This Day in International Law – November 7

By: Kelsey Quigley

On November 7, 1941, the Armenia, a Soviet hospital ship, was torpedoed and sunk by German air forces – marking one of the worst maritime disasters in history. Of the 7,000 passengers aboard the ship, which was originally built for only 980, eight survived; the ship sunk just four minutes after a direct torpedo hit. The ill-fated passengers had surged onto the ship in the Crimean Peninsula, fleeing the Nazi’s rapid incursion into the Soviet Union. Among the passengers were civilians and wounded soldiers, but due to the rushed nature of the evacuation, no full accurate record of the casualties exists.

Was the hospital ship a legitimate military target? When attacked, the Armenia was clearly marked with red crosses and was carrying civilians and war casualties. However, the ship was escorted by two armed boats and two fighter planes, thereby a legal target under Germany’s interpretation of international rules of war.

Kelsey Quigley is a J.D. Candidate at Berkeley Law. She is a student contributor for Travaux.

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