Battleship Bismarck: A Survivor's Story

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Originally published to much acclaim in 1980, this is the story of the legendary German battleship that sunk the pride of the Royal Navy, HMS Hood, on May 24, 1941, and three days later was hunted down and sunk by the British during one of the most dramatic pursuits in naval history. Told by a German naval officer who witnessed both sinkings, the book chronicles the brief but sensational career of what was thought to be the grandest weapon of the Third Reich. Burkard Baron von Müllenheim-Rechberg, the Bismarck's top-ranking survivor, tells the battleship's story from commissioning to the moment when the captain gave a final salute and went down with his ship.

The epic battle between the two great enemy ships captured the imagination of an entire generation and became a popular subject for movies and songs. With the discovery a few years ago of the Bismarck's sunken hull off the coast of France, worldwide attention has focused again on the famous ship. Reprinted now in paperback for the first time, the work presents the human dimensions of the event without neglecting the technical side and includes information on rudder damage and repair, overall ship damage, and code breaking. The book also provides insights into the author's life as a prisoner of war in England and Canada and the friction that existed between the Nazis and non-Nazis Germans in the camps. Such a personal look at one of the most famous sea encounters in the history of World War II makes absorbing reading.

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This story is surprisingly relevant right now. On the one hand, it gives a very human story of the Bismarck’s crew. Most of them were killed in the final battle. I never though I’d shed a tear for “the enemy,” but I certainly did as Von Muhlenberg describes what happened to his ship.
The other account in the book is Von Muhlenberg’s politics. He never liked the Nazis, nor did his boss, Captain Lindemann, who would go down with his ship. The author mostly kept his mouth shut, something he shows some regret for now. However, he describes Hitler’s supporters in terms that sound chillingly like Trump’s. At the end, because of exposure to propaganda that told them to mistrust “fake news,” German POWs thought Germany would win World War II almost until the end in early May of 1945. Sound familiar.
It probably explains why Germans — who are taught all about the Nazi years — were probably the most frightened by the rise of Donald Trump.

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