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 9 of 9)

[COLONEL PHILLIMORE continues his cross examination of Gerhard Wagner]

[Page 368]

Q. Yes, you had no special political interest at this time in Norway and Sweden and Denmark, so you sank their ships at sight. That is right, is it not?

A. We sank them because they entered this area despite warning.

Q. Yes, but if a Russian ship or a Japanese ship did that, you would not sink it?

A. No, not at that time.

Q. I just want to show you what you actually did. Would you look at Documents D-846 and 847?

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: My Lord, they are two new documents. They will be Exhibits GB 452 and 453.


Q. Will you look at the first of these, that is D-846? That is a telegram from your Ambassador at Copenhagen, dated 26th September, 1939. That is before your first warning and before any of these zones had been declared. The second sentence:-

"Sinking of Swedish and Finnish ships by our submarines has caused great anxiety here about Danish food transports to England."
You see, you had started sinking ships of the small neutrals right away in the first three weeks of the war, had you not?

A. In single cases, yes, but there was always a very special reason in those cases. I know that several incidents occurred with Danish and Swedish ships in which ships had turned against the U-boat and the U-boat, in turn, because of this resistance was forced to attack the ship.

Q. You do not think it was because the blame could be put upon mines?

A. At this period not at all.

Q. Look at the second telegram, 26th of March, 1940, again from the German minister at Copenhagen. It is the first paragraph:-

"The King of Denmark today summoned me to his presence in order to tell me what a deep impression the sinking of six Danish ships last week, apparently without warning, had made on him and on the whole country."
And then, passing on, two sentences:-
"I replied that the reason why the ships sank bad not yet been clarified. In any case, our naval units always kept strictly to the Prize Regulations, but vessels sailing in enemy convoy or in the vicinity of the convoy took upon themselves all the risks of war. If there were any cases of sinking without warning, it seemed that they could be traced back to the German notifications made to date.

"At the same time I stressed the danger of the waters around the British coast, where neutral shipping would inevitably be involved in compromising situations on account of measures taken by the British. The King assured me emphatically that none of the Danish ships had sailed in convoy, but it would probably never be possible subsequently to clear up, without possibility of doubt, the incidents which had led to the sinking."

Have you any doubt that those six ships were sunk deliberately under your sink-at-sight policy?

A. Without checking the individual cases, I cannot answer this question, but I am of the opinion that possibly these ships were sunk in that area off the English coast where, because of heavy defences, there would no longer be any question of an open sea.

[Page 369]

Q. Very well. We will come to an incident where I think I can supply you with the details. Would you look at Document D-807?

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: My Lord, that is a new document, it becomes Exhibit GB 454.


Q. You see, this document is dated 31st January, 1940, and it refers to the sinking of three neutral ships, the Deptford, the Thomas Walton, and the Garoufalia. The document is in three parts. It first sets out the facts as they were known to you. The second part is a note to the Foreign Office, and the third is a draft reply for your foreign office to send to the neutral governments and if you look at the end of the document you will see, "1-A," it emanates from your department.

"It is proposed in replying to Norwegian notes, to admit only the sinking by a German U-boat of the steamship Deptford, but to deny the sinking of the two other steamers."
Would you follow it?
"According to the data attached to the notes presented by the Norwegian Government, the grounds for suspecting a torpedo to have been the cause of the sinkings do in fact appear to be equally strong in all three cases.

"According to the Norwegian Foreign Minister's speech of 19th January, the suspicion in Norway of torpedoing by a German U-boat appears, however, to be strongest in the case of the steamship Deptford, whereas in the other two cases it is at least pretended that the possibility of striking mines has to be taken into account; this is considered improbable in the case of the steamship Deptford, because other vessels had passed the same spot.

"The possibility that the steamship Thomas Walton struck a mine can be supported, since the torpedoing occurred towards evening and nothing was observed, and also because several explosions took place in the same area owing to misses by torpedoes.

"In the case of the steamship Garoufalia, a denial appears expedient, if only because a neutral steamer is concerned, which was attacked without warning. Since it was attacked by means of an electric torpedo, no torpedo wake could be observed."

Do you say in the face of that that you did not deceive the neutrals? That is the advice you were giving to the defendant Raeder as his staff officer, is it not?

A. This memorandum did not emanate from me; it emanated from Iia.

Q. Where did it originate?

A. That is the assistant of the expert on international law.

Q. You would not have seen it?

A. I do not recall this document.

Q. Why do you say, "it emanated from 1ia"? It has "1a " at the end of it.

A. If this memorandum was issued, then I also saw it -

Q. (Interposing.) I will just read the next part of the note to remind you.

"The following facts have thus been ascertained:" - this is what you are writing to the Foreign Office -

"The steamer Deptford was sunk by a German U-boat on 13th December, - "

I am sorry. I should have started earlier.
"It is suggested that Norwegian notes regarding the sinking of the steamships Deptford, Thomas Walton and Garoufalia, be answered somewhat in the following manner:-

"As a result of the communication from the Norwegian Government, the matter of the sinking of the steamships Deptford, Thomas Walton, and Garoufalia, has been thoroughly investigated. The following facts have thus been ascertained:-

[Page 370]

"The steamer Deptford was sunk by a German U-boat on 13th December, as it was recognized as an armed enemy ship. According to the report of the U-boat Commander, the sinking did not take place within territorial waters, but immediately outside. The German Naval Forces have strict instructions not to undertake any war operations within neutral territorial waters. Should the U-boat Commander have miscalculated his position, as appears to be borne out by the findings of the Norwegian authorities, and should Norwegian territorial waters have been violated in consequence, the German Government regrets this most sincerely. As a result of this incident, the German Naval Forces have once again been instructed unconditionally to respect neutral territorial waters. If a violation of Norwegian territorial waters has indeed occurred, there will be no repetition of it.

"As far as the sinking of the steamships Thomas Walton and Garoufalia is concerned, this cannot be traced to operations by German U-boats as at the time of the sinking, none of them were in the naval area indicated."

And then there is a draft reply put forward which is on very much the same lines.

And you say in the face of that document that the German Navy never misled the neutrals?

A. The neutrals had been advised that in these areas, dangers of war might be encountered. We are of the opinion that we were not obliged to tell them through which war measures these areas were dangerous, or through which war measures their ships were lost.

Q. Is that really your answer to this document? This is a complete lie, is it not? You admit the one sinking, that you cannot get away from. And you deny the others. You deny that there was a German U-boat anywhere near, and you are telling this Tribunal that you were justified in order to conceal the weapons you were using. Is that the best answer you can give?

A. Yes, certainly. We had no interest at all in letting the enemy know what methods we were using in this area.

Q. You are admitting that one of them was sunk by a U-boat. Why not admit the other two as well? Why not say it was the same U-boat?

A. I assume that we were concerned with another area in which the situation was different.

Q. What was the difference? Why did you not say, "One of our U-boats has made a mistake, or disobeyed orders, and is responsible for all these three sinkings"? Or, alternatively, why did you not say, "We have given you fair warning, we are going to sink at sight anyone in this area. And what is your complaint?"

A. Obviously I did not consider it expedient.

Q. It was considered expedient to deceive the neutrals. And you, an Admiral in the German Navy, told me you did not do that, ten minutes ago. As a matter of fact, these three boats were all sunk by the same U-boat, were they not?

A. I cannot tell you that at the moment.

Q. I say they were all sunk by U-38, and the dates of sinking were: the Deptford on 13th December, the Garoufalia on the 11th, and the Thomas Walton on the 7th. Do you dispute that?

A. I did not understand the last sentence.

Q. Do you dispute those details, or don't you remember?

A. I cannot recall; but I actually believe it is impossible.

Q. I will cite you another instance of deceiving the neutrals, and this time it was your friends the Spanish. Would you look at C-105?

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: My Lord, that is a new document; it becomes Exhibit GB 455. It is an extract from the SKL War Diary for 19th December, 1940.

[Page 371]


Q. You kept the SKL War Diary yourself at that time, did you not?

A. No, I did not keep it, but I signed it.

Q. You signed it. Did you read it before you signed it?

A. The essential parts, yes.

Q. You see, it reads: "Spain: News from the Neutrals," and it is headed, "Spain: according to a report from the Naval Attache, Spanish fishing-vessel was sunk by a submarine of unknown nationality between Las Palmas and Cape Juey. In the rescue boat the crew was subjected to machine-gun fire. Three men badly wounded. Landed at Las Palmas on the 18th December. Italians suspected. (Possibility it might have been U-37.)"

Then on 20th December, the next day:-

"B.d.U. (C-in-C Submarine Fleet) will be informed of Spanish report regarding sinking of Spanish fishing- vessel by submarine of unknown nationality on 16th December, between Las Palmas and Cape Juey, and requested to conduct an investigation.

"On the responsibility of the Naval War Command, it has been confirmed to our Naval Attache in Madrid that, regarding the sinking, there is no question of a German submarine."

When you reported that, you thought it possible, did you not, that it might have been U-37; is that not so?

A. It seems to me that in the meantime it became known that it was not U-37.

Q. I will read on. This is under date of 21st December.

"U-37 reports: a torpedo fired at a tanker of the Kopbard type (7329), gyro failure, and probably hit an Amphitrite submarine in the tanker's convoy. Tanker burnt out. Spanish steamer St. Carlos (300) without distinguishing marks through concentrated gunfire. Nine torpedoes left.

"Then U-37 torpedoed French tanker Rhone, and the submarine Sfax, and sank a Spanish fishing vessel."

And then, if you will read the next entry.
"We shall continue to maintain to the outside world that there is no question of a German or Italian submarine in the sea-area in question being responsible for the sinkings."
Do you still say that you did not deceive the neutrals?

A. This case is doubtless a deception, but I do not remember for what particular reason this deception was carried through.

Q. But it is pretty discreditable, is it not? Do you regard that as creditable to the German Navy, that conduct?

A. No, this -

Q. Did the defendant Raeder sign the War Diary?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you tell the defendant Donitz what answer you were giving to the Spaniards and the Norwegians?

A. That I do not recall.

Q. He would get a copy, would he not?

A. I did not understand you.

Q. You would send him a copy, would you not, of your note to the Foreign Office?

A. That is possible.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Phillimore, does the signature of the defendant Raeder appear at the end of this document, C-105?

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: My Lord, I regret to say I have not checked that. But, as the witness has said, the practice was that he was to sign the War Diary, and that the Commander-in- Chief was to sign it periodically.

[Page 372]


Q. Is that right, witness?

A. Yes. On the next page, on 21st December, my signature appears as well as those of Admiral Fricke, Admiral Schniewind, and Admiral Raeder.

DR. SIEMERS (Counsel for Admiral Raeder): Mr. President, I would be very grateful to the prosecution if the documents which concern the defendant Raeder could also be given to me, for it is relatively difficult for me to follow the situation otherwise. I have received none of these documents.

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: I am extremely sorry, my Lord. That is my fault, and I will see that Dr. Siemers has the copies tonight.

THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn now at this point until tomorrow morning.

(A recess was taken until 1000 hours, Tuesday, 14th May, 1946.)

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