The Nazi Titanic

The Incredible Untold Story of a Doomed Ship in World War II


By Robert P. Watson

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Built in 1927, the German ocean liner SS Cap Arcona was the greatest ship since the RMS Titanic and one of the most celebrated luxury liners in the world. When the Nazis seized control in Germany, she was stripped down for use as a floating barracks and troop transport. Later, during the war, Hitler’s minister, Joseph Goebbels, cast her as the “star” in his epic propaganda film about the sinking of the legendary Titanic.

Following the film’s enormous failure, the German navy used the Cap Arcona to transport German soldiers and civilians across the Baltic, away from the Red Army’s advance. In the Third Reich’s final days, the ill-fated ship was packed with thousands of concentration camp prisoners. Without adequate water, food, or sanitary facilities, the prisoners suffered as they waited for the end of the war. Just days before Germany surrendered, the Cap Arcona was mistakenly bombed by the British Royal Air Force, and nearly all of the prisoners were killed in the last major tragedy of the Holocaust and one of history’s worst maritime disasters.

Although the British government sealed many documents pertaining to the ship’s sinking, Robert P. Watson has unearthed forgotten records, conducted many interviews, and used over 100 sources, including diaries and oral histories, to expose this story. As a result, The Nazi Titanic is a riveting and astonishing account of an enigmatic ship that played a devastating role in World War II and the Holocaust.


Opening Act


Chapter 1


THE GERMANS LOVED THEIR SHIPS. And for good reason. Throughout the closing years of the nineteenth century and the opening of the twentieth, German shipyards produced some of the finest vessels afloat. They were a source of great national pride. So too was Germany’s shipping industry a powerful engine driving the country’s economy. However, all that changed with the outbreak of World War I on July 28, 1914. Merchant, luxury, and cargo ships were mothballed, scavenged for parts, or conscripted for wartime use. Others were sunk by enemy fire, irrespective of whether they were sailing under a military or commercial flag.

The total defeat of Germany at the end of World War I in 1918 plunged the country’s economy into deep depression. Currency was not worth the paper on which it was printed, and severe food shortages plagued communities from Berlin to Bavaria to the Black Forest. The nation also mourned roughly seven million killed, wounded, missing in action, or taken prisoner. These hardships were made all the more bitter for the vanquished by the terms dictated by the victors at the Treaty of Versailles in France, which required the belligerent nation to demilitarize, deindustrialize, and pay steep reparations.

One of the industries particularly hard hit by the war and postwar agreements was shipping. During the four-year war, Germany’s shipbuilders saw orders for new ships and payments on existing work orders subordinated to the war effort. After the war, orders for new ships and shipping services remained virtually nonexistent, despite the fact that Germany had lost many ships during the conflict. Those German ships that survived the war were seized by the Allies as war reparations and to replenish their own losses. The prospects for any German shipping company in 1918 were, at best, bleak.

One of Germany’s most successful shipping companies prior to the war was the Hamburg–South America Steamship Company, popularly known as Hamburg-Süd. Founded on November 4, 1871, the company served the growing market of Germans eager to travel to South America. In the prewar years, the company provided regular monthly service to Argentina and Brazil.

The company did more than simply sail to the Southern Hemisphere. In the decades that followed its establishment, Hamburg-Süd emerged as a leader in the South American trade and transport business, with three ships sailing to South America. At the outbreak of the conflict in 1914, the company was operating more than fifty ships, constituting roughly 325,000 gross registered tons (GRT), and was a major force in international shipping. With the onset of “the war to end all wars,” however, everything changed. Hamburg-Süd’s fleet immediately came under attack in response to Germany’s aggression in Europe.

One of Hamburg-Süd’s finest ships, the Cap Trafalgar, was launched on March 1, 1914, and sailed on its maiden voyage just days later, on March 10. It was an impressive vessel. At more than six hundred feet in length, the 18,710-GRT behemoth was capable of seventeen knots and was adorned with what was then state-of-the-art technology and amenities. But none of that mattered when hostilities commenced in July of that same year.

In response to the declaration of war, the government of Kaiser Wilhelm II and Hamburg-Süd armed ships such as the Cap Trafalgar. However, its armaments were light, consisting of only two small cannons and six machine guns. In an effort to further ensure its safe passage, one of the ship’s funnels was removed, and it was repainted to disguise it as a British liner. It did not work.

In September 1914, while steaming a few hundred miles off the Brazilian coast, the ship was caught by the British ocean liner Carmania. Like so many other merchant and passenger ships, the Carmania had been converted for war and was being used to hunt German merchant ships and smaller vessels. Far from home and badly in need of resupply, the Cap Trafalgar was heading to the island of Trindade. Portuguese for “Trinity,” the small archipelago of volcanic islands off the Brazilian coast was secretly being used by Germany as an emergency supply base. At roughly nine thirty in the morning of September 14, the Carmania spotted its foe’s smoke and began pursuing the Cap Trafalgar, ultimately trapping the German ship against the island’s anchorage.

The Carmania was much more heavily armed. As such, the commander of the Cap Trafalgar attempted to flee to deeper waters rather than fight. Orders were given for “full speed ahead,” and the German liner attempted to outrun the British vessel. It nearly worked.

The Carmania gave chase and closed the distance. A ninety-minute battle ensued, with both ships exchanging a nonstop barrage of cannon and machine-gun fire. The Carmania was the first to fire, but the shots fell short of the target. The Cap Trafalgar returned fire, and its cannons proved accurate. The German ship landed devastating hits on the British liner, blowing apart sections of the deck. Even though it was outgunned, the Cap Trafalgar initially had the upper hand in the battle.

Both ships continued firing and ultimately closed the distance to within a few dozen yards. The Carmania was absorbing blow after blow from roughly seventy direct cannon hits. Even though machine-gun fire pinned down the crew, they managed to fire back and scored a direct hit on the Cap Trafalgar. The shot struck the German liner below the water line, and the large ship began taking on water. When it was apparent the ship could not be saved, the captain lowered lifeboats, and the crew abandoned ship. After listing to the port, the Cap Trafalgar sank bow first. It was the first armed passenger liner of the war to be sunk by another armed liner.

The crew was lucky. The German ship Kronprinz Wilhelm was nearby and had picked up the Cap Trafalgar’s distress call. After rescuing those sailors who made it into the lifeboats, the Wilhelm quickly steamed from the scene. Its commander chose not to linger, worried his ship would also be vulnerable to attack from the Carmania or other British warships that might be prowling the waters. He need not have worried. The Carmania, although still afloat, was badly damaged and in no condition for battle.

It is estimated that a few dozen sailors were killed on the Cap Trafalgar, while the Carmania suffered nine killed in the battle. The loss of the Cap Trafalgar was one of the first of many devastating setbacks of the war for both the German navy and Hamburg-Süd. Indeed, the company would lose its entire merchant and luxury fleets to military conscription or sinking. Its continuity as a leading shipping company was less the question than whether Hamburg-Süd would even exist in the postwar years.

With grim prospects for any recovery from the war, Hamburg-Süd’s directors met in 1920 to discuss the fate of the company. What emerged from the meeting was no less than audacious, if not completely unrealistic. Rather than discontinue operations or pursue a path of austerity to ensure the company’s survival, the directors developed an ambitious plan to completely rebuild their line of ships.

Given the weak German economy and limited market for new ship construction, Hamburg-Süd soldiered on with just three small schooners. To supplement its meager fleet, the company creatively chartered ships from other companies in order to continue serving its customers, making it one of the few shipping lines to continue service in those difficult years.

Hamburg-Süd thus managed to keep afloat as a company and gain the confidence and loyalty of merchants eager to fill the postwar gap in trade. Aggressive and well managed, Hamburg-Süd was also one of the few large companies in all of Germany to prosper in the devastated postwar order.aa

Two and a half decades later, the company survived World War II. Afterward, Hamburg-Süd again retooled and expanded its portfolio of services to include tanker shipping and refrigerated cargo shipping to go along with its liner and passenger services. In more recent times, the company acquired several other shipping lines and extended its reach to serve North America, the Mediterranean, and the South Pacific. Today, the company continues to grow as part of the Oetker Group, a major shipping firm, and still operates out of Germany.

Despite competition from the Norddeutscher Lloyd Company, which operated in the North Atlantic, Hamburg-Süd continued to prosper and drive Germany’s postwar recovery. It even managed to launch a new steamer as early as 1920, the 5,745-ton Argentina, which crossed the ocean at ten knots. By 1926 the company had done the unthinkable, surpassing its prewar numbers and enjoying record profits.

It was around this time that the company’s directors promoted a bold plan to build one of the grandest vessels on the seas, one inspired by the most legendary ship in history, the Titanic. It would be the flagship of the Hamburg-Süd line and the gem of German shipping.

For the task of producing such a large and technologically sophisticated ship, Hamburg-Süd selected the Hamburg-based shipbuilder Blohm + Voss. Not only were the Germans some of the best shipbuilders in all the world, but Blohm + Voss was one of the oldest and most respected builders in Germany. It was a wise decision.

Founded on April 5, 1877, by Hermann Blohm and Ernst Voss, the company’s main shipyard was on the island of Kuhwerder, near Hamburg. Known for its quality ship construction and attention to detail, the company’s shipbuilders had even studied the Titanic’s sinking in order to engineer safer ships. For instance, when they launched the massive 34,500-ton Fatherland on April 3, 1913, one year after the sinking of the Titanic, they outfitted the then pride of Germany with eighty-four lifeboats. The Titanic had only twenty.

Despite the devastation of World War I, by the 1920s the company’s manufacturing site on Kuhwerder boasted three massive waterfront construction berths, two of them capable of working on ships more than three hundred feet in length. Blohm + Voss was so successful that it employed a whopping sixteen thousand workers during the 1920s and, in later years, managed to build some of Germany’s most legendary ships, such as the Bismarck and the dreaded U-boats that inflicted such a terrible toll on Allied shipping during World War II. The company also built the ocean liner RMS Majestic, which was for a time the largest ship in the world and owned by the White Star Line, the parent company of the Titanic, and the MV Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that would end up holding the dubious distinction of being the world’s worst maritime disaster, with roughly nine thousand lives lost to a Russian torpedo in the final days of World War II.

The Third Reich’s official yacht, the Grille, built in 1935 and used as Hitler’s personal maritime conveyance, was another one of Blohm + Voss’s ships, and the company provided ships for Germany’s “Strength Through Joy” program. This Nazi initiative offered cruises for German workers as part of Hitler’s propaganda efforts. In the 1930s, it even became the largest tourism operator in the world. Even though Blohm + Voss survived both world wars, the same cannot be said of its image, which was tarnished by its association with the Nazis. In 1944 and 1945, the company had its own labor camp and used inmates from that camp to work at a shipyard in Hamburg-Steinwerder. The camp was a subcamp of the infamous concentration camp at Neuengamme, which later figures prominently in the story of the Cap Arcona and this book.

The company managed to recover from complete destruction after both the wars and from its association with the Nazis. After the war it continued building some of the world’s largest ships, yachts, and airplanes. But perhaps none of its products has been as celebrated as the Cap

Blohm + Voss continues today to build warships for the German navy and for export to navies around the world. It has also diversified beyond ship and warplane construction by entering the merchant and luxury craft markets and is now a leading manufacturer of oil drilling equipment. Blohm + Voss retains its preeminent status as an international shipbuilder, manufacturing some of the largest and most luxurious yachts in the world.

a  Two and a half decades later, the company survived World War II. Afterward, Hamburg-Süd again retooled and expanded its portfolio of services to include tanker shipping and refrigerated cargo shipping to go along with its liner and passenger services. In more recent times, the company acquired several other shipping lines and extended its reach to serve North America, the Mediterranean, and the South Pacific. Today, the company continues to grow as part of the Oetker Group, a major shipping firm, and still operates out of Germany.

b  Blohm + Voss continues today to build warships for the German navy and for export to navies around the world. It has also diversified beyond ship and warplane construction by entering the merchant and luxury craft markets and is now a leading manufacturer of oil drilling equipment. Blohm + Voss retains its preeminent status as an international shipbuilder, manufacturing some of the largest and most luxurious yachts in the world.

Chapter 2


THE GRAND SHIP WAS christened on May 14, 1927. In a simpler time, the launch of an ocean liner was a public spectacle. Company executives, shipyard workers, prospective passengers, newspaper reporters, and curious onlookers alike came for a glimpse of a hulking ship and to daydream about the far-off, exotic ports it would soon visit. A crowd had gathered to witness the event at the Blohm + Voss shipyards. Excitement was in the air. Germany had had little to celebrate in the past several years.

Before the Cap Arcona slid down a ramp into Hamburg Harbor at the entrance to the river Elbe, a bottle of champagne wielded by Beatrix von Amsinck christened the sturdy hull. From an elevated platform, von Amsinck, daughter of the head of the Hamburg-Süd line, spoke of the ship quite poetically, saying: “Out of the waves of the Baltic in the north of the lovely island of Rügen, there rise steep cliffs, crowned by a lighthouse . . . which beams its light out over the sea every night. . . . The name of these cliffs, the only cape which graces Germany’s coast—Cape Arkona—will, from now on, be your name. May you sail the seas, to the honor of our dear German fatherland and to the joy of your company, and be a further bond between the new world and the old.”

As the largest and most luxurious ship traveling to South America, the Cap Arcona earned the nickname the “Queen of the South Atlantic.” Others referred to her as the “Pearl of the Atlantic,” the “Flower of the Atlantic,” and even the “Floating Palace.” That it was! It was the latest and the most advanced of the Cap line of passenger ships built by Blohm + Voss for Hamburg-Süd, which included the Cap Vilano built in 1906, Cap Finisterre built in 1911, Cap Trafalgar built in 1913, and the Cap Polonio built in 1914.

On October 29, 1927, construction on the Cap Arcona, which had begun on July 21, 1926, was completed. Three consecutive days of sea trials were conducted beginning the day prior to the ship’s completion. They proved successful. It was a truly remarkable ship. Ever since the christening of the ship, the final preparations were followed closely by German officials and ship enthusiasts worldwide. Indeed, anticipation mounted as Germany’s answer to the Titanic prepared for its maiden voyage. On November 19, that day finally arrived.

On that bright, crisp autumn day, wealthy passengers and curious onlookers gathered on the docks of Hamburg to witness the newest ocean liner in the German fleet. With three massive smokestacks towering fifty feet above nine shining decks, the Cap Arcona sat majestically in port, awaiting its first sailing. The fresh red paint of the funnels glistened in the morning sun, contrasting with the stark black and white exterior of the ship’s slender hull, creating a memorable effect for those in attendance to witness the maiden voyage.

The commotion on the docks included workers carrying casks of fresh caviar to the ship’s kitchen and vintage bottles of wine for the extensive wine cellar. On board, teams of engineers in the bowels of the ship and stewards scurrying about the hallways prepared to take 1,325 affluent travelers to South America. The Cap Arcona’s passengers were all treated to the finest accommodations afloat. Fully 575 of them traveled in first-class suites, 275 traveled in second-class cabins, while the remaining 475 were housed in dormitories. Those traveling among the latter group dined separately from their privileged peers and were not permitted at the musical performances.

First-class travelers benefited from additional exclusive services, personal butlers, and some of the largest staterooms afloat. These spacious accommodations included sitting rooms, sofas, armchairs upholstered in silk, and restrooms with a full bath. Not surprisingly, the ship’s passengers included the crème de la crème from Germany and Europe as well as moneyed families from Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. The dashing American actor Clark Gable sailed in one of the ship’s first-class suites and noted Hamburg poet Hans Leip, who wrote “Lili Marlene” during World War I, honeymooned on the liner. Leip even dedicated the poem “Honeymoon in the Sea” to the ship while on board the liner. One wealthy patron from Argentina booked two first-class suites for her fourteen dogs, while a prominent family from Brazil paid to have cows and chickens stowed in the ship’s hold so that their children would be assured fresh milk and eggs every morning.

The ship’s logsaa from South American cruises in the 1930s indicate that most of the affluent passengers came from Germany, England, Brazil, and Argentina, but the Cap Arcona attracted guests from numerous other countries as well. The passenger manifests, which listed passengers by the class cabin in which they were traveling, also show that several female guests traveled alone and that passengers both boarded and exited the cruise from several ports of call such as Vigo, Lisbon, Madeira, and Montevideo, not just Buenos Aires and Hamburg. Elegant multipage programs and itineraries were given to guests, featuring photographs of the ports of call, distances to each port, fares, disembarkation information, listings of the ship’s agents in each port, the names of all the ship’s officers, menus, and lists of the passengers traveling on the voyage by class and section of the ship.

The logbooks and itineraries for the passengers still exist and are in the archives at Hamburg-Süd in Germany.

Sailing from its home port of Hamburg, the impressive new liner presented a new standard of luxury and engineering for the shipping world. A marvel of technological progress, the Cap Arcona was not only the largest ship transporting passengers to South America, but also one of the world’s fastest liners. The shipbuilders had managed to fit it with the most advanced propulsion system of the time. Two steam turbines generated an astonishing 24,000 horsepower, allowing the twin propellers to push the massive luxury liner across the Atlantic Ocean at twenty knots, a speed nearly unequaled at the time. It raced from Hamburg to Buenos Aires in a mere fifteen days.

The fourth largest ship in the German merchant fleet, the Cap Arcona measured roughly 676 feet in length and 189 feet from its keel to the topside flags. Its specs included a beam of nearly 85 feet with a draught of 50 feet. It displaced 27,561 tons and was crewed by 475 handpicked sailors, chefs, concierges, and other service professionals. As a result, the luxury liner ended up costing a staggering thirty-five billion reichsmarks. In short, it was a ship worthy of the adulation.

Hamburg-Süd selected the best officers for the new flagship. The Cap Arcona was commanded by Commodore Ernst Rolin, an experienced captain who had previously served as master of the Cap Polonio; his chief officer was Richard Niejahr, who was being groomed for higher command. In addition to the experienced crew, masseurs, physicians, and chaplains were on hand to further serve the guests. The Cap Arcona even had its own postmark and a seaplane that brought regular mail service to the ship regardless of its location on the planet. First-class passengers were told that their every request would be fulfilled, no matter how fantastic.

The ship’s top three decks boasted an assortment of recreational amenities, including regulation-size tennis and shuffleboard courts, an indoor heated pool, chaise longues, spacious decks book-ended by large potted palms, and a walking track stretching one fifth of a mile along the Promenade Deck. Passengers enjoyed everything from leisurely games and gambling to an expansive collection of art that adorned the ship’s elegantly decorated corridors and lobbies. After a day of swimming, sunning, and fun, guests relaxed at the Winter Garden Club, perhaps the ship’s most popular drinking establishment, and reveled in the individualized attention that came from a ratio of two crew members to every first-class passenger. The daily pampering also included British high tea with an assortment of cakes and beverages, three elegant fireplaces, jazz music performed at the Palm Court, and performances of Mozart, Strauss, and other great composers by the ship’s orchestra. Because of the popularity of Argentina as a destination and the growing number of Argentines traveling on the ship, the Cap Arcona also offered tango music and dancing. Famous Argentinean band leader and pianist Enrique Lomuto performed on board the ship and served as its musical director.

One of the highlights of sailing on the Cap Arcona was the food. The ship was known for epicurean dinners in the Grand Salon, an elegant parlor capable of seating 436 guests at one time. For many years, executive chef Sibilius and assistant chef Nowak prepared the finest meals afloat. A transatlantic crossing in 1937 featured a multiple-course dinner menu with chateaubriand and Bernhardt potatoes, shish kebabs garnished with herbs and spices, fresh fish, veal, grilled hens, Irish bird soup, salad, and California pears in syrup. The dessert selection included ice cream with a fruity, nutty nougat; pastries; Carmen cakes; and jelly Miss

The jelly dessert was named for an operetta in 1890.

A Christmas menu from a holiday cruise in 1933 offered an array of options, including three soups (double-broth soup, broth with Caracu, and Irish bird soup) and several courses. Passengers selected from silverside fish fried à la Romana; veal with truffle sauce, hearts of palm, and royal potatoes; pork ribs; lamb chops with goose liver, celery, and spiral potatoes; and grilled hens. They also enjoyed cauliflower, ham croquets, pasta Palmir, a salad with yellow beans, and a cold buffet selection that included boned chicken in jelly Nancy and pickled quail with capers and onions.

Before any dinner seating, guests enjoyed drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and entertainment in the Jockey Club and afterward relaxed with fruits and coffees in either the Grand Hall, Ballroom, Smoking Room, or Winter Garden Club. Champagne and iced Beluga caviar were available for every meal and occasion, and the ship celebrated the passengers’ last night aboard with a grand farewell banquet in the main Banquet Hall.

The transatlantic voyages, with their many ports of call, typically lasted five In addition to the ship’s South American itineraries, the Cap Arcona also sailed to such ports of call as Casablanca, Russia, Santos, and Hafen, an island off northern Germany. One voyage, departing on July 4, 1935, from Hamburg to Buenos Aires, traveled to Boulogne-sur-Mer in northern France, Southampton, La Coruña, Vigo, Lisbon, Madeira, and then to South America, with stops in Rio de Janeiro and Montevideo, Uruguay.

For example, the ship’s logbooks show trips from September 1 to October 10, 1933; October 20 to November 24, 1933; and April 3 to May 12, 1938.

These cities excitedly announced each arrival and departure of the famous ship. For instance, in 1934 when the Cap Arcona visited Puerto Vigo in Galicia, Spain, one of the largest fishing ports and busiest shipping centers in the world, newspapers and public bulletins eagerly documented the occasion. Boasted one account: “It just left to Lisbon. This is the first trip of the German ship Cap Arcona!” Reporters even announced the ocean liner’s speed and tonnage.

THE CAP ARCONA departed from Hamburg on its maiden voyage at the scheduled time on November 19, 1927. Amid the popping champagne corks and stringed instruments on the upper decks, passengers waved enthusiastically to the crowds below on the docks. This would be but the first of the ship’s ninety-one transatlantic crossings, traveling from 1927 to 1939 from Germany to Buenos Aires, La Plata, Montevideo, and Rio de Janeiro.

Hamburg-Süd bet its future on the ship and the continued passion among Germans for the balmy weather of South America. Indeed, the Cap Arcona appeared destined for greatness. It seemed a safe bet. And for a time it was, until an urgent message arrived.


  • “Fascinating, insightful, and dramatic, Robert Watson's The Nazi Titanic offers a unique story from WWII—a single ship whose tumultuous history unfolds as a metaphor for the Nazi ship of state. ?Readers will be caught up in a compelling and often startling voyage.”—Howard Blum, author of The Last Goodnight and Dark Invasion

    “Robert Watson has brought to vivid life with extensively researched detail the powerful story of this singular ship and the harrowing plight of those sent to a tragic fate in the final hours of the War. It is a riveting, little-known story of disaster and, for all too few, survival.”—Deborah Oppenheimer, Academy Award-winning film producer of Into the Arms of Strangers

    “Robert Watson has told the story of the voyage of the Cap Arcona with poignancy and power and, above all, with fidelity to history and respect for those whose lives were lost. The Nazi Titanic is a story worth telling—unpredictable and unendingly interesting. Watson's prodigious research and mastery of the art of storytelling shine forth in every page. How sad and how angry this reader felt when the great ship went down.”—Michael Berenbaum, prominent Holocaust scholar, author, filmmaker, and Director of the Sigi Ziering Institute
  • “Set with great skill within the larger contest of the war, the Holocaust, and several of its principal perpetrators, this long suppressed, gripping, and moving story is told with the historian's rigor and the narrative artistry of the gifted storyteller. Unforgettable!”—Rabbi David Gordis, President-Emeritus of Hebrew College

    Praise for The Nazi Titanic

    Deseret News, 4/10/16
    “A well-researched book…More of a history of the end of World War II rather than simply a story of a ship.”

    New York Post, 4/24/16
    “Reveals a little known chapter of the Third Reich.”

    Library Journal (starred review), 5/1/16
    “This work has much to offer both scholars and casual readers. Anyone interested in the maritime history of the Third Reich will enjoy.”

    Daily Mail (UK), 5/12/16
    “[Watson] details the tragicomic catastrophe of the Nazis' most ambitious film venture and the terrible fate of the cruise liner that stood in for the Titanic.”

    New York Journal of Books, 5/15/16
    “An easily read, well-written, and interesting story of a largely unknown event of World War II…This story needed to be told lest we forget.”
  • Advance praise for The Nazi Titanic

    The Nazi Titanic is a superb marriage of deep research and first class storytelling—a fascinating tale of a German luxury liner whose fate eerily and tragically mirrored that of the Third Reich.”—Alex Kershaw, New York Times bestselling author of The Bedford Boys and The Longest Winter

    “Wow! What an incredible and tragic story. Just when you think nothing more could be written about what the Jewish prisoners suffered during the Holocaust, along comes this remarkable account. I cried with pain at Professor Watson's portrayal of hell during the final days of World War II. A must read for anyone who cares about the brutality of war.”—Alan Dershowitz, acclaimed Harvard Law School professor and award-winning author

    “Combining rigorous scholarship with a compelling You-Are-There narrative, The Nazi Titanic is at once fascinating, engaging, chilling, and revelatory. It's a journey everyone should undergo.”—Martin Goldsmith, classical music radio host and author of The Inextinguishable Symphony and Alex's Wake
  •, 5/13/16
    “In The Nazi Titanic, Robert P. Watson gives this tragic episode the attention it has always deserved.”

    Washington Times, 5/30/16
    “A gripping—and disturbing—book.”

    InfoDad blog, 6/2/16
    “[Watson's] careful exploration of what happened and why is intriguing and raises meaningful issues…Readers drawn into the story by a book title with the word Titanic in it will find considerable intriguing material here.”

    Columbus Dispatch, 6/12/16
    “Watson's compelling book…tells the story of the ship and its passengers, setting it in the context of the chaotic and horrifying end of the war…Watson makes good use of accounts of those who survived or witnessed the boat's sinking to craft a dynamic account of the ship's last days and hours…An almost-forgotten subject well worth bringing to light.”

    Intermountain Jewish News, 6/17/16
    “[A] striking historical account…Watson tells this story directly and with no holds barred...Painstakingly researched and written with the skill of an expert storyteller...Gripping and informative.”
  • Jewish Book Council, 7/19/16
    “The story of this ship and its final passengers is a stark reminder that every life lost during that deadly period is precious...Watson is able to weave an interesting story and draw attention to the poignancy of the last days of the Third Reich... An interesting book about an unknown chapter of Holocaust history... The book reads as a novel...Anyone interested in maritime history and learning about one of the Holocaust's unexamined incidents will find this book of supreme interest.”

    Milwaukee Shepherd Express, 7/18/16
    “Watson shows us in a compelling way that even a subject as thoroughly studied as World War II can still offer up its secrets, its cover-ups, its long untold stories, its lessons for us today.”

    Midwest Book Review, July 2016
    “A riveting and astonishing account of an enigmatic ship that played a devastating role in World War II and the Holocaust. An impressive, comprehensively detailed, and truly exceptional history of a hitherto suppressed tragedy, The Nazi Titanic is a consistently compelling read from beginning to end.”
  • "Fills in a gap in naval history...Solid research...The narrative is accurate and exact...Anyone interested in operations in the Baltic at the close of WWII in Europe, or anyone interested in air operations against shipping will find this book well worth consideration."
    Warship International, September 2016
  • "[A] fascinating story...A tale of Hitlerian hubris."—Hadassah Magazine

On Sale
Sep 5, 2017
Page Count
320 pages
Da Capo Press

Robert P. Watson

About the Author

Robert P. Watson, PhD, has published three dozen nonfiction books, two encyclopedia sets, three novels, and hundreds of scholarly journal articles, book chapters, and reference essays on topics in politics and history. A frequent media commentator, Watson has been interviewed by outlets throughout the United States and internationally and serves as the political analyst for WPTV 5 (NBC) in Florida. For many years he was also a Sunday columnist with the Sun-Sentinel newspaper. An award-winning author, Watson’s recent books include The Presidents’ Wives; Affairs of the State; and America’s First Crisis, which received the 2014 Gold Medal in History from the Independent Publishers’ Association (IPPY). He is a Distinguished Professor of American History at Lynn University.

Learn more about this author