The Memoirs of Karl Döenitz (Paperback)
Ten Years and Twenty Days
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The story of the last world war, as told by Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz himself. His memoir covers his early career with submarines in the First World War and follows both his successes and failures through the Second World War, with great detail on the way the U-boat campaign was waged, as told by the man who invented U-boat tactics.
Doenitz includes details of the U-boat campaigns during the Second World War as well as the opinions, ideas and commentary on the period. Of particular interest are the comments regarding British and American conduct during the war. An important social document, and an invaluable source for any student of the last war.
He became the last Führer of Germany after Hitler's suicide in May 1945 and the book's subtitle, Ten Years and Twenty Days, is a direct reference to the time Karl Doenitz spent in Spandau Prison having been convicted of war crimes following trial at Nuremberg.
Behind the scenes at Nuremberg, his judges had difficulty reaching agreement about him. 0pinions about the Grand Admiral have always varied. Was his prosecution before the international military tribunal the "act of spite" alleged by one journalist, who was there? 0r was he really the "Nazi Sailor" remembered by the British 0fficer who served the indictment on him? Karl Doenitz himself died in 1980, but he leaves this in-depth account of his wartime and other experiences, thereby enabling readers to judge for themselves. This is quite rich fare, particularly for anyone wishing to explore the war at sea from 1939-1945. There are chapters on the Battle of the Atlantic, Convoy Battles and 0perations in Distant Waters, the author's role as Commander-in-Chief of the German Navy and appointment as Head of State and successor to Adolf Hitler. Light is shed upon Doenitz's views with regard to such matters as the sinking of the 'Athenia' and the conduct of Lt. Commander Heinz Eck (shot by the British as a war criminal). The events and circumstances surrounding the controversial 'Laconia 0rder' of 1942 are dealt with at some length, and Doenitz speaks quite frankly about his interpretation of the Nuremberg Tribunal that deprived him of his liberty for ten years. Given that the verdict of that court suggests that he prolonged the struggle when he knew it to be hopeless, the explanation offered by the author as to why he did resist Allied demands for Unconditional Surrender require serious consideration (see pp. 308-309 and 430-431). Specialists may find it instructive to contrast Doenitz's version as to how he came to be appointed Head of State in 1945 with that of Albert Speer. Whatever one makes of Doenitz's character, it does become possible to recognise his ability as a commander without losing sight of the kind of regime he served.Stephanie A. Jefford
It was fascinating to discover that conflict developed in the early days of the Third Reich between the German Navy and the brown-uniformed SA, and why (see p. 303); also, to learn something of the author's own experiences as a submarine commander during the First World War and time spent in British captivity. These are but broad brush-strokes, however, and there's a wealth of detail in these pages that will appeal not only to specialists but to anyone wanting to understand events from the German point of view.
His place in the history books has been determined by his prosecution of the Battle of the Atlantic, and it is untimately a testament to the quality of his writing that it is almost impossible not to sympathise with his fustrations, even when we are so painfully aware of the malevolent cause he fought for.Military History Monthly