Many people think the sinking of the Titanic was the biggest disaster in modern history also due to the romanticized motion pictures. Over 1,500 people drowned in the icy waters of the Northern Atlantic in the night of April 14th to 15th 1912.
But even larger catastrophes occurred. On January 30th 1945 at 21:00 hours the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff was hit by three torpedoes from a Soviet submarine. The captain was commissioned to evacuate refugees and wounded German soldiers from the harbour of Gdynia (then Gotenhafen) which was to fall in the hands of the Red Army soon. The stricken ship sank immediately. The correct number of people on board will remain unclear but it is assumed that more than 9,000 victims died that night.
A few months earlier in September 1944 a similar catastrophe occurred on the other side of the world in front of the coast of Sumatra. A Japanese freighter of 5,065 BRT, the Junyo Maru, was torpedoed by a British submarine. On board were 2,300-2,500 Dutch, British, American and Australian POWís and approximately 4,200 forced labourers from Java. The vast majority of them, over 5,600, would die.