Oskar-Heinz Kusch

Oberleutnant zur See (Crew 37a)


Successes
2 ships damaged, total tonnage 15,771 GRT
1 ship a total loss, total tonnage 8,166 GRT

Born  6 Apr 1918 Berlin
Died  12 May 1944(26)


Ranks

3 Apr 1937 Offiziersanwärter
1 Jan 1938 Fähnrich zur See
1 Jul 1939 Oberfähnrich zur See
1 Aug 1939 Leutnant zur See
1 Sep 1941 Oberleutnant zur See

Decorations

10 Nov 1941 Iron Cross 2nd Class
10 Nov 1941 U-boat War Badge 1939
22 Jun 1942 Iron Cross 1st Class

U-boat Commands

U-boatFromTo
U-154 8 Feb 1943 21 Jan 1944   2 patrols (189 days) 

Oskar Kusch was born in Berlin in 1918 and in his teens he spent a few months in the Hitler Youth (when his non-Nazi youth group was outlawed) before leaving the unit when he was 17 years old. He entered the Kriegsmarine in 1937 as officer candidate and became part of the 1937a crew. Among his fellow students were the Knights Cross winners Forstner (U-402) and Koitschka (U-616).

In 1940 he was sent to the U-boat arm where he served on the U-103 from June 1941 to Feb 1943. While on U-103 he went out on 4 patrols, spending 258 days at sea, obtaining very valuable experience under two very capable commanders.

He was given his first U-boat, the U-154 of Type IXC on 8 Feb 1943. He went out on 2 patrols into the South Atlantic with his boat, spending 189 days at sea. He sank hit 3 large ships for over 23,000 tons on 28 May 1943.

According to all accounts Kusch was a very outspoken and direct officer, handsome, athletic, very intelligent and close to his men.


The bronze plate at Möltenort showing the men lost on U-154.

Arrest and trial

On January 26, 1944, Oblt. z.S. Oskar Kusch was condemned to death by a military tribunal, after being denounced by his former IWO [Dr. Abel - who Kusch had apparently told was not good enough to command his own boat after the first patrol. However after the second patrol in Dec 1943 Kusch gave Abel a good review.] for alleged "Wehrkraftzersetzung" (sedition and defeatism).

One of eleven politically motivated accusations against Kusch was that he had ordered a Hitler portrait removed from the boat's officers' mess to a less conspicuous location with the commentary, "We are not in the business here of practicing idolatry."

At his trial his officers took the stand against him. His defence team pointed out his successful career and honorable record in all regards and that he only stated his opinions to his officers to stir up the conversations and make his men more aware of what was going on.

He was also sentenced to one year in prison for "listening to foreign radio stations". He was given a chance to ask for clemency but he chose to stand by his convictions and morals and admit no wrongdoing. He was also found to have had "liberal tendencies" by choosing to leave the almost-mandatory Hitler Youth years earlier. On the court was Oblt. Otto Westphalen, a fellow U-boat commander.

Oskar Kusch was executed by a firing squad on 12 May 1944 in Kiel-Holtenau.

His father tried to seek justice for his son in May 1946 under new allied laws and in 1949 the judge who sentenced him, Karl-Heinrich Hagemann, was tried for "Crime against civil rights". This case dragged on until late 1950 when the judge was found to have acted within the laws at the time, a controversial verdict to many.

In 1996 Kusch's legal record was finally wiped clean, and in 1998 the city of Kiel erected a memorial and renamed a street in his honor not far from the military range along the Kiel Canal where he had been shot 54 years before.

The text of the plaque on Kusch's granite memorial along the Oskar-Kusch-Street in Kiel-Holtenau reads as follows:

*6. 4. 1918 +12. 5. 1944

His name stands for the many victims of the National Socialist system of injustice who died here and in other places.

Their death is our legacy.

Community of Altenholz - City of Kiel

12 May 1998

Special thanks to Tim Schwabedissen and Eric C. Rust.

Those that tried to help Kusch and those that did nothing
Among those that jumped to Kusch's defence were KrvKpt. Werner Winter, Kptlt. Gustav-Adolf Janssen (his former commanders on U-103), and Kptlt. Wilhelm Franken. After the war FrgKpt. Erich Topp tried hard to have Kusch rehabilitated but met with resistance from men such as Kpt. Karl-Friedrich Merten and Kpt. Hans Rudolf Rösing (Blair, 1998).

Most disappointing to many was that neither Karl Dönitz, Friedeburg nor Godt in the U-boat high command did anything to help - or even met with Kusch during the trial (Blair, 1998). They could have stopped or lessened the whole thing (like they did when Henke got in trouble with the Gestapo).

Sources

Blair, C. (1998). Hitler’s U-boat War. The Hunted, 1942-1945.
Rust, E. (2001). The Case of Oskar Kusch and the Limits of U-boat Camaraderie in World War II: Reflections on a German Tragedy

Patrol info for Oskar-Heinz Kusch


 U-boat Departure Arrival  
1. U-154 20 Mar 1943  Lorient  6 Jul 1943  Lorient  Patrol 1,109 days
2. U-154 23 Sep 1943  Lorient  24 Sep 1943  Brest   2 days
3. U-154 2 Oct 1943  Brest  20 Dec 1943  Lorient  Patrol 2,80 days
2 patrols, 189 days at sea

Ships hit by Oskar-Heinz Kusch

Date U-boat Commander Name of ship Tons Nat. Convoy
28 May 1943U-154Oskar-Heinz Kusch Cardinal Gibbons (d.)7,191amBT-14
28 May 1943U-154Oskar-Heinz Kusch Florida (d.)8,580amBT-14
28 May 1943U-154Oskar-Heinz Kusch John Worthington (t.)8,166amBT-14
 23,937

1 ship sunk (8,166 tons) and 2 ships damaged (15,771 tons).

Legend
We have a picture of this vessel.
(d.) means the ship was damaged.
(t.) means the ship was a total loss (included in ships & tonnage lost).


About ranks and decorations
Ranks shown in italics are our database inserts based on the rank dates of his crew comrades. The officers of each crew would normally have progressed through the lower ranks at the same rate.

Media links


German U-boat Commanders of World War II

Busch, Rainer and Röll, Hans-Joachim


Wolf

Vause, Jordan

Listing of all U-boat commanders