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-Eighth Day: Monday, 13th May, 1946
(Part 5 of 9)

[DR. KRANZBUHLER continues his direct examination of Gerhard Wagner]

[Page 351]

Q. If you carefully examine this list of people, can you tell me Whether Admiral Donitz was always with these people on the dates mentioned, or does this mean only that these persons were at the Fuehrer's headquarters at the same time that he was? Can you still recall these points?

A. Yes. If these people participated in the military briefings, then Grand Admiral Donitz at least saw them. Of course, people in high positions were frequently at the Fuehrer's headquarters who did not participate in the military briefing sessions, and whom the Grand Admiral did not see, unless he had special conversations with them.

Q. For what reason did Admiral Donitz -

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, upon this point, if the witness is saying that any one of these minutes is incomplete, I should be very grateful if he would specify it, because we can get the original German minutes here and confirm the affidavit.

My Lord, if it pleases, the witness has said that he thinks these are incomplete. They are summaries of the minutes, and if he wants to say that any one is wrong, I shall be very glad to get the minutes and compare it.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: I believe the witness said only that additional people participated in these discussions and that, at the end, some of the conferences are lacking. However, I do not know just what details I should question him about. Perhaps the prosecution will deal with that matter later in cross-examination.

THE PRESIDENT: But Sir David wants him to specify which are the ones, if he can. He wanted him to specify, if he could.



Can you tell me more specifically, as to any one of these dates, whether those present are correctly named, or whether there were other people present, or whether Grand Admiral Donitz was not even present?

A. I can tell you definitely that this list is incorrect because it never happened that neither Field-Marshal Keitel nor General (Generaloberst) Jodl was present at the headquarters. For example, on 4th March, 1945, neither of these men is mentioned, nor on 6th March or 8th March. Therefore, I conclude that this list cannot be complete. In other places, however, the name of Jodl appears for example, on 18th March, 1945.

Q. The decisive point seems to be whether Admiral Donitz was present in the Fuehrer's headquarters on all of these days. Can you confirm that point?

A. Of course, from memory I cannot confirm that with reference to every single day. However, I am under the impression that the list is correct in that connection, for the frequency of the visits of the Grand Admiral corresponds with the notes in this list, and spot checks show me that the dates are correct.

Q. Why did Grand Admiral Donitz come to the Fuehrer's headquarters? What were the reasons?

A. The chief reason of the frequent visits, which became even more frequent toward the end of the war, was the intention to keep closely abreast of the development of the general war situation so that he, Donitz, could lead the Navy and carry on the naval war accordingly. Beyond that, questions usually came up which the Grand Admiral could not decide for himself on his own authority and which, because of their importance, he wanted to bring up personally or to discuss himself with the representatives of the OKW and of the General Staff.

[Page 352]

Q. In each of these cases was there a personal report of the Grand Admiral to the Fuehrer?

A. This is what happened: Most of the problems and reports for the Fuehrer were taken care, of during the briefing session in connection with the Grand Admiral's report on the naval warfare situation.

Q. One moment. Was the Grand Admiral always present at the military briefing sessions when he was at the headquarters?

A. The Grand Admiral took part at least in the discussion of the main session every day.

Q. And what is the main session?

A. At noon every day there was a military briefing session which lasted several hours. This was the main briefing session. In addition, for months, sessions including special sessions were held in the evening or at night at which the Grand Admiral participated only when very important matters were to be discussed - matters of special importance for the conduct of the war. Then, as I said, he participated.

Q. Now you say that most of the questions which the Grand Admiral had to put to the Fuehrer were taken care of at the military briefing. Were there any personal reports, besides this?

A. Personal reports on the part of the Grand Admiral to Hitler took place very seldom; on the other hand, personal discussions with the OKW and the other military offices at the headquarters took place daily.

Q. Now, I would like to know something more in detail about this so-called Lagebesprechung (briefing session).

The prosecution seem to consider this briefing session as a sort of War Cabinet at which, for instance, Ribbentrop would report about foreign policies, Speer about questions of production, Himmler about security questions. Is this a correct picture? Who took part in these sessions, what people participated regularly and who attended only once in a while?

A. The participants at the briefing sessions were generally the following:-

Regular participants: from the OKW, Field-Marshal Keitel, General Jodl, General Buhle, Commodore Assmann, Major Buchs, and a few more Chiefs of Staff. Then the Chief of the General Staff of the Army with one or two aides, and as a rule also the Chief of the General Staff of the Air Force with one aide.

Further regular participants were: the Chief of the Army Personnel Office, who was Chief Adjutant to the Fuehrer; General Bodenschatz, until 20th July, 1944; Vice Admiral Voss, who was the permanent Deputy of the Grand Admiral; Gruppenfuehrer Fegelein, as Himmler's permanent deputy; Ambassador Hewel; Envoy Sonnleitner, permanent deputy of the Foreign Minister; Reich Press Chief, Dr. Dietrich. Frequently the following participated: the Commander-in- Chief of the Luftwaffe; less frequently, Himmler. In addition to these there was a varying participation on the part of special officers, mainly from the General Staff of the Army and on the part of former Commanders-in-Chief of the Army and of the Air Force who happened to be in headquarters. Beyond. that, toward the end of the war, Reich Minister Speer in his capacity as Armament Minister also participated in an increasing measure and in rare cases the Reich Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop, both as listeners at the briefing sessions. I believe that is the complete list.

Q. Who reported at these briefing sessions and what was reported on?

A. These briefings had the sole purpose to inform Hitler about the war situation - about the Eastern situation, through the General Staff of the Army, and through the OKW about the situation in all other theatres of war and concerning all three branches of the Wehrmacht. The report took place as follows:-

First of all, the Chief of General Staff of the Army reported about the Eastern situation; then Colonel General Jodl reported on the situation in all other theatres of war on land. Next, Commodore Assmann of the OKW reported on the air situation. In between, frequent, often hour-long conversations took place which

[Page 353]

dealt with special military problems, panzer problems, aerial problems and such. And after the aerial problems were dealt with, the discussion was at an end. We left the room. And, I saw frequently that Ambassador Hewel went in to Hitler with a batch of reports, apparently from the Foreign Office, and reported on them without the rest of us knowing what they contained.

Q. In these briefing sessions was there voting or was there consultation, or who gave the orders?

A. In these briefing sessions, all military questions were discussed and frequently decisions were reached by the Fuehrer, that is, if no further preparations were necessary for a decision.

Q. What for example did the Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop do there when he was present?

A. I only saw Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop perhaps five or six times at these briefing sessions, and I cannot remember that he ever said anything during the entire session. He was only present at the briefing session for his own information.

Q. How about Minister Speer, what did he do?

A. Minister Speer also very seldom brought in armament problems during the discussion. I know that questions of armament were always discussed between Hitler and Speer in special discussions. However, some exceptions may have occurred.

Q. What was Himmler doing there, or his permanent Deputy Fegelein? Did they discuss questions of security, or what was his mission?

A. No. During the military briefing session security problems were never discussed. Himmler and his deputy appeared very frequently in connection with the Waffen SS, and Fegelein had always to give reports about the organization, arming, transportation and engagement of the SS divisions. At this time the SS divisions, according to my impressions, still played a very important part, for, ostensibly, they represented a strategic reserve and were much discussed.

Q. I have a record of the meeting which was written by you. It is Exhibit GB 209. It is not found in the document book. It says in the third paragraph and I am just reading one sentence:-

"The Deputy of the Reichsfuehrer SS at the Fuehrer's headquarters SS-Gruppenfuehrer Fegelein, transmits the request of the Reichsfuehrer as to when he can count on the arrival of the 'Panther' " - those are tanks - "coming from Libau."
Is this typical of SS Gruppenfuehrer Fegelein's work?

A. Yes. That was the kind of questions which were dealt with at every one of these sessions.

Q. At the end of the war Kaltenbrunner appeared several times also. Did he speak or report?

A. I cannot remember one single utterance on Kaltenbrunner's part during one of these military briefing sessions.

Q. What role did Admiral Donitz play at the session discussions?

A. Even when Grand Admiral Donitz was present the naval situation was reported by the deputy from the OKW, Commodore Assmann. However, the Grand Admiral used this occasion to present, in connection with the individual theatres of war, or in summary at the end, those questions which he had in mind. The Grand Admiral was neither asked nor did he give any opinion on questions dealing with air or land warfare, which had no connection with the conduct of the naval war. In his statements he strictly confined himself to the sphere of the Navy, and very energetically objected if someone else during the session tried to interfere in questions of naval warfare.

[Page 354]

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Mr. President, I have concluded this series of questions. If the Tribunal wishes to adjourn

THE PRESIDENT: Very well. We will adjourn.

(A recess was taken until 1400 hours.)

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn this afternoon at 4.30 in order to sit in closed session.


Q. Admiral Wagner, as time went by, a close relationship developed between Admiral Donitz and Adolf Hitler. Was this due to the fact that the Admiral was particularly ready to comply with the Fuehrer's wishes?

A. No, not at all. Admiral Donitz's activity as Supreme Commander of the Navy began with a very strong opposition to Hitler. It was Hitler's intention to scrap the large ships of the Navy, that is to say, the remaining battleships and cruisers. Admiral Raeder had already rejected that plan.

Q. That story is already known, Admiral. You need not go into it in detail.

A. Very well. Apart from that, Hitler's respect for Donitz was due to the fact that every statement which the Admiral made was absolutely reliable and absolutely honest. The Admiral attached particular importance to the fact that, particularly, unfavourable developments, failures and mistakes, were to be reported at Headquarters without digression, objectively and simply. As an example, I should like to mention that the Admiral had given me the order -

THE PRESIDENT: I do not think we need examples of that sort of thing. Surely, the general statement is quite sufficient.

Q. Did the Admiral in any way show himself particularly willing to comply with the Fuehrer's political wishes or those of the Party?

A. No, Such wishes of the Party were, in my opinion, only put to the Navy in three cases. One was the question of the Churches, which for the most part came up during the time of Admiral Raeder. I think it is generally known that the Navy retained its original religious organization and, in fact, extended it as the Navy grew.

The second request made by the Party was that, according to the Russian example, political commissars should be set up within the armed forces. On that occasion Admiral Donitz went to Hitler and prevented the carrying out of that intention. When after 20th July, 1944, Bormann, nevertheless, succeeded in getting the so-called N.S.F.O. - the National Socialist Leader Officers - introduced into the armed forces, this did not happen in the way the Party wished by appointing political commissars. It was merely done by using officers who were under the jurisdiction of the commander, and who could not in any way interfere with the leadership of the troops. The third case was the intention on the part of the Party to take away from the armed forces the political penal cases.

Q. This case is also already known, Admiral. You kept the records of the visits at the Fuehrer's headquarters, is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. A number of these records have been introduced as evidence in this Courtroom. Will you please explain to the Tribunal what was the purpose of keeping these records of visits to the Fuehrer's headquarters?

A. The Chief of the Naval War Command, the Chief of Naval Armaments and the Chief of the General Navy Department - that is to say, the three leading men in the Supreme Command of the Navy - were to be informed by means of these records of all happenings which took place in the presence of the Admiral, as far as they were of any interest to the Navy. That was one of my tasks.

[Page 355]

Q. You have just said "informed about happenings which took place in the presence of the Admiral." Does that mean that he must have heard himself everything that has been put down in these records?

A. Not necessarily. It happened quite frequently that during situation reports, when they took place in a large room, and when subjects were discussed which did not interest him so much, the Admiral would retire to another part of the room and deal with some business of his own or discuss Navy questions with other participants in the meeting. It was possible that on such occasions I heard things and put them down in the record which the Admiral himself did not hear. But, of course, he would know about them later when he saw my record.

Q. I am going to have shown to you one of your own records of discussions on 20th February, 1945. It is Exhibit GB 209, and it is contained on Page 68 of the document book of the prosecution. This deals with considerations regarding the renouncing of the Geneva Convention. Will you please describe exactly what happened as you remember it?

A. Approximately two or three days before the date in this record - in other words, on or about 17th or 18th February, 1945 - Admiral Foss telephoned me from headquarters, which at that time was situated in Berlin, and informed me that in connection with Anglo-Saxon propaganda to induce our troops to desert in the West, Hitler had stated his intention to renounce the Geneva Convention.

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