England Polling Station
Annexation of Austria
April 8th 1938 - April 12th, 1938
     On the morning of April 7th, Captain Carl Lübbe receives unusual (yet not surprising) orders. As a coda to the first cruise filled with Austrians friendly to the Reich, the Gustloff is requested to sail on the 9th of April toward England. With the approaching plebiscite on Anschluss (Union of Austria with Germany), the Gustloff is ordered to act as a floating polling station for German and Austrian citizens living in England. The Wilhelm Gustloff casts anchor over three miles offshore in order to remain in international waters. During the 10th of April, eligible voters (1,172 Germans, 806 Austrians) are ferried between Tilbury docks east of London and perhaps the most extravagant polling station in history.
     The ship has the desired propaganda effect as the English press reports favorably on both the impressive ship and the voting process. 1,968 on board voted Yes for the annexation, 10 voted No. Once the voting was complete, the Wilhelm Gustloff sailed back to Hamburg for her last pre-maiden voyage. ​

​​Speisekarten for April 9th, April 10th, and April 11th, 1938

Pre-maiden voyage menus for her Polling Station Excursion to England.                                                                                                       
     Presented below are 3 menus / agendas (speisekarte) from her cruise to England, dated April 9th, 10th, and 11th, 1938. This cruise began on April 8th, 1938 and ending April 12th, which would makes only the first and last menu missing. The Gustloff was carrying a full compliment of passengers on this trip, as all three menus list full meals in 2 groups, as well as concerts and celebrations all three days on board. The menu for the 9th (The day prior to voting) has a notation in bold stating "Your Thanks For Voting Yes". Translations are listed below. Photo 5 is a table ticket for the voyage. 'Tischkarte für unsere Volksgenossen aus England', or a 'Table card for our comrades from England'. This card, dated for Sunday, April 10th, 1938, was used by voters on board for lunch and dinner seatings. This voter's card states "Group B, Front Dining Room, Table number 31." with lunch at 11.45 and dinner at 17.15.

                                                                    Close brothers and sisters that live in England, a sincere welcome on board the DAF = M.S. Wilhelm Gustloff

LIFE Magazine: May 2nd, 1938:
'Germans From England -- "JA" On A Special Trip Out To Sea'
     ​On April 10, some 2,000 Germans and Austrians living in England were taken by the Nazis 50 miles to sea and permitted to vote on the German plebiscite on Hitler's annexation of Austria. The ship was the new 24,000 ton Wilhelm Gustloff (opposite page), named for an assassinated Swiss Nazi. Of England's 34,000 Germans and Austrians, mostly house servants, the first 2,000 non-Jewish applicants were accepted. They turned in a 99.4% Ja as compared with Greater Germany's 99.08% Ja the same day.

     Vigorous blondes, (photo above), mostly servants, predominated on the M.S. Wilhelm Gustloff. Above are two who evidently voted Ja to Hitler's annexation of Austria. Said a ship's announcer: "Ignore the little circle with the 'Nein'." (The photo has been enlarged in the above thumbnails to show the mützenband being worn by the woman.) 

     You can see another view of the officials on the ship counting votes and a different version of the "Vote Yes" propaganda poster. ​​

England Polling Station Speisekarten: April 9th, 1938
Organizing your day
for Saturday, April 9th, 1938

6.30 - Waking up!
9.30 - Welcoming the tourists on the Sports Deck
(In concert hall in case of bad weather).
10.00 - Concert on deck
Music of the 14th Corps Glückstadt
Leader: Music Sergeant Kaczmarck
11.50 -  Celebration of the "German Day" on the Sports Deck with flag hoisting
14.00 - Beginning of the poll for the "Election of the Greater German Reichstag"

During the election of the ship's band will be playing.
Leader: Pg Weissenborn

20.00 - The Führer speaks
(Transmission from Vienna in all rooms); concert afterwards.
23.30 - Bar closes
23.45 - Music ends
24.00 - All quiet on ship

Thank you for voting "Yes"
England Polling Station Speisekarten: April 10th, 1938
Our brothers and sisters who live in England, 
A sincere welcome on board the DAF M.S. Wilhelm Gustloff

8.00 - Mooring at the Tilbury Bridge, Gravesend.
Then our guests will embark.
Docked 3 miles outside the zone lines:
Voting and election.

Welcoming the comrades from England by the district leader of AD. Pg Schmidt.
(Place and time will be announced through the speaker.)
Will play music of the 14th Corps Glückstadt. Leader: Music Sergeant Kaczmarek.
The ship's band of DAF ship "Wilhelm Gustloff".
Leader: Pg Weissenborn

Afternoon: Events of the HJ (Hitlerjugend aka Hitler Youth).
​Games, Hamburg arts and sports groups on the Sports Deck.

In the evening: Weider of Gravesend:
"Happy Together" in the public rooms (Not in the Smoking Room or Lounge). In cooperation with: Margaret Arnold, Teti and Fietie, Al Poken, Beatrice Watson, M. Gerwas and Partner, 3 Hamburg Street Singers, Arnold Risch, 3 Mensos, Hertha Tisha, Gaumustersportgruppe, Music of the 14th Corps home department and the ship's band.

Pause for the announcement of the election results.

23:30 - Bar closes
23:45 - Music ends
24.00 - All quiet on ship
England Polling Station Speisekarten: April 11th, 1938

Organizing your day
​for Monday, April 11th, 1938

6.30 - Waking up!
7.00 - Morning exercise on the Sports Deck
9.30 - Sailors March of the KDF, then concert on deck 
Music will be played of the 14th Corps Glückstadt. Leader: Music Sergeant Kaczmarcek.

16.00 - Screening in the theater
"Far from the Land of the Ancestors" 
(Cards are issued in limited numbers to passengers at 14.00 at the theater.)

16.00 - Concert recordings

20.30 - Dancing in all dance halls

0.30 - Bar closes

0.45 - Music ends

1.00 - All quiet on ship

The swimming hall is open in clement weather from 7.00-12.00 and 15.00-18.00.
Here is another postcard written on board the voyage and stamped with a specal postal stamp dated April 10th, 1938. This was the day the actual voting took place onboard the Gustloff. Untranslated. Interesting note is the only time I have seen this postcard (including 2 others) is when it was postmarked from 4/10/38.
Arbeitertum: Wahl-Sondernummer. April 10th, 1938
Featuring the Wilhelm Gustloff sailing to London for the annexation vote. 
Article on the KdF Fleet including the newly launched Wilhelm Gustloff.
Wilhelm Gustloff - Annexation of Austria Translation:

"Strength through Joy" for Austria 

When in the autumn of 1933, Dr. Ley, N.S. Community, founded "Strength through Joy", the German people stood at the beginning of the great construction work of the leader. Yet were millions unemployed at the gates of the workshops, factories and office, nor was the new building of the German army in the making and still believed that foreigners were in a false sense of hope and ignorance of Nazi Art - the Third Reich will remain only one "episode". It was necessary for the weary to be shaken up and to give the desperate courage to the discouraged. In the proper recognition that the recovery of a nation less dependent on material than on intellectual things is, therefore, giving them the proper lever. New self-confidence, confidence and sense of community had to be awakened in the breast of each fellow. A nation that was about to rise from an unprecedented collapse, needed an inner strength as she had in world history is unparalleled. That nation, which broke at the end of the greater struggle of all time inside, that was fourteen years has become the culinary world, and despairs of himself was, that was torn in defense of party groups and factions, in which citizens had a sad habit but also had a terrific outburst of Adolf Hitler as last known. And Adolf Hitler gave his people a new force. "He gave him the belief in the eternal invincible strength of the German nation, he ruthlessly smashed what was tormented to selfishness, strife and dispute this people, and created the great camaraderie, the national community. " Other people in the party wavered back and forth. As disclosed, the good heart of our people, "Strength through Joy" came to his overnight success. A socialist community work without equal grew up, are the external expression of the great statements of accounts of the leader of the Nazi Party days - Adolf Hitler was once again a summary overview in his great Reichstag vine. Still great but are those effects that capture his statistics and calculate its office - the new German view of life and lifestyle in a sign of "Strength through Joy". The most beautiful record of KDF. Is the proud statement Dr. Ley.

"Germany has learned to laugh again!"
    Now, 6 1/2 million people and several Austrian comrades are backing the healthy way to Germany. An infinitely heavy fate has weighed on them. Not only do they long for years the rise of their blood brother in the kingdom witnessed - because they were excluded, and their blood even sympathy was pursued by all authorities of terror - but it sank even more and more into poverty and despair. Now the connection is there. All external inhibitions are removed. Yet it is important to share our Austrian comrades in the new spirit of the German nation, the spirit of cheerfulness and confidence, the affirmation of life and living courage!

"Austria, and you shall learn to laugh again!" "
     ​Strength through Joy" is the most beautiful gift we can offer you. With national tempo this work has been taken already addressed, the working people in Austria is, as known by the camera in the old kingdom, the beauties of Persia. Everything has to offer the world of beauty, should it also not be the prerogative of individual? But also in the workers and places, men and women of all walks of life to be developed. Theatre and concerts, beauty and joyful celebration of the work week for the Austrian's workmates - which should be the watchword. Only a few days after the annexation had passed, and already the first train rolled with Austria's fellow workers in all the German provinces. For the participants unheard experience - for every arguably the most beautiful day of his life. Not much longer will it take until the encounter of "Strength through Joy" for they too have become the course side. Considered, the German Labor Front it as an obvious debt of gratitude about the great German East Mark, which had to endure such heavy and yet tross terror, distress and misery iron and unexpected debris had a loyal following, making it the most wonderful gift that has to forgive them,

To bring "Strength through Joy" to Austria!

Photo Captions:
1: One thousand Austrian fellow workers climb on board the "Wilhelm Gustloff" for their first "Strength through Joy" seafaring.
2: The Austrian tourists pause for KdF admiration before the ship leaves.
3: Farewell concert by the Hitler Youth on the Sports Deck of the "Wilhelm Gustloff" in front of the exit in the North Sea.
4: To bring "Strength through Joy" to Austria!

To view original film footage of the Wilhelm Gustloff's trip to London and voting onboard, please visit:
Germans in England Vote at Sea
Now listed below with the Gustloff's departure from Hamburg for the voyage.​

Seefahrt ist not! or Seafaring is Not!
Berlin, May 1938 - Folge 5, 6. Jahrgang.

Article #1: Wilhelm Gustloff der erste Blutzeuge der Auslands-Organisation.
                  Wilhelm Gustloff, the First Martyr of the International Organization.

Article #2: Die denkwürdige fahrt des Wilhelm Gustloff nach England.
                   The Memorable Crossing of the Wilhelm Gustloff in England.
The Memorable Crossing of the Wilhelm Gustloff in England. 

     The eventful day of the election behind us gave neither space nor time to publish remarkable details of the big events. But, after the first breath of all the election officials and press people came to experience the first reports of the active participants. The choice of travel was the beautiful KDF ship "Wilhelm Gustloff" to the Thames, just outside London, England with 2,000 Germans on board for the ballot, is probably one of the most memorable events of this great nation vote. Over 1,500 Hamburg, Berlin and Holstein fellows participated in this trip as part of a weekend getaway and agreed with the ship - within site of the first German group on April 9th, in the midst of the stormy North Sea and in "gently moving" from voting booths: 99.74% for the leader!
     ​ On the same day ran a surprisingly beautiful result broadcast using the modern telephone, a broadcast from onboard the "Wilhelm Gustloff" in the international organization of the party as a promising beginning for the big round of the German people in the homeland. Out at sea, but the contribution of the "Wilhelm Gustloff" with its precious cargo of 'Yes' votes by the mouth of the Thames. No eye was found sleeping, for the unique result of moving all the distant hearts and as midnight fireworks near the Thames came announcing the entrance, the people of Hamburg, Holstein and Berlin stood on the deck and their conversation in the starry night was as much the ballot, as the approaching England.
​      As the early morning sunshine on the pier came, at the pretty ship port Tilbury and the railway station made his fellow passengers, after a short sleep, rush to the railing, to receive the incoming 2,000 fellows from England heartily. The friendly weather soon united all fellow on the broad deck of the beautiful ship, the choice to undertake the action again soon headed seaward. As to the fifth afternoon hour, the result at 99.4% = yes votes was announced, the enthusiasm knew no bounds. The on board foreign guests, including many British reporters were given, so immediate a vivid impression of the true German national sentiment, and indeed all the more emphatic, as witness the British newspaper people the election process and were aware of the proper implementation and vote counting can convince. As a result of this courtesy of the 1st Returning Officer - for all of the outrageous lies that our elections were not conducted properly - had the wind was taken out of the sails, for the almost one hundred percent vote of the "Wilhelm Gustloff" is consistent with the rest of the match.
     ​Not only up to a tenth part but was also made by voters who are in England for years against violent propaganda and were still trying to influence on their arrival to the ship with a choice of methods, as we are from the pre-1933 election periods sufficiently known. The departure on the evening of 10 April was particularly hard to English Germans, because it was the common ride for not only voting, but also exciting encounter with the native, introduced herself at the same time as the Greater Germany, have been. The "Wilhelm Gustloff" but namesakes of the first martyrs of the overseas organization, took to his grave foreign German voices for the leader back down the Thames course, Direction: Cheering home!
Die Woche or The Week
Heft 15, Jahrg. 40
Berlin - 13. April 1938

The German Appeal on April 10th, 1938. A Unanimous Yes, Thanks from the Fuhrer.

Far Right: Another April 10th, 1939 postcard cancelled on board the Wilhelm Gustloff.

Die Frau am Werk - May 1938
England Polling Station Article

The "Strength through Joy" Ship Wilhelm Gustloff on the England Voyage

     The "Strength through Joy" ship Wilhelm Gustloff on the England voyage. Storm in the channel - Strong westerly winds over the North Sea with wind forces 8 to 9 .. "Go turn the weather news on, I thought, and turned the speaker down." "Do you want to go to the "Wilhelm Gustloff", for election to England?" cried a fellow worker in my doorway the next day. "No, really? It is not a belated April Fool's joke, but you have until tomorrow to decide." There was a long deliberation, but how was that thought of wind gusts at 8-9. And what did the report transitions in heavy seas ...?! Seasickness! Seasickness! Oh, is daring half won! Hamburg! Amazed, we saw the forest of masts of the harbor! There, the mighty ship, surrounded by many others, was our "Wilhelm Gustloff". As in festive dress, it lay with its warm yellow paint and the sun on the huge chimney.
     ​A long banner - "By Strength through Joy" - was blowing from the high mast. Wonderful to be able to ride here! The feeling of gratitude for this magnificent ship that is given to the German workers filled us during the whole trip. All this, "belongs to us", we thought in the warm cozy accommodations, in front of the beautiful paintings in the elegant cabins and on the big Sports Deck. Away with the lie that shows up every now and then that still does not understand the German workers, in such "noble" move around. He does not feel comfortable there? Look at him yet again at how he handles it with all the beauty of what has been entrusted to him! Look at that woman, as she sits on the bench, hands in lap, and happily relaxed - almost a little incredulous that they can experience all the vast sparkling sea views! This is our socialism! A socialism of the deed that really comes to the German workers benefit! - "Germany, Germany above everything," it sounds like the Sports Deck from 1,400 voices. Slowly three flags at the stern mast were raised up. The wind takes her - the swastika banner, the cog wheel to the front and work on them, the long "Strength through Joy" pennant. Dr. Goebbels has opened the day of the German people from the balcony of City Hall.
     ​We are on the "Gustloff" give the early afternoon of the 9th April our voices to the leader. Is this England? From the cabin window, we see green on the banks - we are already driving in the Thames. Tilbury Bridge is our jetty. When finally released we were foreign Germans on the unknown steps, the joy is indescribable. We call and beckon, that the few Englishmen who stand around the bottom, shake your head. With 2,000 guests on board we return again. The water is smooth as glass, and the sun is warm on all those happy people who have found heir to give the leader of their "yes". Amazed, we read an article in English lying in some newspapers that are available. Many Austrian girls came along. You can not get enough of Höven, Germany. The labor service they are interested in particular! "We're coming back!" Say it again and again.
    ​ The election begins. The few or no as well'. Invalid votes can not disturb the solemn moment when we call "healing victory" after the announcement of the result with the arm raised to our leaders about the silent Thames. Saying goodbye to us all is difficult. Again and again, run back our foreign Germans, to once again see Germany, which came to them. With tears in the eye they wave up at us. Almost by force must be the last pick of the board as the train station has left behind the narrow bridge volumes and the final victory and the salvation of Germany and Horst Wessel song have died away, we are hoarse from shouting and silence from the experience of that day. Inge Rahter.

One passenger postcard written on board the voyage and stamped with a specal postal stamp dated April 8th, 1938 reads:

April 8th, 1938:
Werter Pg. Richter!
Sind 1/2 7 Uhr hier in Hamburg eingetroffen und dann auf dem
Schiff eingeteilt worden. Habe soeben eine kurze Besichtigung vorgenom- men und bin überrascht über die fabelhafte Einrichtung. So etwas ist nur einmalig. Frl. Brüttig bin ich auch begegnet. 24 Uhr wird
in See gestochen. Nochmals vielen Dank für die vermittelte Fahrt.
Viele Grüße an Frl. Wandke
Heil Hitler
M. Rudolph


Esteemed Pg. Richter!
Arrived half past six here in Hamburg and were then assigned within the ship. Just took a short walkthrough and am surprised about the fabulous interior. Something like that is just unique. I also met Miss Brüttig. At 24 hours it will be off to the sea. Thank you again very much for arranging the journey. Many regards to Miss Wandke.
Heil Hitler
M. Rudolph
Photographs from the Gustloff's voyage to England:

​1 - Passengers board the Wilhelm Gustloff for the voyage to England. 
2 - Voters on board prepare to depart Hamburg, Germany.
3 - A propaganda poster on the ship encouraging those voting to vote "Yes!"
4 - A postal mark for, "On April 10th, give your leader a Yes!"
5 - Aerial view of the Wilhelm Gustloff taking passengers to England.
6 - Aerial view of the Wilhelm Gustloff taking passengers to England.
7 - Aerial view of the Wilhelm Gustloff taking passengers to England.
8 - A female voter wearing a Wilhelm Gustloff cap tally steps out of the voting booth with her vote in hand.
9 - A group of females give the Nazi salute after placing their vote.
10 - Gustloff crew check the paperwork of a voter.
11 - Gustloff crew check the paperwork of a voter.​​​​​​​​​​
12 - Voters give the Nazi salute on the Sun Deck - April 10th.
13 - A special postal cancellation for April 10th, 1938.
14 - An original voting ballot for the Anschluss.
15 - Passengers line up to vote in the ship's gymnasium.​​​​
16 - A crew member points to a voting poster.
17 - Voting in the ship's gymnasium.​​

The Wilhelm Gustloff in Hamburg, April 1938.