The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. I am not asking you about that. I like you to answer the
right question. I am not asking you about the question of
Versailles any longer. I am asking you about Admiral
Assmann's assertion, that you did not adhere to the
restrictions of the German-British Treaty in 1935, and what
you did in Finland in the '20s has nothing to do with that.
Now, that is all. You can give your explanation.

                                                  [Page 190]

A. That is entirely wrong. We particularly restricted
ourselves with regard to the construction of U-boats; and in
1938 we had still not built the forty-five per cent which we
were entitled to build, so we made an application for
permission to build up to one hundred per cent; and this was
agreed on, and came into effect, as appears from the text of
the English treaty, after a friendly discussion with the
British Admiralty at the end of 1938. At the beginning of
the war we still did not have one hundred per cent. We were
always behind with the construction of submarines.

Admiral Assmann, who probably had no up-to-date knowledge of
these matters, is quite wrong.

Q. Just look at the next sentences. This is dealing -

A. What page are you speaking of?

Q. Page 156. I will read it very slowly again:-

  "Considering the size of the U-boats for which orders had
  already been given, about fifty-five U-boats could have
  been provided for up to 1938. In reality 118 were
  completed or ordered."

Are you saying that Admiral Assmann is wrong when he states

A. I am very sorry; I still have not got the passage from
which you are reading, that is quite ... which line ...?

(Court attendant indicates passage to witness.)

A.... this is ... yes, Page 156.

Q. Have you got the sentence, defendant?

A. Yes, I have found it now.

Q. Well now, you see what Admiral Assmann says, that
"Considering the size of the U-boats for which orders had
already been given, about fifty-five U-boats could have been
provided for up to 1938." That is before there was any
mention of going from forty-five to one hundred.

  "In reality 118 were completed or ordered."

Are you saying that Admiral Assmann is wrong in giving these

A. Certainly. In 1939 we entered the war with, I think,
forty submarines. This is either a misprint or a quite
incredible figure. As you know, we started the war with, I
think, twenty-six U-boats capable of sailing the Atlantic,
and in addition a number of smaller boats. I cannot tell you
for certain now what was the number under construction at
the beginning of the war but it was nowhere near the figure
mentioned. Indeed that was the very accusation made against
me - that I did not have sufficient U-boats ready in good
time. I dispute the whole of that sentence.

Q. You agree then, defendant, that Admiral Assmann's figures
are quite incompatible with what you have told the Tribunal
about the number of U-boats with which you started the war?

A. Yes.

DR. SIEMERS: I should be grateful to Sir David if he would
read the entire sentence; that is, if he would also read
Note 6, which appears after the number 118 and after the
word "ordered." Note 6, which, as I have just observed, is
not included in the English translation is worded as

   "Chief of the Naval Budget Department, B, No. E, 311/42,
   most secret, of 18th November, 1942."

The figure, Mr. President, refers to a much later period,
not 1938 at all.

I should be extremely grateful if, after the experience we
have just had, I could in future have not only the German
document but also the English translation from Sir David. I
should be very grateful to Sir David if he could have this

THE PRESIDENT: Could you not have the passage you want
translated from the German into English by the time you want
to re-examine? As I understand it, you are referring, to
some note which is an addition to what has been translated
into English. Will you read it again, would you read the
passage again?

                                                  [Page 191]

DR. SIEMERS: Sir David has been reading the following:-

  "In reality 118 were completed or ordered."

That is as far as Sir David has read. After the word
"ordered" there is a figure (6). This refers to Note 6. Note
6 is worded as follows:-

  "Chief of the Naval Budget Department, B, No. E, 311/42,
  most secret, of 19th November, 1942. (Page 19.)"

In other words, this shows that the number 118 must have
been mentioned on Page 19 of this document of the Budget
Department in 1942. The figure therefore does not refer to
the year 1938, but to a later date.

THE WITNESS: I can add another explanation to that which is
quite possible.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, I will look into that, but
the text says - and there is no difference in the German
text - exactly what I read - that "about fifty-five could
have been provided up to 1938, and that in reality 118 were
completed or ordered." That is Admiral Assmann's text.

DR. SIEMERS: But not 1938.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Really, my Lord, I think that my
friend, Dr. Siemers, will have ample opportunity ... If
there is any point, I shall consider it, but there is the
text, and the text includes that. What the footnote says,
Dr. Siemers, can be put in re-examination.

THE TRIBUNAL (Mr. Biddle): Sir David, will you look at the
note and see if the date 1942 refers to the report, rather
than to construction?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Really, my translation of this note
is "Chief of the Naval Budget Department." Then it gives the
reference to his note, dated 19th November, 1942. It seems
entirely to bear out the suggestion of the learned American
judge that this is the reference to the report,  nothing
more. It is only a matter of suggestion to say that 1942
refers to the date of construction, and I think it really
would be convenient if, unless Dr. Siemers has got something
to say on the text that I am putting, he reserved these
argumentative points to

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Siemers, you can raise it all in re-
examination. You can have a translation of this note laid
before us by that time.

DR. SIEMERS: Mr. President, I am perfectly agreeable. I have
merely requested that one copy of the English translation of
the newly submitted documents should be given to me.

Mr. President, you will admit that my work is considerably
increased if I have to ascertain during the cross-
examination what passages are missing from the translation
and translate them myself, when the British Delegation have
an English translation at hand. I think it might be easier
if Sir David would be good enough to let me have an English
translation for my own use.

THE PRESIDENT: Sir David, you will be able to let him have
an English translation of any new document?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Certainly. The Tribunal has ordered
that. That is prepared. Surely you got the English
translation? Certainly, my  Lord. As I put each document, a
translation will be given to Dr. Siemers.

THE PRESIDENT: There may have been some mistake.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: You will certainly get it.


Q. Now, we will pass to another gentleman on your staff. You
told us a good deal about the naval budgets. Do you remember
a Flottenintendant in your department, Secretary
Flottenintendant Thiele, of the OKM Department E, the Budget
Department of the German Admiralty? Do you remember?

A. Yes. But may I just say one more thing about the question
of that figure 118? I have just remembered something in
connection with this note

                                                  [Page 192]

No. 6, Chief of the Naval Budget Department. It is perfectly
possible that in this case Admiral Assmann has taken two
things together. All U-boats and ships were, of course,
included in the Budget and in this way sanctioned. This
Budget was drafted at the end of the year and published
before the year to which it applied. As this large figure
suddenly appears, it is perfectly possible that here the
figure 118 originates on the basis of the agreement with
England made on 30th or 31st December. It is perfectly
natural that we should include in the Budget all the other U-
boats which we were allowed to build to complete the one
hundred per cent. This does not necessarily mean that we
started to build the U-boats in 1938. Incidentally I think
we might have perhaps begun, because you can only build a
certain number of U-boats in any one year. I think that this
explanation, which occurred to me when I saw the words
"Budget Department," is a perfectly correct one.

Q. The Tribunal has the wording; that is, "up to 1938 ", and
I am not going to argue the point with you. The words, speak
for themselves.

I would like you to look at Document D-855, which becomes
Exhibit GB 461, and is an extract from a lecture by the
gentleman I have just mentioned, Herr Thiele, which was
given at the German Naval Training Centre for Administrative
Officers in Prague on 12th July, 1944. The extract I want to
put to you is on Page 22, and it is headed, "Ship
Construction Plan". Have you got that - Page 22, and the
heading is, "Ship Construction Plan"? You see the paragraph

  "The era of the very large development of the Navy had
  therefore come at the moment of the seizure of power.
  Already in the second year after this, in March 1935, the
  construction of battle cruisers with a displacement of
  27,000 tons was proceeded with. Such a vessel was ordered
  to be constructed. Thus one of the clauses of the Treaty
  of Versailles which were the most important for us was at
  once violated in the naval sphere in a manner which in a
  short time could no longer be camouflaged."

Is not Flottenintendant Thiele right when he says that in
his lecture?

A. Of. course it was a violation, but I have explained here
at length that there was no question of building new battle
cruisers but of utilising the two armoured ships which had
been granted us; and I said that in 1934 Hitler had only
given me permission to enlarge somewhat the plans for these
ships, so that the armour might be heavier. I see from this
that it was not until March 1935, when it was certain that
the treaty would be concluded and also that England would
allow us to build such ships through this treaty in a few
months' time, that the Fuehrer sanctioned the plans
projected for the 26,500-ton ships which were to be the
first of the battleships in the new programme, and they were
then begun, and the 3.28-cm. turrets - the offensive weapons
which he had not yet approved in 1934 - were included.

Q. This gentleman seems to agree with you more than the
other. Just look at what he says about U-boats two sentences
further on. He says:-

  "The U-boats were completed in separate parts, as their
  construction was under no circumstances to be apparent to
  the outside world. These parts were stored in sheds for
  the time being and only needed to be assembled after the
  declaration of freedom to re-arm."

Is not Flottenintendant Thiele right on that point?

A. Yes, he is right. We have admitted that.

Q. Let us look at his next point.

A. Perhaps I can complete my explanation? We -

Q. Do try to keep it as short as you can. I do not want to
cut you out, but keep it as short as you can.

A. Of course, but I must complete my defence.

We had U-boat parts manufactured abroad and only at the
beginning of 1935 did we bring them in and assemble them,
when the treaty was concluded.

                                                  [Page 193]

Q. I see. You say you were anticipating the treaty; well
now, just took at what he says after that:-

  "The third of these clauses of the Treaty of Versailles
  that were most disadvantageous for us, the limitation of
  personnel to 15,000 men, was immediately ignored after
  the seizure of power. The total personnel of the Navy was
  already 25,000 in 1934, and in 1935, the year of the
  London Naval Agreement, 34,000 men."

Is not Flottenintendant Thiele right on that? Is that right?

A. Yes, that is admitted. It was clear that we had to train
personnel in good time so that crews might be found for our
increased naval force.

Q. Well, now I just want you to look for a moment at the
document which is on Page 3 of Document Book 10, which you
did refer to in your examination-in-chief. That is Document
C-23, about the displacement of the Scharnhorst and the
Gneisenau and the Tirpitz and the Bismarck and the other
ships. Now, you are familiar with that document; we have
discussed it.

A. Yes.

Q. Well now, that is dated the 18th February, 1938. Germany
did not denounce the Anglo-German Naval Treaty until after
the British guarantee to Poland in April 1939, which is
fourteen months later. Why did you not simply send a
notification to Great Britain that the displacements had
come out twenty per cent bigger because of certain defensive
details in construction? Why did you not do it?

A. I cannot tell you that today. We explained recently how
the displacements gradually increased through quite
insignificant changes.

Q. Yes. Really, defendant, I have got that well in mind. We
have got the reason why the displacements came out bigger,
and I do not think you are prejudicing yourself if you do
not repeat it, but just look at the bottom of that page,
because I think you will find the reason which you cannot
remember there will you not?

  "In the opinion of AMT IV, it would be quite wrong to
  report a larger tonnage than that which will probably be
  published shortly, for instance, by England, Russia or
  Japan, so as not to bring upon ourselves the odium of an
  armament race."

Is not that the reason?

A. Yes, that was intended for a future date. We wished in no
circumstance to create the impression that we were
increasing the offensive power of our ships.

Q. Defendant, I am going to pass to another subject, and I
want to put quite shortly and bluntly, as you will
appreciate, the point the prosecution puts to you, that for
twenty years, from 1918 to 1938, you and the German Navy had
been involved in a course of complete, cold and deliberate
deception of your treaty obligations. That is what I am
putting to you. Do you understand? After these documents, do
you deny that that is so?

A: Of course. It was not a cold-blooded affair. All our
evasions of the Versailles Treaty were due to our desire to
be able to defend our country more efficiently than we had
been allowed to. I have proved here that in the Versailles
regulations the only points restricted were those
unfavourable to the defence of our country and favouring
aggression from without. As regards the ships, I may add
that we could never complete any very great number of ships,
and consequently we were interested in increasing as far as
possible the power of resistance, that is, their sea-going
security, etc. At no time did we increase the offensive
power above the strength which was permitted.

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