U 47 – Kapitänleutnant Prien

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U 47 – Kapitänleutnant Prien
U 47 – Lieutenant Commander Prien
File:Poster U47 - Kapitänleutnant Prien.jpg
Directed by Harald Reinl
Produced by Gero Wecker
Written by Joachim Bartsch and Udo Wolter
Starring Dieter Eppler
Dieter Borsche
Joachim Fuchsberger
Richard Häussler
Harald Juhnke
Olga Chekhova
Horst Naumann
Peter Carsten
Music by Norbert Schultze
Cinematography Ernst W. Kalinke
Edited by Hein Haber
Arca-Filmproduktion GmbH
Release dates
25 September 1958
Running time
87 min.
Country West Germany
Language German

U 47 – Kapitänleutnant Prien (English: U 47 – Lieutenant Commander Prien) is a 1958 black-and-white German war film portraying the combat career of Kriegsmarine World War II U-boat captain Günther Prien, commander of German submarine U-47. It stars Dieter Eppler and Sabine Sesselmann and was directed by Harald Reinl.


Kriegsmarine U-boat commander Günther Prien (not an actor)

The film begins shortly after the outbreak of World War II when Günther Prien reports to the Befehlshaber der U-Boote (BdU—supreme commander of the U-boat Arm) Karl Dönitz. Dönitz orders Prien as commander of U-47 to penetrate the Royal Navy's primary base at Scapa Flow to inflict as much damage as possible. Prien accomplishes his mission and receives a hero's welcome on his return.[1][2]

Following these events, pastor Kille, a former schoolmate of Prien, approaches Prien in the need for help. Kille offers refuge to victims of Nazi oppression. Prien initially declines, stating he is a soldier and not involved in politics. The attempt by Kille's sister Alwine, who is engaged to Prien's first officer Thomas Birkeneck, also fails to convince Prien.[2]

With the ever increasing intensity of war Prien is plagued by his bad conscience, asking himself if his attitude is correct. A very dramatic incident occurs following the sinking of a freighter. U-47 rescues two shipwrecked. These turn out to be German refugees who are trying to escape from Nazi Germany. The two chose to remain at sea over the prospect of returning to Germany.[2]

Prien finally believes, that as a figure of public interest, that he could influence and change something for the better. He goes to visit the imprisoned pastor Kille. Prien promises him help, not realizing that their conversation is overheard. Thus Prien himself gets into the focus of the Gestapo, the Secret State Police.[2][3]

The visit remains without consequences for Prien. U-47 is sunk on his next war patrol. Prien and his cook (Der Smut) are rescued by a British ship, which is then sunk by another German submarine under the command of Prien's former first officer, Birkeneck. Prien's hat is retrieved from the sea putting Birkeneck in a state of shock. Subsequently he fails to give the order to dive on time and his boat is sunk by attacking enemy aircraft.[2]

Historical accuracy

The story is loosely based on Prien's combat record and command of submarine U-47. His most famous exploit was the sinking of the British battleship HMS Royal Oak at anchor in the Home Fleet's anchorage in Scapa Flow.[4] His achievements as U-boat commander were highly idolized by Joseph Goebbels' Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.[5]

Every character depicted in the film, except for Prien and Admiral Dönitz, who is not mentioned by name in the film, is fictitious. Prien's portrayal as an active member of the German resistance is also fictitious. U-47's destruction and Prien's death is another invention of the movie makers.[2] To date, there is no official record of what happened to the U-47 or her 45 crewmen.[6][7] The submarine shown in the film was the Spanish submarine G-7, formerly the German submarine U-573.[8]




  1. Cooke & Silberman 2010, p. 62.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Dieter Eppler (actor), Joachim Fuchsberger (actor), Harald Reinl (director) (22 December 2005). U 47 – Kapitänleutnant Prien (DVD) (in German). ASIN B000BZFPF4. Retrieved 18 October 2012.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Cooke & Silberman 2010, p. 63.
  4. Busch and Röll 2003, pp. 15–20.
  5. Ossmann-Mausch 2006, p. 151.
  6. Busch and Röll 2003, p. 20.
  7. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Patrol info for U-47 (Tenth patrol)". U-boat patrols. Uboat.net. Retrieved 18 October 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Helgason, Guðmundur. "Service record of U-573". U-boat patrols. Uboat.net. Retrieved 18 October 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Hermanni 2009. p. 223.
  10. Kaiser 2010, pp. 189–190.


  • Busch, Rainer & Röll, Hans-Joachim (2003). Der U-Boot-Krieg 1939-1945 - Die Ritterkreuzträger der U-Boot-Waffe von September 1939 bis Mai 1945 (in German). Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn Germany: Verlag E.S. Mittler & Sohn. ISBN 3-8132-0515-0.
  • Cooke, Paul & Silberman, Marc (2010). Screening War: Perspectives on German Suffering. Camden House. ISBN 1571134379.
  • Hermanni, Horst O. (2009). Von Dorothy Dandridge bis Willy Fritsch: Das Film ABC (in German). BoD – Books on Demand. ISBN 3833423749.
  • Kaiser, Klaus (2010). Das kommt nicht wieder: Filmstars vergangener Jahre (in German). BoD – Books on Demand. ISBN 3839195543.
  • Ossmann-Mausch, Christa A. (2006). Alles begann in Berlin: eine Jugend in Zeiten des Krieges (in German). Hamburg, Germany: Mein Buch oHG. ISBN 3-86516-493-5.

External links