Germans saved for years to go on supersonic trip

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The Independent Online

The 97 German victims of Tuesday's disaster were of all ages and came from all walks of life. Most were successful couples, who after years of building up their businesses were splashing out on a family treat - in one case to celebrate a silver wedding anniversary, in another to catch up on the honeymoon they never had.

The 97 German victims of Tuesday's disaster were of all ages and came from all walks of life. Most were successful couples, who after years of building up their businesses were splashing out on a family treat - in one case to celebrate a silver wedding anniversary, in another to catch up on the honeymoon they never had.

Some were millionaires, but there were also people of relatively modest means. One such couple was Doris Madry, 64, and her husband Rolf, 68, from the eastern town of Schwerin who had scrimped and saved for years to afford the trip. Mrs Madrys was a postmistress all her life and directed the postal choir in the town.

Some, like Klaus Frentzen from Mönchengladbach, were enthralled by the idea of a Concorde flight. Mr Frentzen, an avid fan of the supersonic jet, had his own model Concorde collection and had long dreamt of a flight. He and his wife Margret, both middle aged teachers and the parents of three children, were the late honeymooners.

Others had been tempted by the chance to cruise the Caribbean on board theMS Deutschland, made famous in Germany by the popular television soap opera Dreamboat.

Members of three generations of the Schranner-Eich family from Munich were wiped out. Christian Eich, 57, was a manager at BMW and head of the company's vintage car museum and archives. Mr Eich was on board with his wife, Andrea, 38, and their two young children Maximilien 10 and Katharina 8.

"They were really proud to be going on the ship cruise,"a school friend of the children told the German daily Bild. "They were talking about it at school for weeks."

The trip for all six was a gift from Mrs Eich's parents, Andreas and Maria Schranner, a retired Munich couple. Mr Schranner, who shared a love of cars with his son-in-law, was a multi-millionaire who made his money building houses. He was taking the cruise with his family to mark his 65th birthday.

The crash also ended the lives of a rags-to-riches couple from Potsdam in the former East Germany.

In Communist times, Wolfgang Schnitter, 66, was a stonemason, and his wife Helga, 59, worked in a butcher's shop. But after the fall of the Berlin Wall the family made millions when they sold a piece of prime land to housing developers.They booked the cruise to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary.

Another of the victims, Rudi Fassnach, 65, from Cologne, was well-known in Germanyas a former football coach. He coached MSV Duisburg from 1970 to 1973 and later prospered in the perfume business. His wife, Sigrid, aged 43, died with him.

Martin Marx from Berlin, was to have celebrated his 70th birthday on board the Deutschland. He and his wife Barbara had reserved a table in the cruise liner's restaurant for a celebratory meal tonight.

Christian Götz, 60, and Irene Vogt-Götz, 59, from Düsseldorf had both been given the all-clear after treatment for cancer, and were taking the trip to celebrate their new lease of life.

Werner Heuer, 64, a former East German motocross champion, booked a berth for two on his first voyage with his companion, Sabine Berndt, 51. Mr Heuer made a fortune out of his car dealership after the collapse of Communism.

Because of limited seating on the Concorde, 33 cruise ship passengers were rebooked only hours before take-off on a regular Lufthansa flight to New York. The nephew of one man who was bumped off the flight said: "It was like a second birth for my uncle."

More that 1,000 relatives and friends of those died crowded into the Church of the Madeleine in the heart of Paris yesterday for a commemoration service.

For more than an hour before the ceremony, hundreds of Parisians gathered respectfully around the Place de la Madeleine, watching silently as grieving relatives and dozens of Air France staff, many in uniform, arrived by car, bus and coach. Among the mourners were Jean-Pierre Chevÿnement, the French Interior Minister, and his colleague, Jean-Claude Gayssot, the Transport Minister, with Joschka Fischer and Reinhard Klimmt, the German Foreign Minister and Minister of Transport.

It took an hour for them all to arrive. Many of the bereaved had to be helped up the steps of the church, an enormous Parthenon-like edifice, as hundreds of brightly-coloured wreaths were taken inside. Many of the Air France staff waited outside, allowing relatives to enter first, with the result that they appeared to form a guard of honour for the bereaved and the ministers.

Inside the church, no press and only one television crew was allowed to record theceremony.

It was conducted by Mgr Pierre d'Ornellas, the Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Paris, with representatives from the Jewish, Lutheran and Muslim faiths. Mgr d'Ornellas said God had given man the intelligence to create such technical wonders as Concorde, but a simple technical error "could produce a disaster on the scale of the scientific grandeur of the creation itself".

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