The sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff claimed around 10,000 lives and remains the world’s worst maritime disaster (with a death toll more than six times that of the Titanic’s), nadir of the world’s worst refugee catastrophe, and as fitting of Nazism’s death knell as Hitler’s final broadcast.

Yet this immense tragedy has been largely forgotten over the intervening 70 years – overshadowed by the even greater tragedies of the period, and its legacy made complex by the fact that while those who died were refugees, they were also citizens of the Third Reich. Yet complex history is still history, and history is made too by ordinary people, not merely those who lead them. Their stories sometimes serve as the best signposts for all times, and the Wilhelm Gustloff’s sinking and the events which lay behind are worth exploring.