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Nacht fiel über Gotenhafen - The tragic story of the M.S. "Wilhelm Gustloff"

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Epic film with celebrity stars, including Günther Pfitzmann, Sonja Ziemann, Erik Schumann, Brigitte Horney, Wolfgang Preiss, and many others, made 1959

The story is about the ship travelling from the Port of Gotenhafen (Gdingen or Gdynia) near Danzig with destination to the West with well over 10.000 refugees, elderly, women and children and wounded soldiers on board, the ship was so overfilled, that many were not registered. Losses have been since estimated as over 9.343. It was one of the many desperate attempts to save the refugees from the Eastern Provinces before the Red Army arrived. The ship set sail under darkness on 30th January 1945 travelling parallel to the coast and was torpedoed by a Soviet U-Boot off the coast of Stolpmünde. Thousands were lost, only a very small number survived. Apart from this, several other ships with refugees on board were also torpedoed, the "Athen" the "Goya" and the "Steuben". The "Cap Arcona" was also sunk on 3rd May 1945 by British aircraft in the Lübecker Bucht, it was a prison ship with KZ inmates onboard. Over 6.400 liveswere lost.

The wreck of the Gustloff lies at a depth of 42 metres and is now protected as a war memorial (Seekriegsgrab). The ship's bell is in a Polish museum in the Danziger Krantor. Alltogether, the total loss of lives with the refugee ships may be estimated as between 25.000 to 30.000 persons.

In the postwar years the Soviets plundered the wreck and made several attempts to blow it up, there are still signs of manipulation in the twisted metal wreckage, in fact the wreck is absolutely empty, there are absolutely no traces of anyone ever been on board. The Soviets were thorough in this respect. The ship is hardly recognisable as such today. It was claimed by the Soviets that the ship had been carrying pillaged treasures and possibly even the Bernstein Room from near Leningrad, there was no mention by them of refugees. Only since the fall of the Soviet Union is diving in these waters now possible.



Ship's model held in Kiel-Laboe


The famous Bernstein-Zimmer from Zarskoje Zelo is thought to have been lost with the ship.


A simple ceremony over the waves




A computer simulation of the wreck site

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  • 2 months later...

Yesterday was the 72nd anniversary of this great tragedy. 

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A 2008 remake of the film with Kai Wiesinger als Kapitän Kehding.


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  • Kenny Andrew pinned this topic

That looks like a very good film Paul. I'll need to watch it all the way through when I get a spare moment. :thumbsup:   

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It's a bit different to the original film. But as time goes on, it will become legend when the last eye witnesses and survivors have passed away.



A porthole recovered in 1988


A 1939 souvenir album and a cap band, held by the Preußen Museum in Wesel


A model of the ship in Kiel, Marine Ehrenmal Laboe


The ship's bell was recovered in 1979 and is now property of the Polish state. It was part of a controversial exhibition on loan in Berlin in 2006, and an abrupt return to Poland was demanded before the exhibition expired.


This life saving ring is also held in a museum's collection.


Another example held at the International Maritime Museum in Hamburg


Probably the only English language publication that tells the full story of the ship


The novel by Günter Grass based on the true story of the ship, now available in English, orginal title: Im Krebsgang


Some original cap tallys have apparently survived


The "Robert Ley" shared the same fate as the "Gustloff"


A swimming pool below deck for the pre-war guests

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Documentary to the 30. January 1945


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Doppelschraubendampfer General vom Steuben

The "General von Steuben" was also a luxury liner, which was torpedoed by a Soviet submarine in the Baltic with many refugees on board on  10. February 1945. Over 4.000 lives were lost. The "Goya" was also torpedoed. Estimated total losses are in the region of 25.000-30.000 refugees.

Helene Sichelschmidt und Mathilde Gleich

Passengers on the "Steuben", Helene Sichelschmidt and Mathilde Gleich

Source: MDR

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