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-Seventh Day: Saturday, 11th May, 1946
(Part 1 of 4)

[Page 315]

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Mr. President, I continue to submit documents concerning naval warfare. My next document is printed on Page 149 of the Document Book No. 3. It is a declaration of 26th September, 1939, by the British First Lord of the Admiralty concerning the arming of the British merchant fleet. In this declaration he announces that within a short time the entire British merchant fleet will be armed. Then he speaks about the training of the crews, and in conclusion he thanks his predecessors for the care with which they prepared that work before the beginning of the war.

I submit Document Donitz 60. Donitz 60 is a large collection of documents concerning laws of naval warfare. It contains altogether 550 documents. In accordance with the request of the President, I have given special numbers to the later documents.

I come now to some documents which deal with the treatment of ships which acted suspiciously and were for that reason attacked by U-boats.

The first document of this series is Donitz 61, Page 150. It is a warning to neutral shipping against suspicious tactics. That warning was sent in a note to all neutral missions. At the end it points out that the ships should avoid being mistaken for enemy warships or auxiliary cruisers, especially during the night. There is a warning against all suspicious tactics, for instance, changing course, use of wireless on sighting German naval forces, zigzagging, dimming of lights, not stopping upon demand and the acceptance of enemy escort.

That warning is repeated in Document Donitz 62, which is on Page 153, a renewed note of 19th October, 1939, to the neutral regions - to the neutral governments. Document 63 is an example of how a neutral government, namely the Danish Government, in accordance with the German notes warned their merchant shipping against suspicious conduct. It is found on Page 154.

I should like to remind you again that the first warning was given on 28th September.

My next document - 64, shows that on 2nd October the order was issued to the submarines to attack darkened vessels in certain operational areas close to the British coast. That order is particularly significant in view of the cross- examination of yesterday where the question was put as to whether an order of that kind had been issued at all or whether that subject was transmitted to the commanders orally with instructions to falsify their logs. I read the order Of 2nd October, 1939, on Page 155.

"Order by the SKL (Naval War Command) to the Fleet:

"Inasmuch as on the English and French coasts when encountering darkened vessels it must be assumed that they are battleships or auxiliary battleships, fully armed action is authorized against darkened vessels in the following territories."

An area around the British coast follows.

The excerpt under it is taken from the War Diary of Commander-in-Chief Submarines of the same date and shows the transmission of this order to the submarines.

The readiness of British merchant shipping to commit aggression against German submarines is motivated or furthered by the next document which I am going to

[Page 316]

show. It is numbered Donitz 101 and is on Page 155. The old number was Donitz 60, Mr. President. It is an announcement by the British Admiralty, which I will read:
"The British Admiralty circulated the following warning to the British merchant marine on 1st October:

Within the last few days some German U-boats have been attacked by British merchant marine vessels. In this connection the German radio announces that the German U- boats have so far observed the rules of international law in warning the merchant marine vessels before attacking them.

Now, however, Germany intends to retaliate by considering every British merchant marine vessel as a battleship. While the first mentioned fact is absolutely untrue, it may indicate an immediate change in the policy of German submarine warfare.

Be prepared to meet it.


On Page 157 there is a second report of the same date. "The British Admiralty announces that German submarines are pursuing a new strategy. English boats are called upon to ram every German submarine."

The next document, Donitz 65, contains orders issued as a result of the armament of and armed resistance by merchant vessels. I read the order of 4th October, 1939, which was issued by the SKL (Naval War Command) to the Fleet.

"Immediate attack in any manner available is permitted by submarines against enemy merchant vessels which are obviously armed or have been proclaimed as such on the basis of conclusive evidence received by the Naval War Staff. As far as circumstances permit, measures are to be taken to save the crew after every possibility of danger for the submarine has been eliminated. Passenger ships not used to transport troops are still not to be attacked, even if armed."
The excerpt below shows the transmission of the order to the submarines. The experiences made in the war up to that period are summarised in a document on Page 159, which is an excerpt from the prosecution's Exhibit GB 96, "Standing War Order 171," of Commander-in-Chief Submarines:

I should only like to read from paragraph 4, the first sentence:

"Tactics of Enemy Merchant Marine Vessels, following instructions have been issued for British shipping...."
THE PRESIDENT: What's the date of this document?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: The document was issued before May, 1940. I shall have to call on a witness to give the correct date, Mr. President, I assume it was in October, 1939:

"The British Navy has received the following instructions:

(a) To fight every German submarine with all the means at hand, to ram it or attack it with depth-charges, if equipped to do so."

Further details follow.

Experiences drawn from the entire operations of the British Merchant Service are summarised in the next document in an order. It has been numbered Donitz 66, and is on Page 161. I shall read the order which is dated 17th October, 1939.

"At 1500 hours the following order was issued to Commander-in-Chief Submarines:

Submarines are permitted immediate and full use of armed force against all merchant vessels recognizable with certainty as being of enemy nationality, as in every case attempts to ram or other forms of active resistance may be expected. Exceptions to be made, as hitherto, in the case of enemy passenger boats."

[Page 317]

On Page 162 I have reproduced another part of document Donitz 62, which has been submitted already. It is a note to the neutral countries dated 22nd October, 1939, defining conduct on the part of ships, which is according to German opinion incompatible with the peaceful character of a merchant ship. I read from the long paragraph, the second sentence:
"According to previous experiences such tactics may be expected with certainty from English and French boats, particularly when sailing in convoys; inadmissible use of wireless, sailing without lights and in addition armed resistance and aggressive action."
In the next, the German government warns neutral nations against the use of enemy ships for this reason.

The German orders were issued in consequence of the experiences made by our U-boats.

I have already submitted the next document, Donitz 67, on Page 163 et seq., and I only wish to explain on the basis of a report made by the British Admiralty, which is on Page 163, that the orders for merchant shipping were published in the handbook for the defence of merchant ships of January, 1938 - they were issued before the war.

Now I come to several documents dealing with the treatment of passenger ships. They have an important bearing on the Athenia case, since the Athenia was a passenger ship.

Document Donitz 68 presents some evidence on the treatment of passenger ships. First comes an order issued on 4th September, 1939, which I should like to read:

"On the Fuehrer's orders no hostile action is to be taken against passenger ships for the time being, even when in convoy."
The next excerpt from the same page contains reports on the use of passenger ships as troop transports.

I will now read an excerpt from the directives for the conduct of the war against merchant shipping, from October to the middle of November, 1939, Page 3. "As the fullest possible use was made of enemy passenger boats for the transport of troops, it was no longer possible to justify their being spared, at least when they were sailing in convoy." The following order was issued on 29th October. I will read the order, which is dated 29th October. It is at the bottom of the page.

"Passenger liners in enemy convoys may be subjected to immediate unrestricted armed attack by U-boats."
The next document, Donitz 69, on Page 70, is to show that in November and December the German Press issued a warning against the use of armed passenger ships by publishing lists of these ships.

The next document is Donitz 70, on Page 171. It is an order issued on 7th November, 1939 by the SKL to C.-in-C. U-boats. I read the order:

"U-boats are permitted to attack immediately with all weapons at their command all passenger ships which can be identified with certainty as, enemy ships and whose armament is detected or is already known."
That was about six weeks after permission to attack other armed ships had been given.

Donitz V shows that the U-boats were not permitted also to attack darkened passenger ships until as late as 23rd February, 1940, five months - no, four months - after they were given permission to attack other ships.

Now I come to the prosecution's Exhibit GB 224, which I reproduce on Pages 199-203 in volume 4 of my document book. I should like to emphasize again that the object of this document was to incriminate Admiral Raeder in particular; and that it was described by the prosecution as a cynical denial of international law. I should like to point out, to begin with, that according to the title it concerns deliberations by the SKL on the possibilities of intensifying economic

[Page 318]

warfare against England. I shall read a few paragraphs, or give a short account of them, to show that a very thorough investigation of International Law was made.

The first paragraph: War Aims.

"The Fuehrer's proposal to restore a just and honourable peace and establish a new political order in Central Europe has been rejected. The enemy powers want war with Germany's destruction as the goal. In the struggle in which Germany is now forced to defend her existence and rights, Germany must employ her weapons ruthlessly while fully respecting the rules of soldierly conduct in warfare."
Then there follows a paragraph in which it is stated that the enemy is also ruthless in carrying out his plans.

On the next page, Page 200, there are a few sentences of basic importance which I should like to read. I read from the paragraph "Military Requirements" the fourth sentence:

"It is still desirable to base military measures on the existing principle of International Law; but military measures recognized as necessary must be taken if they seem likely to lead to decisive military successes, even if they are not admitted by International Law. For that reason, the military weapon which effectively breaks the enemy's powers of resistance must on principle be given a legal base, even if new rules of naval warfare have to be created for the purpose.

After weighing political, military And economic considerations with regard to the war as a whole, the High Command must decide on the military procedure and legal rules of warfare to be applied."

Then there are a number of excerpts to show the way in which SKL investigated the legal aspect of the situation; that is to say the present legal aspect of the situation, the situation which would arise in the case of a siege of England or a blockade against England.

The end, which is on Page 203, emphasises the political character of the final decision. I shall read it:

"The decision as to the form to be taken by the intensification of economic warfare and the time fixed for changing over to the most intensified and therefore final form of naval warfare in this war is of far- reaching political importance. It can be made only by the Supreme War Command, which will weigh the military, political and economic requirements against each other."
I should like to add that this document is dated 15th October, 1939. At the end of November, 1939, the Naval War Command took the consequent -

THE PRESIDENT: In our document it is 3rd November. You said just now it was some date in October.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: 15th October, Mr. President. It is a memorandum dated 15th October, which was submitted.

WTHE PRESIDENT: Well, I thought you were dealing with Exhibit GB 224. That is the one you have been reading just now.


THE PRESIDENT: That is headed on our Page 199, 3rd of November, 1939.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Yes, Mr. President. The 3rd of November is the date on which the memorandum was distributed to the High Command of the Armed Forces and to the Foreign Office.

I have just been told that in the English text, above the word "Memorandum," the date is apparently not printed. In the original it says, right above the word "Memorandum," "Berlin, 15th October, 1939."

[Page 319]


DR. KRANZBUHLER: I have already submitted Document Donitz 73, on Page 206, in which neutrals are warned against entry into the zone which corresponds to the American combat zone declared by President Roosevelt on 4th November.

The German point of view, that entry into this zone constitutes an endangering of all neutrals by their own action, was also published in the Press. Therefore I submit the Document Donitz 103, on Page 210. It is an interview given by Admiral Raeder to a representative of the National Broadcasting Company, New York, on 4th March, 1940. I should like to read a few sentences from that document. In the second paragraph Admiral Raeder points out the dangers existing for neutral merchant ships if they act in a warlike manner and are consequently enemy ships. The last sentence of that paragraph reads:

"The German standpoint may be concisely expressed by the formula: Whoever depends on the use of arms must be prepared for attack by arms."
I shall read the two last paragraphs:
"In discussing the possibility that there might be frequent differences of opinion, the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy mentioned President Roosevelt's order prohibiting American shipping in the dangerous zones around England. He said: 'This prohibition is the best proof against England's practice of forcing neutrals to sail through these zones without being able to guarantee their security. Germany can only advise all neutrals to copy the policy of your President.'

Question: 'Thus, according to this state of affairs, there is no protection for neutral shipping in the war- endangered zones?'

Answer: 'Probably not, so long as England adheres to her methods ..."

With the collapse of France the entire USA combat zone was declared a German blockade area. That is shown by the next document, Donitz 104, Page 212. I read from the middle of the long paragraph on that page:
"The entire sea area around England has thus become a theatre of operations. Every ship sailing this zone runs the risk of being destroyed not only by mines but also by other means...."
THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kranzbuhler, did you call that Exhibit Donitz 60 or -

DR. KRANZBUHLER: That was originally also one of the documents from Donitz 60, Mr. President, to which I have now given a new number. It is now Donitz 104.

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