Dönitz, Karl, born on 16-09-1891 in Grunau,
the son of an army medical officer, Emil Dönitz and Wilhelmine Emilia Anna, born Beyer. Karl had an older brother. Dönitz joined the Army in 1903 and at the start of World War I was promoted to Hauptmann, Father, engineer Emil Dönitz and mother,
Anna Beyer and had one brother Friedrich. He had his final examination on the Realgymnasium in Weimar and joined the Kriegsmarine
as a sea cadet on 04-04-1910. In 1912 he was promoted to Fahnrich on the cruiser “Breslau”
and promoted to Leutnant zur see in 1913. In the first war he with the Breslau was under Turkish command in the Black Sea and promoted to Oberleutnant and transferred to the U boat Fleet
on 22-03-1916. In 1918 he was 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 as commander of a torpedo unit and started an Admiralstabsoffizier training in 1923. In 1924 he was the head official of the Marine Service Prescription with the Kriegsmarine. After several promotions and commands in the North and Eastsea he was assigned as 1st Admiralstab officer in Wilhelmshafen. As fregatten kapitän he gets the command of the light cruiser “Emden” .
In 1935 Dönitz a firm believer in Adolf Hitler took over the U Boat Waffe in Germany. Dönitz on 28-01-39.
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 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
as Commander. A rival for the possition was the older Generaladmiral Rolf Carls
but Hitler chose for Karl Dönitz being more energic. 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 Klaus Bargsten
, Head of State, with the title of Reichspräsident and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Werner Naumann
, Josef Goebbels’s
(did you know
) Adjutant became the new minister of Propaganda. 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
his successor as the commander in Chief of the German Navy, to U.S General Dwight “Ike” 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
were arrested by the Allied Control Commission at Flensburg. Speer was arrested while shaving in his headquarter, the beautiful castle of Bückeberg, close by.
Both sons were killed during the Second World War. The younger son, Peter, was a watch officer on U 954 and was killed on his first trip, 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. After Peter’s death Klaus was forbidden to have any combat role and was allowed to leave the military to begin studying to become a naval doctor. He returned to sea and was killed on 13-05-1944, age 24; he had persuaded his friends to let him go on the E-boat S-141 for a raid on HMS Selsey on his 24th birthday. The boat was sunk by the French destroyer La Combattante,
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.
Günther 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 “Monty” Montgomery at Lüneburg Heath just southeast of Hamburg, signalling the end of World War II in northwestern Europe. A day later, Dönitz sent Admiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg, his successor as the Commander in Chief of the German Navy, to U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s headquarters in Rheims, France, to negotiate a surrender to the Allies. The Dönitz government was arrested by General Major Lowell Rooks commander of the 90th Infantry Division . The Chief of Staff of OKW, Generaloberst Alfred 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
repeated the signing
in Berlin at Marshal Georgi Zhukov
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 Bernard 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 wrote his memoirs upon his release “” Ten Years and Twenty Days”
. In a clear firm style he discusses the planning and execution of the U-boat campaign; the controversial sinking of the Laconia; America’s “neutrality” before its entry into the war; the Normandy invasion; the July 1944 bomb plot; his encounters with Raeder, Goering, Speer, Himmler, and Hitler; as well as his own brief tenure as the last Führer. Dönitz’s invaluable work allows the reader to view the war at sea through the periscope’s eye.
Death and burial ground of Dönitz, Karl.
Dönitz was released on 01-10-1956, and lived out the rest of his life in relative obscurity in Aumühle, occasionally corresponding with collectors of German Naval history, and still to the end a fanatic Nazi, died there of a heart attack on Christmas Eve 24-12-1980, age 89. As the last German officer with the rank of Grand Admiral, he was honoured by many former servicemen and foreign naval officers who came to pay their respects at his funeral on 06-01-1981. The West German government argued he should receive only the pension pay of a captain because all of his advances in rank after that had been because of Hitler, but he won a court case demanding the pension for his final rank. He was buried in Waldfriedhof Cemetery in Aumühle without military honours, and soldiers were not allowed to wear uniforms to the funeral. However a number of German naval officers disobeyed this order and were joined by members of the Royal Navy, such as the senior chaplain the Rev Dr. John Cameron , in full dress uniform. Also in attendance were over one hundred holders of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross
. He never displayed any regret of his war past.