Oskar Kusch

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Memorial plaque in Oskar-Kusch-Straße in Altenholz- Knop near his place of execution

Oskar Heinz Kusch (born April 6, 1918 in Berlin ; † May 12, 1944 in Kiel ) was a German naval officer and submarine commander in World War II , who was sentenced to death and executed for comments critical of the regime .


Kusch attended the Hohenzollern grammar school in Berlin-Schöneberg from 1928 to 1936, where he received his school-leaving certificate in autumn 1936. At the age of ten he joined the Bündische Jugend in 1928 and was a member of the German Freischar and the German Scout Association . The "Tahoe-Ring" was formed from the ring association of German scouts , from which the " Südlegion " boys' association emerged in 1932 , where Kusch was also active. This group was interested in humanistic literature and philosophy . In 1933, when the suppression of the Bündische Jugend began, the group was taken over as a game group in the Hitler Youth (HJ) and later illegally continued when the HJ was purged. Kusch left the Hitler Youth in 1935 after the group he led, the “Oskar” play group, had been disbanded. However, he illegally remained a member of the group until 1937. Some evidence suggests that Kusch was under surveillance by the Gestapo during this time . For example, the information from the State Police Office (STL) Berlin and the STL's comment that Kusch had written in letters to his former group leader of the Bündische Jugend Pallas in "blatant form" about the Reich Labor Service , which he had served from October 1936 to March 1937.

Navy time

Oskar Kusch joined the Navy on April 3, 1937 as a candidate for sea officer ( Crew 37a ) . Kusch's desire to become a seaman may have had several reasons. His mother said in 1949: “In particular, he dealt with naval books and expressed the wish early on that he would become a commodore . [...] When my son became the commander of a submarine himself , he was very proud of it. "

The enthusiasm for the navy, a thirst for adventure and the instinct for leadership trained in the Bündische Jugend probably also played a role.

However, political and ideological considerations were likely to be decisive. Because in Section 26 of the Defense Act it says: “The soldiers are not allowed to be politically active. Membership in the NSDAP or one of its branches or in one of its affiliated associations is suspended for the duration of active military service, ”which Kusch probably came in handy. The Wehrmacht - and especially the Navy - was seen as a place where one could escape the grip of the NSDAP, because the Wehrmacht leadership was very keen on its autonomy.

In addition, it could have been difficult to take up a civilian profession, as membership in a Nazi organization was often required, which Kusch rejected for ideological reasons. In addition, he had to reckon with difficulties in this project due to his illegal activity in the Bündische Jugend.

So it happened that Kusch was stationed on the light cruiser Emden from April 3, 1939 to March 31, 1940 after staying on various training ships and participating in courses as an ensign at sea . The training to become an officer on watch in the submarine weapon lasted from April 1 to September 27, 1940, on June 25, 1941 he was first used on board the U 103 as a second officer on watch (II. WO).

Oskar Kusch was promoted to first lieutenant on September 1, 1941 for his services and received the Iron Cross, 2nd class on November 10, 1941 , and after the end of the patrol on U 103, on June 5, 1942, the Iron Cross, 1st class. After completing the commanders course in August 1942, he got back on the U 103 , this time as I. WO. After arriving in Lorient , Kusch was given command of U 154 on February 8, 1943 .

Events on board U 154

The U 154 team

The crew strength of the U 154 was 48 men, including four officers (commandant, 1st and 2nd watch officer [WO] and chief engineer [LI]) as well as 44 non-commissioned officers and men . Oberleutnant zur See Ulrich Abel, IWO, was born on March 3, 1912 and went to sea from 1929 to 1932 after graduating from high school. In 1938 he graduated as Dr. jur. II. WHERE was first lieutenant to the sea Heinrich Meyer, chief engineer was Kurt Druschel, he was a "high Hitler youth leader" before joining the navy.

Kusch's first patrol as commander of U 154

On March 20, 1943, U 154 and its new commander Kusch left Lorient to set out on the fifth patrol. Shortly before leaving the country, Kusch gave his stoker the order to remove the Führer picture in the officers' room with the words “Take that away, we are not doing idolatry here” . It became clear early on that there were political contradictions between Kusch and his officers, because Kusch as opponents of the National Socialist government and Abel and Druschel as staunch National Socialists had some disputes, often in the presence of the team. The ship's doctor Nothdurft on Kusch's second patrol later described Abel and Druschel as "typical officers who believed in victory and who always proudly described themselves as followers of the Fuehrer." According to witnesses, despite insurmountable ideological differences, these conversations always took place in a comradely tone .

Kusch made no secret of his anti-National Socialist attitude; on the contrary, his attitude was known to the entire occupation. Due to the limited space on the submarine, word of Kusch's attitude will have got around quickly. Ensign Kirchammer later testified before the court martial : “The defendant once told us ensigns that we should form our own opinion and not allow ourselves to be influenced by propaganda .” Kusch spread a joke among the crew: “What do the German people and a tapeworm have in common ? They are both surrounded by brown mass and in constant danger of being led away. "

The break between the officers occurred on July 3, 1943, when U 126 was sunk by an air raid in the immediate vicinity of U 154 . The two boats were on the joint march back to Lorient, as at 02:44 an enemy plane appeared and depth charges threw off the boats. U 126 and U 154 dived immediately to avoid the attack. Since communication with U 126 was not possible after diving , Kusch assumed that U 126 had marched on as agreed and was therefore out of range. However, shortly afterwards cracking noises were heard in the headquarters of U 154 , which indicated the implosion of U 126 due to the water pressure . Kusch decided to march on underwater and emerged at 7:07 a.m. four nautical miles from the site of the attack to look for survivors, but broke off at 8:33 a.m. due to the risk of another attack.

Although Kusch's behavior during the attack and afterwards was assessed as correct by the commander of the submarines, according to the witness Kirchammer, shortly after the submergence, Abel made serious accusations that his commander had not made intensive rescue attempts, because a good friend of Abel was on the U 126 . But Kusch refused to appear in order not to endanger his own boat. "From that moment on, Abel was literally inflamed with hatred and the previous agreement, which he had been able to observe between the officers on the professional and comradely level despite their completely diametrical political stance, was completely destroyed from now on." that Abel was judged unsuitable to be a commander after the journey from Kusch. The radio mate Janker considered this to be "the real cause that made Abel want revenge and revenge."

Kusch's second patrol as commander of U 154

Kusch's second patrol as commander began when he left the port of Lorient with U 154 on October 2, 1943 . Funkmaat Kurt Isensee testified that the political talks between Kusch on the one hand and Druschel and Abel on the other took an increasingly violent shape during the second trip:

“As an underwater listener, I often witnessed political talks that took place in the officers' room, and during which it was clear that it was not just a conversation like the one on the first voyage, but that Druschel and Abel used every opportunity to oppose. I am also firmly convinced that this opposing position arose out of wounded vanity, which in turn resulted from the fact that Lieutenant Abel had to make another trip as a commandant's student. "

Isensee stated that "apart from two or three geeky men, the entire crew was on the commandant's side." He was therefore of the opinion that Kusch's statements would not have been detrimental to the military . The Army Medical Officer Nothdurft was on board during this trip to carry out scientific measurements on board a front boat under tropical conditions. On June 12, 1946, Nothdurft made an " affidavit " in front of the CIC Heidelberg , describing the coexistence with the officers of U 154 . In this document he described Kusch's behavior, but in contrast to Isensee he expressed himself negatively:

“He thought the war was criminal and lost, the submarine weapon was ridiculous and finished. He forced this opinion on everyone, although fearful people refused to hear it. [...] Therefore, there were often violent arguments between Abel and Druschel on the one hand and Kusch on the other. "

In the course of the second patrol, the officers planned to bring Kusch to report, but according to Nothdurft this was initially not done. He further stated that Abel and Druschel had tried to get him to their side and to convince them that Kusch was a coward, defeatist and opponent of Hitler. Abel and Druschel were serious about their plan: to Nothdurft they said: “As a medical officer you are the highest on board. That makes them a splendid leader of our official communication against Kush. As a member of the army, you are no longer able to seek your own advantage by eliminating Kusch. ”Kusch's habit of listening to enemy radio stations was later a further accusation against him. According to Nothdurft, Kusch “had the radio mate tune in to hostile stations several times a day.” His often-articulated rejection of Hitler was later a charge against him. Nothdurft reports that Kusch called Hitler "a madman, a criminal, the greatest misfortune that could be brought to the German people, and an insane carpet-biter". Nothdurft thinks he has seen evidence that Kush had the plan to overflow and hand over the boat to the enemy. According to Nothdurft, Kusch's political instructions corresponded "without a doubt [...] occasionally to the request to desert together with the whole boat". However, this aspect was not part of Abel's report.

Reporting and sentencing

The officers Druschel and Funke (who had replaced the II. WO Meyer on the second patrol under Kusch) complied with Nothdurft's request not to report to Kusch. On January 12, 1944, however, Abel denounced his commander Kusch in a report to the 3rd Submarine Training Division, although Nothdurft had tried to prevent this. Abel reportedly reported Kusch after hearing a speech from Corvette Captain Ernst Kals, who had presented Dönitz's "Decree against the criticism and grumbling" of September 9, 1943. In his interrogation on January 24, 1944, Abel denied the allegations that he had written his report out of spite.

On January 16, 1944, the captain of the sea, Hans-Rudolf Rösing , leader of the U-Boats West, initiated an investigation against Kusch for " undermining the military , insulting the Reich and atrocity propaganda ". Kusch was arrested on January 20th in Lorient and taken to the Angers military detention center and later transferred to the naval remand prison in Kiel-Wik. The trial against Kusch began on January 26, 1944 in Kiel at the court of the Higher Command of Submarine Training . Kusch's defense attorney had the opportunity to inspect the files only the previous evening.

After the indictment order, Kusch was charged with crimes against Section 5 Paragraph 1 Numbers 1 and 2 of the Special War Criminal Law Ordinance (KSSVO) and under Section 1 of the Ordinance on Extraordinary Broadcasting Measures. On the evening of January 26, 1944, Kusch was sentenced to death and to one year imprisonment for " continued disintegration of the military force and for listening to foreign broadcasters ". At the same time, his civil rights were withdrawn. However, Abel's accusation of "cowardice in front of the enemy", added later, was rejected as unfounded by an expert. The prosecutor had applied for a prison sentence.

On May 12, 1944, Oskar Kusch was shot in Kiel after Kusch's superiors, including Grand Admiral Dönitz, had refused a pardon . Although the execution was not publicly announced, word got around in all of the masses within a few weeks . The members of Kusch's old team, however, learned nothing about his fate. On July 2, 1944, U 154 was sunk off the Azores.


After the war, Kusch's father tried to rehabilitate his son. In 1949, Karl-Heinrich Hagemann , the presiding naval judge who had convicted Kusch, was brought to court, but acquitted at the end of 1950 because the verdict was legal. In the case against Hagemann, the judge justified the death sentence.

Horst von Luttitz was a close friend and crewmate of Oskar Kusch and kept the estate after his shooting. From this later drawings from the prison time were publicly exhibited. Further drawings was published in a novel by von Luttitz under the pseudonym Walter Klenck in 1987. In it he describes his own war experiences (in the novel as Count Torra ) and those of his friend and crewmate Kusch (in the novel as Oskar Burk ) including the events that resulted from the judgment of the dismantling of military strength .

A request from the Landtag member Christel Aschmoneit-Lücke to the Schleswig-Holstein Ministry of Justice made the case public again in the 1990s. Due to the work of Walles, who had evaluated the files of the case, Kusch was rehabilitated in 1996. In 1998 the street that leads past the execution site was renamed "Oskar-Kusch-Straße". The memorial stone pictured above is also located there.

In the historic hall of the Marine Memorial Laboe , a display commemorates the life and fate of Oskar Kusch.


  • Heinrich Walle : The tragedy of the first lieutenant to the sea Oskar Kusch . Edited on behalf of the Ranke Society, Association for History in Public Life eV and the German Marine Institute by Michael Salewski and Christian Giermann, Stuttgart 1995. ISBN 3-515-06841-4 . [Historical communications / supplement] Historical communications, supplement; 13.
  • Stefan Krücken: A man appears. In: GQ Gentlemen's Quarterly , June 2009, pp. 146-151.
  • LG Kiel, September 25, 1950 , (criminal proceedings against Karl-Heinrich Hagemann, chairman of the naval court, which Kusch had tried and others). In: Justice and Nazi crimes . Collection of German criminal judgments for Nazi homicides 1945–1966, Vol. VII, edited by Adelheid L Rüter-Ehlermann, HH Fuchs and CF Rüter . Amsterdam: University Press, 1971, No. 244, pp. 485–520 [1] Note: not available!

Web links

Commons : Oskar Kusch  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Isensee in a letter to Kusch's father dated September 16, 1946 to read in Walle, Heinrich: Die Tragödie des Oberleutnants zur See Oskar Kusch p. 69
  2. ↑ to be read in Walle, Heinrich: Die Tragödie des Oberleutnants zur See Oskar Kusch p. 334
  3. http://www.KN-online.de/Kiel/Marine-Untersuchungsgefaengnis-in-der-Wik-Unbekannter-Ort-des-Gaul
  4. Andrew Williams: Submarine War in the Atlantic. HEEL Verlag, Königswinter 2007, ISBN 978-3-8289-0587-0 , p. 282.
  5. Heinrich Walle: The tragedy of the first lieutenant to the sea Oskar Kusch . Franz Steiner Verlag, 1995, ISBN 978-3-515-06841-3 , p. 15 ( google.de [accessed on May 26, 2019]).
  6. Heinrich Walle: The tragedy of the first lieutenant to the sea Oskar Kusch . Franz Steiner Verlag, 1995, ISBN 978-3-515-06841-3 , p. 16 ( google.de [accessed on May 26, 2019]).