Cap Arcona


May 28, 2022

Cap Arcona was a luxury German ocean liner, which was launched in May 1927. At the end of World War II, it was sunk after an attack by the British Air Force on May 3, 1945 in the Bay of Lübeck. Its sinking, the fourth largest maritime disaster in human history, has claimed the lives of about 4,500 people, mostly prisoners from concentration camps.


Cap Arcona was the second ship in the "Cap-" series. These were a number of ships designed for the combined transport of passengers and cargo. The ship was commissioned by the Hamburg-Südamerikanische Dampschiffahrtsgeselschaft Blohm & Voss shipyard in 1926. The ship was launched on 14 May 1927 and put into service in November of the same year. route between Hamburg and South America. It had a relatively low draft, due to the need to sail in the shallow depths of the La Plata River. The interior layout was adapted to the tropical conditions for which the ship was intended. Typical were airy dining rooms with high ceilings located not under the main deck but on it. In Germany and overseas, it was considered the most beautiful ship of its time. During the years 1928 and 1929, it participated in the transport of 60,000 emigrants, which were transported by the shipping company during this period. During the global economic crisis and after the Nazis came to power, its profitability declined and in 1939, after almost 100 successful voyages, it was transferred to the port of Gdynia and transformed into a German barracks barracks. At this time, it also served as a backdrop in the propaganda film Titanic from 1943. In the end, the film was not used in cinemas on Goebbels' orders. In 1944, Cap Arcona transported refugees from East Prussia to the west.


In April 1945, the ship moored with the cargo ship Thielbek in the Bay of Lübeck. On April 26, more than 6,500 prisoners from the nearby Neuengamme concentration camp, which had to be rushed out before the Allies arrived, and over 400 prisoners who survived the death march from the Fürstengrube concentration camp were boarded. One of the often quoted theses that the Nazis' plan was to export the two ships to the high seas and sink them there with the prisoners seems unlikely from today's historical perspective. Both ships were moored in the bay with a broken machine and were unable to maneuver. Also, the small amount of fuel in the tanks was only enough to power the onboard units and would not allow long-distance navigation. Rather, the prisoners on the ships were only accommodated in emergencies, because at that time there was no other suitable option for this purpose in this locality. However, on May 3, the British air force carried out a raid on both ships and both ships were sunk. It is also stated, among other things, that the explosion on Cap Arcona took place inside and that the explosion was carried out by the Germans, but these are only unsubstantiated allegations. It is not known exactly why this attack took place, from the point of view of war management, it had almost no practical significance in the given situation. Apparently it was a misunderstanding within the organizational turmoil in the final stages of the war. At the time of the sinking, there were approximately 4,500 prisoners from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Italy, Yugoslavia, Finland, France, Canada, Luxembourg, Hungary, Germany, Norway, Poland, Romania (Justra), Greece, and the Soviet Union. , Spain, Switzerland and the USA, 400 soldiers and 10 crew members. Only about 400 people survived, including Emil František Burian. The sinking of Cap Arcony is the fourth largest maritime disaster in human history.