Wilhelm Gustloff: Deadliest Shipwreck - Summary

In January of 1945, the Soviet Army was on the move. Liberating wide swaths of territory occupied by German forces, Stalin’s soldiers remembered cruelties which they, and their countrymen, had suffered because of Hitler and his policies.

Ahead of the Red Army were untold thousands of escaping Germans, mostly women and children, who were leaving East Prussia in search of a safer place or a fleeing ship. They feared certain death at the hands of the approaching liberators.

On the 30th of January, a reported ten thousand people (or so) were crammed into the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German ship docked at the East Prussian port of Gotenhafen (known today as Gdynia, Poland). Most of the individuals on the overcrowded ship (designed to carry 1,865 passengers) were German women and children.

As the Gustloff left port, shortly after noon, the weather in the Baltic Sea was bad. As she sailed into the open water, Gustloff’s decks became slick with ice. Staying fairly close to shore, she attempted to avoid any lurking Soviet submarines which needed deep water to dive.

Unknown to the Gustloff’s commander, however, Soviet sub S-13 was within striking distance of the German ship. Firing four torpedoes, the crew of the S-13 scored with three. Taking a direct hit, the Gustloff was in fatal trouble. She sank in fifty minutes.

In this story about the world’ deadliest shipwreck, step back in time to early 1945. Examine eyewitnesses accounts and pictures of the Gustloff. Learn the story of miraculous recoveries of some but the huge loss of life for others. Discover the reason why the disaster was virtually unknown for so many years.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5155stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jan 01, 2002

Updated Last Revision: Nov 09, 2016

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"Wilhelm Gustloff: Deadliest Shipwreck" AwesomeStories.com. Jan 01, 2002. Jul 22, 2018.
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