SS Karlsruhe (1905)


SS Karlsruhe
OwnerHamburg-America Line
Port of registryHamburg
RouteHamburg America Line's North Atlantic route
BuilderSchichau Seebeckwerft
Yard number228
FateDestroyed April 13, 1945
General characteristics
Tonnage897 GRT
Length66,30 m
Beam10,10 m
Depth3,70 m
Installed power2 x 3 cyl. triple expansion engines, dual shaft
PropulsionTwin Screw
Sail plansteam
Speed8 knots

The SS Karlsruhe was a German cargo ship from 1905 of the Hamburg America Line, which was sunk on 13 April 1945 with great loss of life by Soviet airplanes, during Operation Hannibal.


The ship was built in 1905 at the Schichau Seebeck shipyard in Bremerhaven for the Hamburg-American Packetfahrt-Actien-Gesellschaft (HAPAG or Hamburg America Line). In 1918 Thomas Kier, formerly captain of the SS Imperator, became captain of the Karlsruhe. In 1935 the ship was acquired by the Ernst Russ Reederei and it stayed in service for them until 1945.

Last voyage

On April 11, 1945, the Karlsruhe took 1,083 refugees on board in Pillau (today Baltiysk) and left the port at around 8 p.m. for the Hel Peninsula, where the ship arrived on April 12, 1945 in the morning. There, a convoy was formed with the steamers SS Santander, SS Karlsruhe and three minesweepers, which departed at around 9 a.m for Copenhagen.

The overloaded Karlsruhe was not able to keep up with the required speed of the convoy of 9 knots, and could only run a good 7 knots, and fell behind. On April 13, 1945, she was attacked by Soviet planes north of Stolpmünde (today Ustka in Poland) and hit with a torpedo. The ship broke in two and sank in 3–4 minutes time. The minesweepers of the 25th minesweeping flotilla, M 294 (Kapitänleutnant Volberts) and M 341 (Oberleutnant zur See Henry Peter Rickmers) were able to save only 150 of the approximately 1083 refugees (M294: 63 - M341: 87). The other 933 passengers perished.

Discovery of the wreck and speculations

The well-preserved wreck was located and inspected by Polish divers in July 2020. There has been speculation that a number of sealed crates on board may contain parts of the Amber Room from the Catherine Palace, which was looted by the Germans in 1941 and disappeared from Königsberg in 1945.[1][2]


  1. ^ "Nazi shipwreck found off Poland may solve Amber Room mystery". The Guardian. 1 October 2020. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  2. ^ Metcalfe, Tom. "Nazi wreck may hold looted treasures from Russian palace's 'Amber Room'". LiveScience. Retrieved 16 February 2021.


  • wrecksite
  • Eyewitness report of a survivor (in German)
  • Wlb Stuttgart
  • Reuters on the location of the ship