In an attempt to revive the glories of Germany's pre-Great War North Atlantic liners, the North German Lloyd Shipping Company decided, in the mid-1920s, to upgrade and transform their New York service with a pair of strikingly modern turbine steamers with which it could also challenge for the Blue Riband trophy. Ordered together, it was intended that the two ships would be built to one timetable so that both could enter service at the same time even though, in the event, Bremen was completed nine months ahead of her sister Europa due to a serious dockside fire which severely damaged the latter whilst she was fitting out.
The Bremen - the fourth liner to bear this name as the third had been confiscated by the Allies after the Great War - was built at Bremen and launched on 16th August 1928, the day after her sister Europa. Both ships were markedly streamlined and whilst Bremen had squat, pear-shaped funnels compared to Europa's which were taller and oval, in most other respects the ships were virtually identical and embodied the acme of art deco design with the finest German engineering. Bremen entered service first and on her maiden voyage in July 1929 took the Blue Riband from the ageing Mauretania which had held it for twenty years. It was a heady moment for Germany and, between them, Bremen and her sister held the record until August 1933 when it fell to the new Italian contender Rex. Finding herself in the United States on the eve of the Second World War, Bremen slipped out of New York without passengers on 30th August 1939, made for Murmansk (Russia) and eventually got back to Germany in December. Although considered for conversion to a troopship, the work was never completed and she was laid up at Bremerhaven where, on 16th March 1941, a disgruntled cabin boy started a fire aboard her which got out of control. Scuttled in an unsuccessful attempt to save her, the damage was too serious to repair and she was scrapped thereafter.