The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Dentist of Auschwitz

Appendix A
The Sinking of the Cap Arcona


In what is apparently the only English-language article on the Cap Arcona sinking, J.L. Isherwood writes in a British periodical:

The Cap Arcona, launched on May 14, 1927, was probably the most luxurious ship on the Hamburg to South America route until the second World War....

In April 1945, with the Russian quick advance, in three of her trips, she evacuated 26,000 Germans on the Baltic from east to west. Thereafter, in April 1945, she took on 6,000 concentration camp prisoners.

It was while in this capacity, lying in Travemünde bay with a number of other ships, that on May 3 British bombers attacked the port. A number of ships were sunk, the largest being the Deutschland and the Cap Arcona. Including the prisoners, guards and ship's crew, she had aboard at the time about 6,000 people.

Severely damaged and set on fire by the bombs, the Cap Arcona eventually capsized and the appalling death toll was estimated at 5,000 people.

The wreck of the charred and twisted steel of the Cap Arcona, the tomb of 5,000 bodies, lay for nearly five years. In 1949 it was broken up for scrap metal.

[J.L. Isherwood, "Steamers of the Past: The Hamburg-South American Liner Cap Arcona," Sea Breezes, May 1976.]

Isherwood's account is borne out by British Operations Record Books, labeled "Secret" and obtained for me by the Hamburg-Südamerika Dampfschiffahrts-Gesellschaft and the Hamburg-Amerika line.

Detail of Work Carried Out by 197 Squadron for the Month of May 1945

[Time up, 1515; time down, 1635] DD771. Shipping strikes in Lubeck Bay. All the bombs were dropped on a motor vessel of 15/20.000 tons at 0.0208. The ship was already burning as a result of attacks by 263 Squadron and we scored two direct hits. Now left burning in five places and later seen capsized and burning, CAT. I.

[Operations Record Book, AIR 27/1109, 5822, p. 1, Public Record Office, London]


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