After the evacuation of Scandinavians from Neuegamme there were tens of thousands of prisoners of different nationalities left. They were evacuated by the Germans and transported by rail to Lübeck during the period 20-26th of April. They brought onboard ships in the harbour and were kept in inhuman conditions.
Dr. Hans Arnoldsson received an anonymous letter on the 29th of April where he was informed of this evacuation, and was asked to help the prisoners on one of the ships, "Athena". Arnoldsson made an offer to the German authorities that he would take care of 250 prisoners
from France, Belgium and Holland. There were 2200 prisoner onboard, mostly Russians. Arnoldsson did not have the resources to transport more prisoners, but offered to come onboard to see if he could help. He was denied permission.
Meanwhile Björn Heger, a Norwegian doctor and ex-prisoner, who worked with Hans Arnoldsson had gone to Süssel north of Lübeck. He had receive a request from a German officer for the Red Cross to take care of 300 prisoners, these were more French, Belgian and Dutch
nationals. The prisoners were temporarily accommodated in a barn and came from the evacuation ship "Cap Arcona" outside of Neustadt. When Heger's convoy with five lorries from the International Red Cross arrived at the barn a terrible sight awaited them. The prisoners
where in very bad condition.
Björn Heger experienced one of the most difficult moments of his live when many other prisoners also tried to get on the lorries. The 300 prisoners were brought to Lübeck harbour and put onboard the Red Cross ship "Magdalena" for transport to Sweden. The ship's crew was very unpleasantly effected by the state of the prisoners. The 250 prisoners Dr. Arnoldsson had rescued were already onboard.
At the same time Arnoldsson had been able to arrange for transport to Sweden on the ship "Lillie Mathiesen" for approximately 300 women from Ravensbrück.
Both ships sailed from Lübeck on the 30th of April.
Source: The White Buses. The Swedish Red Cross rescue action in Germany during the Second World War - The Swedish Red Cross, Stockholm, January 2000 /Research: Agneta Greayer and Sonja Sjöstrand/Editing: Martin Wikberg Translation: Annika and Peter Hodgson