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 8 of 10)

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

[Page 28]

Q. From where and to where?

A. Between the Normandy invasion area and the British Isles. C.-in-C. U-boats then had investigations made by the competent department as to whether this hospital-ship traffic was really as heavy as alleged in these reports. That was found to be the case.

Q. What do you mean by that?

A. It means that the number of hospital ships reported, corresponded to the estimated number of wounded. After that it was expressly announced that hospital ships were not to be attacked in future.

Q. Was the strict respect paid to hospital ships at that stage of the war in our own interests?

A. At that time we only had hospital ships in the Baltic, where the Geneva Convention was not recognized by the other side; so we had no particular interest in respecting hospital ships.

Q. Do you know of any cases of an enemy hospital ship being sunk by a German U-boat during this war?

A. No.

[Page 29]

Q. Did it happen the other way round?

A. The German hospital ship Tuebingen was, I think, sunk by British aircraft in the Mediterranean.

Q. Presumably because of mistaken identity?

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kranzbuhler, the question of German hospital ships which were sunk is not relevant, is it?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: I was going to show by it, Mr. President, that the possibility of mistaken identity does exist, and that a hospital ship was in fact sunk in consequence of such a mistake. My evidence therefore goes to show that the sinking of ships is not sufficient ground on which to draw the conclusion that it should not have been sunk.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal quite realize that mistakes may be made in sea warfare. It is a matter of common knowledge. Should we adjourn now?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Yes, Mr. President.

(A recess was taken.)


Q. Admiral Goth, you have known Admiral Donitz very well since 1934; and you have had a good deal to do with him during that time. Did he have anything to do with politics during that time?

A. Nothing at all, to my knowledge, before he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. As Commander-in-Chief of the Navy he made occasional speeches outside the Navy; for instance, he addressed dock workers, made a speech to the Hitler Youth at Stettin and gave a talk over the air on "Hero's Day," on 20th July; I remember no other occasions.

Q. Were these speeches not always directly connected with the tasks of the Navy - for instance, the address to the dock workers - ship-building?

A. Yes, when he spoke to the dock workers.

Q. And to the Hitler Youth?

A. The Hitler Youth, too.

Q. And what was the connection there?

A. As far as I remember, the speech was concerned with recruiting for the Navy.

Q. Did he select his staff officers for their ideological or naval qualifications?

A. Their naval and personal qualities were all that mattered. Their political views had nothing to do with it.

Q. The question of whether Admiral Donitz knew, or must have known, of certain happenings outside the Navy, is a very important one from the Tribunal's point of view. Can you tell me who his associates were?

A. His own officers and officers of his own age, almost exclusively. As far as I know, he had very few contacts beyond those.

Q. Did matters change much in this respect after he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Navy?

A. No. He probably had a few more contacts with people from other branches, but on the whole his circle remained the same.

Q. Where did he actually live at that time, that is, after his appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy?

A. After his appointment as Commander-in- Chief, he was mainly at the headquarters of the Naval War Staff near Berlin.

Q. Did he live with his family or with his staff?

A. He made his home with his family; but the main part of his life was spent with his staff.

[Page 30]

And where did he live when his staff was transferred to the so-called "Koralle" quarters in the neighbourhood of Berlin in the autumn of 1943?

A. He lived at his headquarters, where his family also lived - at least for some time. His official discussions, however, usually lasted till late in the evening.

Q. In other words, from that time on he lived constantly in a Naval officer's quarters?

A. Yes.

Q. You were in a better position than almost any of the other officers to observe the Admiral's career at close quarters. Can you tell me what you think were the motives behind the naval orders he issued?

THE PRESIDENT: You cannot speak about the motives of people. You cannot give evidence about other people's minds. You can only give evidence of what they said and what they did.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Mr. President, I still think that an officer who lived with another officer for years must have a certain knowledge of his motives, based on the actions of the officer in question and on what that officer told him. However, perhaps I may put my question rather differently.

THE PRESIDENT: He can give evidence about his character, but he cannot give evidence about his motives.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Then I shall question him on his character, your Honour.


Q. Can you tell me whether Admiral Donitz ever expressed selfish motives to you in connection with any other orders he gave or any of his actions?

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kranzbuhler, that is the same thing, the same question again, really.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: I beg your pardon, Mr. President. I meant it to be a different question.

THE PRESIDENT: Nobody is charging him with being egotistical or anything of that sort. He is charged with the various crimes that are charged against him in the indictment.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Then I shall ask a direct question based on the prosecution's opinion.


Q. The prosecution judged Admiral Donitz to be cynical and opportunistic. Does that agree with your own judgement?

A. No.

Q. How would you judge him?

A. As a man whose mind was fixed entirely on duty, on his work, his service problems and the men in his service.

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

THE PRESIDENT: Do any other members of the defendants' Counsel want to ask any questions?

(No response.)

[Page 31]

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: My Lord, might I first mention the documents that I put in in cross-examination this morning, or rather, it was a document which had been in before. It was D-658, Exhibit GB 229. That is the Document dealing with the Bordeaux Commando Raid, and there was a dispute as to whether it was from the SKL, that is the Naval War Staff Diary, or from the war diary of some lower formation. My Lord, I have had the matter confirmed by the Admiralty, and I will produce the original to Defence Counsel and it comes from the SKL War Diary, Tagebuch der Kriegsleitung, and it is from one Abteilung, Teil A - that is Part A - for December 1942. So it is from the War Diary of the defendant Raeder and the witness.



Q. You have said, witness, that you do not recollect protesting against this order of 17th September, 1942.

A. Yes.

Q. I will try and refresh your memory. Would you look at a Document, D-865?

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: That's Exhibit GB 458, My Lord, that is an extract from an interrogation of Admiral Donitz on 6th October. I should say that the record was kept in English, and, therefore, the translation into German does not represent necessarily the Admiral's actual words.


Q. Would you look at the second page of that Document at the end of the first paragraph. It is the end of the first paragraph on Page 207 in the English text. The Admiral is dealing with the order of 17th September, 1942, and in that last sentence in that paragraph he says:-

"I remember that Captain Goth and Captain Hessler were opposed to this telegram. They said so expressly because, as they said, 'it might be misunderstood'. But I said, 'I must pass it on now to these boats to prevent this one per cent of losses. I must give them a reason so that they do not feel themselves obliged to do that.'"
Do you remember protesting now, saying, "That can be misunderstood"?

A. No, I do not recall that.

Q. And a further extract, on Page 3 of the English translation, the bottom of Page,2 of the German:-

"So I sent a second telegram to prevent further losses. The second telegram was sent at my suggestion. I am completely and personally responsible for it, because both Captain Goth and Captain Hessler expressly stated that they thought the telegram ambiguous or liable to misinterpretation."
Do you remember that now?

A. No, I do not recall that.

Q. Would you look at a further statement to the same effect, on Page 5 of the English, first paragraph; Page 4 of the German text, third paragraph.

He has been asked the question: "Why was it necessary to use a phrase like the one that I read to you before?" - My Lord, that is the bottom of Page 4:-

"Efforts to rescue members of the crew were counter to the most elementary demands of warfare for the destruction of enemy ships and crews."
It is the last clause of the first sentence, and he answered:-
"These words do not correspond to the telegram. They do not in any way correspond to our actions in the years of '39, '40, '41 and '42, as I have plainly shown you through the Laconia incident. I would like to emphasize once more that both Captain Goth and Captain Hessler were violently opposed to the despatch of this telegram."

[Page 32]

Do you still say that you do not remember protesting against the sending of that telegram?

A. I have stated repeatedly that I do not remember it.

Q. I will show you one more extract, the Document D-866, which will become Exhibit GB 459. That is a further interrogation, on 22nd October.

The first question on the Document is: "Do you believe that this order is contrary to the prize regulations issued by the German Navy at the beginning of the war?"

And the last sentence of the first paragraph of the answer is Goth and Hessler said to me, 'Do not send this message. You see, it might look odd one day. It might be misinterpreted.'"

You do not remember using those words?

A. No.

Q. You were an experienced staff officer, were you not?

A. Yes.

Q. You knew the importance of drafting an operational order with absolute clarity, did you not?

A. Yes.

Q. These orders you were issuing were going to young Commanders, between 20 and 30 years of age, were they not?

A. Certainly not as young as 20. They would be in their late twenties, most probably.

A. Yes. Do you say that this order is not ambiguous?

A. Yes. Perhaps if you take one sentence out of the context, you might have some doubt, but not if you read the entire order.

Q. What was the point of the words: "Rescue runs counter to the most elementary demands of warfare for the destruction of enemy ships and crews"?

A. (No response.)

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: Show it to him, will you?

(A document was handed to the witness.)


Q. What was the point of those words, if this was merely a non-rescue order?

A. It was served to motivate the remainder of the order and to put on an equal level all the ships and crews which were fighting against our U-boats.

Q. You see, all your orders were so clear, were they not?

Have you the defence documents there in the witness box?

A. I think so - no.

Q. Look at the defence Document, Donitz No. 8, Page 10.

A. I have not got the documents here.

(A document was handed to the witness.)

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