Heinrich Bartels was a naval officer in his
mid-50's when put in charge of logistics for Operation
Hannibal. Stationed in Gotenhafen (Gdynia), he reported directly to Admiral Burchardi who
in turn reported to Admiral Dönitz.
third officer to captain the Gustloff.
Bertram was chosen as the successor to the first
captain, Carl Lübbe, after he died of a heart
attack on the bridge during the official maiden
voyage to Madeira (Friedrich Petersen was the
temporary captain to complete the cruise).
Bertram was the longest serving captain aboard
the Gustloff, seeing it through the
majority of its cruise years, one year as a
hospital ship and until
February 20, 1944
in command of the "floating barracks".
Head Steward on
the Wilhelm Gustloff who, while still
clad in his white jacket, served senior members
of the crew cognac well after the torpedoes had
struck the ship on the night of January 30,
of the TS-2 torpedo recovery vessel, which
apparently reached the scene of the Gustloff sinking
at approximately 3:00AM
January 31st, 1945
to perform rescue operations (according to the
book The Cruelest Night by Dobson,
Miller, & Payne, but questions remain on the
accuracy of this fact).
architect, designer and professor from Munich who created the interior design of the Gustloff
and Robert Ley. He was a preferred interior designer of Adolf
Hitler, and co-worker/ master student of Paul
His first major ship projects were the Scharnhorst
and Gneisenau for Norddeutschen Lloyd in
was born in Hamburg and eventually returned
there after the war before his death in 1959.
Burchardi was put in charge of the Eastern
Baltic and Prussian coast for Operation
Hannibal. A hard-liner, he was prone
to make numerous "fight to the last
man" speeches. Burchardi reported
directly to Admiral Dönitz.
officer with the 2nd Submarine Division on board
the Gustloff, who attempted to coordinate
rescue efforts as the ship sank. Held back
tides of desperate people and fired warning
shots at fellow officers who tried to save only
author whose works included two
anti-Semitic books on the assassination of
Wilhelm Gustloff. The first in 1936 was Der
Fall Gustloff (The Gustloff Case), followed
by Ein Jude hat geschossen (A Jew Has
Shot) in 1937.
of the German Kriegsmarine (Navy), Dönitz
ordered Operation Hannibal, the
largest marine-based evacuation in history - of
which the Gustloff was a participant.
Serving in the Navy during both world wars, he
rose through the ranks swiftly and commanded the
famous U-boats during the
in World War II. Following Hitler's
suicide and through instructions in his will, Dönitz
was appointed President of Germany (it lasted
only twenty days). Ironically, Dönitz had
never been a member of the Nazi Party.
writer and journalist who became most famous for
his articles in Krasnaya Zvezda, in which
he pronounced a fierce hatred of the German
enemy. Soviet soldiers loved his work,
and many historians feel that he intensified the
brutal Red Army revenge for the invasion of Russia
- a revenge that forced many
to scramble for escape to the West aboard ships
like the Gustloff.
officer aboard the VP-1703, an old naval
dispatch boat. Found the very last
survivor of the Gustloff at dawn after
the ship had sunk. It was a baby that was
blue from cold and barely alive among frozen
corpses in a lifeboat. He
adopted the child when the parents could not be
Jewish medical student who assassinated Swiss
Nazi leader - Wilhelm Gustloff on
February 4th, 1936
in Davos, Switzerland. Frankfurter willingly admitted to the
deed, and after a brief trial was incarcerated
for the duration of the war.
As the tides of
war changed, he was pardoned and released at the
end of World War II. He relocated to Palestine, where he eventually gained employment with the
Ministry of Defense when the state of Israel was created.
In his youth,
Frankfurter was afflicted with tuberculosis of
the bone (osteomyelitis). Between the ages of six and
twenty-three, he had five operations - one
leaving him with a large pit behind one of his
ears as a treatment for for mastoid
disease. Ironically, years later his health
would dramatically improve during time spent in
a Swiss prison for the murder of Gustloff.
While a young
man, he aspired to be a doctor and studied
sporadically in medicine at numerous educational
institutions. The last school he attended
was Bern University, where he hoped to write his
doctoral thesis on cancer. Health matters,
internal strife, and his continuing alarm over the Nazi menace compromised
his efforts and ability to focus on his studies.
Frankfurter died in 1982 of natural causes at the age of
seventy-three, leaving a wife and two children.
Frankfurter's demanding father and Rabbi for the
town of Daruvar in Yugoslavia
(today's Croatia). Even though he denounced his son's
assassination, Rabbi Frankfurter would
eventually be made to suffer for his son's deed.
As the Nazis invaded Yugoslavia, the Frankfurter family was on the SS list of
enemies. On April 6, 1941, Moritz was captured and publicly tortured.
in charge of the Soviet 11th Guards Army -
responsible for the Red Army's first drive into Germany's
pre-war borders at Nemmersdorf.
of slain Swiss Nazi Leader Wilhelm Gustloff.
Hedwig was on the platform during the launching
of the ship named for her husband, the Wilhelm
Gustloff, and officially christened the
despite her husband's position as Swiss Nazi
Leader, she had occasionally worked for Jewish
lawyer Moses Silberroth in Davos early in their marriage.
leader of the Swiss Nazi Party, Gustloff was
shot to death in his study by David Frankfurter,
a Jew alarmed by the grip Nazism held in
Europe. Both Frankfurter and
Gustloff suffered from forms of
tuberculosis. Gustloff's condition
targeted his lungs. This prompted his
doctor to order him in 1914 to Davos,
- known for its sanatoriums and clean mountain
air. Gustloff would have preferred to
serve in the German armed forces but his health
would simply not allow this. Instead, he
took a job as a weather-chart clerk at a German
meteorological post in Davos.
In 1923 on a
trip to Munich, he became one of the first members of a then
largely unknown Nazi party. He took these
messages back to Davos and aimed to further the
Nazi cause in Switzerland. He rose quickly to the title of Landesgruppenleiter
(ie: Leader). He often surreptitiously
reported back to
on expatriate citizens living in
- or those simply visiting from Germany. Those who were not members of the Nazi
party, or made derogatory comments about it were
particularly subject to his attention.
assassination, Gustloff was treated as a martyr
and hero in the Nazi cause and was given a full
state funeral in Schwerin. It was at this funeral that Hitler
decided to change the name of the KdF ship that
was to originally bear his own name to that of Wilhelm
A lieutenant in
the naval reserve and captain of the aging naval
dispatch boat VP-1703. This was the
last boat to rescue anyone from the Gustloff.
In fact it was only one, an infant who
miraculously survived for hours amongst frozen
corpses in a lifeboat.
of the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper, which
unsuccessfully contemplated a rescue at the site
of the Gustloff sinking. He ordered
the ship to leave the area to avoid exposure to
additional Soviet submarine attacks.
of the T-36, which arrived just as the Gustloff
sank below the waves. Hering was
originally escorting the Admiral Hipper,
until its captain ordered him to the scene of
the Gustloff to pick up survivors.
of the NSDAP (Nazi) party in Germany
from the early 1920's and when it gained complete
control over Germany on January 30, 1933.
On April 30, 1945, he committed suicide in his bunker in
Berlin as the Soviet Red Army closed in.
called Alexander Marinesko (captain of submarine
S-13) his "personal enemy"
after the Soviet commander torpedoed the Gustloff.
Years earlier, Hitler had personally delivered
the eulogy at Wilhelm Gustloff's funeral.
At this time the superstitious Führer took an
opportunity to rename the KdF ship which had
been planned to carry his own name on the bow.
printer on the Gustloff in January 1945.
Was responsible for printing out the coveted
passes for admittance onto the ship. He
used the same printing presses that created the
'Speisekarten' (daily agendas) during happier
pre-war cruise days.
Commissioner for Shipping and Gauleiter of
Hamburg. Kaufmann controlled merchant shipping
until Admiral Dönitz took control to ensure
smoother cooperation with the Navy during Operation
of East Prussia for the Nazi Party, Koch was an
ultra-racist Nazi hardliner responsible for
sending hundreds of thousands of people to their
deaths in extermination camps.
As the Red Army closed in, the cowardly
Koch publicly commanded that all Germans fight until
the end, while he secretly planned his escape westward with
all his possessions (most of which had been looted).
According to Albert Speer, in the dying days of
the war Koch arrived in Flensburg to demand a
submarine so he could escape to South
America. Karl Doenitz, Hitler's brief
successor outright denied this blatant request.
evaded capture by the Allies until 1949 in Hamburg. Sent
to Warsaw for his war crimes trial in 1958, he was
convicted and imprisoned until he died many
years later in
of two merchant marine captains on the bridge of
the Gustloff the night of its sinking.
He was one of the four captains on the
night of the disaster – all of whom survived.
Engineer on the Wilhelm
wife Paula was on board with him during the
night that the ship went down.
gunner's mate aboard the S-13 who
discovers torpedo #2 ("For Stalin")
stuck in its tube and fully primed (the torpedo
was intended for the Gustloff
along with the other three which struck their
mark). With a little luck and smart
thinking, he was able to render the torpedo inert
after some anxious moments. Burly and strong,
was well known to the crew for his love using
very "colourful" language.
year old radio operator on the Gustloff
on the night it went down. His SOS did not
reach shore because the ship's main radio had
been knocked out after the torpedoes hit.
The Löwe - providing the one and only
escort - had to re-transmit Lange's SOS to shore.
Robert Ley (doctorate in Chemistry from the University
Bonn), was head of the Deutsche
Arbeitsfront (DAF) from 1933 through 1945.
was ordered by Hitler to replace all trade
through intimidation, confiscation of funds and
arrest of union leaders.
was the parent organization of the popular Kraft
durch Freude (KdF) ‘Strength through
Joy’ division - responsible for the commission
of the Wilhelm
managed to become an “undisputed dictator of
labour” in building a mass organization of 25
million members, but was also notorious for his
public drunkenness and womanizing.
after the war, Ley was captured by the American
101st Airborne division in mid-May
was due to stand trial as a war criminal
(particularly for mass organization of slave
labour) at Nuremberg, but committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell before the
Engineer on the Gustloff January 1945.
Lübbe was the Wilhelm
Gustloff’s first captain, an honour he
would only enjoy for just over one month.
After captaining the newly minted KdF
ship for its test run, two early cruises, and
its voyage to
as a floating polling station, he died on the
bridge during the Gustloff’s
“official” maiden voyage to Madeira.
previously captained another KdF ship, the Monte Sarmiento.
author noted for his biographies who wrote Ein
Mord in Davos ('The Davos Murder' - English
translated version). Written immediately
after Gustloff's murder in February 1936, Ludwig
pens his interpretation and implications of
David Frankfurter's assassination. He
makes it clear that he does so in a quest for justice - particularly in light of German
government policies. Ludwig detested
National Socialism and emigrated to the United
States to write anti-fascist pamphlets for the
U.S. Government during the war.
of Konfrontation, a 1975 film about the
Wilhelm Gustloff assassination and trial of
David Frankfurter. Extremely difficult to
obtain a copy, but is known to be available with
English subtitles under its alternate titles of Assassination
on the Wilhelm Gustloff January 1945.
a "personal enemy" by Hitler for
sinking the Wilhelm Gustloff and the Steuben,
Marinesko was Captain of Soviet submarine S-13.
professional, daring and resourceful at sea,
Marinesko's shore-leave habits would cause him
great trouble during his career - impeding
recognition from his own commanders for the
largest submarine score in history and ultimately
sending him to the dreaded Gulag Kolyma.
January 15, 1913 in Odessa to a Ukrainian mother
and Rumanian father, Marinesko grew up during
the city's years of turmoil as civil war and
Soviet rule gripped the region. He learned
to rely on instincts and opportunity to survive.
leaving school at the age of fifteen, he got a
job as a cabin boy on a cargo ship. An
official spotted his talent and within a year
Marinesko was given a place at the Odessa Naval
Institute. He progressed to first mate on
the Black Sea, a coaster which supplied
news circulated about a dramatic rescue
Marinesko had participated in to save the lives
of a torpedo boat that had capsized, he was
ordered to transfer to the Navy. After a
year of navigational courses, he found his true
calling when switching to submarines.
After tours of duty in submarines SC-306 and by 1941 the M-96, Marinesko secured
command of the S-13 in 1943.
sinking the Gustloff and Stueben,
Marinesko was denied official credit by the
Soviet Navy. Only after many years did the
impact of his contribution get officially
recognized. In 1963, and after time in a
Gulag, he finally received the honours due to
him, largely thanks to loyal sailors and peers
who never forgot him. He succumbed to
cancer only 3 weeks after the ceremony.
his death, Marinesko had been awarded every
major honour EXCEPT "Hero of the Soviet
Union", exemplified by the solid gold star
with red ribbon. Finally in 1990,
Gorbachev posthumously bestowed this honour upon
First Rank in the Soviet Navy and Marinesko's
commanding officer. He was instrumental in
protecting (or at least delaying) Marinesko's
troubles with the NKVD after indiscretions
delayed the S-13's departure from Hangö in
early January 1945.
aged and weathered seaman, Petersen had the
unique experience to captain the Gustloff
at both the height of its career and the depths
of its demise.
In 1938, he completed a pleasure cruise
after the Gustloff’s first captain died of a heart attack.
January 30, 1945 at sixty-seven
years of age, he was on the bridge as
“official” captain of the vessel.
officially took over for Captain Bertram in
February 1944 while the ship was docked in
Near the beginning of the war, he had
been captured by the British and held as a
prisoner of war.
Considered too “old” to be of any
danger to the Allies, he was returned to
with a written promise not to be in command of
any ship. Captaining
the relatively permanent docked Wilhelm
Gustloff used as U-boat barracks seemed to
be a perfect compromise.
the sinking, Petersen never again went to sea
and died not long after the war.
year old Petty Officer on the S-13.
He was the submarine's torpedo expert and was on
the aft look-out during the initial pursuit of
of the company and famous car that bears his
name (actually designed under his son in the
50’s), Porsche designed the Volkswagen Beetle
(known as the KdF-Wagen in Nazi Germany) after
receiving a rough sketch from Adolf Hitler.
Porsche was a guest on one of the Gustloff’s
cruises around Italy.
and commander of the torpedo boat Löwe that was escorting the Wilhelm
Gustloff on the night it sank.
year old navigator from Leningrad aboard the
S-13 in January 1945.
Petersen's first officer and friend aboard the Gustloff
January 30, 1945
Reitsch, stationed in Gotenhafen, was in command
of 10,000 Women Naval Auxiliaries. It was
her decision that the Gustloff would be
the first official evacuation ship for her
"girls". Most of the almost 400
who were selected to be on board were killed
when the second torpedo hit the empty swimming
pool area (where most were situated).
(Major - Naval Medical Corps) and Ship's
Doctor, Wilhelm Gustloff, January 1945.
operator on the escorting torpedo boat Löwe that
received and retransmitted the Wilhelm
Gustloff's SOS call.
Commander who was captain of the M-341, a
minesweeper vessel that rescued
37 survivors from the Gustloff on the night
of the disaster.
author and Gustloff
historian who was a 17 year old assistant purser
on the ship when it sank on January 30, 1945.
maintains the Gustloff-Archive in Bad Saltzlufen,
officer on the S-13 in charge of the
hydrophones. Twenty-three years old and
Captain of the
freighter Göttingen that rescued 28
survivors from the Wilhelm Gustloff on
the night of the disaster.
The Jewish lawyer
in Davos, Switzerland for whom Wilhelm
Gustloff's wife, Hedwig, did occasional typing
to supplement their income.
the Jewish boarding house where David
Frankfurter lived in Bern, Switzerland.
in his hatred of Jews, this Nazi leader was
considered extreme (and perhaps even insane) by
some of the party’s own members.
He was responsible for the publication of
the viciously anti-Semitic newspaper Der
Stürmer, cited by David Frankfurter as a
major contributor toward his decision to
assassinate Wilhelm Gustloff.
at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial after the war,
his final words were “Heil Hitler” just
before he was hanged from the gallows.
on Soviet submarine S-13.
officer on the S-13 who first spotted the
Gustloff's running (navigation) lights
from the conning tower. At first, he
believed them to be from lighthouses on the Hela
Peninsula until it became clear that they
originated from the Gustloff.
Captain of the Gotenland,
a 5,266 ton freighter that arrived at the site of
the Gustloff tragedy about 3 hours after the first torpedo
struck. Unfortunately, he managed to
take on only 2 remaining survivors.
officer of the Kriegsmarine's 2nd U-boat
Training Division and aboard the Gustloff on
the night is was torpedoed. Thirty-five
years later, Captain Vollrath wrote a
well-detailed account of his experience in the
April 1981 issue of "Sea Breezes"
Commander of the
minesweeper that rescued
approximately 50 survivors from the Gustloff during
the night of the tragedy.
of the two merchant marine captains on the
bridge of the Gustloff during the fateful voyage.
Medical Officer on
board the Gustloff.
writer and director of Nacht fiel über
Gotenhafen, a 1959 film about the Wilhelm
Gustloff tragedy. Difficult to find
and only available in German (no English
representative of the KdF on board the Wilhelm
Gustloff during its years as a cruise ship.
Wulff’s activities included
coordination of the daily routine/schedule and
ensuring that the passengers received a healthy
dosage of Nazi propaganda.
Lieutenant, second in command on the S-13 and
friend of Alexander Marinesko. Drafted a
petition to have Marinesko rejoin his crew after
he disappeared on a drinking and brothel bender
when supposed to be leaving port. Tall and
of reserved demeanor - was a good counterbalance
to his captain.
2nd U-boat Training Division housed
on the Gustloff,
the thirty-three year old Zahn was one of the
four captains on the bridge the night of the
Friedrich Petersen was the “official”
maritime captain of the Gustloff,
Zahn's military rank and personality ensured
his influence rivaled that of the aging
disappointing "at sea" naval career
(one that even caused him to go into a deep
depression), Zahn took over command of his
U-boat division on the Gotenhafen-based Gustloff in early summer 1942.
The temperamental disciplinarian Zahn ran
a strict and rigorous program for his young
board, his Alsatian dog Hassan,
accompanied him almost everywhere.
and the two other merchant marine captains, Zahn
survived the sinking. Because he had been
the senior naval officer on board, he was called
before an official naval inquiry to testify for
his actions. His degree of responsibility
was never resolved since naval command had far
greater problems as the war drew to a
close. Regardless, his naval career was
finished. The bitter Zahn spent the rest
of his life
as a salesman.