Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Funeral of Wolfgang Luth: The Last Act of the Third Reich

One of the enduring mysteries of the Flensburg period is the mysterious death of U-Boat ace Wolfgang Luth just a few days after the war ended. Now, as then, there have been dark suspicions that he was murdered, for one reason or another. Whatever the case, his funeral was the official final act of the Third Reich.

"The next morning the inquiry was convened, with several British and American officers in attendance. Testimonies were presented and it was quickly concluded that the whole thing had been a tragic accident, nothing more. But out in the city, things were anything but calm. People were angry and rumors continued to spread and intensify. The local newspaper presented many as facts, including a front page headline which read, Hero Shot From Behind. As the story continued to spin out of control, the British retaliated with a bold gambit. There would be a state funeral with all the honors and privileges which have a way of transforming the mob’s anger into a mood of somber reflection.

The next day, swastikas flew again over Flensburg. All the banners and flags with gold cord and bunting; all the splendor and dash of dress uniforms; all the glittering Nazi regalia that had been put away, were brought back out one last time.

And in the center of it, flanked by six senior U-Boat captains, each with a sword and wearing the Knight’s Cross, was Luth’s flag-draped casket, mounted on an artillery caisson drawn by eight horses. Behind it walked Doenitz followed by Frau Luth and her four children and then senior Navy, Army, and Luftwaffe officers. There were generals and field marshals, colonels and majors, along with a blue sea of sailors, looking smart and undefeated." (Excerpt from Germania, Simon & Schuster, 2008, now also available on Kindle here).

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