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 7 of 10)

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

[Page 24]

Q. Will you explain to me why that order was issued as top secret?

A. The order appeared after an operation in which we nearly lost two boats, and contained a severe reprimand for the Commandants in question. It was not customary for us to make such a reprimand in a form accessible to anyone except the Commandants and all the officers.

THE PRESIDENT: Which is the severe reprimand?

Q. Will you please explain what severe reprimand for the Commandants you refer to?

A. It is understandable in the light of previous events - namely, those very things which it forbids. It is largely contained in the sentence beginning: "Rescue is against the most primitive demands" and it is also implied by the harshness with which the Commanders are accused of being soft-hearted.

Q. Does this mean that the Commandants were accused of having risked their boats too far in connection with the rescue action of the Laconia and of acting in a manner which was not in accordance with the dictates of war?

A. Yes. After having been repeatedly reminded during the action of the necessity for acting in a manner in accordance with the dictates of war.

Q. You were interrogated on this order after the capitulation, as you told me, but you could not at the moment remember its exact wording. How was it possible for you not to remember this order?

A. There were certain orders which had to be kept in collective files and which one therefore saw very frequently. This order was not one of them, but was filed separately after being dealt with. After it had been issued I never saw it again until the end of the war.

Q. What did an order intended for inclusion in such a collection look like on the outside?

A. It had to be "current order" or a reprimand signal.

Q. Did that occur in the text of the order concerned?

A. It would be in the heading of the order concerned. That is not the case here.

[Page 25]

Q. So we may conclude from the fact that this wireless message is not headed either "Reprimand Signal" or "Current Order", that it did not belong to a collection of orders?

A. Yes.

Q. But then how is it possible that Lt.-Commander Mohle gave talks on this order, apparently until the end of the war?

A. Lt.-Commander Mohle had access to all wireless messages issued by C.-in-C. U-boats. He was entitled to select from these signals anything he thought necessary for the instruction of Commanders about to go to sea. It made no difference whether the order was marked as a "reprimand" or a "current order". He had obviously extracted this message from the material to be used for these instructions to the Commanders.

Q. Did Mohle ever ask you about the interpretation of that order?

A. No.

Q. Did you ever hear of any other source interpreting this order to mean that survivors were to be shot?

A. No.

Q. Can you judge from your own experience, whether this order had any practical results, or could have any effect in practice, on the allied naval losses?

A. That is very difficult to judge. At that time something like eighty per cent of all U-boat attacks were probably carried out in conditions which made any attempt at rescue impossible. That is to say, these attacks were made on convoys or on vessels in close proximity to the coast.

The fact that some twelve captains and engineers were brought back as prisoners by U-boats is an indication of what happened in other cases. It is difficult to say, with any degree of certainty, whether it was possible to take rescue measures in all cases. The situation was probably such that the Allied sailors felt safer in the lifeboats than they did, for instance, aboard the U-boat and probably were glad to see the U-boat vanish after the attack. The fact that the presence of the U-boat meant a danger to itself is proved by the case of the Laconia, where two U- boats were attacked from the air while engaged in rescuing the survivors.

I do not think it is at all certain that this order had any effect one way or the other.

Q. What do you mean, "one way or the other"?

A. I mean whether it meant an increase or a decrease in the number of losses amongst enemy seamen.

Q. There is one train of thought which I did not quite understand. You pointed to the fact that approximately twelve captains and chief engineers were made prisoners alter this order was issued. Do you mean by that that only in these few cases was it possible, without endangering the submarine, to carry out the order to transfer such officers from the lifeboats?

A. It is too much to say that it was only possible in these few cases, but it does afford some indication of the number of cases in which it was possible.

Q. I shall now show you the wireless message which went to Lieutenant Schacht. It is on Page 36 of the prosecution's Document Book. This message, too, was sent as "top secret". What was the reason for that?

A. It is a definite and severe reprimand for the Commander.

Q. How far was that reprimand justified? Schacht had not received previous instructions to rescue Italians only?

A. No, but it had been assumed that U-boats would realize that it was of primary importance that Allies should be rescued-i.e., that they should be made prisoners of war. Apart from that, several reminders had been issued in the course of operations, warning Commanders to be particularly careful. After that came Schacht's report, which appeared at the time to indicate that he had disobeyed orders.

[Page 26]

Viewed retrospectively, Schacht's action must have taken place before C.-in-C. U-boats issued the order in question, so that in part, at least, the accusation was unjustified.

Q. Were any further rescue measures carried out by U-boats after this order was issued in September 1942?

A. In isolated cases; yes.

Q. Did C.-in-C. U-boats object to these rescues

A. I have no recollection of that.

Q. To your knowledge, did German U-boats deliberately kill survivors?

A. The only case I know of - and I heard of it after the capitulation - is that of Lieutenant Eck. We heard an enemy broadcast which hinted at these happenings, but we were unable to draw any conclusions from that.

Q. I now hand you the prosecution's Exhibit GB 203, which is regarded by the prosecution as proof of the shooting of survivors. This is the log of U-247, from which is printed an extract on Page 74 of the second volume of my Document Book. This extract describes an attack made by the U-boat on a British trawler. You have already seen this log. After his return, did the Commandant make a report on this action?

A. Yes.

Q. Did he report anything about the shooting of survivors on that occasion?

A. No.

Q. According to a statement made by a survivor named McAllister, this trawler, the Moren Mary, had a gun aboard. Do you know whether trawlers had guns mounted fore or aft.

A. They were almost always in the bows.

Q. Can you remember, with the help of this extract from the log and on the strength of your own recollections of the Commander's report, the exact details of this incident?

A. The first thing was that the U-boat, when submerged, encountered a number of vessels escorting trawlers close to Cape Wrath. It tried to torpedo one of the trawlers.

THE PRESIDENT (Interposing): Is the witness trying to reconstruct this from the document, reconstruct the incident?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: I am asking him to tell us what he remembers of the event, basing his account on his own recollection of the Commander's report, supplemented by the entry in the log.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, he has not said whether he ever saw the Commander.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Oh yes; Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Well then, all he can tell us is what the Commander told him.


THE PRESIDENT: Well, have him do that then.



Q. Will you please tell us what you remember, after reading the log?

THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute. If he remembers anything about what the Commander told him, he can tell us that, but the log speaks for itself and he cannot reconstruct it out of that. He must tell us what he remembers of what the officer said.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Very well, sir.

[Page 27]


Q. Will YOU please speak from memory.

A. The Commander reported that he had encountered a number of trawlers extraordinarily close to the coast, considering conditions at the time. Failing in his attempt to torpedo one of them, he sank it with gunfire. That was all the more remarkable because, in the first place, the incident occurred quite unusually near the coast and in the second place the Commander risked this gun fight regardless of the presence of other vessels nearby.

Q. Were these other ships also armed trawlers?

A. It was to be assumed at the time that every trawler was armed.

Q. The witness McAllister thought that the submarine surfaced 50 yards away from the trawler. In the light of your own recollections and experiences, do you think this is possible?

A. I do not remember the details; but it would be an unusual thing for a U-boat Commander to do.

Q. McAllister also stated the U-boat used shells filled with wire.

THE PRESIDENT (Interposing): Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Dr. Kranzbuhler, the Tribunal thinks that the witness ought not to express opinions of that sort. He ought to give us the evidence of any facts which he has. He is telling us that in his opinion it is impossible that a naval commander would ever bring his submarine up within 50 yards of another vessel.


THE PRESIDENT: That is not a matter for him to say.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Mr. President, I was going to ask the witness whether German U-boats used shells filled with wire as stated by the witness McAllister. Is that question admissible?


Q. Will you answer that question, Witness.

A. Such shells did not exist at all.

Q. Was this attack by the submarine on the Moren Mary reported by wireless immediately? Do you know anything about it?

A. Do you mean the U-boat Commander's report?

Q. No, by the British.

A. As far as I remember, a wireless message sent by a British vessel was intercepted, reporting a U-boat attack in that area.

Q. A signal is entered in the log under 0127 hours. It is intended for Matschulat, which means that it was sent by you to the commander, and it reads: "English steamer reports attack by German U-boat west of Cape Wrath."

A. That is the message intended to inform the U-boat that a wireless signal sent by a British steamer concerning a submarine attack in that area had been intercepted.

Q. I should now like to ask you something about Standing War Order No- 511. This is in Volume I of my Document Book, Page 46. When I presented this order, the Tribunal was not sure of the significance of paragraph 2, which I am going to read:

"Captains and officers of neutral ships which may be sunk according to Standing Order No. 101 (e.g., Sweden except Goteborg traffic), must not be taken on board, as the internment of these officers is not permitted by International Law."
Can you tell me first what were the experiences or calculations which led to the inclusion of paragraph 2 in the order?

[Page 28]

A. On one occasion a U-boat brought a Uruguayan officer - a captain whose ship had been sunk-to Germany. We were afraid that if we released this captain he might report some of the things he had seen while be was interned aboard the U.-boat. The reason for this order was to avoid difficulties of that kind in the future; for the Uruguayan captain had to be released and was, in fact, released.

Q. What is the meaning of the reference to neutral ships which may be sunk, according to Standing War Order No. 101?

A. May I please see the order for a minute?

(The order is handed to the witness.)

The Standing War Order No. 101 contains the following directives in connection with the sinking of neutral ships: Once inside the blockade zone, all neutral ships can be sunk as a matter of principle with two important exceptions or, shall we say, two general exceptions.

To begin with, ships belonging to certain neutral countries, with which agreements had been made regarding definite shipping channels, must not be sunk; further, ships belonging to certain neutral States which might be assumed not to be working exclusively in the enemy's service. Outside the blockade zone neutral ships might be sunk: firstly, if they were not recognizable as neutrals and therefore must be regarded as enemy vessels by the submarine in question, and secondly, if they were not acting as neutrals.

Q. As, for instance, those travelling in enemy convoy?

A. Yes, those travelling in convoys, if they reported the presence of U-boats, etc., by wireless.

Q. Did paragraph (2) mean that the captains of neutral ships would in future be in a worse position than captains of enemy ships, or would they he in a better position?

A. This is not a question of better or worse, it is a question of taking prisoners. They were not to be taken prisoner, because they could not be detained as such. Whether this meant that their position would be better or worse is at least open to question. Captains of enemy ships usually tried to escape being taken aboard the U-boat, probably because they felt safer in their life-boats.

Q. What do you know about orders to respect hospital ships at the beginning of the invasion?

A. At the beginning of the invasion, the rule in this area, as in any other area, was that hospital ships were not to be attacked. Commanders operating in the invasion zone then reported that there was a very large number of hospital ships sailing.

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