When Hitler Scrapped His Navy: Hitler and the Kriegsmarine

February 2023

Hitler’s relationship with his navy is one of the most intriguing topics of the naval history of the Second World War. Hitler was the Commander-in-Chief of all German armed forces – including the Kriegsmarine – and yet he was a man with no experience or understanding of seapower. The result was a strange and fractious relationship with his navy which was ill equipped, poorly manned and, more importantly poorly understood by the Nazi leadership. The relationship soured to such an extent that, in 1942 after an Allied convoy successfully made it to Russia in the dead of winter, Hitler publicly and furiously denounced the navy and demanded that all heavy German warships should be scrapped. This relationship presents a fascinating conundrum at the very heart of the otherwise formidable Nazi war machine and to consider it helps us understand the broader role of the impact of seapower on the course and ultimate outcome of the Second World War, and it also helps us understand Hitler as a man and as a political and military leader. To find out more Dr Sam Willis spoke with Hitler biographer Professor Frank McDonough.

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    Sam Willis 

    From the Society for Nautical Research in partnership with Lloyd’s Register Foundation, I’m Sam Willis. And this is the Mariners Mirror podcast, the world’s number one podcast dedicated to all of maritime history. Hello, everyone and welcome to the Mariners Mirror podcast. Today we’re exploring a particularly interesting and little considered aspect of the naval history of the Second World War, the relationship between Hitler and the Kriegsmarine. Hitler was the Commander in Chief of all German armed forces, including the Kriegsmarine and yet he was a man with no experience or real understanding of sea power. The result was a strange and fractious relationship with his navy, which was ill equipped, poorly manned, and, more importantly, poorly understood by the Nazi leadership, to the extent that in 1942, after an Allied convoy successfully made it to Russia in the dead of winter, and in spite of an aggressive German force sent out to intercept it, including a pocket battleship and a heavy cruiser, Hitler publicly and furiously denounced the Navy and demanded that all heavy German warships should be scrapped. The Admiral of the Fleet, Erich Raeder, resigned and was replaced by Karl Doenitz, the head of the U boat fleet. Doenitz’s first job, and once successfully negotiated, was to convince Hitler not to scrap his entire surface fleet. But from then on they primarily remained in  harbour, so not only inoperational but also vulnerabl to Allied bombing attacks. It’s a fascinating conundrum at the very heart of the otherwise formidable Nazi war machine. And to consider this question helps us understand the broader role of the impact of sea power on the course and ultimate outcome of the Second World War. And it also helps us understand Hitler as a man and as a political and military leader. To help explain all of this, I spoke with Frank McDonough. I’ve known Frank for some years and it’s always a treat talking to him. Until his retirement Frank was Professor of International History at Liverpool John Moores University, but continues to write his magnificent two volume history, the Hitler years; it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read on the period. And his book on the Gestapo is a masterpiece of how to unpick myth from reality. And to top it all off he’s incredibly good company and has a particularly keen eye for the entertaining and ridiculous themes that we do uncover in the process of our historical research. I have to admit I spent the rest of the day giggling about Hitler being a deranged Peter Pan, and why Hitler’s relationship with the Kriegsmarine is best explained by a stick of Blackpool rock, and thinking about the Summer of Love. As ever, I hope you enjoy listening to him as much as I enjoyed talking with him. Here is the truly wonderful Frank, you really could not ask for a better companion with whom to explore the Second World War.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Frank, thank you very much indeed for talking to me today.

     

    Frank McDonough 

    It’s a great pleasure, Sam.

     

    Sam Willis 

    So let’s explore Hitler’s relationship with his Navy. Firstly, in terms of his rise to power, do you think he considered how the Navy was going to fit into his future plans?

     

    Frank McDonough 

    Well, if you look at Mein Kampf he talks about the First World War and why Germany lost. And he says Germany lost because it got into a naval rivalry with Great Britain, inflamed its Empire,  and that was why Britain joined the war. So he said, the first thing that I would try and do if I came to power was to come to some kind of agreement with the British, especially over the Navy.

     

    Sam Willis 

    That’s interesting, that he was thinking about it in those early years, 1933 to 1939, where it’s all full of political cunning manoeuvres as far as I can work out. But do you think that the the maritime world then established was a rock in his thinking for the coming years?

     

    Frank McDonough 

    I think he wanted to gain this naval agreement, and in fact, Germany did gain a naval agreement in 1935, the Anglo German naval agreement, which gave Germany the right to build up to 35% of the strength of the Royal Navy. Now you might say, well, that’s good, that’s a good deal for Britain, isn’t it? No it wasn’t because the Versailles Treaty gave us prohibition on Germany building anything. So we recognised Germany’s right to rearm and the right for it to build a navy, which was a mistake really.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Interesting. I mean in terms of Hitler’s own military experience was he purely army and land based?

     

    Frank McDonough 

    Yes.  Hitler wasn’t a sailor, for sure.  He didn’t go on boats that much. He went on a couple of cruises, I think, but he liked the idea of having new battleships and things like that and launching them. But really his whole strategy was to gain territory in eastern Europe with a huge land army, and huge military equipment. So his thinking was very military and in a sense you could say that’s one of the reasons why he was very poor at global strategy in the Second World War, also the idea of invading Britain. He never really saw that that was an impossibility from where Germany was.  They had a plan, it was called the Z plan, to build the eight battleships by 1942 or whatever, but it was impossible. You know yourself Sam, you can’t build battleships in a week, they take years. So you want to have a strong Navy, you’re going  to have to  plan, what, four or five, six years ahead, and everything in the plans never really came off? They never really had the battleships. That’s why they lost  the Battle of Britain, and that’s where Doenitz comes in, because Doenitz was really a submarine expert    That’s what he was.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Did he let his Admirals like Raeder or Doenitz exert their own authority, or was he very heavy handed with the Navy.

     

    Frank McDonough 

    He gave the Navy quite a lot of latitude, the main reason being  that it was very loyal to him all the way through the war. And even in the famous Valkyrie plots they couldn’t find anyone from the Navy. So Hitler was like, look at them, they’re all  these officers surrounding me he said, and they’re all called Von this and Von that  from the old aristocracy, but he couldn’t find a single naval person. And  Doenitz was extremely loyal, and that was the reason why he made him President in his last Will and Testament. Well,  he also wants to cock a snook a  the military as well. But he liked Doenitz who was a very committed Nazi. It’s odd, because he only became a Nazi member in 1944. so you’d say he  took his time to join.  When the Allies were putting together the prosecution at the Nuremberg trials, they went through all of Doenitz’s  papers, and they found so much that was pro Hitler, Hitler is a Messiah, very anti semitic. He’s got rid of the Jews, he’s controlling the Jews, and this is a good thing. So he was incredibly loyal to Hitler, and he was a committed Nazi. There was a little bit after the war; he spent 10 years in prison after the war for war crimes. He only got convicted over organising submarines, the unrestricted submarine campaign But he came out after 10 years. What’s really odd, and if you’ve seen the Odessa file, you know, John Voight, you’ll know what I’m talking about here. There was kind of a little shrine to him every year, and when he died, 100,000 people turned out. And there was a lot of embarrassment from the West German government, they were really embarrassed. Why did 100,000 people turn out for this Nazi war criminal? The truth was he was still admired. There were still people from that era who were admired,. and he was one of them.

     

    Sam Willis 

    So we can say that really Hitler knew of that loyalty, had a closer relationship with Doenitz.

     

    Frank McDonough 

    Oh yes. It comes out. He talks to other people, you know, in his table talks that were recorded in the military headquarters that he had in Rastenburg in Poland. He says  Doenitz is a loyal man. He’s extremely loyal, so if I ask him to do something he does it. He was the perfect sort of person for Hitler. Hitler liked people who admired him, didn’t talk much, and accepted all of his orders without question and Doenitz was one of those. And I think that  was what helped his rise. It helped his rise in the war really.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Yes, it’s so different to his predecessor Raeder.

     

    Frank McDonough 

    Yes.

     

    Sam Willis 

    And what went on there? Can you tell us a little about him?

     

    Frank McDonough 

    Raeder was much more of an old fashioned German sort of statesman, from the old conservative wing, he was never really committed to Nazism, as was Doenitz. And he had this idea that Germany should try and build a huge Navy and maybe make an impact in the long term, really. Gradually that strategy didn’t look like it was going to work, whereas Doenitz was saying, look, the best way for us to make an impact in this war is to build more submarines. If we can build more submarines, we can knock out more merchant shipping, and we can really make some kind of impact. So that’s why when he weighed up about hanging on to Raeder, or moving to Doenitz, he obviously wanted to go with the submarines, he thought that maybe that’s the way we can get back into this war.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Because there’s this crisis moment where he  scraps the High Seas Fleet, he gets rid of Raeder and says this is all over, let’s do something different.

     

    Frank McDonough 

    Yes, because it’s like what you said in the beginning, was he interested in the Navy? It’s basically like, throw all the toys out the pram, let’s just get all the submarines and move on that. Yes, I think it’s interesting that he makes Doenitz the leader of the Navy on the 30th of January 1943, just a few hours before Germany is going to surrender at Stalingrad. So obviously, he wants to come out with some new strategy. And he knows that nobody believes that Germany can build all of these, as Raeder will say, build all these battleships. But he does like the idea of announcing they’re going to build 400 submarines quickly. However, by 1944 they just start to lose a lot of submarines. In a way Germany’s failure in the war is this lack of a  global strategy beyond the military, it’s all the military and the Luftwaffe and with scant regard to the Navy.  This is why there’s all these people going around, saying, oh, Britain was all alone, oh Britain had no chance in the war, oh look at Britain.  My view, and I think it was borne out by the statistics of, well, Paul Kennedy;  believe me he said, Britain could have held its own in that war, all the way through in a long war with this huge Navy, this  impenetrable territory that couldn’t be invaded. And this huge ally in America willing to to bankroll.  Even on those terms Britain could have stayed in this war, and therefore he never would have defeated Britain. Now that’s an interesting line of argument I think, because most people have this idea of Hitler, Germany was a huge superpower, It was bamboozling itself across Europe. The truth was Germany was a middle ranking power, and it was not capable of becoming a superpower. And that’s what the war showed. And one of its big drawbacks was it didn’t have a navy to match Britain or to match USA. Of course, when the USA came in, I mean, look at the dominance of the USA and British navies. When they came in they started to develop ways of dealing with submarine attacks as well, these pack hunting groups that went after them, which was successful in the convoys, they were able to protect the convoys. And they started knocking out a huge amount of German submarines. It’s an interesting fact, but it’s a sobering one, that 75% of every German who served on a submarine was killed. 75%. Now name me a war where 75% of the combatants got killed. I mean, even if  you’re talking about the Battle of the Sommes it’s sort of 14% or something, the highest in the First World War. Even things like the Battle of Stalingrad, it’s like 22%. We’re talking 75%. So it was like kind of three to one on that you’d get killed if you enter the German submarine.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Yes, and once that started rolling it would have got worse because there’d be less experienced people to take when something went wrong.

     

    Frank McDonough 

    Yes exactly, that’s  the case. You’re bringing in novices all the time. You go and write down the pecking order here. Operating submarine, this is a difficult thing. The other part of it was, and this is another thing, the Allies are well ahead in intelligence.  In intelligence the Allies absolutely wiped the floor with Germany.  And it was in the naval area where they  were dominant in that Bletchley Park broke the codes, etc, and by doing that Germany was really in a bad way. They were able to build better radar systems to track submarines, and they built these Hunter packs. The Americans and the Canadians  were particularly good at building these Hunter packs supported by air support, and they were knocking out submarines left, right and centre. And in the sense, that’s why Doenitz gave up winning the Battle of the Atlantic, he’d never been able to get a foothold in knocking out Atlantic vessels anyway. And then when they brought in these Hunter packs he gave up; in 1943, the middle of 1943, he gives up the Battle of the Atlantic, he knows it can’t be won. He tries to build more submarines, I think that was the big mistake really, because if you look at the early parts of the war Sam, 1939, September to Christmas, the Germans only had 57 submarines. Oh my god, they were knocking out some big beasts there. They were knocking out a couple of British major battleships. They were knocking out merchant ships left, right and centre. So you just think to yourself, and Doenitz did say this, he said If I’d  had 400 operable submarines at the beginning of the war, we could have knocked out the whole Royal Navy, especially the Merchant fleet and starve people out.

     

    Sam Willis 

    I wonder how quickly they realise, Doenitz and the others, that the writing was on the wall,  that they actually weren’t going to win and they were losing such a high percentage of men? Well, I mean, do you think it was in 40/ 41? Or was that not really till the end of the war?

     

    Frank McDonough 

    I think you’ve got to say that Doenitz was very expert on the whole strategy of the Navy. All the way through, right back in the 30s, he was saying to Hitler, look, we can’t build a massive battle fleet to challenge the British Empire. We could build submarines he said, if you went down that road, and he said in the war the only hope was to build more submarines. So his strategy was to build more submarines, and he really didn’t think that Germany could win a naval war.  For example, take the discussions over operation Sea Lion.  If you look at the actual meetings that they had, it’s Doenitz saying look this isn’t possible.. They’re saying they are going to get these flat bottomed boats and take them across  the Channel. He said you try it, the Channel is so choppy the water is so jumpy,  they’ll all fall off before they get over. He said I don’t see it’s conceivable that we could get in these flat bottom boats past the British defence, and he listed  the 16 battleships, the 187 cruisers, and he listed all the reasons, they’ve also got some aeroplanes as well, so we’d be sitting ducks but that was where they planned to have these barges. And we modified them for the D Day landings, they weren’t barges really,  they were much better than barges what we created.

     

    Sam Willis 

    And there’s a key difference obviously between D Day and what they were suggesting, the Allies controlled the sea.

     

    Frank McDonough 

    Exactly.  And I mean D Day is a classic example of how much the Allies controlled the sea. He tried to send 16 submarines into the battle zone on D Day and  they got knocked out. The Allies would become so adept really in every aspect of naval war, and I would say we always talk about the war and  the battles in the east and they were important, but the naval war was extremely important. And Britain and America absolutely won the naval war everywhere, and that was decisive because it kept Britain’s trade going, it kept the ammunition flowing in from America to Britain during D Day and the aftermath of D Day in the march on Germany, so these things were very important and also they did strangle  German trade.  Germany towards the end of 1944 was on rations and things like that so I think the Navy gets a a kind of bad overall press. Your general histories tend to ignore the Navy; even on D Day it’s always the lads who turn up on Gold beach or whatever, but the Navy was vital. The Navy’s actual bombardments in most of these battles were also vital, especially at D Day. So I think we need to readjust the way we look at the Second World War and we don’t just say like a lot of people say, oh, you know, Churchill gave the speeches, the Americans gave the money and the Russians gave the blood. But the truth is we gave a lot of expertise, intelligence, great planning. OK we didn’t actually kill all our own citizens, we managed not to kill our own citizens, and to become dominant. And the dominance of the  Royal Navy and the American Navy in the Second World War was absolutely overwhelming ,overwhelming..

     

    Sam Willis 

    Yes, it’s interesting you were saying Doenitz said if we had 400 submarines at the beginning of the war, and often the the ability of the Germans to create a naval power is considered in terms of logistics and engineering. What about the money? Who would Doenitzit have been arguing with, saying actually I need this much money to build another 100 submarines?

     

    Frank McDonough 

    His argument was with Goering because Goering  was in charge of what was called the four year plan office, which allocated  money to all of the services, and also he would have to argue with the finance minister as well.  Hitler wasn’t really into austerity, he definitely wasn’t an austerity leader. If you’re talking about the most largesse, yes you know, Hitler’s Pharoah payments were three times as big as we gave away.  I mean Hitler really was a spend, spend, spend type of person and how you paid for it he just didn’t want to know, he wasn’t one of them, he maxed out his credit card, and then he  maxed out another one, he  never really thought about the consequences of money. So once someone gave him an idea he’d say right, throw money at that. So then once you got his say so, which Doenitz did,  he just gave him money unlimited. So there were unlimited funds, unlimited funds available. And there were arguments between Albert Speer then because he became the Armaments Minister. Albert Speer wasn’t that keen on  giving  more money to the Navy, but he did buy into this submarine idea  because then Doenitz said look, we can still make a difference with these submarines, if we build enough we can make a difference.  And Speer said in 1944, the output was getting up, they were puting 200 more in into the battle. So in some way it was working although there were some heavy losses in 1944 in the Merchant fleet, but nothing in the Atlantic. They couldn’t get through to the Atlantic, they did very badly in the Atlantic, the German submarines.They would send seven in a convoy and the squads would just knock them out, so it became a a kind of nil sum game really.

     

    Sam Willis 

    They kept on going.  I suppose  the other aspect of this is we’ve got the Germans deciding to invest in the submarines because they’re cheaper, they can specialise in them. But then  again, they build Bismarck and Tirpitz, which are the largest battleships ever built by any European power. So It does seem Hitler is keen to make a political point, to have a status ship?

     

    Frank McDonough 

    Well, yes, exactly.  They are status ships, although remember, there’s only two of them. And the British and Americans have got about 32 of those. So  there’s a big disparity, you know,  I don’t know whether it comes in Naked Gun where the fellow pulls a gun on him, and then he pulls out a massive gun in front of him. It’s an bigger gun, you know? So it’s a bit like that, really, it’s  ill co-ordinated.  I mean, when you think of Hitler in his running of the war, the main problem I’ve got is that he was very poor on global strategy. I mean, look at his main ally, it was Mussolini, if you like, but it was really Japan. Japan was his  main ally, he never met the Japanese leader, he never coordinated strategy. The Japanese never told them they were going to invade Pearl Harbour. So all of these things makes you think, where was the co-ordination here? I mean, how do you have an ally that launches an attack that brings America into the war, which let’s face it, for your ally it has some implications here. And the Japanese don’t even bother to contact him, you know, and Mussolini was a useless ally, probably the worst ally that you could have. And Mussolini  lied to him all the time. Every time he asked Mussolini what’s going to happen in Tobruk or whatever,  we’ll muddle through, we just need more tanks and we need a bit more grain or whatever. And it was all lies. After a while, I think towards the end he says, you know, I think Mussolini is just a big bluffer,  and that’s why in one of the books they call him the biggest show off ever, and the worst military leader.

     

    Sam Willis 

    There’s a kind of a middle ranking area of shipping as well, in between Bismarck, the great battleship, and the U boat. So you’ve got these heavy commerce raiders, like the Graf Spee and Admiral Scheer and stuff, how do they fit into the plan?

     

    Frank McDonough 

    Well,  they are trying to build as many of them as they can, but they never really get the numbers up to be a danger to the Allies in that way. And also after 1943 there’s a  kind of embargo on building too many ships, because  they need the resources for the Eastern Front. And then they need the resources for D Day, military resources. And Hitler’s always thinking in terms of military resources, he thinks he can win the war just with the military. I mean, that’s another of his strategic errors, not to see the importance of the Navy and to see how much that will help the Americans to come to Britain, and to replenish their armies in Western Europe. And he’s going to lose the war that way,  because there’s going to be a second front opened up, and ultimately as you know, it does become a second front. In the end, the Allies could have gone all the way to Moscow couldn’t they and Stalin  all the way to the coast.  So in the end the German army is a weak army, at the end it’s a weak army. It’s brave, the people who fought for Germany, you’ve got to say they were very brave. They did fight right to the end, and they were very good soldiers as well. And they had some good leaders as well. But the Allies, were just I mean they were devastating. I mean, once they got across the bridge at Remagen the Allies were devastating; towards the end of the war they were devastating. Anyway, there’s the power that they produced, we always go on about the Blitzkrieg, forget the Blitzkrieg, look at what the Allies were doing in Western Europe, as they captured Germany, you know, devastating. Our artillery, devastating, air attacks never seen before. I mean, I think  it was Dwight D. Eisenhower, he went to a battlefield in France towards the end of the  D Day operation, and he said it looked like it was a lunar landscape. He said it looked completely desolate for miles ahead. He said I’d never seen anything like this. And he said I thought to myself, how do you defend against that? I mean that shows the  difference there, and also we know that the Russians sort of learned how to overcome the Blitzkrieg, didn’t they? It was kind of trial and error. But in the end they  knew how to do it. And so in the end  there was nothing surprising about the German attack. I think early on the Germans just had the initiative. They were keen on war, they were keen on  these conquests and all the rest of it. And the Allies didn’t want the war,  none of the Allies wanted the war. The Russians didn’t want the war either. They didn’t want to be invaded either. And then when it was going, those kinds of feelings, Oh, God, I’m fighting again. Oh, God, I didn’t want to fight, whereas the Germans had this kind of idea we’re fighting positively, we are in this to win. So once that faded, once we were able to hold them. I think the turning point really is on land, it’s the two turning points, really. The first is the Battle of Britain. The Battle of Britain told you they weren’t going to invade Britain.

     

    Sam Willis 

    The turning points in any war can be judged according to so many different criteria and seen from so many different perspectives.  I was wondering what you thought Hitler’s perspective on the turning points were? What do you reckon Hitler saw as the most important moment?

     

    Frank McDonough 

    It’s very hard to say because, you know, if you look at his table talks, and if you look at his meetings with his naval and military meetings, he never wants to accept that the war is lost. So he only accepts when he hears there’s been a defeat. So in that sense, he just goes on from defeat to defeat, he doesn’t want to get into it. Because  Sam, once you start getting in, once we start having a chat about what’s the turning point in your life etc, etc; you’ve got to make an admission of it.  I should have done that programme for the BBC  and now I’d be on American television.  I could say, well, I should have taken  that job in America and and didn’t take it. You know, we’ve all got those personal turning points.  Hitler  didn’t seem to work like that, he didn’t want to face up to say, oh Stalingrad, that’s a massive turning point for you. He did hint at it. I mean, during the Moscow campaign, he said, I don’t want to end up like Napoleon. Now by saying that he didn’t want to end up like Napoleon meant that he did know about what happened to Napoleon, a big coalition got together and defeated him. And I think that he saw that, you can see it through the the Goebbel’s  diaries. Goebbels wants to get out the war from 1943. He says to Hitler quite openly, you know, we’re not going to win this war, our best bet is a peace settlement. And he says the best way of getting a peace settlement was probably with Stalin  because he’s more flexible and ruthless, and he wouldn’t mind throwing over the Allies to have a peace settlement. And then  Hitler says, well, I think maybe the Allies because they might treat us a bit better if we go with the Allies. But he says in any respects they’re not going to offer us a peace settlement. So in that way, he was more realistic, he says  I don’t think they’re going to offer us  a peace settlement. They’ve hitched their wagon to this unconditional surrender, I’m not going to stay there. So what can we do? He said the only thing we can do is fight to the death. And he said,  if we fight to the death, and we lose, we lose honourably, and that’s the way I want to go,

     

    Sam Willis 

    Yes, and I suppose as historians it’s easier for us to label things as turning points, isn’t it?

     

    Frank McDonough 

    Well, I think we do this all the time. You know. It’s a very poor way of looking at historical developments. I give you a good example, the Summer of Love, you know, 1967, everyone was wearing flowers in the hair. And I remember being in the school football team in 1967, and I’ve got a picture of it. There I am, Summer of 1967 in the team photo with a short back and sides. There was no Summer of Love in Liverpool,  there was no Summer of Love in Bolton, there was no Summer of Love in Bury, there was no Summer of Love in Burnley. You know, what was it? It was a creation of the media, it was amusing reporting on a few people who were doing these things, and then magnifies it. There was a Summer of Love. There wasn’t. And yes, we do this all the time. You know, it’s it’s funny. It’s like the Weimar Germany, which I’m writing a book about, and it’s going to come out later this year. But what’s interesting is that the culture of Weimar doesn’t have any real impact on the politics of Weimar. You know, it’s not like they’re all standing around saying, oh yes, those Cabarets,  we must integrate them into the government system. There’s another one you know, the kind of Cabaret culture, that’s another Summer of Love if you like. And we do it all the time,  you know, the Enlightenment,  yes. You know, that poor bloke down and barely been enlightened by anyone you know.  The Renaissance, most people in Europe have never seen a  painting, yet there is a Renaissance  you know, so I think we do do this. We do it with turning points, we do with these catch all  phrases. And the truth is that most of history, and this is why we make it sound clearer than it was, most history is muddle. And most of the things that happen in history happen because of cock ups . They don’t happen because of planning, it’s like a cock up, you’ve made a cock up and it gets found out,  that’s what happens. And we see this I mean now in Britain, we get this every day.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Yes, and just a note to our listeners. If you’re interested in this approach, then do listen to the episode on Ferdinand Magellan with Philippe Fernandez Armesto, because he makes exactly the same point. He’s a man who embraces chaos and narrative in history. Let’s just finish up Frank by just saying what does Hitler’s relationship with his Navy tell us about him as a man and as a leader?

     

    Frank McDonough 

    I think what it tells us is that Hitler was slightly fixated on one way of winning the war. And he says this in Mein Kampf, we must gain this territory, this Lebensraum, and this lLebensraum after a while becomes like a stick of Blackpool rock and if you cut it in half  it says Lebensraum, and that is the key.  He sees territorial acquirements as the key parts of his foreign policy, and that means tanks, artillery, huge armies. It doesn’t mean a Navy, he doesn’t really look at the world like a globe; we know don’t we that most of the world is water, it’s sea.  He didn’t see that; for Hitler most of the world was land and he was fixated on gaining land.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Because his focus is south and east.

     

    Frank McDonough 

    Yes, he’s focusing on Eastern Europe because he thinks that the West won’t be as bothered if he takes over the Soviet Union; maybe they’ll even thank him for getting rid of the Soviet Union. Maybe they would actually, but I think his problem is fixation, his real problem is he’s got a mind that is like a stopped clock. He can’t change, he’s unchanging. I haven’t read everything about when he was young, through his life. He’s one of those people you know, I meet people who have changed, you can tell, you meet them 10 years on and say he’s so different than he used to be. You know, most of us do change. Now most of us when we go back to say when we were 25 or so we felt really shy and now we don’t feel shy. Most of us we used to worry about what other people talked about, now we don’t, we’re too old and ugly to worry about that. I think with Hitler, he didn’t change, he stayed the same, he was kind of like a deranged Peter Pan.

     

    Sam Willis 

    That’s interesting, isn’t it? Well, no one is holding up a mirror to him or he’s not not prepared to do that himself.

     

    Frank McDonough 

    He never would have bought that record by Michael Jackson, the Man in the Mirror.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Well, there we go. So yes, the Summer of Love and a deranged Peter Pan and that explains Hitler’s relationship with his Navy. Frank, you’re a genius. Thank you so much for your time.

     

    Frank McDonough 

    Cheers Sam.

     

    Sam Willis 

    Thank you all so much for listening. Now please do not make this the last thing you do to interact with our wonderful podcast. Firstly, please check out our fabulous YouTube channel where you will find a whole range of brilliant videos exploring our maritime past in entirely new ways. If you’re interested in 20th century naval warfare, please make sure that you look at our animation of the eye witness plan of the Battle of Tsushima and our 3 D animation of one of the Japanese aircraft carriers that launched the attack on Pearl Harbour. There’s even a remarkable 3 D scan of a midget submarine stranded on a beach in Scotland. Please remember that this pod comes from both the Society for Nautical Research and Lloyd’s Register Foundation. You can find the Society  for Nautical Research @snr.org.uk, where you could join up. It’s a wonderful way to meet people and learn all about our maritime past. And you can find the History and Education Centre of the Lloyd’s Register Foundation at h e c.lr foundation.org.uk. And please be sure to check out their latest project, Maritime Innovation in Miniature, filming the world’s best ship models with the very latest camera equipment. The results are mind blowing.

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