The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants

Karl Doenitz

(Part 7 of 13)


[Page 828]

(2) The Orders Concerning Treatment of Survivors. A series of orders led up to the issue of an order which enjoined U- Boat commanders not merely to abstain from rescuing crews and give them no assistance, but deliberately to annihilate them.

Among these preliminary standing orders of the U-Boat Command is Order Number 154, signed by Doenitz:

"Paragraph (e). Do not pick up survivors and take them with you. Do not worry about the merchant-ship's boats.

[Page 829]

Weather conditions and distance from land play no part. Have a care only for your own ship and strive only to attain your next success as soon as possible. We must be harsh in this war. The enemy began the war in order to destroy us, so nothing else matters." (D-642)

In 1942, when the United States entered the war with its enormous ship-building capacity, the change thus brought about necessitated a further adjustment in the methods adopted by the U-Boats. Doenitz accordingly issued an order, which intended not merely the sinking of merchant ships, not merely the abstention from rescue of the crews, but their deliberate extermination.

The course of events is shown by the record of a conversation between Hitler and the Japanese Ambassador, Oshima, (D-423) in the presence of Ribbentrop, on 3 January 1942:

"The Fuehrer, using a map, explains to the Japanese Ambassador the present position of marine warfare in the Atlantic, emphasizing that he considers his most important task is to get the U-Boat warfare going in full swing. The U-Boats are being reorganized. Firstly, he had recalled all U-Boats operating in the Atlantic. As mentioned before, they would now be posted outside United States ports. Later, they would be off Freetown and the larger boats even as far down as Capetown."

*******

"After having given further explanations on the map, the Fuehrer pointed out that, however many ships the United States built, one of their main problems would be the lack of personnel. For that reason, even merchant ships would be sunk without warning with the intention of killing as many of the crew as possible. Once it gets around that most of the seamen are lost in the sinkings, the Americans would soon have difficulties in enlisting new people. The training of sea-going personnel takes a very long time. We are fighting for our existence and our attitude cannot be ruled by any humane feelings. For this reason he must give the order that in case foreign seamen could not be taken prisoner, which is not always possible on the sea, U-boats were to surface after torpedoing and shoot up the lifeboats.

"Ambassador Oshima heartily agreed with the Fuehrer's comments, and said that the Japanese too are forced to follow these methods."

An extract from the B.D.U. War Diary of 16 September 1942 is part of the story in the sense that it was on the following

[Page 830]

day that the annihilation order was issued. It records an attack on a U-boat, which was rescuing survivors, chiefly the Italian survivors of the Allied liner "Laconia," when it was attacked by an Allied aircraft (D-446).

A Top Secret order, sent to all commanding officers of U- boats from Doenitz's headquarters, dated 17 September 1942, provided:

"1. No attempt of any kind must be made at rescuing members of ships sunk, and this includes picking up persons in the water and putting them in lifeboats, righting capsized lifeboats, and handing over food and water. Rescue runs counter to the rudimentary demands of warfare for the destruction of enemy ships and crews.

"2. Orders for bringing in Captains and Chief Engineers still apply.

"3. Rescue the shipwrecked only if their statements will be of importance for your boat.

"4. Be harsh, having in mind that the enemy takes no regard of women and children in his bombing attacks on German cities." (D-630)

The intentions of this carefully worded order are made clear by an extract from Doenitz's War Diary which is personally signed by Doenitz. The War Diary entry for 17 September 1942 reads:

"The attention of all commanding officers is again drawn to the fact that all efforts to rescue members of the crews of ships which have been sunk contradict the most primitive demands for the conduct of warfare by annihilating enemy ships and their crews. Orders concerning the bringing in of the Captains and Chief Engineers still stand." (D-630). [Page 828]

(2) The Orders Concerning Treatment of Survivors. A series of orders led up to the issue of an order which enjoined U- Boat commanders not merely to abstain from rescuing crews and give them no assistance, but deliberately to annihilate them.

Among these preliminary standing orders of the U-Boat Command is Order Number 154, signed by Doenitz:

"Paragraph (e). Do not pick up survivors and take them with you. Do not worry about the merchant-ship's boats.

[Page 829]

Weather conditions and distance from land play no part. Have a care only for your own ship and strive only to attain your next success as soon as possible. We must be harsh in this war. The enemy began the war in order to destroy us, so nothing else matters." (D-642)

In 1942, when the United States entered the war with its enormous ship-building capacity, the change thus brought about necessitated a further adjustment in the methods adopted by the U-Boats. Doenitz accordingly issued an order, which intended not merely the sinking of merchant ships, not merely the abstention from rescue of the crews, but their deliberate extermination.

The course of events is shown by the record of a conversation between Hitler and the Japanese Ambassador, Oshima, (D-423) in the presence of Ribbentrop, on 3 January 1942:

"The Fuehrer, using a map, explains to the Japanese Ambassador the present position of marine warfare in the Atlantic, emphasizing that he considers his most important task is to get the U-Boat warfare going in full swing. The U-Boats are being reorganized. Firstly, he had recalled all U-Boats operating in the Atlantic. As mentioned before, they would now be posted outside United States ports. Later, they would be off Freetown and the larger boats even as far down as Capetown."

*******

"After having given further explanations on the map, the Fuehrer pointed out that, however many ships the United States built, one of their main problems would be the lack of personnel. For that reason, even merchant ships would be sunk without warning with the intention of killing as many of the crew as possible. Once it gets around that most of the seamen are lost in the sinkings, the Americans would soon have difficulties in enlisting new people. The training of sea-going personnel takes a very long time. We are fighting for our existence and our attitude cannot be ruled by any humane feelings. For this reason he must give the order that in case foreign seamen could not be taken prisoner, which is not always possible on the sea, U-boats were to surface after torpedoing and shoot up the lifeboats.

"Ambassador Oshima heartily agreed with the Fuehrer's comments, and said that the Japanese too are forced to follow these methods."

An extract from the B.D.U. War Diary of 16 September 1942 is part of the story in the sense that it was on the following

[Page 830]

day that the annihilation order was issued. It records an attack on a U-boat, which was rescuing survivors, chiefly the Italian survivors of the Allied liner "Laconia," when it was attacked by an Allied aircraft (D-446).

A Top Secret order, sent to all commanding officers of U- boats from Doenitz's headquarters, dated 17 September 1942, provided:

"1. No attempt of any kind must be made at rescuing members of ships sunk, and this includes picking up persons in the water and putting them in lifeboats, righting capsized lifeboats, and handing over food and water. Rescue runs counter to the rudimentary demands of warfare for the destruction of enemy ships and crews.

"2. Orders for bringing in Captains and Chief Engineers still apply.

"3. Rescue the shipwrecked only if their statements will be of importance for your boat.

"4. Be harsh, having in mind that the enemy takes no regard of women and children in his bombing attacks on German cities." (D-630)

The intentions of this carefully worded order are made clear by an extract from Doenitz's War Diary which is personally signed by Doenitz. The War Diary entry for 17 September 1942 reads:

"The attention of all commanding officers is again drawn to the fact that all efforts to rescue members of the crews of ships which have been sunk contradict the most primitive demands for the conduct of warfare by annihilating enemy ships and their crews. Orders concerning the bringing in of the Captains and Chief Engineers still stand." (D-630).


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