At Zero Hour: The Government of Karl Dönitz, with Reflections as Seen in German Literature

by Klein, Jonathan Edward

Abstract (Summary)
With the suicide of Adolf Hitler at the end of April 1945, leadership of the Third Reich was passed, as per Hitler’s Testament, to Karl Dönitz. Dönitz had, up to that point, served as head of the U-boat or submarine fleet, and then as Grand Admiral of the entire German Navy, or Kriegsmarine. Very little analysis has been offered in current literature regarding the impact of the Dönitz government. Indeed, history texts rarely mention it. This thesis set out to do just that, using both historically oriented works and insights as provided by German literature of the period such as Heimkehrerliteratur and Trümmerliteratur. By investigating the works of Dönitz himself and those of various other personalities associated with his government, primary documents of the period, and secondary works on the period as well as the aforementioned literature genres, several conclusions were reached. The activities of the Dönitz government can be broken up into pre-surrender and post-surrender activities. Pre-surrender activities included the negotiations of surrender itself, which insofar as it was conducted in several stages, was not unconditional, as is often claimed. The other major pre-surrender activity was the decision to continue the war in the East while seeking peace with the West to allow evacuation of Germans from East Prussia. Post-surrender activities involved mainly the preliminary investigations that would be needed to begin a government, had the Allies not arrested Dönitz. The Dönitz government was therefore key in the transition from war to peace. This impact has also been seen in German literature of the period, which functions as a collective analysis of the psychological impact made by the war. Particularly useful were Wolfgang Borchert’s Draußen vor der Tür and Uwe Timm’s Die Entdeckung der Currywurst. These works show the reader how the period is remembered and/or memorialized. It was therefore concluded that far from being without impact, the Dönitz government served a crucial role in Germany’s transition from war to peace, and that this transition left distinct impressions in the minds of Germans, as reflected in German speaking literature.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Bowling Green State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:dönitz karl german government world war ii two literature wolfgang borchert uwe timm stunde null trümmerliteratur heimkehrerliteratur surrender u boats


Date of Publication:01/01/2006

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