Karl Dönitz
Historical Figure
Nationality: Germany (born in Prussia)
Date of Birth: 1891
Date of Death: 1980
Cause of Death: Myocardial infarction
Occupation: Author of Non-Fiction, Politician, Sailor
Military Branch: Kaiserliche Marine (World War I)
Kriegsmarine (World War II)
Political Party: NSDAP (honorary member, 1944–45)
Political Office(s): President of Germany (1945)
Fictional Appearances:
The Man With the Iron Heart
POD: May 29, 1942;
Relevant POD: May, 1945
Type of Appearance: Direct, unnamed
Occupation: Prisoner
The War That Came Early
POD: July 20, 1936;
Relevant POD: September 29, 1938
Appearance(s): Hitler's War;
West and East;
The Big Switch;
Last Orders
Type of Appearance: Direct
Military Branch: Kriegsmarine (Second World War)

Karl Dönitz (16 September 1891 - 24 December 1980) was a German naval Commander who served in the Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial German Navy) during World War I, commanded the German submarine fleet during World War II, and eventually was given control of the entire Kriegsmarine (German Navy).

In the final days of the war, Dönitz was named by Adolf Hitler as his successor, and after the Führer committed suicide, the admiral assumed the office of President (Reichspräsident) of Nazi Germany. He held this position for about 20 days, until the final surrender to the Allies. After the war, Dönitz was convicted of war crimes at the Nuremberg Trials and served ten years in prison.

Karl Dönitz in The Man With the Iron Heart[]

Karl Dönitz[1] was one of nearly two dozen[2] German officials who were captured by the Allies at the end of World War II. The Allies sought to try Dönitz and the other men for war crimes. These plans were stopped twice by the German Freedom Front, first in November 1945, when the GFF destroyed the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg[3] and second in 1946, when the GFF destroyed the American residency zone in Frankfurt with a radium bomb.[4]

In 1947, the Soviets decided to try the officials in their zone. The GFF prevented this by crashing a plane into the courthouse, killing all the lawyers and judges, but leaving the accused unharmed.[5]

Karl Dönitz in The War That Came Early[]

As commander of the German submarine fleet, Karl Dönitz found himself in an awkward position when Julius Lemp sank the American luxury liner SS Athenia in early 1939.

Dönitz was able to intercede on Lemp's behalf, protecting him from government officials who wanted Lemp's scalp. While he did chew Lemp out, Dönitz did not remove him from his command.[6]

From then on, however, Dönitz directly supervised Lemp as much as possible. Thus, later that year, Lemp was meeting with Dönitz to debrief Lemp on his cruise in Norway when Dönitz received a phone call alerting him of a failed attempt to overthrow Adolf Hitler.[7]

As Lemp continued to do well, Dönitz gave Lemp more important (and dangerous) tasks. In Spring 1940, for example, Dönitz ordered Lemp to scan the English coastline to determine whether or not Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess had successfully flown into Britain. Dönitz however, pointedly kept Lemp in the dark as to why Lemp was looking for any plane-wreckage.[8]

Dönitz was part of the military faction that remained loyal to Hitler even as the war turned dramatically against Germany by 1944.[9]


  1. Dönitz is not named in the book, but the Point of Divergence does not seem to have changed the composition of the Nuremberg defendants.
  2. The Man With the Iron Heart, pg. 260.
  3. Ibid., pg. 108.
  4. Ibid., pg. 260.
  5. Ibid., pg. 407-8.
  6. Hitler's War, pgs. 323-326.
  7. West and East, pgs. 371-373.
  8. The Big Switch, pgs. 152-155.
  9. Last Orders, pg. 248-251.
Military offices
Preceded by
Erich Raeder
Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine
Succeeded by
Hans-Georg von Friedeburg
Political offices
Preceded by
Adolf Hitler
(as Führer and Reich Chancellor)
President of Germany
Succeeded by
Allied occupation until 1949,
then Theodor Heuss (West Germany) and Wilhelm Pieck (East Germany)