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