The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants

Karl Doenitz

(Part 5 of 13)

[Page 822]

The report continues:

"By the middle of October submarines were sinking merchant vessels without any regard to the safety of the crews. Yet four months later the Germans were still officially claim-

[Page 823]

ing that they were acting in accordance with the Prize Ordinance. Their own semi-official commentators however, had made the position clearer. As regards neutrals, Berlin officials had early in February stated that any neutral ship that is either voluntarily or under compulsion bound for an enemy port -- including contraband control harbors -- thereby loses its neutrality and must be considered hostile. At the end of February the cat was let out of the bag by a statement that a neutral ship which obtained a navicert from a British Consul in order to avoid putting into a British contraband control base was liable to be sunk by German submarines, even if it was bound from one neutral port to another. As regards Allied ships, in the middle of November 1939 a Berlin warning was issued against the arming of British vessels. By that date a score of British merchantmen had been illegally attacked by gunfire or torpedo from submarines, and after that date some fifteen more unarmed Allied vessels were torpedoed without warning. It is clear, therefore, that not only was the arming fully justified as a defensive measure, but also that neither before nor after this German threat did the German submarines discriminate between armed and unarmed vessels." (D-641- A)

A similar report covering the next six months (D-641-B) makes these statements:

"On 30 January 1941, Hitler proclaimed that 'every ship, with or without convoy, which appears before our torpedo tubes is going to be torpedoed.' On the face of it, this announcement appears to be uncompromising; and the only qualification provided by the context is that the threats immediately preceding it are specifically addressed to the-peoples of the American Continent. German commentators, however, subsequently tried to water it down by contending that Hitler was referring only to ships which attempted to enter the area within which the German 'total blockade' is alleged to be in force.

"From one point of view it probably matters little what exactly was Hitler's meaning, since the only conclusion that can be reached after a study of the facts of enemy warfare on merchant shipping is that enemy action in this field is never limited by the principles which are proclaimed by enemy spokesmen, but solely by the opportunities or lack of them which exist at any given time."


"The effect of the German total blockade is to prohibit neutral

[Page 824]

ships from entering an enormous stretch of sea round Britain (the area extends to about 500 miles west of Ireland, and from the latitude of Bordeaux to that of the Faroe Islands), upon pain of having their ships sunk without warning and their crews killed. As a matter of fact, at least thirty-two neutral ships, exclusive of those sailing in British convoys, have been sunk by enemy action since the declaration of the 'total blockade'."


"Yet, though information is lacking in very many cases, details are available to prove that, during the period under review, at least thirty-eight Allied merchant ships, exclusive of those in convoys, have been torpedoed without warning in or near the 'total blockade' area.

"That the Germans themselves have no exaggerated regard for the area is proved by the fact that of the thirty- eight ships referred to at least sixteen were torpedoed outside the limits of the war-zone."


"The sinking of the 'City of Benares' on 17 September 1940 is a good example of this. The 'City of Benares was an 11,000-ton liner with 191 passengers on board, including nearly 100 children. She was torpedoed without warning just outside the 'war zone,' with the loss of 258 lives, including 77 children. It was blowing a gale, with hail and rain squalls and a very rough sea when the torpedo struck her at about 10 p.m. In the darkness and owing to the prevailing weather conditions, at least four of the twelve boats lowered were capsized. Others were swamped and many people were washed right out of them. In one boat alone sixteen people, including 11 children, died from exposure; in another 22 died, including 15 children; in a third 21 died. The point to be emphasized is not the unusual brutality of this attack but rather that such results are inevitable when a belligerent disregards the rules of sea warfare as the Germans have done and are doing."

"There are hundreds of similar stories, stories of voyages for days in open boats in Atlantic gales, of men in the water clinging for hours to a raft and gradually dropping off one by one, of crews being machine-gunned as they tried to lower their boats or as they drifted away in them, of seamen being blown to pieces by shells and torpedoes and bombs. The enemy must know that such things are the inevitable result of the type of warfare he has chosen to employ." (D-641-B)

[Page 825]

The total sinkings by U-boats during the war (1939 to 1945) Amounted to 2775 British, Allied, and Neutral ships totalling 14,572,435 gross tons (D-641-C).

Another example of the ruthless nature of the actions conducted by Doenitz's U-boat commanders, particularly as both British and German versions of the sinking are available, is the sinking of "S.S. Sheaf Mead." The British report, which includes the German account in the shape of a complete extract from the U-boat's log, states:

"The British 'S.S. Sheaf Mead' was torpedoed without warning on 27 May 1940 with the loss of 31 of the crew. The commander of the U-boat responsible is reported to have behaved in an exceptionally callous manner towards the men clinging to upturned boats and pieces of wood. It was thought that this man was Kapitaenleutnant Oehrn of U-37. The following extract from his diary for 27 May 1940 leaves no doubt on the matter and speaks for itself as to his behaviour." (D-644)

The relevant extract from the log, at 1554 hours, reads:

"Surface. Stern [referring to the ship which has been torpedoed] is underwater. Bows rise higher. The boats are now on the water. Lucky for them. A picture of complete order. They lie at some distance. The bows rear up quite high. Two men appear from somewhere in the forward part of the ship. They leap and rush with great bounds along the deck down to the stern. The stern disappears. A boat capsizes. Then a boiler explosion. Two men fly through the air, limbs outstretched. Bursting and crashing. Then all is over. A large heap of wreckage floats up. We approach it to identify the name. The crew have saved themselves on wreckage. We fish out a buoy. No name on it. I ask a man on the raft. He says, hardly turning his head -- 'Nix Name.' A young boy in the water calls 'Help, help, please.' The others are very composed. They look damp and somewhat tired. An expression of cold hatred is on their faces. On to the old course. After washing the paint off the buoy, the name comes to light: Greatafield, Glasgow. 5006 gross registered tons." (D- 644)

"On to the old course" means merely that the U-boat makes off.

The original plaintext version of this file is available via ftp.

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