Cap Arcona: The worst tragedy at sea of the history.

21st April 2011, 03:48
The <<CAP ARCONA>> is one of my favourite liners:
Sadly she was the main protagonist of the worst tragedy at sea of the history occured during the final days of the ww2 in 1945...

But before the war she was a legend in many european and south american ports.

This picture was taken during her visit to Vigo about 1930...

21st April 2011, 08:11
FILIPVS, yes a loverly ship, and such a sad end, bombed by the British on the 3/5/1945 with the loss of over 5000 lives, just days before the end of the war.
How could this be justified? probably a war crime.

21st April 2011, 09:24
The prisoners dying might have been killed anyway:

16th May 2012, 00:45
How could this be justified? probably a war crime.

There is not too much information about Cap Arcona's tragedy. This chapter of the history remains as a X File. I hope some day all the details come to the light.
But until now Germany and UK have kept the oficilal reports under custody.

stan mayes
16th May 2012, 01:24
I have read that the Allies were aware that political prisoners were on the ship..
Also I believe she had stopped about 20 miles from her destination Kiel due to
having no fuel..
A sitting duck - a terrible tragedy and I think the loss of life was nearly 9,000!

16th May 2012, 12:02
According international law, in war times, before to sink a passenger ship, you must disembark all the people.
In 1945 Cap Arcona was painted in grey but she was not a troop transport nor auxiliary cruiser. I think something was made wrong. Furthermore, 24 hours before attack, the RAF squadron received a notice from Red Cross, declaring Cap Arcona as not military target.

16th May 2012, 13:09
What an appalling story. I had never heard anything about it previously, rather like the Russian shame:

There are so many atrocities in war, the largest are often those where the victims are at a distance from the killers as in the Cap Arcona and the RAF or the Wilhelm Gustloff and the Russian Navy so nobody actually gets blood on their hands.

The fire bombing of Dresden is another war time event that tarnishes Britain's record. Neither side ever emerges from a war without something shameful to hide, the victors get to write the history so we generally hear more about the evil behaviour of the vanquished.


16th May 2012, 18:44
The war was a daily business of picking targets from far away for five years; it would have been a miracle if a few targets had not been the wrong targets. A tired man sometimes misreading a map…

The economist J. K. Galbraith was on a commission to evaluate the bombing campaign after the war and his conclusion was that the US bombing campaign had cost the USA more in output than the Germans had lost in productive capacity through it. (According to the same man the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings had not been necessary, the Japanese were about to surrender.)

A few pictures of the Cap Arcona:

Dutch video:

Nazi Titanic movie filmed aboard the Cap Arcona:

fred henderson
17th May 2012, 17:34
Cap Arcona was one of three prison ships sunk in Lübeck by the RAF during the closing days of the German evacuation of Eastern Prussia. It is thought that at least 7,000 prisoners, plus some 1,000 guards perished in the three ships. The number of civilians killed in the evacuation is estimated to be at least 300,000, with most dying under terrible conditions. The severe winter in the earlier part of the evacuation added to the horror. However, most of the German inhabitants, which by then consisted principally of women, children, and old men, did manage to escape the Red Army as part of the largest rapid exodus in human history. The ethnic German population of East Prussia, which had stood at 2.2 million in 1940, was reduced to 193,000 at the end of May 1945.

The multi-pronged Soviet East Prussian Offensive, which came from the south towards the Baltic, commenced on January 13, 1945 and progressively cut off separate areas of East Prussia, between 23 January and 10 February 1945. German Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz ordered General Admiral Oskar Kummetz, as Naval High Commander, Baltic, and Rear Admiral Konrad Engelhardt, head of the Kriegmarine's shipping department, to plan and execute the evacuation of German troops and civilians from the cut-off areas. The operation was codenamed "Hannibal". The flood of evacuees eventually turned the operation into one of the largest emergency evacuations by sea in history. Over a period of 15 weeks, somewhere between 500 and 1,100 merchant vessels of all types, from liners to fishing boats, plus Germany's largest remaining naval units, transported between 800,000 - 900,000 evacuees and 350,000 soldiers across the Baltic to Germany and German-occupied Denmark.

The rescuing ships were subjected to continuous attack from Soviet aircraft, small naval units, and submarines plus aerial attacks by the British RAF. The harsh winter conditions ensured that most of the victims of these attacks died from hyperthermia. From 23 January to 8 May 1945, 161 merchant ships were lost in Operation Hannibal, plus the 3 prison ships in the Bay of Lübeck.

On 30 January, the former cruise ship Wilhelm Gustloff, the HAPAG liner Hansa, and the whaling boat Walter Rau left Gdynia in occupied Poland, bound for Kiel. Hansa was forced to return to port with mechanical trouble, but the Gustloff, with more than 10,000 people aboard, continued. She was torpedoed and sunk by the Soviet submarine S-13 off the Pomeranian coast, with possibly as many as 9,400 fatalities, making this the worst maritime disaster in history. The East and West-Prussian evacuees on the Walter Rau eventually arrived safely in Eckernfoerde.

If you wish to read more about Operation Hannibal, please see my article in the SN Directory: -

17th May 2012, 21:10
How could this be justified? probably a war crime.

Hitler died on 30th april 1945.
Three days later, on 3th May 1945, Cap Arcona was sunk.
Germany surrenders only 48 hours later, on 5th May 1945.

So, chronologically speaking it would be more a post-war crime, because when Cap Arcona was bombed the war in Europe was virtually over.

17th May 2012, 21:30
So, chronologically speaking it would be more a post-war crime
No, it would not.

21st May 2012, 23:56
No, it would not.

What it would not?
a war crime or a post-war mass murder??

While Germany was surrendering, the ship was bombed with incendiary bombs. It seems as somebody was interested in produce the highest number of victims.

Mike S
22nd May 2012, 06:12
What it would not?
a war crime or a post-war mass murder??

While Germany was surrendering, the ship was bombed with incendiary bombs. It seems as somebody was interested in produce the highest number of victims.

Of course it was not a war crime. If there is one thing I find sad it is the way younger people who have no idea what it was like to be alive in those terrible times trot out comments like the above. The blunt fact was that it was total war. We have not seen it since and God forbid we ever will again. Targets were targets and while Hitler was in fact dead the war was still on. It was on until the signing of total surrender.
It continued in the Pacific region for many more months. While it is valid to argue that the Pacific war was not relevant with the wisdom of 20/20 hindsight anyone alive then and certainly those who were fighting would have seen nothing wrong with what happened and even the bombing of Dresden which was aimed at demoralising the enemy was acceptable at the time.
Just ask the inhabitants of Coventry at that time if any are still alive.......!
Or any other Cathedral city in UK. Like London and the close call that St Pauls got........or my home town Sunderland where the ships were being built which had the city centre blasted into oblivion by parachute mines. Liverpool where they flattened the whole area where the crews of the ships and their families lived. Sorry.......even after all these years I still cannot find my self troubled by the attacks on these ships. They were painted grey, they were in the war zone and they were enemy vessels.........
War is war.........and if anything good can come out of it let it be that we never see another like that.

22nd May 2012, 16:50
War is war.........and if anything good can come out of it let it be that we never see another like that.

I understand you. But I can not agree because you are using the same arguments used by nazis to perpetrate horrendous crimes.

"War is war" is not an acceptable excuse because the term "war" implies only battles between armies and all those actions conducted to reduce the offensive capacity of the enemy. The murder of civilians is not included in the term "war".

22nd May 2012, 17:55
Every recent war, whatever it was called, has resulted in more dead civilians than military personnel. Both Iraq wars and Afghanistan in particular. The tidy arrangement where an army went out to meet (and kill) only another army ended well before 1914. The Americans are good at euthemisms like 'collateral damage' but a dead civilian is another victim of war by any name.


24th May 2012, 12:17
I do not believe that rape, pillage, laying waste, salting fields, killing all males are modern customs; just a way of ensuring that the sons don't come for you a few years later.
By those ancient standards the losers of WW2 escaped lightly.