The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants

Karl Doenitz

(Part 9 of 13)

[Page 833]

Further light on the real meaning of the Top Secret radio message sent by the Commander in Chief, U-boats, to all U- boat and operational flotillas in September 1942 (D-630) is contained in the statement of Korvettenkapitaen Karl Heinz Moehle (382-PS). (Moehle was called as a Prosecution witness in the case against Doenitz and testified on direct examination to the same effect, in substance, as the statements in his affidavit.) Concerning this order which was couched in terms of a prohibition against the rescue of survivors, Moehle states as

"This W/T message was without any doubt sent out at the instigation of the Commander in Chief U-boats himself, i.e. Grand Admiral Doenitz. In view of my knowledge of the way in which the Staff of the Chief Command U-boats worked, I consider it quite impossible that an order of such importance could have been given without his knowledge."


"So far as concerns the order itself, it undoubtedly states, and in particular for those who know the manner in which Commander in Chief U-Boats is wont to give his orders, that the High Command regard it as desirable that not only ships but also their crews should be regarded as objects of attack, i.e. that they should be destroyed; at that time German propaganda was continually stressing the shortage of crews for enemy merchant ships and the consequent difficulties. I too understood this order in that way.

"Had the point of view of the High Command been otherwise the order would undoubtedly have been expressed in different words. It would then only have stated that for reasons of security rescue measures were to cease and this order would have passed as a normal secret W/T message. It was

[Page 834]

perhaps even the intention that this order could be interpreted in two ways and the reason may be that in the first place, it contravenes international laws of warfare and secondly, that it was an order which must give rise to serious conflicts of conscience in commanding officers."

"To conclude, I can only stress that the order of September 1942 appeared to me personally to go too far and I am in total disagreement with it at heart. As a serving officer I had however to carry out the command to pass on this order to commanding officers for their instruction.

"During the long time that I was senior officer of the Flotilla no single commanding officer mentioned to me that he could not reconcile obedience to this order with his conscience and that he was therefore unable to carry it out." (382-PS)

Moehle graphically describes Doenitz's incitement of his men to the murder of survivors:

"A type VII boat (600-tonner) reported in her war log that when outward bound from a base in France she met far out in the Bay of Biscay a raft with five enemy airmen, but was not able to take them on board owing to shortage of room (she had a complement of 54 and carried full provisions for 14 weeks). The boat therefore proceeded without taking any notice of the survivors.

"This action of the U-boat was vehemently denounced by the Commander in Chief U-boats' staff. It was stated that she would have acted more correctly in destroying this raft since it was highly probably that the enemy air crew would be rescued by the enemy and in the meantime might once more have destroyed a German U- boat.

"This occurrence made the views of the Commander in Chief U-boats clear to me." (382-PS)

As senior officer of the Fifth U-boat Flotilla, it was Moehle's duty to transmit orders from the Commander in Chief, U-boats, to commanding officers of U-boats. In this connection, Doenitz' ambiguous order against the rescue of survivors caused difficulties.

"I was wont to pass on this controversial and serious order with more or less the following words: -- `I have now to inform you of a High Command order concerning conduct towards survivors. It is a very ticklish matter. Commander in Chief U-boats in September 1942 gave the following order in an 'officers only' signal (*** the exact words of the order were then read out).'

[Page 835]

"Since I am myself in my innermost conscience in disagreement with this order, I was very glad that in most cases commanding officers raised no queries and I was therefore relieved of any further discussion on this point.

"Sometimes however queries were raised and I was wont to answer somewhat as follows:

" 'I will explain the viewpoint of the High Command, which gave this order, by reference to the following event:' I then mentioned the example of the Type VII boat in the Bay of Biscay together with the explanation and viewpoint expressed to me by commander in Chief U- boats' staff. I then went on to say, 'Gentlemen, you must yourselves decide what is compatible with your own consciences. The safety of your own boat must always remain your prime consideration.' "


"I also remember that many commanding officers after the order of September 1942 had been read said, 'That is quite clear and unequivocal however hard it may be.' Had this order been given to me as a commanding officer I would have taken note of it in silence but in practice would always have been able with a clear conscience not to carry it out since I consider I would endanger my own boat by acting in this way, (i.e., by shooting at lift-boats)." (382-PS)

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