On the 8th. of May, 1945 Germany surrendered unconditionally. The war in Europe was, at last over. The Allies were now free to concentrate all their efforts in subjugating Japan.
Gross-Admiral Karl Donitz
Mastermind of Operation Hannibal
Admiral Donitz sometimes spelled his name "Doenitz", but I have chosen to use the form Donitz, esentially, because this is how the U-Boat Commander spells his name in his own book, "Memoirs: Ten Years and Twenty Days."
As the man in command of the U-Boat campaign, Donitz maintained a very close relationship with his Boat Captains, eg. when the wife of the U-boat Ace, Gunter Prien gave birth to their daughter, Donitz sent him the following signal: -"Ein U-Boat ohne schrer ist heute ange-kommen" which translates thus: -" A Submarine without a Periscope arrived today."
Donitz would meet with his returning crews at bases such as Lorient, usually accompanied by both a brass band and a large retinue. His U-Boat crews called him "The Lion." He had been described by one of his Captains, as lean in appearance, brief in speech, and stern in his demands.
He would pass down the ranks of parading crews, shake hands with each man, bestow medals as he considered appropriate, and then tell these men of U-Boat Command - "You have three duties. To pursue, to attack, to destroy."
In a similar manner to our off duty Airforce Fighter and Bomber Command Personnel, the U-Boat crews sought temporary relief by partying, in alcohol, and in the arms of complianr ladies. German crews," Inherited the local French Establishments, they enjoyed the girls who had served many a sailor before them, including comrades who now lay on the Ocean Floor."
In those uncertain times, who knew if your next raid, your next patrol, your next Escort duty, would prove to be your last? Their creed:- "Eat, Drink, and be Merry for tomorrow we may Die!" In hindsight, who in fact, was in any position to sit injudgement of their attitude or actions?
Grand-Admiral Karl Donitz commanded the U-Boat arm of the German Navy for the first three years of the war, then, in 1943 he succeeded Admiral Raeder as Commander in Chief of the Navy. Hitler had named him his successor, and he became Chief of State after Hitler's death, until his arrest by the Allies on the 23rd. of May 1945.
On the 8th oif May 1945 Captain Hugh Williams was at the 2nd Army Head Quarters on Luneburg Heath, on intelligence duties, but he took part in the events which marked the final cullapse of the Nazi regime two weeks later.
He was one of four British Officers detailed to arrange the final arrest, on the 23rd of May, of senior German government officials still at liberty in Flensburg on the Baltic coast. It was all very friendly when they surrendered. Among their charges were Gross-Admiral Donitz. General JodI, and Reichminister Albert Speer. Williams took Admiral Donitz's baton on the excuse that he did not need it any more. It how resides in William's Regimental museum
This story about Donitz's baton is extracted from Philip Kaplan and Jack Currie's "Wolf Pack U-Boats at War 1939-1945."
Gross-Admiral Karl Donitz and the Nuremberg Trial
At the Nuremberg Trial Donitz was indicited on four counts.
Counts One and Two
Crimes against Peace. - namely, planning, preparation, initiation or waging a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, and participation on a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing.
War Crimes - namely, violations of the laws or customs of war. Such violations shall include, but not be limited to murder, ill treatment or deportation to slave labor or for any purpose of civilian population of, or in occupied territory, murder or ill treatment of Prisoners of War or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.
On "Count One," although Donitz built and trained the German U-Boat arm, the evidence does not show he was privy to the conspiracy to wage aggressive war, or that he prepared and initiated such wars. He was a line officer performing tactical duties he was not present at the important conferences where plans for aggressive war were announced. and there was no evidence he was informed about decisions reached there.
On "Count One," Donitz was found Not Guilty.
On "Count Two" Donitz did, however, wage aggressive war within the meaning of the Charter. Submarine Warfare which began immediately upon the outbreak of war was fully coordinated with other branches of the Wehrmacht. It is clear his U-Boats, few in number at the time, were tully prepared to wage war.
"In the view of the Tribunal, the evidence shows that Donitz was active in waging "Aggressive Wars." and, on Count Two Is Guilty. Although Donitz had not specifically been charged with "Waging" aggressive war, he was in fact convicted of "Waging" aggressive war.
Taylor in his book "The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials." comments thus "Taken on it's face, the Tribunal's decision to criminalise Donitz for doing what all Commanding Officers were doing, would equally crimilalise all the others."
In my opinion there seemed to be no basis for convicting Donitz on "Count Two."
On "Count Three" Donitz was also found Guilty.
If the basis on which Donitz was guilty on "Count Two" was shaky, it was certainly flimsy for finding him guilty on "Count Three."
He was sentenced to ten years imprisonment, and was perhaps unlucky to draw such a sentence. It does appear that the Allies were determined to use Donitz as an example, and treated him accordingly. I should record here I am merely expressing a personal view
Donitz was released in 1956, and then wrote an auto biography "Ten Years and Twenty Days." focussed on the U-Boat war and his very brief time as Head of State. He died in 1980.
Operation Hannibal Gross-Admiral Karl Doenitz - mastermind of Operation Hannibal, the largest war time evacuation in history.
back to Under Water index