Karl Dönitz, born in
Berlin on September 16th, 1891, died in
Aumühle near Hamburg on December 24th,
1980. Officer of the Kriegsmarine (German
war navy), he succeeded Adolph Hitler as
Führer of the Third Reich in 1945.
Dönitz started his naval career with
the Kaiserliche Marine (German imperial
navy) in 1910. A U-boat commander during
WWI, he was captured by the British in October
1918 and spent the next nine months as a
war prisoner. Back in Germany, he resumed
his duties with the German navy. Appointed
as Führer der Unterseeboote in 1936
and Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote in 1939,
he is then the Commander-in-Chief of the
German submarine fleet, which he will develop
considerably, planning the construction
and deployment of U-boats in the North Atlantic,
and designing their combat strategies.
His military successes and Hitler’s
trust allow him to be appointed in January
1943 as Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsmarine
(Commander-in-Chief of the War Navy), with
the rank of Grossadmiral (Grand Admiral).
In 1945, Hitler chose him as his successor;
at the Führer’s death on April
30th, 1945, Dönitz inherited a besieged
nation. He negotiated the May 8th surrender,
and was captured on May 23rd.
Convicted for war crimes at the Nuremberg
Trials, Dönitz served an eleven and
a half-year sentence. Released in 1956,
he retired to Aumühle, near Hamburg,
where he wrote his memoirs.