The Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff

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Post by Commodore »


[center][large]The Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff[/large][/center]



Image[justify]On the cold bitter night of January 30th 1945, just 3 months before the end of World War II (as Germany was in full retreat !), on the Baltic Sea, just a few hundred kilometers from the port of Gotenhafen (near Danzig), the DEADLIEST maritime disaster in all of recorded history occurred !

Yet almost no one, has ever heard about the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff...

It has VERY conveniently become an atrocity (in the true sense of the word !), that has been "Exiled from History" !!!

The loss of life on that ship, was equal to more than the sinking of the "Titanic" SIX TIMES over !!
But yet, the Titanic has been the most widely publicized maritime disaster to date (movies, documentaries, books, memorials, etc.) !

Furthermore, the sinking of this "refugee ship", the Wilhelm Gustloff, which was loaded to more than FIVE TIMES its normal capacity (with mostly women and children), and then mercilessly AND cold-bloodedly torpedoed by a Russian submarine, is by far, the GREATEST unknown AND unpublicized single disaster in modern history...

The link below is the most comprehensive web-site on the subject:

This documentary is about 44 minutes long and has a "watchable" quality of A9 / V8[/justify]


[large]THE UNKNOWN DISASTER :[/large]

[justify]The torpedoing of the Wilhelm Gustloff by the Russian submarine S-13 resulted in over 9,000 tragic deaths ? a staggering figure by any comparison. Heartbreakingly, estimates have indicated that up to half of those who perished were children. Furthermore, examination of history and facts surrounding the Gustloff provide drama rivaling any award-winning movie or book ever made.

However, ask most people to name the greatest ship disaster in history and you?ll usually get a response that inevitably includes the Titanic (which is then usually dismissed as being too obvious). Other suggestions will be offered like the Lusitania, Empress of Ireland, USS Arizona, Andrea Doria, etc.

Depending on where you live in the world, the ship names may be different - with the probable exception of the Titanic due to its profile. Rarely will the Gustloff (or indeed other German ships evacuating the Bay of Danzig/Gdansk in early 1945) be among them. Why?

Perhaps in the years to come, the Wilhelm Gustloff will be seen as much more than a footnote in history. In the meantime, many suggestions have been made as to why it is largely an ?untold story? today. Here are some in no particular order :

Image1) Occurred during wartime
Many view wartime disasters as less ?tragic? than those occurring during peacetime. Perhaps it is because those trapped in a wartime environment should expect the potential for danger.

2) Happened to the ?losing? side
Quite simply, since the dawn of time the ?losing? side of any war suffers a loss of historical documentation and profile of their own events ? even tremendously tragic ones.

3) German war-guilt has repressed the disaster
Over the last 60 years, numerous Germans have felt war-guilt for their country?s role in WWII. Many would have hesitated to mourn, lest they be accused of equating German suffering with Nazi atrocities. There are signs that enough time and healing have passed in Germany for proper acknowledgement of this tragedy. Günter Grass? tremendous book ? ?Crabwalk? ? deals with this issue in a sophisticated and coherent manner.

4) Russian retribution for Nazi occupation
When the Nazis broke their pact with Stalin and invaded Soviet Russia in 1941, their tactics were often brutal and cold. Hitler himself made it clear that this was a war different from that waged in the West. He called it a "war of extermination". When the tide eventually turned and the Soviets were marching toward Berlin, the Red Army had no mercy ? and exacted horrific revenge. Since the Soviets were the only Allies in control of the Bay of Danzig both near the end of the war and for many years after, they were not about to mourn the loss of life on any enemy ship.

5) World sentiment regarding Nazi atrocities
As the world learned more about Nazi war-crimes and systematic genocide - above all the Holocaust, subdued global reaction to a disaster on this scale is understandable. Under other circumstances, 4,000 innocent children dying in a single disaster would certainly be mourned by almost anyone in a ?friendly? or ?enemy? nation.

6) Ship was named for a prominent Nazi leader
Wilhelm Gustloff was leader of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in Switzerland before his assassination. One wonders if the profile of this sinking might have been higher if the ship had been named after a city or non-Nazi figure. Ironically, the ship was originally to be called the Adolf Hitler, which may have repressed this disaster even more.

7) Soviet Submarine S-13 Captain Alexander Marinesko
Had a different submarine with a different captain sunk the Gustloff, the story may have received a much higher profile in the Soviet Union. Unfortunately for Marinesko, his reputation and indiscretions on land made his character incompatible with the Soviet ideal. His reputation was eventually resurrected many years later by the Soviet Government, but only as a hero who sunk a fascist ship filled with military personnel only.

Image8) Demise of so many refugees (mostly women and children)
For months, the disaster remained largely unreported both inside and outside Germany. Inside the imploding Nazi-Germany, Hitler wanted to suppress awareness about the death of so many (especially occurring on what once had been the flagship of the KdF and symbol of unity among the German Volk). With the western Allies, it would not have made for a popular news story involving the deaths of so many women and children.

9) There is no ?American? connection or ? Hollywood ? profile
Since comparisons are inevitable, we can see how the Titanic profile was raised even higher worldwide with an Academy-Award winning movie from Hollywood. Unlike the Titanic, the Gustloff was not sailing toward America, nor did it have any American passengers on its decks. This may very well change in the near future as more learn about the scope of this tragedy, and the incredible story that surrounds it.

10) No world-renowned celebrities or citizens were on board at the time of the disaster
In another inevitable comparison to the Titanic, none of the Gustloff passengers on the fateful voyage were "rich", "world famous" or of "society's elite". Most were refugees simply trying to escape a terrible situation.[/justify]

Last edited by Commodore on Fri Aug 26, 2011 11:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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