Thursday, April 28, 2016

Großadmiral Karl Dönitz


Großadmiral Karl Dönitz had served in U-boats during World War I and remained in the German Navy after his release from a British POW camp. When Germany began to rebuild their U-boat fleet, Dönitz was chosen to organize the new U-boat service, and became Chief of U-boat Forces.

When war broke out, in 1939, he was promoted to Rear Admiral, but had far fewer U-boats than were required by the war plans (which did not expect a war to start before 1942!). In spite of this, U-boats were highly successful, scoring one coup after another. These early successes brought Dönitz an increasing share of German Navy resources and faster expansion of U-boat forces. Unfortunately, Hermann Göring refused to allocate resources from the German Luftwaffe to assist Dönitz in the hunting of convoys. Such assistance would have greatly increased the success of the U-boats during the Battle of the Atlantic.

During 1941 and 1942 Dönitz's U-boats nearly won the war for Germany, sinking a large percentage of the allied ships carrying essential supplies to Britain and the Soviet Union. This success was partly due to faulty anti-U-boat strategy that the Allies were slow to abandon. However, it was mostly the result of Dönitz’s imaginative coordination of reconnaissance aircraft, supply vessels (milch cows) and multiple-U-boat wolf-packs, all of which allowed his U-boats to strike where they were most effective and least expected.

Dönitz was appointed to Commander in Chief of the Navy in January 1943. However, this personal triumph nearly coincided with the beginning of the end for his U-boats, in the Battle of the Atlantic. The Allies had built large numbers of destroyer escorts, corvettes and anti-U-boat patrol bombers needed to guard their convoys. They had found the correct tactics to counter the wolf packs and had become proficient through many months of practical experience. New Allied weapons, like RADAR or the escort carrier, more than matched new German innovations like the Schnorkel. But most important, they were building new cargo ships faster than the U-boats could sink them, and if that was true, there was no way the U-boats could win, because their objective in the Battle of the Atlantic wasn't to sink ships, it was to starve Britain! At one point during 1941, Briton was only weeks away from what some termed "total starvation" due to the lack of supplies reaching their country. Winston Churchill was quoted to have said "The only thing that ever frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril".

In April 1945 Dönitz became Head of State and proceeded to formalize the surrender of Germany. After the surrender, Dönitz was tried for War Crimes at Nuremberg and was sentenced to ten years for "Planning Aggressive War", "Conspiracy to Wage Aggressive War" and "Crimes Against Peace", among other false allegations. It should be noted that Admiral Chester Nimitz of the United States Navy testified on Dönitz’s behalf during the Nuremberg Trials! Most sensible people agree that the German U-boats fought hard but fair considering the situation (No one tries to deny the war crimes committed by the Germans before and during the war though). Thus many say that Dönitz was simply punished for being too efficient at his job and his U-boats having been to much of a threat to allied shipping and the outcome of the war. Dönitz served 11 years and 6 months in prison, the last ten years at Berlin-Spandau.

After his release on 1 October 1956 he lived in the small village Aumühle near Hamburg. There he wrote two books, and worked on an honest written account of the U-boat weapon history. Dönitz passed away on Christmas eve 1980 and to his funeral on 6 Januari 1981 came thousands of old camerades, including some hundred Knights Cross holders and not only from the Navy. The officers from the Bundesmarine (Post-war German Navy) were forbidden to visit in uniform, because the German government at that time felt that Dönitz was too deeply involved in the politics during the Third Reich.

Karl Dönitz lost both his sons to enemy action during the war. The younger, Peter Dönitz, was killed while serving as watch officer on the U-954 when the boat was sunk with all hands in the North Atlantic on 19 May, 1943. After that loss the older brother, Klaus, was permitted to withdraw from combat duties and started his education as a naval doctor. Klaus however kept in touch with his former comrades and on his 24th birthday on 13 May, 1944 he convinced his friends to take him along on the fast boat S-141 for an attack on the Selsey on the English coast. The S-141 was destroyed and although 6 of its crew were rescued Klaus Dönitz was not among them...

Source :

No comments:

Post a Comment