Cap Arcona

The Prison Ships on the Baltic Sea

Since he had no more “reception camps” for the prisoners from the main camp at his disposal, the Hamburg NSDAP Gauleiter (regional party leader) Karl Kaufmann requisitioned ships berthed in Lübeck. More than 9,000 prisoners were then taken to Lübeck and put on board these ships. The prisoners were crammed into the holds, where they suffered from hunger, thirst, and disease. Many of them died. On 3 May 1945, during a British aerial attack intended to stop German forces from retreating across the Baltic Sea, the ships “Cap Arcona” and “Thielbek”, which were lying at anchor just off the coast at Neustadt were bombed and set on fire. Almost 7,000 prisoners drowned, were burned alive, or shot dead while trying to save themselves. Only 450 prisoners survived.

Black and white photo of the burning Cap Arcona. The boat is slighty tilted. Thick smoke emits from the boat.
Media Library

The complete permanent exhibition "Time Traces" and the other side exhibitions on the grounds of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial are also available digitally in the memorial's media library. Unfortunately, the media library is only available in German.

media library
Contact us at

E-mail: lernwerkstatt@gedenkstaetten.hamburg.de

Phone: +49 40 428 131 551