The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Goering appears to have assisted Himmler in recruiting the
necessary personnel for anti-partisan work and he is
recorded by a Cabinet Councillor on the 24th September,
1942, as stating that he was looking for daring fellows for
employment in the Eastern Special Purpose Units, and that he
was considering convicts and poachers for the purpose. His
idea was:

  "In the regions assigned for their operations these
  bands, whose first task should be to destroy the
  communications of the partisan groups, could murder, burn
  and ravish. In Germany they would once again come under
  strict supervision."

A month later he gave the Duce a description of Germany's
method in combating the partisans in the following terms:

  "To begin with, the entire livestock and all foodstuff is
  taken away from the areas concerned so as to deny the
  partisans all sources of food. Men and women are taken
  away to labour camps, children to children's camps, and
  the villages burnt down. Should attacks occur, then the
  entire male population of villages would be lined up one
  side and the women on the other side. The women would be
  told that all men would be shot unless they (the women)
  indicated which of the men did not belong to the village.
  In order to save their men the women always pointed out
  the stranger."

These methods were not confined to the East. They were going
on throughout the length and breadth of every occupied
territory. Wherever the slightest resistance was offered the
German answer was to attempt to stamp it out with the utmost
brutality. It would not be difficult to rival the events of
Lidice and Oradour-sur-Glane by a hundred other instances.

One of the most brutal expedients - the taking of hostages -
was the subject of an order by the German High Command on
16th September, 1941. Keitel ordered: I quote:

  "It should be inferred in every case of resistance to the
  German occupying forces, no matter what the individual
  circumstances, that it is of Communist origin.
  In order to nip these machinations in the bud the most
  drastic measures should be taken immediately on the first
  indication so that the authority of the occupying forces
  may be maintained and further spreading prevented. In
  this connection it should be remembered that a human life
  in unsettled countries frequently counts for nothing, and
  a deterrent effect can be attained only by unusual
  severity. The death penalty for fifty to one hundred
  Communists should generally be regarded in these cases as
  suitable atonement for one German soldier's life. The way
  in which sentence is carried out should still further
  increase the deterrent effect."

We may compare the wording of the Einsatz Commando Report:

                                                  [Page 442]

  "In the knowledge that the Russian has been accustomed of
  old to ruthless measures on the part of the authorities,
  the most severe measures were applied."

There is no difference in outlook between Keitel and
Kaltenbrunner: the German soldier was being ordered to
emulate the SS.

A fortnight after issuing that order, Keitel, whose only
defence was that he had pressed for five to ten hostages for
one German in place of fifty to one hundred, had had a
further idea, and on the 1st October, 1941, he suggested
that it was advisable that military commanders should always
have at their disposal a number of hostages of different
political tendencies, nationalist, democratic-bourgeois, or
Communist, adding:

  "It is important that among them shall be well-known
  leading personalities or members of their families whose
  names are to be made public. Depending on the membership
  of the culprit, hostages of the corresponding group are
  to be shot in case of attacks."

The original document bears the ominous note: "Complied with
in France and Belgium."

The effect of these orders throughout the German Army is
well seen from three instances of the action taken by a
local commander.

In Yugoslavia, a month after Keitel's original order a
station commander reported that in revenge for the killing
of ten German soldiers and the wounding of another twenty-
six, a total of 2,300 people had been shot, one hundred for
each killed and fifty for each wounded German soldier.

On the 11th July, 1944, the Commander of the District of
Kovolo in Italy was in a public poster, threatening to kill
fifty men for every member of the German armed forces,
whether military or civilian, who was wounded, and a hundred
if a German was killed. In the event of more than one
soldier or civilian being killed or wounded, all the men of
the district would be shot, the houses set on fire, the
women interned, and the cattle confiscated immediately. In
June of the same year 560 persons, including 250 men, were
reported by Kesselring as having been taken into custody
under threat of shooting within forty-eight hours, some
German colonel having been captured by bandits.

The men directly implicated in these brutalities are
Goering, Ribbentrop, Keitel, Jodl, and Kaltenbrunner, but
who can doubt that every man in that dock knew of the orders
and of the way in which the German armed forces were being
taught to murder men, women and children, and were doing so
throughout the length and breadth of Europe? Raeder, who
says he disapproved of this sort of policy in Norway, states
that he tried to dissuade Hitler, yet he continued to hold
his post and to lend his name to the regime under which
these things were being done.

I pass on to matters for which he and Donitz were more
immediately responsible. The conduct of the war at sea
reveals exactly the same pattern of utter disregard for law
and for decency. There can seldom have been an occasion when
the minds of two naval commanders have been so clearly read
from their documents as those of the defendants Raeder and
Donitz can be read in the present case.

As early as the 3rd September, 1939, the German Navy, in a
memorandum to the Foreign Office, were seeking agreement to
a policy of sinking without warning both enemy and neutral
merchant ships in disregard of the London Submarine Rules,
their own Prize Ordinance and of course International Law. A
series of documents during the following six weeks reveals
constant pressure on the Foreign Office by Raeder to consent
to this policy.

On 16th October, 1939, Raeder produced a memorandum on the
intensification of naval warfare against England. In this
document, having proclaimed the "utmost ruthlessness" as
necessary and the intention to destroy Britain's fighting
spirit within the shortest possible time, Raeder went on to

                                                  [Page 443]

  "The principal target is the merchant ship, not only the
  enemy's but in general every merchant ship which sails
  the seas in order to supply the enemy's war industry both
  for imports and exports."

It is that document which contains the infamous passage:

  "It is desirable to base all military measures taken on
  existing International Law; however, measures which are
  considered necessary from a military point of view,
  provided a decisive success can be expected from them,
  will have to be carried out even if they are not covered
  by existing International Law. In principle, therefore,
  any means of war which is effective in breaking enemy
  resistance should be based on some legal conception, even
  if this entails the creation of a new code of naval

In another memorandum on the 30th December he went on to
urge further intensification, particularly with regard to
neutrals. I quote:

" ... without binding ourselves to any conceptions of

and he suggested that as they were going to invade neutral
States it really did not matter if they went a little far
regarding sea warfare.

  "The intensified measures of the war at sea will in their
  political effect only play a small part in the general
  intensification of the war."

You will have noted that these memoranda on the conduct of
the war at sea echo the High Command's view on the future
war, which had been written eighteen months earlier:

  "The normal rules of war towards neutral nations may be
  considered to apply only on the basis of whether the
  operation of these rules will create greater advantages
  or disadvantages for the warring nations."

Was that a mere coincidence? At all events, such was the
pattern laid down by Raeder and followed by Donitz. From the
very first the Naval War Staff never had any intention of
observing the laws of war at sea.

The defence that the sinking of Allied merchant ships
without warning was justified by Allied measures is as
untenable as the suggestion that the sinking at sight of
neutral merchant ships was preceded by warning which
complied with the requirements of International Law. You
have seen the very vague and general warnings given to the
neutrals and the memorandum of the Naval War Staff revealing
that these were deliberately given in the most general terms
because Raeder knew that the action he intended against
neutrals was utterly illegal. I need not remind you of the
document which suggests that orders should be given by word
of mouth and a false entry made in the log book, the very
practice followed in the case of the Athenia, or of the
entries in Raeder's own war diary revealing that carefully
selected neutrals should be sunk wherever the use of
electric torpedoes might enable the Germans to maintain that
the ship had really struck a mine. You have confirmation in
the bland denials prepared by Raeder to answer the protests
of the Norwegian and Greek Governments on the sinking of the
Thomas Walton and the Garoufalia, and the reluctant
admission in the case of the Deptford, all three ships sunk
in December, 1939, by the same U-boat. Nothing reveals more
of the cynicism or opportunism with which Raeder and Donitz
treated International Law than the contrast between their
attitude towards the sinking of a Spanish ship in 1940 and
that of September, 1942. In 1940 Spain did not matter to
Germany; in 1942 she did.

Details with regard to the various successive measures taken
in the course of putting into effect the policy of sink at
sight do not require recapitulation but there are two
features of the conduct of naval warfare by these two
defendants which I must emphasize. First, they continued to
put out to the world that they were obeying the London Rules
and their own Prize Ordinance. The reason for that appears
in Raeder's memorandum of the 30th December, 1939, where he

  "A public announcement of intensified measures for the
  war at sea must be urgently advised against in order not
  to burden the Navy again in the eyes of history with the
  odium of unrestricted U-boat warfare."

                                                  [Page 444]

And that, you see, is the common plan - the common plan -
the very argument put forward by Jodl and Donitz in
February, 1945, in favour of simply breaking the regulations
of the Geneva Convention rather than announcing Germany's
renunciation of it to the world. And here, once again, is
the doctrine of military expediency; if it will pay Germany
to break a particular law she is entirely justified in
breaking it, provided always it can be done in such a way as
to avoid detection and the condemnation of world opinion.

It must not be thought that in initiating this policy of
sink at sight and in disregarding the rules of the war at
sea Raeder was any more drastic than Donitz. In his defence
Donitz made a great effort to explain away his order of 17th
September, 1942. I ask the Tribunal to remember its terms:

  "No attempt of any kind must be made at rescuing members
  of ships sunk .... Rescue runs counter to the rudimentary
  demands of warfare for the destruction of enemy ships and

His diary entry of the same date, which confirms that order,

  "The attention of all C.O.'s is again drawn to the fact
  that all efforts to rescue ... run counter to the
  rudimentary demands of warfare ...."

Well, the defendant denied that this means that crews were
to be destroyed or annihilated. But the previous history
makes it abundantly clear that this was an invitation to U-
boat commanders to destroy the crews of ship-wrecked
merchantmen, while preserving an argument for Donitz, should
- as has indeed happened - occasion arise. That, after all,
was the pattern laid down by Hitler when on the 3rd January,
1942, he told Oshima that:

  " He must give the order that in case foreign seamen
  could not be taken prisoner ... U-boats were to surface
  after torpedoing and destroy the lifeboats."

The evidence shows constant pressure by Hitler from then on
for the issue of this order. It is admitted that he demanded
it at a meeting with both Donitz and Raeder on the 14th May,
1942, and that he raised the question again on the 5th
September, 1942. Donitz himself referred to pressure by
Hitler during the Laconia incident. You have confirmation
that the order issued on the 17th September was intended to
bear the construction put upon it by the prosecution in the
evidence of the witness Heisig and in that of Moehle. Is it
conceivable that a senior officer would have been allowed to
go on, from the 17th September, 1942, until the end of the
war, briefing the hundreds of U-boats which set out from
Kiel, that this was an order to annihilate unless that was
what the Naval War Staff intended? You have the evidence
that Donitz himself saw every U-boat commander before and
after his cruise, in his own admissions with regard to the
comments made by his staff officers at the time he drafted
the order and his general attitude revealed by the order of
October, 1939, which he admits was a non-rescue order - an
utterly indefensible order in itself in the submission of
the prosecution. There is further the coincidence that the
very argument which Hitler advanced to Oshima, namely, the
importance of preventing the Allies finding the crews for
the immense American construction programme, was the
argument Donitz himself admits putting forward on the 14th
May, was the argument which Heisig reports hearing, and is
the reason given for the subsequent order to give priority
in attacking convoys to sinking rescue ships. You have the
instances of the Antonico, the Noreen Mary, and the Peleus,
whilst the man who expressed horror at the idea that he
should issue such an order admittedly saw the log book of
the U-boat which sank the Sheaf Mead, with its brutal entry
describing the sufferings of those left in the water.
Donitz's own statement was that, I quote:

  "To issue such a directive could only be justified if a
  decisive military success could be achieved by it."

Was it not because, as his own document shows, the
percentage of ships being sunk outside convoys in September,
1942, was so high that 'a decisive military success might
have been gained that this order was issued, whereas in
April, 1943,

                                                  [Page 445]

when almost all sinkings were in convoy, it was not
necessary to issue a further order in more explicit terms?

The prosecution firmly and strongly submit that the
defendant Donitz intended by that order to encourage and to
procure as many submarine commanders as possible to destroy
the crews of merchant ships but deliberately couched the
order in its present language so that he could argue the
contrary if circumstances required it. On the evidence of
Admiral Wagner that the Naval War Staff approved the order
of 17th September, 1942, with respect to survivors, Raeder
cannot escape responsibility and, indeed, since he was
present at the meeting with Hitler in May of that year and
received the Fuehrer  order of the 5th September, 1942, to
issue instructions to kill survivors, there can be little
doubt that he was fully involved in his subordinate's

Although within a few months Allied air power made it
impossible for U-boats in most areas to risk surfacing at
all after they had discharged their torpedo, and the
question became one of less importance, it is interesting to
note that when the order against rescue ships was issued on
the 7th of October the following year the same phrase,
"destruction of ships' crews," recurred.

Despite the denial of Kapitan-Lieutenant Eck, there can
really be no doubt that, briefed by Moehle, he did what his
superior officers intended him to do. Why should it be
supposed that a man who a month later received Hitler's
Commando Order without protest, should shrink from ordering
the destruction of seamen on rafts or clinging to wreckage,
when Hitler had explained its military necessity. Eck, who
obeyed the orders of Raeder and Donitz, has paid the supreme
penalty. Are they to escape with less?

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