'Wilhelm Gustloff' and others - did you know?

ddraigmor
17th December 2006, 20:35
How many of you know about the three ships lost during the closing days of World war 2? The ships - the 'Goya', the 'Cap Arcona' and the 'Wilhelm Gustloff' took a total of almost 25000 souls with them when they were sunk.

I've chosen the briefest history of the 'Wilhelm Gustloff' as an example - if you're interested, I'll post more on each ship.

A terrible, sad waste of life that is little known - how many of you did?

The former KdF Cruise Liner Wilhelm Gustloff, at the time serving as a barracks ship for the Kriegsmarine, left from the Baltic port of Gotenhafen and set sail for the relative safety of the west, away from the advance of Soviet forces that were converging on the region. The Gustloff, designed to carry a maximum of 1,865 people total, was transporting 10,582 refugees, soldiers, sailors, and crew - including scores of sick and injured, as well as women, children and the elderly. All were fleeing from the terrible fate that awaited most of those left in the wake of the Soviet advance, including Germans and non-Germans alike.

When the gray light of dawn lifted over the freezing cold waves of the Baltic Sea on January 31st, 1945, it would fail to fall upon the decks of the Gustloff, for that night it had been sunk by the Soviet sub S-13 and disappeared under the dark sea in less than 50 minutes, taking with it 9,343 lives, marking its loss as the most tragic naval loss in all of history.

Jonty

billyboy
18th December 2006, 03:47
as you so rightly say. a terrible waste of lives that very little was known about. look forward to you other postings.

Richard Green
18th December 2006, 08:28
Yes, I had read an article or book review somewhere by or about a lady who survived but I can't remember many details. Did the sub come back and torpedo again once the ship was disabled and sinking? Incidentally did many survive? What a terrible loss of life especially in a sea which is not noted for calm or warmth...

ddraigmor
18th December 2006, 19:35
Where do I start? This thread will be a long one- certainly for the stories involved - so I will split it into the ships involved. That way, it can be viewed under each ship’s name.

I’ll start in chronological order with the ‘Wilhelm Gustloff’ January 29th / 30th 1945.

The ‘Wilhelm Gustloff’ was a 25000 ton liner built for the KDF "Strength through Joy" (Kraft durch Freude) - Hitler’s socialist party’s ‘cruises for all’ programme. During the war she found herself converted from cruising to an accommodation ship and then a 500 bed hospital ship - the role which she was undertaking at the time of the tragedy.

Wartime records of how many individuals were aboard her are not precise. She was, however, overcrowded with some 4568 persons, including naval officers and men, Women Naval auxiliaries, wounded service men - including stretcher cases Her crew were some 173 strong. Whilst official sources attempt to give a figure, it has been disputed. According to one German reference work, there were 4,974 refugees and 1,626 military service personnel on board. Of this total of 6,600, only 900 could be rescued, and 5,700 perished. Source: W. Schötz, ed., Lexikon: Deutsche Geschichte im 20. Jahrhundert (Rosenheim: DVG, 1990), p. 497.

A 223-page English-language work on the sinking of the Gustloff reports that in addition to the 6,050 people (including 4,424 refugees) officially recorded as being on board, another 2,000 desperate refugees were hastily let on from small boats off Hela as the ship was leaving Gotenhafen This means about 8,000 people were aboard the ‘Wilhelm Gustloff’ when it sank. Of this number, 964 were rescued from the icy sea, some of whom died later. "It is likely, therefore, that at least 7,000 people perished." Source: Christopher Dobson, John Miller and Thomas Payne, The Cruellest Night: Germany's Dunkirk and the Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff Boston: Little Brown, 1979, pp. 83-84, 140-141.

Latest research puts the number of passengers aboard as closer to 10,582, with only 964 picked up - meaning that well over 8,500 people died in the attack.

Just before midnight, the ship was struck by three torpedoes fired by the Russian submarine S-13 under the command of Alexander Marinesko. One struck the bow area, one the swimming pool area on E deck (where the female auxiliaries were accommodated) and the third struck amidships. The attack took place off the Danish island of Bornholm and many survivors were later landed at Sassnitz and Ruegen Island. The Danish hospital ship ‘Prins Olaf’, anchored in Ruegen harbour, acted as reception vessel for those fortunate enough to be plucked from the freezing sea. The ’Wilhelm Gustloff’ capsized within 90 minutes and much rescue work was carried out by a single German minesweeper on scene. Despite the best efforts of other convoy vessels, those who were not killed or seriously wounded in the first few minutes of the attack were to endure a painful death in the bitter waters of the Baltic.

The cruiser ‘Admiral Hipper’ also put in an appearance but due to further submarine reports, left the scene for fear of attack.

‘General Von Steuben’ February 10, 1945

At 14600 tons, the ex Nord German Lloyd Line’s ‘General Von Steuben’ was another vessel that was sunk with an incredible loss of life. Setting sail from Pillau for Swinemunde, she had a total of 2800 wounded soldiers aboard together with 320 nurses, 30 doctors, 165 crew - and over 1500 refugees.

Again, the Soviet Navy struck at midnight, with L-13 the submarine responsible. The ‘General Von Steuben’ went down in just under seven minutes. Approximately 3608 people perished in those awful moments with some 659 survivors picked up by vessels involved in the convoy she was part of.

In May 2004, the wreck of the ship was discovered lying on its side in a depth of 45 metres - surrounded by human remains.

The commander of submarine L-13 was Captain Alexander Marinesko - the same man who had sunk the ‘Wilhelm Gustloff’. Mikhail Gorbachev posthumously awarded Captain Marinesko the award of ‘Hero Of The Soviet Union’ for his ‘distinguished wartime service’. The man who sank both ships sent over 10000 people to their deaths - many of them refugees fleeing the wrath of the advancing Red Army - and is remembered as a hero.

‘Goya’ April 16, 1945

A passenger / cargo ship of 5230 tons owned by the Hamburh America Line, she was commandeered by the Kriegsmarine as part of ‘Operation Hannibal’ - Doenitz’s last ditch effort to evacuate as many people as possible from the Gulf of Danzig area during the last few months of the war.

She took aboard the remnants of the 35th Tank Regiment and ‘thousands of pleading refugees’ attempting to escape from the Red Army as it steam rollered through Poland.

60 miles from Stolpe, near Cape Rozewje, she ran foul of the Russian submarine L-3 under the command of Captain Vladimir Konovalov. Struck by two torpedoes - which hit her amidships - she broke in half and sank in under 5 minutes. Of the estimated 6385 souls aboard, only 183 survived.

Konovalov was awarded the ‘Hero Of The Soviet Union’ for his efforts.

‘Cap Arcona’ and ‘Thielbeck’ May 3, 1945

Four days after Adolf Hitler committed suicide in Berlin, the liner ‘Cap Arcona’ (27,561 tons) and the cargo vessel ‘Thielbeck’ were anchored in Lubeck Bay. Aboard the ships were some 7000 people - a mix of Jews, Russian and Polish POW’s from the concentration camps at Nueengamme (nr. Hamburg) and Stuthof (nr. Danzig). They were being ‘evacuated’ on the orders of Heinrich Himmler from advancing allied troops.

When they had initially arrived at Lubeck, the Captain of the ‘Cap Arkona’ - Captain Heinrich Bertmann - refused to allow the mass to board stating he had room only for 700 people in total. Threatened with arrest and summary execution by the SS guards accompanying the prisoners, he could only stand and watch as his human cargo was shoved and pushed aboard the liner.

Some sources say that Heinrich Himmler had ordered the SS to allow the ships to go to sea and, once in deep water, to scuttle them with their human cargo aboard. Himmler's order to all concentration camp commanders that 'surrender was unacceptable, that camps were to be immediately evacuated and no prisoner was to fall alive into the hands of the enemy’ could give credence to this.

Also with both vessels was the steamer ‘Athen’ whose captain - with 1,998 aboard - deliberately ran his ship hard into the quayside at Neustadt and hoisted a white surrender flag - thus saving their lives

Attacked by RAF Typhoon fighter-bombers of 197, 184 and 263 Squadrons RAF, with rockets, the ‘Cap Arcona’ - with 4500 prisoners trapped below - was reduced to a blazing wreck and quickly rolled over onto her side. Only 314 prisoners and 2 crew escaped. Again, sources claimed that many who tried to reach shore were gunned down by members of the SS.

The ’Thielbeck’ took 45 minutes to sink - of her human cargo of some 2800, only 50 were saved. Again, as survivors attempted to swim ashore, they were mown down without mercy by the SS troops stationed on the shoreline..

6,500 people died in this two ship tragedy.

It was not until 1975 that the RAF crews who took part in the operation were told of their part.

Postscript:

Doenitz’s ‘Operation Hannibal’ had been an effort to evacuate as many people - civilians as well as military - from the advancing Red Army. Between January 1945 and the capitulation of Germany on May 8th 1945, over 2 million people were safely rescued.

Although hospital ships are internationally considered to be shown respect from attack during wartime, the Soviet government categorically regarded the German hospital ships as legitimate military targets. An official note of July 1941, stated that the Soviet government rejected a German request to abide by international law regarding the immunity of hospital ships: " ... The Soviet government gives notice that it will not recognize and respect German hospital ships according to the Hague Convention." (Source: Alfred de Zayas, The Wehrmacht War Crimes Bureau, 1939-1945 (University of Nebraska Press, 1990), p. 261.; A. de Zayas, Nemesis, p. 76. )

Sober reading.

Jonty

David Wilcockson
18th December 2006, 22:11
Jonty
I had heard/read sketchy reports over the years of this incident but nothing in the depth that you have managed though, thanks very much for it. Mans inhumanity to man knows no bounds. One nit picking point, `Admiral Hipper` unless I`m wrong was a heavy cruiser same class as Prinz Eugen, & not a battleship.
David

ddraigmor
18th December 2006, 22:23
David,

I stand corrected!

Jonty

ddraigmor
19th December 2006, 12:38
Photos of the other ships.

'General Von Steuben' - 'Cap Arkona' - 'Goya'

Jonty

Lksimcoe
19th December 2006, 14:00
One thing about the Wilhelm Guslof that I heard on TV a couple of months ago.

There was an expedition to dive on the ship, and they were surprised to find that the whole center of the ship was a mass of jumbled metal.

it turns out that after the war, the Soviets dove on the ship to recover valuables from the victims, and then blew the ship to cover their crime.

This came to light after the collapse of the Soviet Union when records were opened.

Makes me sick. (there's more I could comment, but for fear of being banned, I'll keep my opinions to myself)

David Wilcockson
19th December 2006, 15:20
Lksimcoe
Like I said Mans inhumanity ............!
David

ddraigmor
19th December 2006, 17:16
The Polish Giovernment have refused to allow anyone to dive on the vessel - they have a Coastguard vessel hovering nearby on stand-by - so the story of the Russian pillage of a war grave could be right.

Terrible stories - the more I read up about the ship, the more I find myself horrified by the extent of war.

As for the collapsed centre (midships) section, she apparently broke her back as she sank so that could explain it........?

Jonty

david
25th December 2006, 23:56
Jonty and Richard,
On the website:-
http://www.wilhelmgustloff.com
there is a lot of up-to-date info including an interview with that lady survivor.
Also links to the other ships sunk during those dark, chaotic days just as the war was ending, "every man for himself" and very little factual reportage.
Try online booksellers for:
"On a Sailors Grave-(No Roses Grow)"
+
"The Damned Don't Drown"

Regards, Seasons Greetings,
David D.
I have the latter book and can recommend as an excellent pageturner, written from the perspective of one who was on her.

Ngaio 62
26th December 2006, 21:15
"the director JOSEPH VILSMAIER will start next year shooting a movie about the WILHELM GUSTLOFF in germany. it is a high budget tv movie 10 million euro,in cooperation with teamworx production (dresden,stauffenberg,etc)...."

This is a message that was posted on Wilhelmgustloff.com back in November.

Martin

ddraigmor
26th December 2006, 22:29
All,

Many thanks - a pity the TV documentary being shot in Germany may not be shown in the UK.

Drat, and I don't speak German either!

Jonty

Ngaio 62
30th December 2006, 21:09
Jonty,
My reader of this suggests this will be a feature length if not a made for TV movie. If it is anything like the Pamir film it will probably come out on DVD with English subtitles.

If I learn more I will try and post it here.

Martin

ddraigmor
30th December 2006, 23:00
Ngaio,

Yes - please keep us posted as it is a film that would be worth seeing.

Regards,

Jonty

ddraigmor
8th October 2008, 14:55
Hopefully, this revival will provide me with answers!

I am still seeking films of the 'Wilhelm Gustloff' story. Does anyone know if the feature length movie mentioned by Ngaio is out yet? If so, where can I get a copy?

Jonty

James_C
8th October 2008, 16:04
Jonty,
I've just seen this thread and thank you for bringing it to our attention.
I'd read of the Gustloff but had no idea of the Von Steuben, Cap Arcona and the others.
I did a bit of googling and found the following website which has mention of a DVD.
http://www.wilhelmgustloff.com/
Also, take a look on Youtube as there is quite a lot of footage taken on dives to the Gustloff and Von Steuben.
The whole episode brings a chill to the bone, especially knowing most of the casualties were civilians desperately trying to escape.

ddraigmor
8th October 2008, 19:02
Jim.

She's fascinated me for years - well, all of them really but for some reason she stands out.

I am going through the Youtibe site as I write this. You're correct - the images and the stories all send a shiver down my spine.

The site you mention does say a lot about the film but I beleive a new one was made. I am sure someone will tell me what it's called and then I'll probably get it off Amazon.de - I can't speak German but hey ho...I am sure I will work out what is going on!

Jonty

ssr481
8th October 2008, 20:05
Jim.

She's fascinated me for years - well, all of them really but for some reason she stands out.

I am going through the Youtibe site as I write this. You're correct - the images and the stories all send a shiver down my spine.

The site you mention does say a lot about the film but I beleive a new one was made. I am sure someone will tell me what it's called and then I'll probably get it off Amazon.de - I can't speak German but hey ho...I am sure I will work out what is going on!

Jonty

Jonty, get in touch with me.. I speaka da lingo.. can translate for ya. (Thumb)

ddraigmor
8th October 2008, 21:11
If I get the video then I can usually work out what is what. There was a chance of it being subtitled in English but I am waiting for an informed member to let me know what the title is!

Ta for that SSR - if I get stuck I might send you a copy of the DVD over when I get it but the translation will take you months!

Jonty

stein
9th October 2008, 07:55
Nobel prize winner Gunther Grass has recently published a book around the Gustloff story, I took this off the net, posted by one "Aneurin": The sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff has recently been the subject of the latest work by Gunter Grass, Germany's Nobel prize-winning author. Named Im Krebsgang or In Retrogression it uses a blend of fact and fiction to tell the story of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff.

Of course what interests Gunter Grass is not so much the tale of the Wilhelm Gustloff itself, but how it symbolises the sufferings many Germans endured during the Second World War and in particular the expulsion of the millions of Germans from their former homes in East Prussia (2) and how reluctant Germany has been to recognise this itself.

Publication of the novel has triggered a re-examination within Germany of its past. The UK Daily Telegraph reports that publication " has caused a sensation in Germany," and how it has been hailed as a turning point in the way that the country views the fate of own citizens who died in the war.

As Gunter Grass himself puts it:
It is strange and disturbing to hear it said that it is only ever late in the day and with much hesitation that the sufferings inflicted on the Germans during the war are recalled. The consequences of the war, begun without scruple by Germany and criminally pursued, that is, the destruction of German towns, the deaths of thousands of civilians as a result of bombing, the expulsion and distress of the 12 million Germans in the east who had to flee: all this was only ever mentioned as a background. In postwar literature, the memory of the many who died in the nights of bombing and the mass exodus was never reflected in the same way. Experience shows that victims of violence, whoever was responsible for it, do not wish to remember the atrocities they have undergone. (End of quote.)

Personally I would like to see a Russion version of the event too. I remember watching a German documentary on the Gustloff story with the Russian U-boat commander either interviewed or quoted as saying: "I only saw a large ship." And the time of day and weather conditions as reported partly confirming this. This may easily turn into a sort of revolving guilt game. There exists a movement in Germany to focus on the lost territories and the expulsions, along with the occupation of East Germany in a way that brands the Russians occupiers subhuman, their army often deemed "criminal hordes." One should here remember Hitler's "good intention" of defending the world against the Bolsheviks, a propaganda idea used continually in occupied countries, as well as in Germany itself during the war. Those people who buy this propaganda today should speak to the Norwegians who were saved from Hitler's order to burn Norway by a Russian army who behaved exemplary and is every year honoured for their part in saving the North of Norway. Russia largely won the the Second World War for us, with an enormous sacrifice against an enemy that considered Russians "subhuman" and performed atrocities daily. The sufferings of the people considered "subhumans" by the Nazis, as the Russians were, were enormous in comparison with the "Arians" like the Norwegians, and when considering the Russian behaviour at the end of the war and after, this should perhaps be taken into consideration. Regards, Stein.

ddraigmor
9th October 2008, 11:05
Stein,

The 'blame game' is, unfortunately, a fact we cannot ever withdraw from. If you read contemporary accounts of the war during that period, you will find that the Red Army were as brutal with Germans as the occupying forces had been when they made their moves into Russia itself. It is almost 'eye for an eye'.

When we look at the brutality of the Red Army towards the Germans, do we conveniently seem to ignore things such as the treatment of Soviet POWs , who were not given the protections and guarantees of the Geneva Convention. Or The intentional destruction of major medieval churches of Novgorod, of monasteries in the Moscow region and of the imperial palaces around St. Petersburg - many of them were left by the post-war authorities in ruins or simply demolished). There was also the campaign of extermination of Slavic population in the occupied territories. Several thousand villages were burned with their entire population (e.g., Khatyn massacre in Belarus). Every fourth inhabitant of Belarus did not survive the German occupation.

So, in exacting 'revenge', the Red Army were particularly brutal against the Germans as they had been towards the 'sub human' Slavic peoples.

However, the 'Wilhelm Gustloff' and the other vessels sunk by the Soviets were atrocities in their own rights. Let us not foget that the German Krigesmarine had a capital ship in the area that night - the KMS 'Admiral Hipper'. The question was never asked as to why the Russians did not choose to go for her but rather a slow moving vessel which was showing navigation lights to mark her as an evacuation vessel. Was their intelligence that faulty - or was it a 'revenge' attack to kill as many Germans as possible? The Red Army treatment of the Germans was 'like for like' - if we are looking at inhumanity, then both sides are equally as guilty.

If Germany is now answering her past, then some good has come of this. However, atrocities were committed by all sides - let us also not foregt that.

Also, Russia won the war for you? I find that hard to accept, Stein! On the 8th May 1945, it was Allied troops - from Norway, Sweden and Great Britain in company with members of the Norwegian Resistance - who accepted the surrender of the occupying German forces. Also, King Haakon was brought home to Norway by the Royal Navy.

It was - and correct me here if I am wrong - the allies who supplied the resistance with arms and ammunition, co ordinated it, sustained and supplied it. It was the British who made the first attempt to invade Norway and the British and Norwegians who took part in raids such as Lofoten and the Heavy water plant.

The Russians won the war for you? A small part of it perhaps - but please do not foget the many allied troops who laid down their lives to try and free Norway from German occupation!

Without allied intervention, Russia would not have been inany position to win her war - and that stands for many of the other countries occupied by Germany too.

Jonty

stein
9th October 2008, 11:22
A small misunderstanding, probably due to bad wording on my part. In "Russia won the war for us," "us" was meant to refer to the Allies. But that not to indicate anything other than "a very large part." I have not the number of German soldiers occupied on the Eastern front, but I believe they represented a substantial part of German strength. I'd be interested in the facts in numbers if anyone has them.
As for Norway, it was rapidly occupied by the Germans, and when Germany capitulated they left (with the country in overall terms largely as it was before the war, our big losses were at sea). Apart from the Russians stopping the "burnt Earth" project in the North there were no liberation of Norway. This of course said as large strategic facts, if you want to record every act of heroic resistance, you could use forever. One thing I often think of that may be relevant is the British bomber crew - I would guess in a Mosquito, that alone tried to bomb Gestapo Headquarters at Victoria Terrasse in Oslo. They missed with their bomb and hit a tramcar full of Norwegian workers going to work in the morning. Daring raid, yes very, with possibly glorious propaganda results yes, but for it all they probably received no medals. That's war, results only are counted, intentions counts for hardly anything. Regards, Stein

K urgess
9th October 2008, 12:40
Possibly the first raid by Mosquitoes, Stein.
It was a top secret aircraft before that.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oslo_Mosquito_raid
It could be said that the lessons learnt from the mistakes made were used to good effect in raids such as the French prison and Copenhagen Shell House raids.
http://www.raf.mod.uk/history_old/shell.html
I always though that the burnt earth policy in northern Norway was a direct result of facing the Russians across the border with the same mind set as that used on the main Eastern Front.
Being the son of a Norwegian Resistance worker who was also conscripted by the Germans as a cook/maid and one of the British forces that arrived in Stavanger in May 1945, I have a biassed outlook on the conduct and results of that conflict.
As to the subject of the thread, wasn't there another refugee ship in the same area that was sunk by Allied bombers despite red crosses and the like?

chadburn
9th October 2008, 12:42
From what I understood of the situation was that the "Gustloff" and the other escaping ships were not making for the sanctury of the Allied Western Controlled area's but were making for Norway which at the time was still under German control to set up a German enclave, the German's always considered the Norwegian's to be their nearest "Arian?" relative's (most of the Norwegian's did not of course agree!) but had little say in the matter with a Quisling Government in charge. It is a bit of a useless exercise to look back and say the sinking of these ships should not have happened although that will be the German view I suspect, but from an Allied point of view they had to be stopped from reaching Norway or possibly Denmark (as a last resort )which again was still in German hands and the decision was taken to attack/sink all ships in that area by ALL Allied Forces not just the Russian's, I am afraid my sympathy's lie with the "missing" 6 million Men, Woman and CHILDREN of another Race

ddraigmor
9th October 2008, 12:48
Stein,

I agree with your response and accept that English is not your first language - but I think you mean that the war was won by the allies, including Russia! Without allied help, Russia would have eventually been lost - well, most of it anyway.

Surprisingly, the North of Norway was - as you have stated - liberated by the Red Army. Other troops were trained in Scotland and shipped to Murmansk to take part so it could be said to have been an Allied invasion. There is a good article on it here:

http://www.reisenett.no/norway/facts/history/history_Norways_liberation.html

As for the Mosquito raid. Unfortunately then - as now - civilian casualties will happen. There were four Mosquitos from 105 Squadron RAF. The attack was established with the Norwegian Government in exile at the time. The story is here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oslo_Mosquito_raid

Marconi - yes, there was: The 'Cap Arcona' (details in my history at start of thread).

Geoprdie Chief - The 'Gustloff' and others were headed for Germany - it was thought to bring them back as they knew the war was lost. Doenitz planned the rescue mission with that one express purpose in mind - bring them home.

Jonty

stein
9th October 2008, 13:03
Hi Kris. Obviously the story has been simplified in my mind, I imagined one plane and one bomb. One should not trust one's memory in such matter. The streetcar bit not mentioned in your linked to account I'm sure of though, I've seen photographs. Passing the place on Wednesday I reflected that with bombs not dropping straight down, but rather when dropped from a speeding plane passing a great distance before landing, the one that hit the streetcar might not have missed by many feet. Which then got me to wonder about the short distance between hero and heel, - the Germans milked the incident for what it was worth of course.
Which was here recounted here on the background of having seen a German television documentary that tried to reconstruct the conditions under which the Gustloff was torpedoed, including a visual representation of what the Russian captain might have seen; and they not being able to discard the possibility that he sunk what was to him a "large ship." Regards, Stein.

K urgess
9th October 2008, 13:08
Operation Hannibal
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Hannibal

K urgess
9th October 2008, 13:18
The streetcar may have been the result of one of the bombs that passed straight through the building without exploding, Stein.
It's total war and that means civilians are just colateral damage.
I doubt if the Russian submarine captain would have held his fire even if he knew.

stein
9th October 2008, 13:42
Hi Jonty. Didn't see your last posting til after I had reacted on the one by Kris. There's forever things to be learned about history, I didn't know there were other nationalities involved in Red Army campaign in the North of Norway.
But if I may restate my point, perhaps refine it: let's point the black finger at the single perpetrators, let's not talk of any people as criminals or subhuman. As an example: the unprovoked attack by England on Denmark-Norway, including the terror bombing of Copenhagen on the background that a large massacre of civillians would soften the Danes up, can be seen as barbaric even by English citizens - and by the way goes some way to explain why some Norwegian Nazis tried to defend themselves by claiming that they did not love the Germans, but ("legitimately") hated the English - but there were English at the time that protested, even in Parliament. Part of our Norwegian war history is the lack of preparedness against a German attack, and part of the explanation often given is that Germany was seen as the "cultured nation" as opposed to the British. Dangerous ideas that turned out to be, the background in spite. The hate of England and the English was for a long time mandatory Norwegian nationalism, with every primary school pupil obliged to know the poem "Terje Vigen" by heart (look it up in Vikipeda). This blinded us to the fact that barbarism is not a national character, typical of neither Britain, Germany or Russia. I doubt not for a second that had Norway had the means, our army would have perpetraded a few massacres too.
My point was that let's not put fire under a new wave of Russia hate, I assure you there are those in the Neo Nazi scene who absolutely want us to do that (research on the net is free). The recent happening in Georgia where the fact that the Georgians started the killings is largely overlooked, and that Russia is given no sympathy for not wanting to be surrounded by US "rocket shield against rogue states" although Kennedy is deified for wanting to start a World War if Russian rockets got too near his border, makes me a bit nervous.
The Gustloff was a large tragedy, Germany has every right to mourn their innocent dead, they can do that without villifying another people. Lets not make this into a revolving guilt game. Regards, Stein.

stein
9th October 2008, 13:54
Kris "I doubt if the Russian submarine captain would have held his fire even if he knew." That's the first line by you I've disliked Kris. What's the point in it?

The mosquito crew I unhesitatingly see as heroes, I reflected on their bad luck. I do not hold it for absolutely impossible downt to the last trillionth of a chance though that one of them might have said of the final result that "who cares." But I generally wouldn't say such a thing unless anger got the better of my good sense.

This discussion of war history from a moral viewpoint generally turns into a war here, national pride takes over every time, and someone gets hurt. I'm sorry about my involvement in it - and if all my postings in this thread should be wished deleted, you are welcome to do so. Regards, Stein.

Chouan
9th October 2008, 14:42
Hi Jonty. Didn't see your last posting til after I had reacted on the one by Kris. There's forever things to be learned about history, I didn't know there were other nationalities involved in Red Army campaign in the North of Norway.
But if I may restate my point, perhaps refine it: let's point the black finger at the single perpetrators, let's not talk of any people as criminals or subhuman. As an example: the unprovoked attack by England on Denmark-Norway, including the terror bombing of Copenhagen on the background that a large massacre of civillians would soften the Danes up, can be seen as barbaric even by English citizens - and by the way goes some way to explain why some Norwegian Nazis tried to defend themselves by claiming that they did not love the Germans, but ("legitimately") hated the English - but there were English at the time that protested, even in Parliament. Part of our Norwegian war history is the lack of preparedness against a German attack, and part of the explanation often given is that Germany was seen as the "cultured nation" as opposed to the British. Dangerous ideas that turned out to be, the background in spite. The hate of England and the English was for a long time mandatory Norwegian nationalism, with every primary school pupil obliged to know the poem "Terje Vigen" by heart (look it up in Vikipeda). This blinded us to the fact that barbarism is not a national character, typical of neither Britain, Germany or Russia. I doubt not for a second that had Norway had the means, our army would have perpetraded a few massacres too.
My point was that let's not put fire under a new wave of Russia hate, I assure you there are those in the Neo Nazi scene who absolutely want us to do that (research on the net is free). The recent happening in Georgia where the fact that the Georgians started the killings is largely overlooked, and that Russia is given no sympathy for not wanting to be surrounded by US "rocket shield against rogue states" although Kennedy is deified for wanting to start a World War if Russian rockets got too near his border, makes me a bit nervous.
The Gustloff was a large tragedy, Germany has every right to mourn their innocent dead, they can do that without villifying another people. Lets not make this into a revolving guilt game. Regards, Stein.

We even had national heroes involved; one of them even named his horse after the City!
Nelson and Wellington.
I doubt if the Tories want us to teach THAT part of our History when they go on about schools not teaching enough about our History!

ddraigmor
9th October 2008, 14:48
Stein,

You argue your posts well - I would object if they were to be removed!

Kris was saying what many of us think given the circumstances at that time. Let's also face some other technical issues - The Russian sub commanders were not as experienced as either the Germans or the Allies so sinking what he believed was the largest target was his job. I doubt he cared whether it was an evacuee ship or a Cruiser. He was rewarded with a medal for his one voyage - after this he was never mentioned again. What does that tell you?

No-one blames anyone! It is a tragic human fact that the psychology of warfare brings out both the best and the worst in men and in nations. Germany tried to exterminate the Slavic people - so, in return, the Red Army dealt with their enemy the way they had been dealt themselves. Tit for tat. Also, the leaders at the time needed to show a starving population that revenge was being dealt out. It was as much a war of propoganda.

National pride takes over - of course it does. No-one does that quite as 'in your face' as we British and like that or laothe it, it is that essential 'bulldog' spirit that has given us triumph where others would have failed. That is our national charcater. If Norways was as you describe it, then it changed after the war. Norway still sends a very large Christmas tree to the UK every year as a thank you for what we did for her in the war.

Jonty

K urgess
9th October 2008, 14:51
Sorry, Stein, didn't mean to upset you. I was not thinking of the Russian Captain as anything more than a naval officer doing his job. Don't forget he probably had a political officer at his elbow who would have ensured that the torpedoes were fired no matter what the Captain wanted to do.
Just as the one side thought of various races as "sub-human" and therefore not worthy of note or kindness or "human" treatment, so those same labelled "sub-humans" saw their labellers as a plague that needed destroying no matter what.
If the ships had not sailed with the refugees they would probably not have survived the advancing armies so the result is the same.
According to some reports the Master of the Cap Arcona tried to refuse the number of prisoners put aboard his vessel. Threatened with summary execution he had to obey or die. If he had refused it would not have made the slightest bit of difference to the outcome. The result is the same.
I have spent over 25 years studying the British bombing offensive and try to distance the bravery from the horror. Plus ignoring the fact that the equivalent of Nuremburg would have been different if the Allies had lost.
The victor writes the history. I'm sure that's a quote from someone.

Chouan
9th October 2008, 15:01
That same someone argued that the Final Solution was not only practical, but was also acceptable on the grounds that "who remembers the Armenians?"
Seeing as virtually nobody does, and that the Turks attract virtually none of the opprobrium that the Nazis do, he seems to have been right, at least on that point.

ddraigmor
9th October 2008, 16:46
At this point I'd like to say thanks to all the contributors who are adding to this thread so far. It is a very emotive subject and there are really no rights nor any wrongs.

It is a credit to the members of this site that such a discussion is handled with respect and regard for the others point of view.

If only all forums were the same!

Jonty

stein
9th October 2008, 17:10
Okay Kris, the Soviet system was bad, the Russians humans as everybody else. Please excuse me.

Jonty, after the war everything nice was British-made here in Norway, I read Eagle, made Airfix models and had yellow - near translucent - singles with Cliff and the Shadows (smelled them often, liked their smell). My friends were all studying New Musical Express and practizing their Shadows steps. Then America took over, or at least shared the influence with the British, and now Germany is making a comeback as cultural influence, one reason being that while a couple of English television news channels are free, Germany has some 15 free channels, most without advertising and all with high quality programs. But, yes, after the war Britain was tops, the prevalent perspective on WW2 was as handed out in those pocket size Fleetway Picture Library comics, the text translated into Norwegian but for the "Ach Die Engländer!" yell as the scarfaced and monocled bandits were holed.
And yes, let's say this discussion went well, I'm sorry if I stepped over the line here or there, I do get engaged!

Chouan. Seems it is a crime to mention the genocide against the Armenians in Turkey, but there is some effort somewhere to make the word genocide official about it in some international organ (UN?) as I remember from the news. So hopefully that will be remembered as well, and the Japanese forced to remember their activities in China and elsewhere. And here were I live, all those who cheered Mao and Hoxha and Honecker and every other dictator not directly supported by the CIA will own up to their complicity in crimes against humanity. That is not likely to happen soon though :sweat:. Regards, Stein.

Binnacle
9th October 2008, 17:12
The main obstacle to the evacuation was the British air mining and bombing offensive by the RAF in the western Baltic. 668 mines were dropped in January alone, and on them a total of 18 ships were sunk and 8 vessels damaged. German vessels sailing were delayed and rerouted due to shortage of minesweepers etc. Mines are an indiscriminate weapon, if the Wilhelm Gustloff had sunk with great loss of life would RAF Bomber command be accused of "war crimes" ?. Various ships were involved in carrying refugees including the cruiser Emden, the Wilhelm Gustloff was a Uboat accommodation ship engaged in a similar task, according to Lloyds of London, in addition to refugees and crew she was carrying 3,700 Uboat personnel, IMHO the Russian captain was fully justified in interrnational law carrying out offensive action. Unfortunately the British had plenty experience in evacuation - Norway, France, Greece, Singapore, however we took the bombs and all and never whined about "refugee" ships. We should never forget that of all the Allies who fought in the war Russia contributed the most blood.

ddraigmor
9th October 2008, 18:49
There is no debate about the nationality of the people aboard the ship. Yes, she was a floating barracks for the U boat crews - but in the evacuation, she also took on wounded personnel and refugees. She put her steaming lights on during the hours of darkness - Marinesko would have tailed her (as he did) because of this. He could not have asked for an easier target.

Marinesko also knew that the 'Admiral Hipper' was in the area. As he identified the 'Wilhelm Gustloff' as '...an enormous ocean liner with its lights on' could it not be argued that his actions against what was an 'easy target' were hardly those of a combattant? The 'Admiral Hipper' would have been a prize worth taking - but an illuminated passenger ship? Then again, he would have found the bigger warship a more challenging foe - rather go for the big fat liner, with her slow speed and her position marked out for him in an almost textbook way.

On Feb 0th 1945, Marinesko and L-3 sank the passenger ship 'Steuben' - so how did this man - who was responsible (as an individual) for over 10000 deaths fare afterwards? Was he feted? Was he rejoiced?

Despite all efforts to gain recognition for his achievements, he was dishonourably discharged from the Red Navy in October 1945. After a short period in 'civvy street' he is found guilty of stealing and sentenced to a labour camp. It is not until 1960 that he is re-instated into the Red Navy.

He died in 1963 - and was not awarded his 'Hero of the Soviet Union' medal until long after his death. In 1990 and by Gorbachev.

War crimes? Hardly. 'To the victor the spoils' and all that. Let us not also forget that the RAF sank the 'Cap Arkona' in May of 1945. One of the pilots who took part in the raid spoke about their orders to 'shoot survivors'. His story can be found at: http://app1.chinadaily.com.cn/star/history/00-03-07/f02-uk.html

I think the tale that the ghost of the 'Wilhelm Gustloff' tells is that war is madness and that the only winners (in every sense of the word) are those who become the victors.

For those who do not, the apportioning of blame. the labelling as 'criminals' or 'fanatics' will forever be. We beat them so we are right. Isn't that the way it is seen? They were the enemy. Us or them and all that.

I take no political part in the rationale. As an ex seafarer and an armchair historian, my point of view is that this disaster took years to become news. More people were lost than on the 'Titanic' - but unlike the 'Titanic' there were no famous people aboard - only 'Our Enemies'. So let us defend our allied actions and push the loss of so many to one side as just another 'casualty of war'.

If only it were that simple!

Jonty

sparkie2182
9th October 2008, 20:41
Interestingly, when i was in the Soviet Union in the mid 1980s, there was never a reference to "The Germans", only to "The Fascists". In fact when
visitors referred to "The Germans", they were often corrected.
It was pointed out that nationals from all over Europe and beyond, including the U.K were fighting on Soviet soil under the Nazi banner.

Many of the Soviet people i met also talked of the tens of thousands of "undesirable" German citizens, many of whom were highly decorated by Germany during W.W.1 .... who were systematically hunted down and murdered by the Nazis.

I often felt the Soviet people emerged from their ordeal with a more rounded and balanced viewpoint than many in the western world.

They saw the war in the U.S.S.R. as a war of ideology rather than nation against nation.

K urgess
9th October 2008, 20:55
For an insight into the mood of the day it's worth looking at Hansard for the 1940s - http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/sittings/1940s - take your pick of subjects but for postwar conditions behind the "Iron Curtain" - http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/lords/1945/dec/05/situation-in-central-europe#S5LV0138P0-00684

"They that sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind"

The latest research into the number of people aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff - http://www.feldgrau.com/wilhelmgustloff.html

MCM Matze
9th October 2008, 22:10
Heyho,

very interesting thread. Always thought that the losses of Gustloff, Goya, Steuben etc would be rather not known in other countries than GE and former Soviet Union. I*ve seen the last movie about the Gustloff. It was very informative, even if I didn*t like the fictional story of the two brothers (one a merchant captain; the other one a Kriegsmarine Nazi fanatic) and the traitorous radio operator betraying position/intentions of his ship to the Soviets. There*s another movie of the loss of "Wilhelm Gustloff". It was made in the 50ies or 60ies in western Germany. German name is "Nacht fiel ueber Gotenhafen".
As for for the posting one before me: Don*t like warcrimes/genocide to anyone.
For Jonty: What do you mean with "Ruegen Harbour"? :-)

Cheers M8

Matze

ddraigmor
10th October 2008, 08:47
Matze,

What did I mean with it? Ruegen Harbour? Where is it in the thread, Matze? It's started to get so long and informative!

I mentioned it as follows: The attack took place off the Danish island of Bornholm and many survivors were later landed at Sassnitz and Ruegen Island. The Danish hospital ship ‘Prins Olaf’, anchored in Ruegen harbour, acted as reception vessel for those fortunate enough to be plucked from the freezing sea. . This was as evidence came to light that some survivors made Ruegen and were treated by the Danes.

Is that what you mean?

Jonty

stein
10th October 2008, 09:08
Hi Jonty. As you yourself say: Rügen is an island,- on which there is a port named Sassnitz. That Prins Olaf anchored in Rügen harbour must be a misprint of sorts, or at least a lack of clarity. I think that is what he meant. http://encarta.msn.com/map_701516121/r%C3%BCgen.html Regards, Stein.

ddraigmor
10th October 2008, 16:51
I will go back through the accounts but what it appears to be saying is that the vessels which rescued survivors landed some at Sassnitz and Ruegen. That is feasible as it was towards the end point of their voyage on that convoy.

The 'Prins Olaf' - mention of her role was made on the web site: http://members.iinet.net.au/~gduncan/maritime-1b.html#maritime_disasters_1945 - look for the 'Wilhelm Gustloff'

But maybe you are right - what was a Danish ship doing there?

Jonty

stein
10th October 2008, 17:13
What a Danish ship was doing there I don't know, but the web-site text is to me quite clear about it being the harbour of Sassnitz on the island of Ruegen: "many of whom were landed at Sassnitz on the island of Ruegen and taken on board the Danish hospital ship Prince Olaf which was anchored in the harbour" (end of quote). I'll search for Prince Olaf (it is not likely she was named "Prince" if she was Danish).

Having done a bit of research, I now suspect we are talking about German hospital-ship to be Frankfurt (she was never put in service as such), ex Danish Kronprins Olav. http://www.feldgrau.com/hs-frankfurt.html Regards, Stein.

ddraigmor
10th October 2008, 19:32
Stein,

Thank you - that seems to be the one I am looking for as it fits the bill plus the website provides the back up to the information I passed on.

Jonty

MCM Matze
10th October 2008, 20:07
Hello again,

Stein got it, Jonty. There*s no Ruegen Harbour anywhere. Off the southeastern part of Ruegen Island is a bay called "Greifswalder Bodden"/"Ruegener Bodden". Maybe it was a translation mistake by the author.
As for the "real" Ruegen Harbour (Ruegenhafen). That was a Kriegsmarine project of a naval base in the "Grosser Jasmunder Bodden" below the Wittow peninsula. It should get enough place for cruisers, destroyers, several sub squads and one MCM squad. Therefore it was planned to dig a channel between the peninsulas of Wittow and Jasmund.
After WW2 the Eastgerman Volksmarine made a 2nd try to establish this project for itself and the Soviet navy but abandoned it also.

Cheers from Sassnitz! Weekend ... I*m on the island. (Jester)
Matze

K urgess
10th October 2008, 20:10
A picture of the KRONPRINS OLAV has just appeared in the gallery.
http://www.shipsnostalgia.com/gallery//showphoto.php?photo=141270

ddraigmor
10th October 2008, 23:27
Stein and Matze - You're right and the author is probably wrong. I have looked at a map and seen what you both say.

Marconi, thanks for seeking out the photo of the 'Kronprins Olav' - a lovely looking boat. It also adds to the tragedy of the 'Wilhelm Gustloff' in that more evidence comes to light. I have yet to find a photo of this ship on the 'net but here? Within a day!

Jonty

chadburn
11th October 2008, 12:21
Stein, the Danish ship might have been there because at that time Denmark was still under German control as Denmark was effectively "by-passed" in the rush to the gain control of Germany by Allied Forces.

ddraigmor
11th October 2008, 14:27
Good plausible explanation Chadburn. Probably the correct one too. Anyone know any different?

Jonty

K urgess
11th October 2008, 14:37
The KRONPRINS OLAV was seized by the Germans and renamed FRANKFURT only from 1944 to 1945.
Stein's earlier post gives the details.
Naming it KRONPRINS OLAV at the time in question appears to be a mistake. As does referring to it as a Danish ship at that time.

Kris

Mike Kemble
11th October 2008, 15:58
The Wilhelm Gustloff is the subject of a chapter in a book I was "lucky" enough to get published. Its called "On A Sailors Grave (No Roses Grow)". The subject matter is losses at sea, where lives lives was proportionate to the crew size. eg: HMS Kite, 21 Aug 1944, 217 crew, 9 saved.

I say lucky because it is only available direct from the publishers, which annoyed me as I had trawled around local bookshops for ages trying to drum them into buying it.

ddraigmor
11th October 2008, 17:46
Mike,

Welcome to the thread. As you wrote the book, how are we doing so far with our bit? Is there anything else you can add to this subject?

Jonty

Mike Kemble
11th October 2008, 18:08
Hi Jonty, I have not had a chance to read all the posts yet as I was busy working on a history of the Wallasey Ferries. I am no historian, nor a smart "****" but do it as a hobby. So far I must have made all of Ł20 towards the $300+ needed to run my site ;)

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v660/elbmek/bookcover.jpg

I will read these threads as soon as I can. The ship on the cover of my book is actually the Wilhelm Gustloff, the centre section destroyed, allegedly by Soveit demolition divers

AncientBrit
11th October 2008, 19:04
Whilst we are constantly reminded by Hollywood, we are not allowed to forget the 6 million you mention.
No doubt within the Russian literary and historical establishment, they take equal pains to remind their people of the 20 million Russians who were exterminated by the Germans during the war.
I have to admit to a certain amount of skeptisism when I wonder why 6 million of one race are so much more important than 20 million of another race, when all where killed by the same nation in the same war.
History is, after all; selected memories supported by the appropriate facts. It was after all the winners of the war that decided who the criminals were.
AB

Mike Kemble
11th October 2008, 19:07
History is, after all; selected memories supported by the appropriate facts. It was after all the winners of the war that decided who the criminals were. I have always said the history is the opinion of the author. It was the Jewish lobby in the USA who decided that the holocaust was more important than the death of 20 million Soviets. It wasn't, but the manner in which they died was vastly different.

We digress ...............................

chadburn
11th October 2008, 20:54
How true your words are in saying "it is the way they died" the 6million were not at War with Germany they lived and worked there as well as other invaded Countries, the Russians were of course at War, eventually. The questions have to be asked as to why the Germans took some of the Camp prisoners on this sea journey, was it to dispose of them at sea to hide the crime? was it in the hope that word had got back to the Allies in order to give the Convoy some protection against attack?

Marconi, you appear to be an aircaft buff, I recommend one of Eric "Winkle" Brown,s books or go to one of his talks it's an eyeopener about what happened in Denmark at around the time of this Convoy.

Mike Kemble
11th October 2008, 22:05
How true your words are in saying "it is the way they died" the 6million were not at War with Germany they lived and worked there as well as other invaded Countries, the Russians were of course at War, eventually. The questions have to be asked as to why the Germans took some of the Camp prisoners on this sea journey, was it to dispose of them at sea to hide the crime? was it in the hope that word had got back to the Allies in order to give the Convoy some protection against attack?

Marconi, you appear to be an aircaft buff, I recommend one of Eric "Winkle" Brown,s books or go to one of his talks it's an eyeopener about what happened in Denmark at around the time of this Convoy.

I confessed to not reading all the posts, but the passengers were German forces and German civilians. In the empty swimming pool sat nearly 400 nurses - this is where the torpedo hit. Hopefully it killed them all instantly, for their sakes. As far as I can tell no Jewish prisoners were aboard her. 10614 people died. Built to accomodate 1850 people and a crew of 400. Including amongst the passengers, 914 naval officers, 373 German Women auxiliary nurses, 162 wounded soldiers, of which 73 were on stretchers. Rest were civilians. All fleeing the advancing Soviet Army. But no jewish prisoners.

K urgess
11th October 2008, 22:11
We seem to have two subjects crossing and recrossing here.
Chadburn, you seem to be talking about the CAP ARCONA rather than the WILHELM GASTLOFF. The former carrying concentration camp inmates the latter fleeing German refugees and about 1,000 KM personnel.
I much prefer "The Savage Canary" by David Lampe.

http://www1.uni-hamburg.de/rz3a035//arcona.html
for the full Cap Arcona story

Chouan
11th October 2008, 23:58
I have always said the history is the opinion of the author. It was the Jewish lobby in the USA who decided that the holocaust was more important than the death of 20 million Soviets. It wasn't, but the manner in which they died was vastly different.

We digress ...............................

I'm not sure that the way that many of them died was that different.
I can't quote figures at the moment, but I'm pretty sure that a significant number of the Jews who perished died at the hands of Einsatzgruppen. A significant number died through deliberately induced starvation, disease and neglect in the Polish ghettoes, or I should say the ghettoes in Poland. Significant numbers died through brutality and mistreatment in camps in Poland. The rest died in extermination camps. Of the Russians, apart from conventional war casualties, about 4-5,000,000 POWs died of starvation, neglect and disease. A higher number of civilians died of the same causes in German occupied territory. For example, about half of the population of Kharkov (250,000) perished from these causes. A million or so civilians were shot or otherwise killed for various "crimes" against the ocupying Germans.
These causes of death are generally similar to those discussed above.
I am, I'm afraid, relying on memory, so the figures may not be absolutely accurate, but the overall picture is clear. It was the brutal, indeed, bestial, treatment of Russians that made the final solution so easy.

ddraigmor
12th October 2008, 01:57
In starting this thread, I wanted to illustrate the futility of war but also to serve as a reminder that such losses were overshadowed by the more 'media friendly' ones such as the 'Titanic'. As Ancient Brit said: It was after all the winners of the war that decided who the criminals were.

After reading the link placed by Marconi Sahib, I am further appalled - and, I think it is fair to say, shocked - by the refusal of the British Government to have admitted to their part in the carnage during the evacuation. I did post a link that gave the pilot's side earlier in the thread. It would, of course, be excused as being 'war' but that doesn't sit right with me.

This is a sobering thread. I am grateful to all the contributors and hope we can continue to find out more as it progresses.

Jonty

trotterdotpom
12th October 2008, 04:40
I heard Stalin did a pretty good job on a lot of USSR citizens too!

John T.

chadburn
12th October 2008, 14:05
Marconi, an interesting read you highlight especially the piece about Norway which I was lead to believe (like many others of my generation) the ultimate destination of the Gastloff (as I have said earlier) and why it had to be stopped by any means possible and designated a legitimate target.

K urgess
12th October 2008, 14:35
I have read somewhere else that the other vessels in the Cap Arcona incident had previously been used for repatriation to Sweden of prisoners released to Count Bernadotte but can't find the reference any more.
If so they were well known to the allies as humanitarian vessels but you have to ask yourself if the SS knew this as well and was counting on it?

Lanzabry
17th October 2008, 20:54
Hi, on the National Geographic Channel(Sky) tonight there was a very good documentary about this ships sinking. The Wilhelm Gustloff. Its entitled Sinking Hitlers Supership. Keep a watch as it will probable be screened again. Very informative documentary.

R58484956
18th October 2008, 10:06
The TV program was excellent. The ship had 5 (five) captains on board and a lieutenant commander in charge of the submarine crews, and when rescued , they were all bone dry not a drop of sea water on them, virtually all left the ship at the very first opportunity, so much for women and children first.
All as stated on program.

Binnacle
18th October 2008, 11:24
Sixty odd years after certain events there seems to be increasing condemnation of the Allies apparent lack of humanitarian concern for the former enemies welfare. In the case of the enemy naval vessel carrying hundreds of naval personell and a mixed bunch of "refugees", who possibly/probably included units engaged in "ethnic cleansing", contrary to their opinions this vessel was a legitimate target, being unregistered with the Red Cross in Geneva. The Russian submarine commander would have failed in his duty to fire if he had acted to the contrary. In practice he would have been shot for treason and under the Stalin regime his family wouild have been sent to the Gulag. The RAF aircrew engaged in operations against a fleeing enemy are similarly unjustly condemned for carrying out their duties. Even Geneva registration was doubtful with a devious enemy, the "hospital" ship escorted into Malta with petrol in her DBs comes to mind. The Laconia sinking was another case of the latter day "concerned" to raise their voices in Germany when a temporary truce with U-boats was declined. When Allied ships engaged in evacuation operations from Europe and the East were bombed/torpedoed it was accepted without complaint as a legitimate act of war by a ruthless enemy.

ddraigmor
21st October 2008, 00:43
I think it is still a case of the loser losers big style. The winners tend to maintain they were cleaner than clean when in actual fact that was not always the case. If you read the statements by the RAF aircrew involved in the mission mentioned earlier in the thread you will see that they were NOT told what the ship was actually carrying - prisoners of war, mostly concentration camp inmates. They WERE told that the ship was carrying SS troops. They express great disquiet at what history revealed to them long after the war ended. I can't even begin to imagine their feelings when they were told the truth.

In the case of the U boat order. Read the following: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laconia_incident - Binnacle mentions it above.

How surprising that it seldom appears in the US version of the war at sea as it was a blatant attack on a vessel carrying out a humanitarian mission.

No SS men were taken on the 'Wilhelm Gustloff'. They were U boat crews, wounded military, nurses and refugees. She sailed with a single escort (origionally two, but one broke down). She was travelling under the orders of the Naval commander - despite the warnings of the Port commander who advised against it.

Many of the U boat crewman - contrary to the TV programme - died as well as almost all the nurses, wounded and the refugees. They did not abandon ship and take their own chances. The programme even went out under the title 'Sinking Hitler's Supership'. She was nowhere near a supership! She was tired, had been run down and laid alongside as a barracks vessel for many years. Once again, the media trying to prove that what their allies did was justifiable. There was a major capital ship at sea that night in the vicinty - why did the Soviet commander not sink that - after all, it had been using its guns against shore positions? The 'Wilhelm Gustloff' was illuminated - making her an easy target. Marinesko even admits in his memoirs that he identified her as a liner.

R58484956
21st October 2008, 13:41
The major capitol ship that night was the "Hipper"

ddraigmor
21st October 2008, 15:15
Indeed it was - and she skedadled once she knew there was a sub in the area! Marinesko has been criticised for many years for not taking advantage of that fact - they knew she was there, they knew where she was going - he could have lain in wait for her but instead he decided to 'liven' up his previously fruitless patrol. He did the same with his other victim which made him the man responsible for over 10000 deaths........and they (eventually) gave him a medal for it.

To the victor the spoils........

Cailean
21st October 2008, 15:30
The destinations of the other ships I do not know but the "Wilhelm Gustloff" was heading for Kiel in Germany.

Cailean
21st October 2008, 18:05
Mention has been made in previous postings about "war crimes" on both sides. I was horrified when I read about the actions of an American bomber in hte following action:

The Laconia Incident
The story of the Laconia Incident began on the morning of September 12 1942. U-156 was on patrol in the South Atlantic, off the bulge of West Africa, midway between Liberia and the Ascension Island. Commanded by KL Werner Hartenstein, she was one of the many Type IXCs stationed along the west coast of Africa. While heading southward on the surface, the cry of a lookout brought Hartenstein to the bridge of the U-boat. Their attention was fixated on the silhouette of a large British ship, sailing alone in the distant horizon, southwest of their position. That location was about 500 miles off the African coast and at an area frequently patrolled by allied planes based out of Freetown. Hartenstein altered course to run parallel with the ship, keeping the smoke in sight and staying far out of sight until he could close the gap when night has fallen.

He would soon learn that his target was the 20,000 ton British Cunard Star Liner, the Laconia. At the outbreak of war, the Laconia had been converted into a troopship, armed with deck guns, depth charges and asdic equipment. This made her a legitimate military target.


Survivors of the sunken Laconia cramped on the upper deck of U-156 (Werner Hartenstein). Civilian women and children including the wife of the governer of Malta was among the survivors rescued by U-boats.

As soon as sunset approached, Hartenstein closed his target and by 10pm, U-156 was in position. With the allied ship in his crosshairs, he fired two torpedoes from a range of about two miles. After a run of about three minutes, both torpedoes found their target and almost immediately the Laconia stopped dead in the water and began to list. Hartenstein surfaces and makes his way to the stricken ship to try to capture senior military officers. In the fading sunlight, crew members of the U-156 could see survivors struggling in the water, some in lifeboats, but many in the sea. The scene was in total chaos, with burning wreckage lighting up the night sky, there were floating corpses, overcrowded lifeboats, frantic swimmers and panic cries for help.

As he approached the beleaguered survivors, the crew of U-156 was astonished to hear the sounds of Italian voices. “Aiuto, aiuto”, the cries for help in Italian. Puzzled, he takes on a few survivors and soon discovers the true situation aboard the Laconia. As it turned out, she was carrying 2,732 passengers; 136 crew, 285 British soldiers, 80 civilians including women and children, 160 Polish guards and 1,800 Italian prisoners of war. It was not the troopship that he had imagined.

Realizing his error, Hartenstein immediately launches a rescue operation. Hundreds of survivors were picked up, including civilian women and children, with many crammed inside the submarine, on the upper deck and a further 200 survivors in tow aboard four lifeboats. He also called for assistance from nearby U-boats and broadcasted a radio message in plain English, providing his position and requesting aid from any nearby vessels, promising a suspension of hostilities while rescue operations were underway. U-156 remained on the surface for two and a half days providing aid to the beleaguered survivors.

Meanwhile, back in U-boat headquarters in Paris, Donitz was startled by Hartenstein’s actions. Although he ordered for no such rescues to take place, this time he not only allowed it, but nevertheless supported it. Donitz would explain many years later, “to give them an order contrary to the laws of humanity would have destroyed it (the crews morale) utterly”.


Erich Wurdeman of U-506 arrives two days later and joins in the rescue.
To speed up the rescue operation, he ordered three more U-boats to speed to Hartenstein’s aid. Flying the Red Cross flag, U-506 (Erich Wurdeman) and U-507 (Harro Schacht) arrived two days later, just around noon of September 15. They were later joined by an Italian submarine Cappelini. These four submarines shepherded the survivors, with lifeboats in tow and hundreds standing on the decks of the U-boat, they made towards the African coastline for a rendezvous with Vichy French warships dispatched as part of the rescue.

The next morning, September 16, at 11.25am, this concentration of U-boats was spotted by an American B-24 Liberator bomber operating out of Ascension island. The survivors waved and the U-boats signaled for help. As Red Cross flags were draped over their decks, the pilot Lieutenant James D. Harden turned away and radioed back to base for instructions. The officer on duty that day Captain Robert C. Richardson III replied with the order to attack.

Half an hour later, Harden flew back and the survivors felt a sigh of relief on seeing the returning aircraft. They had expected a drop of supplies, of the much needed food and medicine. Instead, they were attacked with a concentration of bombs and depth charges. One bomb landed amidst a lifeboat and hundreds perished during that attack. U-156 was slightly damaged and forced to submerge, leaving hundreds of victims struggling in the water. All the submarines dived and escaped, although U-506 and U-507 returned to the area later, unwilling to desert the people they had saved. Fortunately, Vichy French warships from Dakar arrived the next day and picked up the remaining survivors, so the loss of life from the American action was contained. In total, there were about 1,621 deaths with 1,111 survivors, including those already taken aboard the overcrowded U-boats. This incident left a foul bitterness in the U-boat war that would cast a long shadow over Donitz and his seamen.

The action of Captain Richardson was considered by many as a war crime, although no formal charges were ever placed. As a result of this incident, Admiral Donitz issued an order forbidding U-boats from attempting any rescues and furthermore, from providing any assistance whatsoever to survivors of submarine attacks. He was quoted to say “no attempt of any kind must be made to rescue the crews of ships sunk”. This order became to be known as the “Laconia Order”. Up until now, it was common for U-boats to aid survivors of their attack by providing provisions and pointing out the direction closest to land. Despite the order, some U-boat commanders continued in their practice to aid survivors of their attacks.

After the war, Donitz stood trial for war crimes and the Laconia order was used as a basis of indictment against him. Most surprisingly, he received support from some of the most respected figures in the US Navy, Admital Chester Nimitz who came to his defense and said that the United States had operated under the same engagements of unrestricted warfare. Despite the evidence of allied practice, Donitz was convicted of war crimes by the Nuremberg Tribunal and sentenced to 11 and a half years in prison. The U-boat crews deeply resented this action and felt that they were being prosecuted for the threat they had posed to the allies rather than for war crimes.

ddraigmor
21st October 2008, 18:28
Cailean,

Good post and I endorse the sentiments. The US Commander was NOT tried for what was a war crime. Then again, as I have said eaerlier, 'To the Victor, the spoils'.

Jonty

K urgess
21st October 2008, 18:29
The Wikipedia link given by Jonty in #70 quotes the Nuremburg trial.

"In view of all the facts proved and in particular of an order of the British Admiralty announced on the 8th May, 1940, according to which all vessels should be sunk at sight in the Skagerrak, and the answers to interrogatories by Admiral Chester Nimitz stating unrestricted submarine warfare was carried on in the Pacific Ocean by the United States from the first day of the Pacific War, the sentence of Dönitz is not assessed on the ground of his breaches of the international law of submarine warfare."

Showing that Dönitz actions with regard to international law of submarine warfare was not included in his sentence.

Also the Wikipedia is explicit about the legality of displaying a red cross on an operational warship and arming merchant ships.

ddraigmor
21st October 2008, 18:35
Thanks Marconi S!

Jonty

Jan7
21st October 2008, 19:28
An article in PDF, simultaneously nice and undhappy.....http://www.divetheblue.net/pdf/126HitlersTitanic.pdf about the wreck of Wilhelm Gustloff.






Jan.

ddraigmor
22nd October 2008, 00:10
Jan,

Thanks for the link. I am reading the book - 'The Cruellest Night' - about the ship and her loss. It makes far more gripping reading than the article but that does give a sense of the sinking.

Many thanks,

Jonty

Jan7
22nd October 2008, 11:16
Jan,

Thanks for the link. I am reading the book - 'The Cruellest Night' - about the ship and her loss. It makes far more gripping reading than the article but that does give a sense of the sinking.

Many thanks,

Jonty


You are welcome, Jonty!
All the web http://www.divetheblue.net (http://www.divetheblue.net/pdf/126HitlersTitanic.pdf) it's very interesting....(Applause)




Jan.

Ngaio 62
28th January 2009, 08:36
A couple of points:
The Gustloff was under black out orders but a convoy of small naval vessels was expected in the area headed east. One of the 3 captains [Petersen I think] wanted the running lights lit to prevent collision at sea. Zahn the naval captain objected and there was a major arguement on the bridge. The lights were light for a time. This is portrayed in the 2 part mini series Die Gustloff http://www.gustloff.zdf.de/

The url should take you to the ZDF webpage wher there is a 3d model of the ship with hotzones to see film clips.


My second point is about this film which is available via amazon.de on DVD but it does not have either an english voice track or subtitles.

Heinz Schoen has written several books about this period and about the Gustloff in particular as he was an assisstant purser on her last voyage. Again these book are avalable via the amazon site and are in German language with excellent photos .
this applies especially to Die Letz Fahrt Der Wilhelm Gustloff.

Mike Kemble
1st February 2009, 18:03
I cannot get that gustloff link to open???? (Cloud)

K urgess
1st February 2009, 18:06
It's just opened OK for me, Mike.
Your firewall is not stopping it is it?
Here it is again and I've just tested it.
http://www.gustloff.zdf.de/
Cheers
Kris

Jan7
1st February 2009, 18:56
I cannot get that gustloff link to open???? (Cloud)

Probe with proxys:

http://anonymouse.org/anonwww.html (http://anonymouse.org/anonwww.html)
https://www.megaproxy.com/freesurf/ (https://www.megaproxy.com/freesurf/)
Jan.

Ngaio 62
2nd February 2009, 08:47
Just cross checked it and it works for me.
If you run a pop up blocker that will stop it. iI just intructed the blocker to accept it.
I wish we could get Heinz Schoen's books published in English language. With good promtion I am sure there would be interest, especially if it is described as being "far worse than the Titanic",which it definitely was.

all the best with getting into it.
I will come back again soon to see what you think of it.

rgards

Martin

Mike Kemble
2nd February 2009, 13:36
Just cross checked it and it works for me.
If you run a pop up blocker that will stop it. iI just intructed the blocker to accept it.
I wish we could get Heinz Schoen's books published in English language. With good promtion I am sure there would be interest, especially if it is described as being "far worse than the Titanic",which it definitely was.

all the best with getting into it.
I will come back again soon to see what you think of it.

rgards

Martinthat was the problem? I added it to permissions and it loaded. Strange that this site should be "banned" is it not?

Ngaio 62
3rd February 2009, 08:07
Mike, I m amazed that is banned . This has not been my experience. Who is your internet provider and are they actively into cenship? If the answer is yes to that last question you might want to consider giving soemone else your business.

good luck

Martin

Ngaio 62
3rd February 2009, 08:15
http://www.zdf.de/ZDFmediathek/content/408210?inPopup=true

Mike Kemble
3rd February 2009, 15:29
No, it was the browser - it imagined it was a pop up site and had it "proscribed". I entered the site name into permissions and clicked allow and it works fine. Its not my ISP (Virgin Media).

sidsal
3rd February 2009, 17:13
What an interesting Thread.
Another massive loss of life at sea was the sinking of the Kedhive Ismael in the Indian Ocean where over 1700 lives were lost. She was in a convoy from Mombasa bound with reinforcemenst for Burma. On board were a battalion of British officered African infantry, miscellaneaous units, nurses, WRNS etc.
The infamous Japanese submarine I 27 was responsible for the sinking and the subsequent battle between it and the destroyer Petard ended with its destruction by Petard's last torpedo.
The book "Fighting destroyer" by G G Connell is a nailbiting tale of bravery by its crew in the Meddy and in the East.
The Japs were completely ruthless and their slaughter of the crew of the Hain merchantman Behar turns ones stomach.
War is indeed a dirty business.

Binnacle
4th February 2009, 11:00
What an interesting Thread.
Another massive loss of life at sea was the sinking of the Kedhive Ismael in the Indian Ocean where over 1700 lives were lost. She was in a convoy from Mombasa bound with reinforcemenst for Burma. On board were a battalion of British officered African infantry, miscellaneaous units, nurses, WRNS etc.
The infamous Japanese submarine I 27 was responsible for the sinking and the subsequent battle between it and the destroyer Petard ended with its destruction by Petard's last torpedo.
The book "Fighting destroyer" by G G Connell is a nailbiting tale of bravery by its crew in the Meddy and in the East.
The Japs were completely ruthless and their slaughter of the crew of the Hain merchantman Behar turns ones stomach.
War is indeed a dirty business.

It is indeed, unfortunately all too often the innocent suffer, nobody suffered more at the hands of the Nazis than the Russian people, sadly this seems to be overlooked when concern is expressed at the sinking of the troopship Wilhelm Gustloff. Joseph Goebbels called for "total war", soviet POWs and civilians defending their native land were treated as sub human. It would be interesting if history researchers can determine how many Einsatzgruten members fleeing retribution met a just fate aboard the ship.

Mike Kemble
4th February 2009, 20:13
It is indeed, unfortunately all too often the innocent suffer, nobody suffered more at the hands of the Nazis than the Russian people, sadly this seems to be overlooked when concern is expressed at the sinking of the troopship Wilhelm Gustloff. Joseph Goebbels called for "total war", soviet POWs and civilians defending their native land were treated as sub human. It would be interesting if history researchers can determine how many Einsatzgruten members fleeing retribution met a just fate aboard the ship.

Not to mention 400 innocent female Kreigsmarine auxiliary who were billetted in the (empty) swimming pool area, where the second of three torpedoes hit. All died instantly.

10,000 people--mostly women, children and old people fleeing the final Red Army push into Nazi Germany--were packed aboard.These civilians had probably moved east to find new lives in occupied lands when the German Werhmacht pushed east, not imagining they would ever have to make such a speedy return!

Ngaio 62
5th February 2009, 06:43
One of the clips on the Zdf shows what happened to the Hilfs in the pool. But I think it is softened down from what woudld happen with a direct hit..

Do check out the 3d model and rotate it with your mouse. the red bits are hot and will open sub windows where you will find the clips.

Martin