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-Sixth Day: Friday, 10th May, 1946
(Part 12 of 12)

[DR. KRANZBUHLER continues his redirect examination of Karl Donitz]

[Page 310]

Q. When was that?

A. That was in the summer of 1944. And I received the answer that he was all right.

Q. Did you write to him directly, or how did it happen?

A. No. I received this information through a third person.

Q. Was that the only message you received from a concentration camp?

A. The only one I received.

Q. In the cross-examination, a report by Captain Assmann was presented about a conference with the Fuehrer in May, 1943. You remember its contents. You are alleged to have said that in view of the present naval war situation, it was desirable that Germany should get possession of Spain and Gibraltar. Did you make a positive suggestion in that direction? One cannot see that from the document.

A. Of course, when I discussed the situation, I mentioned the danger of the narrow strip of the Bay of Biscay, and I said that it would be more favourable to us if we could start our U-boats from a wider area. At that time nobody even thought of a move in the direction of Spain, either with the consent of Spain or in the form of an attack. It was quite obvious that our forces were in no way sufficient for that.

On the other hand, it is quite understandable that when I speak of my concern about that narrow strip, I should say it would have been better if that area had been wider. That is what I meant by that statement. I was referring to U-boat warfare and not to any move against Spain on land. It certainly would have been impossible for me, as a naval officer, to make a suggestion to attack Spain.

Q. In connection with the sinking of the Athenia, it has been hinted that your statement was considered an excuse; that is, that the commanding officer of the submarine confused the Athenia with an auxiliary cruiser. Therefore, I should like to put an excerpt from the war diary of the commanding officer who took part in the same action, and I want you to confirm that it is really from the same commanding officer. I shall read from the document of the prosecution, Exhibit GB 222, on Page 142, in my Document Book, Volume 3. It is the war diary of the submarine U-30. The excerpt is dated the 11th September, 1939, Page 142, in Document Book, Volume 3:-

"Sighted a vessel with lights dimmed. Trailed. In zig-zag course recognized as merchant ship. Requested to stop by Morse lantern. Steamer signals 'not understood,' tries to escape in the thick squall and sends out SOS 'chased by submarine,' and position by radiotelegraphy. Gave 'stop' signal by radiotelegraphy and Morse lantern.

"Ran ahead. Fired five shots with machine-gun C 30 across the bow. Steamer does not react. Turns partly, about 90 degrees, directly toward the boat. Sends 'Still chased.' Therefore, fire opened from aft bearing with 8.8 cm. English steamer Blairlogie, 4425 tons. After 18 shots were fired and three hits, the steamer stops. The crew boards the boats. Last message by radio-telegraphy: 'Shelled, taking the boats.' Fire immediately halted when an emergency light was shown and steamer stopped. Went to the lifeboats, gave an order to pull away toward the south. Steamer sunk by torpedo. Afterwards both ship crews supplied with Steinhager and cigarettes. 32 men in two boats. Red stars were shot until it became light. Since the American steamer American Skipper was nearby, we departed. Crew was rescued."

Can you confirm, Grand Admiral, that this was an entry by the same commanding officer of the U-boat, who nine days before had torpedoed the Athenia?

A. Yes, that is the same commander of the same operation, who, shortly before, had committed this error.

Q. In the cross-examination it was once more maintained, and very definitely, that you had sent an order to destroy to the commanders. I should like to put to you a letter which is signed by various U-boat commanders. You know the

[Page 311]

letter and know the signatures, and I should like to ask you to tell me whether the U-boat commanders who signed were taken prisoners before September, 1942, that is, before your alleged order to destroy, or were captured afterwards.

I am reading from the Document Book, Volume 2, Page 99, of the Document Book Donitz 53, which I submit to the Tribunal. It is addressed to the camp commander of the prisoner-of-war camp, Camp 18, in the Featherstone Park Camp in England. I received it through the British War Ministry and the Secretary-General of the Court. I read under the date of 18th January, 1946, and the text is as follows:-

"The undersigned commanders, who are now here in this camp and whose U-boats were active on the front, wish to make the following statement and express the request that this statement should be forwarded to the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg.

"From the Press and radio we learn that Grand Admiral Donitz is charged with having issued the order to destroy survivors from the crews of torpedoed ships and not to take any prisoners. The undersigned state under oath that neither in writing nor orally was such an order ever given by Grand Admiral Donitz. There was an order that for reasons of the security of the boat, because of increased danger through defence measures of all kinds, we might not surface after torpedoing. The reason for this was that experience had shown that if the boat surfaced for a rescue action, as was done in the first years of the war, we had to expect our own destruction. This order could not be misunderstood. It has never been regarded as an order to annihilate shipwrecked crews.

"The undersigned declare that the German navy has always been trained by its leaders to respect the written and unwritten laws and rules of the sea. We have always regarded it as our honour to obey these laws and to fight chivalrously while at sea."

Then come the signatures of 67 German submarine commanders who are at present prisoners-of-war in British hands.

I ask you, Grand Admiral, do you know these signatures? Were these commanders captured before September, 1942, or after September, 1942?

A. Most of them beyond doubt were made prisoners after September, 1942. In order to examine that exactly from both sides, I should like to see the list again. But most of them beyond doubt were captured after September, 1942.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: That is enough. I have no further questions.

DR. LATERNSER: (Counsel for the General Staff and the OKW) Mr. President, I should like to clarify only one point which came up during the cross-examination.


Q. Grand Admiral, during the cross-examination, you have stated that you were present at the situation conferences on the 19th and the 20th of February, 1945, and you said -

A. (Interposing): No, that this date -

Q. I made a note of it and you will recognize the conference at once. During the situation conference of the 19th of February, Hitler is alleged to have made the suggestion to leave the Geneva Convention. I ask you now to tell me which high military leaders were present during that situation conference.

A. I believe there is a mistake here. I did not hear this question or suggestion of the Fuehrer from his own lips but I was told about it by a naval officer, who regularly took part in these situation conferences. Therefore, I do not know for certain whether the date is correct, and I also do not know who was present when the Fuehrer first made that statement. In any case, I remember the matter was again discussed the next day, or two days later, and then I believe the Reichsmarschall,

[Page 312]

and of course Jodl and Field-Marshal Keitel, were present. At any rate, the whole of the armed forces were unanimously against it and, according to my recollection, the Fuehrer, because he saw our objection, did not come back to this question again.

DR. LATERNSER: I have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: The defendant can return to the dock.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Mr. President, after the experience of the cross-examination of today, I consider it proper to submit my documents to the Tribunal now, if it pleases the Tribunal, before I call further witnesses. I believe that I can thereby shorten the questioning of the witnesses and that it will be more easily understood.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well, Dr. Kranzbuhler.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: May I as a preliminary remind the Tribunal that in the prosecution Document Book, Exhibits GB 224 and GB 191 contain the same general accusations against the U- boat warfare as are referred to in my following documents. The documents dealing with these general accusations are in Document Books 3 and 4.

First, I submit Document Donitz 54, which contains the declaration of German membership in the London U-boat protocol. I do not need to read it because it has already been mentioned repeatedly.

Then, I ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice of the German Prize Ordinance, an excerpt of which can be found on Page 137. I should like to point out that Article 74 agrees, word for word, with the regulations of the London protocol.

May I point out at the same time that, as shown on Page 138, this Prize Ordinance was not signed by the Commander-in- Chief of the Navy. That is a contribution to the question as to whether the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy was a member of the Reich Government. He had no kind of authority to sign this ordinance.

The next document which I submit is Donitz 55. That is the order of 3rd September, 1939, by which the U-boats entered the war. I do not know whether these documents are so well known to the Tribunal that I need merely sum them up or whether it is better to read parts of them.

THE PRESIDENT: I think you might mention them together, really, specifying shortly what they relate to.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Yes. The Order of 3rd September directs ships to pay strict attention to all the rules of naval warfare. It orders the war to be conducted according to the Prize Ordinance. Furthermore it provides for a preparatory order for the intensification of economic warfare, because of the arming of enemy merchant ships. This order is on Page 140. Since I shall refer to that later when examining a witness, I need not read it now.

I should like to read to the Tribunal from an English document, to show that the boats were really acting according to these orders. It is Exhibit GB 191. It is in the original on Page 5, Mr. President. That sentence is not in the English excerpt and that is why I will read it in English from the original:-

"Thus the Germans started with the Ordinance, which was, at any rate, a clear, reasonable, and not inhuman document."
Mr. President, it is not copied in the document book of the prosecution. Therefore, I read it from the original which the prosecution has submitted:-
"German submarine commanders, with some exceptions, behaved in accordance with its provisions during the first month of the war. Indeed, in one case, a submarine had ordered the crew of a trawler to take to their boat as the ship was to be sunk. But when the commander saw the state of the boat, he said: 'Thirteen men in that boat. You English are no good,

[Page 313]

sending a ship to sea with a boat like that.' And the skipper was told to re-embark his crew on the trawler and make for home at full speed, with a bottle of German gin and the submarine commander's compliments."
That is an English account taken out of a document of the prosecution.

My next document is Donitz 56, an excerpt from the war diary of the Naval War Command of 9th September, 1939, on Page 141:-

"English information office disseminates the news through Reuter that Germany has opened total U-boat warfare."
Then, as Document Donitz 57, on Page 143, I should like to submit to the Tribunal the experiences which the Naval War Command had in U-boat warfare tip to that date. It is an entry of the 21st September, 1939, in the war diary of the Naval War Command. I read under the figure "2":-
"The commanders of U-boats which bad returned report the following valuable experiences:-

"(b) English, partly also neutral steamers, strong zig- zags, partly dimmed lights. English steamer, when stopped, immediately radios SOS with exact position. Thereupon English planes come in to fight U-boats.

"(c) English steamers have repeatedly tried to escape. Some steamers are armed, one steamer returned fire.

"(d) Up to now no cases of abuse by neutral steamers."

The document on Page 144 of the document book is already in evidence. It is an excerpt from Exhibit GB 222, war diary of the U-boat U-30, of 14th September. I will only read a few sentences from the beginning:-
"Smoke screen. Steamer in strong zig-zag course. Easterly course. Ran towards her. When recognized, turns to counter-course and signals SOS.

"English steamer Fanad Head, 5,200 tons, bound for Belfast.

"Pursued at full speed. Since steamer does not react to order to stop, a shot fired across her bow from a distance of 2,000 metres. Steamer stops. Crew takes to the boats. Boats pulled out of the danger zone."

I summarize the following. It shows how the U-boat, as a result of the wireless message from the steamer, was attacked by aeroplanes, what difficulties it had in getting the prize crew on board again, and how, in spite of the bombing attacks of the planes, it did not sink the steamer until two English officers, who were still on deck, had jumped overboard and had been rescued by the U-boat. The depth charge pursuit lasted for ten hours.

The next document, Donitz 58, shows that merchant ships acted aggressively against U-boats; and that also is an excerpt from the war diary of the Naval War Command. The entry of 24th September, reads:-

"C.-in-C. Submarine Fleet (BdU) reports that on 6th September, the English steamer Manaar, on being told to stop by U-38 after a warning shot, tried to escape. Steamer sent wireless report and opened fire from rear gun. Withdrew from ship only after four or five hits, then sank it."
Then, another message of 22nd September:-
"English reports that when the English steamer Akenside was sunk, a German U-boat was rammed by a steam trawler."
From the Exhibit of the prosecution GB 193, which is copied on Page 147, I should like to point out the opinion from the point of view of the Naval War Command, as to radio messages. I read from Figure 2, two sentences, beginning with the second:-
"In almost every instance English boats on sighting U- boats have sent out wireless SOS messages and given their position. Following these SOS messages from the ship, after a certain time, English aeroplanes always appeared, which makes it clear that with the English it is a matter of a military measure and organized procedure. The SOS call, together with the giving of the position, may therefore be considered as the giving of military information, even as resistance."

[Page 314]

The next document, Donitz 59, shows the approval of the entry submitted by the C.-in-C. Submarine Fleet that ships which used their wireless when stopped should be sunk. I read the entry of 24th November, 1939. It is under Figure 4:-
"On the basis of the Fuehrer's approval, the following order is given to Groups and the C.-in-C. Submarine Fleet (BdU):-

"Armed force should be employed against all merchant vessels using wireless when ordered to stop. They are subject to seizure or sinking without exception. Efforts should be made to rescue the crews."

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 11th May, 1946, at 1000 hours.)

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