The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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                                                  [Page 223]

               THURSDAY, 9th MAY, 1946

KARL DONITZ - Resumed.


DR. KRANZBUHLER: With the permission of the Tribunal, I will
continue my examination of the witness.


Q. Admiral, how many merchant ships were sunk by German U-
boats in the course of the war?

A. According to the allied figures, 2,472.

Q. How many actions, according to your estimate, were
necessary to achieve those figures?

A. I believe torpedoed ships are not included in this figure
of 2,472; and, of course, not every attack leads to a
success. I would estimate that in five and a half years
perhaps five to six thousand actions actually took place.

Q. In the course of all these actions did any of the U-boat
commanders who were subordinate to you give voice to
objections about the manner in which the U-boats operated?

A. No, never.

Q. What would you have done with a commander who refused to
carry out the instructions for U-boat warfare?

A. First, I would have had him examined; if he proved to be
normal I would have summoned him before a court-martial.

Q. You could only have done that with a clear conscience if
you yourself assumed full responsibility for the orders
which you either issued or which you transmitted?

A. Naturally.

Q. In engagements with U-boats, crews of merchant ships no
doubt lost their lives. Did you consider crews of enemy
merchantmen as combatants or as civilians?

A. Germany considered the crews of merchantmen as
combatants, because they fought with the weapons which had
been mounted aboard the merchant ships in large numbers. As
you know, one or two men of the Royal Navy were on board for
the servicing of these weapons, but, the rest of the gunners
were part of the crew of the ship.

Q. How many were there for one gun?

A. That varied, according to the size of the weapon,
probably between five and ten. Then, in addition, there were
munitions men. The same applied to the servicing of depth
charge chutes and depth charge throwers.

The members of the crew as well as the RN men, did, in fact,
man the guns. It was also a matter of course, that the crew
was considered as a unit: for in a battleship we cannot
distinguish between the engineers and stokers on the one
hand, and the gunners on the other.

Q. Did this view, that the members of the crews of hostile
merchant ships were combatants, have any influence on the
question of whether they could or should be rescued?

                                                  [Page 224]

A. No, in no way. Of course, every combatant has a right to
be rescued if circumstances permit it. But it did have an
influence upon the right to attack the crew as well.

Q. Do you mean that they could be attacked as long as they
were on board the ship?

A. Yes, there can be no question of that.

Q. You know that the prosecution has submitted a document
about a discussion between Adolf Hitler and the Japanese
Ambassador, Oshima. This discussion took place on 3rd
January, 1942. It is Exhibit GB 197, on Page 34 of the
prosecution's document book. In this document Hitler
promises the Japanese Ambassador that he will issue an order
for the killing of the shipwrecked, and the prosecution
concludes from this that Hitler actually gave such an order
and that this order was carried out by you.

Did you, directly or through the Naval Operations Command,
receive a written order of this nature?

A. I first heard about this discussion and the order when
the record of it was submitted here.

Q. Admiral, may I ask you to answer my question? I asked,
did you receive a written order?

A. No, I received neither a written nor a verbal order. I
knew nothing at all about this discussion; I learned about
it through the document which I saw here.

Q. When did you see Hitler for the first time after this
discussion, that is, after January, 1942?

A. Together with Grand Admiral Raeder I was at headquarters
on 14th May, 1942, and told him about the situation in the U-
boat campaign.

Q. There is a note written by you, about this discussion
with the Fuehrer and I would like to call your attention to
it. It is Exhibit Donitz 16, to be found on Page 29 of
Document Book No. I. I will read it to you. The heading runs

  "Report of the Commander-in-Chief of Submarines to the
  Fuehrer on 14th May, 1942, in the presence of the Supreme
  Commander of the Navy," that is, Grand Admiral Raeder.
  "Therefore it is necessary to improve the weapons of the
  submarines by all possible means, so that they may have
  adequate defence weapons. The most important development
  is the torpedo with magnetic detonator, which would
  increase the precision of torpedoes fired against
  destroyers and therefore would put the submarine in a
  better position with regard to defence; it would above
  all also hasten considerably the sinking of torpedoed
  ships, whereby we would economise on torpedoes, and also
  protect the submarine from counter-attacks, in so far as
  it would be able to leave the place of combat more
And now, the decisive sentence:-

  "A magnetic detonator will also have the great advantage
  that the crew will not be able to save themselves on
  account of the quick sinking of the torpedoed ship. This
  greater loss of men will no doubt cause difficulties in
  the assignment of crews for the great American
  construction programme."

Does this last sentence which I read imply what you just
referred to as combating the crews with weapons? -

THE PRESIDENT: You seem to attach importance to this
document. Therefore, you should not put a leading question
upon it. You should ask the defendant what the document
means, and not put your meaning on it.


Q. Admiral, what does this document mean?

                                                  [Page 225]

A. It means that it was necessary for us, in accordance with
the discussion with the Fuehrer at his headquarters, to find
a good magnetic detonator which would bring about a more
rapid sinking of the ships and thereby achieve the results
noted in this report in the War Diary.

Q. Can you tell me what are the results to which you refer,
as far as the crews are concerned?

A. I mean that, instead of several torpedoes being required,
as heretofore, to sink a ship, by long and difficult attack,
only one torpedo, or at any rate very few, would suffice to
bring about a more speedy loss of the ship and the crew.

Q. Did you, in the course of this discussion with the
Fuehrer touch on the question -

A. Yes.

Q. One moment - the question whether other means might be
possible to cause loss of life among the crews?

A. Yes.

Q. In what way and by whom?

A. The Fuehrer brought up the fact that, in the light of
experience, a large percentage of the crews, because of the
excellence of the means of rescue, was reaching home, and
was used again and again to man new ships, and he asked
whether there might not be some action taken against these
rescue ships.

Q. What do you mean by action taken?

A. At this discussion, in which Grand Admiral Raeder
participated, I rejected this unequivocally and told him
that the only possibility of causing losses among the crews
would lie in the attack itself, in striving for a faster
sinking of the ship, through the intensified effect of
weapons. Hence this remark in my war diary. I believe, since
I learned here, through the prosecution, of the discussion
between the Fuehrer and Oshima, that this question of the
Fuehrer to Admiral Raeder and myself arose out of this

Q. There exists an affidavit by Admiral Raeder about this
discussion. You know the contents. Do they correspond to
your recollection of this discussion?

A. Yes, completely.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Then I would like to submit to the
Tribunal, as Donitz 17, the affidavit of Grand Admiral
Raeder; since it has the same content, I may dispense with
the reading of it.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: I was going to say, in case it might
help the Tribunal, that I understand that the defendant
Raeder will be going into the witness box; therefore, I make
no formal objection to this affidavit going in.


DR. KRANZBUHLER: It is Donitz 17 and will be found on Page
33 of Document Book I.


Q. You just said that you rejected the suggested killing of
survivors in lifeboats and stated this to the Fuehrer. The
prosecution, however, has presented two documents, an order
of the Winter of 1939 to 1940, and a second order of the
Autumn of 1942, in which you limited or prohibited rescue
measures. Is there not a contradiction between these orders
and your attitude toward the proposal of the Fuehrer?

A. No. These two things are not connected with each other in
any way.
One must distinguish very clearly here between the question
of rescue or non-rescue, and that is a question of military
possibility. During a war the necessity of refraining from
rescue may well arise. For example, if your own ship is
endangered thereby, it would be wrong from a military
viewpoint and, further, would not be of advantage to those
who are to be rescued; and no commander is expected to
rescue any of the enemy if his own ship is thereby

                                                  [Page 226]

The British Navy correctly takes up a very clear,
unequivocal position in this respect: that rescue is to be
denied in such cases; and that is evident also from its
actions and its commands. That is one point.

Q. Admiral, you spoke only about the safety of the ship as a
reason for not carrying out rescue.

A. There may of course be other reasons. For instance, it is
clear that in war the mission to be accomplished is of first
importance. No one will start to rescue, for example, if
after subduing one opponent there is another on the scene.
In such a case as a matter of course, it is more important
to engage the second opponent than to rescue those who have
already lost their ship. The other question is concerned
with attacking the shipwrecked, and that is -

Q. Admiral, whom would you call shipwrecked?

A. Shipwrecked persons are members of the crew who, after
the sinking of their ship, are not able to fight any longer,
and are either In lifeboats or other rescue boats in the

Q. Yes.

A. Firing upon these men is a matter concerned with the
ethics of war and under any and all circumstances should be
scorned. In the German Navy and U-boat force, this
principle, according to my firm conviction, has never been
infringed, with the one exception of the affair Eck. No
order on this subject has ever been issued, in any form

Q. I want to call to your attention to one of the orders
submitted by the prosecution. It is your Permanent War Order
Number 154; number GB 196 and in my document book on Pages
13 to 15. I will have this order given to you, and I am
asking you to turn to the last paragraph, which was read by
the prosecution. There it says, I read it again:-

  "Do not rescue any men; do not take them along; and do
  not bother about the ship's boats. Weather conditions and
  proximity of land are of no consequence. Concern yourself
  only with the safety of your own ship and with efforts to
  achieve additional successes as soon as possible. We must
  be hard in this war. The enemy started the war in order
  to destroy us, and thus nothing else matters."

The prosecution has stated that this order went out,
according to your records, before May,1940. Can you from
your knowledge fix the date a little more exactly?

A. According to my recollection, I issued this order at the
end of November or the beginning of December, 1939, and for
the following reasons:

I had only a handful of U-boats at my disposal. In order
that this small force might prove effective at all, I had to
send the boats close to the English coast, almost into the
ports. In addition, the magnetic mine showed itself to be a
very valuable weapon of war. Therefore, I equipped these
boats with both mines and torpedoes, and directed them,
after laying the mines, to operate in waters close to the
coast, immediately outside the ports. There they fought in
constant and close combat and under the surveillance of
naval and air patrols. Each U-boat which was sighted or
reported there was hunted by U-boat pursuit units and by air
patrols ordered to the scene.

The U-boats themselves, almost without exception, had as
their objectives only ships which were protected or
accompanied by some form of protection. Therefore, it would
have been suicide for the U-boat, in a position of that
sort, to surface and to rescue.

The commanders were all very young; I was the only one who
had service experience from the first world war, and I had
to tell them this very forcibly and drastically because it
was hard for a young commander to judge a situation as well
as I could.

Q. Did your experience with rescue measures influence you in
issuing this order?

A. Yes. In the first months of the war, I had some very
bitter experiences. I suffered very great losses in sea
areas far removed from any coast, and as very

                                                  [Page 227]

soon I had information through the Geneva Red Cross that
many members of crews had been rescued, it was clear that
these U-boats had been lost above the water. If they had
been lost below the water, the survival of so many members
of the crews would be impossible. I also had reports that
there had been very unselfish deeds of rescue, quite
justifiable from a humane angle; but militarily very
dangerous for the U-boat. So now, of course, since I did not
want to fight on the open sea but close to the harbours I
had to warn the U-boats of the great, even suicidal risks.

To state a parallel, English U-boats in the Skagerrak and
Kattegat, areas which we dominated, showed, as a matter of
course and quite correctly, no concern at all for those who
were shipwrecked, even though, without a doubt, our defence
was only a fraction of the British.

Q. You say that this order applied to U-boats which operated
in the immediate presence of the enemy's defence. Can you,
from the order itself, demonstrate the truth of that?

A. Yes; the entire order deals only with, or assumes, the
presence of the enemy's defence; it deals with the battle
against convoys.

  "Close range is also the best security for the boat - "

Q. What number are you reading?

A. Well, the order is framed so that (1) deals with
approach; not with combat. But the warning against enemy air
defence is given there also, and in this warning about
counter measures it is made clear it is concerned entirely
with the approach. (2) Deals with the time prior to the
attack. Here mention is made of the moral objections which
every soldier has to overcome before an attack.

Q. Admiral, you need only refer to those parts which show
that the order is concerned with fighting enemy defences.

A. Very well. Then I will quote from 2 (d). It says there:

  "Close range is also the best security for the U-boat. If
  in the vicinity of the vessels" - that is the merchantmen
  - "the protecting ships - that is, the destroyers - will
  at first not fire any depth charges. If one fires into a
  convoy from close quarters - 'note that we are dealing
  with convoys' - and then is compelled to submerge, one
  can then dive most quickly below other ships of the
  convoy and thus remain safe from depth charges."

Then the next paragraph, which deals with night conditions,

  "Stay above water. Withdraw above water. Possibly make a
  circle and go around at the rear."

Every sailor knows that one makes a circle or goes around at
the rear of the protecting enemy ships. Further, in the
third paragraph, I caution against submerging too soon,
because it blinds the U-boat, and I say:

  "Only then does the opportunity offer itself for a new
  attack, or for spotting and noting the opening through
  which one can shake off the pursuing enemy."

Then (3) C:

  "During an attack on a convoy one may have to submerge to
  a depth of 20 metres, to escape from patrols or aircraft
  and to avoid the danger of being sighted or rammed...."

Thus we are talking here about a convoy. Now we turn to
point (3) d, and here it says:

  "It may become necessary to submerge to depth, when, for
  example, the destroyer is proceeding directly toward the
  periscope ..."

and then follow instructions on how to act in case of a
depth-charge attack. Plainly, the whole order deals with -

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