I wrote this blog in 2008, but I am republishing it now because the anniversary of Herr Koenig’s death is coming up. I still miss him.
A National Treasure has Passed from Germany
Volkmar Koenig, a German U-boat officer who was also a prisoner of war, died on August 22, 2008. He was 87 years old and his remains have become part of the sea, a fitting end for a man who spoke to me about his love of the ocean.
The photo at left is of myself and Herr Koenig in June 2007 when my husband and I visited him and his lovely wife, Dorothee, in Kiel, Germany. It was during the Kiel Week festivities and we are sitting on the top deck of a boat in Kiel Harbor to view the races.
Because of the novel I am writing about a German U-boat radio operator who is captured and sent to a prisoner of war camp in Arizona, Herr Koenig was kind enough to spend many hours with me. His memories of those days while he was a member of the U-boat arm of the German Navy and a Canadian prisoner of war have proved invaluable to my research.
He took my husband and I to Moltenort to see the striking U-boat Memorial and to Laboe, to see U-995. Of course, because of his service on U-99 with the famous U-boat captain Otto Kretschmer, we were welcomed on board with a smile. There was no need to pay entrance fees because we were the guests of Herr Koenig. He did not pretend to be an expert on the workings of a U-boat, but as we walked through U-995, there were people on board, mostly German, who came to realize he was a former U-boat officer and gathered about him like a rock star as he told his stories. I watched him as he spoke to them. He was poised, gracious, a man with bearing and distinction who had a great sense of humor. Here was someone who had served on a U-boat, a war machine that struck fear even in the heart of England’s Winston Churchill. Herr Koenig was indeed a national treasure, a man willing to share his experiences and reflections.
Many times after I returned home Herr Koenig would call me to ask if I had any questions, but we kept in touch mainly because we had become friends. I last spoke to him on July 12 and he told me of his illness. It is with a sense of deep sorrow that I write of this man who showed me such regard and openness.
I wish to send my regards at this time of mourning to his wife, Dorothee Koenig, his three children and their spouses, his grandchildren, and his many friends.