Universal Pictures is developing a movie based on Ruta Sepetys’ historical novel “Salt to the Sea,” and set up the project with “Transformers” producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura.

The studio won the rights in an auction. Sepetys is repped by UTA, Steven Malk at Writers House, and attorney Judith Karfiol.

“Salt to the Sea,” a New York Times bestseller published last year by Philomel/Penguin Young Readers Group, centers on four individuals — a Lithuanian nurse, a Prussian apprentice, a 15-year-old Polish girl, and an eager German who adheres to Adolf Hitler’s propaganda — who perished on the MV Wilhelm Gustloff. The German military transport ship was sunk in January, 1945, by a Soviet submarine in the Baltic Sea while the ship was  evacuating German civilians, Nazi officials, and military personnel from Gdynia.

By one estimate, 9,400 people died, making it the largest loss of life in a single ship sinking in history — more than six times the number who died when the Titanic sunk in 1912.

Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber will adapt the screenplay. Their credits include “(500) Days of Summer,” and “The Fault in Our Stars,” and the upcoming “Our Souls At Night,” with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda starring, and “The Disaster Artist,” starring James Franco and Dave Franco.

Di Bonaventura’s credits include the “G.I. Joe” and “Red” franchises, along with “Deepwater Horizon,” “Granite Mountain,” and “Meg.” Universal’s Kristin Lowe will oversee the project on behalf of the studio. Alexandra Loewy will oversee for Di Bonaventura Pictures.

Neustadter and Weber are represented by CAA, Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment and Sean A. Marks. Di Bonaventura is represented by CAA and Bloom Hergott Diemer Rosenthal LaViolette Feldman Schenkman & Goodman LLP. The news was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.