Souvenirs of the
Wilhelm Gustloff
     Like any other ship sailing the seas, the Wilhelm Gustloff had an onboard gift shop near her dining room where passengers could purchase items to remember the voyage. The photo at right is of her gift shop with a passenger purchasing a camera. No doubt, the souvenirs of the Gustloff are the most interesting pieces due to the wide variations of items that were available.
     Presented below are several souvenir pieces purchased onboard. The photo albums with the ship's name and picture sold onboard are focused on in the Albums and Photos section.
Wilhelm Gustloff Mützenbands  - a.k.a. Hatbands, Cap Tallies

     Displayed here are mützenbands, or sailor's cap bands, which would have been wrapped around the bottom portion of a hat and tied off in the back. These are the most notable items sold onboard the Wilhelm Gustloff due to their size and beauty. There are six versions in existence, versions 2-5 were originally sold onboard the liner as souvenirs. They are as follows:

1: (NOT SHOWN) Wilhelm Gustloff in gold with solid black background; specifically for the hats of crew members. (As shown in photos such as the LIFE magazine article and in many photos of her crew on deck.) There are no known surviving tallies.
2: Wilhelm Gustloff in gold with the Nazi Germany flag & DAF flag against a black background. From our 'Red Album'. (Top right).
3: Wilhelm Gustloff in gold with the Nazi Germany flag & DAF flag against a black background. Has an outer red line and inner white line. The example shown above is in mint condition. We also have another of the same style. Measures 90cm long. (Middle Left)
4: Wilhelm Gustloff in blue with the Nazi Germany flag and DAF flag against a white background. Has a red stripe on the outer sides and a black stripe on the inner sides. Ours is in near-mint condition and measures 88cm. We also have another of this style in the same condition. These are from her maiden voyage as two are known to have been purchased on said trip. This would explain the few sightings of them.
5: Wilhelm Gustloff in blue with the Nazi Germany flag and DAF flag against a white background. No red or black stripes at the top and bottom.

Wilhelm Gustloff Souvenir China
     Top Left Two: Measuring approximately 11 x 8 cm, these ashtrays were created as part of a "special edition of souvenir articles" by world-renowned porcelain manufacturer Fürstenberg during 1937/39. Although it does not display the distinctive blue 'F' maker mark on the bottom, it is clearly part of a series based on a 1920's company design called "Germania". For example, a tea cup and saucer of the exact same design (and exact same Gustloff artwork) have the maker mark. The ashtray simply contains a four-digit number. Source:
     This applies to the top two ashtrays according to the previously mentioned website. After years of collecting, I've learned that there are several companies that have produced souvenir items for the Wilhelm Gustloff including Bauscher Weiden, Königliche Porzellan Manufaktur, and Gerold Porzellan of Bavaria. However, some of these transfer decal pieces were not sold onboard, rather to the general public separate from the liner itself. There are currently 6  ashtrays in the collection, all in mint condition.
     I was reading an article at TimesOnline titled: 'Pirate divers face jail for looting Nazi ghost liner', By: Roger Boyes, December 9, 2004. I found these two lines interesting because these ashtrays are the only type known manufactured with the ship's picture and name. The quote, which talks about the recent problems looters have caused, is this (pertaining to one removed from the wreck):
     "Enforcing the clampdown may prove difficult, given the significant financial rewards for divers. German collectors will offer 10,000 Euros ($13,500) or more for an ashtray marked with the name of the ship." 
     The middle two ashtrays at right are the same style, but each has a different view of the Gustloff with port and starboard sides showing. The bottom left shipwheel ashtray has a unique image of the Wilhelm Gustloff on the front. This piece was made by Gerold Porzellan of Bavaria with an additional stamp of HP Porzellankunst. Bottom left is an additional style of ashtray.


      Below: The perfume bottles are another souvenir piece from the Gustloff. In mint condition, they sport two different images of the Gustloff and have the 4-digit code '6055' on the bottom. On the backside, there is a worn gold shield with the letter 'G' for the one at left. The bottles are light pink in color, though it is hard to tell in the photo. The crown on the top twists open to allow the perfume to come through the 4 small holes on the top. The one of the Robert Ley in our collection came with the original box and pricetag from the ship's giftship.


     Other items shown below include small souvenir vases from the liner with a miniature teacup & saucer. Demitasse with the standard painting of the liner and her name at the bottom with a gold rim. At bottom right - two soap dishs measuring 13,5 cm x 9,2cm x 1,8 cm. Most of the gold trim has rubbed off this item over the years. The second is slightly smaller with the gold rim intact. There is also a teapot, another miniature vase, toothpick holder, and an unusual china piece I have seen in standard china before, though I have no idea what its intended use is.

Wilhelm Gustloff Pins / Nadel / Anstecknadel

     Pins were the smallest items sold onboard the liner as souvenirs. The pin at left is a beautiful version with white enamel and the name 'M.S. Wilhelm Gustloff' in gold lettering. There are variations of this pin to have the Nazi flag or DAF flag. We also have the KdF version in the collection.
     A different variation completely is a beautiful bow pin of the Gustloff. White liner with gold surrounding. We also have the same one for the Robert Ley. Far right is a Wilhelm Gustloff stick pin with the DAF flag. The Hamburg / HAPAG flag is a non-Gustloff pin that probably would have also been sold onboard.

Two reproduction / fake containers of the Wilhelm Gustloff.

     These are two unusual heavy paper containers from the Wilhelm Gustloff of which I have never seen before until now. However, these are cheap reproductions that made a sudden appearance on the market. Indications they are fake are the poorly cut circles which are on the top (I would expect a higher standard for KdF cruises.)  Neither container has the image of the Gustloff on the front and each was made on a bad printer. The left container reads "See-Urlaubsreise. 21.Reise. Wilhelm Gustloff, Kraft Durch Freude" and it is in very aged condition with separation issues. The right container is in much better condition and reads "Wilhelm Gustloff", 24. Reise, 1938/39, Kraft Durch Freude. Each opens for storage of some sort. Each is 6cm in diameter and 2.5cm in height. I've seen people asking between €50 and €150 for these - but their actual value is around €2.00.
Souvenir Photo Album & Photo Packs

     This is one example of a souvenir album sold onboard. There were 3 sizes for these albums - 12cm x 10cm, 25cm x 18cm, and 28.5cm x 22cm.
     Souvenir photos of the Gustloff were sold in packs of 12 along with 12 packs of the various destinations. Top clockwise: Naples, Genoa, Tripoli, and Madeira without the protective sleeve, and the Wilhelm Gustloff.
Wilhelm Gustloff Handkerchief

     With the Gustloff and her name sewn into the bottom right. European auction.

Albums & Photos
Wilhelm Gustloff Mutzenband with a Donald Duck hat.
​Image Courtesy of military collector Mr. Whamond
Norwegian Fjords Cruise with the Kraft Durch Freude Pin
Dated 1939

I have seen many pins from various KdF cruises, but this is the first one I have seen that has the Wilhelm Gustloff directly on the pin itself. Single clip pin in the back with the makers markings. This is the stock photo from before I purchased it (hence the covered swastika.) No matter how many times I tried to rephotograph it, I could not get a clear image.

K.D.F. Schiff Wilhelm Gustloff Pin

     This badge was issued in 1939 to commemorate the ship taking part in returning the men of the Condor Legion from Spain to Germany during May of that year. 1.75" x 1.2" high, appears to be made of tin. Originally made as a pin, you can see the pin on the back was removed and someone poked two holes on both sides to nail on something as a plaque.
Wilhelm Gustloff Souvenir Bracelet - Nautical Flags & Nazi Flag
     One of the more beautiful souvenir pieces made for the KdF fleet were bracelets in nautical flags spelling out the name of the ship it was from. Presented here is the Wilhelm Gustloff's souvenir bracelet made up of 13 flags and it measures just under 7.5 inches long.
W - I - L - H - G - U - S - T - L - O - F - F

     One of these Wilhelm Gustloff bracelets in another collection was obtained by a British citizen who stayed aboard the ship during a athletic youth rally prior to the outbreak of war. This was voyage #39 from June 10th to 16th, 1939. 
     ​Our collection also has the same bracelet from the Robert Ley (left #1), which is presented on the ES Robert Ley page. The Gustloff bracelet comes with the Nazi flag on the end, and the Robert Ley has the Nazi flag at the beginning and the Kraft Durch Freude or HAPAG flag at the end. Our Robert Ley bracelet was purchased by passenger Erika Kepler on her 3rd trip - the "Anniversary Voyage for the People of the Eickhoff Firm, Mechanical Engineering and Iron Foundry, Bochum" - June 7th to the 11th, 1939. It came with a large lot from the trip.
     ​I have also seen the same bracelet for the Der Deutsche, sporting the North German Lloyd (Norddeutscher Lloyd) flag at the end. (left #2,6).
     ​There are also bracelets for the ship Hansa (left #3). The bracelet has the letters "BOJ HANSA EKP". It was purchased by a sailor in the late 1930s that worked onboard the Hansa for his soon to be wife and the letters before and after are both their initials. A souvenir piece later changed (probably at a jeweler) to fit with the initials. I originally purchased this from his wife.
      The next is from the German liner Monte Pascoal (left #4). The letters were backwards spelling it TNOME PASCOAL. I have seen several where these have had their order changed. I am not sure why people chose to do this, whether it was to customize them or to make the name disappear. (I use tweezers to realign them when needed). Originally, there would have been a Nazi flag at the beginning or end of the bracelet since most ranked with 13 flags. The ship was built in 1931, sunk in 1946.​
     ​The final bracelet is an online image of a very early piece with more archaic flags. I have seen a pin from the Robert Ley in the same manner as the KdF flag on this bracelet. (left #5). The nautical flags on this piece are odd because several do not represent letters that I know of.

Souvenir Pocket Knife from the Gustloff.
     Amber color with Gustloff ship inlay. Comes with the original leather case. 8.5cm long. Marked "Rostfrei, E.Bruckmann. Ohligs Solingen.

​​Souvenir Pencil from the
Wilhelm Gustloff.
     4" long - still maintains a small piece of lead attached to the pen unlike the Robert Ley's twin souvenir pen. Still has original braided string at the end as well.

1. A crew member's professional photo wearing his Gustloff uniform. I had ordered this photo, but it got lost / stolen in the mail from Germany to the US.
2. Current collection of mützenbands - 12 Total.
3 -5. Examples of Wilhelm Gustloff crew / passengers wearing mützenbands.
6 & 7. European auction photos of Gustloff tallies and 'Donald Duck' hats.

Gustav Freytag: Die Brüder vom Deutschen Hause / The Brothers of the German House

Eigentum der KdF Bordbücherei
M.S. Wilhelm Gustloff                                             REPRODUCTION / FAKE
Inventory Number 311772                                     Reproduktion / Gefälschte

     Unfortunately, all of these books with the label and stamp at right are fakes / reproductions made to look like they came from onboard the Wilhelm Gustloff's library.
     It was first discovered with several cameras that were marked from the Robert Ley with similar stamps. These cameras were dated to the 1920s, and I wondered why 20 year old cameras would be used onboard the new flagship of the KdF fleet? Finally, a camera appeared that was confirmed to have been made in the late 1940s with the three stamps shown:

     This camera was obviously a fake since it was made at least 5 years after the Ley was bombed and sank! I had already purchased a few of these cameras and some of these books by this point, so I did some comparisons. ​​​​​​​​​​​
    So it was now confirmed that the three stamps above were fakes. One of these stamps appears on all of the books that have been recently appearing online. This can only mean it is a fake along with the paper label on these books. After looking at a builders photo (below left) of the Gustloff's libary, it is set up in the same manner as the Robert Ley. All of the books onboard were new and had the same bindings for uniformity on the new ship. These reproduction books are random books taken from the 1920s and 30s and labeled / stamped with what you see above. This would be considered sub-par for the items that would be used on a brand new passenger liner. They are aged, so these were made quite some time ago.
     The only authentic books from the libraries of these two ships will be like the one shown at right. Each new book for the Wilhelm Gustloff and Robert Ley were bound in a KdF format with the number ranging from 1 to around 300 and title on each of the bindings. The museum owns one original and there is another known to be in existence yet. That is compared to the near 50 I have seen in the past 2 years appear from the Gustloff claiming to be authentic. ​​

Anything with the above labels is fake. I have seen them placed on spoons, gas masks, boxes, and other items to make them look authentic. People have gone so far as to use the stamp under the Lazarettschiff page to make the seal on the item to look original as well!

     Leider sind alle diese Bücher mit dem Etikett und Stempel im rechten sind Fälschungen / Reproduktionen zu schauen, wie sie von Bord der Wilhelm Gustloff die Bibliothek kam.
      Es wurde zum ersten Mal mit mehreren Kameras, die von der Robert Ley mit ähnlichen Stempel markiert wurden entdeckt. Diese Kameras wurden bis in die 1920er datiert, und ich fragte mich, warum 20 Jahre alte Kameras an Bord des neuen Flaggschiffs der KdF-Flotte verwendet werden würde? Schließlich erschien eine Kamera, wurde bestätigt, dass in den späten 1940er Jahren mit den drei Marken gezeigt vorgenommen wurden:

     Diese Kamera war offensichtlich eine Fälschung, da es wurde mindestens 5 Jahre nach der Ley bombardiert wurde und sank! Ich hatte schon ein paar von diesen Kameras und einige dieser Bücher zu diesem Zeitpunkt erworben haben, so habe ich einige Vergleiche.
         So wurde nun bestätigt, dass die drei Stempel oben genannten Fälschungen waren. Einer dieser Stempel wird auf alle Bücher, die vor kurzem die online. Dies kann nur bedeuten, es ist eine Fälschung zusammen mit dem Papier-Etikett auf diese Bücher. Nach einem Blick auf einen Bauherren Foto (unten links) der Gustloff Bibliothek, ist es in der gleichen Weise wie die Robert Ley gesetzt. All die Bücher an Bord waren neu und hatten die gleichen Bindungen für Einheitlichkeit auf dem neuen Schiff. Diese Bücher sind zufällige Wiedergabe Bücher genommen aus den 1920er und 30er Jahren und markiert / gestempelt mit dem, was Sie oben sehen.
     Die einzige authentische Bücher aus den Bibliotheken der beiden Schiffe werden wie die auf der rechten Seite dargestellt ist. Jedes neue Buch für die Wilhelm Gustloff und Robert Ley wurden in einem KdF-Format mit der Nummer und den Titel auf jeder der Bindungen gebunden. Ich besitze ein und es ist ein weiterer bekannt, in Existenz noch werden. Vergleichen Sie das mit dem in der Nähe von 50 I in den letzten 2 Jahren nicht mehr gesehen zu haben scheinen aus der Gustloff behauptet, authentisch zu sein.


Souvenir Wallet from the Wilhelm Gustloff
With a Christmas gift tag from 1941.

Wilhelm Gustloff Souvenir Pillow Case

     Measuring 21.5" x 14.5", this piece is stunningly embroidered with a full image of the ship with K.d.F Schiff Wilhelm Gustloff at the bottom.
     Attached to the case is a 'Wissenswertes über Wilhelm Gustloff' or 'Find out more about the Wilhelm Gustloff' with statistics on the ship including the basics and headlines for Antriebsmaschinen, Besatzung, Proviant, Der Frischwasserverbrauch - or Engines, crew, food, Fresh water consumption.
     There is a small opening in the bottom to stuff the case and I also listed a photo of the interior at right.

Left: Souvenir Photo Album from the Gustloff's 2nd voyage.
It was her first Norwegian cruise.

Above: These are the 8 photos from the album:
(The backs are yet to be translated - but from what I can read:)
1 - May 11th, 1938
2 - Gustloff in Hamburg harbor - May 5th, 1938
3 - ----ship in the Hardangerfjord. May 10th, 1938
4 - Kriegschiff in Nordangerfjord. May 10th, 1938
5 - ----ship (Probably one of the school ships) in Nordangerfjord. May 10, 1938
6 - Passing the KdF ship St. Louis in Norway.
7 - Shuffle board with Reuben, Gretchen, and Bart. May 12th, 1938
8 - Disembarking in Hamburg - May 14th, 1938.
Above: The largest piece of souvenir porcelain yet - a teapot from the Wilhelm Gustloff. 7" long by 4" wide and 4" high. Marked "Bauscher Weiden". From what I 've read, this  mark was used from c.1920 to c.1939.

Non-Ship Related:
Wilhelm Gustloff Cuff Title

​​Likely a SS commerative cuff title, similar to commerative CTs for Horst Wessel. Sounds plausable given Gustloff's relatively early (Swiss) NSDAP membership and subsequent murder. Possibly just a fantasy piece as well.

These have been seen for Adolf Hitler, Horst Wessel, Prinz Eugen, etc.​

20" in length - reproduction piece. ​​

     An unusual souvenir piece with 3 separate containers & handle. The image on the front is a first in this style and it looks more like the Robert Ley than the Wilhelm Gustloff.
Numbered 3602.​
Right: Saucer: 6.5" in diameter. Roughly 3 times larger than the tea cup shown above. Made by KPM dated 1/1940.

Nautical flag bracelets from other 1930s German passenger liners.

Left: Souvenir lighter purchased onboard during her 4th voyage to Norway.

Right: ​​​Two HAPAG epaulets that were found in a box in Germany with several pieces of memorabilia from the Wilhelm Gustloff. Quoted as being worn by one of the officers onboard, whether they actually were worn by someone onboard the ship is unknown.
Above left & right: I had originally thought these were post war reproduction pieces because they were transfer decals, but recent correspondence with KPM Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Berlin revealed this KPM piece (right)was made by the Krister Porcelain Factory, which was founded 1831 in Waldenburg (today Poland). Krister produced cheap porcelain for daily use with print decoration. The trademark (green crown with the letters KPM) has been used between 1925 and 1945. So the piece is original to WWII Germany, it is just not something that was sold onboard the ship itself. The same applies to other transfer decals. China pieces with the original KPM scepter makers mark are original pieces to Germany in the 1930s, but the transfer decals were applied by someone else and sold as general souvenirs to the public. Other companies also did similar pieces during this time.

Wilhelm Gustloff Souvenir Sailor Doll

     Sailor dolls were created by Norah Wellings, England. Norah, the chief designer for Chad Valley, opened her own doll company Victory Toys with her brother Leo in 1926. Travel by ship was a very popular means of transport during this period and almost all the shipping companies sold the souvenir sailor dolls on board their ocean liners. They were produced right up until 1960, the year of Leo's passing, when the company closed. (Excerpt - A Treasured Past Blogspot.)

     This Wilhelm Gustloff sailor doll stands at 11" and was proudly displayed throughout the years as told by his faded clothing. He was broken at some point in time and his head has been repaired. The mützenband ​​reads "M.S. Wilhelm Gustloff" and overall he's in very sturdy condition. If he could talk, the stories he could tell!

In September of 2014, a double of this bracelet that I ordered from Germany fell out of the envelope after it was ripped open in the sorting machines. Realizing this is a long shot, if anyone finds one in a post office setting and comes across this page by trying to search information on it, it's return to the museum would be greatly appreciated!
Vintage Wilhelm Gustloff wooden toy boat, c1938. .
6: Wilhelm Gustloff Gau Düsseldorf  Special Variation:
​     A friend of mine has collected 550 tallies over the past 17 years including the Gau tallies from the Oceana, Der Deutsche, Sierra Cordoba, Monte Olivia, Monte Sarmiento. When asked about this parti
cular tally, he replied, "Why the Gau Düsseldorf had 'special' tallies is pure suspicion, but I strongly tend to say that this was just another way how to raise money from the DAF members of the districts Düsseldorf and Essen. If the Deutsche Arbeitsfront got them made for 1 Reichsmark and they sold the tallies in their shops for 1.50 Reichsmark to anyone who booked a voyage on the individual ship - well this is good business I would say. And for the travelers it was just another souvenir, directly to attribute to the voyage they booked." What makes this tally more special is that I also have a photograph of the Gau mützenband being worn onboard the liner at the time. This postcard image is of several passengers onboard the Wilhelm Gustloff in the Norwegian Fjords in 1939. I zoomed in to show the passenger wearing this tally on the Sun Deck. There is another passenger in the image wearing the standard Wilhelm Gustloff tally. I also have a second Gau Düsseldorf mützenband that came from the collection Wilhelm Zahn as noted below.

Wilhelm Gustloff Cap & Tally with Anchor Pin
     ​There is nothing like purchasing a piece with a great back story to it! I came across a larger collection of Gustloff souvenirs including souvenir cap tallies, a leather wallet, onboard dining tickets, and food vouchers. When I was in the process of purchasing this piece from that collection, I was told that they all came from the estate of Korvettenkapitän Wilhelm Zahn. He was one of the commanding officers during the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff and after the war, the previous owner purchased a large amount of his military decorations and Gustloff items from his estate.
      The tally is attached to the cap, which is made of a denim material and a 1" white leather lining inside the cap at the base. There is also a small anchor / flag pin in the hat. Measures 27cm long, 10cm high, 16cm wide when opened. I believe this was one of those Gustloff pieces produced for the German market that was never onboard the ship itself since it does not match the official souvenir mützenbands sold onboard the liner. There is another piece of information that I have heard where it could possibly be a children's souvenir hat that was sold onboard. Until more information becomes available, I cannot say which is true.

S​mall Wilhelm Gustloff plaque, metal rimmed and painted under celluloid. Two small holes on either side for mounting. Backmarked D.R.G.M. on wood.

A Christmas card sent to the workers at Blohm & Voss in December of 1940 featuring the Wilhelm Gustloff on the front.​​

Left: Interesting little post-war bell. Gold-painted.
Inscription: Wilhelm Gustloff - The victims - DDK e.V.
6cm x 8cm.

"Pure Curd Soap made for the KdF Ships Robert Ley, Wilhelm Gustloff. For onboard personal." I bought this purely as a curiosity piece, but I do not believe this was real. I suspect it is period soap with a post-war label attached as another "knock-off" period item. Soap manufactured by the Flammer Heilbronn Soap Factory, Germany. Over the years I have learned that mostly anything with a paper label or engraving is a post-war reproduction. ​​​