The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
2nd May to 13th May, 1946

One Hundred and Twenty-Fifth Day: Thursday, 9th May, 1946
(Part 7 of 9)

[DR. SIEMERS continues his direct examination of Karl Donitz]

[Page 250]

Q. During those few days, when you were with Raeder at the manoeuvres, did you talk to him privately?

A. Yes. Grand Admiral Raeder told me - and he repeated this to the entire officers corps during his final speech in Swinemunde - that the Fuehrer had informed him that under no circumstances must a war in the West develop, for that would be finis Germaniae. I asked for leave and immediately after the manoeuvres on 24th July, I went on leave for a six-weeks cure at Bad Gastein. I'm merely stating that because it shows how we regarded the situation at that time.

Q. But then the war came rather quickly, didn't it, and you had to break off the leave which you had planned?

A. I was called back by telephone in the middle of August.

Q. These words that there would be no war with England and the words finis Germaniae, did Raeder say this during a private conversation or only in his speech at Swinemunde?

A. As far as the sense is concerned, yes, as far as the exact words are concerned I cannot remember now what was said in the main speech and what was said before. At any rate he certainly said it during the main speech.

DR. SIEMERS: Thank you very much.

BY DR. LATERNSER (Counsel for the General Staff and the OKW):

Q. Grand Admiral, on 30th January, 1943, you became the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy and thereby a member of the group which is indicted here, the General Staff and the OKW?

A. Yes.

Q. I wanted to ask you whether, after you were appointed, you had discussions with any of the members of these groups regarding plans or aims as outlined in the Indictment?

A. No, with none of them.

Q. After you were appointed, you dismissed all the Senior Admirals in the Navy. What were the reasons for this?

A. Since I was about seven to ten years younger than the other Admirals in the Navy, for instance, Admiral Karls, Admiral Bohm and others, it was naturally difficult for both parties. They were released for those reasons and in spite of mutual respect and esteem.

Q. How many Admirals in the Navy were involved in this case?

A. I think three or four.

Q. Was there a close personal and official contact between the Navy, on the one side, and the Army and Air Force on the other side?

A. No, not at all.

Q. Did you know most of the members of the indicted group?

A. No. Before my time as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, I knew only those with whom I happened to find myself in the same room. For instance, when I was in France, I knew Field Marshal von Rundstedt. After I became Commander-in-Chief, I knew only those whom I met by chance when I was at the headquarters where they had to submit some army report at the large military situation conference.

Q. Then you didn't know most of the members of these groups?

A. No.

Q. Did those who were known to you have a common political aim?

A. As far as the Army and the Air Force are concerned, I can't say. As far as the Navy is concerned, the answer is "No." We were naval men, and I was interested in what the naval man could accomplish, what his personality was, and I didn't concern myself in the main about a political line of thought, unless it affected his performance as a fighting unit.

[Page 251]

I want to mention, as an example, the fact that my closest colleague, who, from 1934 until the very end in 1945, always accompanied me as my adjutant and later as chief of staff, was extremely critical of National Socialism - to put it mildly - without our official working together or my personal attitude towards him being affected thereby, as this long period of working together shows.

Q. May I inquire the name of this chief-of-staff to whom you have just referred.

A. Admiral Goth.

Q. Admiral Goth. Do you know of any remarks made by Hitler regarding the attitude of the generals of the Army? The question refers only to those who belong to the indicted group.

A. At the discussions of the military situation I naturally heard a hasty remark now and then about some army commander, but I can't say today why it was made or whom it referred to.

Q. You were quite often present during the situation discussions at the Fuehrer's Headquarters. Did you notice on such occasions that commanders-in-chief put forward in Hitler's presence views strikingly different from his?

A. Yes, that certainly happened.

Q. Can you remember any particular instance?

A. I remember that when the question of the recovery of the northern sector in the East was discussed, the army commander of this sector of the front was not of the same opinion as the Fuehrer and that this led to an argument.

Q. Was that commander-in-chief successful with his objections?

A. I think partly, yes, but I should like you to ask an army officer about that, because naturally I don't know these details so clearly and authentically.

Q. Did the senior officers of the Navy have anything to do with the Einsatzgroups of the SD?

A. The Navy, no. As far as the Army is concerned, I don't believe so and I assume they didn't. But please don't ask me about anything but the Navy.

Q. Yes. This question referred only to the Navy. And now, some questions about Marine Groups. Did the Marine Groups (Marine-Kommando-Gruppen) have extensive authority?

A. No. According to the famous KG-40, that is War Organization 40, the Navy had no territorial powers ashore. Its shore task was to defend the coast under the command of the Army and according to sectors, that is, under the command of the divisions stationed in that particular sector. Apart from that they took part in battles in coastal waters.

Q. So that commanders-in-chief in the Navy were then therefore simply troop commanders?

A. Yes.

Q. Did these commanders-in-chief of these Marine Groups have any influence on the formation of orders regarding submarine warfare?

A. No, none whatever.

Q. Did they influence decisions regarding what ships were to be sunk?

A. No, not at all.

Q. And did they influence orders regarding the treatment of shipwrecked personnel?

A. No.

Q. Now the holder of the office "Chief of Naval War Staff" also belongs to this group. What were the tasks of a Chief of the Naval War Staff?

A. That was a high command, the office which worked out the purely military, tactical and operational matters of the Navy.

Q. Did the Chief of the Naval War Staff have powers to issue orders?

A. No.

Q. Then his position was similar to that of Chief of General Staff of the Air Force or the Army?

A. I beg your pardon, I must first get the idea clear.

[Page 252]

I assume that by "Chief of Naval War Staff" you mean the Chief of Staff of the Naval War Staff.

In Grand Admiral Raeder's time the term "Chief of the Naval War Staff" was the same as "Commander-in-Chief of the Navy." The organization about which you are asking was called "Chief of Staff of Naval War Staff"; but when I was the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, the term "Chief of Staff of the Naval War Staff" was changed to "Chief of the Naval War Staff," but it was the same person and he was under the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy.

Q. Was there in the Navy a Staff of Admirals corresponding to the Army General Staff?

A. No, that didn't exist. Such an institution did not exist. The necessary consultants (Fuhrungsgehilhen), as we called them, came from the front, served on the staff, and then returned to the front.

Q. Now I shall ask one last question. The witness Gisevius has stated in this courtroom that the highest military leaders had drifted into corruption by accepting gifts. Did you yourself receive a gift of any kind?

A. Apart from the salary to which I was entitled, I didn't receive a penny; I received no gifts. And the same applies to all the officers of the Navy.

DR. LATERNSER: Thank you very much. I have no further questions.

BY DR. NELTE (Counsel for the defendant Keitel):

Q. Witness, you were present when the witness Gisevius was being examined here. That witness, without giving concrete facts, passed judgement in the following manner: "Keitel had one of the most influential positions in the Third Reich." And at another point he said: "I received very exact information regarding the tremendous influence which Keitel had on everything relating to the Army and accordingly also on those who represented the Army to the German people."

Will you, who can judge these matters, tell me whether that judgement of defendant Keitel's position, his function, is correct?

A. I consider it very much exaggerated. I think that Field Marshal Keitel's position has been described here so unequivocally that it ought to be clear by now, that what is contained in these words is not at all correct.

Q. Am I to gather from this that you confirm as correct the description of the position and functions as given by Marshal Goering and Field Marshal Keitel himself?

A. Yes, it is perfectly correct. The witness Gisevius judged these matters not on the basis of his own knowledge, but on the basis of information received from Admiral Canaris.

Q. Did you know Admiral Canaris?

A. I knew Admiral Canaris from the time when he was still in the Navy.

Q. Later on, when he was Chief of the German Intelligence Service in the OKW, did you not have discussions with him? Did he not come to see you in his capacity as Chief of Intelligence?

A. After I became Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, he visited me and he made a report about intelligence matters which he thought he could place at the disposal of the Navy - my sphere of interest, but that was his last report to me. After that, of course, I received from him or his department written intelligence reports which concerned the Navy.

Q. Is it right for me to say that the position of Admiral Canaris as the Chief of Intelligence, that is, espionage, counter-espionage, sabotage and intelligence, was of great importance for the entire conduct of the war?

A. His office or his department -

Q. He was the chief of the whole department, wasn't he?

A. Of course, he worked for the entire Armed Forces, all three branches of the Armed Forces, and I must say in that connection, if you are asking me

[Page 253]

about the importance, that I was of the opinion that the intelligence of interest to the Navy which we received from him was very meagre indeed.

Q. Did Canaris ever complain to you that Field Marshal Keitel at the OKW in any way hindered and hampered him in carrying out his activity and that he could not pass on his intelligence and his reports?

A. He never did that and, of course, he could have done so only during the first report. No; he never did that.

Q. With reference to Canaris, I should like to know whether you can tell me anything about his character, and consequently about his credibility as a source of information, whether you considered him reliable?

A. Admiral Canaris, while he was in the Navy, was an officer to whom not much confidence was given. He was a man quite different from us, we used to say he ran with the hare and hunted with the hounds.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Nelte, we don't want to know about Admiral Canaris when he was in the Navy. I don't think there is any use telling us that Admiral Canaris was in the Navy. The only possible relevance would be his character afterwards when he was head of the Intelligence.

DR. NELTE: Mr. President, don't you think that if someone is unreliable and not credible as a commodore he might also be so as an admiral in the OKW? Do you think that he could have changed during the intervening years?


Q. But, nevertheless, I thank you for the answer to this question, and I now ask you to answer the following. Is it true that Hitler forbade all branches of the armed forces to make reports on any political matters, and that he demanded that they confine themselves to their own sphere of work?

A. Yes, that is true.

Q. Witness Gisevius has stated that Field Marshal Keitel threatened the officers under his command that he would hand them over to the Gestapo if they concerned themselves with political matters, and I ask you, is it true that, according to the regulations applying to the Armed Forces, the police, including the Gestapo, the SD and the Criminal Police, had no jurisdiction at all over members of the armed forces, no matter what their rank was?

A. That is correct.

Q. And is it also correct that the branches of the armed forces and also the OKW were at great pains to preserve this prerogative as far as the police were concerned?

A. Yes, that is true.

Q. So that any alleged threat, as mentioned by Gisevius, namely, the handing over of these people to the Gestapo, could not have been carried out?

A. No.

Q. And it is correct for me to say that all officers of the OKW, to whom such a statement might have been made, naturally knew that too?

A. Naturally. The soldier was subject to military jurisdiction, and nobody could interfere with the armed forces.

Q. Moreover, did Field Marshal Keitel, as Chief of the OKW, have any right to deal with officers serving in the OKW without the knowledge and consent of the commander-in-chief of the branch of the armed forces to which the officer belonged? Could he promote such an officer, dismiss him or anything like that?

A. An officer in a branch of the armed forces - for instance the Navy - was detailed to the OKW for definite work. If this officer was to be given different employment in the OKW, then the branch of the armed forces to which he belonged would of course have to be consulted.

Q. Isn't it correct to say that these officers were still on the list of their own branch of the armed forces, since the OKW wasn't a branch of the armed forces and wasn't a formation; in other words, that, if there were a promotion for instance, it would be ordered by the Navy? If Canaris was to have been promoted, you, as

[Page 254]

Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, would have had to order this promotion, assuming, of course, that you were in agreement with this proposal? It is merely a question of the actual command and of personnel?

A. These officers were detailed to the OKW. As far as I can recollect, they were still on the Navy list under the heading "Detailed from the Navy to the OKW."

Q. But they didn't leave the Navy as a branch of the armed forces, did they?

A. Promotion of such officers, I think, was decided by the Personnel Office of the Navy in agreement with the OKW, and I think also that no one could be detailed - I consider this self-evident - without agreement of the branch of the armed forces concerned.

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