Wilhelm Gustlof


Wilhelm Gustlof sank after being torpedoed in the Baltic Sea 30.January 1945 under a journey from Danzig to Stettin. On board this former "Kraft Durch Freude" cruise ship there were 10582 people, among them many civilian refugees and wounded soldiers from the fighting on the Eastern front. It is believed that as many as 9343 people perished, but the exact number is disputed. The sinking is the worst maritime disaster when it comes to loss of human lives. She was sunk by three torpedoes from the Soviet submarine S-13 under command of Alexander Marinesko. The wreck rest today on a depth of 35 to 47 meter east of Leba. The wreck is considered a war grave.

Former names:
Wilhelm Gustlof

208,5 x 23,6 x 6,5 m
Tons: Built: Home Port:
25484 grt Hamburg ( D ) 1938 Hamburg ( D )

55° 07′ 29" N 17° 42′ 13" E
( Source: Baltic Wrecks )

Picture: Wilhelm Gustlof
Courtesy of Wilhelm Gustlof Museum
Wilhelm Gustlof in Norway 1939
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"The German luxury cruise liner was built to carry 1,465 passengers and a crew of 400. The Gustloff and her sister ship Robert Ley were the world's first purpose-built cruise ships. The ship, now converted to a 500 bed hospital ship, set sail from the Bay of Danzig en route to the port of Stettin, overcrowded with 4,658 persons including 918 naval officers and men, 373 German Women Naval Auxiliaries, 162 wounded soldiers of whom 73 were stretcher cases, and 173 crew, all fleeing from the advancing Red Army. Just before midnight, as the ship plowed her way through the icy waters of the Baltic Sea, the ship was hit by three torpedoes from the Russian submarine S-13 (a German designed boat) commanded by Alexander Marinesko. The first torpedo hit the bow of the ship, the second, below the empty swimming pool on E-deck where the Women Auxiliaries were accommodated (most were killed) and the third hit amidships. Indescribable panic reigned as the ship listed and sank in about ninety minutes. Rescue boats picked from the stormy seas 964 survivors, 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. The exact number of drowned will never be known, as many more refugees were picked up from small boats as the Wilhelm Gustloff headed for the open sea and were never counted. Latest research puts the number of people on board at 10,582. Many of the 964 persons rescued from the sea, died later"

Last updated: September 2019