Adolf Hitler visits Kriegsmarine U-Boats
On 30 January 1933 Adolf Hitler and the National Socialistic Party took power when Hitler was appointed as Chancelor of the German Reich. Soon a significant re-armament of Germany was launched while the arms control regime of the Versailles Treaty of 1919 was revoked unilaterally. In March 1935 general National Military Service was introduced, the German Armed Forces, hitherto called “Reichswehr”, were taken as a core for the build-up of much larger Armed Forces, now called “Wehrmacht”. Similarly, the Navy, called “Reichsmarine” until then, was given the name “Kriegsmarine“.
Hitler as the Chancelor and “Führer” (= Great Leader) of the German Reich was a frequent visitor of units, for-mations, military commands and agencies, including those of the Kriegsmarine. After a first introductionary visit of the still Reichsmarine on 22nd and 23rd of May 1933 at Kiel many more visits were to follow, including tours lasting several days on board Naval Units at sea. Also, he was guest of honour in 1936 at the launchings of the battleships Scharnhorst at Wilhelmshaven and Gneisenau at Kiel, in 1939 those of Tirpitz at Wilhelmshaven and Bismarck at Hamburg, as well as in 1938 at Kiel of the aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin.
The pictures are proof of several visits executed by Hitler at U-boats. For example, on 17 December 1935 he took part at the formal commissioning of the U-boat Flottilla “Weddigen” at Kiel and the photographs show him embarking on the Type II B U-boats U 7. There was another visit shortly after the outbreak of WW II on 28 September 1939 at Wilhelmshaven, where he congratulated the crew of U 29 to its sinking of the British aircraft carrier Courageous on 17 September 1939.
Also, much published was the reception, including a communal luncheon, of the crew of U 47 at the Chancellery in Berlin on 18 October 1939, in honour of its successful raid at Scapa Flow with sinking the British battleship Royal Oak on 14 October 1939.
However, by and large the relationship between Hitler and the Navy remained rather reserved and his critical assessment of the usefulness of Naval forces is know too well, same as his differences with the Commander-in-Chief Kriegsmarine, Grand Admiral Erich Raeder.