1943 Heribert, the WWII German submariner

Heribert the WWII German sailor. RPPC. Private Collection.

Handsome WWII German sailor. Kriegsmarine Heribert. Bremen 1943. RPPC. Private Collection.

Smiling Heribert could have been an actor. He certainly had the striking good looks. But unfortunately he was a submariner serving under Hitler. Posting a picture of a German military guy from WWII is always an icky affair for some, but not for me.

The Kriegsmarine crews manned U-boats. Those submarines earned the nickname of “iron coffins”.

By war’s end, 28,000 out of 39,000 German sailors had died at sea. That’s 3 out of 4 wiped out, the highest casualty rate of all German forces. They did considerable damage to Allied forces too: 3,000 Allied ships (175 warships; 2,825 merchant ships) were sunk by U-boat torpedoes. The numbers are staggering on both sides.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once wrote “The only thing that really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril.”

But let’s come back to Heribert.

Without a last name there is no way of knowing if he made it through to the end or not, but the statistics are against him. Most German mariner casualties happened in the second half of the war when Allied technology advanced enough to effectively counteract their offensive.

Heribert's note.

[…] Memory / from Your Friend. Heribert. The other half of the postcard is blank.

He had his picture taken in Kiel and he wrote this message from Bremen, Germany on November 25, 1943. From the little I understand of it, he addressed it to his friend and I see the word memory or souvenir (andenken). His Ns and Ms look like Us too, so this makes it doubly hard to try and translate. A German Tumblr person translated it to “To Eternal Remembrance”.

There is no address and the postcard wasn’t posted, This was a picture he gave or left behind for his friend to find.

Photographer: Kunstfoto A. Klein. Kiel, Holstenstr. 104. Germany.

A (long) note to the casual reader:

I do not support racism, intolerance or other extreme views.

I have American, Russian and British soldiers who fought the same war in this collection. And while I understand the knee-jerk reaction of demonizing anyone who wore the Nazi uniform I like to dig beyond the surface.

I don’t see the world strictly in black and white terms and believe your average drafted WWII German soldier, sailor and pilot began the war for family and country but ended it disillusioned and horrified. They did what every soldier does in wartime: go on missions and hope they and their friends survived it to see another day. The alternative for the Germans was execution.

By the second half of the war 100,000 of the German military took the risk and deserted, 25,000 of them got caught and executed, and tens of thousands more ended up in concentration camps or “punishment battalions” where they were made to do the most hazardous tasks. By comparison, only one American soldier got executed for desertion, Eddie Slovik.

With all this said the SS and gestapo’s horrifying war crimes were deliberate and absolutely inexcusable in any way; you won’t find any of them on this blog.

“I was a good soldier. I see today that because of that, I was merely a good tool for an unbelievably criminal regime.” Heinz Otto Fausten. WWII German infantry veteran.

This quote is from an insightful article worth a read: A Son’s Quest For The Truth: The Last Battle of a German WWII Veteran

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3 responses to “1943 Heribert, the WWII German submariner

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