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 Thirty-Fourth Day: Monday, 20th May, 1946
(Part 1 of 13)

[Page 182]



SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Dr. Horn wishes to ask some questions.

DR. HORN (Counsel for the defendant von Ribbentrop): With the permission of the Tribunal I should like to put a few more questions to the witness.


Admiral, is it true that on 24th April, 1941, the so-called neutrality patrol of North American warships was extended past the 300-mile limit to a distance of at least 1,000 miles?

A. I cannot remember the date, but such an extension did take place at some time.

Q. Is it true that at the beginning of June 1941 a law was passed in the United States confiscating foreign ships immobilised in American harbours as a result of the war, and including twenty-six Italian and two German ships?

A. Here again I cannot tell you the date for certain. It happened in the summer of 1941. The ships were mostly Italian, with a few German ships. I cannot swear to the exact figures.

In June 1941, the United States publicly declared their willingness to give the Soviet Union every possible aid. Did you discuss this with Hitler, and what was his attitude toward it?

A. Yes, that is correct, There was some question of a loan without interest, or some such thing. Very probably I did speak to Hitler about it, but I cannot tell you what his attitude was. I can only say that all these measures at that time in no way deterred us from the course we had pursued until then.

In June I had the conversation with Hitler at which I explained to him that up to that time we had allowed American warships to go completely unmolested, and that we would continue to do so in spite of the considerable disadvantages entailed, as I mentioned recently.

Q. In 1941 the American Secretary of War, Mr. Stimson, the Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Knox, and the Secretary of State, Mr. Hull, repeatedly advocated in public the use of the United States Fleet to safeguard English transports of war material to Great Britain. On 12th July, 1941, Mr. Knox informed the representatives of the Press of Roosevelt's order to shoot at German ships. How did Hitler and you react to these actions, which were contrary to neutrality?

A. Your facts are correct. They will go down in the annals of history. Hitler did subsequently issue an express order that we were in no circumstances to open fire of our own accord, but only in self-defence. This situation actually did arise later in the case of the two destroyers Krier and Kerne.

DR. HORN: Thank you. I have no further questions.

THE MARSHAL: Your Honour, the report is made that defendant Goering is absent this morning.

[Page 183]



Q. Defendant, you had read at the time of its publication the book by Captain Schustler, "The Fight of the Navy Against Versailles," had you not?

A. Yes.

Q. Would you look at it to find it at Page ... It is on Page 26 of Document Book 10, Page 123 of the German Document Book. Captain Schustler had told you that he was going to write such a work, had he not?

A. Yes. And I might add that this book was written because we in the Navy had been accused by National Socialist circles of not doing enough to strengthen the Navy in the period previous to 1933. That is why all these things were mentioned in that book.

Q. And the book was circulated among senior officers in the Navy, was it not?

A. Yes; at any rate, any of the senior officers who wanted it could have it.

Q. Now, would you just turn to Page 127, or to Page 27 of the British Document Book, which gives the preface? You will see that at the end of the first paragraph, it says that it is to give a reliable picture of the fight of the Navy against the unbearable regulations of the Peace Treaty of Versailles.

A. Yes.

Q. And in the third paragraph

"This memorandum must also distinguish more clearly the services of these men who, without being widely known, were ready to accept responsibility in the service of the fight against the Peace Treaty."
A. Yes.

Q. Will you agree, defendant, that that preface represents generally but accurately the feeling of the Navy with regard to evading the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles?

A. Yes, as regarding circumventing the Versailles Treaty as far as necessary to improve our defenceless position, for reasons which I explained recently here. To do this was a matter of honour for every man.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Now, just turn over, it is Page 28, my Lord, Page 126 of your copy.


Q. It gives a summary of contents. You see, it is in four sections. The first section deals with the first defensive actions against the execution of the Treaty of Versailles, and then enumerates what they were. Do not trouble about that. The second is independent armament measures behind the back of the Reich Government and legislative bodies.

A. One section deals with the period from the end of the war until taking over the Ruhr, and another with the period from 1923 until the Lohmann case in 1927, I had nothing to do with either.

Q. Just let us see. From 1922 to 1924 You were inspector of naval training at Kiel, were you not?

A. Inspector of the training system; the schools, the further training of officer candidates, the complete training of assistants of the chief of staff, that is, chief of staff assistants and general staff officers and similar matters.

THE PRESIDENT: That is what you were asked. You were asked whether you were inspector of training. The answer was, "yes," was it not?

[Page 184]

Q. As inspector of training, are you telling the Tribunal that you did not have a very complete knowledge of the weapons available for your service?

A. No, no. There were no weapons which were visible for all to see. As I explained to you recently, that was a matter of setting up gun platforms and transferring guns from the North Sea to the Baltic. This was done by a special command, which worked under the direct order of the chief of the Naval Command. There was, among others, Lieutenant Rankel, for instance, who was the specialist dealing with all gunnery questions at the time. I myself was in Kiel, and there were no guns or anything of the kind in Kiel or its neighbourhood.

Q. Take the next period: from 1923 to 1927. From 1925 to 1928, you were Chef der Marine Station der Ostsee, were you not?

A. Yes.

Q. Are you telling the Tribunal that you did not know about the independent armament measures taken behind the back of the Reich Government?

A. Yes; for I had nothing at all to do with these affairs. I have already said that was done by the chief of the Naval Command ... I knew in a general way -

Q. I am not asking you whether you ever had anything to do with them, I am asking you whether you are saying that you did not know about them. You knew all about them, did you not?

A. I knew in a general way that such measures were being taken.

Q. Now, take the next section, "Planned armament works tolerated by the Reichskabinet, but behind the back of the legislative bodies." - The legislative bodies would be the Reichstag and the Reichsrat, would they not?

A. Yes. But I already said recently that it was not the military supreme commander's business to negotiate these matters with the Reichstag. This was a matter for the government. Herr Severing will also testify to that.

Q. We will hear Herr Severing when he comes. At the moment I want you to tell the Tribunal this -

A. (Interposing.) I say the same -

Q. Just wait a minute; you have not heard my question yet. What did you say to Captain Schustler? Did you tell him that he was giving an entirely false picture in suggesting that the Navy had anything to do with going behind the back of the Reichstag? Did you make any effort to correct what Captain Schustler was saying?

A. No, I did not correct his book. I had not time for that.

Q. Now, just before we come to Section 4, if you will look at this passage ...

My Lord, it is Page 32 of the British Document Book, and Page 186 of your book. This is part of Captain Schustler's description of Section 2, dealing with economic rearmament; it comes under the heading, "Difficult Working Conditions."

Do you see that? It begins: "There were often difficult working conditions."

Do you see that? The heading is: "Difficult Working Conditions."

A. Yes, I see, "Difficult Working Conditions."

Q. Now, I want you to look at the last part of it. I want it to be quite clear, defendant. This is dealing with the period from 1923 to 1927, before you were head of the Navy; so I want to ask you about it.

"There were often many external difficulties besides these for the Tebeg - the camouflaging of the task and the work, the distance separating them, the impossibility of settling any questions even of minor importance y telephone, and the necessity of avoiding if possible any written correspondence, and of carrying it out in any case as private correspondence with false names and disguised expressions."
Did you not know that that was the method by which it was being carried on?

A. No; I really knew very little about the Tebeg - the Tebeg, the Noris - any of these things. But I think it was quite right for these people to work like that, because at that time the attitude of a large percentage of the German people

[Page 185]

was unreliable, and there was great danger if these things leaked out. In any case, the Tebeg had been dissolved when I arrived.

Q. Now, would you kindly turn back to Page 126, in Book 4, Page 28 of the British Document Book, and just look at Captain Schustler's description of Section 4.

"'Armament under the direction of the Reich Government in camouflaged form' (from 1933 to 1935 when we were free to recruit on an unrestricted basis)."
Do you agree that Captain Schustler was giving an accurate description of your methods from 1933 to 1935?

A. How does he describe it? Where is that passage?

Q. It is in Section 4.

A. "Armament under the leadership of the Reich Government in camouflaged form"?

Q. You agree that it is a correct description of your activities from 1933 to 1935.

A. Of course. I did that on orders from the head of the State; and the head of the State was very anxious to see that no exaggerated measures should be taken, so that it would not interfere in any way with his plans for making an agreement with Great Britain. He allowed very little to be done with regard to the Navy. He could at once have built eight armoured ships, so many destroyers and so many submarines, none of which had yet been built, but he did none of these things because he said, "We don't want to create the impression that we are arming on a large scale." He only approved two -

Q. You have explained that; so note, defendant, the point is this - the "camouflaged form" - when you were negotiating the Naval Agreement. You did not want anyone to know what steps you had taken contrary to the Treaty and how far you had gone. That is the plain fact of it - you wanted to get the Naval Agreement without disclosing what you had done, is that not so?

A. No, that distorts the sense of what I said. We did not want the announcement of these measures to cause strained relations between Germany and Britain. The measures as such were completely justifiable and were extremely minor ones.

Q. I will come to that in a moment. I only do want, before we leave this question of naval rearmament works, to ask you one question about another book. You know that Oberst Scherf projected a history of the German Navy. I do not want any misunderstanding about it. As I understand the position, you permitted Oberst Scherf to have recourse to the archives of the Navy but beyond that you had not seen anything of his work, is not that right?

A. I did not see his book at all. I saw the table of contents here the first time I was interrogated. I did not give him the order, either; he received it from the Fuehrer; and for that reason I allowed the Chief of the Navy Archives to assist him.

Q. Well, that is exactly what I put to you. I want you to turn to Document Book 10-A. It starts at Page 1 in the English and also in the German version. If you would look at Page 3 you will find the proposed table of contents of Oberst Scherf's book, Page 3 in the English version. I think it must be about Page 3 in the German version, too. Now would you look at the heading of Section 2. It is, "Incorporation of the Reich Navy in the National Socialist State." And then he describes,

"(a) National Socialism in the Navy before 1933 - "
A. Where is that? I have not found it yet.

Q. Section 2 of the table of contents.

A. No, that must be something quite different. I have not got it here -

(Witness goes through the pages.)

I have it now.

Q. If you look at Section 2, which is, "Incorporation of the Reich Navy in the National Socialist State," you can see the proposed headings, which were 40 cover some thirty pages, "National Socialism in the Navy before 1933." Then

[Page 186]

"the taking of the oath to the Fuehrer by the Reich Navy; the taking over of territorial insignia; alterations of the flag and its new war flag." Do you agree with Oberst Scherf's description? You agree that this is a correct description, that the proceedings could be described as the incorporation of the Navy in the National Socialist State?

A. Of course - I explained that here recently - the Navy - the armed forces - had to have some connection with the National Socialist State. A democratic Navy in a monarchic State is impossible. The basic principles must agree. But I myself decided the extent to which these principles were adopted - i.e., in the correct degree, so that the Navy maintained its internal independence and yet occupied its appropriate position with regard to the National Socialist State.

Apart from that, I do not see any text here; I can only see the headings.

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