Wilhelm Gustloff – Hitler’s Titanic

MS Wilhelm Gustloff, 9,000 lives lost in 1945

With a death toll six times greater than the Titanic, new light has been shed on MS Wilhelm Gustloff, as a result a TV series that aired on Germany’s ZDF Channel last night.

The Independent is reporting:

“There was this sea of adult heads floating all around me, but alongside them there were hundreds of children’s legs half sticking up in the air. Their heads were under water,” Mr Schön, now 82, said. “They all drowned. Nobody realized that a child’s head is heavier than its legs.”

The Independent post is here.

An estimated 9,000 passengers and crew, fleeing East Prussia, perished (5,000 children) as a result of the the sinking of MS Wilhelm Gustloff back in January, 1945. Gustloff was carrying 10,000 refugees packed into every corner of the ship. Struck by three Soviet torpedoes, she took only 70 minutes to sink.

During her life, MS Wilhelm Gustloff saw many incarnations: Cruise ship, Hospital ship, Navy ship, and Rescue ship.

The sinking (from the Wilhelm Gustloff website) Sometime before 8PM , the first officer on the S-13 spots lights in the distance. Marinesko promptly makes his way to the conning tower. When the snow clears for a moment he spots in his words “the silhouette of an [enormous] ocean liner, even [with its] lights showing”. Over the next two hours, Marinesko shadows the Wilhelm Gustloff, fine tuning his plan of attack. His crew on board begin to sense that their luck is about to change.

Wilhelm Gustloff - Hitlers Titanic

MS Wilhelm Gustloff in better days

Her history is well chronicled here.

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This post was written by Richard Rodriguez, Rescue Tug Captain, and US Coast Guard approved instructor for License Training. You can read more of his articles at the BitterEnd