The luxury ocean liner Baron Gautsch was the pride of the Austrian merchant fleet. It was the best, the safest and the fastest means of transport of the Habsburg Empire and was rightly considered the Austro-Hungarian Titanic. On the 13th of August, 1914, the United Kingdom and France declared war on Austria, having declared war on Germany a week earlier. Skirmishes between the Empires officially became what was to be known as the “First World War”. That same day, the Baron Gautsch was sailing towards Trieste packed with reserve soldiers, wealthy tourists and notables returning to Vienna because of the imminent war. At 14.45, the liner hit a mine and sank off the coast of Istria in less than five minutes.
Of the 240 official passengers and 66 crew members, 177 died. But the vessel was overcrowded and military or public administration employees did not need to be registered on board. Official figures spoke of over 500 deaths, mainly unrecognizably burnt corpses, making it the largest marine tragedy in the Mediterranean. Only 68 bodies were ever recovered, including that of Second Officer Tenze, in command at the time of the disaster, who was found with a bullet in his head. Was the disaster the result of sabotage or a mine laid just a few hours earlier by the Austrian Navy itself? And what was the Baron Gautsch carrying? Gold?
What is the truth?
- Friuli Film Commission
- Friuli Venezia Giulia Region