Book review: Well-researched 'Nazi Titanic' tells little-known story of a World War II ship

Posted April 13

"THE NAZI TITANIC: The Incredible Untold Story of a Doomed Ship in World War II," by Robert P. Watson, Da Capo Press, $17.99 (nf)

“The Nazi Titanic” by Robert P. Watson is a well-researched book about the German ocean liner Cap Arcona. The ship was said to rival the opulence of the Titanic, and it was the largest German passenger ship of the time, funneling passengers from Germany to South America.

The Cap Arcona ended up as a prop in a propaganda film made by the Nazis during World War II, and then as a floating concentration camp in the final days of the war. Allied forces sank the ship four days after Hitler’s death and four days before the end of the war. According to Watson, the disaster never gained much prominence because of when it happened, though it resulted in more deaths than the sinking of the Titanic and is considered the greatest naval disaster of the war.

At the end of the war, German commanders were attempting to empty the concentration camps and to remove the evidence of the crimes committed in them. They marched prisoners north to the Baltic Sea to put them on various boats, including the Cap Arcona. The intention of the Nazi command was likely to scuttle the ships and kill all the prisoners on them. Due to mix-ups and confusion at the end of the war, British bombers destroyed the ships anchored in the Baltic Sea, including the Cap Arcona. This was done in the belief the Nazis would use the ships to escape to Scandinavia and continue the war by moving their command there. The total number of fatalities from all the ships in the harbor is estimated to be 8,000 to 10,000.

The book is more of a history of the end of World War II rather than simply the story of a ship. A great deal of the book describes the atrocities committed by the Nazis up to the end of the war. The account is not told in a linear, chronological order; instead, it bounces around in time, focusing on certain concepts or elements such as the ship as a movie prop, concentration camp atrocities and Hitler's death. While it is an interesting approach, the story may have been better told in chronological order.

There is no sexual content or objectionable language, although some of the descriptions about the Holocaust and the atrocities of the Nazis could be too much for some readers.

"The Nazi Titanic" is scheduled to be released April 26.

Scott Butters has over 35 years of experience in business and finance. He is a graduate of the University of Utah and bleeds red. He can be contacted at


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