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Steuben Wreck



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Prelude to Tragedy?
Photograph from Ostsee-Archiv Heinz Schön

In the winter of 1945, East Prussian refugees head west, away from the city of Königsberg—and one step ahead of the Soviet Army's vengeful advance. These exiles and thousands like them fled to the Baltic Sea port at Pillau hoping to board ships that would carry them to safer regions in western Germany. Steuben was one such vessel, a luxury liner drafted into service for the Third Reich. On February 9, 1945, loaded with as many as 5,200 refugees and wounded German soldiers, Steuben began its final voyage. Struck by torpedoes from a Soviet sub, Steuben sank into the icy sea and more than 4,500 of its passengers perished—the third worst maritime disaster in history. Last August, a team of divers funded by the National Geographic Society dove to the wreck and produced an exclusive collection of photographs that bring this tragedy to light.



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