Nuremberg Testimony of Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz about U-boat warfare and the
Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Vol. 13
ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FIFTH DAY
Thursday, 9 May 1946
[The Defendant Dönitz resumed the stand.]
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER:With the permission of the
Tribunal, I will continue my examination of the witness.
[Turning to the defendant.] Admiral, how many merchant
ships were sunk by German U-boats in the course of the war?
DÖNITZ : According to the Allied figures, 2,472.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUHLER: How many combat actions,
according to your estimate, were necessary to do this?
DÖNITZ : I believe the torpedoed ships are not included in
this figure of 2,472 sunk ships; and, of course, not every attack leads to a
success. I would estimate that in 51/z years perhaps 5,000 or 6,000 actions
actually took place.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZB1]HLER: In the course of all these
actions did any of the U-boat commanders who were subordinate to you voice
objections to the manner in which the U-boats operated?
DÖNITZ : No, never.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: What would you have done with
a commander who refused to carry out the instructions for U-boat warfare?
DÖNITZ : First, I would have had him examined; if he
proved to be normal I would have put him before a court-martial.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUHLER: You could only have done that
with a clear conscience if you yourself assumed full responsibility for the
orders which you either issued or which you transmitted?
DÖNITZ : Naturally.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: In battle engagements with
U-boats, crews of merchant ships no doubt lost their lives. Did you consider
crews of enemy merchantmen as soldiers or as civilians, and for what reasons?
DÖNITZ : Germany considered the crews of merchantmen as
combatants, because they fought with the weapons which had been
9 May 46
mounted aboard the merchant ships in large numbers.
According to our knowledge one or two men of the Royal Navy were on board for
the servicing of these weapons, but where guns were concerned the rest of the
gunners were part of the crew of the ship.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: How many were there for one
DÖNITZ : That varied according to the size of the weapon,
probably between five and ten. Then, in addition, there were munitions men. The
same applied to the servicing of depth charge chutes and depth charge throwers.
The members of the crew did, in fact, fight with the
weapons like the few soldiers who were on board. It was also a matter of course
that the crew was considered as a unit, for in a battleship we cannot
distinguish either between the man who is down at the engine in the boiler room
and the man who services the gun up on deck.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Did this view, that the
members of the crews of hostile merchant ships were combatants, have any
influence on the question of whether they could or should be rescued? Or did it
not have any influence?
DÖNITZ : No, in no way. Of course, every soldier has a
right to be rescued if the circumstances of his opponent permit it. But this
fact should have an influence upon the right to attack the crew as well.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Do you mean that they could be
fought as long as they were on board the ship?
DÖNITZ : Yes, there can be no question of anything
else-that means fought with weapons used for an attack against a ship as part of
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: You know that the Prosecution
has submitted a document about a discussion between Adolf Hitler and the
Japanese Ambassador, Oshima. This discussion took place on 3 January 1942. It is
Exhibit Number GB-197, on Page 34 of the document book of the Prosecution. In
this document Hitler promises the Japanese Ambassador that he will issue an
order for the killing of the shipwrecked, and the Prosecution concludes from
this document that Hitler actually gave such an order and that this order was
carried out by you.
Did you, directly or through the Naval Operations Staff,
receive a written order of this nature?
DÖNITZ : I first heard about this discussion and its
contents when the record of it was submitted here.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUETHLER: Admiral, may I ask you to
answer my question? I asked, did you receive a written order?
9 May 46
DÖNITZ : No, I received neither a written nor a verbal
order. I knew nothing at all about this discussion; I learned about it through
the document which I saw here.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: When did you see Hitler for
the first time after the date of this discussion, that is, January 1942?
DÖNITZ : Together with Grossadmiral Raeder I was at
headquarters on 14 May 1942 and told him about the situation in the U-boat
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: There is a note written by you
about this discussion with the Fuhrer, and I would like to call your attention
to it. It is DÖNITZ -16, to be found on Page 29 of Document Book Number 1. I
submit the document, DÖNITZ -16. I will read it to you. The heading runs:
"Report of the Commander of Submarines to the Fuhrer on 14 May 1942 in the presence of the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy"-that
is, Grossadmiral Raeder.
"Therefore it is necessary to improve the weapons of
the submarines by all possible means, so that the submarines may keep pace with
defense measures. The most important development is the torpedo with magnetic
detonator which would increase precision of torpedoes fired against destroyers
and therefore would put the submarine in a better position with regard to
defense; it would above all also hasten considerably the sinking of torpedoed
ships, whereby we would economize on torpedoes and also protect the submarine
from countermeasures, insofar as it would be able to leave the place of combat
And now, the decisive sentence:
"A magnetic detonator will also have the great advantage that the crew will not be able to save themselves on account of the quick sinking of the torpedoed ship. This greater loss of men will no doubt cause difficulties in the assignment of crews for the great American construction program."
Does this last sentence which I read imply what you just referred to as combating the crew with weapons...?
THE PRESIDENT: You seem to attach importance to this
document. Therefore, you should not put a leading question upon it. You should
ask the defendant what the document means, and not put your meaning on it.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Admiral, what did these
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DÖNITZ : They mean that it was important to us, as a
consequence of the discussion with the Fuhrer at his headquarters, to find a
good magnetic detonator which would lead to a more rapid sinking of the ships
and thereby achieve the results noted in this report in the war diary.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Can you tell me what successes
you mean by this, as far as the crews are concerned?
DÖNITZ : I mean that not several torpedoes would be
required, as heretofore, to sink a ship by long and difficult attack; but that
one torpedo, or very few, would suffice to bring about a more speedy loss of the
ship and the crew.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Did you, in the course of this
discussion with the Fuhrer, touch on the question...
DÖNITZ : Yes.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: One moment-the question
whether other means might be envisaged to cause loss of life among the crews?
DÖNITZ : Yes.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: In what way and by whom?
DÖNITZ : The Fuhrer brought up the fact that, in the
light of experience, a large percentage of the crews, because of the excellence
of the rescue means, were reaching home and were used again and again to man new
ships, and he asked whether there might not be some action taken against these
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: What do you mean by action
DÖNITZ : At this discussion, in which Grossadmiral Raeder
participated, I rejected this unequivocally and told him that the only
possibility of causing losses among the crews would lie in the attack itself, in
striving for a faster sinking of the ship through the intensified effect of
weapons. Hence this remark in my war diary. I believe, since I received
knowledge here through the prosecution of the discussion between the Fuhrer and
Oshima, that this question of the Fuhrer to Grossadmiral Raeder and myself
arose out of this discussion.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: There exists an affidavit by
Grossadmiral Raeder about this discussion. You know the contents. Do the
contents correspond to your recollection of this discussion?
DÖNITZ : Yes, completely.
9 May 46
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBt]HLER: Then I would like to submit to
the Tribunal, as DÖNITZ -17, the affidavit of Grossadmiral Raeder; since it has
the same content, I may dispense with the reading of it.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: I was going to say in case it might
help the Tribunal, I understand the Defendant Raeder will be going into the
witness box; therefore, I make no formal objection to this affidavit going in.
THE PRESIDENT: Very well.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: It has the Number DÖNITZ -17
and is found on Page 33 of Document Book 1.
[Turning to the defendant.] You just said that you rejected
the suggested killing of survivors in lifeboats and stated this to the Fuhrer.
However, the Prosecution has presented two documents, an order of the winter of
1939-40 and a second order of the autumn of 1942, in which you limited or
prohibited rescue measures. Is there not a contradiction between the orders and
your attitude toward the proposal of the Fuhrer?
DÖNITZ : No. These two things are not connected with each
other in any way. One must distinguish very clearly here between the question of
rescue or nonrescue, and that is a question of military possibility. During a
war the necessity of refraining from rescue may well arise. For example, if your
own ship is endangered thereby, it would be wrong from a military viewpoint and,
besides, would not be of value for the one to be rescued; and no commander of
any nation is expected to rescue if his own ship is thereby endangered.
The British Navy correctly take up a very clear,
unequivocal position in this respect: that rescue is to be denied in such cases;
and that is evident also from their actions and commands. That is one point.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Admiral, you spoke only about
the safety of the ship as a reason for not carrying out rescue.
DÖNITZ : There may of course be other reasons. For
instance it is clear that in war the mission to be accomplished is of first
importance. No one will start to rescue, for example, if after subduing one
opponent there is another on the scene. Then, as a matter of course, the
combating of the second opponent is more important than the rescue of those who
have already lost their ship.
The other question is concerned with attacking the
shipwrecked, and that is...
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Admiral, whom would you call
9 May 46
DÖNITZ : Shipwrecked persons are members of the crew who,
after the sinking of their ship, are not able to fight any longer and are either
in lifeboats or other means of rescue or in the water.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Yes.
DÖNITZ : Firing upon these men is a matter concerned with
the ethics of war and should be rejected under any and all circumstances. In the
German Navy and U-boat force this principle, according to my firm conviction,
has never been violated, with the one exception of the affair Eck. No order on
this subject has ever been issued, in any form whatsoever.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: I want to call to your
attention one of the orders submitted by the Prosecution. It is your permanent
War Order Number 154; Exhibit Number GB-196 and in my document book on Pages 13
to 15. I will have this order given to you, and I am asking you to turn to the
last paragraph, which was read by the Prosecution. There it says, I read it
"Do not rescue any men; do not take them along; and do
not take care of any boats of the ship. Weather conditions and proximity of land
are of no consequence. Concern yourself only with the safety of your own boat
and with efforts to achieve additional successes as soon as possible. We must be
hard in this war. The enemy started the war in order to destroy us, and thus
nothing else matters."
The Prosecution has stated that this order went out,
according to their records, before May 1940. Can you from your knowledge fix the
date a little more exactly?
DÖNITZ : According to my recollection, I issued this order
at the end of November or the beginning of December 1939, for the following
I had only a handful of U-boats a month at my disposal. In
order that this small force might prove effective at all, I had to send the
boats close to the English coast, in front of the ports. In addition, the
magnetic mine showed itself to be a very valuable weapon of war. Therefore, I
equipped these boats both with mines and torpedoes and directed them, after
laying the mines, to operate in waters close to the coast, immediately outside
the ports. There they fought in constant and close combat and under the
surveillance of naval and air patrols. Each U-boat which was sighted or reported
there was hunted by U-boat-chasing units and by air patrols ordered to the
The U-boats themselves, almost without exception or
entirely, had as their objectives only ships which were protected or accompanied
by some form of protection. Therefore, it would have been
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suicide for the U-boat, in a position of that sort, to come
to the surface and to rescue.
The commanders were all very young; I was the only one who
had service experience from the first World War. And I had to tell them this
very forcibly and drastically because it was hard for a young commander to judge
a situation as well as I could.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Did experience with rescue
measures already play a part here?
DÖNITZ : Yes. In the first months of the war I had very
bitter experiences. I suffered very great losses in sea areas far removed from
any coast; and as very soon I had information through the Geneva Red Cross that
many members of crews had been rescued, it was clear that these U-boats had been
lost above the water. If they had been lost below the water the survival of so
many members of the crews would have been impossible. I also had reports that
there had been very unselfish deeds of rescue, quite justifiable from a humane
angle, but militarily very dangerous for the U-boat. So now, of course, since I
did not want to fight on the open sea but close to the harbors or in the coastal
approaches to the harbors, I had to warn the U-boats of the great dangers, in
fact of suicide.
And, to state a parallel, English U-boats in the Jutland
waters, areas which we dominated, showed, as a matter of course and quite
correctly, no concern at all for those who were shipwrecked, even though,
without a doubt, our defense was only a fraction of the British.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: You say that this order
applied to U-boats which operated in the immediate presence of the enemy's
defense. Can you, from the order itself, demonstrate the truth of that?
DÖNITZ : Yes; the entire order deals only with, or
assumes, the presence of the enemy's defense; it deals with the battle against
convoys. For instance it reads, "Close range is also the best security for
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER What number are you reading?
DÖNITZ : Well, the order is formulated in such a way that
Number 1 deals at first with sailing, not with combat. But the warning against
enemy air defense is given there also, and in this warning about countermeasures
it is made clear that it is concerned entirely with outgoing ships. Otherwise I
would obviously not have issued an order concerning sailing. Number 2 deals with
the time prior to the attack. Here mention is made of moral inhibitions which
every soldier has to overcome before an attack.
9 May 46
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Admiral, you need only refer to the figures which show that the order is concerned with fighting enemy defense.
DÖNITZ : Very well. Then I will quote from 2(d). It says there: "Close range is also the best security for the boat.
"While in the vicinity of the vessels"-that is, the merchantmen-"the protecting ships"-that is, the destroyers-"will at first not fire any depth charges. If one fires into a convoy from close quarters"-note that we are dealing with convoys -"and then is compelled to submerge, one can then dive most quickly below other ships of the convoy and thus remain safe from depth charges."
Then the next paragraph, which deals with night conditions, says:
"Stay above water. Withdraw above water. Possibly make a circle and go around at the rear."
Every sailor knows that one makes a circle or goes around at the rear of the protecting enemy ships. Further, in the third paragraph, I caution against submerging too soon, because it blinds the
U-boat, and I say:
"Only then does the opportunity offer itself for a new attack, or for spotting and noting the opening through which one can shake off the pursuing enemy."
Then the figure "(c)," that is, "3(c)," and there it says:
"During an attack on a convoy one may have to submerge
to a depth of 20 meters to escape from patrols or aircraft and to avoid the
danger of being sighted or rammed ...." '
Thus we are talking here about a convoy. Now we turn to
point "(d)" and here it says:
"It may become necessary to submerge to depth when,
for example, the destroyer is proceeding directly toward the periscope . .
And then follow instructions on how to act in case of a
depth-charge attack. Plainly, the whole order deals with...
THE PRESIDENT: I don't think it is necessary to go into all
of these military tactics. He has made a point on Paragraph "e." He
has given his explanation of that paragraph, and I don't think it is necessary
to go into all of these other tactics.
DÖNITZ : I only want to say that the last paragraph about
nonrescue must not be considered alone but in this context: First, the. U-boats
had to fight in the presence of enemy defense near the English ports and
estuaries; and secondly, the objectives were ships in convoys, or protected
ships, as is shown clearly from the document as a whole.
9 May 46
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: You said that this order was
given about December 1939. Did the German U-boats after the order had been
issued actually continue rescues? What experiences did you have?
DÖNITZ : I said that the order was issued for this
specific purpose during the winter months. For the U-boats which, according to
my memory, went out into the Atlantic again only after the Norwegian campaign,
for these U-boats the general order of rescue applied; and this order was
qualified only in one way, namely that no rescue was to be attempted if the
safety of a U-boat did not permit it. The facts show that the U-boats acted in
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Do you mean then that you had
reports from U-boat commanders about rescue measures?
DÖNITZ : I received these reports whenever a U-boat
returned, and subsequently through the combat log books.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: When was this order which we
have just discussed formally rescinded?
DÖNITZ : To my knowledge this order was captured or
salvaged by England on the U-13 which was destroyed by depth charges in very
shallow water in the Downs near the mouth of the Thames. For this boat, of
course, this order may still have applied in May 1940. Then in the year 1940,
after the Norway Campaign, I again made the open waters of the Atlantic the
central field of operations, and for these boats this order did not apply, as is
proved by the fact that rescues took place, which I just explained.
I then rescinded the order completely for it contained the
first practical instructions on how U-boats were to act toward a convoy and
later on was no longer necessary, for by then it had become second nature to the
U-boat commanders. To my recollection the order was completely withdrawn in
November 1940 at the latest.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Admiral, I have here the table
of contents of the "Standing War Orders of 1942," and that may be
found on Page 16 of Document Book Number 1. I will submit it as DÖNITZ -ll. In
this table of contents the Number 154 which deals with the order we have just
discussed is blank. Does that mean that this order did not exist any more at the
time when the "Standing War Orders of 1942" were issued?
DÖNITZ : Yes, by then it had long since ceased to exist.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER When were the standing orders
for the year 1942 compiled?
DÖNITZ : In the course of the year 1941.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: When you received reports from
commanders about rescue measures, did you object to these measures? Did you
criticize or prohibit them?
9 May 46
DÖNITZ : No, not as a rule; only if subsequently my
anxiety was too great. For example, I had a report from a commander that,
because he had remained too long with the lifeboats and thus had been pursued by
the escorts perhaps-or probably-summoned by wireless, his boat had been severely
attacked by depth charges and had been badly damaged by the escorts-something
which would not have happened if he had left the scene in time-then naturally I
pointed out to him that his action had been wrong from a military point of view.
I am also convinced that I lost ships through rescue. Of course I cannot prove
that, since the boats are lost. But such is the whole mentality of the
commander; and it is entirely natural, for every sailor retains from the days of
peace the view that rescue is the noblest and most honorable act he can perform.
And I believe there was no officer in the German Navy-it is no doubt true of all
the other nations-who, for example, would not consider a medal for rescue,
rescue at personal risk, as the highest peacetime decoration. In view of this
basic attitude it is always very dangerous not to change to a wartime
perspective and to the principle that the security of one's own ship comes
first, and that war is after all a serious thing.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: In what years was the practice
you have just described followed, that U-boats did not rescue when they
DÖNITZ : In 1940, that is towards the end of 1939,
economic warfare was governed by the Prize Ordinance insofar as U-boats were
still operating individually. Then came the operations, close to the enemy
coast, of 1939-40 which I have described; the order Number 154 applied to these
operations. Then came the Norway campaign, and then when the U-boat war resumed
in the spring of 1940, this order of rescue, or nonrescue if the U-boat itself
was endangered, applied in the years 1940, 1941, and 1942 until autumn.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Was this order put in writing?
DÖNITZ : No, it was not necessary, for the general order
about rescue was a matter of course, and besides it was contained in certain
orders of the Naval Operations Staff at the beginning of the war. The
stipulation of nonrescue, if the safety of the submarine is at stake, is taken
for granted in every navy; and I made a special point of that in my reports on
the cases which I have just discussed.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: In June of 1942 there was an
order about the rescue of captains. This has the Number DÖNITZ -22; I beg your
pardon-it is DÖNITZ Number 23, and
is found on Page 45 of Document Book 1, and I hereby submit it. It is an
- 9 May 46
extract from the War Diary of the Naval Operations Staff of 5 June 1942. I quote:
"According to instructions received from the Naval Operations Staff submarines are ordered by the Commander of U-boats to take on board as prisoners captains of ships sunk, with their papers, if this is possible without endangering the boat and without impairing fighting capacity."
How did this order come into being?
DÖNITZ : Here we are concerned with an order of the Naval Operations Staff that captains are to be taken prisoners, that is, to be brought home and that again is something different from rescue. The Naval Operations Staff was of the opinion-and rightly-that since we could not have a very high percentage, say 80 to 90 percent, of the crews of the sunk merchantmen brought back-we even helped in their rescue, which was natural-then at least we must see to it that the enemy was deprived of the most important and significant parts of the crews, that is, the captains; hence the order to take the captains from their lifeboats on to the U-boats as prisoners.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZB HLER: Did this order exist in this or
another form until the end of the war?
DÖNITZ : Yes, it was later even incorporated into the
standing orders, because it was an order of the Naval Operations Staff.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER Was it carried out until the end of the war, and with what results?
DÖNITZ : Yes, according to my recollection it was carried out now and then even in the last few years of the war. But in general the result of this order was very slight. I personally can remember only a very few cases. But through letters which I have now received from my commanders and which I read, I discovered that there were a few more cases than I believed, altogether perhaps 10 or 12 at the most.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER To what do you attribute the
fact that despite this express order so few captains were taken prisoner?
DÖNITZ : The chief reason, without doubt, was that on an
increasing scale, the more the mass of U-boats attacked enemy convoys, the
convoy system of the enemy was perfected. The great bulk of the U-boats was
engaged in the battle against convoys. In a few other cases it was not always
possible by reason of the boat's safety to approach the lifeboats in order to
pick out a captain. And thirdly, I believe that the commanders of the U-boats
were reluctant, quite rightly from their viewpoint, to have a captain on
9 May 46
board for so long during a mission. In any event, I know
that the commanders were not at all happy about this order.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Admiral, now I turn to a
document which is really the nucleus of the accusation against you. It is
Document GB-199, Page 36 of the British document book. This is your radio
message of 17 September, and the Prosecution asserts that it is an order for the
destruction of the shipwrecked. It is of such importance that I will read it to
"To all Commanding Officers:
"1. No attempt of any kind must be made to rescue
members of ships sunk, and this includes picking up persons in the water and
putting them in lifeboats, righting capsized lifeboats, and handing over food
and water. Rescue runs counter to the most elementary demands of warfare for the
destruction of enemy ships and crews.
"2. Orders for bringing back captains and chief
engineers still apply.
"3. Rescue the shipwrecked only if their statements
will be of importance for your boat.
"4. Be harsh. Bear in mind that the enemy takes no
regard of women and children in his bombing attacks on German cities."
Please describe to the Tribunal the antecedents of this order, which are
decisive for its intentions. Describe first of all the general military
situation out of which the order arose.
DÖNITZ : In September of 1942 the great bulk of the German
U-boats fought convoys. The center of gravity in the deployment of U-boats was
in the North Atlantic, where the protected convoys operated between England and
America. The U-boats in the north fought in the same way, attacking only the
convoys to Murmansk. There was no other traffic in that area. The same situation
existed in the Mediterranean; there also the objects of our attack were the
convoys. Beyond that, a part of the boats was committed directly to American
ports, Trinidad, New York, Boston, and other centers of congested maritime
traffic. A small number of U-boats fought also in open areas in the middle or
the south of the Atlantic. The criterion at this time was that the powerful
Anglo-American air force was patrolling everywhere and in increasingly large
numbers. That was a point which caused me great concern, for obviously the
airplane, because of its speed, constitutes the most dangerous threat to the
U-boat. And that was not a matter of fancy on my part, for from the summer of
1942-that is, a few months before September, when this order was issued-the
losses of our U-boats through air attacks rose suddenly by more than 300
percent, I believe.
9 May 46
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Admiral, for clarification of this point, I am giving you a diagram which I would like to submit in evidence to the Tribunal as DÖNITZ -99. Will you, with the use of the diagram, explain the curve of losses?
DÖNITZ : It is very clear that this diagram showing the
losses of U-boats corroborates the statements which I have just made. One can
see that up to June 1942 U-boat losses were kept within reasonable limits and
then-in July 1942-what I have just described happened suddenly. Whereas the
monthly losses up till then varied as the diagram shows between 4, 2, 5, 3, 4,
or 2 U-boats, from July the losses per month jumped to 10, 11, 8, 13, 14. Then
follow the two winter months December and January, which were used for a
thorough overhauling of the ships; and that explains the decrease which,
however, has no bearing on the trend of losses.
These developments caused me the greatest concern and
resulted in a great number of orders to the submarine commanders on how they
were to act while on the surface; for the losses were caused while the boats
were above water, since the airplanes could sight or locate them; and so the
boats had to limit their surface activities as much as possible. These losses
also prompted me to issue memoranda to the Naval Operations Staff.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: When?
DÖNITZ : The memoranda were written in the summer, in
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: In June of 1942?
DÖNITZ : In June 1942 or July. At the pinnacle of my
success, it occurred to me that air power might some day stifle us and force us
under water. Thus, despite the huge successes which I still had at that time, my
fears for the future were great, and that they were not imaginary is shown by
the actual trend of losses after the submarines left the dockyard in February
1943; in that month 18 boats were lost; in March, 15; in April, 14. And then the
losses jumped to 38.
The airplane, the surprise by airplane, and the equipment
of the planes with radar-which in my opinion is, next to the atomic bomb, the
decisive war-winning invention of the Anglo-Americans- brought about the
collapse of U-boat warfare. The U-boats were forced under water, for they could
not maintain their position on the surface at alp Not only were they located
when the airplane spotted them, but this radar instrument actually located them
up to 60 nautical miles away, beyond the range of sight, during the day and at
night. Of course, this necessity of staying under water was impossible for the
old U-boats, for they had to surface at least in order to recharge their
batteries. This development forced me, therefore' to have the old U-boats
equipped with the so-called
9 May 46
"Schnorchel," and to build up an entirely new
U-boat force which could stay under water and which could travel from Germany to
Japan, for example, without surfacing at all. It is evident, therefore, that I
was in an increasingly dangerous situation.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Admiral, in order to
characterize this situation I want to call your attention to your war diary of
this time. This will have the Number DÖNITZ -18, reproduced on Page 32, Volume
I. I want to read only the contents of the entries from the 2nd until the 14th
of September; Page 32:
"On 2 September U-256 surprised and bombed by
aircraft; unfit for sailing and diving;
"On 3 September aircraft sights U-boat;
"On 4 September U-756 has not reported despite request
since 1 September when near convoy; presumed lost.
"On 5 September aircraft sights U-boat;
"On 6 September U-705 probably lost because of enemy
"On 7 September U-130 bombed by Boeing bomber;
"On 8 September U-202 attacked by aircraft in Bay of
"On 9 September..."
THE PRESIDENT: Dr. KRANZBUEHLER, the defendant has already
told us of the losses and of the reason for the losses. What is the good of
giving us details of the fact that U-boats were fighting aircraft?
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: I wanted to show, Mr.
President, that the testimony of Admiral DÖNITZ is confirmed by the entries in his diary of that time. But if
the Tribunal. . .
THE PRESIDENT: That's a matter of common knowledge. We can
read it. Anyhow, if you just draw our attention to the document we will read it.
We don't need you to read the details of it.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Yes, Mr. President. I will do
it that way.
DÖNITZ : That is a typical and characteristic entry in my war diary of those weeks and days just before the issuance of my order; but I wanted to add the following: The aircraft were very dangerous especially for psychological reasons: when no aircraft is on the scene, the commander of the U-boat views his situation as perfectly clear but the next moment when the aircraft comes into sight, his situation is completely hopeless. And that happened not only to young commanders, but to old experienced commanders who remembered the good old times. Perhaps I may, quite briefly, give a clear-cut example. AU-boat needs one minute for the crew to come in through the hatch before it can submerge at all. An airplane
9 May 46
flies on the average 6,000 meters in one minute. The
U-boat, therefore, in order to be able to submerge at all-And not to be bombed
while it is still on the surface-must sight the aircraft from a distance of at
least 6,000 meters. But that also is not sufficient, for even if the U-boat has
submerged it still has not reached a safe depth. The U-boat, therefore, must
sight the airplane even earlier, namely, at the extreme boundary of the field of
vision. Therefore, it is an absolute condition of success that the U-boat is in
a state of constant alert, that above all it proceeds at maximum speed, because
the greater the speed the faster the U-boat submerges; and, secondly, that as
few men as possible are on the tower so that they can come into the U-boat as
quickly as possible which means that there should be no men on the upper deck at
all, and so on. Now, rescue work, which necessitates being on the upper deck in
order to bring help and take care of more people and which may even mean taking
in tow a number of lifeboats, naturally completely interrupts the submarine's
state of alert, and the U-boat is, as a consequence, hopelessly exposed to any
attack from the air.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Mr. President, I wish now to
take up the Laconia matter itself which I would be reluctant to have
interrupted. If it is agreeable to the Tribunal, I would suggest that we have a
[A recess was taken.]
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Admiral, you have just
described the enemy's supremacy in the air in September 1942. During these
September days you received the report about the sinking of the British
transport Laconia. I submit to the Tribunal the war diaries concerning that
incident under Numbers DÖNITZ -18, 20, 21, and 22. These are the war diaries of
the commanders of U-boats and of the commanders of the submarines which took
part in this action, Kapitanleutnants Hartenstein, Schacht and Wurdemann. They
are reproduced in the document book on Page 34 and the following pages. I shall
read to you the report which you received. That is on Page 35 of the document
book, 13 September, 0125 hours. It reads
"Wireless message sent on America circuit:
"Sunk by Hartenstein British ship Laconia." Then
the position is given and the message continues:
"Unfortunately with 1,500 Italian prisoners of war. Up
to now picked up 90..." then the details, and the end is: "Request
I had the document handed to you. . .
9 May 46
THE PRESIDENT: Where are you now?
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: On Page 35, Mr. President, the entry of 13 September, time 0125 hours, the number at the beginning of the line; at the bottom of the page.
[Turning to the defendant.] I had the documents handed to you to refresh your memory. Please tell me, first, what impression or what knowledge you had about this ship Laconia which had been reported sunk, and about its crew.
DÖNITZ : I knew from the handbook on armed British ships which we had at our disposal that the Laconia was armed with 14 guns. I concluded, therefore, that it would have a British crew of at least about 500 men. When I heard that there were also Italian prisoners on board, it was clear to me that this number would be further increased by the guards of the prisoners.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Please describe now, on the
basis of the documents, the main events surrounding your order of 17 September,
and elaborate, first, on the rescue or nonrescue of British or Italians and
secondly, your concern for the safety of the U-boats in question.
DÖNITZ : When I received this report, I radioed to all
U-boats in the whole area. I issued the order:
"Schacht, Group Eisbar, Wurdemann and Wilamowitz,
proceed to Hartenstein immediately."
Hartenstein was the commander who had sunk the ship. Later,
I had to have several boats turn back because their distance from the scene was
too great. The boat that was furthest from the area and received orders to
participate in the rescue was 710 miles away, and therefore could not arrive
before two days.
Above all I asked Hartenstein, the commander who had sunk
the ship, whether the Laconia had sent out radio messages, because I hoped that
as a result British and American ships would come to the rescue. Hartenstein
affirmed that and, besides, he himself sent out the following radio message in
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER That is on Page 36, Mr.
President, under time figure 0600.
DÖNITZ : "If any ship will assist the shipwrecked
Laconia crew, I will not attack her, provided I am not being attacked by ship or
Summing up briefly, I gained the impression from the
reports of the U-boats that they began the rescue work with great zeal.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: How many U-boats were there?
9 May 46
DÖNITZ : There were three or four submarines. I received
reports that the numbers of those taken on board by each U-boat were between 100
and 200. I believe Hartenstein had 156 and another 131. I received reports which
spoke of the crew being cared for and taken over from lifeboats; one report
mentioned 35 Italians, 25 Englishmen, and 4 Poles; another, 30 Italians and 24
Englishmen; a third, 26 Italians, 39 Englishmen, and 3 Poles. I received reports
about the towing of lifeboats towards the submarines. All these reports caused
me the greatest concern because I knew exactly that this would not end well.
My concern at that time was expressed in a message to the
submarines radioed four times, "Detailed boats to take over only so many as
to remain fully able to dive." It is obvious that, if the narrow space of
the submarine-our U-boats were half as big as the enemy's-is crowded with 100 to
200 additional people, the submarine is already in absolute danger, not to speak
of its fitness to fight.
Furthermore, I sent the message, "All boats are to
take on only so many people..."
THE PRESIDENT: Are these messages in the document?
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, where are they? Why did he not refer
to the time of them?
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: They are all messages
contained in the three diaries of the U-boats. The first message is on Page 36,
Mr. President, under group 0720. I will read it.
"Radio message received"-a message from Admiral DÖNITZ
- " 'Hartenstein remain near place of sinking. Maintain ability to dive.
Detailed boats to take over only so many as to remain fully able to dive."'
DÖNITZ : Then I sent another message:
"Safety of U-boat is not to be endangered under any
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: This message is on Page 40,
Mr. President, under the date of 17 September, 0140 hours.
DÖNITZ : "Take all measures with appropriate
ruthlessness, including discontinuance of all rescue activities"
Furthermore, I sent the message:
"Boats must at all times be clear for crashdiving and
9 May 46
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: That is on Page 37, under
0740, Heading 3.
DÖNITZ : "Beware of enemy interference by airplanes
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: "All boats, also
Hartenstein, take in only so many people that boats are completely ready for use
DÖNITZ : That my concern was justified was clearly evident
from the message which Hartenstein sent and which said that he had been attacked
by bombs from an American bomber.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: This message, Mr. President,
is on Page 39, under 1311 hours. It is an emergency message, and under 2304
hours there is the whole text of the message which I should like to read.
DÖNITZ : At this occasion . . .
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: One moment, Admiral The
"Radiogram sent: From Hartenstein"-to Admiral DÖNITZ
"Bombed five times by American Liberator in low flight
when towing four full boats in spite of a Red Cross flag, 4 square meters, on
the bridge and good visibility. Both periscopes at present out of order.
Breaking off rescue; all off board; putting out to West. Will repair."
DÖNITZ : Hartenstein, as can be seen from a later report,
also had 55 Englishmen and 55 Italians on board his submarine at that time.
During the first bombing attack one of the lifeboats was hit by a bomb and
capsized, and according to a report on his return there were considerable losses
among those who had been rescued.
During the second attack, one bomb exploded right in the
middle of the submarine, and damaged it seriously; he reported that it was only
by a miracle of German shipbuilding technique that the submarine did not fall to
THE PRESIDENT: Where has he gone to now? What page is he
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: He is speaking about the
events which are described on Pages 38 and 39, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: It would help the Tribunal, you know, if you
kept some sort of order instead of going on to one page and
then to 40, and then back to 38.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: The reason is that we are
using two different war diaries, Mr. President.
Admiral, would you tell us now what measures you took after
Hartenstein's report that he had been attacked repeatedly in the course of the
9 May 46
DÖNITZ : I deliberated at length whether, after this
experience, I should not break off all attempts at rescue; and beyond doubt,
from the military point of view, that would have been the right thing to do,
because the attack showed clearly in what way the U-boats were endangered.
That decision became more grave for me because I received a
call from the Naval Operations Staff that the Fuhrer did not wish me to risk
any submarines in rescue work or to summon them from distant areas. A very
heated conference with my staff ensued, and I can remember closing it with the
statement, "I cannot throw these people into the water now. I will carry
Of course, it was clear to me that I would have to assume
full responsibility for further losses, and from the military point of view this
continuation of the rescue work was wrong. Of that I received proof from the
submarine U-506 of Wurdemann, who also reported- I believe on the following
morning-that he was bombed by an airplane.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: That report, Mr. President, is
on Page 42 in the war diary of Wurdemann, an entry of 17 September, at 2343
hours. He reported:
'Transfer of survivors to Annamite completed."-Then
come details "Attacked by heavy seaplane at noon. Fully ready for
DÖNITZ : The third submarine, Schacht's, the U-507, had
sent a wireless message that he had so and so many men on board and was towing
four lifeboats with Englishmen and Poles.
FLOTTENRICEITER KRANZBUEHLER: That is the report on Page
40, the first report.
DÖNITZ : Thereupon, of course, I ordered him to cast off
these boats, because this burden made it impossible for him to dive.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: That is the second message on
DÖNITZ : Later, he again sent a long message, describing
the supplying of the Italians and Englishmen in the boat.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER That is on Page 41, at 2310
hours. I shall read that message:
"Transferred 163 Italians to Annamite."-The
Annamite was a French cruiser which had been called to assist in the
rescue.-"Navigation officer of Laconia and another English officer on
board. Seven lifeboats with about 330 Englishmen and Poles, among them 15 women
and 16 children, deposited at Qu. FE 9612, women and children kept aboard ship
for one night. Supplied all shipwrecked with hot meal and drinks,
9 May 46
clothed and bandaged when necessary. Sighted four more
boats at sea-anchor Qu. FE 9619."
Then there are further details which are not important.
DÖNITZ : Because I had ordered him to cast off the
lifeboats and we considered this general message as a supplementary later
report, he was admonished by another message; and from that, the Prosecution
wrongly concluded that I had prohibited the rescue of Englishmen. That I did not
prohibit it can be seen from the fact that I did not raise objection to the many
reports speaking of the rescue of Englishmen.
Indeed, in the end I had the impression that the Italians
did not fare very well in the rescue. That this impression was correct can be
seen from the figures of those rescued. Of 811 Englishmen about 800 were
rescued, and of 1,800 Italians 450.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Admiral, I want once more to
clarify the dates of the entire action. The Laconia was torpedoed on 12
September. When was the air attack on the lifeboats?
DÖNITZ : On the 16th.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: In the night of the 16th? On
DÖNITZ : On the 16th.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: On the 16th of September. So
the rescue took how many days altogether?
DÖNITZ : Four days.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: And afterwards was continued
DÖNITZ : Until we turned them over to the French warships
which had been notified by us.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Now, what is the connection
between this incident of the Laconia, which you have just described, and the
order which the Prosecution charges as an order for destruction?
DÖNITZ : Apart from my great and constant anxiety for the
submarines and the strong feeling that the British and Americans had not helped
in spite of the proximity of Freetown, I learned from this action very
definitely that the time had passed when U-boats could carry out such operations
on the surface without danger. The two bombing attacks showed clearly that in
spite of good weather, in spite of the large numbers of people to be rescued who
were more clearly visible to the aviators than in normal heavy sea conditions
when few people have to be rescued, the danger to the
9 May 46
submarines was so great that, as the one responsible for
the boats and the lives of the crews, I had to prohibit rescue activities in the
face of the ever-present-I cannot express it differently-the everpresent
tremendous Anglo-American air force. I want to mention, just as an example, that
all the submarines which took part in that rescue operation were lost by bombing
attack at their next action or soon afterwards. The situation in which the enemy
kills the rescuers while they are exposing themselves to great personal danger
is really and emphatically contrary to ordinary common sense and the elementary
laws of warfare.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBt1HLER: In the opinion of the
Prosecution, Admiral, you used that incident to carry out in practice an idea
which you had already cherished for a long time, namely, in the future to kill
the shipwrecked. Please state your view on this.
DÖNITZ : Actually, I cannot say anything in the face of
such an accusation. The whole question concerned rescue or nonrescue; the entire
development leading up to that order speaks clearly against such an accusation.
It was a fact that we rescued with devotion and were bombed while doing so; it
was also a fact that the U-boat Command and I were faced with a serious decision
and we acted in a humane way, which from a military point of view was wrong. I
think, therefore, that no more words need be lost in rebuttal of this charge.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Admiral, I must put to you now
the wording of that order from which the Prosecution draws its conclusions. I
have read it before; in the second paragraph it says. "Rescue is contrary
to the most primitive laws of warfare for the destruction of enemy ships and
What does that sentence mean?
DÖNITZ : That sentence is, of course, in a sense intended
to be a justification. Now the Prosecution says I could quite simply have
ordered that safety did not permit it, that the predominance of the enemy's air
force did not permit it-and as we have seen in the case of the Laconia, I did
order that four times. But that reasoning had been worn out. It was a
much-played record, if I may use the expression, and I was now anxious to state
to the commanders of the submarines a reason which would exclude all discretion
and all independent decisions of the commanders. For again and again I had the
experience that, for the reasons mentioned before, a clear sky was judged too
favorably by the U-boats and then the submarine was lost; or that a commander,
in the role of rescuer, was in time no longer master of his own decisions, as
the Laconia case showed; therefore under no circumstances-under no circumstances
whatsoever-did I want to repeat the old reason which again would give
9 May 46
the U-boat commander the opportunity to say, "Well, at
the moment there is no danger of an air attack"; that is, I did not want to
give him a chance to act independently, to make his own decision, for instance,
to say to himself, "Since the danger of air attack no longer permits."
That is just what I did not want. I did not want an argument to arise in the
mind of one of the 200 U-boat commanders. Nor did I want to say, "If
somebody with great self-sacrifice rescues the enemy and in that process is
killed by him, then that is a contradiction of the most elementary laws of
warfare." I could have said that too. But I did not want to put it in that
way, and therefore I worded the sentence as it now stands.
THE PRESIDENT: You haven't referred us back to the order,
but are you referring to Page 36 of the Prosecution's trial brief, or rather
British Document Book?
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Yes, Mr. President, Page 36 of
the British Document Book.
THE PRESIDENT: There are two orders there, are there not?
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: No. It is one order with four
THE PRESIDENT: Well, there are two paragraphs, aren't
there? There is Paragraph 1 and there is Paragraph 2 of 17 September 1942.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER:.I think you mean the excerpt
from the war diary of the Commander of the U-boats, which is also on-Page 36 in
the document book.
THE PRESIDENT: Hadn't you better read the phrase that you
are referring to?
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Yes. I am speaking now of the
second sentence, dated 17 September, under heading 1, on Page 36 of the document
book of the Prosecution.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: The second sentence reads,
"Rescue is contrary to the most elementary laws of warfare for the
destruction of enemy ships and crews." That is the sentence on which
Admiral DÖNITZ commented just now.
THE PRESIDENT: On Page 36, the first order is an order to
"All Commanding Officers" and Paragraph 1 of it begins, "No
attempt of any kind must be made at rescuing members of ships . . ." Is
that the paragraph you are referring to?
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER Yes, and of that I mean the
second sentence, Mr. President. "Rescue is contrary to the most primitive
laws of warfare for the destruction of enemy ships and crews."
9 May 46
THE PRESIDENT: What about the next paragraph, 17 September
1942, Paragraph 2?
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: I just wanted to put that to
him. That is an entry in the war diary on which I would like to question him
Admiral, I now put to you an entry in your war diary of 17
September; there we find:
"All commanders are again advised that attempts to
rescue crews of ships sunk are contrary to the most elementary 1aws of warfare
after enemy ships and their crews have been destroyed. Orders about picking up
captains and chief engineers remain in force."
THE PRESIDENT: It is differently translated in our document
book. You said: "After enemy ships have been destroyed..." In our
translation it is "....by annihilating enemy ships and their crews."
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: I think it should be
'by," Mr. President, not "after."
DÖNITZ : This entry in the war diary refers to the radio
order, the four regular radio messages which I sent during the Laconia incident
and which were also acknowledged.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: One moment, Admiral. Please
explain to the Tribunal first how such entries in the war diary were made. Who
kept the war diary? Did you yourself keep it or who did that?
DÖNITZ : Since I am not to conceal anything here, I have
to say that the keeping of the war diary was a difficult matter for me because
there were no reliable officers available for this task. That entry, as I
suspected and as has been confirmed to me here, was made by a former chief petty
officer who tried to condense my orders during the entire case into an entry of
this sort. Of course, I was responsible for each entry; but this entry had in
reality no actual consequences; my radio order was the essential thing.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Admiral, the decisive point
here, in my opinion, is whether that entry is a record of your actual
reflections or whether it is only an excerpt from the wireless order, an extract
which had been noted down by a subordinate according to his best knowledge and
DÖNITZ : The latter is correct. My own lengthy
deliberations were concerned with the order of the Naval Operations Staff, the
order of the Fuhrer, and my own serious decision, whether or not I should
discontinue that method of warfare; but they are not included in the war diary.
9 May 46
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Admiral, will you explain what
is meant in the war diary by the entry, "All commanders are advised
again," and so on.
DÖNITZ : I do not know exactly what that means. My staff,
which is here, has told me that it referred to the four radio messages which I
had sent; because before the Laconia case no statement on this subject had been
made. "Again," therefore, means that this was the fifth radio message.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER Thus the order of 17 September
1942 was, for you, the end of the Laconia incident?
DÖNITZ : Yes.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: To whom was it directed?
DÖNITZ : According to my best recollection, it was
directed only to submarines on the High Seas. For the various operation areas-
North Atlantic, Central Atlantic, South Atlantic-we had different radio
channels. Since the other submarines were in contact with convoys and thus
unable to carry out rescue measures, they could simply shelve the order. But I
have now discovered that the order was sent out to all submarines, that is, on
all channels; it was a technical matter of communication which of course could
do no harm.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: You said that the fundamental
consideration underlying the entire order was the overwhelming danger of air
attack. If that is correct, how could you in the same order maintain the
directive for the rescue of captains and chief engineers? That can be found
under Heading 2.
DÖNITZ : There is, of course, a great difference in risk
between rescue measures for which the submarine has to stop, and men have to go
on deck, and a brief surfacing to pick up a captain, because while merely
surfacing the submarine remains in a state of alert, whereas otherwise that
alertness is completely disrupted.
However, one thing is clear. There was a military purpose
in the seizure of these captains for which I had received orders from the Naval
Operations Staff. As a matter of principle, and generally, I would say that in
the pursuit of a military aim, that is to say, not rescue work but the capture
of important enemies, one must and can run a certain risk. Besides, that
addition was not significant in my view because I knew that in practice it
brought very meager results, I might say no results at all.
I remember quite clearly having asked myself, "Why do
we still pick them up?" It was not our intention, however, to drop a
general order of that importance. But the essential points are, first the lesser
risk that the state of alert might not be maintained during rescue and,
secondly, the pursuit of an important military aim.
9 May 46
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: What do you mean by the last
sentence in the order, "Be harsh"?
DÖNITZ : I had preached to my U-boat commanders for 5
1/2 years, that they should be hard towards themselves. And when giving this order I
again felt that I had to emphasize to my commanders in a very drastic way my
whole concern and my grave responsibility for the submarines, and thus the
necessity of prohibiting rescue activities in view of the overwhelming power of
the enemy air force. After all it is very definite that on one side there is the
harshness of war, the necessity of saving one's own submarine, and on the other
the traditional sentiment of the sailor.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: You heard the witness
Korvettenkapitan Mohle state in this Court that he misunderstood the order in
the sense that survivors should be killed, and in several cases he instructed
submarine commanders in that sense.
DÖNITZ : Mohle is . . .
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: One moment, Admiral. I want to
put a question first. As commanding officer, do you not have to assume
responsibility for a misunderstanding of your order?
DÖNITZ : Of course, I am responsible for all orders, for
their form and their contents. Mohle, however, is the only person who had doubts
about the meaning of that order. I regret that Mohle did not find occasion to
clarify these doubts immediately, either through me, to whom everybody had
access at all times, or through the numerous staff officers who, as members of
my staff, were either also partly responsible or participated in the drafting of
these orders; or, as another alternative, through his immediate superior in
Kiel. I am convinced that the few U-boat commanders to whom he communicated his
doubts remained quite unaffected by them. If there were any consequences I would
of course assume responsibility for them.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: You are acquainted with the
case of Kapitanleutnant Eck, who after sinking the Greek steamer Peleus in the
spring of 1944 actually fired on life boats. What is your view of this incident?
DÖNITZ : As Kapitanleutnant Eck stated at the end of his
interrogation under oath, he knew nothing of Mohle's interpretation or Mohle's
doubts nor of the completely twisted message and my decision in the case of
U-386 That was the incident which Mohle mentioned when the submarine met
pneumatic rafts with fliers, and I voiced my disapproval because he had not
taken them on board. A written criticism of his actions was also forwarded to
him. On the other hand, some authority pointed out that he had not
9 May 46
destroyed these survivors. Eck knew nothing about the
interpretation or the doubts of the Mohle order, nor of this affair. He acted on
his own decision, and his aim was not to kill survivors but to remove the
wreckage; because he was certain that otherwise this wreckage would on the
following day give a clue to AngloAmerican planes and that they would spot and
destroy him. His purpose, therefore, was entirely different from the one stated
in the Mohle interpretation.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Eck said during his
examination that he had counted on your approval of his actions. Did you ever
hear anything at all about the Eck case during the war?
DÖNITZ : No. It was during my interrogation here that I
heard about it, for Eck was taken prisoner during that same operation.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Do you approve of his actions,
now that you know of them?
DÖNITZ : I do not approve his actions because, as I said
before, in this respect one must not deviate from military ethics under any
circumstances. However, I want to say that Kapitanleutnant Eck was faced with a
very grave decision. He had to bear responsibility for his boat and his crew,
and that responsibility is a serious one in time of war. Therefore, if for the
reason that he believed he would otherwise be spotted and destroyed-and that
reason was not unfounded, because in the same operational area and during the
same time four submarines, I think, had been bombed-if he came to his decision
for that reason, then a German court-martial would undoubtedly have taken it
I believe that after the war one views events differently,
and one does not fully realize the great responsibility which an unfortunate
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Apart from the Eck case did
you, during the war, or after, hear of any other instance in which a U-boat
commander fired on shipwrecked people or life rafts?
DÖNITZ : Not a single one.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: You know, do you not, the
documents of the Prosecution which describe the sinking of the ships Noreen Mary
and Antonico? Do you or do you not recognize the soundness of these documents as
evidence according to your experience in these matters?
DÖNITZ : No. I believe that they cannot stand the test of
an impartial examination. We have a large number of similar reports about the
other side, and we were always of the opinion, and also stated that opinion in
writing to the Fuhrer and the OKW, that one must view these cases with a good
deal of skepticism, because a
9 May 46
shipwrecked person can easily believe that he is being
fired on, whereas the shots may not be aimed at him at all, but at the ship,
that is, misses of some sort.
The fact that the Prosecution gives just these two examples
proves to me that my conviction is correct, that apart from the Eck case no
further instances of this kind occurred during those long years in the ranks of
the large German U-boat force.
FLOTTENRIGHTER KRANZBUEHLER: You mentioned before the
discussion with the Fuhrer in May 1942, during which the problem whether it was
permissible to kill survivors was examined, or at least touched upon by the Fuhrer. Was' that question reexamined at any time by the Commander-in-Chief of
U-boats or the Naval Operations Staff?
DÖNITZ : When I had become Commander-in-Chief of the Navy
. . .
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER That was in 1943?
DÖNITZ : I think in the summer of 1943 I received a letter
from the Foreign Office in which I was informed that about 87 percent of the
crews of merchant ships which had been sunk were returning home. I was told that
was a disadvantage and was asked whether it was not possible to do something
Thereupon I had a letter sent to the Foreign Office in
which I wrote that I had already been forced to prohibit rescue because it
endangered the submarines, but that other measures were out of the question for
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: There is an entry in the War
Diary of the Naval Operations Staff which deals with this case. I submit this
entry as DÖNITZ -42, on Pages 92 to 94 in Volume II of the document book.
I shall read as introduction the first and second sentences
of Page 92. The entry is dated 4 April 1943.
"The German Foreign Office pointed out a statement of
the British Transport Minister according to which, following sinkings of
merchant vessels, an average of 87 percent of the crews were saved. On the
subject of this statement the Naval Operations Staff made a comprehensive reply
to the Foreign Office."
Then there is the reply on the next pages, and I should
like to call to your attention a part of it first, under Heading 1, about the
number of convoy ships sunk. What is the importance of that in this connection?
DÖNITZ : That so many people certainly returned home.
9 May 46
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Furthermore, under Heading 2,
it is mentioned that the sailors do not need a long period of training, with the
exception of officers, and that an order for the picking up of captains and
chief engineers already existed. What is the meaning of that?
DÖNITZ : It is intended to emphasize that a matter like
that is being judged in the wrong light.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: One moment, Admiral. By
"a matter like that," you mean the usefulness, from a military point
of view, of killing the shipwrecked?
DÖNITZ : I mean that crews were always available to the
enemy; or unskilled men could very quickly be trained.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER Under Heading 4, you point to
the great danger of reprisals against your own submarine crews. Did such
reprisals against German U-boat crews occur at any time in the course of the
DÖNITZ : I do not know. I did not hear anything about
reprisals in that respect. I only received reliable reports that when U-boats
were bombed and destroyed from the air, the men swimming in the water were shot
at. But whether these were individual acts or reprisals carried out on orders, I
do not know. I assume they were individual acts.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: The decisive point of the
entire letter seems to be in Heading 3; I shall read that to you:
"A directive to take action against lifeboats of
sunken vessels and crew members drifting in the sea would, for psychological
reasons, hardly be acceptable to U-boat crews, since it would be contrary to the
innermost feelings of all sailors. Such a directive could only be considered if
by it a decisive military success could be achieved."
Admiral, you yourself have repeatedly spoken about the
harshness of war. Are you, nevertheless, of the opinion that psychologically the
U-boat crews could not be expected to carry out such an order? And why?
DÖNITZ : We U-boat men knew that we had to fight a very
hard war against the great sea powers. Germany had at her disposal for this
naval warfare nothing but the U-boats. Therefore, from the beginning-already in
peacetime-I trained the submarine crews in the spirit of pure idealism and
That was necessary, and I continued that training
throughout the war and supported it by very close personal contacts with the men
at the bases. It was necessary to achieve very high morale.
9 May 48
very high fighting spirit, because otherwise the severe
struggle and the enormous losses, as shown on the diagram, would have been
morally impossible to bear. But in spite of these high losses we continued the
fight, because it had to be; and we made up for our losses and again and again
replenished our forces with volunteers full of enthusiasm and full of moral
strength, just because morale was so high. And I would never, even at the time
of our most serious losses, have permitted that these men be given an order
which was unethical or which would damage their fighting morale; much less would
I myself ever have given such an order, for I placed my whole confidence in that
high fighting morale and endeavored to maintain it.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: You said the U-boat forces
were replenished with volunteers, did you?
DÖNITZ : We had practically only volunteers.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Also at the time of the
DÖNITZ : Yes, even during the time of highest losses,
during the period when everyone knew that he took part in an average of two
missions and then was lost.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: How high were your losses?
DÖNITZ : According to my recollection, our total losses
were 640 or 670.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: And crew members?
DÖNITZ : Altogether, we had 40,000 men in the submarine
force. Of these 40,000 men 30,000 did not return, and of these 30,000, 25,000
were killed and only 5,000 were taken prisoner. The majority of the submarines
was destroyed from the air in the vast areas of the sea, the Atlantic, where
rescue was out of the question.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBt1HLER: Mr. President, I come now to a
new subject. Would this be a suitable time to recess?
[The Tribunal recessed until 1400 hours.]
9 May 46
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: I am turning now to the theme
of the so-called conspiracy. The Prosecution is accusing you of participating
from 1932, on the basis of your close connections with the Party, in a
conspiracy to promote aggressive wars and commit war crimes. Where were you
during the weeks of the seizure of power by the National Socialists in the early
part of 1933?
DÖNITZ : Immediately after 30 January 1933, I believe it
was on 1 February, I went on leave to the Dutch East Indies and Ceylon, a trip
which lasted well into the summer of 1933. This leave journey had been granted
me, at Grossadmiral Raeder's recommendation, by President Hindenburg.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: After that, you became
commander of a cruiser at a foreign station?
DÖNITZ : In the autumn of 1934 I went as captain of the
cruiser Emden through the Atlantic, around Africa into the Indian Ocean, and
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Before this sojourn abroad or
after your return in 1935 and until you were appointed Commander-in-Chief of the
Navy in the year 1943 were you politically active in any way?
DEWITT: I was not active politically until 1 May 1945, when
I became head of the State, not before then.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: The Prosecution has submitted
a document, namely, an affidavit by Ambassador Messersmith. It bears the number
USA-57 (Document Number 1760-PS) and I have the pertinent extracts in my
document book, Volume II, Page 100. In this affidavit, Ambassador Messersmith
says that from 1930 until the spring of 1934 he acted as Consul General for the
United States in Berlin. Then, until July 1937, he was in Vienna and from there
he went to Washington. He gives an opinion about you with the remark,
"Among the people whom I saw frequently and to whom my statements refer
were the following...." Then your name is mentioned. From this one must get
the impression that during this period of time you were active in political
circles in Berlin or Vienna. Is that correct?
DÖNITZ : No. At that time I was Lieutenant Commander and
from the end of 1934 on I was Commander.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBt]HLER: With the permission of the
Tribunal I sent an interrogatory to Ambassador Messersmith
9 May 46
in order to determine upon what facts he was basing his
opinion. This interrogatory was answered and I am submitting it as Exhibit DÖNITZ
-45. The answers will be found on Page 102 of the document book, and I quote:
"During my residence in Berlin and during my later
frequent visits there as stated in my previous affidavits, I saw Admiral Karl DÖNITZ
and spoke to him on several occasions. However, I kept no diary and I am
unable to state with accuracy when and where the meetings occurred, the capacity
in which Admiral DÖNITZ appeared
there, or the topic or topics of our conversation. My judgment on DÖNITZ
expressed in my previous affidavit is based on personal knowledge and on
the general knowledge which I obtained from the various sources described in my
Did you, Admiral, see and speak with Ambassador Messersmith
anywhere and at any time?
DÖNITZ : I never saw him, and I hear his name here for the
first time. Also, at the time in question, I was not in Berlin. I was in
Wilhelmshaven on the North Sea coast or in the Indian Ocean. If he alleges to
have spoken to me it would have had to be in Wilhelmshaven or in the Indian
Ocean. Since neither is the case, I believe that he is mistaken and that he must
have confused me with somebody else.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Were you a member of the NSDAP?
DÖNITZ : On 30 January 1944 I received from the Fuhrer,
as a decoration, the Golden Party Badge; and I assume that I thereby became an
honorary member of the Party.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: When did you become acquainted
with Adolf Hitler and how often did you see him before you were appointed
Commander-in-Chief of the Navy?
DÖNITZ : I saw Adolf Hitler for the first time when, in
the presence of Grossadmiral Raeder in the autumn of 1934, I informed him of my
departure for foreign parts as captain of the cruiser Emden. I saw him again on
the day following my return with the Emden. From the autumn of 1934 until the
outbreak of war in 1939, in 5 years, I saw him four times in all, including the
two occasions when I reported to him as already mentioned.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER And what were the other two
occasions? Were they military or political occasions?
DÖNITZ : One was a military matter when he was watching a
review of the fleet in the Baltic Sea and I stood next to him on
9 May 46
the bridge of the flagship in order to give the necessary
explanations while two U-boats showed attack maneuvers.
The other occasion was an invitation to all high-ranking
army and navy officers when the new Reich Chancellery in the Voss Strasse was
completed. That was in 1938 or 1939. I saw him there but I did not speak with
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: How many times during the war,
until your appointment as Commander-in-Chief, did you see the Fuhrer?
DÖNITZ : In the years between 1939 and 1943 I saw the Fuhrer
four times, each time when short military reports about U-boat warfare
were being made and always in the presence of large groups.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBt1HLER: Until that time had you had
any discussion which went beyond the purely military?
DÖNITZ : No, none at all.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER When were you appointed
Commander-in-Chief of the Navy as successor to Grossadmiral Raeder?
DÖNITZ : On 30 January 1943.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBt1HLER: Was the war which Germany was
waging at that time at an offensive or defensive stage?
DÖNITZ : At a decidedly defensive stage.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: In your eyes was the position
of Commander-in-Chief, which was offered to you, a political or a military
DÖNITZ : It was self-evidently a purely military position,
namely, that of the first soldier at the head of the Navy. My appointment to
this position also came about because of purely military reasons which motivated
Grossadmiral Raeder to propose my name for this position. Purely military
considerations were the decisive ones in respect to this appointment.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: You know, Admiral, that the
Prosecution draws very far-reaching conclusions from your acceptance of this
appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, especially with reference to the
conspiracy. The Prosecution contends that through your acceptance of this
position you ratified the previous happenings, all the endeavors of the Party
since 1920 or 1922, and the entire German policy, domestic and foreign, at least
since 1933. Were you aware of the significance of this foreign policy? Did you
take this into consideration at all?
9 May 46
DÖNITZ : The idea never entered my head. Nor do I believe
that there is a soldier who, when he receives a military command, would
entertain such thoughts or be conscious of such considerations. My appointment
as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy represented for me an order which I of course
had to obey, just as I had to obey every other military order, unless for
reasons of health I was not able to do so. Since I was in good health and
believed that I could be of use to the Navy, I naturally also accepted this
command with inner conviction. Anything else would have been desertion or
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Then as Commander-inChief of
the Navy you came into very close contact with Adolf Hitler. You also know just
what conclusions the Prosecution draws from this relationship. Please tell me
just what this relationship was and on what it was based?
DÖNITZ : In order to be brief, I might perhaps explain the
matter as follows:
This relationship was based on three ties. First of all, I
accepted and agreed to the national and social ideas of National Socialism: the
national ideas which found expression in the honor and dignity of the nation,
its freedom, and its equality among nations and its security; and the social
tenets which had perhaps as their basis: no class struggle, but human and social
respect of each person regardless of his class, profession, or economic
position, and on the other hand, subordination of each and every one to the
interests of the common weal. Naturally I regarded Adolf Hitler's high authority
with admiration and joyfully acknowledged it, when in times of peace he
succeeded so quickly and without bloodshed in realizing his national and social
My second tie was my oath. Adolf Hitler had, in a legal and
lawful way, become the Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht, to whom the Wehrmacht
had sworn its oath of allegiance. That this oath was sacred to me is
self-evident and I believe that decency in this world will everywhere be on the
side of him who keeps his oath.
The third tie was my personal relationship: Before I became
Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, I believe Hitler had no definite conception of
me and my person. He had seen me too few times and always in large circles. How
my relationship to him would shape itself was therefore a completely open
question when I became Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. My start in this
connection was very unfavorable. It was made difficult, first, by the imminent
and then the actual collapse of U-boat warfare and, secondly, by my refusal,
just as Grossadmiral Raeder had already refused, to scrap
9 May 46
the large ships, which in Hitler's opinion had no fighting
value in view of the oppressive superiority of the foe. I, like Grossadmiral
Raeder, had opposed the scrapping of these ships, and only after a quarrel did
he finally agree. But, despite that, I noticed very soon that in Navy matters he
had confidence in me and in other respects as well treated me with decided
Adolf Hitler always saw in me only the first soldier of the
Navy. He never asked for my advice in military matters which did not concern the
Navy, either in regard to the Army or the Air Force; nor did I ever express my
opinion about matters concerning the Army or the Air Force, because basically I
did not have sufficient knowledge of these matters. Of course, he never
consulted me on political matters of a domestic or foreign nature.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: You said, Admiral, that he
never asked you for advice on political matters. But those matters might have
come up in connection with Navy questions. Did you not participate then either?
DÖNITZ : If by "political" you mean, for
instance, consultations of the commanders with the so-called "National
Socialist Leadership Officers," then, of course, I participated, because
this came within the sphere of the Navy, or rather was to become a Navy concern.
That was naturally the case.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Beyond those questions, did
Hitler ever consider you a general adviser, as the Prosecution claims and as
they concluded from the long list of meetings which you have had with Hitler
since 1943 at his headquarters?
DÖNITZ : First of all, as a matter of principle, there can
be no question of a general consultation with the Fuhrer; as I have already
said, the Fuhrer asked for and received advice from me only in matters
concerning the Navy and the conduct of naval warfare- matters exclusively and
absolutely restricted to my sphere of activity.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: According to the table
submitted, between 1943 and 1945 you were called sometimes once and sometimes
twice a month to the Fuhrer's headquarters. Please describe to the Tribunal
just what happened, as far as you were concerned, on a day like that at the Fuhrer's headquarters-what you had to do there.
DÖNITZ : Until 2 or 3 months before the collapse, when the
Fuhrer was in Berlin, I flew to his headquarters about every 2 or 3 weeks, but
only if I had some concrete Navy matter for which I needed his decision. On
those occasions I participated in the noontime discussion of the general
military situation, that is, the report which the Fuhrer's staff made to him
about what had taken place
9 May 46
on the fighting fronts within the last 24 hours. At these
military discussions the Army and Air Force situation was of primary importance,
and I spoke only when my Naval expert was reporting the naval situation and he
needed me to supplement his report. Then at a given moment, which was fixed by
the Adjutant's Office, I gave my military report which was the purpose of my
journey. When rendering this report only those were present whom these matters
concerned, that is, when it was a question of reinforcements, et cetera, Field
Marshal Keitel or Generaloberst Jodl were generally present.
When I came to his headquarters every 2 or 3 weeks-later in
1944 there was sometimes an interval of 6 weeks-the Fuhrer invited me to lunch.
These invitations ceased completely after 20 July 1944, the day of the attempted
I never received from the Fuhrer an order which in any way
violated the ethics of war. Neither I nor anyone in the Navy-and this is my
conviction-knew anything about the mass extermination of people, which I learned
about here from the Indictment, or, as far as the concentration camps are
concerned, after the capitulation in May 1945.
In Hitler I saw a powerful personality who had
extraordinary intelligence and energy and a practically universal knowledge,
from whom power seemed to emanate and who was possessed of a remarkable power of
suggestion. On the other hand, I purposely very seldom went to his headquarters,
for I had the feeling that I would best preserve my power of initiative that way
and, secondly, because after several days, say 2 or 3 days at his headquarters,
I had the feeling that I had to disengage myself from his power of suggestion. I
am telling you this because in this connection I was doubtless more fortunate
than his staff who were constantly exposed to his powerful personality with its
power of suggestion.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: You said just now, Admiral,
that you never received an order which was in violation of military ethics. You
know the Commando Order of the autumn of 1942. Did you not receive this order?
DÖNITZ : I was informed of this order after it was issued
while I was still Commander of the U-boats. For the soldiers at the front this
order was unequivocal. I had the feeling that it was a very grave matter; but
under Point 1 of this order it was clearly and unequivocally expressed that
members of the enemy forces, because of their behavior, because of the killing
of prisoners, had placed themselves outside the Geneva Convention and that
therefore the Fuhrer had ordered reprisals and that those reprisal measures, in
addition, had been published in the Wehrmacht report.
9 May 46
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZB0XLER: Therefore, the soldier who
received this order had no right, no possibility, and no authority to demand a
justification or an investigation; does this mean such an order was justified?
As Commander of the U-boats did you have anything to do with the execution of
DÖNITZ : No, not in the slightest.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: As far as you remember, did
you as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy have anything to do with the carrying out
of this order?
DÖNITZ : As far as I remember I was never concerned with
this order as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. (fine should not forget, first,
that this decree excludes expressly those taken prisoner in battles at sea and,
second, that the Navy had no territorial authority on land, and for this latter
reason found itself less often in a position of having to carry out any point of
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER You know the document submitted
by the Prosecution, which describes how in the summer of 1943 a Commando unit
was shot in Norway. I mean the Prosecution's Exhibit GB-208. The incident is
described there as showing that the crew of a Norwegian motor torpedo boat were
taken prisoner on a Norwegian island. This motor torpedo boat was charged with
belligerent missions at sea. The document does not say who took the crew
prisoner, but it does say that the members of the crew were wearing their
uniforms when they were taken prisoner, that they were interrogated by a naval
officer, and that on the order of Admiral Von Schrader they were turned over to
the SD. The SD later shot them. Did you know about this incident or was it
reported to you as Commander-in-Chief?
DÖNITZ : I learned about this incident from the trial
brief of the Prosecution.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Can you explain the fact that
an incident of this nature was not brought to your attention? Would this not
have had to be reported to you?
DÖNITZ : If the Navy was concerned in this matter, that
is, if this crew had been captured by the Navy, Admiral Von Schrader, who was
the commander there, would absolutely have had to report this matter to the
Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. I am also convinced that he would have done so,
for the regulations regarding this were unequivocal. I am also convinced that
the naval expert at the Navy High Command, who was concerned with such matters,
would have reported this to me as Commander-in-Chief.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: What is your opinion about
this case now that you have learned about it through the document of the
9 May 46
DÖNITZ ' If it is correct that it concerns the crew of a
motor torpedo boat which had belligerent missions at sea, then this measure, the
shooting which took place, was entirely wrong in any case, for it was in direct
opposition even to this Commando Order. But I consider it completely out of the
question, for I do not believe that Admiral Von Schrader, whom I know personally
to be an especially chivalrous sailor, would have had a hand in anything of this
sort. From the circumstances of this incident, the fact that it was not reported
to the High Command, that this incident, as has now been ascertained by perusal
of the German newspapers of that time, was never mentioned in the Wehrmacht communiqué, as would have been the case if it had been a matter concerning the
Wehrmacht, from all these circumstances I assume that the incident was as
That the police arrested these people on the island; that
they were taken from this island by vessel to Bergen; that there one or two, if
I remember correctly, naval officers interrogated them, since the Navy, of
course, was interested in this interrogation; and that then these people were
handed over to the SD, since they had already been taken prisoner by the SD. I
cannot explain it otherwise.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: You wish to say, then, that in
your opinion these men had never been prisoners of the Navy?
DÖNITZ : No. If they had been, a report to the High
Command would have been made.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Quite apart from these
questions I should like to ask you, did you not in your position as
Commander-in-Chief, and during your visits to the Fuhrer's headquarters, have
experiences which made you consider disassociating yourself from Adolf Hitler?
DÖNITZ : I have already stated that as far as my activity
was concerned, even at headquarters, I was strictly limited to my own
department, since it was a peculiarity of the Fuhrer's to listen to a person
only about matters which were that person's express concern. It was also
self-evident that at the discussions of the military situation only purely
military matters were discussed, that is, no problems of domestic policy, of the
SD, or the SS, unless it was a question of SS divisions in military service
under one of the army commanders. Therefore I had no knowledge of all these
things. As I have already said, I never received an order from the Fuhrer which
in any way violated military ethics. Thus I firmly believe that in every respect
I kept the Navy unsullied down to the last man until the end. In naval warfare
my attention was focused on
9 May 46
the sea; and the Navy, small as it was, tried to fulfill
its duty according to its tasks. Therefore I had no reason at all to break with
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Such a reason would not
necessarily refer to a crime; it could also have been for political
considerations, having nothing to do with crimes. You have heard the question
broached repeatedly as to whether there should have been a Putsch. Did you enter
into contact with such a movement and did you yourself consider or attempt a
DÖNITZ : No. The word "Putsch" has been used
frequently in this court-room by a wide variety of people. It is easy to say so,
but I believe that one would have had to realize the tremendous significance of
such an activity.
The German nation was involved in a struggle of life and
death. It was surrounded by enemies almost like a fortress. And it is clear. to
keep to the simile of the fortress, that every disturbance from within would
without doubt perforce have affected our military might and fighting power.
Anyone, therefore, who violates his loyalty and his oath to plan and try to
bring about an overthrow during such a struggle for survival must be most deeply
convinced that the nation needs such an overthrow at all costs and must be aware
of his responsibility.
Despite this, every nation will judge such a man to be a
traitor, and history will not vindicate him unless the success of the overthrow
actually contributes to the welfare and prosperity of his people. This, however,
would not have been the case in Germany.
If, for instance, the Putsch of 20 July had been
successful, then a dissolution, if only a gradual one, would have resulted
inside Germany-a fight against the bearers of weapons, here the SS, there
another group, complete chaos inside Germany-for the firm structure of the State
would gradually have been destroyed and disintegration and a reduction of our
fighting power at the front would have inevitably resulted.
THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal thinks that the defendant is
making a long and political speech., It really hasn't very much to do with the
questions with which we have to deal.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Mr. President, I was of the
opinion that the question of whether a Commander-in-Chief is obliged to bring
about a Putsch was regarded as a main point by the Prosecution, a point having a
bearing on the question of whether he declared himself in agreement or not with
the system which is being characterized as criminal. If the Tribunal considers
this question irrelevant I do not want to press it further.
9 May 46
THE PRESIDENT: I don't think the Prosecution has put
forward the view that anybody had to create a Putsch.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: It seemed to me a self-evident
view of the Prosecution.
Admiral, the Prosecution has submitted two documents,
dating from the winter of 1943 and May 1945, containing speeches made by you to
the troops. You are accused by the Prosecution of preaching National Socialist
ideas to the troops. Please define your position on this point.
DÖNITZ : When in February 1943 I became Commander-in-Chief
of the Navy, I was responsible for the fighting power of the entire Navy. A main
source of strength in this war was the unity of our people. And those who had
most to gain from this unity were the Armed Forces, for any rupture inside
Germany would perforce have had an effect on the troops and would have reduced
that fighting spirit which was their mission. The Navy, in particular, in the
first World War, had had bitter experiences in this direction in 1917-18.
Therefore in all of my speeches I tried to preserve this
unity and the feeling that we were the guarantors of this unity. This was
necessary and right, and particularly necessary for me as a leader of troops. I
could not preach disunity or dissolution, and it had its effect. Fighting power
and discipline in the Navy were of a high standard until the end. And I believe
that in every nation such an achievement is considered a proper and good
achievement for a leader of troops. These are my reasons for talking the way I
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: On 30 April 1945 you became
head of the State as Adolf Hitler's successor; and the Prosecution concludes
from this that prior to that time also you must have been a close confidant of
Hitler's, since only a confidant of his would have been chosen to be Hitler's
successor where matters of state were concerned. Will you tell me how you came
to be his successor and whether Hitler before that time ever spoke to you about
DÖNITZ : From 20 July 1944 on I did not see Hitler alone,
but only at the large discussions of the military situation. He never spoke to
me about the question of a successor, not even by way of hinting. This was
entirely natural and clear since, according to law, the Reich Marshal [Herman
successor; and the regrettable misunderstanding between the Fuhrer and the
Reich Marshal did not occur until the end of April 1945, at a time when I was no
longer in Berlin.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Where were you?
9 May 46
DÖNITZ : I was in Holstein. Therefore, I did not have the slightest inkling, nor did the Fuhrer, that I was to become his successor.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Just how, through what
measures or orders, did that actually come about?
DÖNITZ : On 30 April 1945, in the evening, I received a
radio message from headquarters to the effect that the Fuhrer was designating
me his successor and that I was authorized to take at once all measures which I
The next morning, that is on 1 May, I received another
radio message, a more detailed directive, which said that I was to be Reich
President; Minister Goebbels, Reich Chancellor; Bormann, Party Minister; and
Seyss-Inquart, Foreign Minister.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Did you adhere to this
DÖNITZ : This radio message first of all contradicted the
earlier radio message which clearly stated: "You can at once do everything
you consider to be right." I did not and as a matter of principle never
would adhere to this second radio message, for if I am to take responsibility,
then no conditions must be imposed on me. Thirdly, under no circumstances would
I have agreed to working with the people mentioned, with the exception of
In the early morning of 1 May I had already had a
discussion with the Minister of Finance, Count Schwerin von Krosigk, and had
asked him to take over the business of government, insofar as we could still
talk about that. I had done this because in a chance discussion, which had taken
place several days before, I had seen that we held much the same view, the view
that the German people belonged to the Christian West, that the basis of future
conditions of life is the absolute legal security of the individual and of
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: Admiral, you know the
so-called "Political Testament" of Adolf Hitler, in which you are
charged with continuing the war. Did you receive an order of this sort at that
DÖNITZ : No. I saw this Testament for the first time a few
weeks ago here, when it was made public in the press. As I have said, I would
not have accepted any order, any restriction of my activity at the time when
Germany's position was hopeless and I was given the responsibility.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: The Prosecution has submitted
a document in which you exhorted the war leaders in the spring of 1945 to carry
on tenaciously to the end. It is Exhibit
9 May 46
GB-212. You are accused in this connection of being a
fanatical Nazi who was ready to carry on a hopeless war at the expense of the
women and children of your people. Please define your position in respect to
this particularly grave accusation.
DÖNITZ : In this connection I can say the following: In
the spring of 1945 I was not head of the State; I was a soldier. To continue the
fight or not to continue the fight was a political decision The head of the
State wanted to continue the fight. I as a soldier had to obey. It is an
impossibility that in a state one soldier should declare, "I shall continue
to fight," while another declares, "I shall not continue the
fight." I could not have given any other advice, the way I saw things; and
for the following reasons:
First: In the East the collapse of our front at one point
meant the extermination of the people living behind that front. We knew that
because of practical experiences and because of all the reports which we had
about this. It was the belief of all the people that the soldier in the East had
to do his military duty in these hard months of the war, these last hard months
of the war. This was especially important because otherwise German women and
children would have perished.
The Navy was involved to a considerable extent in the East.
It had about 100,000 men on land, and the entire surface craft were concentrated
in the Baltic for the transport of troops, weapons, wounded, and above all,
refugees. Therefore the very existence of the German people in this last hard
period depended above all on the soldiers carrying on tenaciously to the end.
Secondly: If we had capitulated in the first few months of
the spring or in the winter of 1945, then from everything we knew about the
enemy's intentions the country would, according to the Yalta Agreement, have
been ruinously torn asunder and partitioned and the German land occupied in the
same way as it is today.
Thirdly: Capitulation means that the army, the soldiers,
stay where they are and become prisoners. That means that if we had capitulated
in January or February 1945, 2 million soldiers in the East, for example, would
have fallen into the hands of the Russians. That these millions could not
possibly have been cared for during the cold winter is obvious; and we would
have lost men on a very large scale, for even at the time of the capitulation in
May 1945-that is, in the late spring-it was not possible in the West to take
care of the large masses of prisoners according to the Geneva Convention. Then,
as I have already said, since the Yalta Agreement would have been put into
effect, we would have lost in the East a much larger number of people who had
not yet fled from there.
9 May 46
When on 1 May I became head of the State, circumstances
were different. By that time the fronts, the Eastern and Western fronts, had
come so close to each other that in a few days people, troops, soldiers, armies,
and the great masses of refugees could be transported, from the East to the
West. When I became head of the State on 1 May, I therefore strove to make peace
as quickly as possible and to capitulate, thus saving German blood and bringing
German people from the East to the West; and I acted accordingly, already on 2
May, by making overtures to General Montgomery to capitulate for the territory
facing his army, and for Holland and Denmark which we still held firmly; and
immediately following that I opened negotiations with General Eisenhower.
The same basic principle-to save and preserve the German
population-motivated me in the winter to face bitter necessity and keep on
fighting. It was very painful that our cities were still being bombed to pieces
and that through these bombing attacks and the continued fight more lives were
lost. The number of these people is about 300,000 to 400,000, the majority of
whom perished in the bombing attack of Dresden, which cannot be understood from
a military point of view and which could not have been predicted. Nevertheless,
this figure is relatively small compared with the millions of German people,
soldiers and civilian population, we would have lost in the East if we had
capitulated in the winter.
Therefore, in my opinion, it was necessary to act as I did:
First while I was still a soldier, to call on my troops to keep up the fight,
and afterwards, when I became head of the State in May, to capitulate at once.
Thereby no German lives were lost; rather were they saved.
FLOTTENRICHTER KRANZBUEHLER: I have no further questions,
THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn.
[A recess was taken.]
THE PRESIDENT: Does any other member of the Defendants'
Counsel wish to ask questions?
DR. WALTER SIEMERS (Counsel for Defendant Raeder): Admiral
DÖNITZ , you have already explained that Grossadmiral Raeder and the Navy in
the summer of 1939 did not believe, despite certain ominous signs, that war was
about to break out. Since you saw Grossadmiral Raeder in the summer of 1939, I
should like you briefly to supplement this point. First of all, on what occasion
did you have a detailed conversation with Grossadmiral Raeder?
9 May 46
DÖNITZ : Grossadmiral Raeder embarked in the middle of July 1939 for submarine maneuvers of my fleet in the Baltic Sea. Following the maneuvers...
DR.SIEMERS: May I first ask you something? What sort of
maneuvers were they? Mow large were they and where did they take place?
DÖNITZ : All submarines which had completed their tests I
had assembled in the Baltic. I cannot remember the exact figure, but I think
there were about 30. In the maneuvers I then showed Grossadmiral Raeder what
these submarines could accomplish.
DR. SIEMERS: Were all those submarines capable of
navigating in the Atlantic?
DÖNITZ : Yes, they were, and in addition there were the
smaller submarines of lower tonnage, which could operate only as far as the
DR. SIEMERS: That means, therefore, that at that time you
had no more than two dozen submarines capable of navigating in the Atlantic; is
DÖNITZ : That figure is too high. At that time we had not
even 15 submarines capable of navigating in the Atlantic. At the outbreak of
war, as far as I remember, we went to sea with fifteen submarines capable of
navigating in the Atlantic.
DR. SIEMERS: During those few days when you were with
Raeder at the maneuvers did you talk to him privately?
DÖNITZ : Yes. Grossadmiral Raeder told me-and he repeated
this to the entire officers' corps during his final speech in Swinemunde-that
the Fuhrer had informed him that under no circumstances must a war in the West
develop, for that would be Finis Germaniae. I asked for leave and immediately
after the maneuvers I went on leave on 24 July for a 6-weeks' rest at Bad
Gastein. I am merely stating that because it shows how we regarded the situation
at that time.
DR. SIEMERS: But then the war came rather quickly, did it
not, and you had to break off the leave which you had planned?
DÖNITZ : I was called back by telephone in the middle of
DR.SIEMERS: These words, that there would be no war with
England, and the words, Finis Germaniae, did Raeder speak them during a private
conversation or only in this speech at Swinemunde?
DÖNITZ : As far as the sense is concerned, yes. As far as
the exact words are concerned, I cannot remember now what was
9 May 46
said in the main speech and what was said before. At any
rate he certainly said it during the main speech.
DR. SIEMERS: Thank you very much.
DR. LATERNSER: Admiral, on 30 January 1943 you became
Commander-in-Chief of the Navy and thereby a member of the group which is
indicted here, the General Staff and the OKW?
DÖNITZ : Yes.
DR. LATERNSER: I wanted to ask you whether, after you were
appointed, you had discussions with any of the members of these groups regarding
plans or aims as outlined in the Indictment?
DÖNITZ : No, with none of them.
DR.LATERNSER: After you came to office, you dismissed all
the senior commanders in the Navy. What were the reasons for this?
DÖNITZ : Since I was between 7 and 10 years younger than
the other commanders in the Navy, for instance, Admiral Carls, Admiral Boehm,
and others, it was naturally difficult for both parties. They were released for
those reasons and, I believe, in spite of mutual respect and esteem.
DR.LATERNSER: How many commanders in the Navy were involved
in this case?
DÖNITZ : I think three or four.
DR. LATERNSER: Was there close personal and official
contact between the Navy on the one hand, and the Army and Air Force on the
DÖNITZ : No, not at all.
DR. LATERNSER: Did you know most of the members of the
DÖNITZ : No. Before my time as Commander-in-Chief of the
Navy, I knew only those with whom I happened to find myself in the same area.
For instance, when I was in France I knew Field Marshal Von Rundstedt. After I
became Commander-in-Chief I knew only those whom I met by chance when I was at
headquarters where they had to submit some army report at the large military
DR. LATERNSER: Then you did not know most of the members of
DÖNITZ : No'
DR.LATERNSER: Did those commanders who were known to you
have a common political aim?
9 May 46
D0NITZ: As far as the Army and the Air Force are concerned,
I cannot say. As far as the Navy is concerned, the answer is "no." We
were soldiers, and I was interested in what the soldier could accomplish, what
his personality was; and I did not concern myself in the main about a political
line of thought, unless it affected his performance as a soldier.
I want to mention, as an example, the fact that my closest
colleague who from 1934 until the very end in 1945 always accompanied me as my
adjutant and later as Chief of Staff, was extremely critical of National
Socialism-to put it mildly-without our official collaboration or my personal
attitude toward him being affected thereby, as this long period of working
DR. LATERNSER: May I inquire the name of this Chief of
Staff to whom you have just referred?
DÖNITZ : Admiral Godt.
DR. LATERNSER: Admiral Goat. Do you know of any remarks
made by Hitler regarding the attitude of the generals of the army? The question
refers only to those who belong to the indicted group.
DÖNITZ : At the discussions of the military situation, I
naturally heard a hasty remark now and then about some army commander, but I
cannot say today why it was made or to whom it referred.
DR. LATERNSER: You were quite often present during the
situation conferences at the Fuhrer's headquarters. Did you notice on such
occasions that commanders-in-chief put forward in Hitler's presence views
strikingly different from his?
D0NITZ: Yes, that certainly happened.
DR. LATERNSER: Can you remember any particular instance?
DÖNITZ : I remember that when the question of falling back
in the northern sector in the East was discussed, the army commander of this
sector of the front was not of the same opinion as the Fuhrer, and that this
led to an argument.
DRY LATERNSER: Was that commander successful with his
DÖNITZ : I think so, partly; but I should like you to ask
an army officer about that because naturally I do not know these details so
clearly and authentically.
DR.LATERNSER: Did the high military leaders of the Navy
have anything to do with the Einsatzgruppen of the SD?
DÖNITZ : The Navy, no. As far as the Army is concerned, I
do not believe so and I assume they did not. But please do not ask me about
anything but the Navy.
9 May 46
DR. LATERNSER: Yes. This question referred only to the
Navy. And now, some questions about regional Navy commanders. Did the commanders
of the regional Navy Group Commands-MarineGruppenkommando-have extensive
DÖNITZ : No. According to the famous KG-40, that is War Organization 1940, the Navy had no territorial powers ashore. Its task ashore was to defend the coast under the command of the Army and according to sectors, that is, under the command of the divisions stationed in that particular sector. Apart from that they took part in battle in coastal waters.
DR.LATERNSER: So that regional commanders in the Navy were
therefore simply troop commanders?
DÖNITZ : Yes.
DR. LATERNSER: Did the commanders of these regional Navy
Group Commands have any influence on the formulation of orders regarding
DÖNITZ : No, none whatever.
DR. LATERNSER: Did they influence decisions regarding what ships were to be sunk?
DÖNITZ : No, not at all.
DR. LATERNSER: And did they influence orders regarding the
treatment of shipwrecked personnel?
DÖNITZ : No.
DR. LATERNSER: Now the holder of the of flee Chief of Naval
Operations Staff also belongs to this group. What were the tasks of a Chief of
Naval Operations Staff?
DÖNITZ : That was a high command, the office which worked
out the purely military, tactical, and operational matters of the Navy.
DR. LATERNSER: Did the Chief of Naval Operations Staff have
powers to issue orders?
DÖNITZ : No.
DR. LATERNSER: Then his position was similar to that of
Chief of General Staff of the Air Force or of the Army?
DÖNITZ : I beg your pardon, I must first get the idea
I assume that by "Chief of Naval Operations Staff" you mean the Chief of Staff of Naval Operations Staff? In Grossadmiral Raeder's time the name "Chief of Naval Operations Staff" was the same as "Commander-in-Chief of the Navy." The position about which you are asking was called "Chief of Staff of Naval
9 May 46
Operations Staff" while I was Commander-in-Chief of
the Navy; the name "Chief of Staff of Naval Operations Staff" was
changed to "Chief of Naval Operations Staff," but it was the same
person and he was under the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy.
DR.LATERNSER: Was there in the Navy a staff of Admirals
corresponding to the Army General Staff?
DÖNITZ : No, that did not exist. Such an institution did
not exist. The necessary consultants, "Fuhrungsgehilfen," as we called
them, came from the front, served on the staff and then returned to the front.
DR. LATERNSER: Now I shall ask one last question. The
witness Gisevius has stated in this courtroom that the highest military leaders
had drifted into corruption by accepting gifts. Did you yourself receive a gift
of any kind?
DÖNITZ : Apart from the salary to which I was entitled, I
did not receive a penny; I received no gifts. And the same applies to all the
officers of the Navy.
DR. LATERNSER: Thank you very much. I have no further
DR. NELTE: Witness, you were present when the witness
Gisevius was being examined here. That witness, without giving concrete facts,
passed judgment in the following manner: "Keitel had one of the most
influential positions in the Third Reich." And at another point he said,
"I received very exact information regarding the tremendous influence which
Keitel had on everything relating to the Army and accordingly also on those who
represented the Army to the German people."
Will you, who can judge these matters, tell me whether that
judgment of Defendant Keitel's position, his function, is correct?
DÖNITZ : I consider it very much exaggerated. I think that
Field Marshal Keitel's position has been described here so unequivocally that it
ought to be clear by now that what is contained in these words is not at all
DR. NELTE: Am I to gather from this that you confirm as
correct the description of the position and functions as given by Reich Marshal
Goring and Field Marshal Keitel himself?
DÖNITZ : Yes, it is perfectly correct.
DR. NELTE: The witness Gisevius judged these matters, not
on the basis of his own knowledge, but on the basis of information received from
Admiral Canaries Did you know Admiral Canaris?
DÖNITZ : I know Admiral Canaris from the time when he was
still a member of the Navy.
9 May 46
DR.NELTE: Later on, when he was Chief of the Intelligence
Service for foreign countries in the OKW, did you not have discussions with him?
Did he not come to see you in his capacity as Chief of the Intelligence Service?
DÖNITZ After I became Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, he visited me and he made a report about information matters which he thought he could place at the disposal of the Navy, my sphere of interest. But that was his last report to me. After that, of course, I received from him or his department written information reports which concerned the Navy.
DR. NELTE: Is it right for me to say that the position of
Admiral Canaris as Chief of Intelligence, that is, espionage, counterespionage,
sabotage, and intelligence, was of great importance for the entire conduct of
DÖNITZ : His office or his department?
DR.NELTE: He was the chief of the whole department, was he
DÖNITZ : Of course, he worked for the entire Armed Forces,
all three branches of the Armed Forces; and I must say in that connection, if
you ask me about the importance, that I was of the opinion that the information
which we received from him and which interested the Navy was very meager indeed.
DR. NELTE: Did Canaris ever complain to you that Field
Marshal Keitel at the OKW in any way obstructed and hampered him in carrying out
his activity and that he could not pass on his intelligence and his reports?
DÖNITZ : He never did that and, of course, he could have
done so only during the first report. No, he never did that.
DR. NELTE: With reference to Canaris I should like to know
whether you can tell me anything about his character and consequently about his
credibility as a source of information; whether you consider him reliable?
DÖNITZ : Admiral Canaris, while he was in the Navy, was an
officer in whom not much confidence was shown. He was a man quite different from
us-we used to say he had seven souls in his breast.
THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Nelte, we don't want to know about
Admiral Canaris when he was in the Navy. I don't think there is any use telling
us that Admiral Canaris was in the Navy. The only possible relevance would be
his character afterwards when he was head of the intelligence.
DR. NELTE: Mr. President, do you not think that, if someone
is unreliable and not credible as a commodore, he might also be so as
9 May 46
an Admiral in the OKW? Do you think that that could have
changed during these years?
[Turning to the defendant.] But, nevertheless, I thank you
for the answer to this question and I now ask you to answer the following
question. Is it true that Hitler forbade all branches of the Armed Forces to
make reports on any political matters and that he demanded that they confine
themselves to their own sphere of work?
DÖNITZ : Yes, that is true.
DR. NELTE: Witness Gisevius has stated that Field Marshal
Keitel threatened the officers under his command that he would hand them over to
the Gestapo if they concerned themselves with political matters, and I ask you:
Is it true that, according to the regulations applying to the Armed Forces, the
Police-including the Gestapo, the SD, and the Criminal Police-had no
jurisdiction at all over members of the Armed Forces, no matter what their rank
DÖNITZ : That is correct.
DR. NELTE: And is it also correct that the branches of the
Almed Forces and also the OKW we're at great pains to preserve this prerogative
as far as the Police were concerned?
DÖNITZ : Yes, that is true.
DR. NELTE: So that any alleged threat, as mentioned by
Gisevius, namely, the handing over of these people to the Gestapo, could not
have been carried out?
DÖNITZ : No.
DR. NELTE: And it is correct for me to say that all
officers of the OKW to whom such a statement might have been made naturally knew
DÖNITZ : Naturally. A soldier was subject to military
jurisdiction, and nobody could interfere with the Armed Forces.
DR. NELTE: Moreover, did Field Marshal Keitel, as Chief of
the OKW, have any right to deal with officers serving in the OKW without the
knowledge and consent of the Commander-in-Chief of the branch of the Armed
Forces to which the officer belonged? Could he promote such an officer, dismiss
him, or anything like that?
DÖNITZ : An officer in a branch of the Armed Forces-for
instance the Navy-was detailed to the OKW for a definite office and thus was
sent by the Navy to the OKW. If this officer was to be given a different office
in the OKW, then the branch of the Armed Forces to which he belonged would of
course have to be consulted.
DR. NELTE: Is it not correct to say that these officers
were still on the roster of their own branch of the Armed Forces, since the
9 May 46
OKW was not a branch of the Armed Forces and was not a
formation; in other words, if there was a promotion, for instance, it would be
ordered by the Navy? If Canaris was to have been promoted, you, as
Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, would have had to order this promotion,
assuming, of course, that you were in agreement with this proposal? It was,
merely a question of the actual command and of personnel?
DÖNITZ : These officers were detailed to the OKW. As far
as I can recollect, they were still on the Navy roster under the heading,
"Detailed from the Navy to the OKW."
DR. NELTE: But they did not leave the Navy as a branch of
the Armed Forces, did they?
DÖNITZ : Promotion of such officers, I think, was decided
by the Personnel Office of the Navy in agreement with the OKW, and I think also
that no one could be detailed-I consider this self-evident-without agreement of
the branch of the Armed Forces concerned.
DR. NELTE: Witness Gisevius has stated that certain men,
among them Field Marshal Keitel for military matters, had formed a close ring of
silence around Hitler so that nobody they did not want to let through could
approach him. I ask you, was it possible for Field Marshal Keitel to keep you,
as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, away from Hitler, if you wanted to make a
report to him?
DÖNITZ : No.
DR. NELTE: In the same way, was it possible for Field
Marshal Keitel to keep the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force away, if the
latter wanted to report to the Fuhrer?
DÖNITZ : No.
DR. NELTE: And how was it with the Commander-in-Chief of
DÖNITZ : I know nothing about that. When I was
Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, there was no such position.
DR. NELTE: Then how was it with the Chief of General Staff
of the Army? Could he at any time report to the Fuhrer without going by way of
Field Marshal Keitel?
DÖNITZ : It was not possible for Field Marshal Keitel to
keep anyone away, and he would never have done So anyway.
DR. NELTE: In reply to a question of the Prosecution,
witness Gisevius stated in this courtroom that his group forwarded reports to
Field Marshal Keitel, by way of Admiral Canards, which dealt with the crimes
against humanity which have been adduced here
- 9 May 46
by the Prosecution. These reports had been camouflaged as
I ask you, was a camouflaged "foreign report" of
this sort ever submitted to you or sent to you by Canaris?
DÖNITZ : No, never.
DR. NELTE: From your knowledge of Keitel's personality, do
you consider it possible that he would have withheld from the Fuhrer an
important report which was submitted to him?
D0NITZ: I consider that absolutely out of the question.
THE PRESIDENT: I don't think that is a proper question for
you to put.
DR,NELTE: With this question I wanted to end my inquiries
on this point; but I still have one other question, which can be quickly dealt
Mr. President, in your communication of 26 March 1946, you
gave me permission to submit an affidavit from Admiral DÖNITZ
concerning the function and the position of the Chief of the OKW. I
received this affidavit and handed it over to the Prosecution on 13 April for
examination, and I understand that there are no objections to this affidavit. I
have, however, not yet got back the original, which was handed over on 13 April,
and I do not know whether it has in the meantime been submitted to the Tribunal
by the Prosecution or not.
THE PRESIDENT: I don't know anything about the affidavit that you are dealing with.
DR. NELTE: I shall therefore be forced to put questions to
Admiral DÖNITZ , which in large part are the same questions which I have
already put to Field Marshal Keitel himself.
THE PRESIDENT: Do the Prosecution object to the affidavit
DR.NELTE: No, they did not raise any objections. Therefore,
if it had been returned I would have submitted it as an exhibit, without reading
THE PRESIDENT: Very well.
DR. NELTE: Thank you.
DR. DIX: Witness, you have stated that the SD and the
Gestapo, in fact, the whole Police had no jurisdiction over members of the Armed
Forces-for instance, they could not arrest members of the Armed Forces. Did I
understand you correctly?
9 May 46
DR.DIX: Do you know, Witness, that all the officers, or in
any case most of them, who were suspected of being involved in the affair of 20
July, were arrested by members of the SD and sent for questioning by the SD and
the SD office, where they were arrested, to prisons under the SD and there held
under SD guard and not under any military guard?
DÖNITZ : No, I don't know that, because after 20 July, as
far as I can remember, an order was issued specifically stating that the SD were
to-give to branches of the Armed Forces the names of those soldiers who had
participated in the Putsch and that these soldiers were then to be dismissed
from the branches of the Armed Forces, particularly to keep the principle of
noninterference in the branches of the Armed Forces from being violated, and
that then the SD would have the right to take action.
DR.DIX: That order did come out, but perhaps we can come to
an explanation of this order if you answer further questions which I want to put
Do you know, Witness, that the examination, the
interrogation of those officers arrested in connection with 20 July, was carried
out exclusively by officials of the SD or the Gestapo and not be officers, that
is, members of military courts?
DÖNITZ : I can only judge as to the two cases which I had
in the Navy. I received information that these two officers had participated. I
had questions put to them, and they confirmed it Thereupon these officers were
dismissed from the Navy. After that the interrogation was, of course, not
carried out by the Navy; but I know that my Navy court judges still concerned
themselves about the officers and the interrogation.
DR. DIX: Who dismissed these men?
DÖNITZ : The Navy.
DR. DIX: That is you.
ˇ DÖNITZ : Yes.
DR. DIX: Do you know, Witness, that following upon the
investigation regarding 20 July a committee of generals was former under the
chairmanship of Field Marshal Von Rundstedt?
DÖNITZ : Yes, I heard about that.
DR. DIX: And that this committee, on the basis of the
record of the SD, decided whether the officer in question was to be dismissed
from the Army or would have to leave the Army, so the he could be turned over to
the civil court, namely, the People', Court?
DÖNITZ : That is not known to me.
9 May 46
DR. DIX: May I put it to you that I am of the opinion that
the order which you have described correctly...
THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Dix, you are bound by his answer. He
said he didn't know anything about it. You can't then put to him what you say
happened. If he says he doesn't know anything about it, you must accept his
DR. DIX: I just wanted to put to him that the order to
which I referred earlier, which actually exists and which deals with the
decision of whether a person is to be dismissed from the Army and surrendered to
the civil authorities, has to do with this committee presided over by Field
Marshal Von Rundstedt, which had to decide whether the officer in question was
to be dismissed and thereby turned over, not to a military court, but to the
THE PRESIDENT: I understood the witness to say he didn't
know anything about it. I think you are bound by that answer.
DR. DIX: May I add something?
THE PRESIDENT: Who are you offering these questions for? You are counsel for the Defendant Schacht.
DR.DIX: My colleague's questions concerning Keitel were put
to challenge the credibility of the witness Gisevius. Schacht's defense is
naturally interested in the credibility of the witness Gisevius. The Defense has
put three questions in connection with Gisevius' credibility, therefore,
concerning the case for Schacht. May I add something?
THE PRESIDENT: Very well.
DR. DIX: I ask the questions to which your Lordship is
objecting only because I think it possible that the answer of the witness may
have been based on a mistake, namely, that he confused the general regulation
stating that the soldier concerned must be dismissed before the SD could lay
hands on him with the order stating that Von Rundstedt's committee would have to
decide whether the officer in question was to be dismissed from the Army so that
he could be handed over to the People's Court, not to the SD. The SD merely
carried out the investigation, the preliminary interrogation.
THE PRESIDENT: What is it you want to ask him now?
DR.DIX: Admiral, I think you have understood my question,
or do you want me to repeat it?
DÖNITZ : I cannot tell you any more than I have already
DR. SERVATIUS: Witness, as Commander of Submarines, you did
once have some official contact with Sauckel?
9 May 46
D0NITZ: No, not official but private.
DR.SERVATIUS: What was the occasion?
DÖNITZ : A submarine, which was to go into the Atlantic
for 8 weeks, had reported to me that it had been discovered after leaving port
that Gauleiter Sauckel had crept aboard. I immediately sent a radio message
ordering the submarine to turn back and put him on the nearest outpost steamer.
DR.SERVATIUS: What was Sauckel's motive?
DÖNITZ : No doubt a belligerent one. He wanted to go to
DR. SERVATIUS: But he was a Gauleiter. Did he not have
particular reasons in order to show that he too was ready to fight in the war
and did not want to remain behind?
DÖNITZ : It surprised me that he, as a Gauleiter, should
want to go to sea; but, at any rate, I considered that here was a man who had
his heart in the right place.
DR. SERVATIUS: You believe that his motives were
DÖNITZ : Certainly. Nothing much can be got out of a
DR.SERVATIUS: I have no further questions.
DR. STEINBAUER: Admiral, do you remember that in your
capacity as head of the State on 1 May 1945 you ordered the Reich Commissioner
for the Occupied Netherlands to come to Flensburg to report to you?
DR. STEINBAUER: Do you also remember that on this occasion
my client asked you to cancel the order originally sent to the
Commander-in-Chief in the Netherlands to the effect that all locks and dykes
should be blown up in the event of an attack, and to give the order that the
mined blasting points be rendered harmless?
DÖNITZ : Yes, he did do that. It was in accordance with my
own principles, for when I became head of the State I gave the order that all
destruction in occupied territories, including for instance Czechoslovakia,
should cease forthwith.
DR. STEINBAUER: At the end of his report, did he ask you
for permission to return to his station in the Netherlands instead of remaining
DÖNITZ : Yes, he did so repeatedly. He tried to get
back-the weather situation was difficult-to the Netherlands by a motor torpedo
9 May 46
DR. STEINBAUER: Thank you very much.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Defendant, I want you first of all
to answer some questions on your record after becoming Commander-in-Chief of the
Navy on 30 January 1943. As Commander-in-Chief of the Navy you had the
equivalent rank of a Minister of the Reich; is that not so?
DÖNITZ : Yes, that is correct.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: You had also the right to
participate in meetings of the Reich Cabinet; had any such meetings taken place?
DÖNITZ : I was authorized to participate if such a
meeting, or my participation in such a meeting, was ordered by the Fuhrer. That
is the wording of the order. But I must say that no meeting of the Reich Cabinet
took place at the time I was Commander-in-Chief from 1943 on.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: From the time that you became
Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, the government of the Reich was in a sense
carried on from Hitler's headquarters; isn't that so?
DÖNITZ : That is correct.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: It was a military dictatorship in
which the dictator saw those people he wanted at his military headquarters; that
is right, is it not?
DÖNITZ : One cannot say "military dictatorship."
It was not a dictatorship at all. There was a military sector and a civilian
sector, and both components were united in the hands of the Fuhrer.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: I see. I will take the last part of
your answer, and we will not argue about the first.
Now, you saw him on 119 days in just over 2 years; do you
agree to that?
DÖNITZ : Yes. But in that connection it must be stated
that from 30 January 1943, when I became Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, until
the end of January 1945-that is, approximately 2 years -the number was, I think,
57 times. The larger figure arises from the fact that in the last months of the
war I took part in the noontime conferences on the situation which took place
daily in the Voss Strasse in Berlin.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: I want to ask you about certain of
these. At a number of these meetings the Defendant Speer was present, was he
DÖNITZ : I cannot remember that he was present in person
at the discussions of the military situation. Actually Minister Speer
9 May 46
as a civilian had nothing to do with a discussion of the
military situation. But it is possible that he was there on some occasions, for
instance, when tank production and other, matters were discussed which were
directly connected with the Fuhrer's military considerations.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: That was exactly what I was going
to put to you, that the occasions when the Defendant Speer were present were
when you were going into matters of supply; that is, supply for the various
services, including supply for the Navy.
DÖNITZ : Supply questions of the Navy were never discussed
at the large conferences on the military situations I discussed these matters
with the Fuhrer alone, as I have already said, usually in the presence of Jodl
and Keitel. I submitted these matters to the Fuhrer after I had come to an
understanding with Minister Speer, to whom I had delegated all matters of naval
armament when I became Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. That, in general, was the
SIR DAVID MAXWEL FYFE: But, like the head of every service,
you would have had to learn about priorities and materials and labor. You would
want to know how labor was going to be allocated during the next period, would
DÖNITZ : I tried to bring it about that by a decision of
the Fuhrer Minister Speer would be given the order to build the largest
possible number of new U-boats which I had to have at the time. But there were
limitations as to the quantities to be allotted to each branch of the Armed
Forces by Speer's Ministry.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: And, therefore, you would be very
interested in discovering the figure of manpower for labor for naval supplies
and for the other supplies, to see that you were getting your fair share, would
DÖNITZ : I am very sorry, but I cannot give you an answer
to that. I never knew, and I do not know today, how many workers Speer was using
for the armament supply for the Navy. I do not even know whether Speer can give
you the answer, because construction of submarines, for instance, was taking
place all over the German Reich in many industrial plants. Parts were then
assembled in the shipyards. Therefore I have no idea what the labor capacity
allotted to the Navy was.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Do you remember describing Speer as the man who holds the production of Europe in his hand? That was on 17 December 1943. I shall put the document to you in a lithe time. But do you remember describing him as that?
9 May 46
DÖNITZ : Yes; I know that quite well.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: And don't you know quite well also
that Speer was getting his labor from foreign labor brought into the Reich?
DÖNITZ : I knew, of course, that there were foreign
workers in Germany. It is just as self-evident that as Commander-in-Chief of the
Navy I was not concerned as to how these workers were recruited. That was none
of my business.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Did not Gauleiter Sauckel tell you
on the occasion of this trip that he had got 5 million foreign workers into the
Reich, of whom only 200,000 had come voluntarily?
DÖNITZ : I did not have a single conversation with
Gauleiter Sauckel. I have never had a discussion with anyone about questions
referring to workers.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FY ;: Now, Defendant, you were head of a
service department in the fifth and sixth years of the war. Wasn't Germany, like
every other country, searching around to scrape the bottom of the barrel for
labor for all its requirements? Weren't you in urgent need of labor, like every
other country in the war?
DÖNITZ : I, too, think that we needed workers.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Are you' telling the Tribunal that
you did not know after these conferences with Hitler and with Speer that you
were getting this labor by forcing foreign labor to come into the Reich and be
DÖNITZ : During my conferences with Hitler and Speer, the
system of obtaining these workers was never mentioned at all. The methods did
not interest me at all. During these conferences the labor question was not
discussed at all. I was interested merely in how many submarines I received,
that is, how large my allotment was in terms of ships built.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE You tell the Tribunal you discussed
that with Speer and he never told you where he was getting his labor? Is that
your answer on this point?
DÖNITZ : Yes, that is my answer, and it is true.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Do you remember, just before we
passed from the industrial side of it, that at certain meetings the
representatives for coal and transport, and Gauleiter Kaufmann, the Reich
Commissioner for Shipping, were present at meetings which you had with the Fuhrer?
DÖNITZ : No.
9 May 46
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: You may take it from me that they
are listed as being present at these meetings. Were you dealing with general
problems of shipping and transport?
DÖNITZ : Never. As far as sea transport is concerned-that
is true. I was thinking of things on land. I thought you meant on land. I have
already stated that at the end of the war I was keenly interested in the tonnage
of merchant vessels because this tonnage, which I needed in order to carry out
military transports from Norway, from and to the East, and for refugee
transports, was not under my jurisdiction but under that of Gauleiter Kaulmann,
the Reich Commissioner for shipping. So at meetings and
discussions which dealt with the sea transport situation I was, of course,
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Let us take another subject of
these 119 days. On 39 of these days the Defendant Keitel was also present at the
headquarters and at about the same number, the Defendant Jodl.
DÖNITZ : I am sorry; I did not understand the date.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: I will put it again. At 39 of these
meetings between January 1943 and April 1945 the Defendant Keitel was present
and at about the same number, the Defendant Jodl. Now, is it right that you
discussed or listened to the discussion, in their presence, of the general
DÖNITZ : I might say that the word "meeting"
does not quite describe the matter. It was rather, as I...
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Well now, you choose the word; you
give us the word.
DÖNITZ : It was, as I described it, a large-scale
discussion of the military situation; and at this discussion I heard also, of
course, reports about the army situation. That I explained before.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: I just want to get it quite clear
that over these 2 years you had every opportunity of understanding and
appreciating the military strategical position; that is so, isn't it?
DÖNITZ : Yes.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Well now, on 20 of these occasions
the Defendant Goring was present. The Defendant Goring has put himself forward
in two capacities; as Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe and as a politician.
What was he doing on these 20 occasions?
DÖNITZ : Reich Marshal Goring was there as
Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force when the military situation was discussed.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: And so from the Defendant Goring
you would have a full knowledge and appreciation of the air situation and the
position of the Luftwaffe during this period?
9 May 1946
DÖNITZ : Insofar as my occasional presence at these
discussions, in which only segments were dealt with-an over-all picture was
never given at such a discussion-insofar as I could form an opinion from these
segments, which naturally was always fragmentary. That was the reason why I have
never made statements about military matters outside the Navy.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Let me ask you just one further
question on this point. Following up what Dr. Laternser asked, on 29 June 1944,
apart from Keitel and Jodl and Goring, these defendants, Marshal Von Rundstedt
and Marshal Pommel were also present; and may I remind you that that was 3 weeks
after the Allies had invaded in the West. You were being given the opportunity,
were you not, of getting the appreciation of the strategical position after the
Allied invasion of Normandy, isn't that so?
DÖNITZ : Yes, from that I gained an impression of the
situation in Normandy after the enemy had set foot there. I was in a position to
report to the Fuhrer which of my new small striking devices I could put to use
in that sector.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Now, let us change to another
aspect of the government in general.
On a number of occasions the ReichsFuhrer-SS Himmler was
present at these conferences-shall I call them-isn't that so?
DÖNITZ : Yes. If the ReichsFuhrer-SS Himmler was there,
and as far as I remember that happened once or twice, it was because of his
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: You may take it from me that he is
shown as being there on at least seven occasions, and that Fegelein, who was his
representative at the Fuhrer's headquarters, is shown as being present on five
occasions. What did Himmler discuss about the Waffen-SS-the doings of the
DÖNITZ : That cannot be right. Fegelein was always present
during the discussions of the military situation; he never missed, because he
was a permanent representative. If the ReichsFuhrer was present during these
discussions, he reported only on the Waffen-SS, those divisions of the Waffen-SS
which were being used somewhere under the Army. I do not know the name of these
individual divisions. I do not think they included the Totenkopf; I never heard
they did; there was a Viking or . . .
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: That was because they were being
largely occupied in concentration camps, and you say that Himmler never
DÖNITZ : That Totenkopf divisions were used in
concentration camps I learned here in Nuremberg. It wasn't mentioned there.
9 May 46
have already said that during the military discussions only
military matters were discussed.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Now, the Defendant Kaltenbrunner is
only reported as being present once, on 26 February 1945, when there was quite a
considerable gathering of SS notabilities. What were you discussing with him
DÖNITZ : It is not correct that Kaltenbrunner was there
only once. As far as I remember, he was there two, three, or four times; at any
rate, during the last months of the war I saw him two, three, or four times.
Kaltenbrunner never said a word there; as far as I remember, he just listened
and stood about.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: What I want you to tell the Tribunal is: What was the subject of conversation when you had, not only the Defendant Kaltenbrunner there, but you had SS ObergruppenFuhrer Steiner, your own captain in attendance, and Lieutenant General Winter? What were these gentlemen there for, and what were you hearing from them?
DÖNITZ : Who is the captain and who is Lieutenant General
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Captain Von Assmann; I took it he
was the captain in attendance on you, though I may have been wrong-Kapitaen zur
See Von Assmann. Then there was Lieutenant General Winter, SS ObergruppenFuhrer
Steiner, and SS ObergruppenFuhrer Kaltenbrurnner. What were you discussing on
the 26th of February 1945?
DÖNITZ : I must mention one fact in this connection:
Captain Von Assmann was present at every discussion of the general situation.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Just a moment. You can tell us
something afterwards, but first of all listen to my question. What were you
discussing with these people from the SS on 26 February 1945?
DÖNITZ : I cannot remember that now. I do remember,
however, that Steiner received an order in regard to the army groups in
Pomerania which were to make the push from the north to the south in order to
relieve Berlin. I think that when Steiner was present perhaps this question,
which did not concern me, was discussed.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Now I just want you to think,
before I leave this point. You have agreed with me that at a number of meetings,
a large number, there were present Keitel and Jodl, at not quite so many Goring,
who would give you the army and air situation in Germany; there was present the
Defendant Speer, who would give you the production position; there was present
9 May 1946
or his representative Fegelein, who would give you the
secure position; and you yourself were present, who would give the nave
position. At all meetings there was present the Fuhrer who would make the
I put to you, Defendant, that you were taking as full a
part in the government of Germany during these years as anyone, apart from Adolf
DÖNITZ : In my opinion that description is not correct. At
tines' discussions of the general situation neither Speer nor anybody else
supplied a complete survey of the work being done. On the contrary, only acute
questions of the day were discussed. As I hay' said, the happenings of the last
24 hours were discussed, and what should be done. That there was a staff there
which in its report' gave an over-all picture-that was quite out of the
question; it was not at all like that. The only one who had a complete picture o
the situation was the Fuhrer. At these discussions of the military situation
the developments of the last 24 hours and the measure' to be taken were
discussed. These are the facts.
Therefore, one cannot say that any one of the participants
hat an over-all picture. Rather every one had a clear view of his owl department
for which he was responsible. An over-all picture it the mind of any of the
participants is out of the question. Only the Fuhrer had that.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Well, I won't argue with you but I suppose, Defendant, that you say-as we have heard from s many other defendants-that you knew nothing about the slave labor program, you knew nothing about the extermination of the Jews, and you knew nothing about any of the bad conditions in concentration camps. I suppose you are going to tell us you knew nothing about them at all, are you?
DÖNITZ : That is self-evident, since we have heard here
how all these things were kept secret; and if one bears in mind the fact that
everyone in this war was pursuing his own tasks with the maximum of energy, then
it is no wonder at all. To give an example I learned of the conditions in
SIR DAVID MAXW1;LL-FYFE: I just want your answer for the
moment, and you have given it to me. I want you to come to a point which was
well within your own knowledge, and that is the order for the shooting of
Commandos, which was issued by the Fuhrer on 18 October 1942. You have told us
that you got it when you were Flag Officer of U-boats. Now, do you remember the
document by which the Naval Operations Staff distributed it? Do you; remember
that it said this:
9 May 46
"This order must not be distributed in writing by
flotilla leaders, section commanders, or officers of this rank.
"After verbal notification to subordinate sections the
above officers must hand this order over to the next higher section, which is
responsible for its withdrawal and destruction."
Do you remember that?
DÖNITZ : Yes, I read that again when I saw the order here.
But on the other side it says also that this measure had already been announced
in the Wehrmacht order.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: What I want to know from you is:
Why was there this tremendous secrecy about this order in the naval
DÖNITZ : I did not understand that question. I do not know
whether tremendous secrecy was being observed at all. I am of the opinion that
in 1942 all naval officers had been informed about it.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: This is on 28 October, 10 days
after the order was issued. I am not going to quarrel with you about adjectives,
Defendant. Let me put it this way: Why did the naval distribution require that
degree of secrecy?
DÖNITZ : I do not know. I did not make up the distribution
chart. As an officer at the front I received this order at that time. I do not
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Within 3 months you were
Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. Did you never make any inquiries then?
DÖNITZ : I beg your pardon.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Did you never make any inquiries?
DÖNITZ : No, I did not. I have told you that I saw this
order as Commander of U-boats and that as far as my field of activities was
concerned this order did not concern me in the least and, secondly, that men
captured during naval engagements were expressly excepted; so, as far as that
goes, this order at that time had no actual, no real significance. In view of the enormous
number of things that I had to deal with when I became Commander-in-Chief of the
Navy, it was quite natural that it did not occur to me to take up the question
of this new order. I did not think of the order at all.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: I am going to put to you when the
time comes a memorandum from the Naval Staff showing that it was put before you. Don't you remember that?
DÖNITZ : If you are referring to the memorandum which is
in my trial brief, then I can only say that this memorandum was not submitted to
me, as can be clearly seen from this note.
9 May 46
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: What I want to ask you before the
Tribunal adjourns is: Did you approve of this order or did you not?
DÖNITZ : I have already told you, as I. . .
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: No, you haven't. I want you to tell
the Tribunal now, and you can answer it either "I approved" or "I
did not approve." Did you or did you not approve this order to your
DÖNITZ : Today I do not approve of that order since I have
learned here that the basis was not so sound. ..
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Did you agree with it when you were
Commander-in-Chief of the German Navy at the beginning of 1943? Did you approve
of it then?
D0NITZ: As Commander-in-Chief of the Navy I was not
concerned with this order. While I was Commander of U-boats, as I have already
explained to you, I considered it simply a reprisal order. It was not up to me
to start an investigation or to take it up with the office which had issued the
order to find out whether the basis was correct or not. It was not up to me to
start an investigation on the basis of international law. And it was quite clear
in Point 1 of the order that here the enemy, the opponent, had placed himself
outside the bounds of the Geneva Convention, because they were murdering
prisoners, and that therefore we had to do certain things as reprisals. Whether
these reprisal measures were necessary or whether they were fully justified by
the conditions in Point 1, that is something I did not and could not know.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: This is the last question. I want
you to try and answer it with a straight answer if you can. At the beginning of
1943 did you or did you not approve of this order?
DÖNITZ : I cannot give you an answer, because at the
beginning of 1943 I did not think of the order and was not concerned with it.
Therefore I cannot say how that order affected me at that particular time. I can
tell you only how it affected me when I read it as Commander of U-boats; and I
can also tell you that today I reject this order, now that I have learned that
the basis on which it was issued was not so sound. And thirdly, I can tell you
that I personally rejected any kind of reprisals in naval warfare-every kind, in
every case, and whatever the proposal.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: I will ask some more questions
about it tomorrow, as the time has come to break off.
[The Tribunal adjourned until 10 May 1946 at 1000 hours.]
This testimony was taken from