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Karl Dönitz

President of Germany; admiral in command of German submarine forces during World War II
(Redirected from Dönitz, Karl)
To think of Russians sitting on a bench in Nuremberg, trying German leaders! The Russians sank a German boat with men, women, and children aboard. I know of the case. But is that investigated? You Americans weren't completely without fault, either. You armed merchant boats before the U.S.A. was in the war.

Karl Dönitz (September 16, 1891December 24, 1980) was a German naval leader who commanded the German Navy (Kriegsmarine) during the second half of World War II. He became a Großadmiral (Grand Admiral) and served as Commander of Submarines and later was Commander-in-Chief of the German Navy. Under his command, the U-boat fleet fought the Battle of the Atlantic. He ended the war as a prisoner-of-war of the British. After the war, Dönitz was charged and convicted of "crimes against peace" and "war crimes" at the Nuremberg Trials and served ten years. He died of a heart attack on Christmas Eve, 1980.

Contents

Quotes

  • No attempt of any kind must be made at rescuing members of ships sunk, and this includes picking up persons in the water and putting them in lifeboats, righting capsized lifeboats, and handing over food and water. Rescue runs counter to the most primitive demands of warfare for the destruction of enemy ships and crews. Be hard, remember that the enemy has no regard for women and children when he bombs German cities.
    • Orders issued on September 17, 1942, after an American Airplane bombed a U-boat carrying survivors. Quoted in "The Trial of the Germans" - Page 406 - by Eugene Davidson - History - 1997.
  • The north German does not go in for extremes. He has broader horizons than the men from the mountains of Bavaria and Austria.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, March 3, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004.
  • I'm an old man at 54, without teeth, and with rheumatism.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, March 3, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004.
 
Is to accept the leadership of a crumbling country a crime? Is to prevent the Russians, the natural enemy of Germany, from obtaining our arms and manpower a crime?
  • Is to accept the leadership of a crumbling country a crime? Is to prevent the Russians, the natural enemy of Germany, from obtaining our arms and manpower a crime? In Russian eyes it probably is. But I'm referring to the eyes of a westerner. I knew that we had to capitulate and I wanted it to be to the Americans and British, and not to the East. I'm not even accused of war crimes in the sense of the atrocities. It's clear they have no case against me. I came into a powerful position in 1943. How can I be accused of a conspiracy?
    • To Leon Goldensohn, May 2, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004.
  • The trial can only end in a mistake because it is founded on one. How can a foreign court try a sovereign government of another country? Could we have tried your President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Secretary Henry Morgenthau, or Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden, if we had won the war? We could not have done so and would not have. And trying that went on would have to be done by the nation itself and the courts set up there.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, May 2, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004.
  • To think of Russians sitting on a bench in Nuremberg, trying German leaders! The Russians sank a German boat with men, women, and children aboard. I know of the case. But is that investigated? You Americans weren't completely without fault, either. You armed merchant boats before the U.S.A. was in the war.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, May 2, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004.
  • I read sometime around 1938 of Jewish fines and some street actions against them. But I was too concerned with U-Boats and the naval problems to be concerned about Jews.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, May 2, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004.
 
I accept responsibility for U-boat warfare from 1933 onward, and of the entire navy from 1943 on, but to make me responsible for what happened to Jews in Germany, or Russian soldiers on the east front - it is so ridiculous all I can do is laugh.
  • By placing these people with foreign ideas in camps, German blood was saved. Would it have been better to have a civil war?
    • To Leon Goldensohn, May 2, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004.
  • If Hitler had not thrown the Communists into camps in 1933, there would have been civil war and bloodshed. The Communists would have revolted against the legally-elected government. The greatest danger of civil war in Germany came in 1932, when it was clearly a choice between Communism and National Socialism. So Paul von Hindenburg and the other conservative bourgeois elements chose Hitler. So did I, and I would do it again if a choice between Communism and Nazism arose.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, May 2, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004.
  • Your American admiral said that he held me in the highest esteem, and thought that I conducted my defense perfectly. He said through his chief of staff that my conduct was beyond reproach and he had the greatest admiration for me.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, July 14, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004.
  • With the new weapons like the atom bomb, Russia would have it, too, and use it first. It is a very difficult world. But that trouble is imminent is obvious.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, July 14, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004.
 
With the new weapons like the atom bomb, Russia would have it, too, and use it first. It is a very difficult world. But that trouble is imminent is obvious.
  • I accept responsibility for U-boat warfare from 1933 onward, and of the entire navy from 1943 on, but to make me responsible for what happened to Jews in Germany, or Russian soldiers on the east front — it is so ridiculous all I can do is laugh.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, July 14, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004.
  • Certainly inside my heart I know degrees of difference. But I can't blame any of these men who share a common fate with me. The big folly of this trial is that it lacks the two men who are to blame for anything which is criminal, namely Hitler and Himmler.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, July 14, 1946, from "The Nuremberg Interviews" by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately - History - 2004.
 
I rate Admiral Dönitz as the best of them all, land or sea. He was unique in his handling of the German submarines and they were our most dangerous enemy. His performance with them — and he did most of it himself — was the most outstanding Axis performance of the war.
  • This took me completely by surprise. Since July 20, 1944, I had not spoken to Hitler at all except at some large gathering. … I had never received any hint on the subject from anyone else.... I assumed that Hitler had nominated me because he wished to clear the way to enable an officer of the Armed Forces to put an end to the war. That this assumption was incorrect I did not find out until the winter of 1945-46 in Nuremberg, when for the first time I heard the provisions of Hitler's will.... When I read the signal I did not for a moment doubt that it was my duty to accept the task … it had been my constant fear that the absence of any central authority would lead to chaos and the senseless and purposeless sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of lives … I realized … that the darkest moment in any fighting man's life, the moment when he must surrender unconditionally, was at hand. I realized, too, that my name would remain forever associated with the act and that hatred and distortion of facts would continue to try and besmirch my honor. But duty demanded that I pay no attention to any such considerations. My policy was simple — to try and save as many lives as I could ...
    • April 30, 1945, quoted in "Memoirs: Ten Years And Twenty Days" - Page 442 - by Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz - History - 1997.
  • The Führer has nominated me as his successor. In full consciousness of my responsibilities I therefore assume the leadership of the German people at this fateful hour. My first task is to save German men and women from destruction by the advancing Bolshevist enemy. It is to serve this purpose alone that the military struggle continues. For as long as the British and the Americans continue to impede the accomplishments of this task, we must also continue to fight and defend ourselves against them. The British and the Americans in that case will not be fighting in the interests of their own peoples, but solely for the expansion of Bolshevism in Europe.
    • May 1, 1945, quoted in "Memoirs: Ten Years And Twenty Days" - Page 445 - by Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz - History - 1997.
  • Our losses...have reached an intolerable level. The enemy air force played a decisive role in inflicting these high losses.
    • May 24, 1943, quoted in "A Time for Courage: The Royal Air Force in the European War, 1939-1945" - Page 449 - by John Terraine - History - 1985.
  • The enemy holds every trump card, covering all areas with long-range air patrols and using location methods against which we still have no warning...The enemy knows all our secrets and we know none of his.
    • 1943, quoted in "World War II Almanac, 1931-1945: A Political and Military Record" - Page 293 by Robert Goralski - History - 1981.
  • At about midnight he arrived, accompanied by six armed SS officers, and was received by my aide-de-camp, Walter Luedde-Neurath. I offered Himmler a chair and sat down at my desk, on which lay, hidden by some papers, a pistol with the safety catch off. I had never done anything of this sort in my life before, but I did not know what the outcome of this meeting might be. I handed Himmler the telegram containing my appointment. "Please read this," I said. I watched him closely. As he read, an expression of astonishment, indeed of consternation, spread over his face. All hope seemed to collapse within him. He went very pale. Finally he stood up and bowed. "Allow me," he said, "to become the second man in your state." I replied that was out of the question and that there was no way I could make any use of his services. Thus advised, he left me at about one o'clock in the morning. The showdown had taken place without force, and I felt relieved.
    • As quoted in The Decline and Fall of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan (1997) by Hans Dollinger, p. 242

I handed Himmler the telegram containing my appointment. "Please read this," I said. I watched him closely. As he read, an expression of astonishment, indeed of consternation, spread over his face. All hope seemed to collapse within him. He went very pale. Finally he stood up and bowed. "Allow me," he said, "to become the second man in your state." I replied that was out of the question and that there was no way I could make any use of his services. Thus advised, he left me at about one o'clock in the morning. The showdown had taken place without force, and I felt relieved.

  • The biggest mistake of Hitler, I have to say the main fault, was that under his government these terrific exterminations of men happened, which went on behind the backs of the German nation, which would never have tolerated them, but the government kept these crimes completely secret from the German people.
    • The World at War: the Landmark Oral History from the Classic TV Series (2007) by Richard Holmes, Page 316.
  • I think that I have now said enough about the war, which is past now for over twenty-five years. I bow in reverence before the memory of the men who lost their lives in this war on both sides, and I think that we all hope that we never shall have such a war again."
    • The World at War: the Landmark Oral History from the Classic TV Series (2007) by Richard Holmes, Page 634.

Memoirs: Ten Years and Twenty Days (1959)

  • When responsible generals like Rommel subscribed to the idea in 1944 that we should make peace with the West and throw the whole weight of our military strength against the East, they failed to realize that the political prerequisites to such a move were lacking. The British and the Americans would never have considered an offer of this nature, as was proved by the attitude to which they still adhered even in May 1945. At the Casablanca conference in 1943 Roosevelt and Churchill declared that they would continue to fight until Germany and Japan 'surrendered unconditionally'. This meant that in the event of our submitting we should have no rights whatever, but would be wholly at the mercy of our enemies, and of what that meant some idea can be gathered from Stalin's demand at the Teheran conference at the end of November 1943, when he insisted that at least four million Germans should be deported for an unspecified number of years to Russia as forced labor.
    • p. 308
  • In view of the enemy's demand for unconditional surrender, it was quite useless for any senior commander of the German Armed Forces, who believed in 1943 or 1944 that the war could no longer be won, to tell Hitler that he must now put an end to the war and make peace; for, to unconditional surrender, which was wholly unacceptable, he could have no alternative proposal to submit to the German head of state. Moreover, if it were accepted in principle that when a commander realized that the military situation was hopeless, it was his duty to advocate the conclusion of peace, there would always be a danger that the struggle might be given up prematurely. A history shows, in war even a seemingly all but hopeless situation can sometimes be radically altered by unexpected political developments and similar occurrences; and, with the political situation what it was, it seemed to be that when I was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Navy I had no alternative but to carry on the struggle to the best of my ability.
    • p. 309
  • Although at the time I knew but little of the crimes he had committed, it was obvious to me that Himmler, as far as I was concerned, was intolerable. This I had to make quite clear to him, and one way or the other, I had to have a swift and final showdown with him. On the evening of April 30, shortly after the receipt of the telegram I told my ADC to telephone to Himmler, from whom I had parted in Luebeck only a few hours before, and ask him to come to Ploen forthwith. To my ADC he retorted with a blunt refusal, but when I myself spoke to him and told him that his presence was essential, he eventually consented to come.
    • p. 443
  • At about midnight he arrived, accompanied by six armed SS officers, and was received by my aide-de-camp, Ludde-Neurath. I offered Himmler a char and myself sat down behind my writing desk, upon which lay, hidden behind some papers, a pistol with the safety catch off. I had never done anything of this sort in my life before, but I did not know what the outcome of this meeting might be. I handed Himmler the telegraph containing my appointment. 'Please read this,' I said. I watched him closely. As he read, an expression of astonishment, indeed, of consternation spread over his face. All hope seemed to collapse within him. He went very pale. Finally he stood up and bowed. 'Allow me,' he said, 'to become the second man in your state.' I replied that that was out of the question and that there was no way in which I could make use of his services. Thus advised, he left me at about one o'clock in the morning. The showdown had taken place without force, and I felt relieved.
    • 443-444
  • The Navy had done its duty to the end. Against its innermost wishes, which were for understanding and lasting peace, unconsulted and poorly equipped, it had been called upon, in 1939 to fight against the naval might of Great Britain. With the meagre forces at its disposal it had fought to the best of its ability against Britain and the United States and achieved successes out of all proportion to its strength. That it had been able to do so was in no small measure to the spirit and determination of its men, without which it would never have been able to stand up thus splendidly to the material superiority of these two great maritime powers.
    • p. 475
  • Those who were in Germany in September 1939 know that the people showed no enthusiasm for war. But war nevertheless came and demanded sacrifice after sacrifice. The German soldier fought with unsurpassed devotion to duty. The people and the armed forces marched shoulder to shoulder, in victory or defeat, to the very end.
    • p. 477
  • Every decent German today is ashamed of the crimes which the Third Reich committed behind the nation's back. To hold the people as a whole responsible for the misdeeds of a small minority is contrary to every canon of justice. Men cannot be condemned for things of which they did not even know. The assumption that any one people is morally worse than other peoples is, in itself, a false premise, and it comes particularly unjustly from nations who, during the war and after 1945, did things which were an offence against both legal and moral justice and which resulted in the sacrifice of millions of Germans. I therefore regard it as wrong that individual Germans should be constantly indulging, in the name of the whole German people, in public self-accusations and confessions of guilt. That sort of thing does not win us the respect of other nations; nor, be it noted, has any other nation done the same thing with regard to the inhuman acts committed against us.
    • p. 477
  • No nation, when selecting its leader, can foresee what characteristics in him will eventually gain the upper hand; and the lesson to be learnt from that is that any constitution must be so framed that it is able to prevent the misuse of power by the individual, and that it must be based on the principle of freedom and justice for the community as a whole. It is, then, an irrefutable fact that the democratic form of government, with its guarantees for the inviolability of individual liberty and of judicial security for all, is the right form for any highly developed nation; and to ensure that these guarantees are valid for all its citizens is the paramount duty of democratic policy and legislation.
    • p. 477-478

Quotes about Dönitz

  • The only thing I truly feared during the war was Dönitz and his U-boats.
    • Sir Winston Churchill (unsourced)
  • As a submarine Admiral whom I knew to be held in the deepest admiration and respect by Officers and Men of the U-Boat Fleet, I held Admiral Dönitz in respect myself, and there is no doubt that he handled his U-Boat arm with masterly skill and efficiency. In return he was served with great loyalty.
    • Sir George E. Greasy, Admiral of the Fleet of the Royal Navy (unsourced)
  • I rate Admiral Dönitz as the best of them all, land or sea. He was unique in his handling of the German submarines and they were our most dangerous enemy. His performance with them-and he did most of it himself-was the most outstanding Axis performance of the war. Then he succeeded to command all German Navy Forces. It was too late for real accomplishment, but he made no mistakes and no one could have done better. Then he succeeded the Führer himself, and his performance from there on seems to me to have been perfect. So I think Dönitz was the best.
    • Thomas C. Hart, Admiral, U.S. Navy (unsourced)
  • At a situation conference early in February the maps showed the catastrophic picture of innumerable breakthroughs and encirclements. I drew Doenitz aside: "Something must be done, you know." Doenitz replied with unwonted curtness: "I am here only to represent the navy. The rest is none of my business. The Fuehrer must know what he is doing."
    • Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs (1970), p. 427
  • In command of the whole Nazi U-boat offensive was tough, brilliant Admiral Karl Doenitz, who would one day succeed Hitler as head of the Third Reich.
    • C.L. Sulzberger, in his book The American Heritage Picture History of World War II (1966), p. 190

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