The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. Did you think that all your labour was going to be German
or that it was going to be partly foreign labour?

A. I didn't think about that at all. I should like to
explain now how these demands came to be made.

At the end of the war I was given the task of organising
large-scale transports in the Baltic Sea. Hundreds of
thousands of poverty-stricken refugees had to be moved out
of the coastal areas of East and West Prussia, where they
were exposed to starvation, sickness and bombardment and
brought back to Germany. For this reason I made enquiries
about merchant shipping, which was not actually under my
jurisdiction, and in so doing, I learned that out of eight
ships ordered in Denmark, seven had been destroyed by
saboteurs in the final stage of construction. I called a
meeting of all the departments connected with those ships
and asked them: "How can I help you so that we get shipping
space and have damaged ships repaired more quickly?" I
received suggestions from various quarters outside the Navy,
including a suggestion that repair work, etc., might be
speeded up by employing prisoners from the concentration
camps. By way of justification, it was pointed out that in
view of the excellent food conditions such employment would
be very popular. Since I knew nothing about the methods and
conditions in the concentration camps, I included these
proposals in my collection as a matter of course, especially
as there was no question of making conditions worse for
them, as they would be given better food when working. And I
know that if I had done the opposite, I could have been
accused of refusing these people an opportunity of having
better food. I had not the slightest reason to do this, as I
knew nothing about any concentration camp's conditions at
the time.

Q. I am sure we are grateful for your explanation. But I
just want you to tell me, after you had proposed that you
should get 12,000 people from concentration camps, d1d you
get them?

                                                  [Page 272]

A. I don't know. I didn't do anything more about that. After
the meeting I had a memorandum prepared and submitted to the
Fuehrer -

Q. Keep to the answer. The answer is that you don't know
whether you got them or not, assuming that you did get them.

A. I didn't get them at all. I had nothing to do with
shipbuilding and consequently I don't know whether those
responsible for the work in the shipbuilding yards received
those additional workers or not.

Q. But you held a position of some responsibility; if you
get 12,000 people from concentration camps into the
shipbuilding industry, they would have to work alongside
people who weren't from concentration camps, would they not?

A. Certainly.

Q. Are you telling this Tribunal that when you ask for and
you may have got 12,000 people out of concentration camps,
who work alongside people not in concentration camps, that
the conditions inside the concentration camps remain a
secret to the other people and to all the rulers of Germany?

A. First of all, I don't know whether they came. Secondly,
if they did come, I can very well imagine that they had
orders not to talk; and thirdly, I don't even know what
camps they came from, and whether they were not people who
had already been put into other camps on account of the work
they accomplished. At any rate, I didn't worry about the
execution or methods, etc., because it was none of my
business; I acted on behalf of the competent non-naval
departments which required workmen in order to carry out
repairs more quickly, so that something could be done about
repairs for the merchant navy. That was my duty, considering
the arrangements which I had to make for the re-transport of
these refugees. I would do exactly the same thing again
today. That is the position.

Q. Well now, just look a little down the document to the
fourth paragraph after it says: "Translator's note." If you
will look at the English, the paragraph beginning: "Since
elsewhere." Have you found that? This is as you have told
us, after you express your worry about the sabotage in the
Danish and Norwegian shipyards. I just want you to look at
your proposal to deal with saboteurs.

  "Since elsewhere measures for exacting atonement, taken
  against whole working parties amongst whom sabotage
  occurred, have proved successful, and, for example, the
  shipyard sabotage in France was completely suppressed,
  possibly similar measures for the Scandinavian countries
  will come under consideration."

That is what you were suggesting, defendant, a collective
penalty against the whole working party where any sabotage
occurred; isn't that so?

A. Yes. May I give an explanation in that connection?

Q. That is all right. But otherwise, it is so?

A. Agencies outside the Navy connected with shipbuilding
stated at that meeting that sabotage had been prevented in
France by the introduction of certain reprisals. Through an
affidavit by an officer who attended the meeting and drafted
the minutes, or short memorandum, I have now ascertained
that reprisals at that time mean the withholding of the
additional rations issued by the management of the ship-
yard. That is what that meant. And, secondly, to come to
Norway and Denmark, I told these people:-

  "It is impossible for us to build ships there with our
  foreign currency and our materials, only to have them
  smashed up by sabotage - and assuredly with the co-
  operation of the ship-yard workmen - when they are nearly
  ready. What can we do against that."

The answer I received was that the only way was to keep them
away from saboteurs and to round them up in camps.

Q. The whole of this explanation that you have given us is
in this document which is in front of the Tribunal. Have you
anything to add to what is in the document?

                                                  [Page 273]

A. Right: I have to add that the workmen were to be treated
in exactly the same way as our own workmen, who were also
housed in barracks. The Danish and Norwegian workers would
not have suffered the slightest discomfort.

Q. I want you to look at one more sentence:

  "By the employment of the working parties concerned as
  concentration camps workers, their output would not only
  be increased to a hundred per cent. but the threat of
  cessation of their previously good wages might possibly
  result in their being considerably deterred from

That fairly represents your view of the way to treat
Norwegian and Danish workers, does it not?

A. This was a preventative measure against sabotage.

Q. Well now, just turn back to Page 70 of the English
Document Book, Page 103 in the German Document Book. This is
an extract from the minutes of a meeting between you and
Hitler on the 1st of July, 1944, signed by yourself. Have
you got it?

A. Not yet.

Q. Page 70 in the English, Page 103 in the German text.

A. I have got it.

Q. Concerning the general strike in Copenhagen, the Fuehrer

  "The only weapon to deal with terror is terror. Court
  martial proceedings create martyrs. History shows that
  the names of such men are on everybody's lips, whereas
  there is silence with regard to the many thousands who
  have lost their lives in similar circumstances without
  court martial proceedings."

Silence with regard to those who are condemned without
trial! Do you agree with that statement of Hitler?

A. No.

Q. Then why did you distribute it to Operations Department
for circulation if you didn't approve of it?

A. I do not agree with this procedure, but it expresses an
idea of the Fuehrer's. This was not a discussion between the
Fuehrer and myself; it represents notes, made by the officer
who accompanied me, on the military situation generally, and
contains widely differing points -

Q. Will you try and answer my question? It is a perfectly
simple one. It is, why did you distribute that to Operations
for circulation? What was there in these few lines that was
of interest to your officers? What did you think was
valuable for your officers to know in that dreadful piece of
savagery that I have just quoted to you?

A. It is very easy to explain that. The officer who made the
notes included it in an order to inform our ship-yard
establishments that there was a general strike in
Copenhagen. That one paragraph from that long, situation
discussion was included as part of the warning to the ship-
yard establishments that there was a strike in Copenhagen.
That was the whole point.

Q. I am suggesting to you, defendant, that you circulated
that to your officers to inculcate ruthlessness among them.
That is my suggestion. What do you say to that?

A. I say that is entirely wrong. I may tell you also that I
did not hear the Fuehrer make that statement, but it is
possible that it was taken down by the accompanying officer,
Wagner, for the reason which I have just given you, to warn
our people of the general strike in Copenhagen.

Q. Now, defendant, I am not going to argue with you about
your knowledge of documents you have signed. I have
questions to do with documents you have not signed, so let
us pass on to the next one.

A. I know the document. I know it because I have signed it.

Q. Page 69, that is Page 4 in the English Document Book or
Page 102 in the German Document Book, the minutes of the
conference on the 19th February, 1945, between you and
Hitler -

A. No, that is not correct.

                                                  [Page 274]

Q. No, I beg your pardon. It is an extract from the minutes
of the Hitler conference on the 19th February, 1945; and
then there is a note -

A. No. It says here: Participation by the Supreme Commanders
of the Navy in situation discussions with the Fuehrer.

It was not a special conference on the military situation as
a whole.

Q. I did not mean to say "special." I said the Hitler
conference on the 19th.

A. Yes.

Q. Now the first sentence of paragraph 1 says: "The Fuehrer
is considering whether or not Germany should renounce the
Geneva Convention." The last sentence is: "The Fuehrer
orders the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy to consider the
pros and cons of this step and to state his opinion as soon
as possible." And if you look down at the next minutes of
the conference on the 20th February, which is headed:
Participation of C-in-C Navy in a Hitler conference on 20th
February at 16oo hours, it reads as follows: "The C-in-C of
the Navy informed the Chief of the Armed Forces, Operations
staff, General Jodl, and representative for the Minister for
Foreign Affairs at the Fuehrer's headquarters, Ambassador
Hewel, of his views with regard to Germany's possible
renunciation of the Geneva Convention. From a military
standpoint there are no grounds for this step as far as the
conduct of the war at sea is concerned. On the contrary, the
dis-advantages outweigh the advantages. Even from a general
standpoint, it appears to the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy
that this measure would bring no advantage."

Now look to the last sentence: "It would be better to carry
out measures considered necessary without warning and at all
costs to save face with the outer world." That means, put in
blunt and brutal language: "Don't denounce the convention
but break it whenever it suit you," doesn't it?

A. No, that is not true.

Q. What does it mean? Let's take it word for word. "It would
be better to carry out measures considered necessary";
aren't these measures contrary to the rules of the Geneva

A. I must give an explanation of that.

Q. Answer my question first and then make a statement. You
have done it before, but try to answer my question. "These
measure considered necessary," if they don't mean measures
contrary to the terms of the Geneva Convention what do they
mean? Answer that question first.

A. They are measures against our own troops. I have heard -
I was told that the Fuehrer intended, or had said that
because the front was yielding in the West and he feared
that American and British propaganda might induce men to
desert, he intended to depart from the Geneva Convention, so
I said to my staff:

  "How is it possible in this connection to contemplate
  abandoning a system of international law almost a century
  old!" I may have said something like this: " The
  necessary measures must be taken."

There was no thought of concrete measures in that connection
and no such measures were introduced. My own views on the
treatment of prisoners of war can best be heard from the
8,000 British prisoners of war who were in my camps. That is
the situation regarding this matter. All the Service Chiefs
protested against the idea of renouncing the Geneva
Convention. They were not in favour of this idea.

Q. Is that your total explanation of "to carry out measures
considered necessary?" You have nothing else to add on that
point? Well, I shall pass to another one. Do you remember
saying to Dr. Kranzbuhler yesterday that when you became
Commander-in-Chief of the Navy that the war was purely a
defensive war? Do you remember saying that to your counsel

A. Yes.

Q. That was not your fault, was it? It was not your fault
that it remained limited to the countries engaged when you
took over? Do you remember your advice to Hitler at the
meeting of 14th May, 1943?

                                                  [Page 275]

A. No.

Q. Well, let me just suggest to you, do you remember the
discussion about the Sea Transport for Sicily and Sardinia?
Do you remember having a discussion on that; and do you
remember warning Hitler that your U-boat losses were fifteen
to seventeen U-boats a month, and that the position as to
the future of the U-boat war looked rather gloomy? Do you
remember that?

A. Yes, I do.

Q. And do you remember Hitler saying: "These losses are too
heavy. This cannot go on." And did you say to Hitler: "How
our only outlet for sorties is the Bay of Biscay and control
of this involves great difficulties, and already takes up
ten days' passage time of the U-boats. The best strategic
solution lies in the occupation of Spain, including
Gibraltar." And did Hitler remark: "In 1940 this would still
have been possible with the co-operation of Spain, but now,
and against the will of Spain, our resources are no longer
adequate?" Do you remember suggesting that to Hitler on the
14th of May, 1943 and Hitler saying his resources were no
longer adequate?

A. I don't think that I had proposed to the Fuehrer that we
should occupy Spain. I described the situation very clearly;
I said that we were blockaded in that small corner of the
Bay of Biscay and that the situation would be different if
there was much more room. That, however, does not suggest
that, in consideration of the defensive situation, we should
occupy Spain.

Q. Let us get it clearly, I am quoting you now from Admiral
Assmann's head-line diary, a verbatim translation.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: The original is in London, my Lord.
I will get the copy and put it in and certify it. This point
only arose again yesterday and I haven't got it. I will have
the original given and I will show Dr. Kranzbuhler this

These are the words that Admiral Assmann records:

  "Donitz continues: 'Now our only small outlet for sorties
  is the Bay of Biscay and control of this involves great
  difficulties and already takes up ten days' passage time
  of the U-boats.'"
  "Donitz says, 'The best strategic solution lies in the
  occupation of Spain, including Gibraltar.'"

Did you say that, "The best strategic solution lies in the
occupation of Spain, including Gibraltar"?

A. That's possible. If that's the wording you've got there.
It's possible that that's the way I said it.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, I was going to pass on from
these general -

THE PRESIDENT: Sir David, have you passed altogether from
Document 158-C on Page 69?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, I had, but I can easily
return to it, my Lord.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the second sentence in paragraph I
appears to have some bearing upon the answers which the
defendant has given.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, I am sorry, but I tried to
cut it as short as possible to the bare bone, and I am sorry
if I omit matters.

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