Information on 4 ton freighter called Wiborg? Operation Hannibal during the beginning of February of 1945?

October 21, 2011

Dear Mr. Mac Gregory,

My name is Sonya and I’m writing my parent’s life story and I’m hoping you can help me with some information.
My parents grew up in Germany and lived through WWII. My mother and her family lived in Zoppot near Danzig from 1942 to February of 1945. My mother is now 86 and for the most part has an excellent memory of this time. But I’m having a problem piecing her last year in Zoppot. Her father worked for Mr. Paul Zoeke, owner of 5 freighters.

My mother actually worked for Prachur & Prahl during 1942 and 1943. Her memory doesn’t match some resignation dates where she worked during those years. (She received them in the 1990s) However, I believe her memory over the papers because of what she went through and the timing. I just want to verify it.

As far as she remembers, they left on or about February 9, 1945 taking a train from Zoppot to Danzig then a ship to Hamburg where they got off and took a train to Wesselburen. Communication was down and they didn’t hear about the ship, Wilhelm Gustloff, that was sunk about a week earlier from their departure until after the war ended. She remembers the ship she was on was a 4 ton freighter called Wiborg – either I, II, or III. It was one of Mr P. Zoeke’s freighter and was renamed. My mother remembers that it was foggy during the entire trip and that must have helped keep them safe.

Her father was going to take the next ship out about a week later. Unfortunately he was captured by the Russians and sent to a prison camp. He survived to reunite with them by September 1945.

I can only find one reference to a ship called Wiborg II. The original name of the ship was SS Newton. A Mr. E. Zoeke purchased it. Wiborg was changed to HAFNIA during the war. Other than the name it doesn’t match. I have a copy of a company stationary of a letter written to my grandfather by P. Zoeke in 1941. My mother can’t remember another family member in the business beginning with E. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t so. She remembers the daughter’s name and the wife of Mr. P. Zoeke. The wife was killed on one of the ships the Zoeke’s took when they evacuated after my mother left. Actually, it was the ship my grandfather was suppose to be on but missed.

I’m trying to find all the ships that helped with Operation Hannibal especially during the beginning of February of 1945. My mother never heard of this operation, but her departure was within and in the area of this operation. Most information I read are of ships that sank. I’m looking for a ship that apparently survived and wasn’t significant
enough to talk about. 

Can you help me? I know this isn’t part of your interest but maybe you came across a list of successful evacuations via ships while researching.

I would appreciate any information you can give me during the first week or so in February 1945 in Danzig, Zoppot or Gotenhafen.

Thank you in advance,


No matter where I search I am unable to unearth any details that would answer your query.

Of course all the reports about the large ships involved in Operation Hannibal are covered, but the smaller ships seem to be ignored.

I am sorry I was unable to help you.


October 25, 2011

Hi Mac,

Thank you so much for searching for me. It's frustrating not to find much if anything about a ship when I know it existed. 

I learned after I wrote you that my mother, sister and her mother left Zoppot on February 15, 1945. I found a very old note my mother once wrote summarizing her jobs and where she was during that last year of war. She must have written it shortly after the German refugees had to leave the western part of Schleswig Holstein and go to the eastern part of Schleswig Holstein. So I'm taking this to be correct because the note was written at that time not some 60 years later.
I spent hours searching for another ship just out of interest - I have the facts I need. However, if there was more to the ship's story, I might want to include it in my book.

My father was a mechanic for a short time on a ship called M/S. Athen with the Levante Line. I scanned a copy of his actual "Geefahrtsbuch". If I'm understanding it correctly, he worked from June to September 1939 on the ship. This was not a military ship. I even have signatures of captain(s) who signed his resignation ?, but I have a hard time  reading it.

My mother told me a tid bit of info that I thought interesting and that's why I looked into it without success. My father told my mother, one night he we went to bed and woke up the next morning to find cannons were installed on the ship. He was completely taken by surprise.

I did find something on it but not possitive it's the same ship, although I m pretty sure it is. I found a ship called Athens 1 and Athens 2 under Lavante Line. Athens 1 has the right dates to be the correct ship. There was an area on the  website for more details about some of these ships listed. Of course, the ship I was interested wasn't included. Since the name isn't exact and wasn't explained to my satisfaction, I can't use the information I found as possitive verification.

I would have thought with possitive names and documentation, I would find something more on it, but I didn't. I have the website address if you are interested in it for yourself. You probably already know it, but just in case you don't. 

Once again, thank you for helping me. At least I know that it's not listed out there in cyberspace and not due to my poor skills in researching. I do not know ship/sea terminalogy and that probably hinders me in researching ships.



Thank you for that, it is just awful when you know a specific ship was involved and you just cannot find any thing about it on the net,

It drives me to distraction sometimes, but I have taken a year to turn up some detail about a ship in which I was interested.

One thing I have learned is that in the long haul persistence does pay off.

Here are two ships with the name Athen 1 and Athen 2, the first one is listed as a German minesweeper, and the dates for the second do not match your needs.                              

Athen (1) 1936 1940 German Navy minesweeper, 1940 mined and damaged off Boulogne, 1942 returned to DLL, 1946 handed to USSR renamed General Brussilov. 4,451

Athen (2) 1951 1956 DLL taken over by Hamburg Sud, 1967 sold to Greece. 2 699

Over this period some 800 ships evacuated civilians from Germany’s eastern provinces to Germany or Denmark: Danzig/Gotenhafen/Hela 1,047,000 Konigsberg/Pillau 451,000 Kolberg 70,000

I have never located a list of all these 800 ships used in the evacuation.

Nice to talk to you.

Best regards.

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