TV production helmed by Vilsmaier

BERLIN — High-profile TV miniseries are on a roll in Germany, where shooting began Monday on “Hafen der hoffnung — Die letzte fahrt der Wilhelm Gustloff,” pubcaster ZDF’s tragic tale of the German refugee ship sunk by a Soviet submarine in the waning days of World War II.

The Wilhelm Gustloff set sail in 1945 with some 10,000 passengers, most of them German refugees fleeing the Red Army. More than 9,000 people lost their lives in the attack, the worst loss of life in a single sinking in maritime history.

The story of the Wilhelm Gustloff made it to the bigscreen in Frank Wisbar’s 1959 German film “Darkness Fell on Gotenhafen.” It also was the subject of Guenter Grass’ 2002 novel “Crabwalk.”

Produced by UFA Filmproduktion’s Norbert Sauer and helmed by Joseph Vilsmaier (“The Last Train”), “Wilhelm Gustloff” is the latest multimillion-dollar TV production to tackle catastrophic events during World War II in which the Germans were the primary victims.

Pubcaster ARD enjoyed a stratospheric 30% share with its recent “March of Millions,” a fictional drama chronicling the plight of the 12 million Germans forced to flee the Red Army at the end of World War II.

Last year, ZDF’s “Dresden,” about the Allied firebombing of the city near the end of the WWII, became the most successful TV pic of the year, attracting 12 million viewers.

In November, ARD also scored big with “Der untergang der Pamir,” which recounted the final voyage of the German cadet training ship Pamir. The vessel sank in a hurricane in 1957, taking the lives of some 80 sailors, including 50 cadets.

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