Karl Doenitz


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German admiral and commander-in-chief of the German navy (1943–45).

Born in Grunau near Berlin, the son of a Prussian civil servant, Doenitz was educated at a school in Weimar. He entered the German navy in 1910 and was assigned to the light cruiser Breslau. During World War I (1916–18) he was in charge of U-boats. After the war he was appointed inspector of torpedo boats and later commander of the cruiser Emden. In 1935 he became a rear admiral and head of the submarine service responsible for the building and deployment of the U-boat fleet.

During World War II Doenitz was in charge of developing tactics used by the German submarines. At first he was successful in eliminating Allied shipping, but by the end of the war, more than two-thirds of the U-boats had been destroyed. In 1943 he replaced Admiral Raeder as commander-in-chief of the navy. He was appointed by Hitler as his successor in the final days of the war and, following Hitler's death on 1 May 1945, established a government in Flensburg. He surrendered unconditionally to the Allies on 23 May 1945. Brought to trial at Nuremberg, he was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment in Spandau for ‘conspiracy against the peace’. He was released in 1956 and lived in relative obscurity in Hamburg until his death.

Doenitz received the lightest sentence of any of the major war criminals at Nuremberg. In his memoirs, published in 1959, he pleaded his innocence, claiming, like many other Germans, that he had been unaware of the atrocities committed by Hitler and the Nazis.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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