Book Review: Hitler, Dönitz, and the Baltic Sea: The Third Reich's Last Hope, 1944-1945


by Howard D. Grier

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2007. Pp. xxii, 288. Illus., maps, notes, biblio, index. $34.95. ISBN: 1591143451

Hitler, Dönitz, and the Baltic Sea is a study in late-war German naval strategy.

This excellent first book is simultaneously revisionist in the best sense of the term and ground breaking.  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.  Traditional interpretations of Hitler’s claim that this was necessary to keep the Baltic a “German lake” to train the submarine 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.”  Grier goes on to explore many other aspects of the war in its last phases, including Hitler’s relationship with Dönitz, 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. 

Hitler, Dönitz, and the Baltic Sea is a valuable work for anyone interested in the Eastern Front or the naval war. 


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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