The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
2nd May to 13th May, 1946

One Hundred and Twenty-Fifth Day: Thursday, 9th May, 1946
(Part 8 of 9)

[DR. NELTE continues his direct examination of Karl Donitz]

[Page 254]

Q. Witness Gisevius has stated that certain men, among them Field Marshal Keitel, had formed a close ring of silence around Hitler, so that nobody whom they didn't want to let through, could approach him. I ask von, 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?

A. No.

Q. 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 Fuehrer?

A. No.

Q. And how was it with the Commander-in-Chief of the Army?

A. I knew nothing about that. When I was Commander-in- Chief of the Navy, there wasn't such a position.

Q. Then how was it with the Chief of the General Staff of the Army. Could he at any time report to the Fuehrer without going through Field Marshal Keitel?

A. It was not possible for Field Marshal Keitel to keep anyone away, and he would never have done so anyway.

Q. 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 Canaris, which dealt with the Crimes Against Humanity, which have been adduced here by the prosecution. These reports had been camouflaged as "foreign reports."

I ask you, was a camouflaged foreign report of this sort ever submitted to you or sent to you by Canaris?

A. No, never.

Q. From your knowledge of Keitel's personality, do you consider it possible that he would have kept away from the Fuehrer an important report, which was submitted to him?

A. 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 with.

Mr. President, in your communication of 26th March, 1946, you gave me permission to submit an affidavit from Grand Admiral Donitz concerning the function and the position of the Chief of the OKW. I received this affidavit and handed it over to the prosecution on the 13th of April, for examination, and I understand that there are no objections to this affidavit. I have, however, not got back the original, which was handed over on April 13th, and I don't 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 Donitz, which in large part are the same questions which I have already put to Field Marshal Keitel himself.

[Page 255]

THE PRESIDENT: Do the prosecution object to the affidavit at all?

DR. NELTE: No, they didn't raise any objections. Therefore, if it had been returned I would have submitted it as an exhibit, without reading it.


DR. NELTE: Thank you.

BY DR. DIX (Counsel for the defendant Schacht):

Q. 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?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you not know, witness, that all the officers, or in any case most of them, who were suspected of being involved in the affair of the 20th of 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?

A. No, I do not know that, because after the 20th of 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, expressly to prevent the principle of non-interference in the branches of the Armed Forces from being violated, and that then the SD would have the right to take action.

Q. That order did come out, but perhaps we can find an explanation of it if you answer further questions which I want to put to you.

Do you know, witness, that the examination, the interrogation of those officers arrested in connection with 20th July, was carried out exclusively by officials of the SD or the Gestapo, and not by officers, that is, members of military courts?

A. I can only judge by 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.

Q. Who dismissed these men?

A. The Navy.

Q. That is you.

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know, witness, that following upon the investigation regarding 20th July, a committee of generals was formed under the chairmanship of Field Marshal Rundstedt?

A. Yes, I heard about that.

Q. And that this committee, as shown by the records of the SD, decided whether the officer in question was to be dismissed from the Army or would have to leave the Army so that he could be handed over to the civil court, namely the People's Court?

A. That is not known to me.

Q. May I point out 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 answer.

DR. DIX: I just wanted to point out 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

[Page 256]

do with this committee, presided over by General Field Marshal von Rundstedt, which had to decide whether the officer in question was to be dismissed, and thereby handed over, not to a military court, but to the People's Court.

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: For whom are you offering these questions? 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 defence is naturally interested in the credibility of the witness Gisevius. The defence has put three questions in connection with Gisevius' credibility, therefore, concerning the case for Schacht.

May I add something?


DR. DIX: The questions to which your Lordship is objecting, I am asking 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 can lay hold of 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?


Q. Grand Admiral, I think you have understood my question, or do you want me to repeat it?

A. I can't tell you any more than I have already done.

DR. SERVATIUS (Counsel for defendant Sauckel):

Q. Witness, as Commander-in-Chief of Submarines, you did once have some official contact with Sauckel?

A. No, not official, but private.

Q. What was the occasion?

A. A submarine which was to go into the Atlantic for eight weeks had reported to me that it had been discovered after leaving port that Gauleiter Sauckel had crept aboard. I immediately sent a wireless message ordering the submarine to, turn back and put him on the nearest steamer.

Q. What was Sauckel's motive?

A. No doubt a belligerent one. He wanted to go to sea again.

Q. But he was a Gauleiter. Didn't he have particular reasons to show that he too was ready to fight in the war and didn't want to remain behind?

A. It surprised me that he, as a Gauleiter, should want to go to sea, but, at any rate, I believed that here was a man who had his heart in the right place.

Q. You believe that his motives were idealistic?

A. Certainly. Nothing much can be got out of a submarine trip.

DR. SERVATIUS:. I have no further questions.

DR. STEINBAUER (Counsel for Seyss-Inquart):

Q. Grand Admiral, do you remember that in your capacity as head of State on 1st May, 1945, you ordered the Reich Commissioner for the Occupied Netherlands to come to Flensburg to report to you?

A. Yes.

Q. 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

[Page 257]

effect that all locks and dykes should be blown up in the event of an attack and to give the order that the mined detonation points be rendered harmless?

A. Yes, he did do that. It was in accordance with my own principles, for when I became head of State, I gave the order that all destruction - in occupied territories - including for instance, Czechoslovakia - should cease forthwith.

Q. At the end of his report, did he ask you for permission to return to his station in the Netherlands instead of remaining in Germany?

A. Yes, he did so repeatedly. He tried to get back - the weather situation was difficult - to the Netherlands by E- boat.

DR. STEINBAUER: Thank you very much.



Q. Defendant, I want you first of all to answer some questions on your record after becoming Commander-in-Chief of the Navy on 30th January, 1943. As Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, you had the equivalent rank of a minister of the Reich; is that not so?

A. Yes, that is correct.

Q. You had also the right to participate in meetings of the Reich Cabinet had any such meetings taken place?

A. I was authorized to participate if such a meeting or my participation in such a meeting was ordered by the Fuehrer. That is the way it was worded.

But I must say that no meeting of the Reich Cabinet took place at the time I was Commander-in-Chief from 1943 on.

Q. 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?

A. That is correct.

Q. It was a military dictatorship in which the dictator saw those people he wanted at his military headquarters; that is right, is it not?

A. 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 Fuehrer.

Q. 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 two years; do you agree with that?

A. Yes. But in that connection, it must be stated that from 30th January, 1943, when I became Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, until the end of January, 1945 - that is, approximately two 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 midday discussions of the situation which took place daily in the Vosstrasse in Berlin.

Q. I want to ask you about certain of these. At a number of these meetings, the defendant Speer was present, was he not?

A. I cannot remember that he was present in person at the discussions of the military situation. Actually, Minister Speer, 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 Fuehrer's military plans.

Q. That was exactly what I was going to put to you, that the occasions when the defendant Speer was present were when you were going into matters of supply; that is, supply for the various services, including supply for the Navy.

A. Supply questions of the Navy were never discussed at large discussions of the military situation. I discussed these matters with the Fuehrer alone, as I have already said, usually in the presence of Jodl and Keitel. I submitted these

[Page 258]

matters to the Fuehrer 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 situation.

Q. But, like the head of every service, you would have had to learn about priorities and materials and labour. You would want to know how labour was going to be allocated during the next period, would you not?

A. I tried to bring it about that, by a decision of the Fuehrer, Minister Speer would be given the order to build, for example, as many as possible of the new U-boats which I had to have at the time. But there were limitations as to the quantities to be allotted each branch of the Armed Forces by Speer's Ministry.

Q. And, therefore, you would be very interested in discovering the figure of manpower for labour for naval supplies, and for the other supplies, to see that you were getting your fair share, would you not?

A. 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 Minister 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 labour capacity allotted to the Navy was.

Q. Do you remember describing Speer as the man who held the production of Europe in his hand? That was on 17th December, 1943. I shall put the document to you presently. But do you remember describing him as that?

A. Yes; I remember that quite well.

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