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Das Boot

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For the Buster Keaton film, see The Boat (film). For the song "Das Boot", see U96.
Das Boot

Original Das Boot film poster.

Wolfgang Petersen Gnter Rohrbach Wolfgang Petersen (screenplay) Written by Lothar-Gnther Buchheim (novel) Jrgen Prochnow Starring Herbert Grnemeyer Music by Klaus Doldinger Cinematography Jost Vacano Editing by Hannes Nikel Bavaria Film Distributed by Columbia Pictures Original Uncut Version Release date(s) September 17, 1981
(West Germany)

Directed by Produced by

Running time

Country Language Budget

209 Mins Director's Cut 293 Mins Original Uncut Version 330 Mins Original Version (1985 TV mini series) West Germany German 32 million DM
(USD14 million)

Allmovie profile IMDb profile

Das Boot (pronounced [das bot], German for The Boat / The Submarine) is a 1981 feature film directed by Wolfgang Petersen, adapted from a novel of the same name by Lothar-Gnther Buchheim. Hans-

Joachim Krug, former first officer on U-219, served as a consultant, as did Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock, the captain of the real U-96. The movie has a strong anti-war message. One of Petersen's stated goals was to guide the audience through "a journey to the end of reason" (the film's German tagline), showing "what war is all about." Petersen heightened suspense by very rarely showing any external views of the submarine unless it is running on the surface and relying on sounds to convey action outside the boat, thus showing the audience only the claustrophobic interior the crew would see. The original 1981 version cost DM 32 million to make; it was at the time the most expensive film in the history of German cinema. The director's meticulous attention to detail resulted in an extremely realistic and historically accurate movie.
Contents 1 Story 2 Reception 3 Criticism

3.1 Criticism by novel author Buchheim 4 German regional accents 5 Music 6 Versions 7 Dubbings and subtitles 8 Special effects

8.1 Sets and models 9 Special camera 10 Production 11 Cast 12 Das Boot as a career boost 13 Exhibition 14 References 15 See also 16 External links

The movie is the story of a single mission of one World War II U-boat, U96, and its crew. It depicts both the excitement of battle and the tedium of the fruitless hunt, and shows the men serving aboard U-boats as ordinary individuals with a desire to do their best for their comrades and their country. The story is based on an amalgamation of the exploits of the real

U-96, a Type VIIC-class U-boat commanded by Heinrich LehmannWillenbrock, one of Germany's top U-boat "tonnage aces" during the war.

U-96 departs from La Rochelle, France on a patrol.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Lt. Werner (Herbert Grnemeyer), who has been assigned as a war correspondent on the German Submarine U-96. He joins its Captain (Jrgen Prochnow), who is only named as der Alte ("the Old Man") or Kaleu (short for his rank of Kapitnleutnant) and they drive to La Rochelle, France. Also in the car is the quiet Leitender Ingenieur (Chief Engineer) or "LI" (Klaus Wennemann), who is tormented by the failing health of his wife back in Cologne. Their car is intercepted by drunken sailors who urinate on the automobile: in fact, it was the U-96 crew, "christening" the officers with a "fireboat drill." We then see most of the U-96 officers, including the "2WO" (the Second Lieutenant, played by Martin Semmelrogge) drinking in a cabaret, which seems to be an Officer's Club. Kapitnleutnant Phillip Thomsen (played by Otto Sander), celebrating his Ritterkreuz award, gives a crude drunken speech in which he mocks Adolf Hitler, much to the anger of some onlookers (he quickly shifts to mocking Winston Churchill instead). Werner also meets the "1WO" (the First Lieutenant, played by Hubertus Bengsch), an ardent Nazi. The night gets extremely chaotic, as all the officers are now drunk, and Werner retreats to the restroom. Meanwhile, Cadet Ullman has a tearful goodbye with his French fiance Franoise, who is pregnant. The next morning, the Captain, the LI, and Werner board the U-96 in the massive submarine pen. As they sail out of the harbor to cheering crowds and a band playing "Muss I Denn", Thomsen (now sober) sends them off by saying "Hail victory and happy hunting!" When the U-96 reaches the open sea, Werner is in awe and takes a lot of photos of the submarine and its crew. During this early time of the cruise, the Captain suggests it would be better to take photos of the crew upon their return to port, when the crew will have full beards, so as not to shame the British by showing how young U-boat crews really are. Werner gets to know the rest of the crew, and bunks in Petty Officer country, where Petty Officers Pilgrim and Frenssen stay up all night swapping sex stories and dirty jokes. He marvels when the submarine makes its first practice crash dive to 160 metres (525 feet) and then survives an attack by a British fighter. But time passes, and he begins to realize the routine of being crammed together with forty people in a small space. There is an unhealthy undercurrent of sweat, filth and boredom, fueled by the fact that there is no combat most of

the time. Werner has no one to talk to either. He cannot relate to the battlehardened Captain, the quiet LI, the Nazi 1WO, the cynical 2WO, the perverted Pilgrim and Frenssen, or the tough enlisted crew; Werner is able to make friends with Ullman, and sympathizes with his problem (as the French partisans might kill Franoise if it is revealed her child is halfGerman). To pass the time, the crew loudly sings "It's a Long Way to Tipperary", much to the chagrin of the 1WO.

U-96 under attack by a British destroyer.

The cruise is decidedly boring as the U-96 fails to make contact with the enemy. Eventually, they receive contact that U-32 has sighted a convoy only ten hours away. They arrive at the location, but a thick fog blocks their view and they receive no further contact from the other boat's commander (Berthold) or headquarters. They dive to check the hydrophones, hearing what appears to be a depth charge attack. U-96 surfaces to investigate. But then the U-96 sees a British destroyer, much to their dismay, and they dive again. The Captain calmly tracks the enemy vessel, but their periscope is spotted, and they barely escape being rammed. The U-96 dives, but is hit by depth charges, and takes damagemost notably water leaks. The destroyer makes another depth charge pass before leaving the area. The crew quickly patches the damaged pipes up and resurfaces safely a few hours later. A huge storm hits and towering waves slam into the submarine, sending it reeling. Pilgrim is almost washed overboard and is badly injured. Werner nearly goes insane while helping with watch duty. After a week of the relentless storm, with little rest or sleep, even the sea-hardened crew is pushed to the limit. Suddenly, the U-96 sees a friendly German submarine: Thomsen's boat! Though initially overjoyed to see his comrade, the Captain becomes irate, because two submarines in such close proximity means that a huge part of the sea is unpatrolled. Additionally, the waves are hitting the boat so hard that they are unable to move while surfaced. The misfortune of the U-96 no kills, totally out of position, horrible weather, a crabs outbreak, and learning that Schalke lost at the quarterfinals sends the crew's morale to a nadir.

U-96 encounters another U-Boat in the middle of the North Atlantic.

After 23 days, the storm finally ends; still, the crew's morale has yet to be raised. Berthold and Thomsen are never heard from again, forcing the Captain to report them missing. Daily radio broadcasts from the Armed Forces High Command detail how the war is starting to turn against the Germans in Africa and Russia, along with the British conducting constant air raids on cities. Soon afterwards, the U-96 encounters a British convoy and, with support from several U-boats in the area, launches torpedoes at the convoy before a destroyer sights them and they are forced to dive. Underwater, the crew listens as their torpedo attack sinks two ships out of three torpedoes launched. Two escorts attack the submarine and use their ASDIC systems to pin her down. They are forced to dive deep to escape their pursuers, causing bolts in the pressure hull to fail and shoot off in the manner of bullets at around 240 to 250 metres. Johann, the mechanic, has a mental breakdown and has to be restrained when he attempts to escape the U-Boat. The Captain lays down his Walther P38, which he retrieved to threaten Johann into calming down. Despite heavy damage, in which the submarine nearly implodes, and after six hours at silent running, the crew escapes and manages to resurface safely in darkness. They see one lone tanker, burning brightly on the horizon. The Captain decides to give a "coup de grce" and fires a torpedo into her. The crew are stunned when they see burning British sailors jumping from the tanker they thought empty. They notice that the surviving merchant marine sailors are swimming desperately towards them. Following standing orders not to take prisoners (see Laconia incident for details on this policy) the Captain gives the command to abandon the doomed sailors and backs the ship away. The events are registered on the boat's log books. Johann apologizes to the Captain for his actions, and is forgiven in consideration of his several tours of duty. Despite a radio message about another convoy contact from Kupsch and Stackmann, U96 is low on diesel fuel and has to return home immediately. The worn-out U-boat crew look forward to returning home to La Rochelle in time for Christmas, but the High Command has other ideas. The boat receives secret orders that they make their way to La Spezia, Italy, meaning the U-96 must pass through the bottleneck at the Straits of Gibraltar - a zone crawling with British patrol ships which is almost certain death for a U-boat crew. U-96 has been assigned to help secure Field Marshal Rommel's supply routes, as his force is losing Northern Africa.

Unable to let Werner and the LI perish, the Captain arranges for them to be taken ashore once they stop to resupply. Before going to Gibraltar, U-96 makes a secret night rendezvous in neutral Vigo, Spain with the Weser an interned German liner that clandestinely resupplies U-boats with fuel, torpedoes, and other supplies. The officer meeting takes place under an eerie atmosphere. After months in the filthy, cramped submarine, living on canned food and moldy bread, they walk into a luxurious suite fit to serve royalty. The U-96 officers meet pampered, decadent Nazi officers who believe German propaganda about the glorious life of the "grey wolves." Ironically, the 1WO (the only officer to wear his proper uniform for most of the film) is briefly mistaken for the Captain when they are introduced. The following sumptuous meal has many features of a Henkersmahlzeit, the final meal before an execution. The Captain tells Werner that three U-boats recently resupplied in Vigo and two were lost immediately after putting back to sea. During the dinner, the Captain receives his orders for the mission from the Weser's naval attach, as well as a radiogram stating that his request to have the LI and Werner transferred off has been denied by headquarters. The crew finishes resupplying and the U-96 departs Spain for Gibraltar. The Captain's plan is to approach the seven mile (11.2 km) wide Straits at nighttime, take advantage of the surface current, float silently with engines off, and only submerge at the latest possible moment. Near Gibraltar, the U-96 silently slips past patrol boats; however, as they prepare to dive, the boat is spotted and attacked by a British fighter plane, with Navigator Kriechbaum receiving serious wounds and destroying the deck gun. All crewmembers don their rescue gear and prepare to abandon ship. The Captain sends the boat south, towards the African coast, at full speed; British ships begin closing in and she is forced to dive. The Captain orders the boat to its safety depth of 90 metres; however, the forward diving planes do not respond and, once all other measures fail, the boat starts to sink to her doom. The LI declares the boat "beyond control" once it passes 200 metres. Rivets and bolts start to go off like gunfire once again, the hull groans as the pressure builds and the crew seems doomed. Just before the hull collapses while sinking to greater depths, the submarine is lucky to catch on a shelf, "a shovel of sand from God" says the Captain. The U-96 is 280 metres (918.7 feet) deep and numerous hull breaches occur. Seawater floods in through damaged pipes, and major damage has to be repaired before they can even try to resurface. With the carbon dioxide level increasing, the crew barely manages to fix the many problems before they would all pass out and die. To preserve oxygen, all crewmen who are not working go to sleep and breathe from their rescue gear. After over sixteen hours, they are just able to surface, and the U-96 returns under cover of night to its home base in La Rochelle. The Captain tells the 1WO that the

British will not notice them because they are "at their casino, celebrating their sinking".

U-96 under aerial attack after arrival to homedock.

Their return to La Rochelle on Christmas Eve is a little less triumphant than their sailing. They now resemble pale old men on a battered boat rather than eager young sailors on the flagship of the 3rd Submarine Flotilla. The port looks a little worse for wear as well. The wounded navigator is taken ashore to a waiting ambulance. But as soon as the fleet commander comes aboard for an inspection, British planes bomb and strafe the facilities. Several civilians and sailors are killed along the docks. Werner, the enlisted sailors, the 1WO, Pilgrim, Frenssen, the Chief Bosun, and the LI take refuge in the secure U-boat bunker, though most of the men are wounded. After the raid, Werner leaves the bunker and is horrified when he sees the lifeless bodies of Johann, Ullmann, and the 2WO. Looking towards the entry passage, he finds the Captain bleeding from the mouth, watching the U-96 sink at the dock. When the captain collapses after the conning tower disappears, Werner rushes to his side.

The movie drew high critical acclaim and is seen as one of the greatest of all German films, along with Nosferatu by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, Metropolis by Fritz Lang and Der blaue Engel with Marlene Dietrich. It is regarded as at the forefront among the subgenre of submarine movies.

In the movie, there is only one ardent Nazi in the crew of 40, namely the First Watch Officer (referred to comically in one scene as Unser Hitlerjugendfhrer or "Our Hitler Youth Leader"), with the rest of the Officers either indifferent or openly anti-Nazi (the Captain). The enlisted sailors and NCO are portrayed as apolitical. In his book Iron Coffins, former U-boat commander Herbert A. Werner states that this selection amongst naval personnel loyal to the party, only occurred later in the war (1943 onward), when the U-boats were suffering high casualties. At that stage in the war, morale was declining and this degree of skepticism may or may not have occurred. (In support of Das Boot on this subject, U-Boat historian Michael Gannon maintains that the U-boat navy was one of the least politically Nazi divisions of all German armed forces.)

Even though the beginning and the end of the movie occur in the port of La Rochelle, it does not correspond historically. The submarine base in La Rochelle was not functional before November 1941, and at the time of the movie the port was dried up.[1] Moreover, none of the British fighterbombers of late 1941 to early 1942 had the range to bomb La Rochelle. While Lorient was the base used in the novel, the film was changed to La Rochelle because its appearance had not changed to such a large degree. Buchheim himself was a U-boat correspondent. He has stated that the following film scenes are unrealistic:

In the film, an unidentified member of the crew throws an oil-stained towel into Lt. Werner's face. As a Lieutenant, Werner would have commanded special respect and in reality, the culprit would have been court-martialed and received a hefty sentence. After surviving a bombing, the crew celebrate loudly in their bunks, even with a sailor dressing up as a woman in a red-lit room. The crew behaves far too loudly during patrols; the celebrations after getting a torpedo hit were described as unprofessional. Still, this is highly plausible, as many crews did celebrate such occurrences.

Criticism by novel author Buchheim

Even though overwhelmed by the literally perfect technological accuracy of the film's set-design and port construction buildings, novel author LotharGnter Buchheim expressed great disappointment with Petersen's adaptation in a film review[2] published in 1981, especially with Petersen's aesthetic vision for the film and the way the plot and the effects are, according to him, overdone and clichd by the adaptation, as well as the hysterical over-acting of the cast he called highly unrealistic while acknowledging the cast's acting talent in general. Buchheim, after several attempts for an American adaptation had failed, had provided a script detailing his own narrative, cinematographical and photographical ideas as soon as Petersen was chosen as new director that would have amounted in full to a complete 6-hour epic, however Petersen turned him down because at the time the producers were aiming for a 90-minute feature for international release. Ironically, today's Director's Cut of Das Boot amounts to over 200 minutes, and the complete TV version of the film to roughly 5 hours long. Buchheim attacked specifically what he called Petersen's sacrificing of both realism and suspense in dialogue, narration and photography just for the sake of cheap dramatic thrills and action effects (for example, in reality one single exploding bolt of the boat's pressure hull would have been enough for the whole crew to worry about the U-boat very likely being

crushed by water pressure, while Petersen has several bolts loosening in various scenes). Uttering deep concerns about the end result, Buchheim felt that unlike his clearly anti-war novel the adaptation was "another re-glorification and remystification"[2] of German WWII U-boat war, German heroism and nationalism, and he called the film a cross between a "cheap, shallow American action flick"[2] and a "contemporary German propaganda newsreel from World-War II".[2]

German regional accents

The movie features characters who speak German with a regional dialect. Johann speaks with a strong accent from Austria (as does the sailor who receives a pubic lice inspection), Pilgrim talks with the dialect of Hamburg, and Schwalle with the one found in Berlin. Director Wolfgang Petersen states in his DVD audio commentary that young men from throughout Germany and Austria were recruited for the film. He wanted faces and accents that would accurately reflect the diversity of the Third Reich circa 1941.

The characteristic lead melody of the soundtrack, written by composer Klaus Doldinger, took on a life of its own after German rave producer Alex Christensen created a remixed techno-version under the title U96 in 1991. The song Das Boot later became an international hit. Klaus Doldinger - Das Boot excerpt

An excerpt from Klaus Doldinger's theme music to Das Boot

Problems listening to the file? See media help.

Two very prominent songs of the film were not included in the official soundtrack: "J'attendrai" sung by Rina Ketty and "It's a long way to Tipperary" performed by the Red Army Chorus.

Several versions of the film and video releases have been made: The first version to be released was the theatrical 150-minute (2-hour) cut, released to theatres in Germany in 1981, and in the United States in 1982. It was nominated for six Academy Awards (Cinematography, Directing, Film Editing, Sound, Sound Effects Editing, and Writing).

The movie was partly financed by the WDR and the SDR, and much more footage had been shot for the film than was shown in the theatrical version. In 1985, a TV miniseries of Das Boot was shown on German and Austrian television. Two different versions were aired. The broadcast in 1985 had three parts each 100 minutes long. In 1988, Das Boot aired in six episodes each 50 minutes long. These episodes had additional cutback scenes summarising past episodes. This version was first broadcast on BBC in October 1984 in German with English subtitles. Petersen then oversaw the editing of six hours of film, from which was distilled Das Boot: The Director's Cut, 209 minutes long (3 hours, 29 minutes), released in 1997, which combines the action sequences seen in the feature-length version with character development scenes contained in the mini-series. This release also provides better sound and video quality. [citation needed] Petersen originally had planned to release this version in 1981, which for commercial reasons was not possible. The Director's Cut was released to cinemas in Germany on December 11 and on April 4, 1997 in the USA. The uncut miniseries version, running 293 minutes (four hours, 53 minutes), was released to DVD on June 1, 2004, as Das Boot: The Original Uncut Version with enhanced video and audio quality (inferior to The Director's Cut though). It omits the cutback scenes of the original 1988 television broadcast and is therefor shorter. At least two scenes are missing as well.[citation needed] In addition to the "Director's Cut" DVD, a Superbit version, with fewer additional DVD features but a higher bit-rate (superior quality), has been released by Columbia Pictures.

Dubbings and subtitles

In the U.S. DVD there are no German subtitles. English-speaking students of German wishing to read the German while listening in German will need to obtain either the British version or a European one, such as the French version "le bateau", which also has English subtitles and soundtracks. Cabaret scene: In the U.S. DVD there is a minor background comment during the drunk hero captain's speech ("He'd better watch his mouth!") that is not subtitled in English with the German soundtrack but which is heard in the English dubbing. All of the main actors speak fluent English as well as German; when the film was dubbed into English, each actor recorded his own part. The German version is actually dubbed as well; the film itself was shot "silent", since in any case the dialogue spoken on-set would have been

drowned out by the gyroscopes in the special camera developed for filming. In the U.S. release of the Directors Cut, there are some notable differences in the translation of lines between the English audio dubbing and the on-screen English subtitles. For example, when the Chief/LI is doing a crossword puzzle, the subtitles show him asking for help in determining a four-letter word that means innermost affection, the answer to which is love. However, the audio dubbing of the same line has him asking for help in determining a word that means a desert animal with two humps, the answer to which is camel. In addition, much of the "salty" dialog has been cleaned up when translated to spoken English - but the English subtitles contain more accurate translations. Watching the film in spoken English with English subtitles allows you to realize the scope of dialog changes made throughout the entire film.

Special effects
Sets and models
Several different sets were used. Two full-size mock-ups of a Type VIIC boat were built, one representing the portion above water for use in outdoor scenes, and the other a cylindrical tube on a motion mount for the interior scenes. The mock-ups were built according to U-boat plans from Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. The outdoor mock-up was basically a shell propelled with a small engine, and stationed in La Rochelle, France and has a history of its own. One morning the production crew walked out to where they kept it afloat and found it missing. Someone had forgotten to inform the crew that an American filmmaker had rented the mock-up for his own movie shooting in the area. This filmmaker was Steven Spielberg and the movie he was shooting was Raiders of the Lost Ark. A few weeks later, during production, the mock-up cracked in a storm and sank, was recovered and patched to stand in for the final scenes. Contrary to what some may believe, the full-sized mock-up was used during the Gibraltar surface scenes; the bomber plane (a Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber) and rockets were real while the British ships were models. A mock-up of a conning tower was placed in a water tank at the Bavaria Studios in Munich for outdoor scenes not requiring a full view of the boat's exterior. When filming on the outdoor mockup or the conning tower, jets of cold water were hosed over the actors to simulate the breaking ocean waves. During the filming there is a scene where actor Jan Fedder

(Pilgrim) falls off the bridge while the U-boat is surfaced and lands in the front and breaks several ribs. This scene was not scripted and during the take one of the actors exclaims "Man Overboard" in order to draw attention to Fedder. Petersen, who at first did not realise this was an accident said "Good idea, Jan. We'll do that one more time!". However since Fedder was genuinely injured and had to be hospitalised this was the only take available and eventually Petersen kept this scene in the film. In this scene, the pained expression on Fedder's face is authentic and not acted. Petersen also had to rewrite Fedder's character for a portion of the film so that the character was portrayed as bedridden. For his scenes later in the movie Fedder had to be brought to and from set from the hospital since he suffered a concussion while filming his accident scene. A sized full hull operating model was used for underwater shots and some surface running shots, in particular the meeting in stormy seas with another U-boat. The tank was also used for the shots of British sailors jumping from their ship; a small portion of the tanker hull was constructed for these shots. The interior U-boat mock-up was mounted five metres off the floor and was shaken, rocked, and tilted up to 45 degrees by means of a hydraulic apparatus, and was vigorously shaken to simulate depth charge attacks. Petersen was admittedly obsessive about the structural detail of the U-boat set, remarking that "every screw" in the set was an authentic facsimile of the kind used in a World War II U-boat. In this he was considerably assisted by the numerous photographs Lothar-Gnther Buchheim took during his own voyage on the historical U-96, some of which had been published in his 1976 book, U-Boot-Krieg ("U-Boat War").

Special camera
Most of the interior shots were filmed using a hand-held Arriflex of cinematographer Jost Vacano's design to convey the claustrophobic atmosphere of the boat. It had two gyroscopes to provide stability, a reinvention of the Steadicam on a smaller scale, so that it could be carried throughout the interior of the mock-up. Vacano wore full-body padding to minimise injury as he ran and the mock-up was rocked and shaken. The gyroscopes used to stabilize his rig were very noisy, and the entire film had to be dubbed as the location sound was unusable. Throughout the filming, the actors were forbidden to go out into the sunlight, to create the pallor of men who seldom saw the sun during their missions. The actors went through intensive training to learn how to move quickly through the narrow confines of the vessel.

Production of Das Boot took two years (19791981). Most of the filming was done in one year; to make the appearance of the actors as realistic as possible, scenes were filmed in sequence over the course of the year. This

ensured natural growth of beards and hair, increasing skin pallor, and signs of strain on the actors, who had, just like real U-boat men, spent many months in a cramped, unhealthy atmosphere. Production for this movie originally began in 1976. Several American directors were considered, and the Kaleu (Kapitnleutnant) was to be played by Robert Redford. Disagreements sprang up among various parties and the project was shelved. Another Hollywood production was attempted with other American directors in mind, this time with the Kaleu to be portrayed by Paul Newman. This effort primarily failed due to technical concerns, for example, how to film the close encounter of the two German submarines at sea during a storm. The final scene of the captain collapsing gives the impression that he dies from injuries, which was the director's intention. However, the real captain actually survived and visited the submarine set and met with Jrgen Prochnow during filming.


A quiet moment in the Officer's Mess. They watch as the 2WO creates a disgusting "U-Boat Special Cocktail". From Left to Right, the Captain (Jrgen Prochnow), the Chief Engineer (Klaus Wennemann), and Lieutenant Werner (Herbert Grnemeyer).
Actor Role Description

Jrgen Prochnow

Captain (Kaleu / Der Alte)

A battle-hardened sea veteran (in his thirties). [3] The surrogate father to his mostly young crewmen, who all look up to him. Despite being openly anti-Nazi, he is engaged to a staunch "Nazi girl" (a widow of a Luftwaffe pilot).

Herbert Grnemeyer

Lieutenant Werner

The somewhat naive, but honest main narrator. Unlike the rest of the crew, he wears turtleneck sweaters for much of the voyage. Werner is repeatedly mocked for his lack of sailing experience.

Klaus Chief Engineer Wennemann (Leitender Ingenieur

A quiet and well-respected man. At age 27, the oldest crew member besides the Captain. Tormented by the

or LI)

uncertain fate of his family after hearing about an Allied air raid on Cologne. One of the most important crewmen, as he oversees diving operations and makes sure the systems are running correctly.

Hubertus Bengsch

A stiff man, a by-the-book officer, an ardent Nazi and a staunch believer in the Wehrmacht victories. Has a condescending attitude. His fiance died in British 1st Lieutenant/Watch carpet bombing. Raised in some wealth in Mexico by Officer (IWO) his stepparents. He spends his days writing his thoughts on military training and leadership for the High Command.

A vulgar, comedic, crude officer, who hides a vulnerable side behind his macho image. He explains Martin 2nd Lieutenant/Watch much of the submarine operations to Werner. One of Semmelrogge Officer (IIWO) his duties is to decode messages from base, using the Enigma code machine.

Bernd Tauber

Chief Helmsman (Obersteuermann) Kriechbaum

The navigator and IIIWO (3rd Lieutenant/Watch Officer). He gets wounded in the airplane attack at Gibraltar. Kriechbaum has four sons, with another on the way.

Erwin Leder

Chief Mechanic (Obermaschinist) Johann

The mechanic, obsessed with a near-fetish love for the U96 engine. Suffers a mental breakdown during the attack of two destroyers; he is able to redeem himself by valiantly working to stop water leaks when the boat is trapped in Gibraltar. Speaks with Austrian accent. This was his ninth patrol.

Martin May

Cadet (Fhnrich) Ullmann

Young officer candidate who has a pregnant French fiance (which is considered taboo by the French partisans) and worries about her safety. He is one of the few crew members that Werner is able to connect with; Werner even offers to deliver Ullman's love letters when it seems the former will leave the submarine.

Heinz Hoenig

Petty Officer (Maat) Hinrich

The radioman, sonar controller and ship's combat medic. He is in many ways the second most important crewman, since he gauges speed and direction of their targets and enemy destroyers. Hinrich is one of the few officers that the Captain is able to relate to.

Chief Bosun Uwe (Bootsmann) Ochsenknecht Lumprecht

The severe chief who shows Werner around the U-96. He supervises the loading and reloading of the torpedo tubes.

Claude-Oliver Rudolph


The burly mechanic who tells that Dufte is getting married and throws around pictures of Dufte's homely fiance to laugh at them both.

Jan Fedder

Petty Officer (Maat) Pilgrim

Another sailor (watch officer and diving planes operator), gets almost swept off the submarine, breaks several ribs and is hospitalised for a while. Speaks with a Hamburg accent.

Ralf Richter

Petty Officer (Maat) Frenssen

Pilgrim's best friend. Pilgrim and Frenssen love to trade dirty jokes.

Joachim Bernhard

Theologian (Bibelforscher)

Religious sailor who is constantly reading the Bible. He is punched by Frenssen when the submarine is trapped at the bottom of the Straits of Gibraltar for praying rather than repairing the boat.

Oliver Stritzel


The blond sailor who speaks with a Berlin accent.

Lutz Schnell


The sailor who gets jeered at because he is getting married and for a possible false airplane sighting.

Otto Sander

Another U-boat commander, an alcoholic. When he is introduced, he is extremely drunk and briefly mocks Adolf Hitler. Sometime after U-96 departs, Thomsen is Kapitnleutnant Phillip deployed once again and the two submarines meet Thomsen randomly in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. After failing to make contact later, the Captain is forced to report to HQ that Thomsen is missing.

Das Boot as a career boost

Several of those involved with Das Boot went on to even greater success:

Wolfgang Petersen established himself as a long-standing fixture as a Hollywood director and producer. Jrgen Prochnow became one of the few German actors to establish themselves in Hollywood. Herbert Grnemeyer became one of the most popular German singers. Klaus Wennemann became lead in a successful German detective series, Der Fahnder (the Investigator).

Heinz Hoenig became one of the most sought-after character faces in German movies. Jan Fedder became lead in a successful light-hearted German police series, "Grostadtrevier". Uwe Ochsenknecht, Ralf Richter, Claude-Olivier Rudolph and Martin Semmelrogge had successful German movie careers, too. Hubertus Bengsch became one of the most successful dubbing artists, providing amongst others the German voice of Richard Gere.

In the autumn of 2007, there was a well-visited exhibition about the film Das Boot, as well as about the real U-Boat U96, at the Haus der Geschichte (House of German History) in Bonn. Over 100,000 people visited the exhibition during its four-month run.

1. ^ History of the submarine base of La Rochelle
2. ^ a b c d Lothar-Gnter Buchheim (1981). Kommentar - Die Wahrheit blieb auf Tauchstation ("Commentary: The truth remained hidden under the sea"), Geo, no. 10, 1981 3. ^ See comment by Wolfgang Petersen in 'Extra Features' --> 'The Making Of/Behind The Scenes, Das Boot: The Director's Cut (1997). DVD.

See also

Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock List of U-boat aces Submarine films All Quiet on the Western Front (Anti-War Film) Battle of the Atlantic (1939-1945)

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Das Boot (Movie Web site) Das Boot at the Internet Movie Database Das Boot review by Roger Ebert


Cinema of Germany
Film chronology German Empire 1895-1918 Weimar Germany 1919-1933 Nazi Germany 1933-1945 East Germany (1945-1990) (West) Germany 1945-present Actors Directors Films A-Z Cinematographers Festivals Producers Composers Screenwriters

Categories: 1981 films | Films based on military fiction | Films directed by Wolfgang Petersen | West German films | German-language films | Columbia Pictures films | German television miniseries | U-boat fiction | War drama films | World War II films | World War II television drama series | Films over three hours long

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