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 2 of 10)

[CROSS-EXAMINATION BY DR. KRANZBUEHLER (Counsel for defendant Donitz) of Karl-Heinz Moehle continues]

[Page 250]

Q. Do you know Grand Admiral Donitz as an Admiral to whom none of his subordinates could speak?

A. No.

Q. Or was it the opposite way?

A. He could be reached by everybody at any time.

Q. Have you been yourself on patrol as commander of a U- boat?

A. Yes, on nine occasions.

Q. From when to when?

A. From the beginning of the war until April, 1941.

Q. How many ships did you sink?

A. I sank twenty ships.

Q. After sinking ships, have you destroyed the rescue possibilities or have you fired at the survivors?

A. No.

Q. Did you have an order to do that?

A. No.

Q. Was it dangerous to the U-boat? Had the danger passed for a U-boat after the attack on a merchantman?

A. No, the danger to the U-boat is not passed when the attack is over.

Q. Why not?

A. Because in most instances when a ship is sunk, the ship is able to send radio messages with its position, and therefore in the last minute it is able to get other ships to the spot.

Q. Is there any principle in the U-boat arm to the effect that fighting comes before rescuing?

A. I never heard of that principle so formulated.

Q. Prior to the order of September, 1942, did you know of any other orders in which rescuing was prohibited when connected with danger to the U-boat?

A. Yes, but I do not know when and in which documents this order was laid down. It had been ordered that, as a matter of principle, the safety of their own boat was the main concern.

Q. Was this ordered only once, or on several instances?

A. That I cannot say.

Q. Do you know that the order of September, 1942, was given in consequence of an incident in which German U-boats, contrary to orders, had undertaken rescue measures?

A. Yes, Sir.

Q. And the U-boats were then attacked by Allied aircraft?

A. Yes, Sir.

Q. A minute ago you classified the order of September, 1942, as ambiguous, did you not?

A. Yes, Sir.

Q. You interpreted it to the commanders in the sense that the order should comprise the destruction of rescue facilities and of its crews?

A. No, not quite, since I gave the two examples to the commanders only if they made an inquiry, and they themselves could draw that conclusion from these two examples.

Q. In which sentence of the order do you see a hidden request to kill survivors or to destroy rescue facilities? Just a second, I shall read to you a sentence of the order. I read from the Document D-630:

"(1) No attempt of any kind must be made at rescuing crews 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. These are absolutely forbidden."
Do you see it in this sentence?

A. No.

[Page 251]

Q. "All rescue measures contradict the most primitive demands of warfare that ships and crews should be destroyed."

Do you see that in this sentence?

A. Yes.

Q. Does that sentence contain anything as to the destruction of shipwrecked sailors?

A. No, of crews.

Q. At the end of the order is the phrase "Be harsh." Have you heard that phrase here for the first time?

A. No.

Q. Was this phrase used by the Flag Officer of the U-boats in order to harden commanders and their crews against themselves?

A. Yes.

Q. You have discussed the order with Corvette Captain Kuppisch?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you remember that, exactly?

A. As far as I can rely upon my recollection after such a long time.

Q. Where did that conference take place?

A. At the staff of the U-Boat Command, probably in Paris.

Q. What position did Kuppisch occupy at the time?

A. As far as I can remember, he was the man in charge of enemy convoys, but I could not say that with any certainty.

Q. The superior officer of Kuppisch was Hessler?

A. Superior officer? I would not say so. Hessler was on the same level as Kuppisch, a specialist.

Q. Was Kuppisch's superior Admiral Godt?

A. Yes, in his capacity as Chief of Staff.

Q. Have you spoken to Captain Hessler or Admiral Godt or with the Grand Admiral himself with regard to the interpretation to be given to the order of September?

A. Whether I did with Hessler, I do not remember; but certainly not with Godt or the Grand Admiral himself.

Q. You said Capt. Kuppisch had told you of the opinion which was prevalent at the staff of the U-Boat Command with regard to the attitude taken towards aviators in the Bay of Biscay?

A. Yes.

Q. Did he tell you that it was the opinion of the Grand Admiral himself?

A. I do not remember that. It is too far back. To us, the chiefs of the flotillas, it was a matter of course, that the opinion expressed by a responsible member of the staff, in connection with interpretations, was the official opinion of the U-Boat Command. Admiral Godt was only approached personally in such cases where the Staff Specialists refused to commit themselves, and assume the responsibility for an answer.

Q. Did you not know that the incident with these airmen in the Bay of Biscay had really been just the opposite of what you described?

A. I do not understand.

Q. I continue: that the commander had been reproached because he did not bring home these airmen even if thus forced to end his patrol.

A. No, I do not know that.

Q. Did Corvette Captain Kuppisch tell you in that second example you mentioned, that the shipwrecked sailors should have been killed and rescue facilities near the American coast destroyed?

A. No, he only said it was regrettable that the crews had been rescued.

Q. And you concluded from that that it was desirable to kill the shipwrecked?

A. I did not draw any conclusions, since I passed on these examples without any commentary.

[Page 252]

Q. Do you know the standing orders of the U-Boat Command? Do they contain the general principles of U-boat warfare?

A. Yes.

Q. Are there any orders in the standing orders directing or advising the killing of shipwrecked sailors or the destruction of rescue facilities?

A. As far as I know, no.

Q. What kind of secrecy was attached to these standing orders?

A. As far as I remember, "Geheime Kommandosache" - Top Secret.

Q. Do you remember that in Standing Order 511, the following was ordered:

DR. KRANZBUEHLER: Mr. President, I read from an order which I shall submit in evidence later on. I cannot do it now because I have not as yet the original with me.

"Standing Order of Flag Officer U-boats No. 511, 20th May, 1943.
Taking on board officers of sunken ships.

(1) As far as accommodation facilities on board permit, Captains and Chief Engineers of sunken ships are to be brought in. The enemy tries to thwart this intention and has issued the following order: '(a) Masters are not allowed to identify themselves when questioned, but should if possible use sailors selected especially for this purpose. (b) Crew has to state that Masters and Chief Engineers remained on board.' If in spite of energetic questioning it is not possible to find the Masters or the Chief Engineers, then the other ship's officers should be taken aboard.

(2) Masters and officers of neutral ships, which, according to Standing Order No. 101, can be sunk (for instance, Swedish ships outside Goteborg Traffic), are not to be brought in because internment of these officers would violate International Law.

(3) In case the ship's officers cannot be taken prisoner, members of the crew should be taken along, as far as accommodation facilities and further operations permit, for the purpose of interrogation for military and propagandist purposes.

(4) In case of the sinking of a single cruising destroyer, corvette, or trawler, try at all events to take prisoners, if that can be done without endangering the boat. Interrogation of the prisoners at interrogation camps can produce valuable hints as to anti-submarine tactics, devices and weapons used by the enemy; the same applies to air crews of shot down planes."


Q. Do you know that order?

A. The order is familiar to me.

Q. Do you know the order 513?

"Standing Order of U-Boat Command, 1st June, 1944, Bringing in of Prisoners.

(1) Statements of prisoners are the safest and best source of information regarding enemy tactics, weapons, location sets and methods, and questioning of prisoners from planes and destroyers may be of the greatest importance to us; therefore, as far as possible and without endangering the boat, the utmost is to be done to take such prisoners.
(2) As prisoners are extremely willing to talk when captured, interrogate them at once on board. It is of special interest to know the manner of locating U-boats by aircraft, whether by radar or by passive location; for instance, by ascertaining, through electricity or heat, the location of the boat. Immediately report prisoners taken, in order to hand them over to returning boats."

Do you know that order?

[Page 253]

Have you noticed and tried to clarify a contradiction between those orders concerning the rescue of air crews in each instance, and the story you told about the destruction of air crews?

A. No, because the order of September, 1942, retains the order with regard to bringing in as prisoners the masters and the chief engineers.

Q. Did you hear of any instance in which a U-boat has brought in masters and chief engineers but has killed the rest of the crew?

A. No.

Q. Do you consider it at all possible that such an order can be given-that is, that part of the crew should be rescued and the rest of the crew should be killed?

A. No, Sir. Such an order cannot be given.

Q. Did you hear that a U-boat commander, on the basis of your briefings, had destroyed rescue facilities or had killed shipwrecked sailors?

A. No.

Q. Was it permitted to attack neutral vessels outside the fixed blockaded areas?

A. Only in case they were not marked as neutrals according to specifications.

Q. Was the Flag Officer U-Boat Command very severe in enforcing this order concerning neutral ships?

A. Since such cases are not known to me, I cannot say anything on that subject.

Q. Do you know that the commanders were threatened with court martial if they did not obey the orders given for the protection of neutrals?

A. Yes; I remember one case which happened in the Caribbean Sea.

Q. Do you remember an order of 1944 directing that neutral ships were to be stopped and searched?

A. Yes, it was ordered - I do not remember the date - that, in particular, Spanish and Portugese ships in the North Atlantic should be stopped and searched.

Q. Did you pass on that order to the commanders?

A. As far as I recollect, this order was given in writing and is contained in one of the official sets of orders. I have passed on orders to commanders only in instances where they were not contained in a set of orders.

Q. In passing that order on, did you make an addition as to whether that order should be executed or not?

A. Yes, I remember that I said - when that order came by radio and the commanders did not know of it yet - that they should be exceedingly careful, as far as the stopping of neutrals was concerned, since there existed always the danger that a neutral ship might report the position of the U-boat by radio. Owing to the air superiority of the enemy in the North Atlantic, it would always be safer or better not to be compelled to carry out these stoppings.

Q. Had you orders to make such additional remarks?

A. No. As far as I remember, one of the members of the staff - I think it was Captain Hessler - told me that he emphasised that any stopping of ships, including neutrals, involved increased danger to the U-boat.

Q. Because of the air superiority?

A. Yes.

Q. Has your attention been called to the order concerning the "so-called rescue ships"? Do you remember that?

A. Yes.

Q. Were these rescue ships recognised under International Law as hospital ships, with special markings?

A. As far as I know, no.

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