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-Fourth Day: Tuesday, January 15th, 1946
(Part 1 of 10)

[Page 246]



THE PRESIDENT: Do any of the other counsel for the defence wish to cross-examine this witness (referring to Peter Joseph Heisig, interrogated the previous day)?

(There was no response.)

Then, Colonel Phillimore, do you wish to re-examine?

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: No, my Lord, I have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Then the witness can go.

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: Before I call my second witness, Karl- Heinz Moehle, an affidavit by him is the next document in the document book.

(KARL-HEINZ MOEHLE took the stand.)


Q. What is your name?

A. Karl-Heinz Moehle.

Q. Will you repeat this oath: "I swear by God the Almighty and Omniscient that I will speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing."

(The witness repeated the oath in German.)

THE PRESIDENT: You can sit down if you wish.


Q. Karl-Heinz Moehle, you held the rank of Corvette Captain in the German Navy?

A. Yes, Sir.

Q. Did you serve in the German Navy since 1930?

A. Yes, Sir.

Q. Will you tell the Tribunal what decorations you hold?

A. I hold the General Service Cross, the Iron Cross Second Class, the Iron Cross First Class, the Knights Cross, and the German Cross in Silver.

Q. Did you swear to an affidavit covering a statement you have made on 21st July, 1945?

A. Yes, Sir.

Q. I show you that document and ask you to say whether that is your affidavit.

(Document 382-PS was submitted to this witness.)

A. (Looking at paper) Yes, this is my affidavit which I swore to.

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: I put that document in, which is 382-PS, and it becomes Exhibit GB 202.

Q. In the autumn of 1942 were you head of the Fifth U-Boat Flotilla?

A. Yes, I was.

Q. Were you stationed at Kiel?

A. Yes, Sir.

Q. How long did you hold that appointment altogether?

A. For four years.

Q. Was that from June, 1941, until the capitulation?

A. That is correct.

Q. What were your duties as commander of that flotilla?

A. My main duties as chief, covered the fitting out of U- boats which were to be sent to the front, and giving them the orders as well as necessary equipment.

[Page 247]

Q. Had you any special responsibility to U-boat commanders in respect of the orders?

A. Yes, Sir, I was responsible for outgoing U-boat commanders knowing all new orders of the U-Boat Command.

Q. Had you any responsibility in explaining the orders?

A. The orders of the U-Boat Command were always very clear and unambiguous. If there were any ambiguities I used to clarify them at the Command itself.

Q. Did you personally see commanders before they went out on patrol?

A. Yes, each commander, before leaving for the front, was briefed.

Q. I will go back if I may, for two or three questions. Did you personally see commanders before they went out on patrol?

A. Yes, Sir, each commander before sailing on patrol was briefed in a session at my office.

Q. And what did that briefing session consist of? Were there any questions on the orders?

A. Yes, Sir, all experiences of previous patrols and any questions of equipment, fitting out, were discussed with the commander at that session. Also, the commanders had an opportunity at the briefing to clarify any ambiguities which might have existed in their minds.

Q. Apart from your briefing sessions, did commanders also go to Admiral Donitz' headquarters for briefing?

A. As far as it was possible, that was done, especially after the Commander-in-Chief of the U-boat arm had transferred his office from Paris to Berlin.

Q. Do you remember an order in the autumn of 1942 dealing with lifeboats?

A. Yes, Sir; in September, 1942, 1 received a wireless message addressed to all commanders at sea, and it dealt with that question.

Q. I show you this document - my Lord, that is the exhibit I have already put in as GB 199.

THE PRESIDENT: What other number has it?


Q. Is that the order you are referring to?

A. Yes, that is the order.

Q. From the time when you were captured until last Friday had you seen that order?

A. No, Sir.

Q. It follows, I think, that the account of the order in your statement was given from recollection?

A. Yes, Sir, only from recollection.

Q. Now, after you got that order did you go to Admiral Donitz' headquarters?

A. Yes, at my next visit to headquarters, where, on receipt of the order, I discussed it with Captain Kuppisch, who was a specialist on the staff of the U-Boat Command.

Q. Will you tell the Tribunal what was said at that meeting?

A. At that meeting I asked Corvette Captain Kuppisch how the ambiguity contained in that order - or I might say, lack of clarity - should be cleared up and defined. He explained the order by two illustrations.

The first example was that of a U-boat in the Outer Bay of Biscay. It was sailing on patrol when it sighted a rubber dinghy carrying survivors of a British plane. Sailing on patrol, i.e., being fully equipped, the U-boat could not take the crew of the plane on board, although, especially at that time, it appeared very desirable to bring back home specialists from shot-down aeroplane crews for useful interrogations. So the commander of the U-boat made a wide circle and continued his patrol. When he returned from his patrol he reported this case to the staff of the Commander- in-Chief of the U-boat arm.

[Page 248]

The staff officers upbraided him, saying that, were he unable to bring these specialists home, the right thing to do would have been to attack them, for it could be expected that, in twenty-four hours at the latest, the dinghy would be rescued by British reconnaissance forces, and they -

Q. I do not quite get what you said would have been the correct action to take. You were saying the correct thing to do would have been -

A. The right thing to do would have been to fight these specialists since it was not possible to rescue them, as it could be expected that this aeroplane crew would be found and rescued within a short time by British reconnaissance forces. In the meantime the crew could already have been on another patrol and might have destroyed one or two German boats. The second example -

Q. Did he give you any second example?

A. Yes, Sir. The second example I am going to recount now:

During the first month of the U-boat warfare against the United States a great quantity of tonnage - I do not recollect the exact figure - had been sunk in the shallow waters off the American coast. In these sinkings the crews, for the greater part, were rescued, because of the proximity of land. That was exceedingly regrettable, as the merchant marine not only required tonnage but also crews, and in the meantime these crews were able to man newly built ships.

Q. You have told us about the ambiguity of the order. Are you familiar with the way Admiral Donitz worded his orders?

A. I do not quite understand the question.

Q. Are you familiar with the way Admiral Donitz normally worded his orders?

A. Yes. In my opinion, the order should have read like this: It is pointed out again that, in order to secure the safety of the submarines, rescue measures should not be taken. This is how the order would have been worded - if only rescue measures were to have been forbidden. Therefore -

Q. Are you saying that if it had been intended only to prohibit rescue measures it would have been sufficient to refer to the previous order?

A. Yes, Sir, that would have been enough.

Q. Was that previous order also marked "top secret"?

A. I do not remember that exactly.

Q. What was the propaganda at the time with regard to crews?

A. The propaganda at that time said that the enemy had great difficulties in finding sufficient crews for the mercantile navy and -

THE PRESIDENT: The question as to the propaganda at that time is too general a question for him to answer.

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: If your Honour pleases, I will not press it.

Q. From your knowledge of the way orders were worded, can you tell the Tribunal what you understood this order to mean?

A. It meant, in my own opinion, that rescue measures remained prohibited, that on the other hand it would be desirable that in the case of sinkings of merchantmen there should be no survivors.

Q. And was it because you understood this to be the meaning that you went to Admiral Donitz's headquarters?

A. I did not go to the headquarters of the U-boat Command on account of this order alone; these visits took place rather frequently in order to discuss other questions also, and in order to have the opportunity of being constantly informed on the ideas and opinions of the U-boat Command which I had to transmit to the commanders.

Q. How did you brief commanders on this order?

A. At these briefing sessions I read the wording of the radio message to the commanders without making any commentary. In a few instances commanders have asked me later about the meaning of the message. Then I let them know the two examples as they had been told to me at headquarters.

[Page 249]

However, I added that "The Flag Officer U-boats cannot give you such an order officially; everybody has to act according to his own conscience."

Q. Do you remember an order about rescue ships?

A. Yes, Sir.

Q. Can you say what the date of that order was?

A. I do not remember the exact date. However, I think the order was given at the same time as the order of 17th September, 1942.

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: May the witness see the Document D-663 which I put in yesterday?


COLONEL PHILLIMORE: It is the German copy of the document that I am showing him; the original is being held.

(Document D-663 was submitted to the witness.)

THE WITNESS: Yes, Sir, I recognise that order.

Q. You will note that the date on that document is 7th October, 1943.

A. Yes, this order is laid down there in the general Operational Order "Atlantic" No. 56. According to my recollection, this order was already contained in the previous Operational Order 54. It covers the general radius of instructions.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Phillimore, is that order in the index here?

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: Yes, my Lord, that is Document D-663, which I put in yesterday as Exhibit GB 200. If it is omitted from the index, it is because, as your Lordship will remember, it is the document we have just received, as I explained yesterday.

Your Lordship will remember the order; it deals with rescue ships attached to convoys, and it was the last sentence to which I referred.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I only wanted to get the words of it.

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: Yes, Sir, I have the original here now, and if it is thought necessary the witness may see it, but he has seen a copy.

Q. Do you remember an order about entries in logs?

A. Yes, Sir. At the time - the exact date I do not remember - it had been ordered that sinkings and other acts which were in contradiction to international conventions should not be entered in the log, but should be reported orally after return to the home port.

Q. Would you care to tell us why it is that you are giving evidence in this case?

A. Yes, Sir; because when I was taken prisoner it was claimed that I was the author of these orders, and I do not want to have this charge connected with my name.

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: My Lord, the witness is available for examination by my colleagues and for cross-examination.

THE PRESIDENT: Does any counsel for any defendant wish to ask the witness any questions ?


BY DR. KRANZBUEHLER (Counsel for defendant Donitz):

Q. Corvette Captain Moehle, since when have you been in the U-boat arm?

A. Since the end of 1936.

Q. Do you know Grand Admiral Donitz personally?

A. Yes.

Q. Since when?

A. Since October, 1937.

Q. Do you see him here in this room?

A. Yes.

Q. Where?

A. To the left at the back.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.