A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Family Connection Between the Man Who Closed the Dardanelles in 1914 and a Major Figure of WWII

Erich Paul Weber (Weber Pasha)
As I noted in my earlier post today, Turkey's closing of the Dardanelles on September 27, 1914 was not actually a decision made by the Turkish government, but initially by the German commander of the fortifications on the east (Asian) Side of the Strait, Erich Paul Weber (1860-1933), an Oberst (colonel) of engineers and later General, commanding the XV Pioneer Army Corps at Kum Kale. he had been in charge of the fortifications along the Asian side of the Dardanelles and, apparently entirely on his own initiative and without consulting the Ottoman Government, Weber Pasha (as he was known in Ottoman service) closed and mined the Dardanelles.

But there is a historical footnote to the tale of Weber Pasha. Having been sent to Turkey before the war, his family had been allowed to accompany him, including his daughter Ingeborg, a nurse. After the Goeben  and Breslau arrived (and became the Yavuz Sultan and Medilli), Ingeborg became acquainted with a young (born 1891) naval Leutnant zur See or acting sub-lieutenant) on the Breslau. After receiving the approval of the Navy authorities she married him on May 27, 1916 in Istanbul, by which time the young officer had been promoted to Oberleutnant.

The young naval lieutenant was named Karl Dönitz.

Breslau's officers don the fez: Dönitz in front row
Yes: the same Karl Dönitz who would command the German submarine forces in World War II, later becoming Grand Admiral and Navy Commander, and named by Hitler as his successor as President of Germany (but not Führer, the title of Chancellor going to Goebbels, but he committed suicide). During the last days of World War II Dönitz was the last Chief of State of the Third Reich and the man who signed the surrender.

Dönitz holding dog, said to be taken aboard Goeben
This link between the World Wars is hardly unique; most of the general and flag officers of the Second World War were young officers in the First.

The Nuremburg Tribunal sentenced Dönitz to 10 years in Spandau Prison. Released in 1956 he lived quietly in Germany until his death in 1980. Ingeborg (born 1894) had died in 1962. They are shown together in the photo at left.

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