Book reviews


Mein wechselvolles Leben

Dönitz, Karl


1998, Verlag S. Bublies, Schnellbach
ISBN 3926584483
Hardcover, 285 pages, 36 b&w photos, 4 facsimiles
book is in German language

Type. Personal narrative
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In this autobiography, Karl Dönitz focuses mainly on his childhood through the pre-war years, but includes a brief summary of the war years and his time in prison.

This account of his early life is very interesting, providing a view of some of his accomplishments and adventures before becoming Befehlshaber der U-Boote. As a cadet he was captured by the Montenegrins when he disobeyed orders to stay away from the border while mountain climbing on a shore leave. Duty brought him to Italy on 1 August, 1914, and he describes vividly his fear of being stranded there, the only naval officer on land in Italy at the outbreak of war. The sinking of his U-boat and his subsequent capture are covered briefly and with a note of bitterness as he recalls his feelings of despair on learning of the surrender. Dönitz also emphasizes the fact, which he felt to be little recognized, that most of his time in naval service was spent on surface vessels rather than on U-boats.

Dönitz reveals much about his personality as well as his character and beliefs, noting his love of oriental carpets; recounting his hasty proposal of marriage in the midst of war duties; discussing the concept of career versus job and admitting that he almost left the naval service early in his career; unabashedly detailing his family's poverty during the 1920s; and even recalling amusing things his children said when they were very small. He also outlines his beliefs on character and duty; his views on the training of crews; and his thoughts concerning women and families. Additionally, he offers his evaluation of historical events, discussing the differences between World War I and World War II in terms of U-boat warfare, and analyzing the naval mutiny and its results. One of his most interesting assertions stems from his strong belief in the benefits of foreign travel; he himself profited immensely from his own travel experiences in the interwar years, and felt that Hitler was seriously disadvantaged by his lack of travel opportunities before becoming Führer.

This memoir provides interesting insights into Dönitz' character and the events of his early life. Less than thirty pages are devoted to the years during and after the second world war, since he wrote of this time in depth in his Memoirs: Ten Years and Twenty Days.

Review written by Tonya Allen.

This review was published on 1 Dec 2000.

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