The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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The next extract, dated 18th January, 1940, adds to some
extent and, if I may read it:

   "The High Command of the Armed Forces has issued the
   following Directive dated 17th January, cancelling the
   previous order concerning intensified measures of
   warfare against merchantmen.
   The Navy will authorise, 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
   is possible."

My Lord, that is an extension of the area.

   "U-boats must adapt their behaviour 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."

Well, then there is a note emphasising the point about
maintaining the pretence of mine hits, and the last extract
is, I think, purely cumulative.

The next document, C- 118, I put in as Exhibit GB 195. This
is an extract from the B.D.U. War Diary, that is to say, the
defendant's War Diary. It is dated 18th July, 1941, and it
consists of a further extension of that order by the cutting
down of the protected categories.

                                                  [Page 238]

   "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) Attacks on U.S. merchant vessels sailing in British
   or U.S. convoys, or independently, is authorised 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."

As the members of the Tribunal will have seen from these
orders, at one date the ships of a particular neutral under
certain conditions could be sunk while those of another
could not. It would be easy to put before the Tribunal a
mass of orders and instances to show that the attitude to be
adopted toward ships of particular neutrals changed at
various times. The point is that the defendant conducted the
U-boat war against neutrals with complete cynicism and
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.

My Lord, I turn to the next document in the document book, D-
642, which I put in as Exhibit GB 196. My Lord, this is a
series of orders; the first I should say of a series of
orders leading up to the issue of an order which enjoined
the U-boat commanders not merely to abstain from rescuing
crews, which is the purpose of this order, not merely to
give them no assistance, but deliberately to annihilate

My Lord, in the course of my proof of this matter, I shall
call two witnesses. The first witness will give the Court an
account of a speech made by the defendant at the time that
he issued the order, describing the policy, or his policy
toward the rescue of Allied troops - that it must be stopped
at all costs.

The second witness is the officer who actually briefed crews
on the order.

My Lord, this document is an extract from the standing
orders of the U-boat Command, an extract from Standing Order
No. 154, and it is signed by the defendant.

   "Paragraph (e). Do not pick up survivors or take them
   with you. Do not worry about the merchant ship's boats.
   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."

THE PRESIDENT: What is the date of that?

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: My Lord, that order, the copy we have,
is not dated, but a later order, No. 173, which was issued
concurrently with an operational order, is dated the 2nd
May, 1940. The Tribunal may take it, it is earlier than the
2nd May, 1940. My Lord, that is a secret order.

THE PRESIDENT: Earlier than May, 1940?

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: Earlier than May, 1940.

It was, however, in 1942, when the United States entered the
war with its enormous ship-building capacity, that the
change thus brought about necessitated a further adjustment
in the methods adopted by the U-boats and the defendant; and
the defendant was guilty of an order, which intended not
merely the sinking of merchant ships, not merely the
abstention from rescue of the crews, but their deliberate

My Lord, the next document in the document book shows the
course of events. It is D-423, and I put it in as Exhibit GB
197. It is a record of a conversation between Hitler and the
Japanese Ambassador Oshima, in the presence of the defendant
Ribbentrop, on the 3rd January, 1942.

   "The Fuehrer, using a map, explains to the Japanese
   Ambassador the present position of marine warfare in the
   Atlantic, emphasising that what
                                                  [Page 238]
   he considers his most important task is to get the U-
   boat warfare going in full swing. The U-boats are being
   reorganised. 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."

And then, after further details:

   "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, were forced
   to follow these methods."

My Lord, the next document, D-446, I put in as Exhibit GB
198. I do not propose to read it. It is an extract from
B.D.U. War Diary of 16th September, 1942, and it is part of
the story in the sense that it was on the following day that
the order I complain of was issued, and the defence will, no
doubt, wish to rely on it. 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 b~ an
Allied aircraft.

My Lord, the next document, D-630, I put in as Exhibit GB
199. It contains four documents. The first is a top secret
order, sent to all commanding officers of U-boats from the
defendant's headquarters, dated 17th September, 1942.

   "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 to 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."

Now, my Lord, that is of course a very carefully worded
order. Its intentions are made very clear by the next
document on that same page, which is an extract from the
defendant's War Diary; and I should say here, as appears
from the copy handed into the Court, that the War Diary is
personally signed by the defendant Donitz. It is the War
Diary entry for 17th September, 1942.

   "The attention of all commanding officers is again
   drawn" - and I would draw the Tribunal's attention to
   the word "again" - "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."

The last two documents on that page consist of a telegram
from the commander of the U-boat Schacht to the defendant's
headquarters and the reply. Schacht had been taking part in
the rescue of survivors from the Laconia. The telegram from
Schacht dated the 18th September, 1942, reads:

                                                  [Page 240]

   "163 Italians handed over to Annamite. Navigating
   officer of Laconia and another English officer on
   board." - And then it goes on setting out the position
   of English and Polish survivors in boats.

The reply sent on the 20th:

"Action as in wireless telegram message of 17th September
was wrong. Boat was detailed to rescue Italian allies and
not for the rescue of English and Poles."

It is a small point, but, of course, "detailed" means before
the bombing incident had ever occurred.

And then as for the next document, D-663, that was issued
later and may not yet have been inserted in the Tribunal's
document book; D-663 I put in as Exhibit GB

My Lord, this is an extract from an operation order,
"Operation Order
Atlantic No. 56," dated 7th October, 1943, and the copy put
in is part of sailing orders to a U-boat. As I shall prove
through the second witness, although the date of this order
is 7th October, 1943, in fact it is only a reproduction of
an order issued very much earlier, in the autumn of 1942.

   "Rescue ships: A so-called rescue ship is generally
   attached to every convoy, a special ship of up to 3,000
   gross registered tons, which is intended for the picking
   up of survivors after U-boat attacks. These ships are,
   for the most part, equipped with a ship-borne aircraft
   and large motorboats, are strongly armed with depth
   charge throwers, and are very manoeuvrable, so that they
   are often called 'U-boat traps' by the commander."

And then, the last sentence: "In view of the desired
destruction of ship's crews, their sinking is of great

If I might just sum up those documents, it would appear from
the War Diary entry of 17th September, that orders on the
lines discussed between Hitler and Oshima were, in fact,
issued, but we have not captured them. It may be that they
were issued orally and that the defendant awaited a suitable
opportunity before confirming them. The incident of the
bombing of the U-boats detailed to rescue the Italian
survivors from the Laconia afforded the opportunity, and the
order to all commanders was issued. Its intent is very clear
when you consider it in the light of the War Diary entry.
The wording is, of course, extremely careful, but to any
officer of experience its intention was obvious, and he
would know that deliberate action to annihilate survivors
would be approved under that order.

You will be told that this order, although perhaps
unfortunately phrased, was merely intended to stop a
commander from jeopardising his ship by attempting a rescue,
which had become increasingly dangerous, as a result of the
extended coverage of the ocean by Allied aircraft; and that
the notorious action of the U-boat Commander Eck in sinking
the Greek steamer Peleus and then machine-gunning the crew
on their rafts in the water, was an exception; and that,
although it may be true that a copy of the order was on
board, this action was taken solely, as he himself swore, on
his own initiative.

I would make the point to the Tribunal that if the intention
of this order was to stop the rescue attempts in the
interests of the preservation of the U-boat, first of all it
would have been done by calling attention to Standing Order

Second, this very fact would have been prominently stated in
the order. Drastic orders of this nature are not drafted by
experienced staff officers without the greatest care and an
eye to their possible capture by the enemy.

Third, if it was necessary to avoid the risks attendant on
standing by or surfacing, not only would this have been
stated but there would have been no question of taking any
prisoners at all, except possibly in circumstances where
virtually no risk in surfacing was to be apprehended.

Fourth, the final sentence of the first paragraph would have
read very differently.

                                                  [Page 241]

Fifth, if, in fact, and the prosecution do not for one
moment accept it, the defendant did not mean to enjoin
murder, his order was so worded that he cannot escape the
responsibility which attaches to such a document.

My Lord, I would call my first witness, Peter Heisig.

PETER JOSEF HEISIG took the stand.


Q. What is your name?

A. My name is Peter Josef Heisig.

THE PRESIDENT: say this: "I swear by God the Almighty and
Omniscient that I will speak the pure truth and will
withhold nothing and add nothing." (The witness repeated the
oath in German.)


Q. Peter Josef Heisig, are you an Oberleutnant zur See in

A. I am an Oberleutnant zur See in the German Navy.

Q. Were you captured on the 27th December, 1944, and now
held as a prisoner of war?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you swear an affidavit on 27th November, 1945?

A. Yes.

Q. And is that your signature? (A document, D-566 was
submitted to the witness.)

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: My Lord, that is the Document D-566.

A. That is the document I signed.

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: I put that in as Exhibit GB 201.

Q. Will you take your mind back to the autumn of 1942? What
rank did you hold at that time?

A. I was a midshipman at the Second U-boat Training

Q. Were you attending a course there?

A. I took part at the training course for U-boat officers of
the watch.

Q. Do you remember the last day of the course?

A. On the last day of the course, Grand Admiral Donitz, who
was then Commander-in-Chief of the U-boats, reviewed the
Second Training Division.

Q. And what happened at the end of this tour?

A. At the end of his visit - not at the end of his visit,
but rather during his visit, Gross Admiral Donitz made a
speech to the officers of the Second U-boat Division.

Q. Can you fix the date of his visit?

A. I remember the approximate date; it must have been at the
end of September or the beginning of October, 1942.

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