U-Boat Commander Oskar Kusch
To his enlisted men on U-154, Lieutenant Oskar Kusch was the ideal skipper—bright, experienced, successful, caring, tolerably eccentric—and a popular captain who always brought his boat home safely when so many others vanished without a trace. To most of his officers Kusch came across as someone very different—a Nazi-hating intellectual with an artistic bent given to lengthy criticisms of the regime, its leaders and its propaganda, a suspected coward and potential traitor unfit for command. Early in 1944, after his second patrol under Kusch, his executive officer, a reservist with a doctorate in law and member of the Nazi party, denounced him on charges of sedition and cowardice.
A hastily arranged court-martial cleared Kusch of the cowardice accusation but sentenced him to death on purely ideological grounds for "undermining the fighting spirit" of his boat, even though the prosecutor had only recommended a ten-year jail sentence. Abandoned by all but his closest friends and relatives, coldly sacrificed by Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, unwilling to plead for mercy, and to the end tormented by a naval legal bureaucracy acting in collusion with the brown regime, Oskar Kusch was executed in May 1944.
This study, the first scholarly work on Kusch in English, traces his career and ordeal from his upbringing in Berlin to his tragic death and beyond, including the fifty-year struggle to rehabilitate his name and restore his honor in a postwar Germany long loath to confront the darker dimensions of its past. The passing of the wartime generation and the emergence of a new school of historians dedicated to critical research and inspired historiography have finally combined to rectify our picture of the Kriegsmarine and to appreciate the sacrifice of men like Oskar Kusch.