Fritz-Julius Lemp

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Fritz-Julius Lemp
Bundesarchiv Bild 101II-MN-1365-27A, Lemp und Dönitz im Gespräch.jpg
Fritz-Julius Lemp in discussion with Karl Dönitz
Born (1913-02-19)19 February 1913
Tsingtao, China
Died 9 May 1941(1941-05-09) (aged 28)
North Atlantic
Allegiance Weimar Republic Weimar Republic
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch  Reichsmarine
Years of service 1931–41
Rank Kapitänleutnant
Unit SSS Niobe
cruiser Karlsruhe
Commands held U-28
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Fritz-Julius Lemp (19 February 1913 – 9 May 1941) was a Kapitänleutnant with the Kriegsmarine during World War II and commander of U-28, U-30 and U-110. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, awarded by Nazi Germany to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

Lemp sunk the British passenger liner SS Athenia in September 1939, in violation of the Hague conventions. The German responsibility for the sinking was suppressed by Admiral Karl Dönitz and the Nazi propaganda. Lemp was killed on 9 May 1941 when the U-boat he commanded was destroyed.


Sinking of SS Athenia

On 3 September 1939, while in command of U-30 he sank the 13,581 ton passenger ship Athenia, the first ship sunk in World War II. Lemp later claimed that the fact that she was steering a zigzag course which seemed to be well off the normal shipping routes made him believe she was either a troopship or an armed merchant cruiser, and when he realized his error took the first steps to conceal the facts by omitting to make an entry in the submarine's log, and swearing his crew to secrecy. Adolf Hitler decided that the incident should be kept secret for political reasons, and the German newspaper Völkischer Beobachter published an article which blamed the loss of the Athenia on the British, accusing Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, of sinking the ship to turn neutral opinion against Nazi Germany.[1] The truth did not emerge until January 1946 at the Nuremberg trials, during the case against Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, when a statement by Admiral Karl Dönitz was read in which he admitted that Athenia had been torpedoed by U-30 and that every effort had been made to cover it up, including ordering Lemp to alter his log book.[2]


U-110 was captured on 9 May 1941 in the North Atlantic south of Iceland by the destroyers HMS Bulldog, HMS Broadway and the British corvette HMS Aubretia. After depth charges forced the boat to the surface, where she was shelled, Lemp ordered the crew to abandon ship and open the vents in order to sink the crippled U-boat.

Lemp was not among the 34 survivors rescued by the Allied vessels, and one account of his fate has him swimming back to the submarine when he realized that the scuttling charges were not going to detonate and either being shot and killed by the boarding party or drowning in the icy water. After the war the Germans claimed that Lemp had been shot in the water, either by Sub-Lieutenant Balme's boarding party from HMS Bulldog or from the Bulldog. Balme, however, assured German journalists that no shot had been fired at any time by his party. Joe Baker-Cresswell, commander of the Bulldog, also denied that Lemp had been shot, and the official British explanation remains that Lemp committed suicide by drowning when he realized the consequences of his failure.[3]

Summary of career



14 October 1931: Seekadett (Midshipman)[4]
1 January 1933: Fähnrich zur See (Officer Cadet)[4]
1 January 1935: Oberfähnrich zur See (Senior Ensign)[4]
1 April 1935: Leutnant zur See (Second Lieutenant)[4]
1 January 1937: Oberleutnant zur See (First Lieutenant)[4]
24 September 1939: Kapitänleutnant (Captain Lieutenant) effective as of 1 October 1939[4]




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  • Davidson, Eugene (1997). The Trial of the Germans: an account of the twenty-two defendants before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. University of Missouri Press. ISBN 0-8262-1139-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) [1986]. Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hadley, Michael L. (1995). Count Not the Dead: The Popular Image of the German Submarine. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press. ISBN 9780773512825.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Range, Clemens (1974). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Kriegsmarine. Stuttgart, Germany: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 978-3-87943-355-1. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • McCormick, John (2008). Another Music: Polemics and Pleasures. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 1-4128-0793-X.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

  • Helgason, Guðmundur. "Fritz-Julius Lemp". German U-boats of WWII - Retrieved 16 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>