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The Ship of Death - the Most Brutal Maritime Tragedy in the World

Ship of Death

We've all heard of the sinking of the Titanic - a tragic story that has inspired numerous films and books. But do not be fooled that this was the most horrifying maritime disaster.

German cruise ship Wilhelm Gustloff, known as the Ship of Death, suffered a much more brutal fate. It was after 9000 men, women and children boarded it that they eventually found their deaths on it on January 1945.

In the early days of 1945, the Second World War was not yet over. Soviet troops pushed ruthlessly into Germany, while the German populace did anything it could to save itself.

In their search for escape, more than 10 000 people, among them Germans, Poles, Lithuanians, Estonians and others boarded the cruise ship, whose capacity was under 2000. It was this choice that was perhaps their biggest mistake.

Wilhelm Gustloff

When the Wilhelm Gustloff left the Danzig, it was spotted by Soviet forces. As soon as the ship entered the Baltic Sea, the Soviets began their attacks on it.

Many escapees found their death on board as torpedoes slammed into it. Others died after jumping overboard. The ones who did try to survive in the water ultimately froze in the icy waters.

Out of all those who boarded the Ship of Death, only about 1000 survived, thanks to the lifeboats. The other 9000 found their watery grave in the icy depths.