The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. You know the document submitted by the prosecution which
describes how in the summer of 1943, a commando unit was
shot in Norway. I mean the prosecution's Exhibit GB 208. The
incident is described there as showing that the crew of a
Norwegian motor torpedo boat were taken prisoner on a
Norwegian island. This motor torpedo boat was charged with
belligerent missions at sea. The document does not say who
took the crew prisoner, but it does say that the members of
the crew were wearing their uniforms when they were
captured, that they were interrogated by a naval officer,
and that on the order of Admiral von Schrader, they were
given over to the SD. The SD later shot them. Did you know
about this incident, or was it reported to you as Commander-

A. I learned about this incident only from the trial brief
of the prosecution.

Q. Can you explain the fact that an incident of this nature
was not brought to your attention? Would this not have had
to be reported to you?

A. If the Navy was concerned in this matter, that is, if
this crew had been captured by the Navy, Admiral von
Schrader, who was the Commander there, would absolutely have
had to report this matter to the Commander-in-Chief of the
Navy, I am also convinced that he would have done so, for
the regulations regarding this were unequivocal. I am also
convinced that the naval expert at the Navy High Command,
who was concerned with such matters, would have reported
this to me as Commander-in-Chief.

Q. What is your opinion about this case now that you have
learned about it through the prosecution's document?

A. If it is correct that it concerns the crew of a motor
torpedo boat which had belligerent missions at sea, then
this measure, the shooting which took place, was entirely
wrong in any case, for it was in direct opposition, even to
this commando order. But I consider it completely out of the
question, for I do not believe that Admiral von Schrader,
whom I know personally to be an especially chivalrous
sailor, would have had a hand in anything of this sort. From
the circumstances of this incident, the fact that this
incident was not reported to the High Command,

                                                  [Page 246]

that this incident, as has now been ascertained by perusal
of the German newspapers of that time, was also not
mentioned in the Wehrmacht communique, as would have had to
happen if it had been a matter concerning the Wehrmacht,
from all these circumstances, I assume that the incident was
as follows:-

The police arrested these people on the island, they were
taken thence by sea to Bergen, where one or two - if I
remember correctly - naval officers interrogated them, since
the Navy, of course, was interested in this interrogation;
then these people were handed back to the Security Service,
since it was the Security Service which had originally
captured them.

I cannot explain it otherwise.

Q. You wish to say, then, that in your opinion these men had
never been prisoners of the navy?

A. Yes. If they had been, a report to the High Command would
have been made.

Q. Quite apart from these questions I should like to ask
you, didn't you in your position as Commander-in-Chief and
during your visits to the Fuehrer's headquarters have
experiences which made you consider dissociating yourself
from Adolf Hitler?

A. I have already stated that as far as my activity was
concerned, even at Headquarters, I was strictly limited to
my own department, since it was a peculiarity of the Fuehrer
to listen to a person only about matters which were that
person's express concern. It was also self-evident that at
the discussions of the military situation only purely
military matters were discussed, that is, no problems of
domestic policy, of the SD or the SS, unless it was a
question of SS divisions in military service under one of
the army commanders. Therefore, I had no knowledge of all
these things. As I have already said, I never received an.
order from the Fuehrer which in any way violated military
ethics. Therefore, I firmly believe that in every respect I
kept the Navy unsullied down to the last man, until the end.
In naval warfare, my attention was focused on the sea, and
the Navy, small as it was, tried to fulfil its duty
according to its tasks. Therefore, I had no reason at all to
break with the Fuehrer.

Q. Such a reason need not have been in relation to criminal
acts only; it could also have been for political
considerations, having nothing to do with criminal acts. You
have heard the question put repeatedly as to whether there
should have been a putsch. Had you entered into contact with
such a movement, or did you yourself consider or attempt a

A. No. The word putsch has been used frequently in this
court room by various people. It is easy to say, but I
believe that one should realize the tremendous significance
of such an action.

The German nation was involved in a struggle of life and
death. It was like a fortress surrounded by enemies. It is
clear, to keep to the simile of the fortress, that every
disturbance from within must, without doubt, have affected
its military might and fighting power. Anyone therefore, who
violates his loyalty and his oath to plan and try to bring
about an overthrow during such a struggle for survival, must
be most deeply convinced that the nation needs such an
overthrow at all costs and must be aware of his

Despite this, every nation will judge such a man to be a
traitor, and history will not vindicate him unless the
success of the overthrow actually contributes to the welfare
and prosperity of his people. This, however, would not have
been the case in Germany.

If, for instance, the putsch of the 20th of July had been
successful, then a dissolution, if only a gradual one, would
have resulted inside Germany, a fight against the bearers of
weapons, here the SS, there another group, complete chaos
inside Germany, for the firm structure of the State would
gradually have been destroyed and disintegration and a
reduction of our fighting power at the front would have
inevitably resulted.

                                                  [Page 247]

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal thinks that the defendant is
making a long and political speech. It really hasn't very
much to do with the questions with which we have to deal.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Mr. President, I was of the opinion that
the question of whether or not a Commander-in-Chief is
obliged to bring about a putsch was regarded as a main point
by the prosecution, a point having a bearing on the question
of whether he declared himself in agreement, or not, with
the system which is being characterised as criminal. If the
Tribunal considers this question irrelevant, I do not want
to press it further.

THE PRESIDENT: I do not think the prosecution has put
forward the view that anybody had to create a putsch.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: It seemed to me a self-evident view of the

Q. Grand Admiral, the prosecution has submitted two
documents, from the winter of 1943, and May, 1945,
containing speeches made by you to the troops. You are
accused by the prosecution of preaching National Socialist
ideas to them. Please define your position on this point.

A. When in February Of 1943, I became Commander-in-Chief of
the Navy, I was responsible for the fighting power of the
entire Navy. A main source of strength in this war was the
unity of our people, and those who had most to gain from
this unity were the armed forces, for any rupture inside
Germany would perforce have had an effect on the troops and
would have reduced their fighting capacity. The Navy in
particular, in the first World War in 1917-1918, had had
bitter experiences in this direction.

Therefore, in all my speeches, I tried to preserve this
unity and the feeling that we were its guarantors. This was
necessary and right, and particularly necessary for me who,
as a leader of troops, could not preach disunity or
dissolution. My speeches had their effect. Fighting power
and discipline in the Navy were of a high standard until the
end. And I believe that in every nation such an achievement
is considered a proper and good achievement for a leader of
troops. These are my reasons for talking the way I did.

Q. On 30th April, 1945, you became head of State as Adolf
Hitler's successor, and the prosecution concludes from this,
that before that time as well, you must have been a close
confidant of Hitler, since only one of his confidants would
have been chosen to be his successor as far as matters of
State are concerned. Will you tell me how you came to be his
successor, and whether Hitler before this time ever spoke to
you about this possibility?

A. From 20th July, 1944, on, I did not see Hitler alone, but
only at the large discussions of the military situation. He
never spoke with me about the question of a successor, not
even by way of hinting. This was entirely natural and clear,
since, according to law, the Reichsmarschall was his
successor, and the regrettable misunderstanding between the
Fuehrer and the Reichsmarschall did not occur until the end
of April, 1945, at a time when I was no longer in Berlin.

Q. Where were you?

A. I was in Holstein. Therefore, I had not the slightest
inkling, nor had the Fuehrer, that I was to become his

Q. Just how, through what measures or orders did that
actually come about?

A. On 30th April, 1945, in the evening, I received a
wireless message from headquarters to the effect that the
Fuehrer was designating me his successor, and that I was
authorized to take at once all measures which I considered

The next morning, that is, on 1st May, I received another
wireless message, a more detailed directive, which said that
I was to be Reich President; Minister Goebbels, Reich
Chancellor; Bormann, Party Minister; and Seyss-Inquart,
Foreign Minister.

Q. Did you adhere to this directive?

                                                  [Page 248]

A. This wireless message, first of all, contradicted the
first wireless message in which it clearly stated: "You can
at once do everything you consider to be right." I did not
act on, and, as a matter of principle, never would have
acted on this second wireless message, for, if I were to
have responsibility, then no conditions were to be imposed
on me. Thirdly, under no circumstances would I have agreed
to work with the people mentioned, with the exception of
Herr Seyss-Inquart.

In the early morning of 1st May, I had already had a
discussion with Minister of Finance, Graf Schwerin Krosigk,
and had asked him to take over the business of government,
in so far as we could still talk about that.

I had done this because in a chance discussion which had
taken place several days before, I had seen that we held
much the same view, the view that the German people belonged
to the Christian west, that the basis of future conditions
of life is the absolute legal security of the individual and
of private property.

Q. Grand Admiral, you know the so-called Political Testament
of Adolf Hitler, in which you are charged to carry on the
war. Did you receive an order of this sort at that time?

A. No. I saw this Testament for the first time a few weeks
ago here, when it was made public in the Press. As I have
said, I would not have accepted any order, any restriction
of my activity at this time when Germany's position was
hopeless, and I was given the responsibility.

Q. The prosecution has submitted a document in which you
exhorted the war leaders in the spring of 1945 to carry on
tenaciously to the end. It is Exhibit GB 212. You are
accused in this connection of being a fanatical Nazi who was
ready to carry on a hopeless war at the expense of the women
and children of your people. Please define your position in
respect to this particularly grave accusation.

A. In this connection I can say the following: In the spring
of 1945, I was not the head of State, I was an officer. To
continue the fight or not to continue the fight was a
political decision. The head of State wanted to continue the
fight. I, as an officer, had to obey. It is an impossibility
that in a State one soldier declares, "I shall continue to
fight," and another soldier declares, "I shall not continue
the fight." I could not have given any other advice the way
I saw things and for the following reasons:

(1) In the East the breaking through of our front at one
point meant the extermination of the people living behind
that front. We knew that because of practical experiences
and because of all the reports which we had about this. It
was the belief of all the people that the soldier in the
East had to do his military duty in these hard months of the
war, these last hard months of the war. This was especially
important because otherwise German women and children would
have perished.

The Navy was involved to a considerable extent in the East.
It had about 100,000 men on land and the entire surface Navy
concentrated in the Baltic for the transport of troops,
weapons, wounded men and above all, refugees.

Therefore, the very existence of the German people in this
last hard period depended above all on the soldiers carrying
on tenaciously to the end.

(2) If we had capitulated in the first few months of the
spring or in the winter of 1945, then, from everything we
knew about the enemy's intentions, the country would,
according to the Yalta Agreement, have been ruinously torn
asunder and partitioned, and the German land occupied in the
same way as it is today.

(3) Capitulation means that the army, the soldiers, stay
where they are and become prisoners. That means, that if we
had capitulated in January or February, 1945, 2,000,000
soldiers in the East, for example, would have fallen into
the hands of the Russians. That these millions could not
possibly have been cared for during the cold winter is
obvious, and we would have lost men on a very large scale,
for even at the time of the capitulation in May, 1945 - that
is, in the spring, in the late spring - it was not possible
in the West to take care of the large masses of prisoners
according to the Geneva Convention.

                                                  [Page 249]

Then, as I have already said, Since the Yalta Agreement
would have been put into effect, we would have lost a much
larger number of people who had not yet fled from the East.

When on 1st of May I became the head of State, circumstances
were different. By that time the fronts, the Eastern, and
Western fronts, had come so close to each other that in a
few days people, troops, soldiers, armies and the great
masses of refugees would be transported from the East to the
West. Therefore, when I became head of State on 1st May, I
strove to make peace as quickly as possible and to
capitulate, while saving German blood and bringing German
people from the East to the West, and I acted accordingly as
early as 2nd May, by making overtures of capitulation to
General Montgomery for the territory facing his army, and
for Holland and Denmark, which we still held firmly, and
immediately following that I opened negotiations with
General Eisenhower.

The same basic principle - to save and preserve the German
population - motivated me in the winter to face bitter
necessity and keep on fighting. It was very painful that our
cities were still being bombed to pieces and that through
these bombing attacks and the continued fight more lives
were lost. The number of these people is about 300,000 to
400,000, the largest number of whom perished in the bombing
attack on Dresden, which cannot be justified from a military
point of view and which could not have been predicted.
Nevertheless, this figure is relatively small compared with
the millions of German people we would have lost in the
East, soldiers and civilians, if we had capitulated in the

Therefore, in my opinion, it was necessary to act as I did:
(1) while I was still an officer, to call on my troops to
keep on fighting hard and, (2) when I became head of State
in May to capitulate at once. Thereby no German lives were
lost, rather they were saved.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: I have no further questions, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: Does any other defence Counsel wish to ask

BY DR. SIEMERS (Counsel for defendant Admiral Raeder):

Q. Grand Admiral Donitz, you've already explained that Grand
Admiral Raeder and the Navy in the summer of 1939 did not
believe, despite certain ominous signs, that it would come
to a war. Since you saw Admiral Raeder in the summer of 1939
I should like you briefly to supplement this point. First of
all, on what occasion did you have a detailed conversation
with Grand Admiral Raeder?

A. Grand Admiral Raeder embarked in the middle of July,
1939, for submarine manoeuvres of my fleet in the Baltic
Sea. Following the manoeuvres -

Q. May I first ask you something? What sort of manoeuvres
were they? How large were they and where did they take

A. All submarines which had carried out their tests I had
gathered together in the Baltic. I can't remember the exact
figure, but I think there were about thirty. In the
manoeuvres I then showed Grand Admiral Raeder what these
could accomplish.

Q. Were all those submarines capable of navigating in the

A. Yes, they were and, in addition, there were the smaller
submarines of lower tonnage, which could operate only as far
as the North Sea.

Q. This means, therefore, that at that time you had no more
than two dozen submarines capable of navigating in the
Atlantic, is that right?

A. That figure is too high. At that time we had not even
fifteen submarines capable of navigating in the Atlantic. At
the outbreak of war, as far as I remember, we went to sea
with fifteen submarines capable of navigating in the

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