WWII

Remnants Of Nazi Power: 75 Years Since 'The Flensburg Government'

Despite the Allied victory in Europe declared on 8 May 1945, it was not quite the end of the Nazi Third Reich.

Tomorrow marks the 75th anniversary of the end of Germany’s last Nazi government.

The Allied victory in Europe may have been declared earlier in May 1945, but a Nazi administration was still housed in the coastal town of Flensburg, in the north of Germany.

"This enclave of the government was solely the naval school and the sports school, nothing else. It’s a very small area," historian and German Navy captain, Joerg Hillmann said.

"There were ministers but they didn’t have a ministry.

"There was a Minister for Finance without any money, there was a Minister for Foreign Affairs but there were no people working for him."

The so-called 'Flensburg government' was headed up by Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz.

His success in the U-boat campaigns had turned him into a national hero, and Hitler’s chosen successor – he believed himself to be Germany’s new president.

"British soldiers respected this enclave for the government," Capt Hillmann said.

"They didn’t hinder people to go in and to go out."

In a ruined country, Britain believed Doenitz’s government could help provide stability.

The theory was, Germans were more likely to listen to other Germans.

Captain Hillmann said, however, the enclave attracted Nazis on the run.

"All the rats from the Nazi regime went to Flensburg, a lot of SS people also got new papers from this last government, so they changed identities, then they were able to escape from the Allied troops," he said.

On 23 May 1945, British patience with the Flensburg government wore off, and its members were taken into custody.

The institution had been exposed as a fantasy – seemingly in denial about the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Doenitz was jailed for ten years but maintained his belief he was Germany’s true leader.

A letter he wrote, and sent following his death in 1980, was addressed to then-West German President Karl Carstens.

Captain Hillmann explained: "He said 'Until now I was the legitimate president of Germany, but when I die, I hand this post over to you, Mr President'."

Cover image: Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz (left) being driven in a car (Picture: US National Archives).