1946: German admiral feigns madness, goes ‘bzzz, bzzz’

Karl Doenitz was a German admiral during World War II and, for a brief time after Hitler’s suicide, the president of Germany.

Doenitz served as a junior lieutenant in World War I, remaining in the navy during the interwar period and rising through the ranks. At the outbreak of World War II Doenitz was promoted to rear admiral and put in charge of Germany’s U-boat fleet. Though not formally a Nazi Party member, Doenitz was nevertheless pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic and fanatically loyal to Hitler. He became president on April 30th 1945 and oversaw Germany’s surrender to the Allies, before being arrested three weeks later.

According to an apocryphal story Doenitz, who suffered from poor bladder control, was wearing several pairs of underpants when arrested. He was held by the British for several weeks then charged with war crimes and moved to Nuremberg. While awaiting trial Doenitz admitted to a US Army psychiatrist, Lt Col. Douglas Kelley, that he had feigned insanity while in British custody:

“Two companions and I decided it might aid our efforts to escape if we were adjudged insane. We walked about, our heads hunched down, going ‘Bzzz, bzzz’ and insisting that we were U-boats. But the British doctors were too much smart for us.”

Doenitz was convicted of military war crimes but acquitted of the more serious crimes against humanity. Sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment, he was held at Spandau until 1956. After his release Doenitz retired to northern Germany where he penned two memoirs, remaining unapologetic for his role in the war. He died in 1980, aged 89.

Source: Douglas M. Kelley, Twenty-two Cells in Nuremberg: A Psychiatrist examines the Nazi criminals, 1947. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.