Karl Doenitz and the Last Days of the Third Reich
By Barry Turner
Published by Icon Books; Dist. by Allen & Unwin
RRP $39.99 in hardback; 304pp
This is a powerful new portrait of the second and last – and much-maligned – Nazi leader Karl Doenitz. Among the military leaders of World War Two, Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz remains a deeply controversial figure.
As chief of the German submarine fleet he earned Allied respect as a formidable enemy. He had in fact learned much about submarine warfare during World War I. But after he succeeded Hitler – to whom he was unquestioningly loyal – as head of the Third Reich following Hitler’s nomination of him as successor, his name became associated with all that was most hated in the Nazi regime.
Yet as Turner writes in the epilogue, he believes it is time to move on from the knee-jerk dismissal of him as a failed and unreconstituted Nazi.
Turner believes Doenitz deserves credit for ending the war quickly while trying to save his compatriots in the east. His Dunkirk-style operation across the Baltic – code-named Hannibal – rescued up to 2 million troops and civilian refugees.
Turner describes his trial at Nuremberg in some detail, reminding us that the trials were heavily influenced by the politics of the day and particularly by the Russians. In the end, he was sentenced to ten years, which he served at Spandau prison. He served the full term, finally given his freedom at the age of 65.
Barry Turner’s even-handed portrait gives a fascinating new perspective on this complex figure, to whom history has not been kind.