Salt to the Sea
Written by Ruta Sepetys
World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety.
Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival. A tribute to the people of Lithuania, Poland, and East Prussia, Ruta Sepetys unearths a shockingly little-known casualty of a gruesome war, and proves that humanity can prevail, even in the darkest of hours.
Primary Source Pairing:
There are many primary sources available that help piece together the tragic story of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. To begin, invite students to study a photograph of the ship. Use the maps in the front and back of the book to study the geographical changes between 1945 and present day. Visit author Ruta Sepetys’ website to watch her talk about the book, her research, and the tragedy of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, and to find more information about this historical event, including books, interviews, and websites.
Questions for Discussion: Click on the Library of Congress Primary Source Analysis Tool that supports the primary source used:
Analyzing Primary Sources
Analyzing Photographs and Prints
Analyzing Oral Histories
Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Wilhelm Gustloff Photograph: Wikimedia