Interviews
Editor's Note: We regret to report the recent passing of Admiral Horst von Schroeter. He was a gentleman and true friend to us at Winidore Press.

This article is reproduced from pages 424 to 431 of The Iron Time.

“We looked up to Topp, we all respected him. He was four years older than me.

“We had an expression for the men aboard the ships we sunk. We called them Armen Schweine, “poor boys,” those on the other side. I think it is important to look at basic distances in the navy war compared to the army war. The navy does not fight against men, but material. We speak of those poor boys deaths. Of course, we had a lot of tankers sunk, and tankers blow up anyway. You have a lot of fire and oil and such on the surface and it was very very bad, very cruel.

“After the war we went through a process called ‘re-education.’ We were re-educated about all the cruelties in the war. But in my opinion they only started looking at 1933. And they don’t look, for instance, at Versailles. There is a title of a book, Hitler Born In Versailles. You must look at bit longer into the past to have the real picture. That is the one thing. The next thing, they are only looking at German crimes. And they don’t ask what is correct, or why the Germans did these things. The crimes were done especially in the Russian war, and they were often reactions to Russian actions. You must put these things together to get a clear picture of the past.”

A clear picture of history is often difficult to find. Schroeter witnessed the rapid decline of the U-boat service and is one of the very lucky few who survived it. He saw the war from above and below the surface, as a hunter and the hunted.

Horst von Schroeter began his general officer training in 1937. He participated in the occupation of Norway in 1940 as a midshipman on board the battle cruiser Scharnhorst. After his duties in Norway were over, he was ordered to special submarine training and started seagoing U-boat warfare in April 1941.

Schroeter became watch officer on U-123 from April 1941 to June 1942. Soon he earned a promotion to commander of the same ship at the age of 23 years. He fulfilled that role from August 1942, until June of 1944 with the 2nd U-boat Flotilla based at Lorient. In August of 1944, he took command of the new U-boat type XXI, U-2506. His career with the Kriegsmarine ended in the area of Bergen, Norway. As his ship was heading out on a new patrol, the war was over.

In 1956, Horst von Schroeter rejoined the navy and served for another 23 years. His time in the Bundesmarine was spent training midshipmen ashore and at sea. Schroeter served as head of the Naval Division of the Armed Forces Staff College, as well as Executive Officer aboard the destroyer “Z1.”

On April 17, 1970 Schroeter was promoted to Flotilla Admiral and then, in October 1971, to Rear Admiral. That same year he became Deputy Chief of Staff in the Naval Ministry. His success and the confidence of his superiors was reaffirmed when, in 1976, Schroeter was named Commander of Allied Forces, Baltic Approaches. He would retire with the rank of Vice Admiral in 1979. Afterward, he proudly served as the Chairman of the Naval Officers’ Association from 1982 until 1990. He currently lives in retirement.

In 1942, German shipyards were producing some five U-boats a week. By 1943, two out of every three boats that sailed from U-boat pens never made it back to port. It was a known fact among U-boat men that the greatest danger came from the sky. On a cloudy day or a clear night, the crew had to be exceptionally vigilant. It was recommended that if an aircraft surprised a submarine on the surface, the boat should defend itself using its guns. Some had tried to get away by diving. If a U-boat was hit at the critical moment of submerging, chances are it would never come up again. Off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, Horst von Schroeter’s happy hunting ground, there sleep the crews of several U-boats who did not heed the warning. Horst von Schroeter mentioned at one point in the conversation, “I am lucky to be alive.”

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