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 9 of 10)

[COLONEL PHILLIMORE continues his cross examination of Bernhard Goth]

[Page 32]


Q. It is on Page 10 of that book. Let me read you the second paragraph:-

"U-boats may instantly attack with all the weapons at their command enemy merchant vessels recognized with certainty as armed, or announced as such on the basis of unimpeachable evidence in the possession of the Naval War Staff."
The next sentence:
"As far as circumstances permit, measures shall be taken for the rescue of the crew, after the possibility of endangering the U-boat is excluded."
Now, no Commander could go wrong with that order, could be? It is perfectly clear.

Look at another one, D-642, at Page 13. It is the last paragraph of the order, on Page 15. Now, this is a non- rescue order.

[Page 33]

Have you got it? Paragraph E, Standing Order 154:-
"Do not rescue crew members or take them aboard and do not take care of the ship's boats. Weather conditions and distance from land are of no consequence. Think only of the safety of your own boat, and try to achieve additional successes as soon as possible.

"We must be harsh in this war. The enemy started it in order to destroy us and we have to act accordingly."

Now, that was perfectly clear, was it not? That was a "non- rescue" order?

A. It was just as clear as the order we are talking about.

Q. Look at one or two more and then let me come back to that order; Page 45, another order:-

"Order from Flag Officer, U-boats" - reading the third line - "to take on board as prisoners Captains of sunk ships with their papers, if it is possible to do so without endangering the boat or impairing its fighting capacity."
It is perfectly clear to anybody exactly what was intended, is it not?

A. That is not an order at all; it only reproduces an extract from the log.

Q. Yes. Reciting the words of the order; and then, on the next page in paragraph 4:-

"Try under all circumstances to take prisoners if that can be done without endangering the boat."
Again perfectly clear.

Look at the next page, Page 47, paragraph 1 of your order of the 1st of June, 1944, the last sentence:-

"Therefore every effort must be made to bring in such prisoners, as far as possible without endangering the boat."
Now, you have told us that this order of 17th September, 1942, was intended to be a non-rescue order; that is right, is it not?

A. Yes, certainly.

Q. I ask you again, what was meant by the sentence, "Rescue runs counter to the most elementary demands of warfare for the destruction of enemy ships and crews"?

A. That is the motivation of the rest of the order, which states that ships with crews armed and equipped to fight U- boats were to be put on the same level.

Q. Why do you speak about the destruction of crews if you do not mean the destruction of crews?

A. The question is, whether the ships and their crews were to be destroyed and that is something entirely different from destroying the crews after they had left the ship.

Q. And that is something entirely different from merely not rescuing the crews; is that not a fact?

A. I do not quite understand that question.

Q. Destruction of crews is quite different from non-rescue of crews?

A. Destruction - as long as the ship and crew are together.

Q. You are not answering the question, are you? But if you want it again: Destruction of crews is quite different from non-rescue of crews?

A. The destruction of the crew is different from the non- rescue of survivors, yes.

Q. Were those words merely put in to give this order what you described as a "lively character", which an order should have?

A. I cannot give you the details. I have already said that I do not remember in detail the events leading up to this order.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Phillimore, the Tribunal has already told the witness that the Document speaks for itself.


[Page 34]


Q. Would you just look at the next document in the prosecution's book, that is D-663, on the last sentence of that Document? In view of the desired destruction of ships' crews, are you saying that it was not your intention at this time to destroy the crews if you could?

A. I thought we were talking about survivors.

Q. Well, it is the same thing, to some extent, is it not, ships' crews once they are torpedoed, become survivors?

A. Then they would be survivors; yes.

Q. Will you now answer the question? Was it not your intention at this time to destroy the crews or survivors if you like, if you could?

A. If you mean survivors - the question can refer to two things. As regards survivors - no.

Q. If you are not prepared to answer the question, I will pass on. Do you remember the case of Lieutenant Eck?

A. I only heard of the case of Lieutenant Eck from American and British officers, and some things I only heard after I came to Germany.

Q. Do you know that he was on his first voyage when his U- boat sank the Filius and then machine-gunned the survivors? Do you know that?

A. Yes.

Q. He had set out from the 5th U-boat flotilla at Kiel where Mohle was briefing the Commanders, had he not?

A. He must have done.

Q. Yes. Now, if instead of taking the whole blame upon himself for the action which he took, if he had defended his action under this order of 17th September, 1942, are you saying that you could have court-martialled him for disobedience?

A. It might have been possible.

Q. In view of the wording of your order, do you say that?

A. That would have been a question for the Court-Martial to decide. Moreover, Eck as far as I heard, did not refer to this other.

Q. Can you explain to the Tribunal how the witness Mohle was allowed to go on briefing that this was an annihilation order, from September 1942 to the end of the war?

A. I do not know how Mohle came to interpret this order in such a way. In any case he did not ask me about it.

Q. You realize that he is putting his own life in great jeopardy by admitting that he briefed as he did, do you not?

A. Yes.

Q. You also know, do you not, that another Commander he briefed was subsequently seen either by yourself or by Admiral Donitz before he went out?

A. Yes.

Q. Again when he came back?

A. In general, yes, almost always.

Q. In general. Are you seriously telling the Tribunal that none of these officers who were briefed that this was was an annihilation order, that none of them raised the question either with you or with Admiral Donitz?

A. In no circumstances was this order discussed.

Q. But I suggest to you now that this order was very carefully drafted to be ambiguous; deliberately; so that any U-boat Commander who was prepared to behave as he did was entitled to do so under the order. Is not that right?

A. That is an assertion.

Q. And that you and Hessler tried to stop this order being issued?

A. I have already said that I do not remember this.

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: My Lord, I have no further questions.

[Page 35]

THE PRESIDENT: Is there any other cross-examination? Do you wish to re-examine, Dr. Kranzbuhler?



Q. Do you know that Captain Mohle has testified before this Tribunal that he told only a very few officers about his interpretation of the Laconia order?

A. I read that in the affidavit which Mohle made before British officers last year.

Q. Do you know that Mohle testified here personally that he did not speak to Admiral Donitz, yourself, or Captain Hessler about his interpretation of the Laconia order, although he repeatedly visited your staff?

A. I knew that. I cannot tell you at the moment whether I knew it from the affidavit which Mohle made last year or from another source.

Q. You have been confronted with Admiral Donitz's testimony that you and Captain Hessler opposed the Laconia order. You stated that Admiral Donitz gave an exaggerated account of your objection to this order, so as to take the whole responsibility upon himself?

THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute. I do not think you can ask him that question, Dr. Kranzbuhler, whether it is possible that the Admiral was over-emphasizing what he said.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: If I am not permitted to put this question, your Honour, I have no further question to put to this witness.

THE PRESIDENT: The witness can retire.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Then with the permission of the High Tribunal I would like to call Captain Hessler as my next witness.


(The witness Hessler takes the stand.)


Q. Will you state your full name?

A. Gunther Hessler.

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me:-

I swear by God, the Almighty and Omniscient, that I will speak the pure truth and will withhold and will add nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.



Q. Captain Hessler, when did you enter the Navy?

A. In April 1927.

Q. What was your last grade?

A. Fregatten-Kapitan. (Commander.)

Q. You are related to Admiral Donitz. Is that correct?

A. Yes. I married his only daughter in November 1937.

Q. When did you enter the U-boat arm?

A. I started my U-boat training in April 1940.

Q. Were you given any information during your period of training on economic warfare and prize regulations?

A. Yes. I was informed of them.

[Page 36]

Q. Was the so-called "prize-disc" used which has just been submitted to you?

A. Yes, I was instructed about it.

Q. Will you tell the Tribunal briefly just what the purpose of this "prize-disc" is?

A. It was a system of discs by means of which, through a simple mechanism in as short a time as possible, we could decide how to deal with neutral and enemy merchant ships - whether, for instance, a neutral vessel carrying contraband could be sunk or captured, or whether it would be allowed to pass.

This disc has another great advantage in that it indicates at the same time the particular paragraph of the prize regulations in which the case in question may be found. This made it possible to cut down the time required for the investigation of a merchant ship to a minimum.

Q. That means that the disc was in the nature of a juristic adviser to the Commander?

A. Yes.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: I now submit this disc to the Tribunal as Exhibit Donitz No. 95.


Q. In your training were you told what attitude you were required to adopt toward shipwrecked survivors? If so, what was it?

A. Yes. The rescuing of survivors is a matter of course in naval warfare and must be carried out as far as measures permit. In U-boat warfare it is utterly impossible to rescue survivors, that is, to take the entire crew on board, for space conditions in the U-boats do not permit of any such action. The carrying out of other measures, such as approaching the life-boats, picking up swimmers and transferring them to the life-boats, handing-over provisions and water, is, as a rule, impossible, for the danger incurred by the U-boat is so great throughout the operational zone that none of these measures can be carried out without endangering the boat too much.

Q. You yourself went out on cruises as Commander soon after receiving these instructions?

A. Yes.

Q. From when and to when?

A. From October 1940 till November 1941.

Q. In what areas did you operate?

A. South of Iceland, West of the North Channel, in the waters between Cape Verde and the Azores, and in the area west of Freetown.

Q. What success did you have against merchant shipping?

A. I sank 21 ships, totalling more than 130,000 tons.

Q. You received the Knight's Cross (Ritterkreuz)?

A. Yes.

Q. How did you act toward the survivors of the crews of the ships you sank?

A. In most cases the situation was such that I was compelled to leave the scene of the wreck without delay, on account of danger from the enemy sea or air forces. In two cases the danger was not quite so great. I was able to approach the life-boats and help them.

Q. What were the ships concerned?

A. Two Greek ships: the Papalemos and Pandias.

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