The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants

Erich Raeder

(Part 4 of 9)

[Page 857]

Doenitz's part in the "Athena" episode is described in an affidavit which he has sworn, in English (D-68). At the end of the affidavit four words are added in Doenitz's handwriting, the significance of which will be adverted to shortly. Doenitz states:

"U-30 returned to harbor about Mid-September. I met the captain, Oberleutnant Lemp, on the dockside at Wilhelmshafen, as the boat was entering harbor, and he asked permission to speak to me in private. I noticed immediately that he was looking very unhappy and he told me at once that he thought he was responsible for the sinking of the 'Athenia' in the North Channel area. In accordance with my previous instructions, he had been keeping a sharp lookout for possible armed merchant cruisers in the approaches to the British Isles, and had torpedoed a ship he afterwards identified as the 'Athenia' from wireless broadcasts, under the impression that she was an armed merchant cruiser on patrol. I had never specified in my instructions any particular type of ship as armed merchant cruiser nor mentioned any names of ships. I despatched Lemp at once by air to report to the SKL at Berlin; in the meantime, I ordered complete secrecy as a provisional measure. Later the same day or early on the following day, I received a verbal order from Kapitaen zur See Fricke [head of the Operations Division of the Naval War Staff] that:

"1. The affair was to be kept a total secret.

"2. The OKM considered that a court martial was not necessary as they were satisfied that the captain had acted in good faith.

"3. Political explanations would be handled by the OKM.

"I had had no part whatsoever in the political events in which the Fuehrer claimed that no U-boat had sunk the 'Athenia.'

"After Lemp returned to Wilhelmshafen from Berlin, I interrogated him thoroughly on the sinking and formed the impression that although he had taken reasonable care, he

[Page 858]

had still not taken sufficient precautions to establish fully the identity of the ship before attacking. I had previously given very strict orders that all merchant vessels and neutrals were to be treated according to naval prize law, before the occurrence of this incident. I accordingly placed him under cabin arrest, as I felt certain that a court-martial could only acquit him and would entail unnecessary publicity' [whereat Doenitz has added the words, "and too much time" (D-638)

Doenitz's suggestion that the captain of the U-30 sank the "Athenia" in mistake for a merchant cruiser must be considered in the light of Doenitz's order of 22 September 1939, that

"the sinking of a merchant ship must be justified in the War Diary as due to possible confusion with a warship or an auxiliary cruiser." (C-191)

The U-30 returned to Wilhelmshaven on 27 September 1939. On that date another fraudulent entry was made in the War Diary of the Chief of U-Boats:

"U-30 comes in. She had sunk: 'S.S. BIairlogie'; 'S.S. Fanal Head'." (D-659)

There is no reference at all to the sinking of the "Athenia."

Perhaps the most elaborate forgery in connection with this episode was made on the log book of the U-30, which was responsible for sinking the "Athenia" (D-662). The Prosecution submits that the first page of that log book is a forgery which shows a curiously un-German carelessness about detail. It is clear on the original document that the first page of the text is a substitute for pages that have been removed. The dates in the first column of that page are in Arabic numerals. On the second and more authentic-looking page, and throughout the other pages of the log book, they are in Roman numerals.

Furthermore, all reference to the sinking of the "Athenia" on 3 September is omitted. The log book shows that at 1400 hours on 3 September 1939 the position of the U-30 is given as AL 0278, which is one of the few positions quoted at all upon that page, and which was some 200 miles west of the position where the "Athenia" was sunk. The recorded course (due south) and the recorded speed (10 knots)those entries are obviously designed to suggest that the U-3 was- well clear of the "Athenia's" position on 3 September. (D-662)

Finally, the original shows Lemp's own signature upon the page dealing with 3 September differs from his other signature in the text. The difference appears in the final letter of his name. The signature in question shows a Roman "p" whereas on the

[Page 859]

other signatures there is a script "p." The inference is that either the signature is a forgery or it was made by Lemp at some other and probably considerably later, date. (D- 662)

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

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