The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kranzbuhler, the Tribunal has itself to
decide as a matter of law whether the war was an aggressive
war. It does not want to hear from this witness, who is a
professional sailor, what his view is on the question of

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Mr. President, I believe my question has
been misunderstood. I did not ask Admiral Donitz whether he
considered the war an aggressive war or not; but I asked him
whether he had the opportunity or the task, as a sailor, of
examining whether his orders could become the means for an
aggressive war. He, therefore, should state his conception
of the task which he had as a sailor, and not of the
question of whether it was or was not an aggressive war.

THE PRESIDENT: He can tell us what his task was as a matter
of fact, but he is not here to argue the case to us. He can
state the facts, as to what he did.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Does one not also, Mr. President, have to
allow a defendant to say what considerations he had or what
considerations he did not have? What I mean is, that the
accusations of the prosecution arise from this point and the
defendant must have the opportunity of stating his position
regarding these accusations.

THE PRESIDENT: We want to hear the evidence. You will argue
his case on his behalf on the evidence that he gives. He is
not here to argue the law before us. That is not the subject
of evidence.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: I shall question him on his considerations,
Mr. President.


Q. Grand Admiral, as to the orders which you issued to the U-
boats before the war or before the beginning of the Norway
action - did you ever consider whether they would lead to
aggressive war?

A. I received military orders as a naval officer, and my
purpose naturally was to carry out these naval tasks.
Whether the leadership of the State was thereby politically
waging an aggressive war or not, or whether they were
preventive measures, was not for me to decide; it was none
of my business.

Q. As Commander-in-chief of U-boats, from whom did you
receive your orders about the waging of U-boat warfare?

A. From the Chief of the SKL, the Naval War Staff.

Q. Who was that?

A. Grand Admiral Raeder.

Q. What were the orders which you received at the beginning
of the war, that is, the beginning of September, 1939, for
the conduct of U-boat warfare?

A. War against merchantmen according to the Prize
Regulations, that is to say, according to the London Pact.

Q. What ships, according to that order, could you attack
without previous warning?

A. At that time I could attack, without warning, all ships
which were guarded either by naval or air forces.
Furthermore, I was permitted to use force against any ship
which, on the attempt to stop her, sent radio messages, or
resisted or disobeyed the order to stop.

                                                  [Page 214]

Q. Now, there is no doubt that, a few weeks after the
beginning of the war, the war against merchantmen was
intensified. Did you know whether or why such an
intensification was planned?

A. I knew that the Naval War Staff intended, according to
events, according to the development of the enemy's tactics,
to retaliate blow for blow, as it was said in the order, by
an intensification of action.

Q. What were the measures taken by the enemy and what were
your own experiences of these measures which led to an
intensification of action?

A. Right at the beginning of the war it was our experience
that all merchantmen not only took advantage of their radio
installations whenever there was any attempt to stop them,
but that they immediately sent messages as soon as they saw
any U-boat on the horizon. It was absolutely clear,
therefore, that all merchantmen were co-operating in the
military intelligence service. Furthermore, only a few days
after the beginning of the war we found out that merchantmen
were armed, and were using their weapons.

Q. What orders on the part of Germany resulted from these

A. First, the order that merchantmen which sent radio
messages on being stopped, could be attacked without
warning. Then the order that merchantmen whose armament had
been recognized beyond doubt, that is, whose armament one
knew from British publication, could be attacked without

Q. This order concerning attacks on armed merchantmen was
issued on 4th October, 1939, is that right?

A. I believe so.

Q. Was there a second order, soon after that, according to
which all enemy merchantmen could be attacked, and, if so,
why was that order issued?

A. I believe that the Naval War Staff decided on this order
on the basis of the British publication which said that now
the arming of merchantmen was completed.

In addition, there was a broadcast by the British Admiralty
on 1st October to the effect that the merchantmen had been
directed to ram German U-boats and that furthermore - as
stated at the beginning - it was clear beyond doubt that
every merchantman was part of the intelligence service of
the enemy, and its radio messages at sight of a U-boat
determined the use of surface or aerial forces.

Q. Did you have reports from U-boats, according to which
they were actually endangered by these tactics of enemy
merchantmen, and were attacked by enemy surface or aerial

A. Yes. I had received quite a number of reports in this
connection, and since the German measures were always taken
about four weeks after it had been recognized that the enemy
employed these tactics, I had very serious losses in the
meantime, in the period when I still had to keep to the one-
sided and, for me, dangerous obligations.

Q. By these obligations, are you referring to the obligation
to wage war against merchantmen according to the Prize
Regulations during a period when the enemy's merchant ships
had abandoned their peaceable character?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you protest later against the directives of the Naval
War Staff which led to an intensification of the war on
merchantmen, or did you approve these directives?

A. No, I did not protest against them. On the contrary, I
considered them justified, because, as I said before,
otherwise I would have had to remain bound by an obligation
which was one-sided and meant serious losses for me.

Q. Was this intensification of the war against merchantmen
expressed in the order to fire on armed merchantmen, and
later the order to attack all enemy merchantmen, based on
the free judgement of the Naval War Staff, or was it a
forced development?

A. This development, as I have said before, was entirely
forced. If merchantmen are armed and make use of their arms,
and if they send messages and thereby

                                                  [Page 215]

immediately call for protection, they force the U-boat to
submerge and attack without warning.

That same forced development, in the areas which we
patrolled, was also the case with the British submarines,
and applied in exactly the same way to American and Russian

Q. If, on one hand, a merchantman sends a message and opens
fire, and on the other hand the submarine, for that reason,
attacks without warning, which side has the advantage
according to your experience? The merchantman or the

A. In an area where there is no contant [sic] patrolling by
the enemy, by naval forces of any kind, or by aircraft, that
is, along the coast, the submarine has the advantage. But in
all other areas, the armed merchantman has the weapons with
which to attack the submarine, and the submarine is
therefore compelled to treat that ship as a ship of war,
which means that it is forced to submerge and loses its
speed. Therefore, in all ocean areas, with the exception of
coastal waters which can be constantly controlled, the
advantage lies with the merchantman, is on the side of the

Q. Are you of the opinion that the orders of the Naval War
Staff actually remained within the limits of what was
militarily necessary due to enemy measures, or did these
orders go beyond military necessity?

A. They remained absolutely within the bounds of what was
necessary. I have explained already that the resulting steps
were always taken gradually and after very careful study by
the Naval War Staff. This very careful study may also have
been motivated by the fact that for political reasons any
unnecessary intensification in the West was to be avoided.

Q. Grand Admiral, these orders we have mentioned were based
at that time only on German experiences and without an
accurate knowledge of the orders which had been issued on
the British side. Now, I should like to put these orders to
you; we now have information on them through a ruling of the
Tribunal, and I should like to ask you whether these
individual orders coincide with your experiences or whether
they are somewhat different. I submit the orders of the
British Admiralty as Exhibit Donitz 67. It is on Page 168 of
Document Book 3.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: I beg your pardon, Mr. President; the
document begins on Page 163, not 168.


Q. As you know this is a Handbook of the British Navy of
1938, and I draw your attention to Page 164, to the
paragraph on reporting the enemy.

A. I do not see it here.

Q. It is D.M.S- 3-1-55, the paragraph on radio. The heading
is "Reporting the Enemy."

A. Yes.

Q. I will read the paragraph to you:

  "As soon as the Master of a merchant ship realizes that a
  ship or aircraft in sight is an enemy, it is his first
  and most important duty to report the nature and position
  of the enemy by wireless telegraph. Such a report
  promptly made may be the means of saving not only the
  ship herself but many others; for it may give an
  opportunity for the destruction of her assailant by our
  warships or aircraft, an opportunity which might not

Then there are more details which I do not wish to read, on
the manner and method, when and how these radio signals are
to be given. Is this order in accordance with your

A. Yes. In this order, there is not only a directive to send
wireless signals, if the ship is stopped by a U-boat (that
alone would, according to International Law, justify the U-
boat in employing armed force against the ship), but far
beyond that, it is stated that as soon as an enemy ship is
in sight, this signal is to be transmitted in order that the
naval forces may attack in time.

                                                  [Page 216]

Q. So this order is in accord with the experiences which our
U-boats reported?

A. Entirely.

Q. I shall draw your attention now to the paragraph D.M.S. 2
VII, on Page 165, that is the paragraph on opening fire.
"Conditions under which fire may be opened."

  "(a) Against enemy acting in accordance with
  International Law. - As the armament is solely for the
  purpose of self-defence, it must only be used against an
  enemy who is clearly attempting to capture or sink the
  merchant marine ship. On the outbreak of war it should be
  assumed that the enemy will act in accordance with
  International Law, and fire should therefore not be
  opened until he has made it plain that he intends to
  attempt capture. Once it is clear that resistance will be
  necessary if capture is to be averted, fire should be
  opened immediately.
  "(b) Against enemy acting in defiance of International
  Law. - If, as the war progresses, it unfortunately
  becomes clear that, in defiance of International Law, the
  enemy has adopted a policy of attacking merchant ships
  without warning, it will then be permissible to open fire
  on an enemy vessel, submarine or aircraft, even before
  she has attacked or demanded surrender, if to do so will
  tend to prevent her gaining a favourable position for

Are these orders, that is to say, the orders (a) and (b), in
accord with the experiences made?

A. In practice no difference can be established between (a)
and (b). I should like to draw attention in this connection
to D.M.S. 3 111, Page 167, under IV, that is the last
paragraph of (b) of the number mentioned.

Q. One moment, do you mean (b)-V?

A. It says here (b)-IV. There -

DR. KRANZBUHLER: That is not printed, Mr. President.

A. "In ships fitted with a defensive armament, open fire to
keep the enemy at a distance" - that is (b)-IV - "if you
consider that he is clearly intending to effect a capture
and that he is approaching so close as to endanger your
chances of escape."

That means therefore that as soon as the ship sights a U-
boat, which during war must be assumed to be there for a
reason - to effect a capture - the ship will, in its own
defence, open fire as soon as it comes within range; that is
when the submarine has come within range of its guns. The
ship, in using its guns for an offensive action, can act in
no other way.

Q. Grand Admiral, did the armed enemy vessels act then in
the manner which you have described; that is, did they
really fire as soon as a submarine came within range?

A. Yes. As early as ... according to my recollection, the
first report came from a U-boat about that on 6th September,

Q. With this order, however, we find a further supplement
under AMS I 118, dated 13th June, 1940, on Page 165, and
here we read:

  "With reference to D.M.S. Part I article 53, it is now
  considered clear, that in submarine and aerial operations
  the enemy has adopted a policy of attacking merchant
  ships without warning. Sub-paragraph (b) of this article
  should therefore be regarded as being in force."

That means, then, that the order which we read before, (b),
was to be considered in effect only from 13th June, 1940. Do
you mean to say that actually before that, from the very
beginning, your actions came under the heading (b)?

A. I have already stated that between an offensive and
defensive use of armament on the part of an armed
merchantman against a submarine, there is practically no
difference at all, that it is a purely theoretical
differentiation. But even if one did differentiate between
them, then beyond doubt the Reuter report - I believe dated
9th September - which said incorrectly that we were
conducting unlimited submarine warfare, was designed to
inform ships' captains that now the case (b) was valid.

                                                  [Page 217]

Q. I put to you now a directive on the handling of depth
charges on merchant ships. It is on Page 168, the reference
list. The heading is "Reference List (D)," the date is "14th
September, 1939."

A. What page?

Q. Page 168.

A. Yes.

Q. I read:

  "The following instructions have been sent out to all
  W.P.S.'s: It has now been decided to fit a single depth
  charge chute, with hand release gear and supplied with 3
  charges, in all D.M.S. of 12 knots or over."

Then there are more details and, at the end, a remark about
the training of the crews in the use of depth charges. The
distribution list shows numerous naval officers.

Did you experience this use of depth charges by merchant
vessels, and were such depth charge attacks by merchant
ships observed?

A. Yes, repeatedly.

Q. Speaking of a ship with a speed of 12 knots or more, can
one say that a depth charge attack against a U-boat is a
defensive measure?

A. No. Each depth charge attack against a submarine is
definitely and absolutely an offensive action; for the
submarine submerges, is harmless underwater, and the surface
vessel which wants to carry out the depth charge attack,
approaches as closely as possible to the position where it
assumes the U-boat to be, in order to drop the depth charge
as accurately as possible on top of the U-boat. A destroyer,
that is a warship, does not attack a submarine in any
different way.

Q. You therefore justify the way in which you attacked enemy
ships by the tactics employed by enemy merchantmen. However,
neutral ships also suffered, and the prosecution charges the
German U-boat command expressly with this. What have you to
say to that?

A. Neutral merchantmen, according to the political directive
on the orders of the Naval War Staff, were only attacked
without warning when they were found in operational zones
which had been definitely designated as such, or naturally
only when they did not act as neutrals should, but like
ships which were participating in the war.

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