Unconditional Surrender - A Memoir of the Last Days of the Third Reich and the Donitz Administration
By Walter Ludde-Neurath
Published by Pen and Sword (www.pen-and-sword.co.uk)
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This memoir presents an excellent history about the end of World War 2 from the German’s perspective. It recounts how Admiral Donitz became the senior naval officer, his meetings with the leading Nazis and finally the duty that was bestowed upon him to negotiate the surrender of the Third Reich.
Donitz succeeded Admiral Raeder as the leading officer of the German Navy (the Kriegsmarine). This occurred after the latter had had a dispute on naval policy with Hitler. The dispute centred on the future of the surface fleet. Donitz’s career had been with submarines and this is probably why the Fuhrer selected him to command the Kriegsmarine after Raeder.
The book recounts how Hitler identified a successor. Originally the principal successor was Goring and this was confirmed in Hitler’s edicts. Initially Donitz was just another senior officer with whom Hitler had a good relationship. As the military situation in 1945 deteriorated and Hitler was lead to believe that Goring was making “traitorous” actions he denounced Goring and appointed Donitz as his successor.
It appears that Donitz was not party to all of the successor negotiations and when the signal came that he was to command the Reich he did not fully accept its implications for a while. Before assuming the leadership position he wished to have the Fuhrer’s death confirmed and the book gives an excellent treatment of how Donitz became the new leader.
Donitz interpreted his new position as a mission to save any unnecessary bloodshed and to bring closure to the War. He wished to negotiate with the Western Allies whilst still campaigning on the Eastern Front. However Eisenhower, the main commander of the Western Allies would only accept full “Unconditional Surrender” on both fronts simultaneously. The Donitz Government tried to save as many from the clutches of the Soviets and attempted to gain some time for this whilst surrender talks progressed.
The author has done an excellent task of documenting these dying days of the Reich and how the Donitz Government handled the surrender of the Reich. Donitz “interviewed” some of the leading Nazis who felt they were indispensable to the new Government and Donitz had to inform them that generally they were not welcome. He created a Caretaker Government and developed many plans for the reconstruction of Germany – many of which were dismissed by the Allies and to whose cost they were. Primarily the plans were for the feeding of the population and repairing transport and communication links. These were given to the Allies who prevaricated and this delayed the re-development of the country. Finally Donitz and his entourage were imprisoned.
This publication gives an excellent account of these final days and given the fact that the author was “relieved” of many of the original primary papers he has done a splendid job in describing the events. It is seriously recommended to those interested in the Third Reich.