Monday, September 18, 2017

The Baltic, January 30th, 1945

That beautiful sandy Baltic coastline I've mentioned in previous posts was not a good place to be back on the night of January 30th, 1945.  That night more than 9000 people died (women, children and injured soldiers) when the Wilhelm Gustloff was torpedoed by the Soviets. The ship was evacuating refugees from Gdingen (Gotenhafen) from the Soviet Army.  This tragic story, while not common knowledge, has been immortalized through various books.  Günther Grass (Crabwalk in 2002) and Ruta Sepetys (Salt to the Sea, in 2016) have fictionalized and thus remembered the tragic loss of civilian life in that cold sea.

There was a second tragedy that happened the very same night, on the same sea. Because there were so few survivors, this story is little known.

On the coast about twenty kilometres south of the spa resort, Svetlogorsk (Rauschen) more than 5000 Jewish women and children ended their death march from the various concentration camps in East Prussia.  Under SS machine-gun fire, they entered the icy Baltic near Yantarny (Palmicken).
Yantarny means 'made of amber' in Russian and is still an amber-processing centre. The photo above shows the open pit mines of Yantarny. (Image: Aleksandr Popadin.)

The Baltic...a graveyard for so many. Did my character, Minna, end up here?





No comments: