Archive/File: imt/nca/nca-02/nca-02-16-responsibility-14-05 Last-Modified: 1997/05/13 Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume Two, Chapter XIV [Page 825] The report of the Chief Engineer of the "S. S. Sheaf Mead" contains this description of the situation: "When I came to the surface I found myself on the port side, .that is, nearest to the submarine, which was only about five [Page 826] yards away. The submarine Captain asked the steward the name of the ship, which he told him, and the enemy picked up one of our lifebuoys, but this had the name 'Gretaston on it, as this was the name of our ship before it was changed to 'Skeaf Mead' last January." ******* "She had cutaway bows, but I did not notice a net cutter. Two men stood at the side with boat hooks to keep us off. "They cruised around for half an hour, taking photographs of us in the water. Otherwise they just watched us, but said nothing. Then she submerged and went off, without offering us any assistance whatever." (D-644) The U-boats log at 1444 hours contains a description of the sighting of the ship, the difficulty in identification, and then the "The distance apart is narrowing. The steamship draws in quickly, but the position is still 40-50. I cannot see the stern yet. Tube ready. Shall I or not? The gunnery crews are also prepared. On the ship's side a yellow cross in a small, square, dark blue ground. Swedish? Presumably not. I raise the periscope a little. Hurrah, a gun at the stern, an ack-ack gun or something similar. Fire! I cannot miss" The actual documents by which Doenitz and his fellow conspirators issued their orders in disregard of International Law indicate that the compiler of the above reports understated the case. These orders cover not only the period referred to in the above reports, but also the subsequent course of the war. It is interesting to note in them the steps by which the conspirators progressed. At first they were content with breaching the rules of International Law to the extent of sinking merchant ships, including neutral ships, without warning where there was a reasonable prospect of being able to do so without discovery. The facts already quoted show that the question of whether ships were defensively armed or outside the declared operational areas was in practice immaterial. A memorandum by the German Naval War Staff, dated 22 September 1939, (C-191) provides: "Flag Officer U-boats intends to give permission to U- boats to sink without warning any vessels sailing without lights. *** In practice there is no opportunity for attacking at night, as the U-boat cannot identify a target which is a shadow in a way that entirely obviates mistakes being made. [Page 827] If the political situation is such that even possible mistakes must be ruled out, U-boats must be forbidden to make any attacks at night in waters where French and English Naval forces or merchant ships may be situated. On the other hand, in sea areas where only English units are to be expected, the measures desired by F. O. U-boats can be carried out; permission to take this step is not to be given in writing, but need merely be based on the unspoken approval of the Naval War Staff. U-boat commanders would be informed by word of mouth and the sinking of a merchant ship must be justified in the War Diary as due to possible confusion with a warship or an auxiliary cruiser. In the meanwhile, U-boats in the English Channel have received instructions to attack all vessels sailing without lights." (C-191) The War Diary of the Naval War Staff of the German Admiralty contains the following report by Ia (Staff Operations Officer on the Naval War Staff) on directive of the Armed Forces High Command of 30 December 1939: "According to this the Fuehrer, on report of the Commander in Chief, Navy, has decided: "(a) Greek merchant vessels are to be treated as enemy vessels in the zone blockaded by USA. and Britain. "(b) In the Bristol Channel all ships may be attacked without warning. For external consumption these attacks should be given out as hits by mines. "Both measures may be taken with immediate effect." (C- 21) Another report by Ia, refers to intensified measures in naval and air warfare in connection with "Fall Gelb". "In consequence of this Directive, the Navy will authorize, simultaneously with the general intensification of the war, the sinking by U-boats, without any warning, of all ships in those waters near the enemy coasts in which mines can be employed. In this case, for external consumption, pretence should be made that mines are being used. The behaviour of, and use of weapons by, U-boats should be adapted to this purpose." (C-21) A third extract from the Naval War Diary, dated 6 January 1940, states: "*** the Fuehrer has in principle agreed (see minutes of report of C. in C. Navy of 30 December) to authorize firing without warning whilst maintaining the pretence of mine hits in certain parts of the American blockaded zone." (C-21) [Page 828] Whereupon, the order is given to Flag Officer, Submarines, carrying out that decision (C-21). The report for 18 January 1940 states: "The High Command of the Armed Forces has issued the following Directive dated 17th of January, cancelling the previous order concerning intensified measures of warfare against merchantmen. "The Navy will authorize, with immediate effect, the sinking without warning by U-Boats of all ships in those waters near the enemy coasts in which the use of mines can be pretended. U-Boats must adapt their behavior and employment of weapons to the pretence, which is to be maintained in these cases, that the hits were caused by mines. Ships of the United States, Italy, Japan and Russia are exempted from these attacks." (C-21) An extract from the BDU War Diary (Doenitz's War Diary) dated 18 July 1941, reveals a further extension of the above order so as to cut down the protected categories: "Supplementary to the order forbidding, for the time being, attacks on U. S. warships and merchant vessels in the operational area of the North Atlantic, the Fuehrer has ordered the following: "1. Attack on U. S. merchant vessels sailing in British or U. S. convoys or independently is authorized in the original operational area which corresponds in its dimensions to the U. S. blockade zone and which does not include the sea-route U. S. to Iceland." (C-118) As these orders slow, at one date the ships of a particular neutral under certain conditions could be sunk, while those of another could not. The attitude to be adopted toward ships of particular neutrals changed at various times, for Doenitz conducted the U-Boat war against neutrals with cynical opportunism. It all depended on the political relationship of Germany toward a particular country at a particular time whether her ships were sunk or not. (2) The Orders Concerning Treatment of Survivors. A series of orders led up to the issue of an order which enjoined U- Boat commanders not merely to abstain from rescuing crews and give them no assistance, but deliberately to annihilate them. Among these preliminary standing orders of the U-Boat Command is Order Number 154, signed by Doenitz: "Paragraph (e). Do not pick up survivors and take them with you. Do not worry about the merchant-ship's boats. [Page 829] Weather conditions and distance from land play no part. Have a care only for your own ship and strive only to attain your next success as soon as possible. We must be harsh in this war. The enemy began the war in order to destroy us, so nothing else matters." (D-642) In 1942, when the United States entered the war with its enormous ship-building capacity, the change thus brought about necessitated a further adjustment in the methods adopted by the U-Boats. Doenitz accordingly issued an order, which intended not merely the sinking of merchant ships, not merely the abstention from rescue of the crews, but their deliberate extermination. The course of events is shown by the record of a conversation between Hitler and the Japanese Ambassador, Oshima, (D-423) in the presence of Ribbentrop, on 3 January 1942: "The Fuehrer, using a map, explains to the Japanese Ambassador the present position of marine warfare in the Atlantic, emphasizing that he considers his most important task is to get the U-Boat warfare going in full swing. The U-Boats are being reorganized. Firstly, he had recalled all U-Boats operating in the Atlantic. As mentioned before, they would now be posted outside United States ports. Later, they would be off Freetown and the larger boats even as far down as Capetown." ******* "After having given further explanations on the map, the Fuehrer pointed out that, however many ships the United States built, one of their main problems would be the lack of personnel. For that reason, even merchant ships would be sunk without warning with the intention of killing as many of the crew as possible. Once it gets around that most of the seamen are lost in the sinkings, the Americans would soon have difficulties in enlisting new people. The training of sea-going personnel takes a very long time. We are fighting for our existence and our attitude cannot be ruled by any humane feelings. For this reason he must give the order that in case foreign seamen could not be taken prisoner, which is not always possible on the sea, U-boats were to surface after torpedoing and shoot up the lifeboats. "Ambassador Oshima heartily agreed with the Fuehrer's comments, and said that the Japanese too are forced to follow these methods." An extract from the B.D.U. War Diary of 16 September 1942 is part of the story in the sense that it was on the following [Page 830] day that the annihilation order was issued. It records an attack on a U-boat, which was rescuing survivors, chiefly the Italian survivors of the Allied liner "Laconia," when it was attacked by an Allied aircraft (D-446). A Top Secret order, sent to all commanding officers of U- boats from Doenitz's headquarters, dated 17 September 1942, provided: "1. No attempt of any kind must be made at rescuing members of ships sunk, and this includes picking up persons in the water and putting them in lifeboats, righting capsized lifeboats, and handing over food and water. Rescue runs counter to the rudimentary demands of warfare for the destruction of enemy ships and crews. "2. Orders for bringing in Captains and Chief Engineers still apply. "3. Rescue the shipwrecked only if their statements will be of importance for your boat. "4. Be harsh, having in mind that the enemy takes no regard of women and children in his bombing attacks on German cities." (D-630) The intentions of this carefully worded order are made clear by an extract from Doenitz's War Diary which is personally signed by Doenitz. The War Diary entry for 17 September 1942 reads: "The attention of all commanding officers is again drawn to the fact that all efforts to rescue members of the crews of ships which have been sunk contradict the most primitive demands for the conduct of warfare by annihilating enemy ships and their crews. Orders concerning the bringing in of the Captains and Chief Engineers still stand." (D-630).
Site Map ·
What's New? ·
© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012
Home · Site Map · What's New? · Search Nizkor