Review

  • The Wilhelm Gustloff was the Third Reich's classiest passenger liner when she was pressed into service evacuating German civilians from Poland as the Soviets advanced in the waning days of WWII. Loaded with 10,000 passengers (crammed into every public space available), the Wilhelm Gustloff departed from Gdansk (Danzig) sailing for the German port of Kiel. During the night she was torpedoed by a Russian submarine and sank in 45 minutes, taking 9,000 souls with her (some say closer to 6,000). It remains the worst loss of life from a single sinking in maritime history. There has been controversy with some on the German side alleging a war crime, in that refugee non-combatants were killed in large numbers. The captain of the submarine (Marinesko) lived under this cloud until his death in the 60's. His commanders recommended he not be given the highest honors because his alcoholism and history of being AWOL made him unsuitable to be a hero.