Today I am SUPER excited to introduce a new feature that I came up with! I have searched the internet and haven't found anything like this so if I'm accidentally stealing yours or someone else's idea, let me know and I'll knock it off and just do yours instead.
I was at work and thinking about Salt to the Sea (something I frequently do) and how interesting I think the history that the book is based on is. And that got me to thinking about other books that I think are based on really interesting history.
So that's how this feature was born. And that was the easy part. I could not for the life of me think of a name. So I reached out on twitter for help naming something and I got this name from @uptilmidnight and now here we are!
So basically the point of this feature is to pick a novel with a historical basis that you find totally interesting and talk about the history of it!
So, without further ado, let the fun begin!
I'm obviously going to feature the book Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys first because I can't stop thinking about it or talking about it!
Publisher: Philomel Books
Publication Date: February 2nd, 2016
So, if you didn't know, this book is about the worst maritime disaster in history, worse than the Titanic and Lusitania combined.
Originally, the Wilhelm Gustloff was meant to be named after Adolf Hitler, but ended up being named after Wilhelm Gustloff, the leader of the Swiss Nazi party, after his assassination. Hitler wound up sitting next to Gustloff's mourning wife at his funeral and used the opportunity to change the name and create a Nazi martyr. He was actually assassinated by a Jew.
The ship was built to be a pleasure cruiser, but was repurposed to carry refugees across the Baltic Sea from western Prussia to Kiel in mainland Germany. They were trying to escape from the approaching Russian army.
The maximum capacity of the ship was meant to be 1,880 passengers, but on January 30, 1945, it was carrying over 10,000 passengers, most of them being refugee children and youth.
Within an hour of setting off from Gydnia, it was being tracked by a Soviet submarine. The submarine tracked the ship for about two hours before launching three torpedoes at it. They meant to launch all four that they had, but one of them was a dud.
All three of the torpedoes hit the ship. The second of the torpedoes hit the area of the ship's drained swimming pool, which was being used to house 373 members of the female Naval Auxiliary, only three of them survived. The third was a direct hit to the engine room.
It's estimated that about 9,400 of 10,600 people died. Some from the torpedo hits, some from drowning, some being trampled in stairways. The temperature that night was 0 - 14 degrees F. A lot of people also died of exposure in the water. Children who were wearing life jackets that were too big for them drowned because they wouldn't stay upright in the water.
Lifeboats had been frozen to the deck and very few of them were able to be lowered.
Despite this being the worst shipwreck in history, it is not widely known about. One main reason for that is that no one at the time was feeling particularly sympathetic toward Germany due to their involvement in the war and the ship being named after a leader of a Nazi party didn't help the matter.
The operator of the Russian submarine that sunk the Wilhelm Gustloff was Alexander Marinesko, who might be the most lethal submarine commander in history. With the death toll of the Wilhelm Gustloff being over 9,000 and then 11 days later he sunk another German ship, killing 3,000. He was deemed as not fit to be a hero because of his drinking problem.
There were also rumors that the Amber Room was packed away onto the Wilhelm Gustloff. The Amber Room was said to be the Eighth Wonder of the World before it disappeared at the end of WWII. It was a large room completely lined with Amber panels and is believed to be worth 150 million pounds in today's money.
This website features the stories of a victim and several survivors.
There's so much interesting information out there about this historic disaster, but it is so little known. After finishing this book, I spent hours reading stories and facts on the internet. Even now, writing this post, I've spent far longer than necessary reading things about this tragedy.
This giveaway will end in two weeks and is for one hardcover copy of Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys! Open international as long as Book Depository ships to you!
So what do you think about this book? This disaster? This feature?