The Special Bond between the Bismarck and the U-556
There was a very special bond between the battleship Bismarck and the submarine U-556. Both ships were built at Blohm & Voss in Hamburg and in the summer of 1940 they were often neighbors on the ways. When the U-556 was commissioned, the mighty bow of the Bismarck towered over her. Herbert Wohlfahrt (the captain on the U-556), who was known in naval circles as "Sir Parsifal," decided that the commissioning ceremony would not be complete without a band and, since a U-boat certainly did not carry one, he would ask the big neighbor, which as Fleet Flagship had a band, called the Fleet Band, to provide the music. Accordingly, he went to see Ernst Lindemann (the captain on the Bismarck), but he did not go empty-handed. In exchange, he offered the Bismarck the Patentschaft (Sponsorship) of his ship. Ernst Lindemann readily accepted. Herbert Wohlfahrt got his band and thereafter his artistically designed Patentschafts Urkunde (Certificate of Sponsorship) hung in the Bismarck.

Lindemann and Wohlfahrt became friends. At the beginning of 1941 the Bismarck and the U-556 were together during gunnery exercises in the Baltic, and once even used the same target. The U-556, which Lindemann had allowed to precede him, damaged the target so badly with ten hits that the Bismarck could not use it that day. Lindemann, however, did not take it amiss and soon dispelled Wohlfahrt's fear that he would be greeted with an ill-humored reaction, "I do not begrudge you that in the least. I wish that you may have as much and rapid success in the Atlantic and win the Knight's Cross for it." Relieved, Wohlfahrt replied, "I hope we both receive the Knight's Cross in the common struggle in the Atlantic."

Patentschafts Urkunde (Certificate of Sponsorship)
The Patentschafts Urkunde of the U-556 for the Bismarck. (Courtesy of Herbert Wohlfahrt)
Sketch 1
The first sketch on the certificate shows "Sir Parsifal" (Herbert Wohlfahrt) warding off aircraft attacking the Bismarck with a sword in his right hand and stopping torpedoes coming towards her with his left thumb.
The text translated to English
"We, the U-556 (500 tons), hereby declare before Neptune, the ruler of the oceans, lakes, seas, rivers, brooks, ponds and rills, that we will stand beside our big brother, the battleship Bismarck (42,000 tons), whatever may befall her on water, land or in the air. Hamburg, 28 January 1941. The captain and crew of the U-556."
Sketch 2
The second sketch on the certificate shows the Bismarck being towed by the U-556.
Gift of Prophecy
It almost seemed as though Herbert Wohlfahrt had the gift of prophecy when he prepared that certificate above.
Help against aircraft and torpedoes, and then a tow. That was exactly what the Bismarck needed, and he of all people, Godfather Wohlfahrt, was near her. But he was powerless to help her.