The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/09/28

Now, in view of the maliciousness of this "Volkischer
Beobachter" announcement, and in fairness to the men of the
British Merchant Navy, I think it is proper that I should
say, that contrary to the allegation in this Nazi sheet, the
Athenia of course made repeated wireless distress signals
which were in fact intercepted and answered by His Majesty's
ship Electra, in escort, as well as by the Norwegian steamer
Knut Nelson and the yacht Southern Cross.

I shall submit evidence to the Tribunal to establish that,
in fact, the Athenia was sunk by the German U-boat U-30. So
unjustifiable was the torpedoing of the Athenia, however,
that the German Navy embarked upon a course of falsification
of their records and on other dishonest measures, in the
hope of hiding their guilty secret. And for their part, as
the Tribunal has seen, the Nazi propagandists indulged in
their favourite falsehood of seeking to shift the
responsibility to the British.

The Captain of the U-boat 30, Oberleutnant Lemp, was later
killed in action, but some of the original crew of the U-30
have survived to tell the tale, and they are now prisoners
of war. And so that the truth of this episode may be placed
beyond a peradventure, I submit to the Tribunal an affidavit
by a member of the crew of the U-30; as to the sinking of
the Athenia and as to one aspect of the attempt to conceal
the true facts.

I refer to document C-654, Exhibit GB 219, at Page 106 of
the document book. The affidavit reads:

  "I, Adolf Schmidt, Official Number N 1043-33T, do
  solemnly declare that:
  I am now confined to Camp No. 133, Lethbridge, Alberta.
  On the first day of war, 3rd September, 1939, a ship of
  approximately 10,000 tons was torpedoed in the late hours
  of the evening by the U-30.
  After the ship was torpedoed and we surfaced again,
  approximately half an hour after the explosion, the
  Commandant called me to the tower in order to show me the
  torpedoed ship.

                                                  [Page 268]

  I saw the ship with my very eyes, but I do not think that
  the ship could see our U-boat at that time on account of
  the position of the moon.
  Only a few members of the crew had an opportunity to go
  to the tower in order to see the torpedoed ship.
  Apart from myself, Oberleutnant Hinsch was in the tower
  when I saw the steamer after the attack.
  I observed that the ship was listing.
  No warning shot was fired before the torpedo was
  I myself observed much commotion on board the torpedoed
  I believe that the ship had only one smoke stack.
  In the attack on this steamer one or two torpedoes were
  fired which did not explode, but I myself heard the
  explosion of the torpedo which hit the steamer.
  Oberleutnant Lemp waited until darkness before surfacing.
  I was severely wounded by aircraft 14th September, 1939.
  Oberleutnant Lemp shortly before my disembarkation in
  Reykjavik, 19th September, 1939, visited me in the
  forenoon in the petty officers' quarters where I was
  lying severely wounded.
  Oberleutnant Lemp then had the petty officers' quarters
  cleared in order to be alone with me.
  Oberleutnant Lemp then showed me a declaration under oath
  according to which I had to bind myself to mention
  nothing concerning the incidents of 3rd September, 1939,
  on board the U-30.
  This declaration under oath had approximately the
  following wording: I, the undersigned, swear hereby that
  I shall keep secret all happenings of 3rd September,
  1939, on board the U-30, from either foe or friend, and
  that I shall erase from my memory all happenings of this
  I signed this declaration under oath, which was drawn up
  by the Commandant in his own handwriting, very illegibly
  with my left hand.
  Later on in Iceland when I heard about the sinking of the
  Athenia, the idea came into my mind that the U-30 on the
  3rd September, 1939, might have sunk the Athenia,
  especially since the Captain caused me to sign the above-
  mentioned declaration.
  Up to to-day I have never spoken to anyone concerning
  these events.
  Due to the termination of the war I consider myself freed
  from my oath."

Donitz's part in the Athenia episode is described in an
affidavit which he has sworn, which is D-638, Exhibit GB
220, at Page 102 of the document book. The affidavit was
sworn in English, and I invite the Tribunal to look at it
and observe  the addition, in Donitz's handwriting, of four
words at the end of the affidavit, the significance of which
will be seen in a moment.

The defendant Donitz states:

  "U-30 returned to harbour about mid-September. I met the
  captain, Oberleutnant Lemp, on the lockside at
  Wilhelmshaven, as the boat was entering harbour, and he
  asked permission to speak to me in private. I noticed
  immediately that he was looking very unhappy, and he told
  me at once that he thought he was responsible for the
  sinking of the Athenia in the North Channel area. In
  accordance with my previous instructions he had been
  keeping a sharp lookout for possible armed merchant
  cruisers in the approaches to the British Isles, and had
  torpedoed a ship which he afterwards identified as the
  Athenia from wireless broadcasts, under the impression
  that she was an armed merchant cruiser on patrol. I had
  never specified in my instructions any particular type of
  ship as armed merchant cruiser, nor mentioned any names
  of ships. I despatched Lemp at once by air to report to
  the S.K.L. at Berlin; in the meantime, I ordered complete
  secrecy as a provisional measure. Later on the same day
                                                  [Page 269]
  early on the following day, I received a verbal order
  from Kapitan zur See Fricke" - who was head of the
  Operations Division of the Naval War Staff - "that:
  (1) The affair was to be kept a total secret.
  (2) The O.K.M. considered that a court-martial was not
  necessary as they were satisfied that the captain had
  acted in good faith.
  (3) Political explanations would be handled- by the
  I had had no part whatsoever in the political events in
  which the Fuehrer claimed that no U-boat had sunk the
  After Lemp returned to Wilhelmshaven from Berlin, I
  interrogated him thoroughly on the sinking and formed the
  impression that, although he had taken reasonable care,
  he had still not taken sufficient precautions to
  establish fully the identity of the ship before
  attacking. Prior to the occurrence of this incident I had
  given very strict orders that all merchant vessels and
  neutrals were to be treated according to prize law. I
  accordingly placed him under cabin arrest, as I felt
  certain that he would be acquitted by a court-martial
  which would, however, entail unnecessary publicity" - and
  then Donitz has added the words "and too much time."

It is right, I think, that I should add that Donitz's
suggestion that the captain of the U-30 sank the Athenia in
mistake for a merchant cruiser must be considered in the
light of a document which Colonel Phillimore submitted -
Document C-191, Exhibit GB 193, dated; 22nd September, 1939
- which contained  Donitz's order that "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."

Now, the U-30 returned to Wilhelmshaven on 27th September,
1939. I submit another fraudulent naval document, Document D-
659, Page 110 of the document book, which will be Exhibit GB
221, which is an extract from the War Diary of the Chief of
U-boats, and it is an extract for 27th September, 1939. The
Tribunal will see that it reads:

  "U-30 comes in.
  She had sunk:
  S.S. Blairlogies,
  S.S. Fanad Head."

There is no reference at all, of course, to the sinking of
the Athenia.

But perhaps the most elaborate forgery in connection with
this episode was the forgery of the log book of the U-30,
which was responsible for sinking the Athenia. I now submit
that original log book to the Tribunal as Document D-662,
which will be Exhibit GB 222, and an extract from the first
and relevant page of it is found at Page 111 of the document
book. I would like the Tribunal to examine the original, if
you will be good enough to do so, because the prosecution's
submission is that the first page of that log book is a
forgery, but a forgery which shows a curiously un-German
carelessness about detail. The Tribunal will see that the
first page of the text is a clear substitute for pages that
have been removed. The dates in the first column of that
page are in Arabic numerals. On the second and more
authentic looking page, and throughout the other pages of
the log book, they are in Roman numerals.

The Tribunal will also see that all reference to the action
of the sinking of the Athenia on 3rd September is omitted.
The entries are translated in Page 111 of the document book
for the Court's assistance.

The log book shows that the position at 14.00 hours, of the
U-30 on 3rd September, is given as A.L. 0278, which the
Tribunal will notice is one of the very few positions quoted
at all upon that page, and which was, in fact, some 200
miles west of the position where the Athenia was sunk. The
course due

                                                  [Page 270]

South, which is recorded in the log book, and the speed of
10 knots -those entries  are obviously designed to suggest
that the U-30 was well clear of the Athenia's position on
the 3rd September.

Finally, and most curiously, the Tribunal will observe that
Lemp's own signature upon the page dealing with the 3rd
September differs from the other signatures in the text.
Page 1 shows Lemp's signature with a Roman "p" as the final
letter of his name. On the other signatures, there is a
script "p", and the inference I submit is that either the
signature is a forgery or it was made up by Lemp at some
other, and probably considerably later date.

Now, in my submission, the whole of this Athenia story
establishes that the German Navy under Raeder embarked upon
deliberate fraud. Even before receiving Lemp's reports, the
German Admiralty had repeatedly denied the possibility that
a German U-boat could be in the area concerned. The charts
which showed the disposition of U-boats and the position of
sinking of the Athenia, which Colonel Phillimore introduced,
have shown the utter dishonesty of these announcements, and
my submission upon this matter is this: Raeder, as head of
the German Navy, knew all the facts. Censorship and
information control in Nazi Germany were so complete that
Raeder, as head of the Navy, must have been party to the
falsification published in the "Volkischer Beobachter,"
which was a wholly dishonourable attempt by the Nazi
conspirators to save their faces with their own people, and
to uphold the myth of an infallible Fuehrer backed by an
impeccable war machine.

The Tribunal has seen that truth mattered little in Nazi
propaganda, and it would appear that Raeder's camouflage was
not confined to painting his ships or sailing them under the
British flag, as he did in attacking Norway and Denmark.
With regard to that last matter, the invasion of Norway and
Denmark, I think it is hardly necessary that I should remind
the Tribunal of Raeder's leading part in that perfidious
Nazi assault, the evidence as to which has already been
presented. I think I need only add Raeder's proud comment
upon those brutal invasions, which is contained in his
letter in Document C-155 at Page 25 of the document book,
which is already before the Tribunal as Exhibit GB 214. That
document, which is a letter of Raeder's to the Navy, part of
which I have already read, states:

  "The operations of the Navy in the occupation of Norway
  will for all time remain the great contribution of the
  Navy to this war."

Now, with the occupation of Norway and much of Western
Europe safely completed, the Tribunal has seen that Hitler
turned his eyes towards Russia. Now, in fairness to Raeder,
it is right that I should say that Raeder himself was
against the attack on Russia and tried his best to dissuade
Hitler from embarking upon it. The documents show, however,
that Raeder approached the problem with complete cynicism.
He did not object to the aggressive war on Russia because of
its illegality, its immorality, its inhumanity. His only
objection to it was its untimeliness. He wanted to finish
England first before going further afield.

The story of Raeder's part in the deliberations upon the war
against Russia is told in Document C-170, at Page 37 of the
document book, which has already been submitted as Exhibit
USA 136. That document consists of extracts from a German
compilation of official naval notes by the German Naval War

The first entry, at Page 47 of the document book, which bore
the date of 26th September, 1940, which is at Page 11 of
Document C-170, showed that Raeder was advocating to Hitler
an aggressive Mediterranean policy in which; of course, the
Navy would play a paramount role, as opposed to a
continental land policy. The entry reads:

  "Naval Supreme Commander with the Fuehrer: Naval Supreme
  Commander presents his opinion about the situation: the
  Suez Canal must be
                                                  [Page 271]
  captured with German assistance. From Suez, advance
  through Palestine and Syria; then Turkey will be in our
  power. The Russian problem will then assume a different
  appearance. Russia is fundamentally frightened of
  Germany. It is questionable whether action against Russia
  from the North will then be still necessary."

The next entry is at Page 48 of the document book for 14th

  "Naval Supreme Commander with the Fuehrer: Fuehrer is
  still inclined to instigate the conflict with Russia.
  Naval Supreme Commander recommends putting it off until
  the time after victory over England, since there is heavy
  strain on German forces and the end of war is not in

Then there is the entry on Page 50 for 27.12.40:

  "Naval Supreme Commander emphasises again that strict
  concentration of our entire war effort against England as
  our main enemy is the most urgent need of the hour. On
  the one side England has gained strength by the
  unfortunate Italian conduct of the war in the Eastern
  Mediterranean, and by the increasing American support. On
  the other hand, however, she can be hit mortally by a
  strangulation of her ocean traffic, which is already
  taking effect. What is being done for submarine and naval
  force construction is much too little. Our entire war
  potential must work for the conduct of the war against
  England; thus for the Navy and Air Force, every
  dispersion of strength prolongs the war and endangers the
  final success. Naval Supreme Commander voices serious
  objections against Russia campaign before the defeat of

At Page 52 of the document book, on 18th February, 1941,
there is the entry:

  "Chief, Naval Operations (S.K.L.) insists on the
  occupation of Malta even before 'Barbarossa'."

On the next page, for 23rd February, there is this
interesting entry:

  "Instruction from Supreme Command, Armed Forces (O.K.W.)
  that seizure of Malta is contemplated for the fall of
  1941 after the execution of 'Barbarossa.'" - which the
  Tribunal may think is a sublime example of wishful

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