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THE WOLVES OF THE ATLANTIC (they brought Britain to her knees “Hidden Traces of the Grey Wolf”).

From the author.
On 11 November 1918, the First World War came to an end. During the four-year war, 150 German submarines sank 5 thousand 700 enemy navy and merchant ships with a total tonnage of over 11 million tons. The statistics frightened the victors. In the Treaty of Versailles, they allowed Germany to have a defensive war fleet, but without submarines.
German submariners returned home from captivity, among them was Lieutenant Commander Karl Dönitz, whose submarine was sunk in the Mediterranean in October 1917. Having gained a great deal of experience in naval warfare, the submariners could not imagine their fleet without submarines. These veterans were entrusted with the task of reviving the country’s submarine fleet, in secret from everyone. In 1922, Admiral Benke, Commander-in-Chief of the German Navy, was informed of the secret project. Thirty naval engineers in German shipyards began work on the designs. Soon three submarine models – 250, 500, and 750 tons displacement – were submitted for production. Three front companies were used to build them – in Holland, Finland, and Spain.

The first submarines were launched a few years later. The front companies signed contracts in Turkey, Spain, and Finland, offering the assistance of German experts in building warships and training naval personnel. The Germans built submarines for themselves in the shipyards of these countries. In 1928 the front companies were allowed to build submarines for their clients in German shipyards, and the construction of submarines for Germany began to accelerate.
This was already a direct violation of the Versailles agreements, but the American corporations, which had invested huge sums of money in the German economy, were cooperating with the Germans. They covered up the violations with a thick layer of greenbacks…
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When Hitler became Chancellor, he swore to his people that he would fulfill two tasks: to restore the country’s economic power, destroyed by the First World War, in the shortest possible time, and to return all the German lands taken from it at Versailles. When he restored industry in just four years, when every German family had a normal life again and regained faith in the future, when Hitler began to fulfill the second task and began to return German lands to the fatherland – the people believed in him and called him their Führer.

One of the factors in Hitler’s success was that he surrounded himself with talented scientists, economists, diplomats, and military leaders. One of his naval commanders was Karl Dönitz, who rose from lieutenant to vice-admiral in a few years and became commander-in-chief of the German Navy in the last year of the war, with the Führer appointing him as his successor.
During Hitler’s first year in the Reichstag, an academy with the vague name of ‘Anti-Submarine War School’ was established in Kiel to train personnel for the revived submarine fleet: officers, mechanics, radio operators, and torpedoists. Connoisseurs understood the meaning of the school’s vague name.

The new chancellor instructed his diplomats to negotiate with the British to change the inhibitions imposed on Germany regarding the creation of a navy. In 1935, Hitler managed to negotiate with British Prime Minister Lord Chamberlain, who made partial concessions and Germany was allowed to have a submarine fleet, but three times smaller than the British. This was a success, but Hitler wanted more. Continuing his diplomacy, he promised to reduce the construction of surface ships in exchange for an equal number of submarines with Britain. The new parity agreement was signed, and a fortnight later the first German submarine of the new generation rolled off the slipway. The day the “Reichsmarine” was renamed the “Kriegsmarine” can be considered the beginning of the creation of the German offensive fleet.

In September 1935 the first flotilla was formed in Kiel, initially consisting of three submarines of the new generation. Corvette Captain Karl Dönitz was appointed to command the flotilla. He introduced a special training program for the naval personnel, the survivors of which were considered to be the elite of the special forces, fanatical and dedicated sailors, ready to do their duty in all conditions. His program is now included in the training of naval special forces in all countries. Dönitz was quickly promoted and in January of the following year, 1936, he was put in charge of the entire German submarine fleet, even though it existed only on paper. But the Germans were building fast, and by the summer of 1938 Dönitz’s submarine fleet consisted of seven flotillas, the seventh of which, named ‘Wegener’ after the heroic submariner of the previous war, was equipped with the latest attack submarines capable of operating in the Atlantic.

At Versailles, Poland was given the territories of East Prussia, where millions of Germans lived, and from then on their lives got worse and worse. Through this territory ran a corridor linking Germany to its main economic and strategic port of Danzig on the Baltic Sea. The Poles, eager to seize such a colossal prize, constantly blocked the corridor and terrorized the local German population. Hitler demanded that the Polish government stop these outrages and abide by the terms of the Versailles agreement. In the spring of 1939, the German Chancellor appealed to the political leaders of England and France, inviting them to mediate in his dispute with Poland, in the hope of resolving the conflict diplomatically.
But all politicians are corrupt, and important political issues are decided by those who have bought them. It was the bankers’ plan for British politicians to secretly collude with the Polish government and establish close military cooperation with France. They recreated the political-military coalition of the eve of the First World War.
Ignoring Hitler’s request for help in the dispute over German lands, the conspirators promised to defend Poland in the event of a military conflict with Germany. Having lost Hitler in an economic war, the Rothschild bankers decided to drag him into a real war. For them, a German conflict with Poland was the only chance. A German war with Poland was seen by the bankers as the only real chance to destroy the rival who was building a new empire in Europe, the Third Reich.
At the end of August 1939, the German Chancellor, seizing the last chance to resolve the problem peacefully, presented his proposals for the settlement of the German-Polish territorial disputes to the British Ambassador in Berlin and suggested that the governments of Europe should attend a pan-European meeting. But Britain continued to ignore the German peace initiatives. The Polish government, backed by the British and French, showed ambition by telling Germany that it was not prepared to return ancestral German lands. The politicians’ statements were echoed by the Poles’ terror against the German population of East Prussia. Tens of thousands of peaceful Germans – men, women, old people, and children were killed. The survivors fled to Germany. The Poles burned the houses the Germans had abandoned, making it clear to the refugees that there was no going back. When Hitler heard of these atrocities, he said grimly: “They will pay for this!”


In the summer of 1939, the commander of the submarine fleet, Karl Dönitz, was called back from holiday. He was given the task of conducting naval exercises for his fleet, which consisted of 56 units, 48 of which were modern attack submarines, the likes of which were unparalleled anywhere in the world. The purpose of the exercise was to test the fleet’s readiness for special operations. As the tasks progressed, the sailors realized that serious events were brewing.
On 19 August, five submarines of the ‘Wegener’ flotilla left Kiel for another patrol and set course for the English Channel. This time their captains were given secret packets to be opened at a special signal. The group of nine submarines was ordered to remain on high alert in the Baltic Sea.
On the evening of Friday 1 September 1939, a group of submarines in the Baltic Sea was ordered to block all warship exits from Polish ports and sink them without warning. On that day, Wehrmacht troops invaded Poland. On that day, Chancellor Hitler was robbed of the honor of the Nobel Peace Prize.

On that day the Führer addressed the Reichstag and explained to the foreign diplomats and the world press the reasons for the invasion of Poland:
“…My proposals to leaders of other countries for mediation failed because at the time I made them there was a sudden Polish general mobilization, accompanied by a large number of provocations. They were repeated last night. Recently we recorded 21 border incidents overnight, last night there were 14, and 3 of them were very serious. That is why I have decided to use the language that the Poles have been using with us in recent months. This position of the Reich will not change…! I have decided to free the German frontiers from the elements of uncertainty and the constant threat of war. I will see to it that peace reigns on the eastern frontier, as it does on our other frontiers. To this end I shall take the necessary measures that do not contradict the proposals I made in the Reichstag for the whole world, i.e. I shall not make war against women and children. I have ordered my air forces to confine themselves to attacks on military targets. But if the enemy decides that this gives him carte blanche to wage war by any means, he will be met with a fierce response.
Last night, Polish soldiers fired on our territory for the first time. Until 5.45 in the morning, we answered with fire, now we’ll answer bombs with bombs. Those who use war gases should expect us to use them too. Those who follow the rules of humane warfare can expect us to do the same. I will continue to fight against anyone until the safety of the Reich and its rights are secured!
I am not asking any German to do more than I have been willing to do at any time during the last four years. There will be no hardship for the Germans that I will not share with them. My whole life belongs to my people-more than ever. From now on I am the first soldier of the German Reich. I put back on the uniform that was dear and sacred to me. I will not take it off until victory, for I do not contemplate defeat. I will end with the same words with which I began my power struggle. Then I said: “If our will is so strong that no hardship and suffering can break it, then our will and our Germany will be above all!”

Hitler went on to say that Germany had no interests west of her borders and expressed a desire for peaceful cooperation with England and France: “…I have declared that the border between France and Germany is final. I have repeatedly offered England friendship and, if necessary, the closest cooperation, but such offers cannot be made unilaterally. They must be reciprocal. Germany has no interests in the West; our interests end where our border ends. Nor will we have any interests in the West in the future. We guarantee this seriously and solemnly, and as long as other countries observe neutrality, we will treat them with respect and responsibility…”.
But just two days later, Britain and France declared war on Germany.

Submarine captains in the English Channel received a coded message. The message, signed by Donitz, announced that England and France had declared war on Germany. The instructions in the opened packages were to prevent enemy ships from leaving their ports at sea and to sink all warships and merchant vessels carrying weapons. Within two weeks, the waters of the Atlantic from Gibraltar to Scotland were blocked by Dönitz’s submarines.
On 3 September 1939, France and Britain declared war on Germany. Hitler waited a year for them to come to their senses. Then, in just two weeks, France was occupied and shamefully surrendered. The British were thrown out of Dunkirk and trapped on the islands. The British Empire was brought to the brink of collapse by Admiral Donitz’s fleet. His submariners had the tactics of a pack of wolves – chase, surround, torpedo and drown the prey. This tactic earned them the nickname ‘the Wolves of the Atlantic’.

In October, Dönitz’s U-boats suffered their first losses when the British sank several German submarines. To raise sailors’ morale and demoralize the enemy, the captain of the submarine flotilla U-47 ‘Wegener’, submarine ace Gunther Prien, was given the task of entering Scapa Flow Bay, the main British naval base, and destroying the flagship of the British fleet.

On 12 October 1939, Prien’s submarine “U-47” crept slowly along the coast, lying on the ground as dawn approached. She moved in this tactic for another two days, surfacing in the waters of Scapa Flow at midnight on 14 October. The silhouette of the huge ship could be seen in the darkness. Prien saw his target, the flagship Royal Oak. The British destroyers were not to be feared, the anchorage was empty and all enemy ships were at sea. The lucky submariner was in luck again. The target was a mile and a half away and Prien fired two torpedoes at it, then sent one more from the stern gun.
But all torpedoes missed their target! After reloading the bow tubes, he sent two more torpedoes. One hit the aft shell cellar of the flagship. The explosion tore through the night, and a few minutes later the ship capsized and sank, taking 800 sailors with it. U-47 left Scapa Flow the same way she had come.
The next day, the sailors painted an angry bull on the sub’s conical turret. This symbol would henceforth become the emblem of Wegener’s flotilla. They were welcomed home as heroes, and the English fleet left Scapa Flow for a long time until all the passages between the nearest islands were blocked with anti-submarine nets and surrounded by minefields.
At the end of the year, Admiral Karl Dönitz decided not to honor the rules of the Hague Convention on the Conduct of War at Sea, which forbade the sinking of passenger liners:
“…do not rescue, do not take anyone on board. Take care only of your ship and be ready to attack the next target.” The enemy started the war to destroy us, so we must show him the same ruthlessness…”.

In 1940 the submarine flotillas were numbered, the Wegener Flotilla being numbered ‘7’. The fleet was divided into two groups, one for Baltic operations based in Kiel, and the other for North Sea and Atlantic operations based in Wilgemshafen. Karl Dönitz was promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral.
The occupation of France in June and Italy’s entry into the war on Hitler’s side brought dark days for Britain. When the Wehrmacht trapped the British at Dunkirk, the Royal Admiralty used transport ships to evacuate its troops. All British destroyers were tied to the country’s naval bases and ports, patrolling the approaches to them, leaving the transports from Dunkirk unescorted. The situation was immediately exploited by Dönitz’s U-boats, who within two months attacked and sank dozens of ships with a combined tonnage of 150,000 tons.
England had failed to learn the lessons of the previous war and had not built up a strong anti-submarine fleet. Now she was about to pay the price for her neglect. The Germans occupied all the ports on the Atlantic coast of France and Dönitz moved part of his fleet there, allowing his U-boats to extend their range, reach Newfoundland, and sink convoys on their way out of the northern ports, where the Germans had until recently waited for no one.
Britain was surrounded and blockaded by German U-boats. Dönitz calculated that he would need 300 submarines to force the British to sign the surrender. But in 1940, when the political situation was most favorable for implementing the plan, Dönitz had only 67 U-boats, including training submarines.
The Reich’s shipyards needed more raw materials and could not operate at full capacity. Throughout the year, no more than 15 submarines were used in a single attack, but the ‘Wolves of the Atlantic’ still sank 315 enemy ships with a total tonnage of 1 million 659 thousand tons. With a shortage of submarines, Dönitz could only hope for the skill of his submariners.
On 2 September a wolf pack of nine U-boats attacked the SC-2 convoy, sinking five transports. Later in the month, they attacked convoy HX-72, sinking 11 of 40 enemy transports. U-boat Captain Joachim Schepke of U-100 sank 7 transports in one night, totaling over 50,000 tons. The number ‘7’ seems to have been a lucky number for Schepke, who attacked the SC-11 convoy in November and sank seven more ships.
For the whole year, Dönitz’s U-boats sank three and a half million tons (!) of cargo destined for Britain, an average of 380,000 tons a month. Britain was on the brink of collapse.
The Germans were winning the war at sea and were on the verge of victory. The whole second half of the year was spent in euphoria, as returning submarines were greeted with bands and flowers, and crews washed their medals in harbour pubs. But life is like a zebra, a white stripe is always followed by a black one.

In March 1941, Prime Minister Churchill issued a directive specifying the vital naval battle for the Empire and calling on the Admiralty to concentrate all its efforts on preventing Britain’s defeat. Dönitz’s U-boat fleet began to suffer losses. That month they lost the submarines of several U-boat commanders, including the best: Prien, Schepke, and Kretschmer. The rest of the fleet was in shock, and submariners whispered of a new secret British weapon. One of the most baffling mysteries of the Second World War remained the disappearance of submarine ace Gunther Prien. He went missing on 7 March that year and the fate of his boat remains a mystery. There are only theories about what happened to it. Perhaps the U-47 fell victim to a malfunction in its torpedo system, or to the depth charges of British corvettes, or…?
The Vice-Admiral, who wanted to boost the morale of his sailors, made a speech in which he reassured the submariners and denied the presence of secret enemy weapons. He ended his speech by saying that the tragedy was a ‘pure accident’. No one believed it was an accident, as the fleet’s losses continued to mount. The British had a new weapon, American radar, which allowed them to track German submarines as they surfaced, to pursue them, to drive them underwater, and to drop depth bombs. But the enemy has got a secret weapon. It had been given to the British by Dönitz’s submariners themselves.

In early May 1941, in the waters of the North Atlantic, the British destroyer ‘Bulldog’ captured the submarine U-110. The trophy was the Enigma cipher machine, along with a set of documents that the submarine’s commander had no time to destroy. This unique invention of German scientists was used by all branches of the armed forces of Hitler’s Germany. The U-boat sank with all its crew, and this incident was reported by British newspapers, leading the German command to believe that ‘Enigma’ had gone down with the U-boat.
The decryption of the Germans’ secret correspondence helped the Royal Navy to seize 9 tankers at sea that were supplying fuel to Dönitz’s U-boats. This immediately restricted their patrol area and reduced the effectiveness of their operations. But the Germans changed the codes and only a year later the British managed to capture the new Enigma codes from another German submarine in the Mediterranean. This trophy changed the course of the naval war in favor of Britain and America, and the Germans were puzzled until the end of the war as to how the British had managed to learn how to fight in such a short time.

In June 1941 Hitler attacked Stalin and much of the resources were diverted to the Eastern Front. Construction of the U-boat fleet slowed down again. By the end of the year Dönitz had 250 submarines, but the problem remained that only two out of three boats were operational. New submarines were being run in, their crews were being trained, and the older boats needed extensive repairs. Faced with the enemy’s increased effectiveness, Dönitz’s submariners needed a new tactic and the one was proposed in August. One group of submarines, after tracking the convoy, would divert the attention of the escorts and draw them away from the transports. The second group of submarines, knowing the location of the convoy, would wait for it on the way. And while the escort destroyers smoked on the horizon, driving off the pack of wolves hanging on the tail of the convoy, the second group fired on the unguarded transports. The new tactic produced immediate results. On 28 August, a group of ‘Atlantic Wolves’ consisting of 13 submarines attacked the SC-42 convoy, sinking 20 ships in one hour.

At the time, America was helping Stalin and Churchill by supplying their armies with everything they needed for the war. This irritated Hitler more and more. By November, the ‘wolves of Donitz’ were already watching bathers on Florida beaches through binoculars, making their intentions clear to America. This may have been another factor for Roosevelt, who was looking for an excuse to enter the war. The Japanese attack on the American military base at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 provided such an excuse.
Germany had gained a dangerous adversary, and the Battle of the Atlantic was complicated by new problems for Dönitz’s submariners. America’s entry into the war meant that the admiral’s submariners would need more torpedoes. His analysts calculated that submarines would have to sink 800,000 tons of enemy tonnage a month to maintain the balance of the war at sea. The fleet was replenished with new supply ships to replace those destroyed. Reports called them ‘cash cows’. Dönitz sent submarines west to the American coast and the Caribbean. This was Operation Paukenschlag (the Nazis loved pompous names), in which the ‘Wolves of the Atlantic’ sank 3 million tons of cargo in 6 months, less than half of what the admiral’s analysts had planned.

In his younger years, Hitler was a keen draughtsman and his watercolor landscape sketches are still in private collections. After becoming chancellor, he also showed himself to be a designer. He worked with the architect Speer on the architecture of the cities of the Third Reich. And Stalinist architects copied this design in the cities of the Soviet Union. The Führer also collaborated with military designers. The ‘Tiger’ heavy tank was his joint project with Ferdinand Porsche, and the famous Volkswagen Beetle car was designed by Hitler himself, prototypes of the Beetle can still be seen on the roads of countries all over the world. Hitler designed motorways and demanded that they be coated to withstand the impact of airplanes landing on them. The Führer was well versed in the design features of naval vessels and, as his adjutant wrote in his memoirs, “…at technical conferences his questions often baffled the specialists in naval construction and demanded an immediate answer”. Hitler once proposed sketches of a ship with a catapult system for small aircraft to be hidden under the upper deck during a naval campaign. The designers criticized the idea, pointing out that there were no analogs for such a design in the world and that it was therefore “not classical”. Hitler threw the sketches in a dustbin. The name of the person who cleaned up after the meetings is not known, but he or she was paid in British pounds.
One day, over lunch with his military chiefs, Hitler received news that the British had begun construction of a ship with a catapult for launching aircraft. With a triumphant smile, the Führer handed the news to his naval aide, Admiral von Puttkamer: “The British are building such a ship, and from now on it can be considered as ‘a classic’. The embarrassed admiral did not know what to say. This ship was the cruiser “Edinburgh”.

A catapulted plane had taken off from the deck, done its job in the air, and landed next to the cruiser. Then it was lifted on board by a special crane. The “Edinburgh” was the pride of the Royal Navy. Nearly 200 meters long, she could reach a speed of 32 knots, close to that of the fast torpedo boats of the time. Loaded with armaments, the cruiser was able to repel enemy attacks from the air and sea.
On 29 April 1942, the British cruiser “Edinburgh” left Murmansk to escort convoy QP-11, delivering military supplies to the Russians, back to England. There were 850 sailors and soldiers on board the 187-meter-long cruiser, which was traveling at a speed of 32 knots. In one of the bomb shelters was a secret cargo: 93 boxes of gold bullion weighing 4.5 tonnes and worth 2 million 320 thousand 620 dollars at the exchange rate of the time. This gold was part of Stalin’s payment for Allied military supplies. German air reconnaissance detected the convoy as it was leaving, and submarines of the 7th Flotilla were already waiting for their prey on the way.
The next day, 30 April, they attacked. A torpedo hit “Edinburgh’s” stern and jammed the cruiser’s rudder. The convoy escort destroyers were trying to drive the German U-boats away, preventing them from surfacing in firing position. Two days passed in attempts to repair the damage, but then three German ships arrived and fired on the cruiser, destroying most of the crew with the fire of their guns. The survivors were rescued by escort ships, and the mortally wounded “Edinburgh” was sunk to deny the Germans the gold.

From July to October, the “wolves of the Atlantic” attacked 15 enemy convoys and sank 67 cargo ships with a total tonnage of 340,000 tons. November was the most productive month for Dönitz’s submariners, who sank 126 transports with a total tonnage of 802,000 tons, meeting the planned quota for the first time. However, losses of professionals and boats were increasing, reducing the effectiveness of the fleet as a whole.
Since the beginning of the war, 160 submarines and their commanders were lost and experienced captains were what is called the weight of gold. Dönitz now had to rely on quantity rather than quality. The invasion of Anglo-American troops in North Africa and growing losses forced the admiral to curtail operations in the Mediterranean Sea.
In late December, 15 submarines wolf pack Dönitz attacked the convoy TM-1, surrounded and sank a tanker loaded with oil for Britain. In that raid, the tactic of diverting the escort ships was again successful. But the losses of their fleet continued to mount. The Americans, with their powerful radar and aircraft carriers, dictated new rules of warfare at sea.

At the end of January 1943, Admiral Dönitz became Commander-in-Chief of the Reich Navy. With the end of the winter storm season, three groups of “Wolves of the Atlantic” went on the hunt. They attacked convoy SC-121 and sank 12 transports. A week later, they attacked convoys HH-229 and SC-122, sinking 35 ships and losing one of their submarines. This was the last success of the wolf pack tactic.
American fighters, equipped with powerful radars and depth bombs, took off from the decks of the carriers and within minutes were above the surfacing submarines, ready to attack. Dönitz’s U-boat fleet suffered losses. In May alone 41 submarines were lost, all sailors. Enemy aircraft were becoming the submarines’ most dangerous adversaries. In June and July, of the 54 German submarines sunk, 43 were destroyed from the air. There was no time for the shipyards to recoup their losses.
If the waters of the Bay of Biscay had been the most ‘fertile’ for Dönitz’s sea wolves in the first year of the war, they now became their grave.

In early September, Italy surrendered and all its ports and airfields became bases for American ships and aircraft. Germany received a second, southern front and the carpet bombing of its cities. It was the turning point of the war and the beginning of the end for the Reich.
A “wolf pack” of 22 submarines attacked convoys ON-202 and ONS-18, sinking 3 escort ships and 6 transports. Here the Germans lost 3 submarines, but the worst was yet to come. Dönitz’s tactics were correct, but they were decoded by the British using the Enigma cipher machine they had captured earlier. Before the end of the year, all of Admiral Dönitz’s submarine groups were shot down from the air by American planes, with 23 submarines sunk in October, 16 in November, and a further 5 in December. The technology and armament of the American navy and aircraft frustrated Hitler’s plans to cut Britain out of the war. The Americans used the British Isles as a springboard to gather forces for an attack on Europe. For the “wolves of the Atlantic”, the “golden time” was over…

With the entry of the USA into the war, Hitler’s plans to blockade Britain with a submarine fleet proved unfulfilled. Britain became a staging area for American troops, America was sending its planes there with hundreds of thousands of tons of supplies for the war. In January 1943 at a meeting in Casablanca, the political leaders and military commanders of the US and Britain drew up a plan for joint action to defeat the Third Reich. Germany, Italy, and Japan were given an ultimatum. And the Battle of the Atlantic began. The Americans reorganized convoy security by assigning escorts to long-range bombers equipped with powerful radars. If a group of German submarines was spotted, a fighter jet taking off from the deck of an aircraft carrier would drop depth bombs on them. In response, German scientists developed a new weapon for their submarine fleet that could be used when a missile was launched from a submarine at depth. They also invented an electronic defense for submarines that allowed them to pick up the enemy’s radar signal and go deep in advance. Soon American aircraft were equipped with the latest radar, whose signal the German electronics could not pick up. It was already a war of technologies.

In early September 1943, Italy surrendered, and the Italian boot in the Mediterranean became a giant runway for American bombers. Germany was given a second, southern front and its cities and military-industrial centers were carpet-bombed. By the end of that year, the Americans and British had cleared the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic of German submarines and defeated Rommel’s corps in North Africa. In Russia, the Germans were defeated at Stalingrad. All this became sad music for the Third Reich, as an offensive war turned into a retreat from captured territory. By early 1944, the Germans had run out of raw materials and fuel, and their war factories and shipyards lay in ruins. With the landing of Anglo-American troops in Normandy in June 1944 and the opening of a third front, the Third Reich was doomed.
© Copyright: Walter Maria, 2015 Certificate of Publication #215112101936

Published inHistory & Politics

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