The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. Did you notice that Heisig said in his evidence that
during a lecture he heard you put forward the same argument
as Hitler put forward in his conversations with Oshima?

A. First of all I want to state that Heisig here in this
witness box said something different from what he said
during his interrogation, During cross-examination he has
admitted here that I have not said anything about fighting
against shipwrecked personnel, secondly everything else he
said is so vague that I do not attach much value to its
credibility; thirdly, he stated quite clearly that I did not
say this in a lecture but during a discussion, which is in
itself of no importance, and, fourthly, it may be that the
subject of America's new construction programme and the
manning of the new ships by trained crews was opened. It was
possible during that discussion.

Q. Do you now say you agree you never opened any discussion
having reference to the American ship building programme and
the difficulty of finding crews?

Do you agree with Heisig on that?

A. The German Press was full of that. Everybody read and
knew about the ship building programme. Pictures were made -

Q. But the argument, I am suggesting to you, you know, was
that the building programme would be useless if you could
destroy or frighten off sufficient merchant navy crews. That
is the point in Hitler's conversation, and that Heisig said
you said. Did you say that?

A. I have always taken the attitude that losses of crews
would make replacement difficult, and this is stated in my
war diary, together with similar ideas, and perhaps I said
something of the kind to my midshipmen.

Q. Would you look at Page 37 of the Prosecution Document
Book, Page 76 in the German translation?

A. Page 37?

Q. Page 37 in the English. It is an order dated October,
1943. I just want you to look at the last sentence:

  "In view of the desired destruction of ships' crews,
  their sinking is of great value."

A. I have not found the page yet, what number is it in

Q. I have the English ... if you will excuse me it is 76 in
the German.

A. That can't be right.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Perhaps you would help me, Sergeant
Major, would you?

(The place is indicated to the witness.)

Q. In the last sentence...

A. Yes, I have read it.

Q. "In view of the desired destruction of ships' crews their
sinking is of great value," and it is continually pressing
the need for ships' crews.

A. Yes, of course, but in the course of fighting. It is
perfectly clear these rescue ships were heavily armed, They
had aircraft and could be sunk just as other convoy ships.
If there were steamer crews it was taken for granted that we
were justified in sinking these crews. Moreover they were
used by the steamers as U-boat traps.

                                                  [Page 298]

Q. On the question of the rightness or wrongness of sinking
rescue ships, the destruction of ships' crews, I want to ask
you one or two questions about Mohle. He commanded the U-
boat Flotilla from 1942 until the end of the war. That is
nearly three years, and, as he told us, he has a number of
decorations for gallant service. Are you telling the
Tribunal that Commander Mohle went on briefing submarine
commanders on a completely mistaken basis for three years
without any of your staff or yourself discovering this? You
saw every U-boat commander when he came back.

A. I am sorry that Captain Mohle, being the only one who
said he had doubts in connection with this order, as he
declared here, did not report it right away. But I was not
able to know that he had these doubts. He had the
opportunity of clearing up these doubts and I didn't know,
and nobody on my staff had any idea that he had these

Q. Now, I have a letter here, a letter from a widow of one
of your submarine commanders. I cannot get the commander and
this is a letter from his widow. I want you to say that you
think of a passage in it.

She says: In the second paragraph - "Captain Mohle says he
has not found one U-boat Commander who objected to the order
to fire at helpless seamen who were in distress in the

DR. KRANZBUHLER: I object to the use of this letter. I think
this is the sort of letter which cannot be used as an
exhibit. It is not sworn, and it is a typical example of the
kind of letter which Mr. Justice Jackson has already
repeatedly criticized.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: The only point I make is this: The
man himself has not come back. His widow can give
information as to how he understood his orders before he
went out. I should have submitted it with probative value. I
think it occurs in Article 19. I will not use it if there is
the slightest doubt about it before the Tribunal.

THE WITNESS: It is full of incorrect statements, too. It
says there that he died in a KZ (Concentration Camp) which
is not true.

THE PRESIDENT: Wait just a minute.

THE WITNESS: It is not true.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Mr. President, I have only just finished
reading the whole letter -

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the Tribunal is considering the matter
at the moment.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: May I state one argument in this connection

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we have heard your argument and we are
considering the matter. The Tribunal thinks that it is
undesirable that this document should be used.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: As your Lordship pleases.


Q. Now I want to deal just for one moment with a passage in
your own document book which Dr. Kranzbuhler put to you
yesterday. It is Volume 2, Page 92, Exhibit 42. Before I ask
you a question about it, there is one point that I would
like you to help me on. In your interrogation you said that
on the 22nd of October - you said that, about two months
after that order of 17th September, you issued orders
forbidding U-boats to surface at all. Is that right? You
gave orders forbidding U-boats to surface, is that right?

A. If it is possible for a submarine to do this at all. We
were always making changes, day and night, and it depended
upon the degree of danger and the state of the weather
whether we gave orders for the U-boats to surface and take
on a load.

                                                  [Page 299]

They were not to surface after attacks, were not to surface
at all before or after attacks; is not that the effect of
your order?

A. Of course submarines, for example at night, had to be on
the surface for attacks, but the main thing was to avoid
every risk, when going to the attack.

Q. Then two months later there was an order that they were
to surface as little as possible and you tell me it was your

A. As far as possible they were to use all means to avoid
danger from the air.

Q. Did you give orders as to surfacing?

A. I gave them quite a number of orders, as I have already
said, according to the weather, according to what part of
the sea they were in, and whether it was day or night. The
order was different according to these factors whether it
was day or night, because the danger depended on these
elements and varied accordingly. There were changes too; if
we had bad experiences which showed that night was more
dangerous than day, then we surfaced during the day. We had
the impression that it was certainly better to surface
during the day, because then one could at least see the
attacking aircraft beforehand by direction finding, and so
we changed.

Q. But it is a fact that quite soon after this order the
Allied air cover became so heavy that - I quote your own
words - You say: "Two months later submarines were no longer
in a position to surface." That is, as I understand it,
surfacing became very difficult in view of the heavy nature
of allied air attacks, is that right?

A. Yes, they did not have a chance to come to the surface in
certain waters without being attacked immediately. That is
just the point. The submarines had to hold themselves in
readiness, in the first degree of readiness, and this is the
big difference, and, despite this, these heavy losses and
difficulties still occurred.

Q. Now I want you to look at Page 93. It is the page after
the one I referred you to in Volume 2 of your document book,
you see Paragraph 1.

A. Yes.

Q. "The percentage of sunk merchant vessels in convoys in
1941 amounted to 40 per cent.; in the entire year of 1942 to
barely 30 per cent.; in the last quarter of 1942 to 57 per
cent.; in January 1943, to about 65 per cent.; in February
to about 70 per cent. and in March to 80 per cent." Your
worst period was the first three quarters Of 1942, is that
not so? That appears from your own figures.

A. Which "worst period"? What do you mean? I do not

Q. Well, it is Page 93, paragraph 1.

A. Yes, but how do you mean, "worst period "?

Q. Well, the percentage of sunk merchant vessels in convoys
in 1941 amounted to 40 per cent.

A. You mean merchant ships?

Q. Yes, I am reading your own War Diary, or rather the SKL
(Naval War Command) War Diary. "In the entire year of 1942
to barely 30 per cent - "

A. From convoys?

Q. Convoys, yes. So that the worst period that you had was
the first three-quarters of 1942?

A. No. In 1942, as I have already said in my description of
the entire situation, a large number of submarines were just
outside the ports, they were off New York, off Trinidad,
etc., so that they are not mentioned here. In this list only
the sinkings carried out by those packs which were attacking
the convoys in the North Atlantic are mentioned.

Q. But is it not right that these figures mean that your
worst period was the first three quarters of 1942? It must
have been around 30 per cent.

A. No, my most successful period was the year 1942.

Q. Well, how can you call it the most successful period if
for the entire year of 1942 your percentage of sunk merchant
vessels in convoys is only 30 per cent.,

                                                  [Page 300]

whereas in January and February and March, 1943, it got up
to 65, 70 and 80 per cent.?

A. Right, it is so. Of the merchant ships sunk in 1942, 30
per cent. were sunk in the Atlantic in 1942, but the total
figures was much larger than, for instance, in 1943 when 65
and 70 per cent. were sunk; and that is simply because at
that time in 1943 we could no longer remain outside a port
like New York. This only mentions percentages of sinkings in
the Atlantic from convoys only.

Q. You see what I am putting to you is this, that in 1942,
when your percentage from convoys was low, when you had had
that pressure that I have gone into with you before, there
was every reason for you to issue an unequivocal order which
would have the effect of getting those submarine commanders
who wanted to, to destroy the crews of the ships. In 1943
your U-boats weren't surfacing, your convoy proportions had
gone up, and there wasn't any reason to make your order more
explicit. This is what I am suggesting to you, defendant.

A. I consider that that is quite wrong.

Q. Now I just want to -

A. It was like this. As I already said, in the summer of
1942 we found that the danger from the air suddenly
increased. This danger from the air was making itself felt
in all waters, also in those waters where submarines were
not fighting convoys or were not fighting just outside the

Q. Now I just want you to help me on one other point. Dr.
Kranzbuhler put to you yesterday that Kapitanleutnant Eck
said that if he had come back he would not have expected you
to have objected or been angry with him for shooting up the
crew of the Pileus. You said you knew that Eck was carrying
this order of yours in his locker when he did shoot up the
crew of the Pileus.

A. Yes, but I also know that this order did not have the
slightest effect on his decision, but as Eck has expressly
said, his decision was to shoot up the wreckage, and he had
quite a different aim, namely, to remove the wreckage
because he was afraid for his boat which would have been
smashed to pieces just as the other boats. He stated clearly
that there was no connection whatsoever in his mind between
the order, which he had on board quite accidentally with
reference to the Laconia, and his decision.

Q. Now you know there are two other cases before the
Tribunal, the Noreen Mary and the Antonico, which are on
Pages 47 and 52 of the prosecution's document book, where
witnesses give specific evidence of the U-boat carrying out
attacks on them when they are, in one case, on wreckage,
and, in the other case, in the lifeboat. Will you look at
the Noreen Mary, on Page 47 of the document book? The
statement of the survivor is on Pages 49 and 50. He deals
with this point, he says in the fourth paragraph - Page 85
of the German Document Book -

A. I have the English Document Book.

Q. It is Page 50 of the English one; I have got the English
Document Book:

  "I swam around until I came across the broken bow of our
  lifeboat which was upside down and managed to scramble on
  top of it. Even now the submarine did not submerge, but
  deliberately steamed in my direction, and when only about
  60 to 70 yards away, fired directly at me with a short
  burst from the machine gun. As their intention was quite
  obvious, I fell into the water and remained there until
  the submarine ceased firing, and submerged, after which I
  climbed back on to the bottom of the boat."

The statement by the Brazilian gentleman-which you will find
on Page 52. Have you got it?

A. Yes, I've got it.

Q. Fifteen lines from the foot, he says: "The enemy
ruthlessly machine-gunned the defenceless sailors in No. 2
lifeboat." Assuming - of course, one has to assume - that
Mr. McAlister and Signor De Oliveira Silva are speaking the
truth, are you saying that these U-boat officers were acting
on their own?

A. It is possible that the men themselves might have taken
it into their heads to do this. I want to point out,
however, that in a night fight, let us take the case

                                                  [Page 301]

of the Antonico, where it lasted 20 minutes, it could very
easily have been assumed that these were shots, or that
shots directed against the ship hit a life-boat. At any
rate, if someone makes a report on a night attack lasting 20
minutes, then it is a subjective report and everyone who
knows how these reports vary knows how easily a seaman can
make a mistake. If, during such a night fight, the U-boat
had wanted to destroy these people, then it would not have
left after 20 minutes, particularly as the person stated
that he could not see the submarine in the darkness. These
are certainly all very vague statements.

The case of the Noreen Mary is quite similar. A large number
of statements are made which are certainly not true; for
instance, that the submarine bore a swastika. Not a single
submarine went to sea painted in any way. If someone is on
some wreckage or in a lifeboat and there are shots nearby,
then he very easily feels that he is being shot at. It was
for this very reason that quite a number of cases of the
Anglo-American side have been mentioned by us; not because
we wanted to make an accusation, but because we wanted to
show how very sceptical one has to be regarding these
individual reports.

And the only cases in five and a half years of war, during
several thousand attacks, are the ones brought up here.

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