Since 1990, a museum in Neustadt in Holstein, which is situated on the Bay of Lübeck, commemorates the sinking of the »Cap Arcona« and two other ships laden with concentration camp prisoners. Over 6,000 prisoners died when British fighter bombers attacked and sank the unmarked ships on May 3, 1945.
In April 1945, the SS began to evacuate all concentration camps before the approaching Allied forces could reach them. The prisoners were forced on so-called death marches. On April 20, up to 9,000 prisoners left Neuengamme concentration camp close to Hamburg and headed towards Lübeck. On April 26, 1945, the SS brought the prisoners from Neuengamme and other camps on board of three ships, which were anchored in the Bay of Lübeck and unfit for sea service. One of them was the steamliner »Cap Arcona«, which had once been the flagship of the Hamburg South America Line. The conditions on the ship were disastrous: many prisoners were below deck without light or an air inlet, there was almost no food on board and an epidemic soon broke out. The ships were in harbour for several days functioning as »floating concentration camps«. On May 2, 1945, several other ships carrying over 1,600 prisoners from Stutthof concentration camp arrived in Neustadt. Two such tug boats coasted close to Neustadt on the night of May 2; on the morning of May 3, members of the SS and SD shot about 200 prisoners from Stutthof on the beach. In the afternoon, British fighter bombers attacked the unmarked ships, causing them to capsize immediately . Both the planes and the lifeboat crews shot at the prisoners in the water. Only a few hundred of them survived. Until today, it is not known what the SS had planned for the prisoners on the ship. Together with the sinking of the »Wilhelm Gustloff«, the sinking of the »Cap Arcona« is considered one of the greatest maritime disasters in shipping history.
Over 6,000 concentration camp prisoners perished during the sinking of the »Cap Arcona« and the other ships in the harbour of Neustadt. Only about 500 people survived. For the most part, the prisoners came from Neuengamme concentration camp, around 1,600 had been shipped from Stuffhof concentration camp across the Baltic Sea. The prisoners who lost their lives came from a total of 24 countries all over Europe.
The Museum Cap Arcona was opened in 1990, on the 45th anniversary of the attacks on the prisoners' ships. It is located in an extension of the historic »Kremper gate«, which also houses the Ostholstein Museum. There are several Cap Arcona cemeteries in Neustadt and vicinity, as well as a monument on the honorary cemetery of the city of Neustadt.
- Museum Cap Arcona
Am Markt 1
23730 Neustadt in Holstein
- +49 (0)4651 397 7-0
- +49 (0)4561 397 7-77
- Easter to October: Tuesday to Saturday from 10.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.,
Sunday and on holidays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.;
November to Easter: Friday 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 12 noon, Sunday 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.;
Further opening times are available by appointment.