Modern Russia is a capitalist country at odds with the United States simply upon the grounds that the Central Bank in Moscow currently remains ‘independent’ of Rothchild control – and therefore out of the direct manipulation of Washington! With the betrayal of the Soviet Revolution during 1991, the floodgates of predatory capitalism have been opened far and wide and have allowed a devastating cascade of suffering to engulf the ordinary Russian people! Today, much of the US derived Cold War ‘lies’ about the USSR are clearly translated into the Russian language and taught in Russian classrooms! In the 31-years since the betrayal of the Soviet Revolution – entire generations of Russian youth have been brought up to think and act in a thoroughly ‘bourgeois’ manner. If the Russian Central Bank was controlled directly from Washinton, then ALL the anti-Russian nonsense continuously generated by the Western media would suddenly come to an end – as it would no longer be needed! Whatever the US wanted done in Russia and its surrounding environs would be immediately carried-out (as it is in Europe) – or Washington would STOP the flow of money! Those who continuously attempt to demean the memory of the RMS Titanic by falsely comparing it with the MV Wilhelm Gustloff are making the fatal error of failing to acknowledge that whereas the MV Wilhelm Gustloff was full of Nazi War Criminals – the RMS Titanic was not!
That being said, it is also true that modern (bourgeois) Russia perceives is ‘Soviet’ past as an error, and all history premised upon it as a mistake. One causality of this change of attitude is the special relationship the USSR maintained and encouraged with the ‘international’ working-class – a relationship that encouraged ‘solidarity’ and genuine ‘friendship’ over the racism and brutality of the imperialism offered by capitalism! Therefore, although the British working-class sincerely supported the USSR for decades – modern Russia now derides and denigrates this association. My function, therefore, ss a ‘Socialist’ historian is to pick through this often confusing and contradictory maze of data, details, propaganda and misinformation, and attempt to reliably reproduce the past in the present so that the contemporary Proletariat can learn the details of their true heritage as this mass movement manoeuvres its way into the future. I have no respect for capitalism nor its fascist and imperialist variant and/or manifestation. As the great Bill Hicks once described his political orientation – I remain unapologetically ‘A little to the left!’
If not for a quirk of fate – we would be discussing the ‘MV Adolf Hitler’ now – and not the ‘MV Wilhelm Gustloff’, and this needs explaining. Wilhelm Gustloff (1895-1936) was the ‘Head’ of the Germany Nazi Party in Switzerland. Wilhelm Gustloff was a rabid anti-Semite – who was assassinated by the Serbian citizen named ‘David Frankfurter’ (1909-1982) – a member of the Jewish diaspora. Adolf Hitler was said to be outraged by this, and so the massive luxury liner the ‘Adolf Hitler’ – which was under construction in a Hamburg shipyard – was renamed the ‘Wilhelm Gustloff’’ as a tribute to the slain member of the Nazi German diaspora. Hitler believed in the idea that ‘strength’ was generated in the minds and bodies of the racially pure when they experienced boundless ‘joy’ – and this ten-deck cruise ship was designed to carry around 1,471 peace-time passengers, whilst being Staffed by 424 Officers and Sailors (including 2 Pilots) – as a means to achieve this function. As all the racially pure were ‘equal’ within Hitler’s Germany – all passengers received exactly the same level of comfort – with even the four rooms set aside for Hitler himself being renowned for their ‘sparseness’. In other words, Hitler forbade the usual practice of the time which routinely saw cruise ships divided into ‘First’, ‘Second’ and ‘Third’ Class compartments and facilities.
What must not be forgotten when assessing this event is the general historical context the episode under discission appeared within. The Nazi Germans (and their Allies) killed around 41 million Soviet men, women and children primarily within the Western USSR between 1941-1945 – with the bulk of this killing being carried out between 1941-1943 – the two years the Nazi Germans could act virtually unopposed in the occupied areas. Those fleeing upon what was by then the ‘MV Wilhelm Gustloff’ (with ‘MV’ meaning ‘Military Vessel’) were the perpetuators of these terrible crimes – with very few (if any) ‘innocent’ individuals being amongst them! The US anti-intellectualism that provided the framework for the post-1945 ‘Cold War’ ideology emanating from the West dovetailed perfectly with the anti-Socialist and anti-Russian rhetoric of the political rightwing and far-right – so that the contemporary ‘White Supremacy’ Movements now attempts to present the sinking of a ship full of Nazi War Criminals as being the exact ‘inverse’ of what it was – in other words they see it a supposed Soviet ‘War Crime’ rather than a legitimate act of war! All evidence not only points in the opposite direction, but even German enquiries state that within the acknowledged rules of war – the sinking was justified – if not all together palatable! The Nazi Germans carried out such atrocities on a regular and continuous basis and many point to the sinking of the Soviet Hospital Ship the ‘Armenia’ during November 1941 as an example!
A brief overview of the career of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff is as follows:
1) Hitler attends the launch of the civilian ship on May 5th, 1937 – alongside ‘Hedwig Gustloff’ – the widow of Wilhelm Gustloff – who had been raised to the level of ‘Martyr’ by the German Nazi Party.
2) All fixtures and fittings are completed on March 15th, 1938.
3) The Wilhelm Gustloff made its maiden voyage on March 23rd, 1938.
4) As a floating Polling Station for the upcoming Reichstag Elections – the Wilhelm Gustloff anchored near London (UK) on April 2nd, 1938 – so that Germans and Austrians living in the UK could participate in the Elections.
5) A cruise from Hamburg to Madeira (Via Lisbon) took place between April 21st and May 6th, 1938 – often described as the first ‘official’ voyage of the Wilhelm Gustloff – acting as a civilian cruise liner!
6) Until the outbreak of WWII (September 1st, 1939) the Wilhelm Gustloff was operated by the Nazi German organisation known as the ‘Kraft Durch Freude’ (Strength Through Joy) and technically was known as ‘KDF Wilhelm Gustloff’ within German language sources. Prior to 1939, this ship routinely carried civilian passengers on cruises to and from (Fascist) Italy and friendly Norway.
7) Hitler (illegally) uses this civilian ship – during May 1938 – to transport Nazi German troops of the ‘Condor’ Legion from (Fascist) Spain to Germany. This is the beginning of the murking of the waters as to whether the Wilhelm Gustloff is a ‘civilian’ or ‘military’ vessel.
8) The Wilhelm Gustloff makes her final voyage as a ‘civilian’ vessel to Norway between August 19th – August 25th.
9) The Nazi German Navy took control of this ship on September 22nd, 1939 – where it became the ‘MV Wilhelm Gustloff’ – with ‘MV’ standing for ‘Military Vessel’. It was used extensively as a ‘Hospital Ship’ to transport wounded Nazi German soldiers back to Germany from the Norway theatre of operations.
10) On November 20th, 1940, the MV Wilhelm Gustloff was converted into a military barracks for use by the Nazi German 2nd U-Lehrdivision – or ‘2nd U-Boat Training Division’ (stationed at the Baltic Sea Port situated at Gotenhafen – Northern Poland). Due to this overt change in designation – the MV Wilhelm Gustloff was painted ‘Military Gray’ during early 1941 to assist in camouflaging this now obvious military vessel from enemy attack.
11) Although being a U-Boat Training Facility – the MV Wilhelm Gustloff was ordered to assist in the Evacuation of East Prussia and its surrounding area – commencing on January 30th, 1945 (a date coinciding with what would have been the 50th birthday of the Nazi collaborator – Wilhelm Gustloff). This ship was to carry Nazi German Officers (and their families), Nazy German Military Personnel Fascist Politicians (and their families), the wounded and those of non-German origin (and their families) who had collaborated or assisted the Nazi German regime in anyway. This was a population of people fleeing the areas from where they had committed their ‘War Crimes’ and ‘Crimes Against Humanity’.
12) The numbers of passengers are in dispute due to the haste with which the evacuation was organised. The breakdown of available figures from German language sources is as follows:
a) According to evidence provided in 1995 – the official number of ‘registered’ passengers amounted to ‘7,956’.
b) It is said that due to the general panic – another ‘2,500’ passengers suddenly rushed the ship as it was about to depart (at 01:10 hrs). If correct, this increased the passenger numbers to ‘10,300’.
c) There were 1,500 Wehrmacht – a number which included 162 wounded.
d) There were 918 Nazi German Marines and 340 Naval Auxiliaries – all belonging to the 2nd U-Lehrdivision.
e) If the lists are correct (they are examined further below), there were around 8,800 civilians onboard – said to include a large number of children. This would make a figure of around 10,300 passengers onboard, presumably with a further contingent of 426 Officers and Men sailing the ship – but how realistic is it for a ship designed to take just 1,500 passengers – carrying such huge nubers together with their luggage, weaponry and wealth?
f) There is a speculation that the ‘Amber Room’ – looted by the Nazi Germans from the Catherine Palace (situated near Leningrad) was also onboard.
These numbers seem extraordinarily ‘large’ for a ship designed to carry considerably less. Logic would dictate that such large numbers would disrupt the floating, sailing and handling of the ship – but no such problems appear to have been reported – or at least none have survived. This might explain why there is so much disagreement around the numbers of passengers involved. There are no Soviet reports suggesting this ship was having trouble manoeuvring through the waves. Quite often, in an effort to demonise an opponent or generate the idea that a crime has been committed – numbers are often ridiculously over exaggerated. This is exactly why no one is sure what the casualty figures eventually were following the sinking. Obviously, if the starting figure is incorrect – then ALL following calculations will be equally incorrect. After-all, according to the numbers presented above, this ship was carrying nearly seven times the amount of people it was designed to accommodate (if the Sailing Staff are taken into consideration – the discrepancy is nearly eight times as much). The RMS Titanic, for example, was designed to accommodate 2,435 passengers and 892 Officers and Men (for a total of 3,547 people). If 3,547 is multiplied by eight the huge number of 28,376 is arrived at! Although I am neither a sailor nor an engineer, common sense seems to imply that this massive number would have an immediate detrimental effect upon the structure and functioning of the ship! This is why we must always keep in mind that many aspects of this case read very much like US derived Cold War fiction.
How was the ‘MV Wilhelm Gustloff’ sunk? The official Soviet narrative states that a man of unsteady and unpredictable character managed to command his S-13 Soviet Submarine and sink the MV Wilhelm Gustloff after firing three perfectly aimed torpedoes! To add a bizarre twist to this story, the traitor – Mikhail Gorbachev – granted this Soviet Sailor the status of ‘Hero of the Soviet Union’ during 1990 as the Soviet Union and Communist Bloc was disintegrating around him! Gorbachev granted this honour (which would be abolished by the ‘new’ capitalised rulers of Russia a year later) – specifically for sinking the MV Wilhelm Gustloff! This is almost the perfect ending to a story that makes no all-round sense. Added to this bizarre tale may be the idea that the MV Wilhelm Gustloff was also trailed by a Nazi German U-Boat with orders to ‘sink’ the ship because the civilians onboard (who would have almost all certainly been killed) would be given the identities of leading Nazi German Officials – and then presented to the Western Allies as being already ‘dead’ and beyond prosecution for their crimes! The British were reported as being ‘so grateful’ that a significant element of the Nazi German U-Boat capacity had been removed by this action – that a ‘statue’ was being considered for the Soviet Sailor concerned! Who was this mysterious Soviet Sailor?
The man in question is Alexander Marinesko [Александр Маринеско] (1913-1963). During the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945), he commanded the M-96 and S-13 Submarines of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet of the USSR Red Navy. Although only involved in six enemy actions – he held the record for the most tonnage of enemy vessels destroyed in battle. Despite this success, however, he possessed a poor and unreliable character. Despite receiving every benefit and support a Socialist society can provide, Alexander Marinesko was either unable (or unwilling) to give back to that society which had nurtured his military skills. Although his military skills where superb – he would often let himself down through drunkenness and disorderly conduct at crucial times. This is after being amply rewarded for all his excellent demonstrations of Submarine combat skills! Although married – he would openly pursue relationships with other women. Despite all of this, however, Alexander Marinesko applied for – and was granted – membership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik) during August 1944! This did not stop his bad behaviour, as he neglected his crew, refused to take care of their Submarine battle training, ignored their political education and their ongoing care! Much of his spare time was taken up with fraternising with women from the now ‘neutral’ Finland with him deserting his post as a consequence. Due to the respect his superior Officers had for his fighting abilities; it was agreed that the ‘trial’ for these offences would be postponed until AFTER his latest combat deployment – where the result (if any) would be used as a means of mitigation!
Alexander Marinesko’s fifth military campaign would begin on January 11th, 1945. This was just before the Nazi Germans initiated Operation Hannibal – the Evacuation of East Prussia (and its surrounding areas). The Nazi Germans had been forced into a complete retreat from Eastern Europe and the USSR – with the Red Army attempting to pursue the Nazi German military machine all the way back to Berlin – destroying every single fascist military Unit it encountered upon the way. The world at this time had no sympathy for the Nazi Germans or those who had helped the Hitlerites commit their hideous crimes – with the zeal of the Soviet Advance encouraged and endorsed by the US and the UK – the then ‘Allies’ of the USSR! This was the mindset Alexander Marinesko and his crew possessed when they navigated the Soviet Submarine (S-13) into the Baltic Sea! At this time the MV Wilhelm Gustloff was designated as the floating barracks of the Nazi German U-Boat Training Centre – and this undisputed fact was common knowledge amongst the Western Allies. The problem for the Nazi Germans was that the MV Wilhelm Gustloff would eventually have to cross paths with the S-13 and the result would be devastating! This was because Alexander Marinesko was set on proving his Submariner ability to the Soviet High Command and in so doing – hopefully avoid the Soviet equivalent of a Court Martial!
Hitler’s new plan involved the consolidation of all the remaining Nazi German military Units that were left on the territory of Nazi Germany itself – in preparation for one last massive (defensive) battle against the US and UK (and their Allies) advancing from the West, and the Soviet Red Army advancing from the East! Hitler (and his immediate subordinates) perpetuated the mythic ideology that a military ‘miracle’ would occur that would alter and change the entire situation and allow the Hitlerites to inflict significant military defeats upon the attackers (an element, no doubt, of Hitler’s ‘Occult’ thinking). Armed with these victories – and after achieving a stalemate on both fronts – Hitler intended to seek a ‘Cease Fire’ and a ‘Peace’ under his own terms. To achieve this situation on the battlefield, Hitler had to materially gather his remaining military forces and in so doing inflict such high casualty rates upon the advancing armies of the West and the East – that the home populations of the countries these soldiers represented would be so sickened by the losses they would encourage their home governments to sue for peace! The return of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff was very much part of this bigger picture, and this explains a) why this ship was a legitimate military target, and b) why its military destruction was NOT a ‘War Crime’. The guilt relating to the destruction of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff lies squarely with the Hitlerites – and not with the Soviet Red Navy. The Nazi Germany Authorities did not have to illegally fill a military ship with thousands of fleeing civilians comprising of men, women and children – even if these people had been collaborating with or enabling the Nazi German regime.
The Soviet High Command had tasked the S-13 with the mission of ‘avoiding’ direct contact and confrontation with the very well-made (and technically superior) Nazi German U-Boats – as these often-unnecessary encounters endangered the limited number of Soviet submarines available – submarines which were difficult to a) replace and b) staff (crews of such machines took a relatively long time to train). Instead, as with all Soviet submarines, the S-13 was tasked with seeking-out and sinking all Nazi German shipping that posed a military threat to the Soviet Union. As the Nazi Germans were involved in an all-out retreat, the patrol area of the S-13 was full of all kinds of Nazi German boats and ships, as well as Nazi German U-Boats – some fully functioning whilst others were being towed due to incapacity. The situation was dangerous and uncertain, and the S-13 had to be careful not to mistakenly target non-military targets or other Soviet ships and submarines. The first contact between the S-13 and a fully functioning Nazi German U-Boat occurred on the night of January 21st, 1945. The S-13 was travelling on the surface when it encountered a number of Nazi German patrol ships and smaller boats. As a Nazi German U-Boat was also travelling upon the surface – the S-13 initially mistook it for a patrol boat – whilst the crew of the Nazi German U-Boat mistook the S-13 for a friendly Nazi German ship! The Nazi German U-Boat broadcast an identification signal and left the area. As the S-13 only possessed a limited number of torpedoes – these valuable missiles had to be reserved for firing at major Nazi German targets of significant military value. On this night the S-13 had to protect its own existence and so the outcome on this night was acceptable – if not extremely lucky given the all-round situation. Alexander Marinesko’s decision not to attack these Nazi German vessels at the time was considered shrewd – and the product of good judgement.
On the night of January 22nd-23rd, 1945 the S-13 encountered another Nazi Germany convoy which, according to Alexander Marinesko’s observations, consisted of three tankers escorted by two destroyers. He twice tried to attack this Nazi German formation whilst the S-13 was on the surface – but each time the S-13 was discovered by escort ships which requested am identification number! As the S-13 could not provide such an identification number – the attack was called-off to preserve the safely of the Soviet submarine. It is interesting to acknowledge that numerous Nazi German military personnel continuously mistook the S-13 for a possible Nazi German vessel – and that this misidentification saved the S-13 from destruction. This was probably the consequence of Nazi Germany no longer possessing experienced military personnel – although continuous bad weather also played its part. On the afternoon of January 24th, 1945, the S-13 discovered a large Nazi German transport – which Alexander Marinesko wanted to attack but could not – due to the S-13 being out of position which would have meant pursuing an unfavourable course (and angle) of attack. On the afternoon of January 25th, 1945, the noise of transport propellers was detected by the crew of the S-13, which – due poor weather and visibility – could not be located and properly identified through periscope usage. On the night of January 29th, 1945, the S-13 discovered a target identified as a Nazi German transport ship with a displacement of 2000 tons. This Nazi German ship immediately identified the S-13 as an enemy Soviet submarine and opened fire from its deck canons! This decisive action caused the S-13 to retreat and dive for safety! According to Nazi German documents, this action actually involved the S-13 stumbling upon the Nazi German submarine ‘U-539’ – which was on the surface towing an empty ‘emergency’ Nazi German submarine – the ‘U-1223’.
Due to a lack of fuel, the Nazi German Authorities ordered that the MV Wilhelm Gustloff be issued with enough petrol to travel on a dead straight course from Gotenhafen (in Northern Poland) to Hamburg (in North Germany) – abandoning the usual ‘anti-submarine’ countermeasure of continuously ‘zigzagging’. This decision made by the Nazi German Authorities endangered the MV Wilhelm Gustloff to a greater degree – producing a straight line of travel ideal for an attack to be carried out by an enemy submarine. The S-13 first encountered the MV Wilhelm Gustloff at 21:00 hrs on the night of January 30th, 1945, off the coast of Stolpmunde. This MV Wilhelm Gustloff was travelling with its navigation lights ‘on’ (yet another defence risk) and was accompanied by the Nazi German Destroyer ‘Loewe’ (the sonar equipment of this Destroyer was damaged by ice and was inoperable) – but this ship lagged behind and offered no protection at all. The MV Wilhelm Gustloff was travelling blind and without protection. The S-13 was perfectly positioned for a direct attack upon the MV Wilhelm Gustloff – as the over ladened ship was a) heading in the exact direction of the S-13, whilst b) the S-13 was ‘facing’ the oncoming MV Wilhelm Gustloff and c) heading toward it. Soviet accounts state that Alexander Marinesko made an error of interpretation at this point – and did not correctly judge the speed of the oncoming ship or fully appreciate the advantageous position the S-13 was occupying.
Therefore, the MV Wilhelm Gustloff steamed past the S-13 before any effective firing could take place. This is how the first advantage was lost. Alexander Marinesko immediately ordered that the S-13 be brought to the surface (to gain the ability for ‘speed’) and chased the MV Wilhelm Gustloff. This action enabled the S-13 to catch-up and pass the MV Wilhelm Gustloff – whilst Alexander Marinesko ordered the S-13 to be ‘turned around’ so that it was occupying the general path the MV Wilhelm Gustloff was following. At 21:16 hrs, Alexander Marinesko ordered four torpedoes to be fired at a distance of 700 meters (a distance considered very ‘close’). As the S-13 had been perfectly positioned, three of the four torpedoes struck the MV Wilhelm Gustloff cleanly – one in the bow, the second in the middle and the third in the stern of the ship. The fourth torpedo had become stuck in the firing-tube and was now a serious threat to the safety of the crew of the S-13. At around 22:15 hrs, the ship sank about 23 nautical miles from the Pomeranian coast. The Nazi German forces in the immediate vicinity systematically bombarded the surrounding area with depth charges for more than four hours – but the Soviet submarine managed to escape detection undamaged, cleverly manoeuvring (and hiding) behind the wreckage of the now sunk Nazi German ship – using it as a barrier to incoming fire.
Around 21:20 hrs, the heavy Nazi German Cruiser – the Admiral Hipper – passed the sinking MV Wilhelm Gustloff on its way to Kiel, but its Captain chose not to stop and assist the stricken people onboard as there was obviously effective Soviet submarines operating in the area and there already seemed to be other torpedo trails streaming through the water. As the temperature of the water at the time was -20 °C, this decision has came under severe criticism. Numbers of casualties vary from between 5,348 – 9,000 – but as there is no agreement on the exact number of people loaded onto the ship, obviously an exact number of dead cannot be known for sure. What is known for sure is that 1,252 men, women and children were rescued by different and varied Nazi German boats and shipping that came to the aid of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff – despite its main radio communication equipment not working. German language research sources suggest that as the US-derived Cold War progressed through the years – the numbers of assumed ‘Passengers Onboard’ (and the subsequent number of ‘Dead’) increased in number as the US attempted to later present this incident as a Soviet ‘War Crime’! This strategy appears to be a continuation of the thinking of the Swedish ‘Volunteers’ in the SS Nazi German Units occupying Northern Poland – as soon after the sinking – the Swedish language newspaper (operating in the area) suggested there were ‘10,000’ passengers onboard, a deliberate falsification of information that appears to possess all the hallmarks of an ‘anti-Soviet’ Josef Goebbels propaganda exercise. This disinformation was adopted by the US (and the capitalist West) during the Cold War as a means to denigrate and demean the Soviet sacrifice during WWII. As this fake news has mainstreamed today – it might be said to be one of the most effective Nazi German propaganda exercises as it is still used today even in general conversations. The following data explains how the details surrounding the sinking of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff have been continuously manipulated and misrepresented:
1) January 30th, 1945, it was generally agreed that there were 4,749 passengers onboard (suggesting a causality list of ‘3,492’).
2) February 19th, 1945, the US-owned Reuters suggested that there were ‘8,700’ passengers onboard – and that there had been ‘7,700’ casualties (citing no documented evidence). This does not match the agreed rescued figures.
3) February 21st, 1945, Fascist Swedish news article (Sydsvenska Dagbladet) published within Nazi Occupied Northern Poland – stated there were 10,000 passengers onboard – with 9,000 dead (no documented evidence). This does not match the agreed rescued figures.
4) 1952: Memoirs of Captain Petersen – the Officer in charge of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff – stated that there were 6,000 passengers onboard – with 5,000 killed in the S-13 attack.
5) 1952-1999: The Nazi German survivor of the sinking of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff – Heinz Schön (1926-2013) – referred to himself as an ‘Archivist’ – but in reality – wrote books continuously raising the number of people travelling onboard the ship whilst providing NO legitimate (historical) documentary evidence. None of his declared figures match with the official ‘rescued’ list:
a) 1952: Heinz Schön suggested that there were 6,000 passengers onboard – with 5,000 killed.
b) 1952: Heinz Schön changed the numbers to 6,100 passengers onboard – with 5,196 killed.
c) 1984: Heinz Schön stated that there were 6,600 passengers onboard – with 5,348 killed.
d) 1999: Heinz Schön finally aligns his figures with the 1945 (fascist) Swedish newspaper article (see above) and suggests that there were 10,582 passengers onboard – with 9,343 killed.
6) 1964: There were 6,100 passengers onboard. This is the conclusion of the standard Soviet publication on this subject written by ‘VI Dmitriev’ entitled ‘Attack Fraudsters’. This book was compiled as a rebuttal to the Nazi German, fascist Swedish and US Cold War propaganda (disinformation) that falsely suggested over ‘10,000’ people were onboard the MV Wilhelm Gustloff – with a massive loss of life resulting from the sinking. On Pages 249-253 of this book, VI Dmitriev states ‘There were 6,100 Hitlerites on board, including 3,700 Non-Commissioned officers and Sailor Specialists – who were being evacuated from the U-Boat Training Centre of the Hitlerite Fleet stationed at Gotenhafen.” It is a standard Russian work by Vladimir Ivanovich Dmitriev specialising upon Naval history – specifically Soviet Submarine Operations 1939-45. First published in Moscow in 1964.
With the US, UK and EU actively supporting the political rightwing and far-right as a policy decision in this power bloc’s opposition to any and all Workers’ Movements anywhere in the world – the idea that the Soviet sinking of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff was a ‘War Crime’ still carries significant persuasive force that even permeates Western classrooms (including those of ‘modern’ Russia) and is a common idea held throughout society. Alexander Marinesko did not commit a ‘War Crime’ or a ‘Crime Against Humanity’ because from the point of view of International Maritime Law, the ship was a legitimate target for the following reasons:
a) The ship was fitted with artillery (including anti-aircraft guns).
b) The ship was escorted by armed warships.
c) The ship and was painted in gray ‘camouflage’ colours to assist in its combat missions.
d) The ship was not Registered with the Red Cross.
e) The ship was carrying active military personnel.
f) The ship was travelling through a declared combat zone at the time of sinking.
g) The ship sailed under the (military) flag of the Reichskriegsmarine.
If the Soviet number of ‘6,100’ passengers onboard is taken as the correct number, and the number of known survivors is agreed to be ‘1,257’ – then it can be said that around ‘4,843’ people perished either as a direct result of the attack – or died in the freezing water. Of the original ‘1,252’ rescued from the water – another thirteen (13) later died of their injuries – suggesting that ‘1,239’ was the eventual survival figure of passengers who travelled upon the MV Wilhelm Gustloff. To add to this terrible loss of life, contemporary readers must understand the brutality of the Nazi German regime. For instance, survivors of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff state that after the attack (but before the sinking) – ‘1,000’ passengers were herded at gunpoint by Nazi German Officers into the ‘Winter Garden’ area of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff – supposedly in an attempt to prevent panic during an evacuation. However, as there was ‘no plan’ of escape, all these people eventually drowned when it was realised the glass in the immediate (and surrounding) area had been ‘armoured’ and could not be broken! When functioning at its maximum capacity, the lifeboats on the MV Wilhelm Gustloff could only hold ‘1,900’ people. The reality was that many of these lifeboats had been taken off to make room for passengers, possessions and loot, with smaller boats sometimes being added. However, survivors recall how easy these smaller boats capsized and sank when under the duress of trying to save thousands desperately trying to board or climb in! The original lifeboats that were still onboard could not be properly launched due to the davits being frozen! The fault for the sinking of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff lies firmly with the Nazi Germans and the Hitlerite ideology that had inspired their invasion of Eastern Europe and the USSR! The wreck of the sunken MV Wilhelm Gustloff lies at a depth of 42 meters within Polish territorial waters (position 55° 4′ 12″ N, 17° 24′ 36″ E) and is now a protected Monument and a recognised Naval War Grave. What must not be forgotten is that many of these people were Nazi War Criminals attempting to flee the consequences of their crimes.
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