View Full Version : Sinking of the Cap Arcona, Thielbek and Deutschland off Luebeck May 3 1945

james ensor
10-26-2013, 04:24 AM
You carry a picture of this fine ship, which was loaded with concentration camp victims and their SS guards. You place an accurate comment, but I do not think that it tells the full story as we now can guess at it.

The British were then reading German army signals on a routine basis at Bletchley Park. It is probable that they intercepted messages from Berlin to the SS commanders on the spot. These are likely to have ordered him to take the three liners into deep water to be sunk, with all the concentration camp survivors locked below decks. The SS were, by then, desperate to conceal their crimes.

"In April 1945, the Nazis gathered some ships in the Bay of Lübeck, among them the SS Arcona, to be used as prison ships. Those ships held alltogether more than 10.000 people held previously in Neuengamme KZ and it's subcamps.
The Gauleiter of Hamburg, Karl Kaufmann, was acting on orders from Berlin. He stated later that the prisoners were destined for Sweden. However, the head of the Gestapo in Hamburg, Bassewitz-Behr, testified at the same trial that the prisoners were in fact to be killed on thise ships, on order of Heinrich Himmler. A plan was suggested to scuttle the ships with the prisoners still aboard.

The SS Arcona was attacked as part of general attacks on shipping in the Baltic Sea by RAF Typhoons.

The commanders ordering the attack reportedly thought the SS Arcona was used to evacuate SS personell to Norway. The pilots stated that they did not know that the ship was loaded with prisoners.
Some sources suggest, that some elemnts of the British command knew the identity of the people on the ship, but failed to pass on.

Most of the SS guards were able to jump overboard, equipped with life jackets. The German sent to rescue crew members and guard personnel of the SS Arcona managed to save 16 sailors, 400 SS men and 20 SS women.

Most of the prisoners who tried to board the trawlers were beaten back. Those who managed to get to shore were shot. of the 4.500 former concentration camp inmates who were on the ship, only 350 survived.

The overall death toll was estimated at 5.000." The above comments inside inverted commas is carried under the photo.

The choice of Typhoon fighter bombers armed only with 3 inch rockets suggests that the RAF wished to kill the SS men on deck rather than sink the ships. Otherwise Lancasters with Barnes Wallis` Tallboy bomb, which had sunk the Tirpitz, would have been used. This would also explain why cannon fire was used to shoot up those swimming away from the ships. Initially at least these would have been the SS guards. As the British Army had recently liberated Bergen-Belsen , many people in the forces knew just what the SS had been doing to concentration camp inmates.

It seems to have been a very bitter choice between leaving all the prisoners to die and the SS guards to escape scot-free or killing large numbers of both. I believe that in the circumstances, the right decision was made.

Nobody would bother to sink three old luxury liners, in the last days of the war. They would in a few days have become British war booty and might have been refurbished to replace some of the liners which had been sunk by U boats.

The reason for secrecy is obvious. For 40 years the secret of the breaking of the Enigma codes was kept. As the Russians captured many of the sets, it is probable that the Red Army continued to use the codes and the coding machines for many years.

11-24-2013, 02:00 AM
The History or Military Channel just had an show on tonight called "Hitler's Titanic", it was about the same ship referenced above.