Das Unterseeboot-Deutschland (U-200)
The German community is buzzing about the U-Deutschland and the planned special celebrations. What exactly was the U-Deutschland? It was a blockade-breaking German cargo submarine used during World War I. The submarine was developed by the North German Lloyd Line, using private funds. The cargo capacity on the ship was 750 tons. The ship itself was 213 feet long with a top speed of 15 surface knots (about 17 mph) and 7 (about 8 mph) submerged knots. This is pretty small and pretty slow.
The ‘Deutschland’ was used for high value trans-Atlantic commerce, submerging to avoid the British patrols. The first trip by the Deutschland, to the US, brought with it dyes, medical products and precious gemstones with an estimated value of $1.5 million (today’s value).
The Deutschland left Bremen on a secret mission to deliver cargo to the US. It arrived in Baltimore on July 9, 1916. It was welcomed by the then mayor of Baltimore and thousands of Baltimore citizens. There was even a parade. Captain Paul König and his crew, which consisted of four officers and twenty five men, were treated as special guests. This special treatment was criticized by many other papers as extreme cordiality. One New York Times reporter wrote it is “a pity that Baltimore, or rather the Mayor of Baltimore and others in that city who, as thorough going pacifists, are necessarily pro-German in their sympathies, could not give to Captain König the appreciation he deserves for a bold, successful and dramatic piece of seamanship, and at the same time refrain from exaggerating both the importance and the quality of the captain’s exploit until it becomes unrecognizable to anybody who looks at it in a sensible way.” He continues, “the wining and dining of the submarine’s officers and crew-the treatment of them as heroes of a colossal feat-create a feeling of irritation in parts of the country where other achievements of German submarines (making reference to the Lusitania) have not yet been forgotten, as seemingly they have been by Mayor Preston and friends”. The writer of the New York Times article goes on to justify Baltimore’s welcome and closes with admiration for the brave qualities of the German character. This in no way obliterates the epitaph of unchangeable condemnation and horror written over the tomb of the Lusitania.
The cargo was unloaded and the Deutschland left Baltimore on August 1, 1916. It was rumored that the ship left dock with large amounts of gold on board however an article in the Sunpaper on August 29, 1916 reported that the Deutschland manifest was made public at the Custom House and on board was crude rubber, nickel and crude tin. It again avoided the British blockade. It returned to US in November 1916, docking at New London, Connecticut.
Regardless of whether you felt they were heroes or spies, everyone agreed that at no time in Baltimore history did she receive such world-wide notoriety. The Deutschland’s movement through the sea was compared to a sporting event with the fox of the seas and the ocean hounds that wait to pick up her trail. Because of this and of the Deutschland’s success, Baltimore is the real mascot of commerce.
As for Captain König, he praised Baltimore. As he viewed the harbor from the roof of the Baltimore and Ohio building, he stated, “My trip to Baltimore on the Deutschland is the third voyage I have made here and each trip has served to impress me more forcibly with the natural advantages which this city possesses which make it one of the leading world ports. On our way up the Chesapeake we sailed on top, being in friendly waters, but I had an excellent opportunity to observe the fine channel”. He continued, “Another thing which makes a lasting impression on me as I look over the city is the substantial recovery which Baltimore has made since the destructive fire in 1904. In the business district the old buildings have been replaced with modern structures. I was in New York with a vessel,” he said, “when the fire was raging here and I recall the awe which the conflagration caused in the shipping circles.” As relations with Germany and the US deteriorated, in early 1917, the Deutschland was converted to a war vessel, U-155.
U-155 made three war cruises, sinking 43 ships. It was taken to England and placed on display as a war trophy. It was scraped in 1921.
A Sunpaper report on September 10, 1933 reports on the death of Captain König. He was born in March 20, 1867. A service was held in his honor at Zion Church. The ceremony was held in the parish house and sponsored by the local Steuben Society. Former Mayor Preston was the principal speaker. He and the Captain were close friends. Captain König made several post war visits to Baltimore and had numerous friends in the city.