The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Archive/File: imt/tgmwc/tgmwc-14/tgmwc-14-129.09
Last-Modified: 2000/03/09


Q. It is on Page 10 of that book. Let me read you the second

  "U-boats may instantly attack with all the weapons at
  their command enemy merchant vessels recognized with
  certainty as armed, or announced as such on the basis of
  unimpeachable evidence in the possession of the Naval War

The next sentence:

  "As far as circumstances permit, measures shall be taken
  for the rescue of the crew, after the possibility of
  endangering the U-boat is excluded."

Now, no Commander could go wrong with that order, could be?
It is perfectly clear.

Look at another one, D-642, at Page 13. It is the last
paragraph of the order, on Page 15. Now, this is a non-
rescue order.

                                                   [Page 33]

Have you got it? Paragraph E, Standing Order 154:-

  "Do not rescue crew members or take them aboard and do
  not take care of the ship's boats. Weather conditions and
  distance from land are of no consequence. Think only of
  the safety of your own boat, and try to achieve
  additional successes as soon as possible.
  "We must be harsh in this war. The enemy started it in
  order to destroy us and we have to act accordingly."

Now, that was perfectly clear, was it not? That was a "non-
rescue" order?

A. It was just as clear as the order we are talking about.

Q. Look at one or two more and then let me come back to that
order; Page 45, another order:-

  "Order from Flag Officer, U-boats" - reading the third
  line - "to take on board as prisoners Captains of sunk
  ships with their papers, if it is possible to do so
  without endangering the boat or impairing its fighting

It is perfectly clear to anybody exactly what was intended,
is it not?

A. That is not an order at all; it only reproduces an
extract from the log.

Q. Yes. Reciting the words of the order; and then, on the
next page in paragraph 4:-

  "Try under all circumstances to take prisoners if that
  can be done without endangering the boat."

Again perfectly clear.

Look at the next page, Page 47, paragraph 1 of your order of
the 1st of June, 1944, the last sentence:-

  "Therefore every effort must be made to bring in such
  prisoners, as far as possible without endangering the

Now, you have told us that this order of 17th September,
1942, was intended to be a non-rescue order; that is right,
is it not?

A. Yes, certainly.

Q. I ask you again, what was meant by the sentence, "Rescue
runs counter to the most elementary demands of warfare for
the destruction of enemy ships and crews"?

A. That is the motivation of the rest of the order, which
states that ships with crews armed and equipped to fight U-
boats were to be put on the same level.

Q. Why do you speak about the destruction of crews if you do
not mean the destruction of crews?

A. The question is, whether the ships and their crews were
to be destroyed and that is something entirely different
from destroying the crews after they had left the ship.

Q. And that is something entirely different from merely not
rescuing the crews; is that not a fact?

A. I do not quite understand that question.

Q. Destruction of crews is quite different from non-rescue
of crews?

A. Destruction - as long as the ship and crew are together.

Q. You are not answering the question, are you? But if you
want it again: Destruction of crews is quite different from
non-rescue of crews?

A. The destruction of the crew is different from the non-
rescue of survivors, yes.

Q. Were those words merely put in to give this order what
you described as a "lively character", which an order should

A. I cannot give you the details. I have already said that I
do not remember in detail the events leading up to this

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Phillimore, the Tribunal has already
told the witness that the Document speaks for itself.


                                                   [Page 34]


Q. Would you just look at the next document in the
prosecution's book, that is D-663, on the last sentence of
that Document? In view of the desired destruction of ships'
crews, are you saying that it was not your intention at this
time to destroy the crews if you could?

A. I thought we were talking about survivors.

Q. Well, it is the same thing, to some extent, is it not,
ships' crews once they are torpedoed, become survivors?

A. Then they would be survivors; yes.

Q. Will you now answer the question? Was it not your
intention at this time to destroy the crews or survivors if
you like, if you could?

A. If you mean survivors - the question can refer to two
things. As regards survivors - no.

Q. If you are not prepared to answer the question, I will
pass on. Do you remember the case of Lieutenant Eck?

A. I only heard of the case of Lieutenant Eck from American
and British officers, and some things I only heard after I
came to Germany.

Q. Do you know that he was on his first voyage when his U-
boat sank the Filius and then machine-gunned the survivors?
Do you know that?

A. Yes.

Q. He had set out from the 5th U-boat flotilla at Kiel where
Mohle was briefing the Commanders, had he not?

A. He must have done.

Q. Yes. Now, if instead of taking the whole blame upon
himself for the action which he took, if he had defended his
action under this order of 17th September, 1942, are you
saying that you could have court-martialled him for

A. It might have been possible.

Q. In view of the wording of your order, do you say that?

A. That would have been a question for the Court-Martial to
decide. Moreover, Eck as far as I heard, did not refer to
this other.

Q. Can you explain to the Tribunal how the witness Mohle was
allowed to go on briefing that this was an annihilation
order, from September 1942 to the end of the war?

A. I do not know how Mohle came to interpret this order in
such a way. In any case he did not ask me about it.

Q. You realize that he is putting his own life in great
jeopardy by admitting that he briefed as he did, do you not?

A. Yes.

Q. You also know, do you not, that another Commander he
briefed was subsequently seen either by yourself or by
Admiral Donitz before he went out?

A. Yes.

Q. Again when he came back?

A. In general, yes, almost always.

Q. In general. Are you seriously telling the Tribunal that
none of these officers who were briefed that this was was an
annihilation order, that none of them raised the question
either with you or with Admiral Donitz?

A. In no circumstances was this order discussed.

Q. But I suggest to you now that this order was very
carefully drafted to be ambiguous; deliberately; so that any
U-boat Commander who was prepared to behave as he did was
entitled to do so under the order. Is not that right?

A. That is an assertion.

Q. And that you and Hessler tried to stop this order being

A. I have already said that I do not remember this.

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: My Lord, I have no further questions.

                                                   [Page 35]

THE PRESIDENT: Is there any other cross-examination? Do you
wish to re-examine, Dr. Kranzbuhler?



Q. Do you know that Captain Mohle has testified before this
Tribunal that he told only a very few officers about his
interpretation of the Laconia order?

A. I read that in the affidavit which Mohle made before
British officers last year.

Q. Do you know that Mohle testified here personally that he
did not speak to Admiral Donitz, yourself, or Captain
Hessler about his interpretation of the Laconia order,
although he repeatedly visited your staff?

A. I knew that. I cannot tell you at the moment whether I
knew it from the affidavit which Mohle made last year or
from another source.

Q. You have been confronted with Admiral Donitz's testimony
that you and Captain Hessler opposed the Laconia order. You
stated that Admiral Donitz gave an exaggerated account of
your objection to this order, so as to take the whole
responsibility upon himself?

THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute. I do not think you can ask him
that question, Dr. Kranzbuhler, whether it is possible that
the Admiral was over-emphasizing what he said.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: If I am not permitted to put this question,
your Honour, I have no further question to put to this

THE PRESIDENT: The witness can retire.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Then with the permission of the High
Tribunal I would like to call Captain Hessler as my next


(The witness Hessler takes the stand.)


Q. Will you state your full name?

A. Gunther Hessler.

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me:-

I swear by God, the Almighty and Omniscient, that I will
speak the pure truth and will withhold and will add nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.



Q. Captain Hessler, when did you enter the Navy?

A. In April 1927.

Q. What was your last grade?

A. Fregatten-Kapitan. (Commander.)

Q. You are related to Admiral Donitz. Is that correct?

A. Yes. I married his only daughter in November 1937.

Q. When did you enter the U-boat arm?

A. I started my U-boat training in April 1940.

Q. Were you given any information during your period of
training on economic warfare and prize regulations?

A. Yes. I was informed of them.

                                                   [Page 36]

Q. Was the so-called "prize-disc" used which has just been
submitted to you?

A. Yes, I was instructed about it.

Q. Will you tell the Tribunal briefly just what the purpose
of this "prize-disc" is?

A. It was a system of discs by means of which, through a
simple mechanism in as short a time as possible, we could
decide how to deal with neutral and enemy merchant ships -
whether, for instance, a neutral vessel carrying contraband
could be sunk or captured, or whether it would be allowed to

This disc has another great advantage in that it indicates
at the same time the particular paragraph of the prize
regulations in which the case in question may be found. This
made it possible to cut down the time required for the
investigation of a merchant ship to a minimum.

Q. That means that the disc was in the nature of a juristic
adviser to the Commander?

A. Yes.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: I now submit this disc to the Tribunal as
Exhibit Donitz No. 95.


Q. In your training were you told what attitude you were
required to adopt toward shipwrecked survivors? If so, what
was it?

A. Yes. The rescuing of survivors is a matter of course in
naval warfare and must be carried out as far as measures
permit. In U-boat warfare it is utterly impossible to rescue
survivors, that is, to take the entire crew on board, for
space conditions in the U-boats do not permit of any such
action. The carrying out of other measures, such as
approaching the life-boats, picking up swimmers and
transferring them to the life-boats, handing-over provisions
and water, is, as a rule, impossible, for the danger
incurred by the U-boat is so great throughout the
operational zone that none of these measures can be carried
out without endangering the boat too much.

Q. You yourself went out on cruises as Commander soon after
receiving these instructions?

A. Yes.

Q. From when and to when?

A. From October 1940 till November 1941.

Q. In what areas did you operate?

A. South of Iceland, West of the North Channel, in the
waters between Cape Verde and the Azores, and in the area
west of Freetown.

Q. What success did you have against merchant shipping?

A. I sank 21 ships, totalling more than 130,000 tons.

Q. You received the Knight's Cross (Ritterkreuz)?

A. Yes.

Q. How did you act toward the survivors of the crews of the
ships you sank?

A. In most cases the situation was such that I was compelled
to leave the scene of the wreck without delay, on account of
danger from the enemy sea or air forces. In two cases the
danger was not quite so great. I was able to approach the
life-boats and help them.

Q. What were the ships concerned?

A. Two Greek ships: the Papalemos and Pandias.

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