Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Hans Wilhelm Langsdorff: Lived honourably, fought honourably and died honourably

Hans Wilhelm Langsdorff is now part of history for eternity as an example of courage, loyalty and honour as Commander of Panzerschiff Admiral Graf Spee. He was born in Bergen on 20 March 1894 but in  1898 the family settled down in Düsseldorf where they were neighbours of the family of Graf Maximilian von Spee.

Graf Maximilian von Spee became a German naval hero losing his life at the Battle of the Falkland Islands in 1914 and Hans Wilhelm Langsdorff, inspired by the family of Graf Maximilian von Spee joined the Kiel Naval Academy in 1912.

Destiny took its course and in October 1938 Hans Wilhelm Langsdorff having been promoted to the rank of Kapitän zur See received command of the ship named after his hero Admiral Graf von Spee.

During an extremely successful naval campaign, Hans Wilhelm Langsdorff always respected the terms of the Hague Conventions and treated humanly both friends and foes, winning the respect of those who became his prisoners.
On 19 December 1939, Kapitän zur See Hans Wilhelm Langsdorff wrote his last letter explaining the reasons to take his own life:
"I can now only prove by my death that the fighting services of the Dritte Reich are ready to die for the honour of the flag. I alone bear the responsibility for scuttling the Panzerschiff Admiral Graf Spee. I am happy to pay with my life for any possible reflection on the honour of the flag. I shall face my fate with firm faith in the cause and the future of the nation and of my Führer."
Kapitän zur See Hans Wilhelm Langsdorff, once the fate of his crew was decided, killed himself over the ensign of his ship as symbolic act of going down with his ship.

Hans Wilhelm Langsdorff was buried in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with full military honours, honoured by friends and foes in the battle for his honourable conduct.

Karl Gerhardt Hohenstauffen

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