16.09.

1891: The Man who Briefly Ruled the Third Reich after Hitler

1891: The Man who Briefly Ruled the Third Reich after Hitler
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 16 September 1891
  • Just before he committed suicide in his Berlin bunker, Hitler dictated his will, in which he named the future highest-ranking officials in the Reich. He appointed admiral Karl Dönitz as President of the Reich (Reichspräsident). Dönitz was one of only two people who achieved the rank of Grand Admiral (Grossadmiral) during Hitler's time in power.

German admiral Karl Dönitz was born on this day in 1891.

He is notable for being the man who Adolf Hitler appointed as his successor in his will. Namely, just before he committed suicide in his Berlin bunker, Hitler dictated his will, in which he named the future highest-ranking officials in the Reich. He appointed Admiral Karl Dönitz as President of the Reich (Reichspräsident). Incredibly, Hitler also made him the supreme commander of all German armed forces (Oberster Befehlshaber der Wehrmacht), a position held exclusively by the Führer up to that moment.

Admiral Dönitz was a professional navy officer who specialized in submarine warfare. During the Great War (Wold War I) he was a submarine captain, and is widely considered the author of the “wolf pack” tactic (a well-known tactic according to which submarines cooperate to take down their opponents one by one).

Dönitz rapidly rose through the ranks in the German Navy (Kriegsmarine). He became „Führer der U-Boote“ (Type Commander, Submarines) in 1936 and „Befehlshaber der U-Boote“ (Supreme Commander, Submarines) in 1939. At the time he held the rank of Rear Admiral. Finally, in 1943 Dönitz achieved the highest possible rank – Grand Admiral (Grossadmiral) – and was given command of the entire German Navy (his German rank was “Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsmarine”).

Dönitz was one of only two people who achieved the rank of Grand Admiral (Grossadmiral) during Hitler’s time in power (the other was Erich Raeder). Grand Admirals were equal to Field Marshals in rank, and had the right to carry a similar baton. Dönitz’s was specific in that it had a small submarine figure modeled under the eagle-and-swastika symbol.

Dönitz spent around ten years in prison after the war, but was then released. He died in 1980 in the small town of Aumühle in northern Germany, aged 89.

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