Donitz: The Last Fuhrer

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9780060152642: Donitz: The Last Fuhrer

Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz was a major military commander in the Second World War. His name will always be associated with his attempt to cut Britain’s supply lines with U-boats deployed in mass ‘pack’ attacks on convoys in the Atlantic. Research in the German naval archives has allowed Peter Padfield to describe the evolution of the strategy and the demands Dönitz placed on his commanders and crews. Triumphant in the early war years, Allied countermeasures eventually turned the tables and the hunters became the hunted. Yet, as the life expectancy of U-boat men on operations fell to a matter of weeks Dönitz continued to send out his young men to probable violent death.

Just why is the theme of this book: far more than a study of war at sea, it is a portrait of a sensitive officer who proved his ability as a U-boat commander in the First World War and preserved an ice-cold leadership veneer, yet was personally insecure and a fantasist in need of a cause to serve. He found it in the person of Adolf Hitler. An early convert to Nazism – contrary to the non-political image of him constructed by his peers after the lost war – he followed the Führer with blind fanaticism to the end. Rewarded by promotion to Commander-in-Chief of the German navy, finally Hitler appointed him his successor, and he became the last Führer of the Third Reich. This is the story of a personal tragedy played out within the greater tragedy of a nation.

‘Peter Padfield’s compellingly readable book conveys a flavour of Nazi leadership unmatched by anything outside the memoirs of Albert Speer. It is difficult to frame higher praise.’
John Keegan, The Sunday Times

‘He stalks his quarry with the patience of a U-boat commander, seeing through his camouflage and, finally, sinking him.’
Tom Pocock, Evening Standard

‘Peter Padfield has dropped a pattern of depth charges plumb on top of the image of Dönitz…the markedly different story now unfolded has the ring of truth…[in] this fully-documented and well-written book.’
Admiral Sir Ian McGeoch, The Times

‘A major work of scholarship by a writer whose thinking is not locked into the rigid limits of establishment or service loyalty.’
Lloyd’s List

‘Mr Padfield explains with brilliant clarity the Germany in which Dönitz grew up…The story of the war is told as Dönitz saw it – a unique, sharp viewpoint. Here are the great convoy battles, the political feuds and manouevering, the initial successes, the turning of the tide…it is a tremendous story and it rolls along like a great Atlantic wave.’
John Winton, The Naval Review

‘A fascinating story…’
Times Literary Supplement

‘Deeply researched and well-written…’
Gordon Brook-Shepherd, The Sunday Telegraph

‘…an important book…The psychological quirks and complexities of a man of obvious emotional sensitivity starved of affection and forced into an authoritarian mould are well brought out…highly recommended.’
The Mariner’s Mirror

‘…a grimly fascinating biography…’
Reid Beddow, The Washington Post

‘…well-written biography…we are shown Dönitz’s genius as well as his shortcomings.’
Norman Polmar, New York Times

‘exceptionally fine biography…’
U.S. Publishers’ Weekly

‘Le magnifique travail de l’historien anglais Peter Padfield…’
L’Express, Paris

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About the Author:

Peter Padfield is a leading naval historian and biographer. He trained for the sea as a cadet in H.M.S.Worcester, subsequently serving in the P & O Line. In 1957 he sailed under Cdr. Alan Villiers in the replica pilgrim bark, Mayflower II, from Plymouth, England to Plymouth, Massachusetts, where Mayflower is now preserved. Working his passage to the south Pacific he sailed among the Solomon Islands before leaving the sea and settling with his wife in Suffolk, England. His first major book, The Titanic and the Californian defended the captain of the Californian from the charge of not going to Titanic’s rescue. He subsequently turned to naval subjects, particularly great gunnery, strategy and tactics. His biography of the U-boat admiral, Karl Dönitz, led him to a portrayal of submarine warfare in War Beneath the Sea, and to biographies of other leading Nazis, Heinrich Himmler and Rudolf Hess, subsequently translated into many European languages. Latterly he has returned to naval history, attempting to bring it out of the specialist closet and present it as a major determinant of the modern world in a trilogy whose second volume, Maritime Power and the Struggle for Freedom, won the Mountbatten Maritime Prize, 2003.

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