Friedeburg, Hans Georg von, born 15-06-1895 in Strassbourg, Elsass, joined the German Navy in 1914
. After training on training cruiser Hansa
from April to October 1914 he served on the Naval Staff in cipher services until December when he was assigned to the battleship Kronprinz .
He served there until December 1917. Hans-Georg von Friedeburg joined the U-boat force in December 1917 and went through training until June 1918. He then served as a watch officer on the U-114 from June to November 1918 then being assigned to the U-boat inspectorate until December 1918. After the Armistice he served on various warships and also in many staff positions. Just prior to WWII von Friedeburg again served in the U-boat force, taking command of the U-27
for a month in the summer of 1939. From July 1939 he served on the Staff of U-boat Command, under Grossadmiral, Erich Raeder
. From September 1941 Hans-Georg von Friedeburg was the deputy commander of the U-Boat Forces of Nazi Germany and the last Commanding Admiral of the Kriegsmarine. From September 1941 he oversaw training and deployment of the U-boat bases in France. In February 1943 he took command of the U-boat force, meanwhile under Grossadmiral, Karl Dönitz
. When Dönitz became Reich President on 01-05-1945, before Adolf Hitler
(did you know
and Eva Braun
committed suicide Hitler appointed him in his last will, von Friedeburg succeeded him as Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine
, the German Navy.
He was heavily involved in preparing and signing the German surrender together with Generalleutnant der Wehrmacht, Chef Staf des Führungsstab Nord
, Eberhard “Hans” Kinzel
in early May 1945, to Bernard Montgomery
Death and burial ground of Friedeburg, Hans Georg von.
Having signed the surrender papers, von Friedeburg assumed he would then be allowed to return to Dönitz’s headquarters. But it was not the case. He was immediately flown ro Rheims to sign another surrender, this time to General Eisenhower. Von Friedeburg had hoped that Eisenhower
might be more amenable to his entreaties. After all, Eisenhower was a political General and a world leader and surely he must know what was going on. Besides, Eisenhower was of German origin. But as it turned out, Eisenhower wouldn’t even meet with him. He, too, had recently visited German death camps and was at least as disgusted with what he saw as Montgomery. Instead, he sent in his Chief of Staff, General Walter Bedel Smith
. For all Eisenhower’s reputation as a smiling, likeable nice guy, the reason he could do this was because Bedell Smith, his right-hand man, was an out-and-out bastard, whom fearless warriors like George Patton
and Montgomery were both terrified of. Bedel Smith was an even bigger prick to von Friedeburg than Montgomery had been. He also demanded a complete and unconditional surrender, this time without any offers of off-the-books accommodations. Then, when von Friedeburg asked they were being treated so ungallantly, Walter Bedell Smith let out a cruel laugh and promptly presented the German admiral with the latest copy of Stars and Stripes, which showed in ghastly detail the atrocities committed at Dachau, Belsen, Ravensbruck, and other newly liberated concentration camps. Von Friedeburg stared in horror at all the pictures of starved, beaten, and mass murdered Jews and he promptly had another nervous breakdown. Bedel Smith suspended the negotiations and sent the Germans off to a guesthouse to stew on it.
The next day, when Bedel Smith summoned them back, von Friedeburg was still so visibly unhinged that Bedel Smith demanded Dönitz send in someone else capable of surrendering. Ten hours later, Generaloberst Alfred Jodl
arrived. Cool and composed, Jodl also tried to convince the Allies to join up with them against the Soviets. But he was not successful. In the end, Jodl signed the unconditional surrender
and von Friedeburg signed after him. Jodl was allowed to fly back to Flensburg to Dönitz’s headquarters. Not so von Friedeburg. The Allies still had plans for him. He was taken to Berlin, where he signed a third surrender, this time to the Soviets
. By this point, von Friedeburg was mostly in a daze. Finally he was allowed to fly back to Flensburg. For the next two weeks, he continued a kind of zombie existence in the land of the living, but no longer really alive . The “Flensburg Reich” was often marked by extremely peculiar behavior of its occupants. Von Friedeburg’s behavior during this period was mainly listless. Apparently the other Nazis mostly just avoided him. Then, finally, on May 23, the Allies rolled up the whole regime
and arrested everyone. Dönitz, von Friedeburg and Jodl
were all summoned to the Patria, an old Hamburg-Amerika liner, where the Allied Control Commission was headquartered. There they were tersely informed of their government’s liquidation and they were all promptly placed under arrest. They were then escorted back to their quarters to pack their bags. Once there, von Friedeburg, after learning that the Allied Control Commission were going to arrest him as a suspected war criminal, however such charges against him would most probably have been unfounded, he asked to go to the bathroom, where he promptly took some prussic acid and killed himself. One of the first people to find his body was the celebrated LIFE Magazine photographer Margaret Bourke-White
, who had him taken off the toilet and laid down on a bed, where she photographed him.
On the wall behind him, was a framed portrait of Dönitz. Von Friedeburg, at the age of 49, is buried on the Neuen Friedhof Adelby in Flensburg, next to Kapitän zur See, U Boot Ace. Kommandeur Marineschule Mürwik, Wolfgang Lüth
the U boat captain who was was shot in the head by 18 year-old Matrose Mathias Gottlob, a German sentry at the Flensburg-Mürwik Naval Academy, when he failed to respond to the sentry’s challenge. Also buried there is U boat captain, Kommandeur 2nd Schnellboot
, Rudolf Petersen
and Kapitänleutnant zur See, Commander of the Dönitz train “Auerhahn” Asmus Jespen