The day of the worst sea disaster – level 3


It is winter 1945 and a giant Nazi ship is sailing across the Baltic Sea. The ship is full of people who managed to escape from the rapidly advancing Soviet army. The ship is heading west to the German port of Kiel.

There are an incredible 10,582 people on board. Almost 9,000 of them are refugees, and the rest are the crew.

On January 30, 1945, the ship is spotted by a Soviet submarine which is on an exploration mission. The order is clear, “Sink every big transport ship you encounter.“

The submarine launches 4 torpedoes. Three of them hit the ship. All the people on board start to fight for their lives. The air temperature is minus 18 degrees Celsius. It is so cold that 5 of 11 lifeboats are frozen to the ship, and they are impossible to launch.

The ship sinks in less than 50 minutes after it is hit. At that moment it is clear that those who aren’t in the lifeboats are going to freeze to death. 9,343 people didn’t survive the disaster. No other sea disaster claimed so many lives.

Difficult words: Nazi (connected to the National Socialist Party in Germany in World War II), refugee (somebody who left their country because of war), spot (to see), encounter (to meet), launch (to start), claim (to take).

What measures could have been taken to ensure the survival of the 10,582 people on board the ship?


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