The Story of the
M.S.Wilhelm Gustloff
Construction, Launch, & Outfitting

Wilhelm Gustloff Paintings - c1938 & 1941

Right:
Original watercolor / gouche painting. Original frame and backing. Beautiful 25cm x 32cm painting which appears to have been done by one A.F. Muaker. *See below. Back-tagged Hermann Herforth, Kunsthandlung, Vergolderei, AltonaE Konigstr 142/144. Purchased from The B. Niggl Gallery of München, Germany.

Far Right: Original oil painting on wood. Still in the original frame and backing. Another beautiful 70 cm x 60 cm painting with original frame. Painted in 1941 by A. Stehning.  Inscription on the back states in German:
"Gustloff leaving Hamburg Docks, Painting, Copy of
Prof. Hans Bohrdt."
This shows Mr. Stehning intentionally copied the painting below and gives light to the name of the artist.
Table Settings & China of the M.S. Wilhelm Gustloff & E.S. Robert Ley
"Once the story of the Wilhelm Gustloff is known, the information on these pages not only becomes more meaningful - but an awe-inspiring exhibit for history."
The Pegaway Rescue
Left: Painting of the Gustloff - presented as a postcard. This painting has been shown on the cover of a book on the Wilhelm Gustloff as well as reproduced in postcard form. The original was painted by Professor Hans Bohrdt - a noted German maritime artist of the 1930s. The painting remained in his family until 2016 when it was auctioned off in Germany and it's current owner is unknown.
The 1938 Wilhelm Gustloff Launch Film:
"Mein Schiff"
     The two most notable Wilhelm Gustloff films are her maiden voyage film: Schiff ohne Klassen (Ship Without Classes) and her construction & launch film Schiff 754 (Ship 754). This next film is a third one on the Gustloff not heard of until a copy surfaced. Mein Schiff, or My Ship, is a 4 to 5 minute film on the Wilhelm Gustloff's construction and launch without sound. I have never seen Schiff 754 in its entirety, but several images from this film are the same. It may be the same release under a different name, or a different film with many of the same shots of the liner. On 16mm film for home viewing, below are several images from the film. It was converted to DVD and contains no sound.


The Wilhelm Gustloff fleeing Gotenhafen
By: Steffen Reichow - 2010

40 x 30 cm acrylic painting on canvas
China and Silverware from onboard the Wilhelm Gustloff.

Visit the Accommodation Ship page for the full history on these pieces.

 Her second voyage into a stormy North Sea sets the stage for a dramatic rescue....
     The story of the Wilhelm Gustloff doesn't begin with the construction of the ship, but rather with the man - Wilhelm Gustloff. He was the Nazi leader for the NSDAP in Switzerland for members who did not live within the confines of the Third Reich itself. 
     His name made headlines when on February 4th, 1937, a disgruntled Jewish student named David Frankfurter believed it was the time to take action against the Nazi party for their deeds against the Jewish community. After careful planning and the purchase of a revolver, Frankfurter arrives at the home of Herr Gustloff. Since the party leader was accustomed to greeting many visitors, Frau Hedwig Gustloff leads Frankfurter to his private study. When Gustloff enters the door, he greets his guest and Frankfurter pulls out his revolver and shoots Gustloff four times in the head and body.
     His wife hears the gunshots and enters the room, seeing her dead husband slumped over. Frankfurter simply leaves the house and is comtemplating his next plan of action. Instead of making a run for it, he uses a neighbor's phone to call in the murder and simply turns himself in to the local authorities.
     The Nazis seize the opportunity to exploit the murder to its fullest, converting Gustloff into a martyr who died for the Nazi cause while Frankfurter was prosecuted in a Swiss court. After a state funeral on February 12th, a memorial service brings about a ship's name. Hitler announces that the newest KdF ship currently under construction will not bear the name "Adolf Hitler" as originally intended, but she will now become the "Wilhelm Gustloff". Her first keel plate was laid August 4th, 1936.
Portrait photo of Wilhelm Gustloff in 1936.


Construction and Launch of the new Kraft Durch Freude Flagship
M.S. Wilhelm Gustloff: May 5th, 1937
     The "Kraft Durch Freude", or KdF, was  Germany's "Strength through Joy" program headed by Dr. Robert Ley under the parent organization the German Labor Front, or DAF. Its primary objective was to promote tourism and vacations within the Third Reich. In order to get people to join, the program offered low-cost cruises to exotic places for the German working class. The idea was that happy people work harder and it soon became the most effective program in the Third Reich. When first created, it employed ocean liners that would have otherwise been mothballed from the depression. These liners came from the Hamburg South-America Line, Hamburg-Amerika Line, and Norddeutshcer Lloyd companies. They included the Berlin, Der Deutsche, Milwaukee, Monte Olivia, Monte Rosa, Monte Sacrmeinto, St. Louis, Sierra Cordoba, and the Stuttgart.
     As Nazi Germany progressed and membership continued to grow, voyages for these ships were booked solid. Dr. Ley soon decided to build two liners specifically geared towards the KdF and its voyages. These ships would be known for their equal classes onboard, open spaces, and every cabin would have an ocean view with no interior cabins. Several of the Arbeitertum magazines under said page boast the Gustloff throughout her construction and first voyages. The first new flagship for the KdF, the "Adolf Hitler", had its name changed to the "Wilhelm Gustloff" in 1937. The second liner, the Robert Ley, was also under construction at the time. Ley's vision was to build 20 new liners for the program, but only these two were ever built.


Original photographs from the launch of the
Wilhelm Gustloff - Wednesday: May 5th, 1937
     On May 5th, 1937 at platform #511 in the Blohm & Voss Shipyard, the weather may have been gloomy, but the excitement surging through the crowd was not. Hitler himself was present at the launch and can be seen in #6 at right inspecting the new liner. Frau Hedwig Gustloff did the honor of smashing the bottle on her bow. (Above inset). Then the Wilhelm Gustloff's new name flips down from her bow and the massive liner slowly begins moving towards the river. 
     At right are 14 launch photos and outfitting photos of the Gustloff in Hamburg. The first is the liner in the shipyard. I have also seen this photo as a postcard. Photo #2 and #3 are of the liner on the slipway with the parade and party members surrounding her. Photos #4 and 5 are close-up photos taken near the ship.
    Photo #6 shows Hitler inspecting the new liner, #7 shows the initial beginning of the launch without her name board, #8 shows her new name for the first time. She slides down the ramp in #9, and #10 & 11 are just after the launch. #12, 13, and 14 are of the Gustloff in outfitting. Finally in March of 1938, the Gustloff is ready for her trials at sea. Her first sailing ever begins on March 14th as a 2 day test run to break in her new machinery with mostly shipyard workers and officials onboard. Even with rough seas, those onboard are excited to be the first to sail in the new liner.
     Her unofficial maiden voyage takes place on Thursday, March 24th, 1938 with a specific goal in mind. (A menu from the end of this voyage can be seen under the first speisekarten page.) The voting to bring Austria into Germany is soon taking place and most of those onboard are Austrians to which Germany is trying to proverbially "woo" to vote yes. (Though in reality, the annexation will take place regardless.) Still, it provides the KdF with a great deal of propaganda. Captain Carl Lübbe steers the Gustloff into the North Sea with an additional 300 girls from the Federation of German Girls (BDM - Bund Deutscher Mädel) and 165 journalists. Once the voyage ends, Hitler goes on an official visit to the ship on March 29th, 1938. His last time onboard.


     While none of the following items (sans the menu) were directly used onboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, this is an introduction into the dining room wares as used onboard. As noted from historical accounts and in postcards of the Wilhelm Gustloff & Robert Ley's dining rooms, the standard china used onboard was that of the red rimmed DAF (Deutsche Arbeitsfront - German Labor Front) china. This china is also known as RAD (Reichsarbeitdienst - German National Work Service) china. Both of these organizations were closely related in their missions, and since the DAF ran the KdF liners, the use of this china came about in their dining rooms. There are different variations, some with one red line, others with two. There are also different makers marks above the cogwheels, but at least one is known to definitely have been used on the Gustloff - Rosenthal. In another photo, it appears the blue-rimmed china may have been used onboard the Robert Ley at one point as well.
     The 9 pieces currently in our collection consist of a 9" soup bowl, 7 3/4" salad plate, 4.5" creamer, 7.5" x 3.5" gravy bowl & catch tray, 3.5" mug, 6" saucer, and 8" bread plate. The back stamps consist of "Rosenthal", with a green DAF 'cogwheel' stamp with the words "Modell Des Amtes / Schonheit Der Arbeit" listed around the outside. This motto translates to "Model of the Office / Beauty of Work". The silverware is an 8" fork and 8" spoon which are not in the exact pattern used onboard, but they have the same stamp as the china. These are backmarked MDA (For Modell Des Amtes) and Sch.d.A. (Schonheit Der Arbeit). While this china was used elsewhere aside from the KdF liners of the 1930s, it is still harder to come by because of its affiliation with Nazi Germany. Additional interior features can be seen throughout the Albums & Photos pages (including official Blohm & Voss official images), and under the 1937-1945 Publications page.


The Wilhelm Gustloff Art Gallery



Wilhelm Gustloff: From Flagship to Casket:
     ​For those who are more visual learners like myself, the video at right is a wonderful summary of the Gustloff's life with great scoring and original footage. 
     It begins with original footage of the launch of the Wilhelm Gustloff in 1937. It then continues to her voyage to England as a polling station in the spring of 1938. Much of the material is general footage of the Gustloff and includes footage of Hitler onboard the Robert Ley in 1939.
     The video goes on to show peacetime voyages onboard the liner and leads into WWII with footage and photographs of her as Lazarettschiff, or hospital ship, 'D'. Finally, Operation Hannibal and the evacuation from Gotenhafen. The sinking footage is from the movie Die Gustloff. ​An interesting tribute to the ship. The original video I had posted here was made private, but I was able to save it to DVD before it's Youtube removal.



Additional Construction & Launch photos of the Wilhelm Gustloff:
1: Photograph of the Gustloff waiting to be launched on May 5th, 1937.
2: Postcard of the Wilhelm Gustloff in outfitting. Note the missing lifeboats. Several items seem to be penciled in, including her name on the bow of the ship. Other photos can be seen under the publications pages.
3: The Gustloff getting her funnel emblem and lifeboats.
4: The Wilhelm Gustloff in outfitting.
5: The stern of the liner while being outfitted.​​
6: The Wilhelm Gustloff being outfitted with her name. ​
7,8: Images of the Wilhelm Gustloff beind launched from the River Elbe.
9: Back of photos 5 and 6.
10,11,12: The interior of the Wilhelm Gustloff being completed. Builders photo.
13: The Promenade Deck of the Wilhelm Gustloff being completed. Builders photo.​
14: A view of the Gustloff being outfitted in the Elbe.
15: Frau Hedwig arriving for the launch of the ship that will take her late husband's name.​​
16: The Wilhelm Gustloff sliding into the Elbe.​
17: Hitler attending the launch of the Wilhelm Gustloff.​
18: The Wilhelm Gustloff in outfitting.​
19: (Far right): The Wilhelm Gustloff in her earliest stages of construction at Blohm + Voss. Dated December 3rd, 1936.​

Specifications on the M.S. Wilhelm Gustloff

Weight:
25,484 GRT (Gross Registered Tons)
Length:
208.5 metres (684 feet)
Width:
23.5 metres (77 feet)
Height:
56 metres (184 feet) keel to masthead
Engines:
Four 8-cylinder MAN diesel engines
Shafts/Props:
2 (“twin-screw”). 4 blades per prop.
Horsepower:
9,500 hp
Anchors:
3 (1 port, 2 starboard) 



Speed:
15.5 knots (approx. 29 km/h or 18 mph)
Range:
12,000 nautical miles @ 15 knots
Passengers:
1,463
Crew:
417
Passenger Cabins:
489 (248 two-bed and 241 four-bed)
Classes:
Only 1
Number of Decks:
8
Deck Space:
5,000 square metres

Watertight Bulkheads:
12
Plumbing:
50 bathrooms, 100 showers, 145 toilets
Lifeboats:
22
Builder:
Blohm & Voss, Hamburg
Yard #:
511
Owner:
Deutsche Arbeitsfront (DAF) - KdF
Interior Design:
Professor Woldemar Brinkmann, Munich
Cost:
25 Million Reichmarks

Managed By:
Hamburg-South America Line
Radio ID:
DJVZ
Keel Laid:
August 4, 1936
Launch:
May 5, 1937
Delivery:
March 15, 1938
Sinking:
January 30, 1945
     25,000 tons of a KdF ship one can enjoy from the decks! - The festive launch of the holiday ship "Wilhelm Gustloff" - a ship built by workers for workers! - A symbol of German socialism - Thousands came to the ceremony. An endless chain of people passed through the wide open gates of the shipyard Blohm + Voss in Hamburg. One is immediately faced with the overwhelming image of the giant ship body, the scaffolding and the rest of the steel slipway. Certainly, those in attendance made all kinds of fuss, so powerful and so elegant at the same time, we were happy to see the first type of this ship in the world though! So that was it, built by workers, financed by workers, created for workers! Could this sleek bow, this magnificent structure not compare to any luxury yacht with the same bow and with every modern luxury? No, really everything was different about this ship, the multitude of portholes in the hull - (Every vacationer can now stay in a cabin with direct light!) - The big, wide windows of the hall-like Promenade Deck, the swinging gates of the command bridge and the command post. Tiny, like Lilliputians, are the few people who are high on the spacious grandstands that extended along the port side. At the shipyard, workers rested for a few short hours during the morning's ceremony. The shipyard was busy with other workers on the bow of the ship. They stood in groups in their working clothes, with sooty faces and hands. With their hammers and files they were waiting to witness the great moment of consecration, which was the work of their hands. They knew the great ship as it should run, now solemnly waiting before the world's eyes on the ramp. In and out, they knew about each nail for each rivet to the toil and labor in day and night hours, in which each of them accomplished great things. Their ship was still, they almost did not want to give it away! Then in the hours of celebration they felt joy and happiness with the launch held before them. "Would you also belong to those who would sail with this ship?", from which her operator, Blohm State Council, said in his address there. "A monument and a landmark for the will of the Führer!" There was already the additional desire to travel and it would be great in the foreign countries. On their faces was already the joy of expectation. And with the tension and the very intimate feelings they had, they pursued the course of the ceremony. They jubilantly greeted the Führer, as he walked through a forest of banners on the rostrum, accompanied with cheering of their approval to the words of Dr. Ley, as he explained them, that would have to comply with this ship on a mission. They undertook a march to the sounds of the factory after the Frau Gustloff christened the ship.
     ​"
Wilhelm Gustloff" slowly and majestically glided on the water as their enthusiasm knew no bounds! All too soon it was all over. All too soon, even the beautiful, proud ship had slipped from our sight. So we hired a ride in the late afternoon when the tourists' seven ships, accompanied by the Führer's Aviso Grille, already downriver of the lake left. We left the Wilhelm Gustloff, now laying in the water. We floated by the snow-white mountain looking up at that which loomed before us, because our impression was actually even lower than before. Still, it loomed up far above the keel line from the water by its size nor increasing. The engineer accompanied us gave us a few figures. He said its a 37m height of the ship from keel to funnel edge. The smoke stack itself encloses an interior space of 5 to 11 meters, it would comfortably fit two very large rooms in its interior, which would be 13 meters high! The size of the ship length is 208m, the maximum breadth of 24 meters. 1,460 people can fit onboard, where 248 two-bed and 241 four bed cabins are fitted. Between the guest cabins and those of the 400 man crew there is no difference. All German landscapes have helped to build the ship. Even here it was again the distressed areas, which were concerned with jobs, so is the steel from the Ruhr and Saar, anchors and chains from the Ruhr area and Magdeburg, boats of the Lower Weser, engines from Cologne, windows from Hamburg, glass from central Germany, insulating from the Lüneburg heath, Stosse of some things, and Silesia. Once the establishment of the ship is done, stories can be told of workmates who had the good fortune to join a holiday cruise on the "Wilhelm Gustloff!". B.R.

Die Frau am Werk - June 1937
Article on the launch of the Wilhelm Gustloff

Invitations for the Launching of the Wilhelm Gustloff
May 5th, 1937
Inside Left:
     On Wednesday, the 5th May 1937, at 12:00 in the afternoon, held in Hamburg at the Blohm & Voss of the launch of the first new KdF steamship. I cordially invite you to this one.

Heil Hitler!
Dr. R. Ley
Inside Right:
The German Abeitsfront / N.S. community "Strength Through Joy"
Participants Map
The following members of the Blohm & Voss in Hamburg presented in memory

VORHOF
No. 25234
General plan overleaf!
     Beautiful launch invitation for the 'unnamed' KdF ship 'Wilhelm Gustloff' at Blohm & Voss. This is a general invitation card, opposed to one for specialized seating in the grandstands. Only a few hundred were grandstand seats, while over 25,000 were admitted for the general seating / standing areas at the shipyard. Measures 8x6 inches when folded shut & embossed with the KdF symbol on the cover.

Wehrarbeit - Berlin, June 1937. 2. Jahrgang.
Launching of the Wilhelm Gustloff.

     Probably one of the best articles on the launch of the ship due to the detailed account of the activity at Blohm & Voss that day. Features several snippets of the speeches given on the day of her launch. Why I decided to post this article in a larger font.
Example table setting as used onboard the Wilhelm Gustloff.

by: MrLuchau

Second Wilhelm Gustloff launch invitation.
Different information on the opposite interior page.
Kampf der Gefahr
Num. 2
4th year, June 1937
Launch of the First KdF ship
    Where does that still exist in the world? A steamer is launched in Hamburg, its sole task is to take German working people to countries that they had only known from hearsay. A socialist deed in every aspect, which cannot be diminished by even the most negative professional moaners and grousers. We say: A socialist deed in every aspect. A state or an organization that had intended to give the workers a pittance, would have taken an old crate freshly painted and the case would have been closed. To the national socialist state for the workers the best is only barely good enough. The KdF vacation ship “Wilhelm Gustloff “that was launched on May 5, is the best proof for this assertion. “Wilhelm Gustloff “ accommodates 1,460 vacationers, all occupying two or four bed cabins. All cabins go to the outside, a solution not even found on all passenger ships. The roughly 400 men crew is housed in exactly the same cabins. Where else do you find this in the world, passengers and crew staying in the same type of cabin?
     ​Two spacious dining rooms are arranged in such a way that all passengers can take their meals in two sittings. The lounges proper offer room for all passengers, without using the dining rooms outside the mealtimes. A public address system for announcements as well as music transmissions and radio reception plus a movie projector are welcome additions. But most of the time the vacationers, especially on sunny days for sure, will be on deck. Special attention was put into their design and equipment. The Sun Deck is free of any structure. All decks together have a surface of 5,000 square meters. Apart from the Sports Deck you can find two Promenade Decks. A walk three times around the Lower Promenade Deck covers approximately one kilometer. A gym on the Sun Deck offers many opportunities for the sportsman and the gymnast. The indoor pool on the lower deck contains a swimming pool measuring 11 meters in length and 5 meters in width.

​     The safety equipment onboard is excellent. 22 lifeboats, including 20 with diesel engines are available, and two of these boats are equipped with complete radio equipment and searchlights. Against dangers the ship has a double hull and is divided into 13 watertight bulkheads. The upper part of the steamer is covered with fireproof walls against the danger of a fire; the remaining walls have fire-retarding paint. Two doctors and a dentist are permanently on board. Their offices are perfectly appointed.
The first German KdF vacation ship, that carries the name of the assassinated country group leader, will be operational in 1938. After that date the German merchant marine will have the most modern passenger ship in the world. However the ship, and this is important, does not cruise the oceans to make money for someone, this ship carries German workers onward and proclaims German socialism in every port.

Kampf der Gefahr: Nr. 2 / 4. Jahrgang - June 1937
Launch of the First KdF Steamship

Arbeit und Staat - Berlin, 9. Juni 1937
Article: Schiff des Friedens und der Freude "Wilhelm Gustloff"

Features the speech given at the launch of the Wilhelm Gustloff, along with information about the new KdF ship.

Shown below are the articles translated into English. Many thanks to Werner for translating these next three articles for me.

Articles in German can be read in my book "Wilhelm Gustloff - Construction to Maiden Voyage."​​
Arbeit und Staat
Berlin June 9, 1937
Article: Ship of Peace and Joy “Wilhelm Gustloff”
Features the speech given at the launch of the Wilhelm Gustloff, along with information about the new KdF ship.

Ship of Peace and Joy: Wilhelm Gustloff

     ​​On May 5 of this year the launch of the new KdF ship “Wilhelm Gustloff “took place in Hamburg at the Blohm + Voss shipyard. 60,000 gathered to witness the massive event. The Führer himself had come to demonstrate his adhesion to the magnificent work “Kraft durch Freude" here also. After the state counselor Rudolf Blohm had reported to the Führer about the work completed, Dr. Ley spoke interrupted by roaring manifestations of applause. “Today is a momentous day. What appeared yesterday to be fantasy and romanticism has now become reality. It is unique in the world that a state, a community builds ships for its workers. We did not take old relics or junkyards. We created “Kraft durch Freude “knowing that only the best is good enough for the German worker.      
     ​This day today is proof of the sincerity of our will. We do not waste our time with economic struggles; we have begun to build a new socialist Germany, by beginning to build a community that embraces everyone. But not only did we begin, we finish what we begin. We are tough as leather and we complete what we put our hands to.” (Long sustained applause). “When we began to construct this work Kraft durch Freude, the Führer instructed me to ensure that the worker enjoys his vacations in order to maintain the nerves to be able to give substance to the great ideas of the Führer. What appeared to be shrouded in fog is today present in everyone's mind. This work was not commanded, not directed by law and paragraphs. It was an idea that was adopted by the people with excitement, as if it had waited for it for centuries. During decades and centuries has the German worker fought for his homeland and his honor, and now the KdF has made his desire come true.      
     ​ KdF is not an amusement club nor a have-fun-group, as many believed initially. While this work was in its first stage, the DAF did not for moment neglect the other social problems. 'Kraft durch Freude' that is today's popular expression for the will of the new Germany. We want to live, want to live joyously.” Thus shouted Dr. Ley to the acclaim of the tens of thousands. “Not because of the joy, but for the strength for creation. Our socialism stresses the positive emphasis of this life on earth. We also affirm the sorrows that we cannot remove from anybody, we want to give you the strength to, master these sorrows, and we will not capitulate ever again.” A roaring applause thanked the Reichsleiter for these remarks.      
     ​And we quote Dr. Ley´s next words: “The highest value that we want to achieve for Germany is eternity. Therefore we christen the ship with the name of a hero of this people, with the name of Wilhelm Gustloff who is immortal to us.” While the 50,000 answer the Reichsleiter with a thunderous applause, a steel cable drops at the bow releasing the name of the ship. In silence the arms are raised in memory of the man whose legacy will now be carried by this ship into the whole world.         
     The christening of the ship with the name of Wilhelm Gustloff was performed by the widow of the party member Wilhelm Gustloff murdered by a Jewish criminal. The national socialist Germany has once again shown the world that it concerns itself step by step with the healing and strength of its people and walks along exemplary paths that were once unknown and are still unique. The following list shows how much “Kraft durch Freude" has impacted: 1934 leaving from Hamburg 62,800 voyagers, one year later already more than 93,000. 1936 8,000 to Madeira, 8,000 German workers to the beautiful South. 2 ships in 1934, continuous increase in the following years. Six ships “KdF” beginning the 1937 season. 1,000 people on the Der Deutsche, 1,000 each of the´Sierra Cordoba and Stuttgart, 963 on the St. Louis, and 721 on the Oceana and even 1,800 on the´Monte Olivia. That adds up to 6,500 German workers, leaving on a single day from Hamburg with destination Norway. The new ship is a twin –screw passenger ship with engine propulsion according to the regulations of the German Lloyd registry for the highest class. It holds a volume of 25,000t and is therefore the fifth largest ship of the German merchant fleet. At the same time it is also one the largest ships in the world's merchant fleet.      Some data may make the dimensions visible. The overall length is 208.50 mts; the largest width is 23.50 mts, overall height from keel to top of mast 56 mts. The chimney, measured from the Sports Deck has a height of 13 mts, its longest diameter 11 mts; the widest diameter is 5 mts. The propulsion consists of 4 diesel engines with a combined output of 9500 HP. The speed is 15.5 knots, i.e. 29 kmh. In total the ship can carry 1,460 vacationers, accommodated in 248 2-bed cabins and 241 four-bed cabins. All cabins are very spacious and are on the outside. Apart from the sleeping area the cabin contains a sitting corner with couch and lounge chairs. The crew – about 400 persons – sleep in cabins equipped in exactly the same manner, a socialist solution that had not been realized onboard any ship in the world. In the middle of the ship two dining halls are placed that are ample enough to accommodate all vacationers for meals in two settings. It would become too extensive to describe all the advantages, let it suffice to say that everything is well thought out and it serves all users of the ships, the crew included of course, in an exemplary fashion.

N.S. Funk: Folge 19, 9. Mai 1937
Building the Wilhelm Gustloff.
NS Funk , Folge 19, 19.Mai 1937
Building the Wilhelm Gustloff : Giants of the Oceans: Built for German workers
Radio reports from the launch of the first KDF community ship that took place on May5.
4​th Recordings Press Office DAF ( of which Wiesebach 2, Wolf 1)
A herald of German socialism - The first Giant of the Ocean KDF, launched on May 5, under construction.


     All over the world there are hundreds of thousands of shipyard workers. They build ship after ship, and every time a ship is completed, their work goes out to sea. But they stay behind with their great longing to be travelling. For the first time in the history of mankind ships are being built in Hamburg which have a different future. These are the new ships of the German Labor Front (DAF). They are being built on behalf of “Kraft durch Freude” and everyone who is working on them knows that they themselves will be onboard one of these days, that they themselves will enjoy their labor. The first of these new giants of the ocean of about 25,000 tons was launched on May 5, the second one follows in a few months, and more shall be built, a whole fleet for socialism and peace, for the sole purpose that German workers, who would otherwise not be able to afford it can take their vacations making beautiful trips on the high seas. Every purpose finds its shape. The ships that until now and for some time to come travelled for “Kraft durch Freude" originated in previous days and were built according to capitalist principles which means that the same will be used in the intensive way- it has to produce money. Cargo space and machinery are built in; cabins are for different classes etc. While travelling on these ships has meant a great mind shaking experience- everyone who has participated knows it, these do not present the complete solution for the purpose of the N.S. community of “Kraft durch Freude“.
     ​That shall be achieved with these new ships. Trips with KdF are community trips, nobody will receive preferential treatment, nobody pays higher prices than the next one; whether he is a factory worker or an employee makes not the least difference.; they are all people on vacations, comrades and nothing else.
This mutual equality has determined the shape of the new ships, and it was even possible to make improvements to an extent not possible to find on any other ship in the world. There are only cabins with four and two beds, all cabins are to the outside and include apart from the sleeping area which contains running cold and warm water, a sitting area with sofa, table and lounge chairs. In addition a real socialist consequence: the members of the crew have the same cabins, built with the same quality and furnishings as those for the passengers, an achievement which is also unique in the world.
     ​The ship that will be launched on May 5 will be the fifth largest of the German merchant fleet. It has a deck area of 5,000 sq.mts for a capacity of 1,460 vacationers. Smoking lounges, dance halls etc. are large enough to hold all the passengers in bad weather, without having to make use of the dining halls.
It will be a beautiful ship, a comfortable ship, in accordance with the slogan. For the worker the best is just good enough. A gym will be provided and also an elevator to connect the seven decks with each other.
     ​The German people are looking with pride as this new fashioned work grows. When these new “KdF” ships cruise over the oceans and will travel in 1940 as is planned with thousands of German workers to the Olympics in Japan, the Marxist countries need to show whether they have anything even remotely similar to that of the supposedly antiworker Germany.
E. Moes

Inside Right: Variation 2:
(Zur gefl.) Geflissentlich = at your service. Attention!
     Since the ceremony will begin promptly at 11 clock, the participants are kindly requested to take their seats at the shipyard within 10 clock. For the ride of D. 'Der Deustche' on the back yard and through the mediation of the Hamburg office KdF green special steamer to the port Steamship Ltd. provided. Time information on board from the KdF guide. The visit to the shipyard is impossible.
     This allocation of space is closely pause: starboard side / M block N ° 15019 General plan overleaf!

Hitler's (The Führer's) Special Suite
Onboard the
Wilhelm Gustloff

Left: From the official Blohm & Voss deck plans of the ship - 1937.

Right:​: Standard cabin onboard the Wilhelm Gustloff.​​
     I had once read that Hitler had a special suite built into the Wilhelm Gustloff that was reserved exclusively for him and his staff. I found this interesting since everything about the ship was supposed to have been 'equal' for all passengers and crew. After looking into it a little deeper, the official deck plans from Blohm & Voss do show such a room with his own private hallway. Also known as the 'secure room' onboard, Hitler's suite was on B Deck directly behind the front staircase on the port side of the liner. This would have been very easy access to Hitler, since the B Deck boarding doors were right in front of the cabin as well. The A-Deck dining room was directly above his cabin, which is where recovered portholes from the wreck were removed. His cabin has a private living room, and was the only cabin on the ship (aside from those on the Bridge Deck) to have a single bedroom for Hitler.
     Hitler was onboard the Gustloff after she had her maiden voyage for only one day. Whether he ever set foot in his personal cabin is not known, but for the next 8 years - the cabin remained empty as her passengers were probably unaware of the beautiful rooms set aside for their leader. When the Wilhelm Gustloff evacuated her passengers on that fateful night in 1945, his cabin was occupied for the first time by the mayor of Gotenhafen and his family. It is unknown if they survived the sinking.

Gustloff, the Fighter - Tragedy for the Party!
February 12th, 1936: Hessian State Newspaper
Inset Above: The funeral of Wilhelm Gustloff.​​​


Original launch footage of the
Wilhelm Gustloff - May 5th, 1937.


"Ich taufe dich auf den Namen, Wilhelm Gustloff."
("I baptize you in the name, Wilhelm Gustloff.")
Frau Hedwig Gustloff

At the launching of the Wilhelm Gustloff
May 5th, 1937
The launch of the KdF ship "Wilhelm Gustloff"
Photos see also second cover. 

     Hamburg's first birthday. The ship of the KdF tourists is launched in the presence of the Creator of Great Hamburg on May 5th, 1937. Endless cheers accompanied the leaders from their train station to the jetties, where he is greeted by a true celebration concert of sirens. In a barge, Adolf Hitler moves through the harbor, where many have flagged vessels of various ports coming to Blohm & Voss. Again and again the welcoming cries of those in Hamburg can be heard as he enters the festively decorated shipyard. Before the start of the celebrations, the director of the shipyard gives an illuminating lecture on the art of a ship build. He takes something like this: The manufacture of the vessel to the finished bodyshell work requires a lot of work. Which first requires a keel plate that was laid on August 4th, 1936. In nine months of work are concatenated disk to disk and are welded and riveted until today these made the massive hull. The length of the structure is more than 200 meters, the width is more than 23 meters and the height is 17 meters up to the Promenade Deck. It can approximately hold 1,500 passengers and 400 crew members are housed, all equally for men only in cabins two or four.      
     ​9,000 tons of steel and other materials are processed to date in this huge mass now placed into motion. The shipbuilders use a slippery slope. Even the yard where the ship is built, receives a certain slope to later facilitate the construction of the slipway. The ship is always placed so that the bow stands high in the country as the first tail section lies on the water. The running track consists of two adjacent carriages, of which the lower part, the solid impact bed stands on the ground, while the upper part, the running board is connected to the hull. The track itself is composed of two layers of talc and soap is used in a specific weight ratio, so that the upper layer is able to slide on the bottom. In this building about 3,500 kilograms of talc and 1,300 kilograms tallow soap have been consumed.      
     ​The hull is not built from the beginning on these cars, it will be built on special stacking wood. About 3 months before the launch begins with the production of the running track. It is performed by accurately calculated data, it is also clear here, what intimate connection between the work of the hand and the head in the whole technology prevails. What the engineer devises must work to bring man into shape. First, the fixed part of the flow path is established to this, the lower down gangways, then lubricated first with tallow, then soap. After also the upper raceway is smeared with tallow, it is placed on the bottom web. Now begins the construction of the upper part of the carriage, in which the hull is at rest. The wood must be lined to the form of the ship and exactly match. Especially the front end which is carefully calculated, shored and executed because this component on the subsequent flotation must absorb a large part of the forces. The weight of the hull, the first still rests on the stack timber, the top web is wedged hard against the hull. Only then is the timber stack are chipped away so that the entire weight rests on the carriage, and thus now the slipway.      
    ​ Thus now the set stopper at the very moment begins to hold and the vessel is not about to slide down by itself, are provided between the upper and lower stoppers arranged web, which are released at the appropriate time by means of hydraulic pressure. Moreover, even special supporting timbers are provided as a stopper. Although usually the ships glide down automatically on the crooked path, it is still at the front end set up powerful presses that provide the impetus, and help overcome the friction. After the kick the ship glides inexorably down, first slowly, then faster and faster until it after about a minute, leaving the fixed web.     
   ​  On leaving the ship, it sometimes makes a little bow, and then floats freely in the water. Now engage the chains that hang on the side. The anchored one end of the ketteist attached to the ship, the other is below the ship. In a short time to bring the ship to a halt. With tugs it is brought to the quay in order completed.      
     ​Party Member Dr. Lafferenz, Reichsamt director of the Office "traveling, hiking and vacation" in the NSG. Has "Strength through Joy" reported to the Fuhrer that the launching of the first own KdF ship some 50,000 German men and women are gathered, heads of Gauleiter and Reich Governor Kaufmann at the ceremony of launching followed by words of welcome to the leader.

​Subsequently State Rudolph Blohm known some technical data about the ship and tells the driver:
"You, my guide, I'll report on behalf of the shipyard, the cruising boat, hull number 511, ready to launch!"

​       Then comes Reich Organization Leader of the NSDAP., Dr. Ley, the mic and talks about the size of this company of the Third Reich. Place in economic struggles and bargaining to waste our time, we are building a new social Germany. It is the will of the leader, the German workers to provide only the best. Therefore received Pg Dr. Ley then leader of the command: "Make sure that the German worker gets his vacation, so he keeps his nerve, because I could do or not do what I wanted, it would be pointless if the German people's nerves would not okay. It is important that the German national, the German masses, the German workers are strong enough to understand my thoughts." Dr. Ley thanked all the men who helped directly or indirectly, to create such a work. The idea of "strength through joy" has become the common property of the German people. It is not imposed from above, but the people received him as if it had been waiting for centuries thereafter. The worker has previously wrestled in vain to his homeland in order. Recognition of his honor. The leader has had this longing to be truth. "Strength through joy", which is now the most popular of expression of the will of the new Germany. "We want to live like, happy life," exclaims Dr. Ley from the cheers of tens of thousands of "Not just of joy but because of our ability to draw from strength. Our socialism lies in the affirmation of this life. We also affirm the concerns we can not lose, but we want him (Hitler) to give strength to overcome these concerns, we never surrender again! The highest of what we want, which is Germany's eternity!" At the end of his speech, Dr. Ley announced the name of the person on the ship to be baptized: "Wilhelm Gustloff".      
     ​While the crowd with thunderous applause the Reich Organization Leader replied that the name of the ship is free. Dr. Ley thanks again to the workers of the yard and brings the thanks of all. To the leader with a threefold Sieg Heil on Adolf Hitler expressed that absorb the masses excited. The widow of the murdered Landesgruppen leader christens the beautiful ship with the words:

​"I baptize you in the name, Wilhelm Gustloff."      

     ​Wedges are sold off, hydraulic brakes come into operation, and slowly the ship moves. The speaker gives the first greeting: "Holidaymakers ship 'Wilhelm Gustloff' Prosperous Voyage," and the ship glides to its element. The leader repeatedly thanked the enthusiastic cheers of the population and leaves the shipyard to the start of the six KdF ships that will soon extend to Norway. "Wilhelm Gustloff"      
​     The new ship, with a capacity of 25,000 tons is one of the largest ships of the world fleet and the fifth largest ship of the German merchant fleet to the ships "Europa", "Bremen", "Columbus", and "Cap Arcona." For the leisure traveler can check into 248 and 241 double-bedded cabins with room for two or four. All cabins are spacious and look outward. The cabins contain except the sleeping part a comfortable living area with a sofa and armchairs. The crew will be located in exactly the same built cabins, a socialist solution, which one finds yet on any ship in the world.      
    ​In the middle of the ship's length two dining rooms are built, spacious enough for all the tourists can enjoy their meals in two departments. The common areas for tourists are so great that all the same convenient place to find without the dining rooms need to be outside of meals had for that purpose. On the main Promenade Deck is a smoke stack 40 meters long and 15 meters wide. Next there are 4 smaller rooms of 25 meters long and 15 meters wide. All rooms are equipped with a public address system for announcements and music transmission on board as well as for radio remote reception, a facility for sound film screening is also available. The large Sun Deck and two promenade decks are available for exercise. The lower main Promenade Deck is protected through sliding glass against wind and rain. The upper Promenade Deck variables, just as the Sun Deck, which is totally free of any structures or equipment. The total area of the deck is about 5,000 square meters, an area as big on ships of this size not yet known. The areas are large enough that all the tourists it also can find a deck chair and is also plenty of room for board games, etc. yet. The length of a path three times on the Lower Promenade Deck is about 1 kilometer. Nowhere is the view is obstructed by lifeboats or other objects. On the Sun Deck, a spacious gymnasium is equipped with numerous devices installed. Here we find more than an imaginary porch. A swimming pool with a pool size of 10 m long and 5 m wide is located in E Deck.      
    ​The tourists have over 40 bathrooms and 100 shower departments. A large elevator connects people to each other through the different decks. Even retail stores for consumer items, photo products, tobacco products, biscuits, etc, also hair salons and various offices are not missing. For safeguards 22 rescue boats are available, 20 of which are equipped with a diesel engine drive, two of the boats are also equipped with full radio equipment and lighting assembly. The hull is protected by a double floor damage when touching ground and divided by steel cross walls into 13 watertight compartments. The upper vessel is fire retardant by transverse and longitudinal walls largely to protect against spread of fire, etc. All the other walls are covered by non-burning paint.      
    ​Through the construction of this gigantic tourist ship, it has been possible to assign a number of jobs to the areas. If the new KdF ship starts its first journey, one can say with truth that it is the most modern and the only one to purely socialist perspective built ship in the world, not exaggerated, predicting that in the commissioning of the new KdF ship in the entire shipbuilding industry, a new era begins. We Germans can be proud of the way in so many areas we are groundbreaking and move forward and the rest of the world to give an example of what can be done when you do with socialism seriously! Meilick
Did you know?
 - It took 3500 kilograms of tallow and 1300 kilograms of soap to launch the Wilhelm Gustloff into the Elbe!






Colorized photo of the Wilhelm Gustloff's Mittehall, or Center Hall.





Posted by:  HistoryHagen

Coffee pot, side dishes, and napkin used onboard the Wilhelm Gustloff

     During a voyage onboard the Wilhelm Gustloff in 1939, 19 year old Gertrude Krause ​​and her husband George Krause 'borrowed' this Rosenthal coffee pot and two side plates from her dining hall among a few other porcelain pieces from the liner. 
     Her husband was an active navy sailor who participated in many of the events onboard the ship. A Nazi armband he wore onboard is still in the original collection.
     ​George was killed in the u-boat campaign in 1944 and Gertrude, who is 94 at the time of this addition, is getting older and ill. As time progresses, pieces from her collection have been going directly to a Gustloff enthusiast in Germany. Through the years, I have been working with this collector to transfer pieces to our museum collection with letters of provenance written with each piece. The piece is 15cm tall, 13.5 from handle to spout end. It is marked "D.R.P." (meaning Deutsches Reich Patent) under the lid and on the bottom contains the DAF cogwheel swastika with the SdF - Schönheit der Arbeit designation. 
     The table napkin with the red DAF logo was purchased from another person in Germany with the story that it also was taken off the ship during one of her voyages. ​
​​
Color etching from 1938 or 39 of Hamburg Harbor. 18 x 27 cm.         The Wilhelm Gustloff with the Kriegsmarine Fleet. - 2014
                                                                                                                     By: Karl-Heinz ​Bruggmann; Print.