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Sample Autograph Signature: Karl Dönitz

Commander-in-Chief of the Nazi German navy during World War II and Hitler's successor. Dönitz (1891 – 1980) joined Germany's Imperial Navy in 1911 and served during World War I until he was captured by the British. Returning to Germany in 1920, he continued his naval career and had risen to the rank of Commodore and leader of submarines (Führer der Unterseeboote) by the start of World War II in 1939. In October 1939, he became a Rear Admiral and a year later he was promoted to a Vice Admiral, but remained commander of submarines. Upon Hitler's declaration of war on the U.S. in December 1941, Dönitz expanded his submarine attacks against the British to include shipping along the east coast of the U.S. By the end of 1942, he was conducting mass attacks by groups of submarines which caused enormous losses to Allied shipping. Dönitz became Commander-in-Chief of the Navy in January 1943. As the Third Reich was collapsing in April 1945, Hitler expelled both Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler from the Nazi party and designated Dönitz as his successor as Head of State (although he was to become President rather than Führer). Ironically, he had never joined the Nazi Party. He became the sole representative of Germany after Hitler's suicide and served for 20 days as its President until arrested by the British. He was later indicted on three counts as a Major War Criminal at the Nuremberg trials. Dönitz was found guilty on two counts and sentenced to imprisonment for 11 1/2 years. He was released on October 1, 1956, having served 10 years, and retired to a small village near Hamburg where he wrote two books. His memoirs, Zehn Jahre, Zwanzig Tage ("Ten Years and Twenty Days"), was published in Germany in 1958. Ten years later, he published Mein Wechselvolles Leben ("My Ever-Changing Life"), which was an autobiographical account of his life before 1934. This title was issued in a new edition in 1998 with the revised title Mein soldatisches Leben ("My Soldier's Life"). Dönitz is credited with being largely responsible for having created by far the most advanced submarine fleet in the world by the end of World War II.

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