The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants

Karl Doenitz

(Part 1 of 13)

[Page 815]


After his appointment in 1935 as commander of the Weddigen U- boat flotilla -- the first flotilla to be formed-after the World War in 1918-Doenitz, who thus became in effect commander of U-boats, rose steadily in rank as the U-boat arm expanded until he became an admiral. On 30 January 1943 he was appointed Grand Admiral and succeeded Raeder as Commander-in-Chief of the German Navy, retaining his command of the U-boat arm. Then, on 1 May 1945, he succeeded Hitler as leader of Germany (2887-PS).

Doenitz was awarded the following decorations: On 18 September 1939 he received the Cluster of the Iron Cross, first class, for the U-boat successes in the Baltic during the Polish campaign. This award was followed on 21 April 1940 by the high award of the Knight's Cross to the Iron Cross, while on 7 April 1943 he received personally from Hitler the Oak Leaf to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, as the 223rd recipient.

Doenitz's services in building up the German Navy, and in particular the offensive U-boat arm, for the coming war, were outstanding. An extract from the official publication "Das Archiv" an the occasion of Doenitz's promotion to vice- admiral, dated 27 September 1940, reads as follows:

"* * * In four years of untiring and in the fullest sense of the word uninterrupted work of training, he [Doenitz] succeeds in developing the young U-boat arm, personnel, and material till it is a weapon of a striking power unexpected even by the experts. More than three million gross tons of sunken enemy shipping in only one year achieved with only few boats speak better than words of the services of this man."

An extract from the diary for the German Navy, 1944 edition (1463-PS) emphasizes Doenitz's contribution. It describes in detail Doenitz's work in building up the U-boat arm; his ceaseless work in training night and day to close the gap of seventeen years, during which no training had taken place; his responsibility for new improvements and for devising the "pack" tactics which were later to become famous. His position is summarized further as follows:

" In spite of the fact that his duties took on unmeasurable proportions since the beginning of the huge U-boat construction program, the chief was what he always

[Page 816]

was and always will be, leader and inspiration to all the forces under him. *** In spite of all his duties, he never lost touch with his men and he showed a masterly understanding in adjusting himself to the changing fortunes of war." (1463-PS)

It was not only, however, his ability as a naval officer which won Doenitz these high honors: his promotion to succeed Raeder as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy; the personal position he acquired as one of Hitler's principal advisers; and finally, earlier candidates such as Goering having betrayed Hitler's trust or finding the position less attractive than they had anticipated, the doubtful honor of becoming Hitler's successor. These he owed to his fanatical adherence to Hitler and to the Party, to his belief in the Nazi ideology with which he sought to indoctrinate the Navy and the German people, and to his "masterly understanding in adjusting himself to the changing fortunes of war" (1463- PS), which may be regarded as synonymous with a capacity for utter ruthlessness.

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