Robert Watson’s The Nazi Titanic Lecture

On June 28, 2016, the UMKC Truman Center, in collaboration with the National Archives at Kansas City, the Truman Presidential Library and the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, hosted Dr. Robert P. Watson for a discussion of his book The Nazi Titanic: The Incredible Untold Story of a Doomed Ship in World War II. Built in 1927, the German ocean liner SS Cap Arcona was the greatest ship since the RMS Titanic and one of the most celebrated luxury liners in the world. When the Nazis seized control in Germany, the ship was stripped down for use as a floating barracks and troop transport. Later, during World War II, Hitler’s minister, Joseph Goebbels, cast her as the “star” in his epic propaganda film about the sinking of the legendary Titanic. The German navy used the Cap Arcona to transport German soldiers and civilians across the Baltic, away from the Red Army’s advance. In the Third Reich’s final days, the ill-fated ship was packed with thousands of concentration camp prisoners. Without adequate water, food, or sanitary facilities, prisoners suffered, and many died, as they waited for the end of the war. Just days before Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945, the Cap Arcona was mistakenly bombed by the British Royal Air Force, and nearly all of the prisoners were killed in the last major tragedy of the Holocaust and one of history’s worst maritime disasters. Although the British government sealed many documents pertaining to the ship’s sinking, Watson exposed this story, unearthing forgotten records, conducting interviews, and referencing over 100 sources, including diaries and oral histories. As a result, The Nazi Titanic and this program highlighting its story is a riveting and astonishing account of an enigmatic ship that played a devastating role in World War II and the Holocaust.