The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/02/28

Q. Are these statements in accord with the actual
circumstances and were they approved by the Naval War Staff,
or just what was the situation?

A. Here we are concerned with the rather romantic ideas of a
young expert, ideas which were in no way commensurate with
the situation. The situation was rather as follows:-

At this time, that is, in September, 1939, the second wave
of the British Expeditionary Force left England for France.
The transports ran mostly during the night and were blacked
out. At this same time an order according to which

                                                  [Page 347]

French ships were neither to be stopped nor attacked was
still in force for political reasons.

It is quite obvious that at night a blacked-out French ship
cannot be distinguished from a blacked-out English ship,
just as at night a merchant ship cannot, or can only with
difficulty be distinguished from a warship.

These orders, therefore, meant that at night, in order to
avoid a mistake, practically no shooting could be done, and
therefore the English troop transport was entirely
unhampered.

This brought about really grotesque situations. It was
ascertained that a German U-boat, in a favourable position
for attack, let a fully-loaded English troop transport ship
of 20,000 tons pass by, since there was the possibility of
making a mistake.

The Naval War Staff (SKL) agreed completely with the
commanders of the U-boats, that no naval war could be
carried on in this manner. If a blacked-out ship sails in a
belligerent area, still more in an area where there is a
strong supply and troop transport traffic, it easily comes
under suspicion and it cannot be expected that the war would
be halted at night for its sake.

Therefore it was not a question of our explaining or
excusing ourselves for sinking a ship without warning,
because we had mistaken it, but the undoubted fact was that
the blacked-out ship alone was to blame if it was not
properly recognized and sunk without warning.

Q. In these notes we find that the commanders of U-boats,
when sinking a merchant ship without warning, were required
to make the notation in their log that they had taken it for
a battleship and that an order, a verbal order to this
effect, was to be given to these commanders. Is this
correct, and was it done in actual practice?

A. No, we never did anything like that.

Q. Was the flag officer of the U-boats given strict and
clear orders that at night in the Channel blacked-out ships
might be attacked without warning?

A. Yes. This clear order was issued, but nothing more.

Q. If the statements of this young officer are not correct,
and if no orders were issued accordingly, how is it that
these things may be found in the war diary of the Naval War
Staff (SKL)?

A. This paper is not a direct part of the war diary of the
Naval War Staff. The war diary itself in which the daily
happenings were recorded was signed by me, by the Commander-
in-Chief of the SKL, and by the Commander-in-Chief of the
Navy. Here we are concerned with the entry of an expert
which was destined for a file collection and motivated by
the war diary.

Q. That means, then, that the considerations and opinions of
experts were collected and filed without regard as to
whether they were approved of or put into actual practice?

A. Yes. All of these files were collected for later
purposes.

Q. Did the Naval War Staff receive news of the incidents
which happened after the sinking of the Laconia, and did it
approve of the measures taken by the Commander-in-Chief of
the U-boats?

A. The SKL, then as always, listened in on all the wireless
messages of the Commander-in-Chief in the Laconia case. It
approved of the measures taken by him, but it would not have
been at all surprised if the Commander-in-Chief of the U-
boats had stopped the entire rescue work at the very first
air attack upon the U-boat.

Q. Did the SKL know of the order of the Commander-in-Chief
of the U-boats, dated 17th September, in which rescue work
by U- boats was expressly prohibited?

A. This order given by the Commander-in-Chief of the U-boats
was also heard by wireless.

Q. Was this order interpreted by the SKI, to the effect that
it was to be an order for the shooting of shipwrecked
people?

A. No; no one ever had this idea.

                                                  [Page 348]

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Mr. President, at this point I should like
to put several questions to the witness which have a bearing
on the credibility of the statements made by the witness
Heisig. But I should like to ask in advance whether there
are any objections to my putting these questions, since my
documents referring to the witness Heisig were not ruled
admissible.

THE PRESIDENT: Was the object of the questions which you
were offering to put to this witness, to show that the
witness Heisig was not a witness who could be believed upon
his oath? Was that your object?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: The general object is to show how the
testimony of this witness originated; that is, the testimony
which was submitted to the Tribunal.

THE PRESIDENT: What do you mean by "originated"?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: That is to say, on what influence was the
testimony of Heisig based.

THE PRESIDENT: What is the exact question you wanted to ask?
You may state it, and we will let the witness wait until we
have heard what the question is.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: I should like to ask the witness, "Did the
witness Heisig report to you about the manner in which his
affidavit, which was submitted to the High Tribunal as
evidence by the prosecution, originated?"

THE PRESIDENT: The question that you put, as I took it down,
was: What did the witness Heisig report to you about the way
his affidavit came about? Is that the question?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Yes, your Honour.

THE PRESIDENT: What are you purporting to prove by getting
the reports that Heisig may have made to this witness?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: I should like to prove thereby, Mr.
President, that Heisig was under a certain influence, that
is, that he wrongly assumed that he could help a comrade by
his testimony.

THE PRESIDENT: Who applied for Heisig's affidavit?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: I do not understand, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Heisig has given an affidavit, has he not?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: That was for the prosecution, was it?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: That is right.

THE PRESIDENT: And have you asked to cross-examine him?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: I interrogated him about this affidavit,
Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: You did?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Yes, I did question him; and I called his
attention to the contradictions between his affidavit and
his testimony here in Court.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, I have not read the
transcript on this point for about ten days. But I did read
it then, and my recollection is that it was never suggested
to the Witness Heisig that he gave his affidavit under
pressure, which I gather is the suggestion now. Your
Lordship will remember that although we had the affidavit,
we called the witness Heisig. He said that what was in his
affidavit was true; and then he gave his evidence, giving a
detailed account of all the relevant matters. So we made it
perfectly possible for Dr. Kranzbuhler to cross-examine him
at the time and to show any differences,

                                                  [Page 349]

as Dr. Kranzbuhler just said he purported to do, between the
affidavit and his oral evidence.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kranzbuhler has just said, I think, that
he did actually cross-examine him.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: He did cross-examine him on that
point, on any differences that appeared between his
affidavit and his oral testimony. But he was here to be
cross-examined, and if it is going to be suggested that the
affidavit was obtained by improper means, that suggestion
ought to have been made at the time, and then it could have
been dealt with.

My Lord, I object to bringing it in at this stage, after the
witness Heisig has been away, and therefore no opportunity
has been given to us either to investigate the matter or to
have the evidence here, which could have been done when
Heisig gave his evidence; and we could have been prepared
for any contradictory evidence now.

My Lord, as a matter of correctness, surely, if I may put it
that way, there are two distinct lines. If it was a question
of whether Heisig's evidence was admissible or whether it
had been obtained under pressure, then it would be quite
possible to have this trial within a trial as to whether it
was admissible or not.

But if this evidence is, broadly, merely directed to the
credibility of Heisig's evidence, then I respectfully submit
it falls within the same objections I made on Saturday to,
general evidence directed against the credibility of a
witness.

THE PRESIDENT: I do not think it is suggested that there was
any pressure put by the prosecution upon Heisig. I do not
understand, that is what you are suggesting, Dr.
Kranzbuhler, is it?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: No, no pressure; but the picture as drawn
was not true.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: I understood Dr. Kranzbuhler - if I
misunderstood him, it simplifies the matter - I understood
him to say that he wanted to give this evidence as to
certain influence. I thought that was the word used.

THE PRESIDENT: I think he meant, not influence exerted by
the prosecution but exerted by a mistaken notion in the
witness's own mind that he was helping a friend.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: I see. My Lord, then that merely
goes to credibility and it does then fall within my general
objection; that is, if we are going to have evidence as
directed on credibility, we go on ad infinitum.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kranzbuhler, the Tribunal will allow this
question to be put in this particular instance, but they
make no general rule as to the admissibility of such
questions.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Thank you very much, Mr. President.

BY DR. KRANZBUHLER:

Q. Admiral Wagner, in December you were in the prison here
together with the witness Heisig. Is that correct?

A. Yes, from the 1st until the 5th of December.

Q. And what did Heisig tell you about the underlying
considerations of his affidavit?

A. He told me the following, personally:-

At the interrogation he had been told that Lieutenant
General (Oberleutnant) Hoffmann, Captain of the Guard (sr.
Grade) Eck had testified that at that time he had listened
to the speech by Grand Admiral Donitz at Gotenhafen, in the
autumn of 1942, and that he had considered this as a demand
for the killing of survivors of shipwrecks. Heisig had been
told: "If you confirm this testimony of Hoffmann, then you
will save not only Eck and Hoffmann, but also two others who
would have been sentenced to death.

                                                  [Page 350]

You will prevent any kind of judicial proceeding against
Captain Mohle from being instituted. Of course, you will
thus incriminate Grand Admiral Donitz but the material
against Grand Admiral Donitz is of such tremendous weight
that his life has been made forfeit anyway."

Further he told me, and without prompting, that at that
time, at the occasion of the speech by the Grand Admiral, he
had been in a distressed state of mind. He had just returned
from Lubeck, where he had experienced and seen the frightful
consequences of an air attack, that is, perhaps he had not
experienced it, but at least he had seen the consequences.
His mind was entirely set upon revenge for these brutal
measures, and he considered it possible that this emotional
state might have influenced his interpretation of Grand
Admiral Donitz's speech.

Q. Now we shall turn to a different point.

THE PRESIDENT: Sir David.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Yes, my Lord.

THE PRESIDENT: If the prosecution desire to do so, they can,
of course, recall Heisig for the purpose of investigating
this further.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: If your Lordship pleases, Heisig is
no longer here; that is the difficulty when this is done in
this order. However, we can consider the matter, my Lord,
and we are grateful to the Tribunal for the permission.

THE PRESIDENT: Is Heisig not in custody? Is that what you
mean?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Yes, my Lord, he is no longer in
custody.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: He is studying medicine at Munich; he can
be very easily reached.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Thank you.

BY DR. KRANZBUHLER:

Q. From when on were you Admiral for special missions
attached to the Commander-in- Chief of the Navy and what
were your tasks in that capacity?

A. From the end of June, 1944, onward, and the purpose of my
assignment was the following:-

After the success of the Anglo-Saxon invasion in Northern
France, Grand Admiral Donitz counted on an aggravation of
the military situation. He believed that one day he might be
forced to separate himself from the Naval War Staff, either
to remain permanently at the Fuehrer's headquarters or, at
least, for a longer period of time in order to keep abreast
of the development of the entire war situation, or because a
transfer of the Naval War Staff might be necessary because
of the increasingly heavy air attacks on Berlin. For this
purpose the Grand Admiral wanted an older and experienced
naval officer in his immediate vicinity, an officer who was
well versed in the problems of sea warfare and who was
acquainted with the duties and tasks of the Naval War Staff.

My mission was, therefore, a sort of liaison between the
Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, of the SKL, and the other
offices of the supreme command, for the duration of the
separation of the Grand Admiral from the Supreme Command.

Q. Did you accompany the Grand Admiral regularly on his
visits to the Fuehrer's headquarters?

A. Yes; from the period of time mentioned, I was present
regularly.

Q. Now I shall submit to you a list of these visits, which
has been submitted by the prosecution as Exhibit GB 207.
This may be found in the document book of the prosecution on
Page 56.

Please look at this list and tell me whether the dates
recorded there are essentially correct.

A. The dates are essentially correct. At the end, the list
is not complete, for the period from 3rd, no, from 10th
April until 21st April, 1945, is missing. On that day the
Grand Admiral participated for the last time at the briefing
sessions

                                                  [Page 351]

in the Fuehrer's headquarters. Beyond that, it seems to me
that the list of the people present is incomplete. I also do
not know according to what point of view or with what idea
in mind this list was compiled.


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