The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants

Karl Doenitz

(Part 13 of 13)

[Page 841]

(4) Reasons for Not Renouncing the Geneva Convention. The minutes of conferences on 19 February 1945 and 20 February 1945 between Doenitz and Hitler read as follows:

"The Fuehrer is considering whether or not Germany should renounce the Geneva Convention *** [the 1929 Prisoners of War Convention].


"The Fuehrer orders the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy to consider the pros and cons of their step and to state his s opinion as soon as possible." (C-158)

Doenitz then stated his opinion in the presence of Jodl and a representative of Ribbentrop:

" On the contrary, the disadvantages [of renouncing the convention] outweigh the advantages. It would be better to carry out the measures considered necessary without warning, and at all costs to save face with the outer world." (C-158)

An extract from the minutes of another meeting between Doenitz and Hitler, on 1 July 1944, -- the extract is signed by Doenitz -- states:

[Page 842]

" *** Regarding the General Strike in Copenhagen, the Fuehrer says that the only weapon to deal with terror is terror. Court martial proceedings create martyrs. History shows that the names of such men are on everybody's lips, whereas there is silence with regard to the many thousands who have lost their lives in similar circumstances without court martial proceedings." (C-171)

(5) Use of Concentration Camp Labor in Shipyards. In a memorandum signed by Doenitz sometime late in 1944, which was distributed to Hitler, Keitel, Jodl, Speer, and the Supreme Command of the Air Force, Doenitz reviews German shipping losses, and concludes:

"Furthermore, I propose reinforcing the shipyard working parties by prisoners from the concentration camps and as a special measure for relieving the present shortage of coppersmiths, especially in U-boat construction, I propose to divert coppersmiths from the construction of locomotives to shipbuilding." (C-195)

In dealing with sabotage, Doenitz has this to say:

"Since, elsewhere, measures for exacting atonement taken against whole working parties amongst whom sabotage occurred, have proved successful, and,-for example, the shipyard sabotage in France was completely suppressed, possibly similar measures for the Scandinavian countries will come under consideration." (C-195)

Item 2 of the summing-up reads:

"12,000 concentration camp prisoners will be employed in the shipyards as additional labor (security service [SD] agrees to this) " (C-195) .

It was not for nothing that at these meetings Himmler and his Lieutenants, Fegelein and Kaltenbrunner, were present.

They were not there to discuss U-boats or the use of battleships. It is clear from this document that Doenitz knew all about concentration camps and concentration camp labor, and as one of the rulers of Germany he must bear his full share of that responsibility.

(6) Doenitz's Incitement of Ruthless Conduct By His Men. The orders issued by Doenitz in April 1945 (D-650) show his fanatical adherence to the Nazi creed, and his preparedness even at that stage to continue a hopeless war at the expense of human life, and with the certainty of increased destruction and misery to his country:

[Page 843]

"I therefore demand of the commanding officers of the Navy: That they clearly and unambiguously follow the path of military duty, whatever may happen. I demand of them that they stamp out ruthlessly all signs and tendencies among the men which endanger the following of this

"I demand from Senior Commanders that they should take just as ruthless action against any commander who does not do his military duty. If a commander does not think he has the moral strength to occupy his position as a leader in this sense, he must report this immediately. He will then be used as a soldier in this fateful struggle in some position in which he is not burdened with any tasks as a leader." (D-650)

In the secret Battle order of the day of 19 April 1945, Doenitz gives an example of the type of under-officer who should be promoted:

"An example: In a prison camp of the auxiliary cruiser 'Cormorau', in Australia, a petty officer acting as camp senior officer, had all communists who made themselves noticeable among the inmates of the camp systematically done away with in such a way that the guards did not notice. This petty officer is sure of my full recognition for his decision and his execution. After his return, I shall promote him with all means, as he has shown that he is fitted to be a leader."

[Page 843]


Doenitz was no plain sailor, playing the part of a service officer; loyally obedient to the orders of the government of the day. He an extreme Nazi who did his utmost to indoctrinate the Navy and the German people with the Nazi creed. It is no coincidence that it was he -- not Goering, not Ribbentrop, not Goebbels, not Himmler -- who was chosen to succeed Hitler. He played a large part in fashioning the U-boat fleet, one of the most deadly weapons of aggressive war. He helped to plan and execute aggressive wars, which he knew well were in deliberate violation of treaties. He was ready to stoop to any ruse where he thought he would not be found out: breaches of the Geneva Convention or of neutrality, where it might be asserted that sinking was due to a mine. He was ready to order, and did order, the murder of helpless survivors of sunken ships, an action only paralleled by that of his Japanese ally.

There can be few countries which do not mourn for men of the merchant navies whose destruction was due to the callow brutality with which, at the orders of this man, the German U-boat did their work.

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