Chapter 14


Leutnant Hans Schäufler, battalion signals officer for the I./Panzer-Regiment 35, and Kurt Moser of the I./Panzer-Regiment 35

Beginning of April 1945. The Russians took Danzig, celebrating their victory loudly, with music and vodka. Marika Röck bellowed out In der Nacht ist der Mensch nicht gern alleine1 night after night from loudspeakers in the harbor directed toward us.

We had a short break to catch our breath. It was used to reorganize the combat formations and to fill up the bled-white Panzergrenadier companies with combat-inexperienced soldiers from rear-area services and the various headquarters. It was a matter of life or death! There was no more demand for administration, filing, or repairing. There was no longer a “rear.” The front was everywhere!

Our 1st Battalion had only twenty operational tanks left. The 2nd Battalion and the regimental headquarters had been dissolved for some time. The crews, who no longer had tanks, had fought in Danzig with submachine guns and Panzerfäuste.

All of the units of the tank regiment were combed through one more time. The soldiers of the maintenance facility, the recovery platoon, the maintenance sections and the regimental headquarters had to be detached to Panzergrenadier-Regiment 12. That was difficult, very difficult, since it practically was a death sentence for the men, who had had little training in infantry tactics and had no combat experience whatsoever. The only consolation was to get a “homeland wound” soon, before it was too late, since the evacuation of the wounded by waterway was still functioning.

Some of the men found a sympathetic ear with the military physicians, concerning heretofore “hidden issues.” Occasionally, a medic would place a wound tag on an ancient Obergefreiter and tell him how he was to behave. It was well known that the only way out was with papers that were in order. The military police were strict. The set up control points at all bottlenecks and bridges. A few tried-and-true warriors who tried to make it out on their own—despite repeated warnings—were found dangling from a tree limb with a sign: “Condemned to death for desertion.”

Suddenly, the rumor was making the rounds that 200 tankers were to be taken by ship to Schleswig-Holstein to be issued new tanks there. But no one knew what was to come after that. It didn’t really matter: Just get out of here . . . out of this hell . . . out of this mousetrap, where you didn’t really know when it was going to snap shut.

A race with fate had started; a courting of comrades and superiors for their favor. Who would be among the fortunate ones who would be allowed to leave that witches’ cauldron? What would be the criteria?

A completely justified decision was very difficult, but it was demanded all of a sudden. What everyone hoped for and no one truly believed, suddenly became reality: 200 men from Panzer-Regiment 35, all experienced tank crewmembers, were to be nominated immediately and sent to Hela as quickly as possible, according to a division order. Hauptmann Küspert, the commander of the 2nd Battalion, was placed in charge of the group.

After some back-and-forth, one came to the wise decision that it was to be mainly fathers, married men and the only surviving sons, who were to be shipped home across the Baltic. Of course, that did not take place with some petty jealousies and scrambling on the part of those who did not make the list of the 200. There was just too much involved to expect otherwise. But the decision of the commander was generally accepted by everyone as a just one.

The fortunate ones, the saved ones—at least in our opinion—were given properly filled-out paperwork with signatures and seals and sent off. They took off in groups and handfuls of men, either on foot or in bicycles that had been “procured.” A race to the coast ensued. No one wanted to miss what was perhaps the last ship to freedom and to life.

With a thousand hopes for the future and plans for a reclaimed life, our 200 comrades took off on 16 April 1945, along with 6,000 others on the transporter Goya. They were carried away from that merciless front and sailed in the direction of freedom.

They had our well wishes with them in their march luggage, as well as our last wishes for our loved ones. Bitter at heart and with little hope for the future, we remained behind. Death so close it was palpable.

They could stretch out their hands toward the homeland and life. Then they were struck down by a hard fate that was merciless. A Soviet submarine torpedoed the Goya. The powerful boat broke into two parts and yanked 6,000 people down with it to their deaths. Only about 250 could save themselves. Out of our comrades, 193 died out of 200.

Kurt Moser, one of the seven rescued from Panzer-Regiment 35, made the following statement at the reception point at the Copenhagen Citadel to Hauptmann Stegmann:

I was an Oberfeldwebel with the 3rd Company and was with my unit on the Vistula Spit. We constructed bunkers there as protection against Russian bombers and fighter-bombers. We could no longer consider conducting operations, since we did not have any more tanks. Over time, the rumor went around that a Kampfgruppe was being formed that was supposed to be employed in the area around Berlin and which would be equipped with new tanks. The most-experienced people were selected from the companies and assembled for movement. The group was called Gruppe Küspert. I was part of it. We were indescribably happy.

After a while, things were ready to proceed. On 15 April, we marched to the beach. We were transported to the Hela Peninsula on military ferries. We waited there to be loaded out. We really wanted to get away from that hopeless witch’s cauldron.

During the evening of 16 April, we were transported by means of small boats to the 7,000-ton Goya and loaded. With us were about 1,000 badly wounded and 3,000 to 4,000 women and children, all refugees. Along with the crew, there were well more than 6,000 people on board. There were other ships still in the harbor, including the cruiser Prinz Eugen. It was around 2000 hours. Then we got our first greetings from the enemy. The Russians must have noticed that something was going on, since they approached the harbor with some twenty-five or thirty bombers and arbitrarily dropped their bombs on the ships, but without scoring much success. We had a few wounded as the result of bomb shrapnel. The Flak put down a good curtain of fire, with the result that it was difficult for the Russians to drop their payloads with accuracy.

After the aerial attack, things did not take too long to get moving. The convoy was already assembled. We were allowed to steam out. We all breathed a sigh of relief, even though the Goya was completely overloaded. The many people on board were not registered. We were in a compartment amidship on a lower deck. It was about forty square meters. It was packed man to man in the passageways. It was difficult to get topside.

Around 2315 hours, I started to feel uncomfortable below deck. I was no longer able to bear the bad air and the unaccustomed heat. I told Feldwebel Hungerland: “Let’s go up to get some fresh air.” But he said to me sleepily: “You go . . . then I can stretch out.” I forced my way topside by myself. It was pitch black up there. Suddenly, I heard a command: “Submarine danger! Everyone put on life vests!” Unfortunately, there were not enough available. I did not have one. We were still of the opinion that there were no submarines in the Baltic. Correspondingly, I was not too ruffled. But I was soon taught a lesson.

It was just before 2400 hours. A troop transport in our convoy had mechanical problems. It was directed to be towed. That was our fate. Our ship was very modern and had diesel engines and dual screws. The other one still had a boiler room. The Goya turned about to approach alongside the other ship. At that point, two mighty detonations shook the Goya. At first, I though we had hit a mine. By the time I recovered from the shock and looked around, the ship was already listing to one side. I had to hold on for dear life to keep from falling off the deck. A short while later, we were horizontal again, and I was hoping that everything would then go well. But, in the next moment, the deck was already flooding. I then realized the terrible seriousness of the situation. The ship was sinking. I then heard rounds being fired. There was no saving the comrades below deck. We wanted to release the lifeboats, but were unsuccessful. I climbed up to the bridge, but it only took a few seconds before I was surrounded by water there. The Goya had split in two. A lot of comrades jumped into the water. I remained on board; that was what saved me. When the water was up to my neck, I tried to get out of the suction, since I am not a half-bad swimmer. But no success. I was sucked into the depths.

I was still fully conscious and was fighting for my life. Suddenly, the mast of the sinking ship approached me. I grasped on to it. Then, the improbable happened. I assume it was a pocket of air from the ship that was shooting me to the top. I could breath again.

Light buoys lit up the night. I saw a lot of people treading water. In my need, I grabbed on to floating pieces of baggage. Then I reached a life raft. With all of my remaining strength, I was able to pull myself up into it. A sailor and a woman helped me get all the way in.

We floated around on the water for about two hours. All of a sudden, I heard: “Come over here Panzer-Regiment 35.” But I could not see anything. A large shadow glided past us. It was a surfaced submarine. We kept very quiet. It did not notice us. Those were terrible hours.

Then we saw a black behemoth approach us, a German destroyer. We drew attention to ourselves by shouting and waving. Someone immediately threw us a line. We held on to it, and the crew pulled us up to the ship’s hull. We were quickly pulled aboard. The destroyer was only able to pick up fifty survivors. It then had to quickly depart, since Russians submarines had been reported.

The next morning, German fast boats searched the area. I do not believe they found many survivors, since the water was very cold. The Goya sank fifty nautical miles from Hela. It would be impossible for even a single swimmer to have reached shore.

Only 250 people could be rescued from the 6,000. Seven were soldiers from Panzer-Regiment 35. When I was brought ashore at Copenhagen, I was afforded the opportunity to see all of them. Besides me, those rescued from the regiment were Feldwebel Hannemann, Unteroffizier Wehner,Unteroffizier Grohs, Gefreiter Jung, Obergefreiter Veit, and Gefreiter Burckhardt.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at Thank you!