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German Armed Forces Research 1918-1945

Lazarettschiff D (Wilhelm Gustloff)


Memorial to the Wilhelm Gustloff

May 5, 1937 Launched.

Mar 15, 1938 Commissioned.

Apr 2, 1938 Maiden voyage, cruising in the North Sea as a KdF (Strenght through Joy) ship owned by the DAF, but managed by the Hamburg-South America ship line.

Apr 3, 1938 The Wilhelm Gustloff received a distress call from the Pegaway, a sinking British cargo ship in need of help off Terschelling.

Apr 4, 1938 In heavy sea and stormy weather, the Gustloff reached the Pegaway and rescued all 19 of its crew.

Apr 10, 1938 Used as a polling station for those Germans in Great Britian who wished to vote on the Austrian annexation question. The polling was done outside of the 3-mile limit of British waters, and voters were taken from and returned to the harbor at Tilbury.

May, 1939 The Gustloff sailed with the KdF ships Robert Ley, Der Deutsche, Stuttgart, and Sierra Cordoba, and the non-KdF ship Oceana. They were taking part in the transport of the Legion Condor from Spain back to Germany after the successful defeat of the Republican forces by Franco's Nationalist's.

May 24, 1939 The ships of the transport fleet arrived in Vigo, Spain, and unloaded large amounts of medical supplies and other materials that were given to the Spanish Social Help organization.

May 26, 1939 The Legion Condor loaded on the ships of the transport fleet in Vigo harbor. The Gustloff took on 1,405 men.

May 30, 1939 The ships, including the Gustloff, arrived in German waters and were escorted into Hamburg harbor by a number of German vessels, including the yacht Hamburg and the armoured ships Admiral Graf Spee and Admiral Scheer.

Sept 22, 1939 Commissioned into the Kriegsmarine as Lazarettschiffe "D".

Sept, 1939 The first wounded to be taken on board the Gustloff while in its role as a Hospital Ship - wounded from the defeated Polish Army - were taken on in this month.

Apr - June, 1940 Served in Norwegian waters, docking in the port of Oslo to take on wounded and sick from the victorious campaign in Norway.

June 18, 1940 Set sail for Germany from Oslo, Norway, leaving Norwegian waters transporting wounded and sick onboard.

Nov 20, 1940 Served as an accomodation ship for the 2.Unterseeboote-Lehr-Division in Gotenhafen.

Nov, 1940 - Jan, 1945 The Gustloff was anchored in Gotenhafen and did not leave the harbor for 4 years, serving in various barrack ship and accomodation ship postions within the harbor.

May, 1943 Served as a barracks ship in Gotenhafen.

Jan 30, 1945 The Wilhelm Gustloff left Gotenhafen with between 6-8,000 passengers, the majority being refugees. According to the ships own records, the list of passengers on the 30th included 918 Naval officers and men, 173 crew, 373 members of the Woman's Naval Auxiliary units, 162 wounded, and 4,424 refugees, for an official total of 6,050 people. This is according to the official list though, and doesn't take into account the many hundreds of other people that one way or another, were able to make their way onto the seemingly safe decks of the Gustloff. During the night, in blustery icy-cold weather, the Gustloff was sunk (at 2108 01.30.45) in what is and had remained the worst naval disaster in all of history. The Soviet sub S-13 hit the Gustloff with a spread of 3 torpedos, sinking it within 50 minutes, with the loss of 9,343 lives.

Wilhelm Gustloff Deck Plans
The deck plans of the Wilhelm Gustloff
Wilhelm Gustloff Drawing
Wilhelm Gustloff Drawing
Wilhelm Gustloff as Hospital Ship
The Wilhelm Gustloff as Hospital Ship "D" in 1939


Wilhelm Gustloff
Type Motor Passenger Liner
Construction Yard
(Yard No.)
Blohm & Voss, Hamburg
Launched 5.5.37
Commissioned 15.3.38
Weight, metric tons 19350
Weight, BRT 25484
Length, meters 208,50
Width, meters 23,59
Depth, meters 6,50
Engines 4 MAN 2-stroke 8cyl., 2 shafts
Horsepower, HP 9500 effective
Speed, knots 15,5
Range, nautical miles (Max.) 12000 at 15 knots (using 1580 tons of oil)
Patients/Medical staff 500/??
Crews (officers,men) 20,145
Armament None
Owner Deutsche Arbeitsfront, Hamburg