On a recent trip I was lucky to find these three post cards in the same bin, for sale.  They were mixed with a lot of other cards ... but it's very interesting how the whole history of German ocean liners is captured in these three cards.  We won't retell it all here; we'll just give what's necessary relative to these cards.

Of course it was the Germans who decided (with the first four-stackers) to make the Atlantic crossing a speed issue, vis a vis competition between itself (primarily the ego of Kaiser Wilhelm being the motivator) and England.  Germany had the Hamburg-American and North German Lloyd lines as its two major transatlantic operators, while England had the famous Cunard and of course White Star.

White Star decided to drop the speed issue and went for superlative luxury with its monstrous Olympic, Titanic and Britannic.  Hamburg-American and North German Lloyd both decided to follow that route as well, and the first of the new giant German ships intended to top the White Star trio was Hamburg-American's SS Imperator, seen here.  Completed in 1913 at the height of the fame of ocean liners and considered a national symbol, the Imperator unfortunately proved unstable and rolled badly; it had to be rebuilt.  The card is replete with Teutonic splendor, from the imposing angle of the ship to the bow eagle to the large printed "Largest in the World.  50,000 Tons -- 900 Feet long."  The later Hamburg-America ships Vaterland and Bismarck would be bigger -- but the First World War's beginning in 1914 totally ended this first period of German liner operation.
The vast majority of German liners were caught at overseas ports and impressed by, or kept by, the Allies.  The period just after the war found Germany wishing to restart its shipping, but even then some of the liners not yet finished due to the war were taken by the Allies as well.  Two big ships under construction for North German Lloyd were among those classes affected; one was taken by the British, becoming White Star Line's SS Homeric (see the cigarette card page on this site) but the other remained with North German Lloyd, and finally in 1924 was completed as its SS COLUMBUS, seen at right.  This view is of the ship as it appeared after being rebuilt and improved in 1929; it received not only a new look (compare it to the Homeric on the other page) but new turbine engines and a higher speed.
Lloyd's SS Columbus had been a success from the start, so much so that the line decided to build two new superliners.  These ships, the SS BREMEN (seen here) and the SS EUROPA were among the most powerful liners ever built; their four-shaft turbines were originally designed for 100,000 SHP reportedly but on test achieved over 135,000 SHP in BREMEN with a 28.5 knot speed.  One, then the other, quickly took the Blue Riband when completed just prior to the Great Depression in 1929.  The styling designed for these ships included streamlined funnels and a deliberately sleek appearance; this was applied to the rebuilt SS Columbus as seen above.  Unfortunately the Depression greatly hurt the operation of such ships; the Second World War ended it, at least for the Germans (on a large scale.)