The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. The decisive point of the entire letter seems to be in
(3); I shall read that to you:-

  "A directive to take action against lifeboats of sunken
  vessels and their crews drifting in the sea would, for
  psychological reasons, hardly be acceptable to U-boat
  crews, since it would be contrary to the innermost
  feelings of all seamen. Such a directive could only be
  considered if by it a decisive naval success could be

Admiral, you yourself have repeatedly spoken about the
austerity of war. Are you, nevertheless, of the opinion that
psychologically the U-boat crews could not be expected to
carry out such an order? If so, why?

                                                  [Page 241]

A. We U-boat men knew that we had to fight a very hard war
against the great sea-powers. Germany had at her disposal
for this naval warfare nothing but the U-boats. Therefore,
from the beginning - even in peacetime - I trained the
submarine crews in the spirit of pure idealism and

That was necessary, and I continued that training throughout
the war and supported it by very close personal contacts
with the men at the bases. It was necessary to achieve very
high morale, very high fighting spirit, because otherwise
the severe struggle and the enormous losses, which were
shown on the diagram, would have been morally impossible to
bear. But in spite of these high losses we continued the
fight, because it had to be; and we made up for our losses
and again and again replenished our forces with volunteers
full of enthusiasm and full of moral strength, exactly
because the morale was so high. And I would never, even at
the time of our most serious losses, have allowed these men
to be given an order which was unethical or which would
damage their fighting morale, for I placed my whole
confidence in that high fighting morale, and endeavoured to
maintain it.

Q. You said the U-boat forces were replenished with
volunteers, did you?

A. We had practically only volunteers.

Q. Even when losses were at their highest?

A. Yes, even then when everyone knew that he took part in an
average of two actions and then was lost.

Q. How high were your losses?

A. According to my recollection, our total losses were
between 640 and 670.

Q. And crews?

A. Altogether, we had 40,000 men in the submarine forces. Of
these 40,000 men 30,000 did not return, and of these 30,000,
25,000 were killed and only 5,000 were taken prisoner.

Most of the submarines were destroyed from the air in the
vast areas of the Atlantic, where rescue was out of the

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Mr. President, I come now to a new subject.
Would this be a suitable time to take a recess?

(A recess was taken until 1400 hours.)


Q. I am turning now to the theme of the so-called
conspiracy. The prosecution is accusing you of participating
since 1932, on the basis of your close connections with the
Party, in a conspiracy to promote aggressive wars and commit
war crimes. Where were you during the weeks of the seizure
of power by the National Socialists in the early part of

A. Immediately after the 30th of January, 1933, I believe it
was the 1st of February, I went on leave to the Dutch East
Indies and Ceylon, a journey which lasted well into the
summer of 1933. This leave journey had been granted me at
Grand Admiral Raeder's recommendation by President

Q. After that, you became the Commander of a large cruiser?

A. In the autumn of 1934 I went as Commander of the cruiser
Emden through the Atlantic, around Africa and into the
Indian Ocean and then back.

Q. Before this sojourn abroad or after your return in 1935
and until you were appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Navy
in the year 1943, were you politically active in any way?

A. I was not active politically until 1st May, 1945, when I
became the head of the State, not before then.

Q. The prosecution has submitted a document, namely, an,
affidavit by Consul-General Messersmith. It is Exhibit USA
57 and I have the pertinent

                                                  [Page 242]

extracts in my Document Book, Volume II, Page 100. In this
affidavit Messersmith says that from 1930 until the spring
of 1934 he acted as Consul-General for the United States in
Berlin. Then until July, 1937, he was in Vienna and from
there he went to Washington. He gives an opinion about you
which begins with the remark:

  "Among the people whom I saw frequently and to whom my
  statements refer, were the following ..."

Then your name is mentioned. From what he said one gets the
impression that at this time you were active in political
circles in Berlin or Vienna. Is that correct?

A. No. At that time I was Lieutenant Commander and from the
end of 1934 on I was Commander.

Q. With the permission of the Tribunal I sent an
interrogatory to Ambassador Messersmith in order to
determine upon what facts he was basing his opinion. This
interrogatory was answered and I am submitting it as Exhibit
Donitz 45. The answers will be found on Page 102 of the
document book and I quote:

  "During my residence in Berlin, and during my later
  frequent visits there as stated in my previous
  affidavits, I saw Admiral Karl Donitz and spoke to him on
  several occasions. However, I kept no diary and I am
  unable to state with accuracy when and where the meetings
  occurred, the capacity in which Admiral Donitz appeared
  there, or the topic or topics of our conversation. My
  judgement on Donitz expressed in my previous affidavit is
  based on personal knowledge, and on the general knowledge
  which I obtained from the various sources described in my
  previous affidavits."

Did you, Grand Admiral, see and speak with Ambassador
Messersmith anywhere and at any time?

A. I never saw him, and I hear his name here for the first
time. Also, at the time in question I was not in Berlin. I
was in Wilhelmshaven on the North Sea Coast or in the Indian
Ocean. If he alleges that he spoke to me it would have had
to be in Wilhelmshaven or in the Indian Ocean. Since neither
is the case, I believe that he is mistaken and that he must
have confused me with somebody else.

Q. Were you a member of the NSDAP?

A. On the 30th of January, 1944, I received from the Fuehrer
as a decoration the Golden Party Emblem, and I assume that I
thereby became an honorary member of the Party.

Q. When did you become acquainted with Adolf Hitler and how
often did you see him before you I were appointed Commander-
in -Chief of the Navy?

A. I saw Adolf Hitler for the first time when in the
presence of Grand Admiral Raeder in the autumn of 1934 I
informed him of my departure for foreign parts as Commander
of the cruiser Emden. I saw him again on my return with the
Emden a year later. From the autumn of 1934 until the
outbreak of war in 1939, in these five years I saw him four
times in all, including the two occasions when I reported to
him as already mentioned.

Q. And what were the other two occasions, were they naval or
political occasions?

A. One was when he was watching a review of the fleet in the
Baltic Sea, and I stood next to him on the bridge of the
flagship in order to give the necessary explanations while
two U-boats showed attack manoeuvres.

The other occasion was an invitation to all the high ranking
army and naval officers when the new Reich Chancellery in
Vosstrasse was completed. That was in 1938 or 1939. I saw
him there but I did not speak with him.

Q. How many times during the war, until your appointment as
Commander-in-Chief, did you see the Fuehrer?

                                                  [Page 243]

A. In the years 1939 to 1943 I saw the Fuehrer four times,
each time when short reports about U-boat warfare were being
made, and always in the presence of large groups.

Q. Until that time had you had any discussion which went
beyond purely naval matters?

A. No, none at all.

Q. When were you appointed as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy
as successor to Grand Admiral Raeder?

A. On the 30th of January, 1943.

Q. Was the war, which Germany was waging, at that time at an
offensive or defensive stage?

A. At a decidedly defensive stage.

Q. In your eyes was the position of Commander-in-Chief,
which was offered to you, a political or a naval position?

A. It was self-evidently a purely naval position, namely
that of the first officer at the head of the Navy. My
appointment to this position also came about because of
purely operational reasons, reasons which motivated Grand
Admiral Raeder to propose my name for this position. Purely
strategic considerations were the decisive ones in respect
to this appointment.

Q. You know, Grand Admiral, that the prosecution draws very
far-reaching conclusions from your acceptance of this
appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, especially
with reference to the conspiracy. The prosecution contends
that through your acceptance of this position you ratified
the previous happenings, all the workings of the Party since
1920 or 1922, and the entire German policy, domestic and
foreign, at least since 1933. Were you aware of the
significance of this foreign policy? Did you take this into
consideration at all?

A. The idea never entered my head. I do not believe either
that there is a soldier who, when he receives a military
command, would entertain such thoughts, or be conscious of
such considerations. My position as Commander-in-Chief of
the Navy represented for me a command which I, of course,
had to obey, just as I had to obey every other naval
command, unless for reasons of health I was not able to do
so. Since I was in good health and believed that I could be
of use to the Navy, I also, naturally, accepted this command
with a clear conscience. Anything else would have been
desertion or disobedience.

Q. Then as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy you came into very
close contact with Adolf Hitler. You know, also, just what
conclusions the prosecution draws from this relationship.
Please tell me just what this relationship was and on what
it was based?

A. In order to be brief, I might perhaps explain the matter
as follows:-

This relationship was based on three bonds. First of all, I
accepted and agreed to the national and social ideas of
National Socialism: the national ideas which found
expressions in the honour and dignity of the nation, its
freedom and its equality among nations and its security; and
the social tenets which had perhaps as their basis: No class
struggle, but human and social respect of each person,
regardless of his class, profession or economic position,
and on the other band, subordination of each and every one
to the interests of the common weal. Naturally I regarded
Adolf Hitler's high authority with admiration and joyfully
acknowledged it, when, in time of peace he succeeded so
quickly and without bloodshed in realising his national and
social objectives.

The second bond was my oath. Hitler had, in a legal and
lawful way, become the Commander-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht,
to whom the Wehrmacht had sworn its oath of allegiance. That
this oath was sacred to me is self-evident and I believe
that decency in this world will everywhere be on the side of
him who keeps his oath.

The third bond was my personal relationship. Before I became
Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, I believe Hitler had no
definite conception of me or my personality. He had seen me
too few times and always when I was merely one of

                                                  [Page 244]

a large group of people. What our relationship would be was
therefore a completely open question when I became Commander-
in-Chief of the Navy. My start in this high post was very
unfavourable. It was made difficult, first, by the imminent
and then the actual collapse of U-boat warfare, secondly, by
my refusal, just as Grand Admiral Raeder had already
refused, to scrap the large ships, which in Hitler's opinion
had no fighting value in view of the overwhelming
superiority of the enemy. I, as well as Grand Admiral
Raeder, had opposed the scrapping of these ships, and only
after a quarrel did Hitler finally agree. However, I noticed
very soon that in naval matters he had confidence in me, and
in other respects as well treated me with decided respect.

Adolf Hitler always saw in me only the Supreme Commander of
the Navy. He never asked for my advice in military matters,
which did not concern the Navy, either in regard to the Army
or the Air Force, nor did I ever express my opinion about
such matters because, basically, I had not sufficient
knowledge of them. He never consulted me on political
matters of a domestic or a foreign nature.

Q. You said, Grand Admiral, that he never asked you for
advice on political matters. But those matters might have
come up in connection with naval questions. Did you not
participate when this occurred?

A. If by "political" you mean for instance, consultations of
the commanders with the so-called National Socialist high
political officers, then, of course, I participated, because
this came within the sphere of the Navy, a navy concern.

Q. Beyond those questions, did not Hitler ever consider you
a general adviser, as the prosecution claims and as they
concluded from the long list of meetings which you have had
with Hitler since 1943 at his headquarters?

A. First of all, as a matter of principle, there can be no
question of a general consultation with the Fuehrer; as I
have already said, the Fuehrer asked for and received advice
from me only in matters concerning the Navy and the conduct
of naval warfare, matters exclusively and absolutely
restricted to my sphere of activity.

Q. According to the table submitted, you were, between 1943
and 1945, called sometimes once and sometimes twice a month
to the Fuehrer's Headquarters. Please describe to the
Tribunal, just what happened, as far as you were concerned,
on a day like that at the Fuehrer's headquarters.

A. Up to two or three months before the collapse, when the
Fuehrer was in Berlin, I flew to his Headquarters about
every two or three weeks, but only if I had some concrete
operational matter on which I needed his decision. On those
occasions I participated in the midday discussion of the
general military situation, that is, the report which the
Fuehrer's staff made to him about what had taken place on
the fighting fronts within the last 24 hours. At these
military discussions, the Army and Air Force situation was
of primary importance, and I spoke only when my naval expert
was reporting the naval situation, and he needed me to
supplement his report. Then at a given moment, which was
fixed by the Adjutant's Office, I gave my naval report,
which was the purpose of my journey. When rendering this
report, only those were present whom these matters concerned
that is, for the most part, when it was a question of
reinforcements, etc., Field Marshal Keitel or General Jodl.

When I went to his headquarters every two or three weeks -
later in 1944, there was once an interval of six weeks - the
Fuehrer invited me to lunch. These invitations ceased
completely after 20th July, 1944, the day of the attempted

I never received from the Fuehrer an order which in any way
violated the ethics of war. Neither I nor anyone in the Navy
- and this is my conviction - knew anything about the mass
extermination of people, of which I am accused in the
Indictment, or the concentration camps, until after the
capitulation in May, 1945.

In Hitler, I saw a powerful personality, who had
extraordinary intelligence and energy, and a practically
universal knowledge, from whom strength seemed to emanate,
and who was possessed of a remarkable power of suggestion.

                                                  [Page 245]

the other hand, I purposely went very seldom to his
headquarters, for I had the feeling that I would thus best
preserve my power of initiative, and also because, after
several days, say two or three days at the headquarters, I
always had the feeling that I had to disengage myself from
his power of suggestion. I am telling you this, because in
this connection, I was doubtless more fortunate than his
staff, who were constantly exposed to this power and his

Q. You said just now, Grand Admiral, that you never received
an order which was in violation of military ethics. You know
the Commando Order of the autumn of 1942. Did you not
receive that order?

A. I was informed of that order after it was issued, while I
was still Commander of the U-boats. For the soldiers at the
front this order was unequivocal. I had the feeling that it
was a very grave matter, but under Point 1 of this order, it
was clearly and unequivocally expressed that members of the
enemy forces, because of their behaviour, because of the
killing of prisoners, had placed themselves outside the
Geneva Convention, and that therefore the Fuehrer had
ordered reprisal measures, and that these in addition, had
been published in the Wehrmacht report.

Q. Therefore, the soldier who received this order had no
right, no possibility, and no authority to demand a
justification or an investigation. As Commander of the U-
boats, did you have anything to do with the execution of
this order?

A. No, not in the slightest.

Q. As far as you remember, did you, as Commander-in-Chief of
the Navy, have anything to do with the carrying out of this

A. As far as I remember, as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy,
I was never concerned with this order. One should not
forget, first, that this decree excludes expressly those
taken prisoner in battles at sea, and, secondly, that the
Navy had no territorial authority on land, and for this
latter reason, found itself less often in the position of
having to carry out any part of this order.

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