The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
14th May to 24th May, 1946

One Hundred and Twenty-Ninth Day: Tuesday, 14th May, 1946
(Part 6 of 10)

[DR. KRANZBUHLER continues his direct examination of Bernhard Goth]

[Page 20]

Q. I shall now show you Exhibit GB 91. This appears on Page 18 of the prosecution's Document Book. It is an operational order issued by C.-in-C. U-boats on 3oth March, 1940, and dealing with the Norwegian enterprise. Is it true that this is your operational order?

A. Yes.

Q. How many days before the beginning of the Norwegian enterprise was that order released?

A. Approximately ten days.

Q. Paragraph 1, Section 5, contains the following sentence: "While entering the harbour, and until the troops have been landed, the naval forces will probably fly the British naval ensign, except in Narvik." I beg your pardon: Section 2. Is that an order given by C.-in-C. U-boats to the submarines under his command?

A. No. That passage appears under the heading: "Information on our own combat forces."

Q. And what is the meaning of this allusion?

A. It means that U-boats were informed that in certain circumstances our own Naval units could fly other flags.

Q. Why was that necessary?

A. It was necessary so as to camouflage our identity.

Q. Are there any other references to this point in this order?

[Page 21]

A. Yes.

Q. Where?

A. In paragraph 4 (5).

Q. Will you please read it?

A. There it says: "Beware of confusing our own units with enemy forces."

Q. Only that sentence? Did this order instruct U-boats to attack Norwegian forces?

A. No.

Q. Will you please indicate what the order says about that?

A. 4 (A2) states: "Only enemy naval forces and troop transports are to be attacked."

Q. What was meant by "enemy" forces?

A. "Enemy" forces were British, French and Russian - no, not Russians. It goes on: "No action is to be taken against Norwegian and Danish forces unless they attack our own forces."

Q. Will you please read Paragraph 6 C.

A. Paragraph 6 C says: "Steamers may only be attacked when they have been identified beyond the possibility of doubt as enemy steamers and as troop transports."

Q. Was C.-in-C. U-boats informed of the political action taken with regard to incidents caused by submarines?

A. Yes.

Q. In what way?

A. U-boats had orders to report immediately by wireless in the case of incidents and to supplement the report later.

Q. I don't think you quite understood my question. I asked you, was C.-in-C. U-boats informed as to how an incident caused by a submarine would later on be settled with a neutral government?

A. No, not as a rule.

Q. Can you remember any individual case where he was informed?

A. I remember the case of the Spanish steamer Monte Corbea. Later on I learned that Spain had been promised reparations. I cannot remember now whether I received the information through official channels or whether I just heard it accidentally.

Q. I should now like to establish the dates of certain orders which I have already presented to the Tribunal. I shall show you Standing Order No. 171, which is on Page 159 of Vol. 3 of the document book. What is the date on which that order was issued?

A. I shall have to look at it first.

Q. Please do.

A. That order must have originated in the winter of 1939- 1940. Probably 1939.

Q. On what do you base that conclusion?

A. I base it on the reference made in 4A to equipment for depth charges. This was taken for granted at a later stage. I also gather it from the reference made in 5B to the moving of masks and coloured lights, something which was formulated then for the first time.

Q. Can you tell us the exact month in 1939?

A. I assume that it was November.

Q. I am now going to show you another order, Standing War Order No. 122. It appears on Page 226 in the fourth volume of my document book. Up to now all we know is that this order was issued before May, 1940. Can you give us a more exact date?

A. This order must have been issued about the same time as the first, that is to say, about November, 1939.

Q. Thank you. How was the conduct of U-boat warfare by C.-in- C. U-boats organized in practice? Will you explain that to us?

[Page 22]

A. All orders based on questions of International Law, etc., originated with the Naval War Staff. The Naval War Staff also reserved for itself the right to determine the locality of the centre of operations - for instance, the distribution of U-boats in the Atlantic Theatre, the Mediterranean Theatre, and the North Sea Theatre. Within these various areas, U-boats operations were, generally speaking, entirely at the discretion of C.-in-C. Submarines.

Q. Were the standing orders for U-boats given verbally or in writing?

A. In writing.

Q. Were there not verbal orders as well?

A. Verbal instructions personally issued by C.-in-C. U-boats had a special part to play and included personal influence brought to bear on Commanders, as well as explanations of the contents of written orders.

Q. On what occasions was that personal influence exerted?

A. Particularly when reports were being made by the Commanders after each action. There must have been very few Commanders who did not make a personal and detailed report to C.-in-C. U-boats after an action.

Q. Was it possible for written orders to be changed in the course of verbal transmission, or even twisted round to mean the opposite?

A. Such a possibility might have existed; but it never actually happened.

Q. When they made these verbal reports, could the Commanders risk expressing opinions which were not those of C.-in-C. U- boats?

A . Absolutely. C.-in-C. U-boats even asked his Commanders in so many words to give him their personal opinions in every case, so that he could maintain direct personal contact with them and thus remain in close touch with events on the front so that he could put matters right where necessary.

Q. Was this personal contact used for the verbal transmission of distasteful orders?

A. No.

Q. The prosecution holds that an order - apparently a verbal order - existed, prohibiting the entry in the log of measures considered dubious or unjustifiable from the point of view of International Law. Did such a general order exist?

A. No; there was no general order. In certain individual cases - I can remember two - an order was given to omit certain matters from the log.

Q. Which cases do you remember?

A. The first was the Athenia case, and the second was the sinking of a German boat which was coming from Japan through the blockade, by a German submarine.

Q. Before I ask you to give me details of that, I should like to know the reason for omitting such matters from the log.

A. It was done for reasons of secrecy. U-boat logs were seen by a great many people, firstly, in the training stations of the U-boat arm itself; and, secondly, in numerous offices of the Supreme Command. Special attention had therefore to be paid to secrecy.

Q. How many copies of each U-boat War Diary were made?

A. I should say six to eight copies.

Q. Did the omission of such an item from the log mean that all documentary evidence was destroyed in every office; or did certain offices keep these documents?

A. These records were retained. by C.-in-C. Submarines, and probably by the Naval War Staff as well.

Q. Was there a "Standing War Order" prescribing the treatment of incidents?

A. Yes.

Q. What were the contents?

A. It stated that incidents must be reported immediately by wireless and that a supplementary report must be made later, either in writing or by word of mouth.

Q. Does this "Standing Order" contain any allusion to the omission of such incidents from the log?

A. No.

[Page 23]

Q. Will you please tell me now how this alteration was made in the log in the case of the Athenia?

A. In the case of the Athenia, Naval Lieutenant Lemm reported on returning that he had torpedoed this ship, assuming it to be an auxiliary cruiser. I cannot now tell you exactly whether this was the first time I realised that such a possibility existed, or whether the idea that this ship might possibly have been torpedoed by a German submarine had already been taken into consideration. Lemm was sent to Berlin to make a report and absolute secrecy was ordered with regard to the case.

Q. By whom?

A. The Naval War Staff, after a temporary order had been issued in our department. I ordered the fact to be erased from the U-boat's War Diary.

A. And that, of course, was on the orders of Admiral Donitz?

A. Yes, or I ordered it on his instructions.

Q. Did you participate in the further handling of this incident?

A. Only with regard to the question of whether Lemm should be punished. As far as I remember, C.-in-C. U-boats only took disciplinary action against him because it was in his favour that the incident occurred during the first few hours of the war and it was held that in his excitement he had not investigated the character of the ship as carefully as he might have done.

Q. Did I understand you correctly as saying that the detailed documentary evidence in connection with the sinking of the Athenia was retained by both C.-in-C. U-boats and, you believe, the Naval War Staff?

A. I can say that with certainty only as far as C.-in-C. U- boats is concerned. That is what happened in this case.

Q. You mentioned a second case some time ago, where a log book had been altered. Which case was that?

A. That incident was as follows: A German blockade breaker, that is to say, a merchant vessel on its way back from Japan, was accidentally torpedoed by a German submarine and sunk in the North Atlantic. This fact was omitted from the log.

Q. So it was only a question of keeping matters secret from German offices?

A. Yes. The British learned the facts from lifeboats as far as I know; and these facts were to be concealed from the crews of other blockade breaking vessels.

Q. Documents submitted to the Tribunal by the defence show that until the autumn of 1942, German U-boats took steps to rescue crews, as far as was possible without prejudicing the U-boat's safety and without interfering with their own assignment. Does this agree with your own experiences?

A. Yes.

Q. I should now like to put a few questions to you regarding the so-called Laconia order, which still require clarification. I refer to Exhibit GB 199. As you know, the prosecution call this order an order to kill survivors. Who formulated this order?

THE PRESIDENT: Where is it?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: It is in the Document Book of the prosecution, on Page 36, Mr. President.

A. I cannot now tell you that for certain. Generally speaking, such an order was discussed by C.-in-C. U-boats, the stand-by officer, and myself. C.-in-C. U-boats decided on the general terms of the order and then it was formulated by one of us. It is quite possible that I myself worded the order.

Q. But, at any rate, Admiral Donitz signed it, did he not?

A. He must have done - yes.

Q. Admiral Donitz; thought that he remembered that you and Captain Kessler were opposed to this order. Can you remember this, too, and if so, why were you against it?

A. I do not remember that.

[Page 24]

Q. What was the meaning of the order?

A. The meaning of the order is plain. It prohibited attempts at rescue.

Q. Why was that not forbidden by means of a reference to Standing War Order No. 154, which was issued in the winter of 1939-40?

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kranzbuhler, surely a written order must speak for itself. Unless there is some colloquial meaning in a particular word used in the order, the order must be interpreted according to the ordinary meaning of the words.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: I was not proposing to go into the question any further, Mr. President.


Q. I should like to repeat my last question. Why, instead of issuing a new order, did they not simply refer Commanders to Standing War Order No. 154, which was issued in the winter of 1939-40?

I refer, Mr. President, to Exhibit GB 196, on Page 33 of the prosecution's Document Book.

You remember that order, do you not, I have shown it to you.

A. Yes, I do. That order had already been cancelled when the so-called Laconia order was issued. Apart from that, a mere reference to an order already issued would have lacked the character of authority which orders should have.

Q. Do you mean by that that your staff, as a matter of principle, did not issue orders by means of references to earlier orders?

A. That was avoided whenever possible; that is to say, generally speaking - always.

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