Padfield, Peter.


New York, 1st US ed., 1984. Xiv + 524 pp., 32 photo-plates & 2 maps. D.j. 23 x 16cm. V.G. The first biography of one of the major leaders of World War II, Admiral Dönitz who succeeded Hitler as the Third Reich’s last Fuhrer. That his biography had to wait 40 years after the war and be written by an Englishman, was no accident. Dönitz remains a potent symbol of division within Germany today. To his admirers he was the greatest of all German war leaders. To others he was the Devil’s Admiral, responsible for the staggering death toll of young Germans sent out in U-boats to fight the Battle of the Atlantic. The author describes Dönitz’s early years and his training in the Kaiser’s navy as it expanded to challenge the Royal Navy at sea. In the First World War, he began his apprenticeship in U-boats under the ace Walter Forstmann. Dönitz lost his own U-boat at the end of that war under strange circumstances and was imprisoned by the British where he felt resentment and humiliation at the peace terms Germany was forced to accept. These feelings made him ideal for Hitler’s cause. Dönitz became his U-boat admiral, and then supreme commander of his navy. Based on German records, the author examines Dönitz’s career and character against the background of Hitler and his party, obsessed with power and world domination. Padfield looks at Dönitz’s great strengths and his equally great personal weaknesses that led him to plunge the German Navy and its U-boat arm into a number of instances of hideous crimes and its eventual defeat and destruction.

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