As one of Norddeutscher Lloyd Line’s growing stable of stylish passenger liners, the Berlin was launched from the AG Wesershipyard in 1908. She made her maiden voyage in May of 1909 joining the burgeoning sea-born passenger service of the early 20th Century. As the prospect of war loomed, fate found her in Bremerhaven undergoing routine repairs. Her conversion to a minelayer/raider was rapidly achieved due to her forethoughtful architects. German passenger liners of the period were built with deck accommodations for quickly mounting guns with little or no modifications.
Her first sortie in September 1914 was soon aborted when Captain Pfundheller turned about and returned to port fearing patrolling British ships would easily spot her in the bright moonlight. She sailed again in October, this time making it out into the Atlantic. She set course for the northern coast of Ireland to lay mines. Those mines claimed her only two victims, the merchantman Manchester Commerce and the British King George V class battleship, HMS Audacious. The Audacious proved to be the largest ship of any class claimed by a raider during the war.
By November, Berlin was on station off Norway positioned to intercept ships sailing between Britain and Russia. After a few weeks without any success, her coal supply was reaching a critical state. She, like the other converted passenger liners, had a voracious appetite for coal, consuming on the order of 240 tons per day.
Whether it was inexperience, fear, or clever deception on the part of British radio traffic, Captain Pfundheller decided the best course of action was to take refuge in Trondheim, Norway rather than make a run for home. Since she was an offensively armed ship, the Norwegian authorities classified the Berlin as a warship, giving her only 24-hours in port. Viewing the situation as unquestionably bleak, Captain Pfundheller accepted internment.
After the war ended, Berlin returned to Germany and was handed over to Britain in December 1919 as war reparations. She was renamed the Arabic and alternated service between the Red Star and White Star Lines until she was finally broken up in Italy in 1931.
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Ships captured (c), sunk (s), or mined (m): 2 totaling 30,783 tons