The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: imt/tgmwc/tgmwc-13//tgmwc-13-125.02

Archive/File: imt/tgmwc/tgmwc-13/tgmwc-13-125.02
Last-Modified: 2000/02/26

THE PRESIDENT: I don't think it is necessary to go into all
these naval tactics. He has given his explanation of several
points, and I don't think it is necessary to go into all of
these other tactics.

THE WITNESS: I only want to say that the last paragraph
about non-rescue must not be considered alone; but in this
light: first, the U-boats had to fight

                                                  [Page 228]

in the presence of enemy defence near the English ports and
estuaries, and secondly, the objectives were ships in
convoys, or protected ships, as is shown clearly from the
document as a whole.

Q. You said that this order was given about December, 1939.
Did the German U-boats after the order had been issued
actually continue rescues? What were your experiences?

A. I said that this order was issued for this specific
purpose during the winter months. For the U-boats which,
according to my memory, went out into the Atlantic again
only after the Norwegian campaign, for these U-boats the
general order of rescue applied: and this order was
qualified only in one way, namely that no rescue was to be
attempted if the safety of a U-boat did not permit it. The
facts show that the U-boats acted in this sense.

Q. Do you mean then that you had reports from U-boat
commanders about rescue measures?

A. I received these reports whenever a U-boat returned, and
subsequently through the combat log books.

Q. When was this order which we have just discussed,
formally rescinded?

A. To my knowledge this order was captured or salvaged by
England on the U-13 which was destroyed by depth charges in
very shallow water in the Downs. For this boat of course,
this order may still have applied in May, 1940. Then in the
year 1940, after the Norway Campaign, I again placed the
centre of gravity of operations in the open waters of the
Atlantic, and for these boats this order did not apply, as
is proved by the fact that rescues took place, as I just

I then rescinded this order completely, for it contained the
first practical instructions how U-boats were to act toward
a convoy, and later on it was no longer necessary, for then
it had become second nature to the U-boat commanders. To my
recollection the order was completely withdrawn in November,
1940 at the latest.

Q. Admiral, I have here the table of contents of the
"Standing War Orders of 1942," and that may be found on Page
16 of Document Book No. 1. I will submit it as Donitz 11. In
this table of contents the number 154, which deals with the
order we have just discussed, is blank. Does that mean that
this order did not exist any more at the time when the
"Standing War Orders of 1942" were issued?

A. Yes, by then it had long ceased to exist.

Q. When were the standing orders for the year 1942 compiled?

A. In the course of the year 1941.

Q. When you received reports from commanders about rescue
measures, did you object to these measures? Did you
criticise or prohibit them?

A. No, not as a rule; only if subsequently I became alarmed,
if, for example, I had a report from a commander to the
effect that, because he had remained too long with the
lifeboats, so that there was time for the enemy to radio for
assistance, his U-boat had been severely attacked and
damaged by depth charges - something which would not have
happened if he had left the scene in time - then naturally I
pointed out to him that his action had been wrong from a
tactics point of view, and I am convinced that I lost U-
boats in this way. Of course, I cannot prove that, since the
boats are lost. But such is the whole mentality of the
commander, it is entirely natural, for every sailor retains
from the days of peace the view that rescue is the noblest
and most honourable act he can perform. I believe there was
no officer in the German Navy - it is no doubt true of all
the other nations - who, for example, would not consider the
medal of rescue, rescue at personal risk, as the highest
peacetime decoration. As a basic principle it is always very
dangerous not to change to a wartime perspective and to
fully realise that the security of one's own ship comes
first, and that war is, after all, a serious matter.

Q. In what years was the practice you have just described
followed, that U-boats did not effect rescues when they
endangered themselves?

                                                  [Page 229]

A. That is towards the end of 1939, according to the rules
of war, when U-boats were still operating alone. Then came
the operation close to the enemy coast of 1939-40 which I
have described; the order applied to this operation. Then
came the Norway campaign, and then, when the U-boat war was
resumed in the spring of 1940, this order of rescue, or non-
rescue if the U-boat itself was endangered, applied in the
years 1940, 1941 and until the autumn of 1942.

Q. Was this order put in writing?

A. No, it was not necessary, for the general order about
rescue was a matter of course, and besides it was contained
in certain orders of the Naval Operations Command at the
beginning of the war. The qualification of non-rescue if the
safety of the submarine is at stake is taken for granted in
every navy, and was only made use of by me in connection
with reports in the cases which I have just discussed.

Q. In June of 1942, there was an order about the rescue of
captains. This has the number, Donitz 22, I beg your pardon
- it is Donitz 23. It can be found on Page 45 of Document
Book I, and I hereby submit it. It is an extract from the
war diary of the Naval Operations Command of 5th June, 1942.
I quote:

  "According to instructions received from the Naval
  Operations Command submarines are ordered by the
  submarine command to take on board as prisoners captains
  of ships sunk, with their papers, if this is possible
  without endangering the boat and without impairing
  fighting capacity."

How did this order come into being?

A. I did not quite understand.

Q. How did this order come into being?

A. Here we are concerned with an order of the Naval
Operations Command that captains and chief engineer officers
are to be taken prisoner, that is, to be brought home, and
that again is something different from rescue. The Naval
Operations Command was of the opinion - and rightly - that
since we could not cause a very high percentage, say 80 to
90 per cent, of the crews of the sunk merchantmen to be
brought back - we even helped in their rescue, which was
natural - then at least we must see to it that the enemy is
deprived of the most important members of the crew, that is,
the captains and chief engineer officers: hence the order to
take these officers from their lifeboats on to the U-boats
as prisoners.

Q. Did this order exist in this or another form until the
end of the war?

A. Yes, it was later even incorporated into the standing
orders, because it was an order of the Naval Operations

Q. Was it carried out until the end of the war, and with
what results?

A. Yes, according to my recollection, it was carried out now
and then even in the last few years of the war. But, in
general, the results of this order were very slight. I
personally can remember only a very few cases. But through
letters which I have now received from my commanders, and
which I read, I discovered that there were a few more cases
than I believed, altogether perhaps ten or twelve.

Q. To what do you attribute the fact that despite this
express order so few captains were taken prisoner?

A. The chief reason, without doubt, was that on an
increasing scale, the more the convoy system of the enemy
was being perfected, the more the concentration of the U-
boats against the convoys. The great bulk of the U-boats was
engaged in the battle against convoys. In a few other cases,
it was not always possible for reasons of the boat's safety,
to approach the lifeboats in order to pick out a captain.
Finally, I believe that the commanders of the U-boats were
reluctant, quite rightly from their viewpoint, to have a
captain on board for so long. In any event, I know that the
commanders were not at all happy about this order.

Q. Admiral, I now turn to a document which is really the
nucleus of the accusation against you. It is Exhibit GB 199,
Page 36 of the British Document Book. This is your wireless
message of 17th September, and the prosecution

                                                  [Page 230]

asserts that it is an order for the destruction of the
shipwrecked. It is of such importance that I will read it to
you again.

  "To all commanding officers:
  " (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 back captains and chief
  engineers still apply.
  "(3) Rescue the shipwrecked only if their statements will
  be of importance for your boat.
  "(4) Be harsh. Bear in mind that the enemy takes no
  regard of women and children in his bombing attacks on
  German cities."

Please describe to the Tribunal the antecedents of this
order, which are decisive for its intentions. Describe first
of all the general war situation out of which the order

A. In September of 1942 the great bulk of the German U-boats
fought convoys. The centre of gravity in the deployment of U-
boats was in the North Atlantic where the protected convoys
operated between England and America. The U-boats in the
North Sea fought in the same way, attacking only the convoys
to Murmansk. There was no other traffic in that area. The
same situation existed in the Mediterranean; there also the
objects of our attack were the convoys. Beyond that, some
boats were committed directly to American ports, New York,
Boston, and other hubs of shipping. A small number of U-
boats fought also in open areas in the middle of the South
Atlantic. The determining factor at this time was that the
powerful Anglo-American air force was patrolling everywhere
and in increasingly large numbers. That was a point which
caused us great concern, for obviously the airplane, because
of its speed, constitutes the most dangerous threat to the U-
boat. That was not a matter of fancy on my part, for from
the summer of 1942 - that is, a few months before September,
when this order was issued - the losses of our U-boats
through air attacks rose suddenly by more than 300 per
cent., I believe.

Q. Admiral, for clarification of this point, I am giving you
a diagram which I would like to submit in evidence to the
Tribunal as Donitz 99. Will you, with the use of the diagram
explain the curve of losses?

A. It is very clear that this diagram showing the losses of
U-boats corroborates the statements which I have just made.
One can see that up to June of 1942 U-boat losses were kept
within reasonable limits and then - in July, 1942 - what I
have just described, happened suddenly. Whereas the monthly
losses in U-boats up to then were, as the diagram shows, 4,
5, 3, 4, 2, in July they jumped to 10, 11, 8, 13, 14. Then
follow the two winter months December-January, which were
used for a thorough overhauling of the ships; and that
explains the decrease which, however, has no bearing on the
trend of losses.

These developments caused me the greatest concern and
resulted in a great number of orders to the submarine
commanders on how they were to act while on the surface; for
the losses were caused while the boats were above water,
since the airplanes could sight them; and so the boats had
to limit their surface activities as much as possible. These
losses also prompted me to issue memoranda to the SKL.

Q. When?

A. The memoranda were written in the summer - in June.

Q. In June of 1942?

A. In June or July.

At the pinnacle of my success, it occurred to me that air
power might some day stifle us and force us under the water.
Thus, despite the huge successes which I still had at that
time, my fears for the future were great, and that they were
not imaginary is shown by the actual trend of losses after
the submarines left the

                                                  [Page 231]

dockyard in February, 1943; in that month 18 boats were
lost, in March, 15 in April, 14. And then the losses jumped
to 38.

Airplane surveillance and the equipment of the planes with
Radar - which in my opinion is, next to the atom bomb, the
decisive war winning invention of the Anglo-Americans,
brought about the collapse of U-boat warfare. The U-boats
were forced under the water, for they could not maintain
their position on the surface at all. Not only were they
sighted when the airplane spotted them, but this Radar
instrument located them up to sixty sea miles away, beyond
the range of sight, during the day and at night-time. Of
course to stay under water was an impossibility for the old
U-boats; for they had to surface in order to recharge their
batteries. This development forced me, therefore, to have
the old U-boats equipped with the so-called "Schnorchel,"
and to build up an entirely new U-boat force which could
stay under water and which could travel from Germany to
Japan for example, without surfacing at all. It is evident,
therefore, that I was in an increasingly dangerous

Q. Admiral, in order to clarify this situation I want to
call your attention to your war diary of this time. This
will have the number Donitz 18, reproduced on Page 32,
Volume I. I want to read only the contents of the entries
from the 2nd until the 14th of September; Page 32:

  "On 2nd September, U-256 surprised and bombed by
  aircraft; unfit for sailing and diving;
  "On 3rd September, aircraft sights U-boat;
  " On 4th September, U-756 has not reported despite
  request since 1st September, when near convoy; presumed
  "On 5th September, aircraft sights U-boat;
  "On 6th September, U-705 probably lost through enemy
  aircraft attack;
  "On 7th September, U-130 bombed by Boeing bomber;
  "On 8th September, U-202 attacked by aircraft in Bay of
  "On 9th September - "

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kranzbuhler, the defendant has already
told us of the losses and of the reason for the losses. What
is the good of giving us details of the fact that U-boats
were fighting aircraft?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: I wanted to show, Mr. President, that the
testimony of Admiral Donitz is confirmed by the entries in
his diary of that time. But if the Tribunal -

THE PRESIDENT: We can read it. Anyhow, if you just draw our
attention to the document we will read it. We don't need you
to read the details of it.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Yes, Mr. President. I will do it in that

THE WITNESS: That is a typical and characteristic entry in
my war diary of those weeks and days just before the
issuance of my order; but I wish to add the following: The
aircraft was very dangerous especially for psychological
reasons; at one moment, when no aircraft is on the scene,
the commander of the U-boat views his situation as perfectly
clear, yet in the next moment, when the aircraft comes into
sight, his situation is completely hopeless. That happened
not only to young commanders, but to old experienced
commanders who remembered the good old times. Perhaps I may,
quite briefly, give a clear-cut example. A U-boat needs one
minute for the crew to come in through the hatch before it
can submerge at all. An airplane flies on the average six
thousand metres in one minute. The U-boat, therefore, in
order to be able to submerge at all - and not to be bombed
while it is still on the surface - must sight the aircraft
from a distance of at least six thousand metres. But that
also is not sufficient, for even if the U-boat has submerged
it still has not reached a safe depth. The U-boat,
therefore, must sight the airplane even earlier, namely, at
the extreme boundary of the field of vision. Therefore, it
is an absolute condition of success that the U-boat is in a

                                                  [Page 232]

state of constant alert, and that above all, it proceeds at
maximum speed, because the greater the speed the faster the
U-boat submerges; Secondly, that as few men as possible are
on the tower, so that they can come into the U-boat and the
hatch be closed as quickly as possible, and that there are
no men on the upper deck, and so on. This of course, would
prevent any rescue work, as this necessitates men being on
the upper deck in order to bring help and take care of more
people, and would completely interrupt the submarine's state
of alert, so that the U-boat would, as a consequence, be
hopelessly exposed to all attack from the air.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Mr. President, I wish now to take up a
matter which I would be reluctant to have to interrupt. If
therefore, it is agreeable to the Tribunal, I would suggest
that we have a recess now.

(A recess was taken.)

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.