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Karl Dönitz quotes

Karl Dönitz (September 16, 1891December 24, 1980) was a German naval leader who commanded the German Navy (Kriegsmarine) during the second half of World War II. He became a Großadmiral (Grand Admiral) and served as Commander of Submarines and later was Commander-in-Chief of the German Navy. Under his command, the U-boat fleet fought the Battle of the Atlantic. He ended the war as a prisoner-of-war of the British. After the war, Dönitz was charged and convicted of “crimes against peace” and “war crimes” at the Nuremberg Trials and served ten years. He died of a heart attack on Christmas Eve, 1980.

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  • No attempt of any kind must be made at rescuing members of ships sunk, and this includes picking up persons in the water and putting them in lifeboats, righting capsized lifeboats, and handing over food and water. Rescue runs counter to the most primitive demands of warfare for the destruction of enemy ships and crews. Be hard, remember that the enemy has no regard for women and children when he bombs German cities.
  • Orders issued on September 17, 1942, after an American Airplane bombed a U-boat carrying survivors. Quoted in “The Trial of the Germans” – Page 406 – by Eugene Davidson – History – 1997

  • The north German does not go in for extremes. He has broader horizons than the men from the mountains of Bavaria and Austria.
  • To Leon Goldensohn, March 3, 1946, from “The Nuremberg Interviews” by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately – History – 2004

  • I’m an old man at 54, without teeth, and with rheumatism.
  • To Leon Goldensohn, March 3, 1946, from “The Nuremberg Interviews” by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately – History – 2004

  • Is to accept the leadership of a crumbling country a crime? Is to prevent the Russians, the natural enemy of Germany, from obtaining our arms and manpower a crime? In Russian eyes it probably is. But I’m referring to the eyes of a westerner. I knew that we had to capitulate and I wanted it to be to the Americans and British, and not to the East. I’m not even accused of war crimes in the sense of the atrocities. It’s clear they have no case against me. I came into a powerful position in 1943. How can I be accused of a conspiracy?
  • To Leon Goldensohn, May 2, 1946, from “The Nuremberg Interviews” by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately – History – 2004

  • The trial can only end in a mistake because it is founded on one. How can a foreign court try a sovereign government of another country? Could we have tried your President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Secretary Henry Morgenthau, or Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden, if we had won the war? We could not have done so and would not have. And trying that went on would have to be done by the nation itself and the courts set up there.
  • To Leon Goldensohn, May 2, 1946, from “The Nuremberg Interviews” by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately – History – 2004

  • To think of Russians sitting on a bench in Nuremberg, trying German leaders! The Russians sank a German boat with men, women, and children aboard. I know of the case. But is that investigated? You Americans weren’t completely without fault, either. You armed merchant boats before the U.S.A. was in the war.
  • To Leon Goldensohn, May 2, 1946, from “The Nuremberg Interviews” by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately – History – 2004

  • I read sometime around 1938 of Jewish fines and some street actions against them. But I was too concerned with U-Boats and the naval problems to be concerned about Jews.
  • To Leon Goldensohn, May 2, 1946, from “The Nuremberg Interviews” by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately – History – 2004

  • By placing these people with foreign ideas in camps, German blood was saved. Would it have been better to have a civil war?
  • To Leon Goldensohn, May 2, 1946, from “The Nuremberg Interviews” by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately – History – 2004

  • If Hitler had not thrown the Communists into camps in 1933, there would have been civil war and bloodshed. The Communists would have revolted against the legally-elected government. The greatest danger of civil war in Germany came in 1932, when it was clearly a choice between Communism and National Socialism. So Paul von Hindenburg and the other conservative bourgeois elements chose Hitler. So did I, and I would do it again if a choice between Communism and Nazism arose.
  • To Leon Goldensohn, May 2, 1946, from “The Nuremberg Interviews” by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately – History – 2004

  • Your American admiral said that he held me in the highest esteem, and thought that I conducted my defense perfectly. He said through his chief of staff that my conduct was beyond reproach and he had the greatest admiration for me.
  • To Leon Goldensohn, July 14, 1946, from “The Nuremberg Interviews” by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately – History – 2004

  • With the new weapons like the atom bomb, Russia would have it, too, and use it first. It is a very difficult world. But that trouble is imminent is obvious.
  • To Leon Goldensohn, July 14, 1946, from “The Nuremberg Interviews” by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately – History – 2004

  • I accept responsibility for U-boat warfare from 1933 onward, and of the entire navy from 1943 on, but to make me responsible for what happened to Jews in Germany, or Russian soldiers on the east front & it is so ridiculous all I can do is laugh.
  • To Leon Goldensohn, July 14, 1946, from “The Nuremberg Interviews” by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately – History – 2004

  • I am not a judge. I don’t want to express my opinion. Before I came to Mondorf, I wouldn’t shake hands with Göring, I didn’t like him. I never saw Streicher before Mondorf, and in the beginning I wouldn’t talk with him. Now I do. We all have the same destiny, at least for the present, and I see no reason for not being on friendly terms with each other.
  • To Leon Goldensohn, July 14, 1946, from “The Nuremberg Interviews” by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately – History – 2004

  • Certainly inside my heart I know degrees of difference. But I can’t blame any of these men who share a common fate with me. The big folly of this trial is that it lacks the two men who are to blame for anything which is criminal, namely Hitler and Himmler.
  • To Leon Goldensohn, July 14, 1946, from “The Nuremberg Interviews” by Leon Goldensohn, Robert Gellately – History – 2004

  • This took me completely by surprise. Since July 20, 1944, I had not spoken to Hitler at all except at some large gathering. … I had never received any hint on the subject from anyone else…. I assumed that Hitler had nominated me because he wished to clear the way to enable an officer of the Armed Forces to put an end to the war. That this assumption was incorrect I did not find out until the winter of 1945-46 in Nuremberg, when for the first time I heard the provisions of Hitler’s will…. When I read the signal I did not for a moment doubt that it was my duty to accept the task … it had been my constant fear that the absence of any central authority would lead to chaos and the senseless and purposeless sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of lives … I realized … that the darkest moment in any fighting man’s life, the moment when he must surrender unconditionally, was at hand. I realized, too, that my name would remain forever associated with the act and that hatred and distortion of facts would continue to try and besmirch my honor. But duty demanded that I pay no attention to any such considerations. My policy was simple; to try and save as many lives as I could …
  • April 30, 1945, quoted in “Memoirs: Ten Years And Twenty Days” – Page 442 – by Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz – History – 1997

  • The Führer has nominated me as his successor. In full consciousness of my responsibilities I therefore assume the leadership of the German people at this fateful hour. My first task is to save German men and women from destruction by the advancing Bolshevist enemy. It is to serve this purpose alone that the military struggle continues. For as long as the British and the Americans continue to impede the accomplishments of this task, we must also continue to fight and defend ourselves against them. The British and the Americans in that case will not be fighting in the interests of their own peoples, but solely for the expansion of Bolshevism in Europe.
  • May 1, 1945, quoted in “Memoirs: Ten Years And Twenty Days” – Page 445 – by Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz – History – 1997

  • Our losses…have reached an intolerable level. The enemy air force played a decisive role in inflicting these high losses.
  • May 24, 1943, quoted in “A Time for Courage: The Royal Air Force in the European War, 1939-1945″ – Page 449 – by John Terraine – History – 1985

  • The enemy holds every trump card, covering all areas with long-range air patrols and using location methods against which we still have no warning…The enemy knows all our secrets and we know none of his.
  • 1943, quoted in “World War II Almanac, 1931-1945: A Political and Military Record” – Page 293 by Robert Goralski – History – 1981

About Dönitz

  • I don’t believe this man has any notion of what is going on in the world. He is acute, in no ways dull, but his mind seems to have blocked out the salient features of the trials thus far. He rejects the atrocities, the killing of millions of Jews, the barbarism of the SS, the entire criminal modus operandi of the Nazi Party. He sees only that he was innocent of any crime, past or present, and that any attempt to incriminate him or any of the others on trial with him is political connivery. He feels Germany’s actions were the result of oppression after the last war, on the one hand, and on the other takes no cognizance of his own culpability in being a faithful servant to Hitler and his regime. He denies atrocities at sea and is still doubtful about them on land.
  • Leon Goldensohn, March 3, 1946

  • I rate Admiral Dönitz as the best of them all, land or sea. He was unique in his handling of the German submarines and they were our most dangerous enemy. His performance with them-and he did most of it himself-was the most outstanding Axis performance of the war. Then he succeeded to command all German Navy Forces. It was too late for real accomplishment, but he made no mistakes and no one could have done better. Then he succeeded the Führer himself, and his performance from there on seems to me to have been perfect. So I think Dönitz was the best.
  • American Admiral Thomas C. Hart

  • As a submarine Admiral whom I knew to be held in the deepest admiration and respect by Officers and Men of the U-Boat Fleet, I held Admiral Dönitz in respect myself, and there is no doubt that he handled his U-Boat arm with masterly skill and efficiency. In return he was served with great loyalty.
  • British Admiral of the Fleet Sir George E. Greasy

  • Dönitz, Hitler’s legatee of defeat, promoted the success of the Nazi aggressions by instructing his pack of submarine killers to conduct warfare at sea with the illegal ferocity of the jungle.

  • The only thing I truly feared during the war was Dönitz and his U-boats.
  • Sir Winston Churchill

Source: Wikiquote