Not Official German Policy
Edward Von der Porten
Alan Rems’ December article “Götterdämmerung: German Admirals on Trial” (pp. 38–45) is a well-balanced view of a still-debated event in the aftermath of World War II. However, there are a few nuances that were not covered, possibly for lack of space, which may be of interest to your readers. In general, at the start of the war in September 1939, German submariners followed the established rules of war: visit, search, and provision for the safety of passengers and crew. Very quickly, the realities of submarine warfare—notably the arming of merchantmen, their use of radio to call in British antisubmarine forces, and their attempts to ram the submarines—made it difficult to keep the rules. Most of the restrictions on the submarines were removed by the end of 1939 by Adolf Hitler’s orders. Whether the German navy leadership desired to wage unrestricted submarine warfare from the start is a different issue.