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 11 of 13)

[SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE continues his cross examination of Erich Raeder]

[Page 223]

Q. What I am suggesting is that you come down in favour of a siege, but you do not want any siege area declared. Will you look at paragraph 2 of the conclusions, and then I will leave the document to the Tribunal. That is the point I suggest. In paragraph 2 of the conclusions you say:-
"For the future conduct of economic warfare, the basic military requirements demand the utmost ruthlessness. The employment of the siege by sea as the most intensified form of economic warfare meets this demand. Even without the public announcement of a state of siege, after it has been clearly defined as a concept, a declaration which would have drawbacks militarily and from the point of view of International Law, and even without the declaration of a prohibited zone, it seems perfectly possible at the moment, as has been explained in this memorandum, to take military measures to introduce the most intensive form of economic warfare, and to achieve what are at present the greatest possible results in the interruption of enemy trade" - now the last words - "without the Naval War Staff being tied in all cases to special forms and areas."
That is your final conclusion, that you should have as effective a siege as possible without proclaiming any area. Is not that so?

A. No, that is not the conclusion. The conclusion is that we cannot carry out a siege, but that it would be a matter for the political leadership to decide. The political leadership of the State has never suggested a siege by decree, and it can be seen here quite clearly what, on the basis of the memorandum, is suggested, and then how the intensification gradually took place.

Q. We must not take time arguing about it, I want you to make clear -

A. But -

Q. Let me finish. My suggestion to you is - and there I leave it - that you rejected a formal siege, but you claimed the right to sink at sight, without warning, all neutral vessels in an area which the High Command may choose. Now, I want to pass on to another subject, because I am afraid time is getting on.

A. That is no siege, however. That was a directive issued after neutral ships did not heed our warning and continued to enter the sea around Britain in order to support Britain in the economic warfare which she, with the greatest ruthlessness and severity, was conducting against us. It was an emergency defence measure.

Q. I put it that the document speaks for itself, now that the attention of the Tribunal has been drawn to it. I want to come to another point. You have mentioned certain matters, in answer to Dr. Horn this morning, with regard to the treatment of American ships in the summer of 1941. In April 1941, you were pressing for German naval forces to operate freely up to three miles of the American coast instead of the 300-mile safety limit which the Americans were suggesting, were you not? Well, to save time I will give the witness Document D-849, Exhibit GB 472. That says you could not get in touch with the defendant von Ribbentrop, and therefore you asked Baron von Weiszacker to get a decision on these points:-

"(1) Concerning the German naval forces in the western part of the Atlantic Ocean being allowed to operate freely as far as the international customary three-mile boundary.

"(2) The cancellation of the preferential treatment which American merchant vessels have been enjoying so far in our warfare at sea."

Now, I hand you Document D-850, that will be Exhibit GB 473. Your suggestion, which had been made in April, was turned down by Hitler in June. It is a memorandum from Ritter in the Foreign Office and it reads:-
"General Jodl informs me that at the recent interview which Grand Admiral Raeder had with Hitler, the more far-reaching orders issued to the naval forces, as they were discussed in connection with the Raeder interview, have been postponed until further notice.

[Page 224]

"Also, permission to attack U.S. merchant vessels, within the framework of the prize law, has not been granted."
Your suggestion was to abandon the policy then existing and attack up to the three-mile limit . Now, I want you to come to another point

A. No, please may I make a statement concerning that? I should like to say something, even if you do not put a question to me. It is not right.

At that time, in March 1941, and on 1st April and later in 1941, a whole number of intensifications were introduced by the United States, which I mentioned this morning, from the document which I had before me. Therefore, it was clear that I, on behalf of the Naval War Staff, which was supposed to conduct the most effective naval war, urged that also with respect to the United States steps should be taken which were permissible according to International Law and that we should start slowly. Those steps included:-

First: that we should no longer respect that 300-mile limit, but go as far as the three-mile limit, where according to existing International Law, it was possible to attack. That is to say, not against International Law, but it was just discontinuing certain favourable conditions which we had granted the United States.

Q. That is exactly what I suggest to you. There is no dispute between us. I was just establishing that point.

A. Yes ... No ...

Q. Well, I want you to come to -

A. I only wanted to say that during the negotiations with Grand Admiral Donitz he demanded of us that we should not treat certain neutrals better than others. We should treat them equally; that is to say, we must sink them all, no matter whether we wanted to do so or not, and of course we were not bound to do that. The second thing: it was a matter of course that a thoroughly justified suggestion on my part from the point of view of the Naval War Staff had been rejected by the Fuehrer if, according to the political situation, he decided that at that time he did not desire to adopt a severe attitude towards the United States.

Q. Now, I want you to come to quite a different point. Do you say that you did not know anything about the extermination of Jews in the Eastern territories?

A. I say clearly under oath that I had not the slightest inkling about it. I might add in explanation that on no account would Hitler have spoken about such things to a man like myself, whose opinion he knew, because he was afraid that on my part there would be serious objections. I explained the other day why I used the word "Jews" in my memorial speech. In my opinion, I was obliged to do so. But that had nothing at all to do with an extermination of Jews. About the Jewish matter I have only learned -

Q. Well -

A. Excuse me, please, one moment. I only learned something about the Jewish matter when Jews, who were known to me, mostly friends of my old parents, approached me and told me that they were about to be evacuated from Berlin. And then I intervened for them. That was the only thing I knew. On those occasions I was told in answer to my questions that they were to be evacuated to cities where ghettoes had been established. I always understood that a ghetto was a district in a city where all the Jews lived together, so that they would not have to mingle with the rest of the population.

Q. Well, you know, my question was only: Did you know or did you not, and you could have answered that yes or no. I want you now to answer about that point -

A. Yes, but I must - so many questions have been asked about this very point and as every man in my position who held the same views says the same, that he does not know anything about it, I should like to explain once for all that one did not hear about these things, because civilians certainly did not talk to us about that, because they were always afraid that they would get into difficulties.

[Page 225]

The Fuehrer did not speak about it. I had no connection with Himmler nor with other agents of the Gestapo. I did not know anything about it.

Q. Well, now, I want you just to tell the Tribunal your chain of command for the Baltic Coast. Is it correct that you had the naval chief command, and then the Flag Officer of the East Baltic Coast, Tallinn, and, under him, you had a command at Libau; is that right? Was that your chain of command?

A. I did not understand that.

Q. Was your chain of command for the East Baltic Coast, Kiel, Flag Officer Tallinn, and an attachment under him at Libau? You had -

A. I assume so - that depends on various things. If they were operational matters, then it had to do with the Naval Group Commander East or North; and as far as matters of organization were concerned, then it might have gone through the station chief of the Baltic Sea.

Q. Well, then, at any rate, you had got in 1941 a naval command at Libau, had you not?

A. Yes, of course.

Q. Well, now, I would like you just to look at Document D- 841, which is a deposition on oath by one of the naval employees at Libau. My Lord, that will be Exhibit GB 474.

This witness says:-

"Deposition on oath of Walter Kurt Dittmann."
And then it says:-
"I was Naval Administration Inspector and officer in charge of the Naval Clothing Store at Libau in Latvia.

I held this position from the beginning of August 1941 to the end of March 1942.

The Jewish population of Libau at that time was supposed to be about 7,000 people. Up to the end of March 1942 many thousands of them had already been 'evacuated' by the Gestapo and the Latvian police. 'Evacuated' was the local expression for the annihilation of these people.

All Jews were registered. When a new lot was evacuated it happened in the following way:

The Latvian police fetched the Jews out of their houses, put them on lorries and drove them to the Naval Port about six kilometres outside the town. Later on these people had to march and were not taken in lorries.

In the Naval Port these people were then shot with machine-guns. This was done by the Gestapo and the Latvian police. The police, of course, got their orders from the German Gestapo.

I personally did not witness these incidents, but comrades told me all about them. Some of the Jews before they were shot worked for the Navy. About 80-100 people worked in the Clothing Store every day. About 100-150 people worked in the Garrison Office every day.

About fifty people worked in the Garrison Building Office (Naval) every day.

Through these contacts and through personal visits to the houses of Jews I heard a lot regarding the terrible happenings in Libau during these months.

I personally went to my superior, Festungsintendant Dr. Lancelle, and before that I also went to another superior, the officer in charge of the Hospital Administration, named Muller, both were Naval Administration Officials. I pointed out to them these abuses which have already been described. The answer I got was that they could not do anything and that things like that were best overlooked.

The assistant Naval Administration Officer, Kurt Traunecker, accompanied a consignment of clothing from Kiel to Libau. He stayed a few

[Page 226]

weeks in Libau and he expressed his displeasure at the conditions there regarding the annihilation of the Jews.

He then went back to Kiel to the local Clothing Office. There again he expressed his displeasure and was ordered to appear at the Navy Quartermaster's Headquarters. Whom he saw there, I do not know, but it was made clear to him that these occurrences were not true, and therefore he should not talk about them any more, otherwise he would get into serious trouble.

My personal opinion is that the higher officers of the Navy in Kiel and in other places in Germany must have had knowledge of these terrible conditions."

Are you saying, defendant, that with your naval detachments on the East Coast of the Baltic and with these things happening, nobody reported to you that the Jews were being slaughtered by the thousands in the Eastern territories, you are still saying it?

A. Yes, I knew nothing about it.

Q. What was your staff doing, if they were not telling you about this? Had you an efficient staff? Do you say you had an efficient staff?

A. That is a question which does not belong here. Of course I had only efficient officers around me. But here we are dealing with things which were not done by the Navy. It says here in all places that it was the police and so on. I even was in Libau once and I was told - and this is the only thing I have to tell in connection with this matter - that the peculiar thing was that the Jews in Libau, contrary to their custom, were craftsmen, and, therefore, they were doing useful work there. That was the only thing I heard about it. As regards any extermination -

Q. When were you in Libau?

A. I cannot say now. It was after it was occupied, probably immediately afterwards.

Q. Were you there in 1941 or 1942?

A. I said just now that I do not know exactly when; I have to look it up somewhere. It does not say here that anything was reported, only that it was apparently discussed in the Navy Headquarters and with the Navy Quartermaster, who did not report to me. Of course I would have intervened if I had heard about it.

Q. You think you would? Well, I will leave that. Now, tell me about the Commando Order of 18th October, 1942. . You received Hitler's Commando Order and passed it on to your various divisions of the Navy, did you not?

A. Yes, I passed it on through the Naval War Command.

Q. Did you approve of it?

A. I did not recommend it, but I passed it on. I shall have to make a statement if you want to know what I thought about it.

Q. Well, that is not what I am asking you. I am asking you - first answer my question - did you approve of an order to shoot commandos or to hand them over to the SD to be shot, did you?

A. I did not recommend the order but, as I received it from the Fuehrer, as it came into my hands, I passed it on as ordered with the same instructions as to how far it was to be passed on, and how it was to be returned. It was all ordered by Hitler in detail. It was enough for me that in one of the first paragraphs the reason for this order was given, and the reasons why Hitler considered a deviation from International Law justified. Moreover, a short time before I had been in Dieppe in France, and there I was informed that on the occasion of the commando action of the British in France, the prisoners, I believe they were from the Labour Service, who were working along the coast, had been shackled with a noose around their neck and the other end around the lower leg, so that when the leg weakened, the noose tightened and the man choked.

[Page 227]

Q. Well, now, will you answer my question: Did you approve of the order or not? You have not answered it yet. Did you approve of the order?

A. I say again, no. I say I did not approve; I did not recommend it. I said that twice already. I passed it on because it was an order from my Commander-in-Chief. Moreover, in one of the last paragraphs it said that that order should not be applied for the treatment of prisoners taken after a naval action or after large landing operations, and I, as well as many others in the Navy, concentrated our attention on this point because that was our main activity. But I saw no reason to raise objections to the Fuehrer on account of this order which was justified in this way. And I would like to state very clearly that I, as an officer, was not in a position to go to my Supreme Commander and Chief of State to tell him, "Show me your reasons for this order"; that would have been mutiny and could not have been done under any circumstances.

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