THE CURSE OF THE SCHARNHORST

FROM SYBIL LEEK'S BOOK OF THE CURIOUS AND THE OCCULT, BY SYBIL LEEK (Ballantine, 1976) - pp. 69-70

In the realm of happenings being jinxed from the start, the history of Adolph Hitler's pride and joy, the battleship Scharnhorst, must certainly be given high place. Everything that scientific brains and technology could put into a ship was put into the Scharnhorst, but she gained her reputation for being jinxed early in her life. When the construction was only two-thirds completed, the huge ship rolled over on her side, crushing to death sixty-one workmen and injuring more than one hundred others. Even her launching day was not without incident. It was to be a great occasion witnessed by all the German top brass. Hitler, Himmler, Goering, von Schirach, Hess, and Admiral Doenitz arrived, but the star of the day was missing. The Scharnhorst had launched herself the night before! She was found grounded upon a pair of barges that had got in her way. To cover up, the embarrassed Germans said that the Scharnhorst had been launched secretly by a mysterious launching system.

The German seizure of Danzig made a suitable occasion for retrieving the never-quite-established honor of the battle cruiser. But nowhere in the miles of propaganda churned out by the German publicity machines was there anything about the fact that during the attack on Danzig the Scharnhorst had again wrought mayhem on her own sailors. One of her big guns exploded and killed nine men. Then a faulty air system caused twelve man to suffocate.

During the siege of Oslo, the Scharnhorst caught fire and had to be pulled to safety by the Gneisenau. She was forced to limp home, evading British bombers, as she made her way to the Elbe. Her radar failed, causing her to scuttle the mighty liner Bremen, the watch who sounded the alarm died in the collision.

The Scharnhorst was tied up for repairs when Hitler's star began to fade. With many of his battleships already torpedoed, he sent the Scharnhorst again into action. She slid down the Elbe and, covered by the darkness of night, made her way to the coast of Norway, where she ran into a crippled British patrol boat. If this had not happened, the Scharnhorst might have been able to achieve a solitary moment of glory, but the collision alerted the British fleet to her presence. The boat was built with enough speed to outrun anything in her class, but by some quirk of fate, when the British commander took a chance and fired a broadside from sixteen thousand yards, the Scharnhorst swung around right into the tons of high explosive! Mortally wounded, she was now an easy target for slaughter by the British, and was finally sunk. All but two members of her crew went down with her. The two who managed to reach the shore were found dead some months later. The curse of the Scharnhorst had reached out to them, for they died from the explosion of the ship's emergency oil heater. In the end, having evaded capture by the British and surviving heavy seas, they were victims of the jinxed battleship.

 

 

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