Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea

by

Ruta Sepetys

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Wilhelm Gustloff Term Analysis

A German leisure vessel and cruise ship converted by the German military into a transport ship to aid in the evacuation of German civilians at the end of the war. Although it originally had a capacity of less than 1,500 people, it eventually was made to accommodate over 10,000.

Wilhelm Gustloff Quotes in Salt to the Sea

The Salt to the Sea quotes below are all either spoken by Wilhelm Gustloff or refer to Wilhelm Gustloff. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Agency, Willpower, and Fate Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Salt to the Sea published in 2016.
73. Joana Quotes

“Why are you so nervous?” said Eva. “You know you’re getting on a boat. You told me you’ve got a letter.”
“Shh.” I looked behind me to see if anyone was near. “I don’t want the others to know.”
“Why the secrecy?” whispered Eva.

“I don’t want them to think I’ll have preferential treatment or opportunity.”
“It’s a letter from the doctor in Insterburg saying you’re good at dealing with blood and guts, Joana. I’m sorry, but I don’t call that an opportunity,” she said.

“The whole thing’s unfair, Eva. You know that. Hitler allowed me into Germany. He thinks some Baltic people are ‘Germanizable.’ But for every person like me that Hitler brought in, he pushed some poor soul, like Emilia, out.”

“Do you think you have time to be moral?” snapped Eva. “The Russians are right around the corner. If you wait, they’ll be under your skirt and you’ll be dead. Sorry, but don’t waste your time with some goodwill gesture for a lost Polish kid. Get in line and get on a boat. It’s been nice to trek with everyone, but now we’re here. I don’t need a group. I need my belongings and I need a ship.”

Related Characters: Joana Vilkas (speaker), Emilia Stozek
Page Number: 174
Explanation and Analysis:
161. Florian Quotes

A young girl kicked and shrieked in the water next to our lifeboat.
I removed my life vest and threw it to her. “Grab my hand,” I told her.
“No!” yelled a woman in our boat. “She’ll turn us over!”
I stood and leaned over the side. Our lifeboat tipped toward the water. Everybody screamed. I reached down and grabbed the girl by her hair. She gripped my arm and I pulled her into the boat. She full, soaked and exhausted at our feet.
A woman in a fur coat yelled at me. “You had no right! You’re endangering everyone!”
“Shut up!” I roared. My body shook with anger. “Do you hear me? Shut up!” Everyone fell quiet. The wandering boy hid his crying face in the crook of his arm. Joana reached up to me.

Related Characters: Florian Beck (speaker), Joana Vilkas
Page Number: 346
Explanation and Analysis:
174. Florian Quotes

So, dear one, I have grown old now and my Niels is gone. Receiving your kind letter brought such peace to my heart, knowing that you, Joana, Klaus, and Halinka are together in America along with a child of your own. I do understand how you have struggled for this new life. The sinking of the Gusloff is the largest maritime disaster, yet the world still knows nothing of it. I often wonder, will that ever change or will it remain just another secret swallowed by war?
You wrote that Emilia was your savior and that she is ever on your mind. Please do know, Florian, that she is ever in my heart as well. War is catastrophe. It breaks families in irretrievable pieces. But those who are gone are not necessarily lost. Near our cottage, where the small creek winds under the old wooden bridge, is the most beautiful bed of roses.
And there Emilia rests. She is safe. She is loved.

Related Characters: Clara Christensen (speaker), Florian Beck, Emilia Stozek
Page Number: 378
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Salt to the Sea LitChart as a printable PDF.
Salt to the Sea PDF

Wilhelm Gustloff Term Timeline in Salt to the Sea

The timeline below shows where the term Wilhelm Gustloff appears in Salt to the Sea. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
22. Alfred
Storytelling and Fantasy  Theme Icon
Alfred is carrying lifejackets over the dock to the Wilhelm Gustloff. As he works he imagines how he would react if the U.S. Army bombed him.... (full context)
38. Alfred
Storytelling and Fantasy  Theme Icon
...letter to Hannelore. He tells her he has been confirmed to sail on the Wilhelm Gustloff. He claims he is a “sailor of priority” and will be responsible for saving “two... (full context)
48. Alfred
Storytelling and Fantasy  Theme Icon
Walking up and down the Wilhelm Gustloff is too much exercise for Alfred. He often hides to avoid his duty. Still, his... (full context)
52. Alfred
Storytelling and Fantasy  Theme Icon
...Hannelore. He briefly mentions the war effort but then turns his attention to the Wilhelm Gustloff. He is sharing “undisclosed details,” but knows Hannelore loves keeping secrets. Alfred tells her about... (full context)
75. Alfred
Agency, Willpower, and Fate Theme Icon
Storytelling and Fantasy  Theme Icon
...ship’s doctor, Dr. Richter. He agrees to register her and her patients to the Wilhelm Gustloff—and her friends to any ships with space—after she helps him unload a train of wounded... (full context)
90. Florian
Family and Community vs. Selfishness  Theme Icon
...he can forge his own later. Joana tells Florian that she is aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, which is going to Kiel, near the Danish border, where Anni might be. (full context)
91. Alfred
Storytelling and Fantasy  Theme Icon
Alfred narrates another letter to Hannelore. He reminds her that the Wilhelm Gustloff was built as a leisure vessel for the everyman, and soon it will carry all... (full context)
93. Emilia
Agency, Willpower, and Fate Theme Icon
Even as the Wilhelm Gustloff is filled with bodies, and even as the Nazi officials promise it will lead to... (full context)
129. Florian
Agency, Willpower, and Fate Theme Icon
Memory and Survival  Theme Icon
...steel, Florian watches the frantic refugees who have been unable to board. He knows the “Gustloff was their only hope,” just as it was his. (full context)
149. Emilia
Storytelling and Fantasy  Theme Icon
Emilia and Halinka make it to the deck. The nose of the Gustloff is already underwater. Emilia sings “All the little duckies” to Halinka as she looks around,... (full context)
156.  Emilia
Agency, Willpower, and Fate Theme Icon
The Wilhelm Gustloff has sunk entirely, and Emilia thinks to herself, “how foolish to believe we are more... (full context)
174. Florian
Memory and Survival  Theme Icon
...have passed since the war ended, but a letter about the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff has just arrived. He opens the note and begins to read.  (full context)
Memory and Survival  Theme Icon
Family and Community vs. Selfishness  Theme Icon
...birth mother, a Polish woman named Emilia who died during the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, but only after saving both Halinka and her brother, Klaus. (full context)
Memory and Survival  Theme Icon
Family and Community vs. Selfishness  Theme Icon
...explains that Emilia’s frozen body washed ashore in February of 1945, weeks after the Wilhelm Gustloff sank. Clara and her husband defrosted her rucksack and read through Florian’s notebook, which was... (full context)