along with a skeleton, which represents death, selling tickets to the unsuspecting passengers. On the left there's a man reading a newspaper which reads 'U-boat danger'. Behind the man stands the German ambassador Johann-Heinrich von Bernstorff, who raises a warning finger to remind the people of the fact that the Germans put a warning in the newspaper, coincidentally on the departure date of the Lusitania when it left New York on 1 May 1915. The text above reads 'Geschäft über Alles', or 'Business above all', to suggest that the Cunard Line would put business (and, therefore, profit) above human lives. All the way at the bottom we find the initials K.G. for Karl Goetz.
Four variants of this medal exist: with the wrong date of 5 May and with the correct date of 7 May, plus bronze and iron combinations of these. The use of these different metals was due to the restrictions imposed by the German government during the First World War. That is, copper was needed for the production of brass in order to manufacture ammunition.
Even today, the story of the RMS Lusitania is drenched in controversy. Recent expeditions to the shipwreck seem to confirm that the ship indeed had weaponry on board the day it sunk to the bottom of the ocean.
- Year/Period and Variation
- 1915 with Dutch pamphlet in original case
- Precious metal
- AU (About Uncirculated)