Wilhelm Gustloff

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Wilhelm Gustloff

Wilhelm Gustloff (b. 30 January 1895 in Schwerin, Mecklenburg; d. 4 February 1936 in Davos) was a German bank clerk and leader of the NSDAP/AO (National Socialist) party in Switzerland.


Gustloff came from Schwerin in Mecklenburg but had relocated to Switzerland because of a chronic lung disease, where he once again worked as a bank officer, as well as a Swiss government meteorologist.


He joined the NSDAP in 1929 and founded the Swiss branch of the party at Davos in 1932, which grouped together National Socialist party members who lived outside the German Reich. He put much effort in the distribution of the book The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, to the point that Jews in Switzerland launched an attack on freedom of the press and sued the book's distributor, the Swiss National Socialist Party, for libel.


Gustloff was murdered in 1936 by Jewish David Frankfurter, a student "incensed" by Gustloff's patriotism.


He was given a state funeral in his hometown of Schwerin with Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler, Martin Bormann and Joachim von Ribbentrop in attendance. Thousands of Hitlerjugend members lined the route. His coffin, which was transported on a special train from Davos to Schwerin, made stops in Stuttgart, Würzburg, Erfurt, Halle, Magdeburg, and Wittenberg. His widow, mother, and brother were present at the funeral and received personal condolences from Hitler. Ernst Wilhelm Bohle was the first at Gustloff's funeral to recite a few lines in honour of the deceased.


The German cruise ship Wilhelm Gustloff was named in Gustloff's honor by the government; it was sunk by the Soviets in 1945 with a loss of more than 9,000 lives, almost all refugees from the Red Terror. Also named after him were the Wilhelm Gustloff Foundation or Wilhelm-Gustloff-Stiftung, and the small arms factory - Wilhelm Gustloff Werke.

His assassination is an element of the novel Crabwalk (2002) by the German author Günter Grass. The novel's plot is based on the fate of the ship Wilhelm Gustloff.