The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
7th January to 19th January, 1946

Thirty-Third Day: Monday, January 14th, 1946
(Part 5 of 5)


[Page 241]

Q. Now, will you give the Tribunal - speaking slowly - an account of what Admiral Donitz said in his speech?

A. Grand Admiral Donitz said in his speech: The successes of the U-boats have diminished. Strong enemy air controls. account for that. New ack-ack guns have been developed, which will make it possible for the U-boats to fight off enemy aircraft in the future. Hitler had personally given him the assurance that U-boats, first of all branches, would be equipped with these ack-ack guns. It could be expected that the old successes would be reached again within a few months. Then Grand Admiral Donitz referred to his good relations with Hitler, and spoke about the German armament programme.

He answered an interpolated question regarding a newspaper article, according to which the United Nations were building more than a million tons of merchant shipping every month. He doubted, at first, the credibility of this estimate and said a figure given by President Roosevelt was the basis for it. Grand Admiral Donitz spoke shortly about Roosevelt as a person, about the

[Page 242]

American production programme, and the armament potential. He further mentioned that the Allies met with great difficulty in manning their ships. Seamen considered the route across the Atlantic very dangerous because German U- boats were sinking Allied ships in great numbers. Many of the Allied seamen had been torpedoed more than once. News like that is spreading and frightens seamen from going to sea again. Some of then even were trying to escape before a crossing of the Atlantic so that the Allied authorities were compelled, if necessary, to retain them aboard by force. Such observations would be favourable to the Germans. First, the fact that the Allies are manufacturing much commercial shipping; and, second, that the Allies have many difficulties in manning these newly built ships.

Grand Admiral Donitz concluded that the problem of the personnel represents a very serious matter for the Allies. The losses in personnel mean a special setback to the Allies, as, first, they have few reserves and second -

Q. I do not want to interrupt you, but did he say anything about rescues at all? You have told us about the Allied losses and how serious they were.

A. Yes, he mentioned rescues, but I would like to speak about that later.

Grand Admiral Donitz said that the losses of the Allies were heavy, first of all because they had no reserves and, second, because the training of new seamen requires a very long time. It is difficult for him to understand how submarines -

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Phillimore, just a moment. I do not think we want to hear the whole of Admiral Donitz' speech. We want to hear the material part of it.


Q. Now, you have dealt with the question of losses. Will you come to the crucial part of the speech, at the end, and deal with that? What did the Grand Admiral go on to say?

DR. THOMA (Counsel for defendant Rosenberg): The testimony of the witness does not concern me directly, but I have certain problems. According to German law, German criminal law, the witness has to tell everything that he knows on the matter. When asked about a speech made by Grand Admiral Donitz, he should not, at least according to German law, report only those things to the Tribunal which, in the opinion of the prosecution, are unfavourable to the defendant. I believe this principle should apply in these proceedings also whenever a witness is questioned.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal is not bound by German law. I have already said that the Tribunal does not desire to hear from this witness all of Admiral Donitz' speech.

It will be open to any of the counsel for the defendants to cross-examine this witness. Your intervention is therefore entirely unnecessary.


Q. Now, will you deal with the crucial parts of the Grand Admiral's speech?

A. Grand Admiral Donitz continued his speech as follows: Under the given situation he could not understand how German U-boats, contrary to their own safety, could let the crews be saved; it would be absolutely working for the enemy, and these rescued crews would sail again on new ships.

Now total war at sea was to be instituted. The men - the seamen - as well as the ships - were to be a target for the U-boats, and through this it was to be made impossible for the Allies to use this personnel again on a new ship. On the other hand, it was to be expected that in America and the other Allied countries a strike was likely, for already a part of the seamen did not want to go back to sea.

Now if, according to our tactics, the sea war were to be harsher, it would have heavy repercussions along those lines. If this is considered harsh, we

[Page 243]

should also remember that our wives and our families at home are being bombed.

That was the speech of Grand Admiral Donitz in respect to its main points.

Q. Now, about how many officers were present and heard that speech?

A. I have nothing practical to give you about the number of men, I can only give you an estimate. I would say, roughly, 120 officers.

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: My Lord, the witness is available for cross-examination.

THE PRESIDENT: Does the United States prosecutor wish to ask any question?

(No response.)

The Soviet prosecutor?

(No response.)

The French prosecutor?

(No response.)

Now, any of the defendants' counsel may cross-examine the witness.

DR. KRANZBUEHLER (Counsel for defendant Donitz): I represent Grand Admiral Donitz.

THE PRESIDENT: Counsel will understand that what I said to Dr. Thoma was not intended to interfere with your cross- examination; it was only intended to save time. The Tribunal did not desire to hear unimportant passages in the defendant Donitz' speech. Therefore, they did not want to hear them from this witness. However, you are at liberty to ask any questions that you please.



Q. Oberleutnant Heisig, you yourself took part in an action against the enemy?

A. Yes.

Q. On which boat were you, and who was your commander?

A. I was on U-877 and Finkeisen was the Kapitanleutnant.

Q. Please repeat your answer.

A. I was on U-877, and the commander was Kapitanleutnant Finkeisen.

Q. Were you successful?

A. Our boat was sunk when cruising in the zone of combat.

Q. Before you had ever sunk an enemy ship?

A. Yes.

Q. The boat was sunk by which enemy weapon?

A. Depth charges sank us. Two Canadian frigates had sighted our U-boat and destroyed it through depth bombs.

Q. Your testimony to-day differs slightly from the statement that you made on the 27th November, and in an essential point. How did you come to make this statement of the 27th November?

A. I made the statement in order to help my comrades who were put before a court martial in Hamburg and sentenced to death for the murder of ship-wrecked sailors.

Q. Your declaration, your affidavit, starts by stating that you had received reports that German sailors were accused of murder, and you felt yourself duty-bound to give the following affidavit.

Which report had you received, and when?

A. At the beginning of the Hamburg proceedings against Kapitanleutnant Eck and his officers I was a prisoner of war in England. I understood from the radio and from the newspapers that these officers were to be sentenced. Knowing one of these accused officers very well, a Lieutenant Hoffmann, having conversed with him on this subject, repeatedly, two or three times, I felt it my duty to come to his assistance and to help him by my testimony.

Q. In your hearing on the 27th November were you not told that the death sentence against Eck and Hoffmann had already been pronounced?

[Page 244]

A. I do not know whether it was on the 27th November. I know only that I was told here of the fact that the death sentence had been carried out. The date I cannot remember; I was in several hearings.

Q. Can you, having knowledge of these connections, still maintain that the speech given by Grand Admiral Donitz made some remark concerning the shooting of shipwrecked sailors?

A. No; we gathered that from his words, that total war was to be carried on against ships and men, from his reference to the bombings. We assumed that, and I talked about it to my comrades on the way back. We were convinced that Admiral Donitz meant that. He did not express it clearly.

Q. Did you speak to any of your superiors at the school about this point?

A. On the same day I left school. But I can remember that one of my superiors, whose name I do not recall - and I do not recall in which connection I had this conversation - did speak about the same topic. We were advised that officers were to be at the bridge ready to annihilate shipwrecked sailors, should this possibility arise, and should it be necessary.

Q. One of your superiors told you that?

A. Yes, but I cannot remember in which connection and where. I received plenty of advice from my superiors, and on many things.

Q. Was it at school?

A. No; I left school the same day.

Q. At school were you advised on the permanent orders of war?

A. Yes, we were.

Q. Was there one word in these standing orders that shipwrecked sailors were to be shot or their rescue apparatus destroyed?

A. Nothing was said with regard to that in the regulations, but from an innuendo of Captain Rollmann, then the chief of our officers' company, I felt entitled to assume that a short time prior to that some order had arrived by telegram that rescue measures were prohibited and that, on the other hand, sea warfare should be fought with radical means. That is, it was to be carried on in a harsher manner.

Q. Do you see in the prohibition of rescue measures the same thing as in the shooting of shipwrecked sailors?

A. We came to this -

Q. Please answer my question. Does it mean the same to you?

A. No.

Q. Thank you.

DR. KRANZBUEHLER: I have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Thoma, I am afraid the Tribunal will have to adjourn now, and I have an announcement to make. You may cross-examine to-morrow.

DR. THOMA: Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: As I have already said, the Tribunal will not sit in open session this afternoon.

The announcement that I have to make is in connection with the organisations which are alleged to be criminal under Article 9 of the Charter, and this is the announcement:

The Tribunal has been giving careful consideration to the duty imposed upon it by Article 9 of the Charter.

It is difficult to determine the manner in which the representatives of the named organisations shall be permitted to appear in accordance with Article 9, without considering the exact nature of the case presented for the prosecution.

For this reason, the Tribunal has come to the conclusion that, at this stage of the trial, with many thousands of applications being made, the case for the prosecution should be defined with more precision than appears in the Indictment.

[Page 245]

In these circumstances, therefore, it is the intention of the Tribunal to invite argument from the counsel for the prosecution and for the defence, at the conclusion of the case by all prosecutors, in regard to the questions hereinafter set forth.

The questions which need further consideration are as follows: 1. The Charter does not define a criminal organisation, and it is therefore necessary to examine the test of criminality which must be applied, and to decide the nature of the evidence to be admitted.

Many of the applicants who have made requests to be heard assert that they were conscripted into the organisation, or that, they were ignorant of the criminal purposes of the organisation, or that they were innocent of any unlawful acts.

It will be necessary to decide whether such evidence ought to be received to rebut the charge of the criminal character of the organisation, or whether such evidence ought more properly to be received at the subsequent trials under Article 10 of the Charter, when the organisations have been declared criminal, if the Tribunal so decides.

2. The question of the precise time within which the named organisation is said to have been criminal is vital to the decision of the Tribunal.

The Tribunal desires to know from the prosecution at this stage whether it is intended to adhere to the limits of time set out in the Indictment.

3. The Tribunal desires to know whether, in the light of the evidence, any class of persons included within the named organisations should be excluded from the scope of the declaration, and which, if any.

In the indictment of the Leadership Corps of the Nazi Party, the prosecution have reserved the right to request that political leaders of subordinate grades or ranks, or of other types or classes, be exempted from further proceedings without prejudice to other proceedings or actions against them.

Is it the intention of the prosecution to make any such request? If so, it should be done now.

4. The Tribunal would be glad if the prosecution would also:

(a) summarise in respect of each named organisation the elements which in their opinion justify the charge of being a criminal organisation;

(b) indicate what acts on the part of individual defendants, indicted in this trial - in the sense used in Article 9 of the Charter - justify declaring the groups or organisations, of which they are members, to be criminal organisations;

(c) submit in writing a summary of proposed findings of fact as to each organisation, with respect to which a finding of criminality is asked.

The Tribunal hopes it is not necessary to say to the prosecution that it is not seeking to interfere with the undoubted right of the prosecution to present its case in its own way, in the light of the full knowledge of all the documents and facts which it possesses, but the duty of the Tribunal under Article 9 of the Charter makes it essential at this time to have the case clearly and precisely defined.

This announcement will be communicated to the Chief Prosecutors and to Defence Counsel in writing.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 15th January, 1946, at 10.00 hours.)

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