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 6 of 9)

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

[Page 355]

Q. What did he hope to achieve?

A. According to my first impression at the time, the intention was evidently to express to the troops and the German people that captivity would no longer bring any advantage. Thereupon I immediately telephoned to Naval War Command, since I considered the intention to be completely wrong, and I asked them for a military opinion and an opinion from the point of view of international law.

On the 19th, when taking part in the situation discussion, Hitler once more referred to this question, but this time not in connection with happenings on the Western front, but in connection with the air attacks by the Western enemies on open German towns - attacks had just been made on Dresden and Weimar.

He ordered the Admiral to examine the effects of leaving the Geneva Convention from the point of view of the Naval War Command. An immediate answer was not expected, and it was not given. General Jodl was also quite strongly opposed to these intentions and he sought the Admiral's support.

Thereupon it was agreed to have a conference, and that is the conference which is mentioned in the record under Figure 2.

Q. That is the conference of 20th February, Admiral?

A. Yes.

Q. Who participated in that conference?

A. Admiral Donitz, Colonel General Jodl, Ambassador Hewel and myself.

Q. What was the subject?

A. The subject was the Fuehrer's intention of renouncing the Geneva Convention. The result was the unanimous opinion that such a step would be a mistake. Apart from military considerations, we especially held the conviction that by renouncing the Geneva Convention, both the Armed Forces and the German people would lose confidence in the leadership, since the Geneva Convention was generally considered to be the conception of international law.

Q. In your notes there is a sentence: "One would have to carry out the measures considered necessary without warning and at all costs 'to save face' with the outer world." What is the significance of that sentence?

A. That sentence means that on no account should there be any irresponsible actions. If the leaders considered it necessary to introduce counter-measures against air attacks on open German towns, or against the propaganda for desertion in the West, then one should confine oneself to such counter-measures which appear necessary and justifiable. One should not put oneself in the wrong before the world, and one's own people by globally repudiating all the Geneva Conventions

[Page 356]

and announce measures which went far beyond that which appeared to be necessary and justifiable.

Q. Were any concrete measures discussed in this connection, or were any such measures even thought of?

A. No. I can remember very well that no specific measures were discussed at all during the various conferences. We were mainly concerned with the question of whether to repudiate the Geneva Convention or not.

Q. Did you ever learn anything about a so-called intention on Adolf Hitler's part to shoot 10,000 prisoners of war as a reprisal for the air-attack on Dresden?

A. No, I have never heard anything about that.

Q. The expression "to save face," doesn't that mean secrecy, hiding the true facts?

A. In my opinion it was certain that there was no question of secrecy for neither the counter-measures against air attacks, nor the measures of intimidation against desertion, could be effective if they were concealed.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kranzbuhler, the transmission came through to me, Prosecution's Document Book, Page 68. Is that right or not?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Yes, Mr. President. It should be Page 69. I beg your pardon. It is probably entered incorrectly.


Q. How long did this whole conversation which you recorded last?

A. Will you please tell me which conversation you mean?

Q. The discussion of 20th February, which contains the sentences which I have just read to you.

A. It took perhaps ten minutes or a quarter of an hour.

Q. So that your record is a very brief condensed summary of the conversation?

A. Yes, it only contains the important points.

Q. Did Admiral Donitz also submit his objections to the Fuehrer?

A. As far as I recollect, it never reached that point. One became convinced that Hitler, as soon as he put his questions to the Admiral, could gather from the Admiral's expression and the attitude of the others that they rejected his intentions. We passed our views on to the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces in writing and heard no more about the whole matter.

Q. I am now going to show you another record which is submitted under Exhibit GB 210. It is on the next page of the document book of the prosecution, and it refers to conferences at the Fuehrer's headquarters from 29th June to 1st July, 1944.

You will find an entry under the date of 1st July, which reads: "In connection with the general strike in Copenhagen, the Fuehrer says that terror can be subdued only with terror." Was this statement made during a conversation between Hitler and Admiral Donitz, or in which connection?

A. This is a statement made by Hitler during a situation discussion which was addressed neither to Admiral Donitz nor to the Navy.

Q. Well, if it was not addressed to the Navy, then why did you include it in your record?

A. I included in my record all statements which could be of any interest to the Navy. The Supreme Command of the Navy was, of course, interested in the general strike in Copenhagen, because our ships were repaired in Copenhagen, and apart from that, Copenhagen was a naval base.

Q. And to whom did you pass this record? Who received it?

A. According to the distribution list on Page 4, the paper went only to the Supreme Commander and Department I of the Naval War Command.

Q. Did the Naval War Command have anything to do with the treatment of shipyard workers in Denmark?

A. No, nothing at all. From 1943 on, the shipyards were entirely under the Ministry of Armaments.

[Page 357]

Q. The prosecution sees in this statement and its transmission to a department of the OKW, an invitation to deal ruthlessly with the inhabitants. Does that in any way tally with the meaning of this record?

A. There can be no question of that. The only purpose of this record was to inform the departments of the Supreme Command.

Q. I am now going to have another document shown to you. It is Exhibit USA 544. It is contained in the document book of the prosecution on Pages 64 and 65. It is a note by the International Law Expert in the Naval War Command regarding the treatment of saboteurs. Do you know this note?

A. Yes. I have initialled it on the first page.

Q. At the end of that note you will find the sentence: "It is for the Navy to investigate whether the occurrence cannot be used, after reporting to the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, to make sure that the treatment of members of commando troops is absolutely clear to all the departments concerned." Was this report made to Admiral Donitz, who at that time had been Supreme Commander of the Navy for ten days?

A. No, that report was not made, as the various remarks at the head of it will show.

Q. Please, will you explain that?

A. The international law expert in the Naval War Command la made this suggestion through the Operations Officer 1a to me as Chief of the Operations Direction. This went to me and then to the chief of the Operations Staff. The head of the 1a, in a hand-written notice at the side of his initials, wrote: "The subordinate commanders have been informed." That means that he had objected to the proposal of the international law expert, and he considered that an explanation of the orders within the Navy was superfluous. I investigated these matters and I decided that the operations officer was right. I sent for international law expert Dr. Eckhardt, informed him orally of my decision, and returned this document to him. Thus the suggestion to report to the OBM (Supreme Command of the Navy) made in connection with the explanation of this order was not actually carried out.

Q. Can you remember whether Admiral Donitz on some later occasion gave his views on this commando order?

A. No, I have no recollection of that.

Q. I have submitted to you Exhibit GB 208, which is a record regarding the case of a motor torpedo-boat at Bergen. It is the case which is contained in the British Document Book on Pages 66 and 67. Have you ever heard about this incident before this trial?

A. No. I heard about it for the first time on the occasion of interrogations in connection with these proceedings.

Q. I gather from the files of the British Court Martial proceedings, which have been submitted by the prosecution during cross-examination, that before the shooting of the crew of that motor torpedo-boat, there had been two telephone conversations between the chief of the Security Service in Bergen and the SD at Oslo and between the SD at Oslo and Berlin. Can you recollect whether such a conversation took place between the SD at Oslo and yourself or one of the representatives in the OBM?

A. I certainly had no such conversation, and as far as I know, neither did any other officer in my department, or in the Supreme Command.

Q. Do you consider it at all possible that the SD at Oslo might get in touch with the Supreme Command of the Navy?

A. No, I consider that quite out of the question. If the SD in Oslo wanted to get in touch with a central department in Berlin, then they could only do so through their own superior authority, and that is the RSHA.

Q. I now put to you another document; it is Exhibit GB 212, which appears on Page 75 of the document book of the prosecution. It mentions an example of a commander of a German prisoner-of-war camp, and it says he had communists,

[Page 358]

who had attracted attention among the inmates, suddenly and quietly removed by the guards. Do you know of this incident?

A. Yes, such an episode is known to me. I think we received the report from a prisoner-of-war-a man who had been severely injured, and who had been exchanged - that the German commander of a prisoner-of-war camp in Australia, in which the crew of the auxiliary cruiser Cormorau were detained, had secretly had a man of his crew killed because he had been active as a spy and traitor.

Q. But this order does not mention the word "spy." It says "communist." What is the explanation?

THE PRESIDENT: It does not say "communist." It says "communists" in the plural.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: "Communists," plural.

A. (continued). In my opinion the only explanation is that the true state of affairs was to be concealed so as to prevent the enemy intelligence from tracing the incident and making difficulties for the senior sergeant in question. Thus a different version was chosen.

Q. It was the opinion of the Soviet Prosecution that this showed there was a plan for the silent removal of communists. Can you tell us anything about the origin of this order, whether such a plan existed, and whether it had ever come under discussion.

A. First of all, the order was addressed to those personnel offices which were responsible for choosing young potential officers and non-commissioned officers in the Navy. There were about six or seven personnel offices. Beyond that, I can only say that of course -

Q. just a moment, Admiral, please.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kranzbuhler, is it necessary to go into all this detail? The question is, was there an order with reference to making away with people of this sort or was there not - not all the details about how the order came to be made.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: In that case I shall put the question this way.


Q. Was there any order or any desire in the Navy to kill communists inconspicuously and systematically?

A. No, such an order or such a plan did not exist. Of course, there were a considerable number of communists in the Navy. That was known to every superior officer. The overwhelming majority of those communists did their duty as Germans just as any other German in the war.

Q. Admiral Donitz has been accused by the prosecution because as late as the spring of 1945, he urged his people to hold out obstinately to the end. The prosecution considers that evidence of the fact that he was a fanatical Nazi. Did you and the majority of the Navy consider this to be so?

A. No, the Admiral's attitude was not considered to be political fanaticism. To them it meant that he was carrying out his ordinary duty as a soldier to the last. I am convinced that this was the view of the great majority of the entire Navy, the men and the non-commissioned officers as well as the officers.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Mr. President, I have no further questions to put to this witness.

THE PRESIDENT: Does any other defendant's counsel want to ask any questions?

DR. SIEMERS: Defence Counsel for Admiral Raeder.

[Page 359]


Q. Admiral Wagner, you have already briefly sketched the positions you have held. In supplementing I should like to make quite sure who held a leading position in the Naval War Command under Grand Admiral Raeder, in the decisive years before and after the outbreak of the war. Who was the Chief of Staff during the two years before the war, and at the beginning of the war?

A. The Chief of Staff of the Naval War Command from 1938 until 1941 was Admiral Schniewind. From 1941 until the retirement ... until after Raeder's retirement ... it was Admiral Fricke.

Q. Those, therefore, were the two officers who worked in the highest posts under Admiral Raeder in the Naval War Command.

A. They were the immediate advisers of the Admiral.

Q. And the Naval War Command had several departments?

A. Yes, it consisted of several departments, which were given consecutive numbers.

Q. And which was the most important department?

A. The most important department of the SKL was the Operations Department, which was known as No. 1.

Q. And the other departments, 2, 3, what did they do?

A. That was the Signals and Communications Department and the Information Department.

Q. Who was the chief of the Operations Department?

A. From 1937 until 1941 it was Admiral Fricke. From 1941 until after Raeder's retirement I was the chief of that department.

Q. In other words, for many years you worked under Admiral Raeder. First of all, I should like to ask you to speak briefly about Raeder's basic attitude during the time you were working in the SKL.

A. Under Admiral Raeder the Navy was working for a peaceful development in agreement with Britain. The foremost questions were those regarding the type of ships, training and tactical schooling. Admiral Raeder never referred to aggressive wars during any conference which I attended. Nor did he at any time ask us to make any preparations in that direction.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.