The Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff: Soviet Murder of 10,000+ Refugees

We have all heard the sad story of the sinking of Titanic in April, 1912 — a tragedy that resulted in the deaths of 1,500 people. Countless books, TV documentaries and even Hollywood films have kept the memory of that fateful night alive for more than 100 years.

Red Army factions had already reached German territory by late 1944

We have all heard the sad story of the sinking of Lusitania in May, 1915 — a World War I tragedy engineered by British Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill and his American counterpart, U.S. Naval Secretary Franklin D. Roosevelt. About 1,200 passengers perished in that equally memorable disaster.

Death in the Baltic-The Sinking of the Wilhelm GustloffWhat if we told you that neither of these two epic events was the greatest maritime tragedy in maritime history — not even close?! What if we told you of a more recent sinking (1945) which claimed the lives of (are you sitting down?) 10,000 innocent people? That equates to about the total dead of Titanic, plus the total dead of Lusitania, multiplied by a factor of four! It’s true. Why haven’t you heard of this, you ask? Why no documentaries — no movies — no annual remembrances? Well, you see, human lives don’t count if the victims were German civilians during World War II. But they do matter to So, here is their story.

 Who was Wilhelm Gustloff?

Wilhelm-Gustloff2Wilhelm Gustloff (January 30, 1895 – February 4, 1936) was the founder and leader of the Swiss NSDAP / AO (the National Socialist Party organization for German citizens abroad.) He lived in Davos, Switzerland and worked for the Swiss government as a meteorologist.

 Gustloff had originally joined the NSDAP in 1929, and put much effort into the distribution of the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a document purporting to reveal the existence of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy. On February 4, 1936, a Croatian-Jewish student named David Frankfurter, heeding the worldwide call for Jewish “Holy War” against the German people, knocked on the door of Gustloff’s home. Frankfurter told Mrs. Hedwig Gustloff that he had come there to visit Gustloff.

Three and 1/2 years before World War II had even started, Frankfurter murdered Gustloff in front of Mrs. Gustloff.

Hedwig showed the stranger into the study and asked him to wait there while her husband finished his telephone call.  When Gustloff entered the study to greet his unexpected guest, Frankfurter drew his pistol and shot Gustloff four times in the head and chest. Screaming hysterically, Hedwig ran to the study and watched her husband die. The cold-blooded killer calmly walked out and turned himself in to local authorities.

 Germans and Swiss were horrified by the senseless murder of a good man who had neither harmed nor threatened anyone. Hitler and some of Germany’s top brass attended the State funeral service. The following year, a luxury ship was launched, named in Gustloff’s honor. Hitler was again present at the ceremony. Helga Gustloff herself christened the massive liner, the M.S. Wilhelm Gustloff.

 The Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff

By January of 1945, Germany’s days are numbered. General Patton wants to take Berlin but Allied Commander Eisenhower won’t allow it. Eisenhower’s deliberate delaying tactics in the Western front allow Stalin’s raping and murdering Soviet hordes to push eastward into Germany.

As the Red Army and the cruel Jewish NKVD units advance, millions of terrified German civilians – a majority of which are women, children and elderly – flee westward by land and sea. On land, the refugees face cruel bombardment and aerial strafing from American, British and Soviet airplanes. The sea-based refugees face a different kind of threat.

The German liner Wilhelm Gustloff was about a third of the size of the Titanic, but was carrying six times as many people when she was torpedoed by a Soviet sub on Jan. 30, 1945.

The luxury liner MV Wilhelm Gustloff  is packed shoulder-to-shoulder with an estimated 10,000 -12,000 refugees  7 times as many as the Titanic!   Soon after leaving its Baltic Sea port, the doomed ship is sighted by Soviet Submarine commander Alexander Marinesko. After tracking his human prey for several hours, the Soviet killer fires three torpedoes into the ship’s port side. In the panic that follows, many passengers are trampled to death as they flee to the decks.

The Wilhelm Gustloff sinks in just 45 minutes — coincidentally, on the birthday of its namesake, Wilhelm Gustloff (January 30). German ships arrive quickly and pluck about 1000 survivors from the frigid waters as the cold claims the lives of all the rest. It is the greatest disaster at sea in world history, and not 1 in 1,000 people has ever heard about it!

 Now that YOU know the story –share it with others.

 III.Reich: KdF-Schiffe - Jungfernfahrt der Gustloff

9 thoughts on “The Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff: Soviet Murder of 10,000+ Refugees

  1. Thanks for posting this. A few of us familiar with revisionist history were aware of this war crime. Of course, with the entrenched bias against Germany and Germans in Western historiography, this story has been and will continue to be largely buried or ignored by mainstream historians. It is doubtful that this incident has even been noted in a Western history text or book on the war in Europe.

  2. This is how the tragedy/disaster was reported in the papers in the UK at the time. A tiny piece in one paper reports.

    Liverpool Daily Post – Monday 19 February 1945
    “ Strength Through Joy” Liner Sunk
    Germany’s 25,000-ton strength through joy liner Wilhelm Gustloff, evacuating 3,700 U-boat personnel and nearly 5,000 refugees from Eastern Germany, has been sunk after leaving Danzig, says Finnish radio. Only about 1,000 were saved.
    According to reports reaching Stockholm, says the radio, the liner was struck by a torpedo and sank within a few minutes. Most of the refugees were women and children. The U-Boat men were intended for the new U-boat offensive.
    The Wilhelm Gustloff was known in British ports in peacetime, when she carried thousands of strength-throughjoy Germans on holiday cruises. In September, 1938, the British Government presented silver plaque to the ship’s crew for rescuing the crew of nineteen of a Newcastle freighter sinking off Holland.

    This is one of the more sympathetic reports btw as it mentions that most of the refugees were women and chldren, most other articles omit this information.

    1. Thanks for sharing this GB. We read recently in Mike Walsh’s new book, Life in The Reich, that Germany in the 1930s was encouraging and helping its workers to take annual holidays or vacations. This strength through joy slogan was seriously adopted in Germany in the 1930s.

  3. Please correct date: Of course it should read on the third line of my comments, not
    “1949” but of course “1945”

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