The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts on February 21, 1980 · 60
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The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts · 60

Boston, Massachusetts
Issue Date:
Thursday, February 21, 1980
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; 60 The Boston Globe Thursday, February 21, 1980 The tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustloff i 1 A j.nBS REV IEW BOOK ' 4 V.; Wilhelm Gustloff, carrying more than 7000 passengers, was sunk by a Russian submarine. THE CRUELEST NIGHT by Christopher Dobson, John Miller and Ronald Payne. Little, Brown. 223 pp. $9.95. By Ray Murphy Globe Staff For weeks afterward frozen bodies washed up along the Baltic shore. Hundreds of them. And this was only part of the dead. Thousands more went down inside the ship itself. The sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff on Jan. 30, 1945, in the closing months of World War II, was history's worst sea disaster. Yet it is curiously tinderreported. Under marine disasters in the 1980 World Almanac we see the Titanic, 1517 dead; Empress of Ireland, 1024 dead; Lusitania, 1198 dead; Mont Blanc Imo, 1600 dead, but no Wilhelm Gustloff, which claimed more than 7000 lives. The Gustloff left the Polish port of Gdynia at 1 p.m. on Jan. 30 bound for the German port of Stettin. Some 11 hours later the ship took three torpedoes from a Soviet submarine and started to sink. The ship, a former German cruise ship, was desperately overloaded. Designed for 2000 passengers there were some 8000 aboard German soldiers, some badly wounded, and civilian refugees including women and children. The evacuation was part of a massive German escape from the closing Soviet armies which had driven millions of Germans and collaborators into the northern coastal areas of Prussia and Poland. Initially the German high command was eager to rescue the fleeing soldiers in order to keep their brutish war going a war already lost except in the fevered mind of the lunatic Hitler. But the evacuation eventually became an effort to bring as many Germans as possible into the western part of the country. The Germans knew that once they surrendered, as they must, and did on May 9, the country would be occupied and split between the Soviets and the Western powers US, Britain and France. For the German leaders, far better the West than the hated and feared Soviets, - Admiral Carl Doenitz, an early follower of Hitler and the champion of the German submarine fleet, was the mastermind behind the evacuation. And despite the loss of the Gustloff, the Goya (down with another 7000 dead) and the Gen Steuben (3000 dead), the evacuation was a huge success. Some 2 million Germans and sympathizers were transported by sea from the east from Prussia, Courland, Pomerania, Mecklenburg to the west. The refugees poured into the west German Baltic ports of Stettin, Kiel, and Hamburg. Doenitz himself, in an interview with Ronald Payne in June, 1978, said he considered the evacuation his finest achievement. Indeed, in terms of the numbers and risks involved, this was the greatest sea escape in history, bigger even than the British evacuation at Dunkirk in 1940. There are three stories told in this book. Using German records and their own interviews with survivors, the three English authors describe the last voyage of the Gustloff. It is a chilling tale of terror in the night and the anonymous deaths of thousands in the freezing Baltic. It is frightening and depressing, but, of . course, war is hell, and the Germans, under Hitler anyway, an abhorrent and pitiless scourge, and yet . . . The second story is about the Soviet submarine that sank the Gustloff, and later the Steu-' ben, and of its wild and courageous captain, Alexander Marinesko. The authors discovered that Marinesko was denied Soviet recognition for his feats. At sea, Marinesko was a bold and skillful leader; ashore he was a drunk and a lecher. Worse, his unseemly behavior made him politically suspect although the authors here picture him as a simple apolitical hell-raiser. At one point, during a Stalin purge, Marinesko was sentenced to the infamous labor camp at Kolyma in the Arctic. The third story concerns the evacuation, the big picture, and what it meant to the revival of West Germany as a major world power. All of the stories are worth telling but they should have been told more smoothly. The going here gets awfully choppy at times and it needs an editor's fine hand. For another thing the authors assume their readers have a fairly sophisticated knowledge of European geography which is always a perilous assumption in our country. Some maps would have helped this American edition. It is, nonetheless, an enlightening work. ASK YOUR YET How to tell if a cat is suffering By Dr. Michael Fox Dear Dr. Fox: My 11-year-old cat had two major operations, tests, etc., for mammary cancer. Within a month the cancer returned larger than before, and now there's nothing more that can be done. For all of us pet owners who know we are going to lose our pets, I have the following questions: We want to keep her as long as possible, but how will we be able to tell if she is suffering? Also, is there something we can get from the vet to put her to sleep in the comfort of her own home when "it's time"? - J. W. You raise some important questions. It can be difficult to tell when a pet is suffering. Some animals are stoics and conceal the fact that they are in pain. Instead, they appear depressed and disinterested in life. Other signs of suffering include frequent seeking of human contact or, conversely, hiding, refusal to eat, unresponsiveness when called and disinterest in being petted or played with. Your veterinarian should be able to advise you when it's nearing time to put your pet to sleep. I do not recommend that owners try to euthanize their pets. If it isn't done by n expert, the procedure can be distressing and inhumane. However, your vet might be willing to make a house call to perform this last responsible rite. Or he may give you a tranquilizer for your cat before you bring it to the hospital to be put quietly to sleep. Dear Dr. Fox: My dog is almost a year old and is spoiled rotten! Is it too late for him to go to obedience school? Will it help him? I'd like him to learn to jog with me on the beach. Can a dog learn to jog? -C.W. It's not too late. Obedience school is a good idea not just for your dog, but for all dogs and their owners! At a good obedience school you will learn to control your dog, and your dog's potentials will be developed. Then, when . he is more "willing," you will be able to do all kinds of things together, including jogging on the beach (unless he's scared of the waves, but that's another problem.) Dear Dr. Fox: My 2-year-old albino cockatiel and my 4-year-old poodle are inseparable. She is rarely in her cage but usually sits a few feet away from the dog, often sleeping with him in his bed. For the past year, she has even perched on the side of his dish and eaten his dog food while he was eating! Is dog food bad for her? She plump, vocal and active. -M. E. What a delightful relationship your two animals have! Why not try feeding your cockatiel her regular feed in a dish on the floor next to the dog? A little dog food won't harm the bird, but I wouldn't overdo the meat. Cocka-tiels are somewhat omnivorous, but their systems are not designed to cope with a high meat diet. Dear Dr. Fox: My Persian cat has plaque on his teeth, and the gums are now inflamed. The vet said his teeth should be cleaned. I noticed my cat was having trouble eating. -L.R. Your veterinarian is right. Your cat's teeth should be cleaned at once, and any dead or diseased teeth removed. Scale or plaque causes irritation to the gums which then become infected. 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