Karl Dönitz, born 16-01-1891 in Grünau, started his career in the German Navy Kriegsmarine, during World War I, serving aboard U-39. While in a prisoner of war camp, he formulated what he later called Rudel tactic or Wolfpack. Dönitz was allowed in the 100.000 men new Reichswehr and on 28-01-39.
Dönitz was promoted to Commodore and Commander of Submarines. At the time the war began, Dönitz's force included only 57 U-boats, many of them short-range and only 22 ocean going Type VIIs. He made do with what he had, while being harassed by Raeder and with Hitler (see Adolf Hitler
) (did you know
) calling on him to dedicate boats to military actions against the British fleet directly. In January 1943, Dönitz achieved the rank of Großadmiral and replaced Grand Admiral Erich Raeder (see Raeder
) as Commander. Dönitz was deeply involved in the daily operations of his cruisers and U boats, often contacting them up to seventy times a day with questions such as their position, fuel supply, and other "minutiae". It was Dönitz who was able to convince Hitler not to scrap the remaining ships of the surface fleet. Despite hoping to continue to use them as a fleet in being, the Kriegsmarine continued losing what few capital ships it had. (see Bargsten
) another famous U boat aces was Otto Kretschmer (see Kretschmer
). In the final days of the war, after Hitler had installed himself in the Führerbunker under the Berlin Chancellery, Hermann Goering (see Goering Peter
) (did you know
) (see Sonnemann
) was considered the obvious successor to Hitler, followed by Heinrich Himmler (see Himmler
). In his last will and testament, dated 29 April, Hitler surprisingly named Dönitz his successor as Staatsoberhaupt, Head of State, with the title of Reichspräsident and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Werner Naumann (see Naumann
), Goebbels's (see Goebbels
) (did you know
) Adjutant became the new minister of Propaganda (see Naumann
). The rapidly advancing Allied forces limited the Dönitz government's jurisdiction to an area around Flensburg near the Danish border, where Dönitz's headquarters were located, along with Mürwik. Dönitz sent Admiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg, (see Friedeburg
) his successor as the commander in Chief of the German Navy, to U.S General Dwight D Eisenhower's (see Eisenhower)
headquarters in Rheims, France, to negotiate a surrender to the Allies. On 23 May, the Dönitz government was dissolved when its members, including Albert Speer (see Speer
) were arrested by the Allied Control Commission at Flensburg. Speer was arrested while shaving in his headquarter, the beautiful castle of Bückeberg, close by.
On 27-05-1916 Dönitz married a nurse named Ingeborg Weber, the daughter of a German General.
They had three children whom they raised as Protestant, Evangelical Christians, daughter Ursula born, 1917 and sons Klaus born, 1920 and Peter born, 1922.
Both sons were killed during the Second World War. The younger son, Peter, was a watch officer on U 954 and was killed on 19-05-1943, when his boat was sunk in the North Atlantic with all hands. After this loss, the older brother, Klaus, was allowed to leave combat duty and began studying to be a naval doctor. Klaus was killed on 13-05-1944 while taking part in an action against his orders. Klaus convinced his friends to let him go on the torpedo boat
S-141 for a raid on HMS Selsey
off the coast of England on his twenty-fourth birthday. The boat was destroyed and Klaus died, though six others were rescued, though six others were rescued. . In 1937 Karl Dönitz's daughter Ursula married the U-boat commander and Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
recipient Günther Hessler.
Hessler died age 58, on 04-04-1968, in Bochum-Laer. The marriage produced three children, two sons, Peter and Klaus, and a daughter named Ute.
On 4 May, German forces in the Netherlands (see About), Denmark and northwestern Germany under Dönitz's command surrendered to Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery (see Montgomery) at Lüneburg Heath just southeast of Hamburg, signalling the end of World War II in northwestern Europe.
Dönitz detention report and mugshot from 1945.
A day later, Dönitz sent Admiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg (see Friedeburg
), his successor as the Commander in Chief of the German Navy, to U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower's (see Eisenhower
) headquarters in Rheims, France, to negotiate a surrender to the Allies. The Chief of Staff of OKW, Generaloberst Alfred Jodl (see Jodl
), arrived a day later. Dönitz had instructed them to draw out the negotiations for as long as possible so that German troops and refugees could surrender to the Western powers. But when Eisenhower let it be known he would not tolerate the Germans' stalling, Dönitz authorised Jodl to sign the instrument of unconditional surrender at 1:30 am on the morning of 7 May. Just over an hour later, Jodl signed the documents.
The surrender documents included the phrase, "All forces under German control to cease active operations at 23:01 hours Central European Time on 08-05-1945." At Stalin's insistence, on 8 May, shortly before midnight, Field Marshal General Wilhelm Keitel (see Keitel
) repeated the signing
in Berlin at Marshal Georgiy Zhukov's (see Zhukov
) headquarters, with General Carl Spaatz (see Spaatz
) of the USAAF present as Eisenhower's representative. At the time specified, World War II in Europe ended. On 23 May, the Dönitz government was dissolved when its members were arrested by the Allied Control Commission at Flensburg. In prison Dönitz told Leon Goldensohn, an American psychiatrist at Nuremberg, "I never had any idea of the goings-on as far as Jews were concerned. Hitler said each man should take care of his business, and mine was U-boats and the Navy". Dönitz also told Dr. Goldensohn
of his support for Admiral Bernhard Rogge (see Rogge
), who was of Jewish descent, when the Nazi Party began to persecute him. Goldensohn died age 50, on 24-10-1961. During the trial, Gustave Gilbert
, an American Army psychologist, was allowed to examine the Nazi leaders who were tried at Nuremberg for war crimes. Among other tests, a German version of the Wechsler-Bellevue IQ test was administered. Dönitz scored 138, the third highest among the Nazi leaders tested. Gilbert died age 65, on 06-02-1977, in Manhassel, NY. Dönitz was imprisoned for 10 years in Spandau Prison
in what was then West Berlin. Dönitz was released on 01-10-1956, and retired to the small village of Aumühle
in Schleswig-Holstein in northern West Germany. Dönitz still to the end a fanatic Nazi, died at the old age of 89, on 24-11-1980 in Aumühle, he never displayed any regret of his war past. He died of a heart attack on Christmas Eve 1980 and is buried on the Waldfriedhof in Aumühle.