Karel Dönitz was a German Naval officer who first came to world-wide attention when he commanded the U-boats during the first part of the Second World War. Thereafter he became the commander of the entire German Navy and then the last Fuehrer after Hitler shot himself. He was in life fairly controversial with some saying (all liberals I am sure) that he delayed surrendering to the Allies who were by then all over Germany. The fact that he saved a lot of people from Soviet oppression is not counted in by such liberals whose knowledge of history is about as good as their knowledge of real life.
Germany was split in two with the Soviets busy raping away in Berlin and it cannot be denied. Raping German women were widespread and there are countless accounts of this happening and the usual excuse is that the Germans did the same to the Ukrainians and wherever they went before they were defeated. Of course, in law as we had seen before, that is a rubbish argument. I don’t even want to go into the topic and the Nuremberg Trials as we discussed it before or in one of my books, I am not sure which one. The fact is Germany was split in two parts and occupied and the German Navy evacuating hundreds of thousands of people to escape from the Soviet terror. It was the German Navy’s finest hour and little known to most English speakers who only remember Dunkirk, the Blitz, Pearl Harbour and the famous sailor kiss in New York. Most will also tell you they heard about the SS Titanic but have no idea who or what the Wilhelm Gustloff was. Yet, some say 9000 men, women and children died when it was torpedoed without warning by a Soviet submarine back in 1945. In the Titanic tragedy only 1503 died and yet again everyone remembers the Titanic which shows you the power of the media to get you to accept as true what they want you to believe.
I am not a conspiracy theorist, I deal with facts in my life as a legal advisor and only facts and if you bothered (must have been bored but thanks) to read any of my books, fiction or non-fiction, you will find history a plenty. I believe in history where you find wisdom and the answers as nothing in this world is new. Even something as inherently boring as law follows history with the stare decisis rule which only says, when you take the legalise away, follow what the other judges did. Hence if the Court of Appeal decided the law should be interpreted this way you will in all possibility not get away with a different argument no matter how convincing.
I have often in my legal career met with clients or colleagues, not legal qualified but having the gift of the gab and an extremely shallow knowledge of the law, noted that I have no idea what they are trying to say or why they believe they are better able to dispense legal advice than me. It is what is known as dangerous superficial knowledge and can be explained as follows. When you are a first year law student you have the answer for every known problem in law. In your fifth year it takes time before you open your mouth and after ten or more years in practise you are able to say what the law says but you still don’t have all the answers and it takes a long while before you say anything.
History is the same. We look back and we make certain deductions on what worked then and how but we know it will not work exactly the same now. We have guidance and that is crucial. So it was with great interest that I read a book on Grand Admiral (that is the same rank as a Field Marshal or 5 star US generals) Karl Dönitz and the reason for this blog which will become clearer to you soon, I hope. The man served first in the Imperial German Navy and distinguished himself on the light cruiser Breslau during the First World War. You who know your history will know that the Breslau together with the Goeben, a battle cruiser, effectively brought Turkey into the war and by doing so the Dardanelles was closed and then came Winston’s Churchill’s brilliant plan at Gallipoli. You may be sure I am not, for once, sarcastic when writing about the arch liar as Afrikaners refers to him; it was a brilliant strategy which would have saved Tsarist Russia if it worked. And by the way, many thousands more Frenchmen died at Gallipoli than ANZACs. Thereafter Dönitz served the Weimar Republic and lastly Nazi Germany. He is remembered for ordering unrestricted U-boat warfare where the submarine torpedoes the ship, even a non-warship, without warning. In the First World War it was the sinking of ocean liners (Lusitania was but one of many) which brought the USA into the war or so it is said – it was a lot more complicate and the constant begging from the UK lot helped substantially. In the Second World War the same mistakes were made, no convoys, no darkened shores and the U-boats again attacked merchantmen and whatever they could find.
So why did they do this? It puzzled me on why the Germans, known as “correct” people in the extreme will attack and sink vessels without warning knowing it may bring neutrals into the war against them? It started with Winston Churchill in 1914 when he caused Germany to be blocked or embargoed whilst in control of the Royal Navy. Every merchant ship the Germans had, the second largest fleet in the world at that stage, was interned or captured and from 1916 onwards (Churchill was already in disgrace and chucked out) Imperial Germany started to starve. Yes, children started dying of hunger in Western Europe. The German Navy retaliated by unrestricted submarine warfare and today it is the norm. The US Navy did the same against Japan. The Soviet Navy did the same against Germany and planned to do the same with Europe during World War Three and probably still does. And the Royal Navy did the same too, attacking any enemy ship without warning. This by the way is against the rules of war, you are supposed to stop the ship, search it and ensure the passengers are taken care off before sinking it – an impossible burden in modern warfare.
What is irritating about the book is that the author has a problem with Dönitz supporting the German Chancellor, one Adolf Hitler. I think he lost perspective and allowed his modern views to ruin an otherwise good book. I have to ask you, seen in the light of the first blockade and the inherent loyalty (a good quality in an officer) towards your country and leaders what else did he expected the grand admiral to do? It is insane to expect people to know the future or to damn someone for being loyal to his country. The fact is that when Hitler was Chancellor, duly elected, he was extremely popular and well liked. He got Germany’s economy going years before Mr Roosevelt could and you cannot blame Dönitz to be loyal to him. We here in South Africa know about this aspect of loyalty first hand. We too served a government known in the world as “Apartheid” and we served loyally fighting hard to keep it going. Like Dönitz we were punished for our loyalty, misguided as it was. Unlike him, not a lot of us spent 10 years in jail for it but there are many Afrikaner males, decorated veterans in the words of my late wife, who is unable to find a job because they are white and they were loyal. Strange how history repeats? Not really, it will happen again. Why am I not surprised?
Koos Kotze is a former member of the South African Police Force. He served between 1985 and 1991 primarily as a sergeant in the Pretoria Flying Squad. After leaving the Police Force he obtained the law degrees B Iuris & LLB at the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa) and was a practicing commercial law attorney for eight years. He also wrote several books on business, law, counter terrorism and security issues. He is a widower and lives in Bloemfontein, South Africa.