A unique human story about witnessing and surviving the worst maritime disaster in history and the challenges faced by survivors in confronting their dark personal tragedies in the face of resistance by their countrymen, neighbours, friends and family members.
German-born Canadian, Horst Woit, journeys back to his childhood home in the Polish city of Elblag to recount how, as a 10 year old boy in January 1945, he and his mother escaped the terrifying revenge of the Soviet Red Army by fleeing. They joined the sea of humanity – mostly women, children and elderlythat poured into the Baltic port of Gotenhafen in search of sanctuary. With renewed hope, Horst and his mother, along with 10,000 others, board the former German cruise ship, Wilhelm Gustloff, to escape to
Western Germany. Despite the risk of mines, hostile submarines and aircraft en route and cramped, uncomfortable conditions onboard, Horst and his mother are relieved to escape. However, prowling off the Polish coast is a Soviet submarine with a captain in desperate need of a ‘kill.’ Relief is displaced by doom as three Soviet torpedoes hit the Wilhelm Gustloff. The ship sinks within an hour. The tragedy claims the lives of over 9000; most of the dead, are children. Horst Woit is joined in Gotenhafen/Gdynia by two other remaining survivors, Eva Rothschild, who volunteered to work on the ship in 1945 and Gustloff expert, Heinz Shoen, assistant purser on the Wilhelm
In addition to exploring the tragedy through the eyes of the survivors, the film examines the unique bond between the survivors as they travel to the resting place of the ship to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the sinking, and the personal challenges they have faced in telling their stories to friends and family and the world.
Shot in locations in Canada, Poland, Russia, Switerland and Germany, “Sinking The Gustloff” also features interviews with former UN High Commission on Human Rights Secretary, Alfred De Zayas and Russian Naval Expert and director of the Russian Central Naval Museum, Sergei Kurnosov.