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Hitler, Donitz, and the Baltic Sea: The Third Reich's Last Hope, 1944-1945 Hardcover – June 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Howard D. Grier is professor of history at Erskine College in Due West, South Carolina, where he has taught European and military history since 1991. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This is Professor Grier s first book. His previous publications include journal articles and chapters in textbooks and encyclopedias. He lives in Due West with his wife and daughter.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (July 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591143454
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591143451
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,717,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Truthteller on July 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Hitler's selection of Commander in Chief of the German Navy, Karl Doenitz as his succesor in the closing days of World War II is often viewed as puzzling and illogical. Howard Grier's "Hitler, Doenitz and the Baltic Sea" attempts to explain why the selection of a Navy man rather than a high-ranking Nazi party hack or a German Army Field Marshal to succeed Hitler made sense, at least to Hitler.

The reason for the selection stems from the Nazi's long-range plans for Germany to dominate, if not conquer outright, the entire world. Such plans would naturally have to include a full scale naval fleet. Nazi Germany, however, was never able to develop such a fleet, particularly after the invasion of Poland when the declarations of war by Britain and France against Germany, and Germany's subsequent invasion of the Soviet Union, necessitated Germany's primary economic and military focus on land-based warfare. Japan, however, in 1941 did have a full scale navy (arguably even the biggest and best in the world). It was for this reason, the use of Japan's naval forces against the navies of the Western powers, that Germany appeared to welcome Japan's attack on the U.S. and why Germany declared war on the U.S. immediately thereafter.

The author's book examines how the Nazis never lost sight of their hope for world domination through their own naval force and how even in the last year, months, and weeks of the war they planned to at least force a peace with the West (and then re-conquer lands lost in the East) by utilizing a new type of submarine, the XXI U-boat, to damage and destroy British and American shipping, with the end result being that the British would starve and the Americans would not be able to re-supply Britain or ferry troops and materiel to continue the war in Europe.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By C. D. Turner on August 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A well written and researched book with some compelling arguments that offers a convincing explanation that Hitler had indeed a strategy in the last two years of the war, other than a mad obsession with holding every inch of ground, no matter what the cost.

The basis of the book is that Hitler based his strategy on one simple premise, that to avoid total defeat he needed to neutralize the western allies for just enough time to defeat the Soviet Union, which would allow him to broker a peace deal with the western allies. To do this, he needed to keep the Baltic Sea firmly under German control; to allow for new revolutionary U-boats to be commissioned, (despite heavy allied bombing the new U Boats were starting to be produced faster than ever in early 1945) and their crews trained away from constant allied air and naval attacks, this would allow Germany to stop the flood of US supplies to the Soviet Union as well as making further British and American offensive operations in the west more difficult due to the disrupted supply lines.

The book shows how Hitler quite rightly understood that alternative strategies offered by his Generals merely proposed to delay Germanys defeat, while only Donitz and his new U-boats offered the only if slim possibility of victory.

The book is a delight to read, and deserves a wider audience.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A. russo on June 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I certainly enjoyed reading the author's view on the Donitz/Hitler relationship and his geopolitcal and military view of its result in the Baltic. I found the first parts of the book particularly worth reading. I do not agree with all of the points he makes in his book however.

I think the primary rationale of holding the Courland Pocket (keeping the Baltic available for Type XXI U-boat training), which the author seems to support, is a tremendously flawed one.

Any rational person, which seems to have included everyone in Germany not named Donitz or Hitler, could see that holding of this bridgehead tied down the very troops that would have given Germany the men needed to hold onto the East Prussian and Pomeranian coastlines. The Russians simply screened Courland with mostly second-line troops and let them slowly wither and die. This strategy greatly contributed to a million or more Prussian civilians being slaughtered, and the loss of hundreds more miles of Baltic coastline further to the west, due to the fact that the excellent combat veterans of Army Group North who were needed to defend East Prusia were confined in Courland. At its core, it was an insane and senseless strategy, in spite of the arguments made in this book.

The author's contention that Hitler did allow withdrawals was puzzling as well. The mentioned retreat from Finland was only after they the Finns signed a peace treaty with Russia and declared war on Germany. He also gives the example of the retreat from France, but Hitler did so only after keeping his armies in place in Normandy for far too long. The result was the almost complete destruction of his army at Falaise.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A. A. Nofi on June 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover
A summary of the review on StrategyPage.COM:

'Prof. Grier (Erskine College) addresses Hitler's seemingly "irrational" decision to leave over a million troops in enclaves on the Baltic Coast during the final months of the war, rather than withdrawing them to help in the direct defense of Germany. Hitler's claim that this was necessary to keep the Baltic a "German lake" to train the U-boot force has been generally dismissed as a rationalization of his "no retreat" policy. In this well-reasoned and carefully documented work, however, Grier argues that this claim has considerable validity. The decision, Grier argues, was based on advice given Hitler by his naval commander Karl Dönitz, and looked to the imminent introduction of the Type XXI U-boot, one of Germany's less fantastical "wonder weapons." He goes on to explore many other aspects of the war in its last phases, notes a number of overlooked instances in which Hitler accepted retreat as a necessary military measure, which have generally been overlooked, and discusses the potential impact of the Type XXI on the war, and gives us a fresh look at German strategy.'

For the full review, see StrategyPage.COM
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