INGE’S STORY

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Inge Goldberg  was born on the 10th July 1918. She was to be the oldest of 4 children.A younger sister called Susanne was born in 1920, followed by a brother Karl born in 1922 and another brother called Christian born in 1929.

Inge Goldberg had red hair, blue eyes and freckles.

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Above in this photo with her parents.

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Above in this photo she is on the right and her sister Susanne is on the left.

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Above in this photo from left to right we have Christian, Inge, Karl and Susanne. The photo below is the back of this photograph which shows the children’s ages. Inge was 18 years old at this time.

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Below is my last photo of Inge

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Inge studied interior design in Danzig (Gdansk).

In 1945 towards the end of the second world war the Russian army were entering Dansk and refugees were fleeing Germany.

Full-fledged panic is erupting in East Prussia in January 1945.  Tales of Russian revenge for the Nazi invasion of the “Motherland” spread like wildfire all the way to the Wilhelm Gustloff’s port in Gotenhafen’s Oxhöft Pier.  Hundreds of thousands of German refugees continue to stream in to the Danzig , hoping for safe passage to the West.

A major offensive launched by the Soviets in mid-January accelerates the exodus from East Prussia .  Many Ethnic Germans cut off from the Danzig by Red Army troops negotiate passage across the frozen Frisches Haff, a freshwater lagoon on the Baltic coast.  Soviet planes circle in the sky, bombing defenceless refugees.  Direct hits are not necessary – weakening the ice is enough to send families with their wagons and horses through to an icy death.  To the many refugees streaming toward ports in the Danzig , escape to the West is the only hope of avoiding certain suffering and death.

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Above a model of the Wilhelm Gustloff ship

On January 22, 1945 , the Gustloff begins preparations to accept thousands of refugees.  There are also obvious challenges involved in getting the ship running properly.  With the exception of minor test runs, the Gustloff’s engines have not operated in over 4 years.

Ships of all shapes and sizes are assembled and prepared for sailing West.  Joining the Gustloff for the evacuation will be other submarine training ships such as the Hansa, Hamburg. Unfotunately the Hansa Hamburg developed engine trouble and was unable to escort  the Gustloff ship.

The scene in Gotenhafen is panic-laced chaos.  Thousands and thousands of refugees – mostly women and children – jam the harbour.  You won’t find too many able-bodied men.  Those who can fight the Russians have already been procured for duty (feared SS Stormtroopers patrolling the crowds ensure none are overlooked).  Many are not well – having endured bitter cold and long distances by carriage or foot in unforgiving January weather.  Thousands do not make it to the Danzig ports.  Unimaginable death litters the roadsides and in places like the frozen Frisches Haff lagoon.

Despite the mass of pulsating humanity on the docks, boarding the Gustloff is relatively orderly in the early stages.  Armed sentries guard the gangways to keep out those without priority or privilege.  The ship’s printing press, once used to create colourful cruise agendas, now cranks out the coveted “ Identity Pass ” that allows access to the Gustloff.  The precious piece of paper with the Gothic type offers hope.

As expected, the first right to these passes is provided for the U-boat officers, crew members, and a few hundred members of the Women’s Naval Auxiliary (some members of which are accommodated in the drained swimming pool).  Wounded soldiers arriving by train are also given priority.  “Privileged” refugees then get their turn.  The first ones to receive passes are those with “connections” – to family and friends on board, or to those with local influence.  Of course, those with money attempt to buy them.  We will never know how many underhanded deals are made.  One thing is sure: as more and more privileged board, tension and envy mount in “ordinary” refugees crowded around the gangways.

Inge was a Marine Helper and was placed in he drained swimming pool area of the ship.

With less than two days until the ship until departure, 10 of the 22 lifeboats are missing.  After over four years as floating barracks, lifeboats have gradually disappeared fromtheir davits – requisitioned for other duties in the harbour such as creating smoke screens to obscure Allied air raids.  Hastily, 18 small boats are hoisted on and secured to the sundeck.  Numerous life rafts are added in strategic places around the decks.  Anti-aircraft guns are affixed to the deck to offer token protection – Luftwaffe control of the skies a distant memory.

According to an official list, only three thousand refugees are already loaded onto the Gustloff by the morning of January 30th, 1945 (they have stopped counting).  As it becomes more certain the ship will sail on this day, more crowds rush the gangways.  Mothers and children become separated.  Children and infants are handed to those going on board.  In terrifying manner, shoving on gangways throw some children overboard – disappearing into the ice cold water between the dock and hull.  Small boats pull up along side filled with mothers and children begging for a spot on board.  For some, persistence is rewarded as nets and gangways are lowered to take more on board.

On this bitter cold grey day in Gotenhafen, scattered with snow and sleet, exact numbers of those aboard will never be known.  By the time the Gustloff is ready to leave port, well over 10,000 anxious evacuees are crammed aboard the ship.

Within 9 hours, 3 torpedoes will hit the Wilhelm Gustloff.  It will sink to the bottom of the Baltic Sea , taking over 9,500 souls with it.

Below deck, thousands of passengers attempt to settle in to their assigned areas for the journey.  Last minute arrivals carve out any reasonable living space they are lucky to find.  Every possible space on the ship is occupied.  All are instructed over the loudspeaker to wear the lifejackets provided to them.  Under no circumstances are they to remove them.  Above deck, wind, snow and hail pelt the Gustloff.  The seas become rougher as the Bay is left behind.  Seasickness begins to set in for many.  Unable to relieve themselves overboard, on board toilets become clogged and the stench nauseating.  Even so, for many it is a small price to pay for the hardships endured recently.

On board the escape ship, cheerful music resumes its tinny resonance from the ship’s speakers – accompanied the whimpering of discontented children and adults alike.   On the bridge, there is a cautious sense of relief among the four captains now that they’ve reached the Stolpe Bank.  They share a sentiment that the most dangerous waters in the journey are behind them.  In addition to their first meal since departure, a round of cognac is poured to toast good fortune.  Captain Weller remains on duty on the bridge.  And then…

At 9:16PM , the first torpedo strikes the front of the ship, blowing a gaping hole in the port bow.  Moments later, the second hits further astern where the swimming pool is located.  Finally, the third scores a direct hit in the engine room below the funnel.  Passengers and crew are thrown off their feet with the thunderous booms.  Those near direct points of impact are practically vaporized and perhaps spared the ensuing panic and suffering.

Upon first reports of damage, the watertight doors are ordered shut to seal off the forward part of the ship.  Unfortunately, this area contains the crews quarters.  Many off-duty crew members (especially those trained in lowering lifeboats and emergency procedures) are sealed to their doom.

The scene of the second torpedo impact is greatly distressing.  The drained swimming pool (and cabins in the immediate area) had been makeshift accommodations for many of the Women’s Naval Auxiliary.  The torpedo blast creates airborne missiles out of splintered tiles which just moments before decorated the pool area with lavish mosaics.  Girls in the direct area are cut to pieces by flying tiles and twisted metal.  For the first time in years, water rushes in to the pool.  But this time, floating corpses, body parts and empty life jackets swim in its water.  Only two or three of the 373 girls are able to escape.

With that, the total number of survivors rescued number approximately 1,230.  Over 9,000 go to their deaths – trapped at the bottom of the Baltic or floating frozen on its unforgiving surface.

Today, the wreck is officially designated as a grave site and is off limits to divers by order of Polish authorities.

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Above an image of the wrecked ship

Inge Golberg perished on this ship at the age of 26, such a tragic loss especially to her family and younger sister Susanne.

In the 1960’s Susanne’s  mother had a studio doll made in Inge Goldberg’s likeness with  Red hair, Blue eyes and Freckles. The studio doll was given to Susanne as a gift from her mother in memory of her older sister Inge.

The doll is called Inge and now lives with me.

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Inga’s freckles go right up into her brow. Her outfit is all original and she is a B11 type face with cloth body. She is in excellent condition having been looked after very well by her original family.

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Inge is wearing her new shoes from Brigitte.

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I would like to thank Uli Goldberg who was Inge Goldberg’s Nephew and son of her brother Karl for all the photos and information he and his 90 year old mother were able to tell me about Inge Goldberg.

her memory will live on forever in this wonderful studio doll Inge.

18 Comments

  1. I can’t get this incredible story out of my head Theresa and how it warms my heart that you are now the custodian of this very special Studio Doll. What happened to Inge is so poignant and how her family coped with the tragedy by remembering her in one of Sasha’s precious creations is just awe inspiring. I am so thrilled for you, that you were able to adopt Inge and to carry on the story of this amazing doll.

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  2. What an amazing account of Inge’s life and a priceless and poignant provenance of your beautiful Sasha studio doll. She is a true treasure and I am so happy for you Theresa that Inge is with you now. A beautiful and most touching post. Thank you for sharing. ❤️❤️❤️

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  3. Theresa, what a provenance! Your Inge doll’s provenance is completely amazing, and I’m so happy you were able to find Inge intact with her history. Was one of your goals on your recent trip to Switzerland a quest for more information on Inge? And, then, to have the photographs, too. I was spell bound, remembering how cold and dreary Gdansk was when I visited there in early Jan.1974. You know the sun is not up there much before 9 a.m. and then by 3 it has dropped from that northern part of our planet. It is bone chilling cold, snowy, and dark gray almost all of the time in January in Gdansk.

    Would you mind if I copied this story and the accompanying pictures? I would never do anything with it, such as publishing pictures of your Inge and her story, without first asking your permission,

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    1. Hi Anne you are welcome to copy her story. I went on a quest to Switzerland to find a studio doll, preferably a hard bodied one. A few days before I was due to leave for Switzerland a very dear friend alerted me to Inge. Last year in Zurich there were no studio doll’s for sale. I tossed and turned all night and then made the decision to re home Inge. I am very glad I did. Inge’s original owners have been very kind to allow to publish Inge’s story xx

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  4. Thank you so much, Theresa, for sending me Inge’s Story to keep. You presented it so well and I have put it in my file as a uniquely wonderful piece of provenance. I love all of Inge’s pictures, too. Your write up is so well written. I really appreciate your letting me have it for my records.

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  5. What a desperately sad history of poor Inge and her family and what a beautiful way to commemorate her. Your new girl is a wonderful Studio doll, I am amazed her family decided to part with her. What a privilege to own her, especially as her story speaks directly to how Sasha M was inspired by refugee children to create the Sasha dolls we know and love so well.

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  6. Well she may not be a hard bodied Studio as was your original intention, but wow, I don’t think you could surpass this doll in terms of such an amazing history Theresa. She is indeed very special and you are very privileged to be her new custodian. A tragic story indeed as many stories of this period in our history. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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  7. I have never seen or heard of a Studio Doll with SO much recorded history. How truly wonderful for both you and her. It makes her so EXTRA special.
    Although I know that you went over to Zurich wanting to hopefully purchase a hard bodied doll but adopting Inge is surely the very next best thing or imo even better since you can carry on looking for that ‘C’ bodied doll whereas this doll with such a provenance would have been lost to you forever.
    Loving her outfit especially that fabulous Duffle coat that so enhances her hair colouring. I’ve always adored freckles on the Sasha Dolls.
    Congratulations. I’m so very pleased for you to have been able to purchase this great doll. I’m sure that she will be treasured forever.

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