Die Wilhelm Gustloff - Die Liebenfels Kapelle

The MV Wilhelm Gustloff was a German KdF passenger ship constructed by the Blohm and Voss shipyards. It sank after being hit by three torpedoes fired by the Soviet submarine S-13 on January 30, 1945 with the loss of around 9,000 lives the greatest loss of life in a maritime disaster in history.

We will never know the exact number of those who perished in the Gustloff tragedy because crew members lost count when thousands of refugees jammed every corner of the ship. Regardless, historians commonly agree that it is the most deadly single ship disaster ever.

In the panic that followed, many of the passengers were trampled in the rush to the lifeboats and life jackets. Some equipment was lost as a result of the panic. The water temperature in the Baltic Sea at this time of year is usually around 4°C; however, this was a particularly cold night, with an air temperature of ?10° to ?18°C and ice floes covering the surface. Many deaths were caused either directly by the torpedoes or by drowning in the onrushing water. Others were crushed in the initial panic on the stairs and decks, and many jumped into the icy Baltic. There are reports of children clinging onto adults and women trying to save their babies, though constant waves dragged them away from them, most never to be seen again. Small children fitted with life jackets for adults drowned because their heads were under water while their legs were in the air, due to the ill-fitting survival gear.

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