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-Seventh Day: Saturday, 11th May, 1946
(Part 2 of 4)

[Page 319]

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thank you.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: "Every ship sailing this zone runs the risk of being destroyed not only by mines but also by other means. For that reason the German Government issues a fresh and most urgent warning against sailing in the danger zone."

At the end of the note, the German Government refuses to assume any responsibility for damage or loss incurred in this area.

I reproduce as the next document, on Page 214, with the new exhibit number Donitz 105, an official German statement made on the occasion of the announcement of the total blockade on 17th August, 1940. I only want to mention it.

I now come to several documents dealing with the treatment of neutrals outside the declared danger zones. As the first document I submit - on Page 226, an excerpt of the prosecution's Exhibit GB 196. It is a standing war order from the Commander-in-Chief U-boats which was also issued before May, 1940. I read the first sentences: "Not to be sunk are:

(a) All ships readily recognized as neutral so long as they do not (1) move in an enemy convoy, (2) move into a declared danger zone."

[Page 320]

The next Document, Donitz 760, Page 227, shows the concern of the Naval War Command that the neutrals should really be recognizable as such. I read the first sentences of the entry of 10th January, 1942:
"In view of the further extension of the war, the Naval War Command has asked the Foreign Office to point out again to the neutral seafaring nations, with the exception of Sweden, the necessity of carefully marking their ships in order that they shall not be mistaken for enemy ships."
The next Document, Donitz 770, on Page 228, is an entry dated 24th June, 1942, from the War Diary of the Flag Officer U-boats:
"All commanders will again be given detailed instructions as to their conduct towards neutrals."
I have already submitted Donitz 178 - excuse me, it has not been submitted. Donitz 78, Page 229, contains examples of the consideration which the Commander-in-Chief U-boats showed to neutrals. The entry Of 23rd November, 1942, shows that a submarine was ordered to leave one area solely because there was a great deal of neutral traffic in that area. The second entry of December, 1942 specifies that a Portuguese naval tanker had to be treated in accordance with directives; in other words, allowed to proceed.

On page 230 there is a document which I have already mentioned. It contains an account of court martial proceedings taken against a commanding officer who had torpedoed a neutral by mistake.

The next document, Donitz 79, Page 231, is an order decreeing the treatment of neutrals which remained in force up to the end of the war. I do not think I have to read it. It again stresses the necessity of neutral ships being easily recognizable as such and refers to shipping agreements which have been made with a number of countries, such as Spain, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland.

THE PRESIDENT: What is the correct date of it? You said -

DR. KRANZBUHLER: 1st August, 1944, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: That's on the original -

DR. KRANZBUHLER: The original date was 1st April, 1943. The order was revised on 1st August, 1944, on the basis of the revisions necessitated by the shipping agreements.

So far I have dealt with the general principles which have been attacked by the prosecution's Exhibits 191 and GB 224. Now I should like to submit several documents on individual points contained in the prosecution's Exhibit GB 19l. Mention is made there of a speech by Adolf Hitler ending with the words:

"Every ship, with or without escort, which comes within range of our torpedo tubes will be torpedoed."
I now wish to present as Donitz 80, on Page 232, an excerpt from that speech. It shows in that connection that the Fuehrer's statement only applied to ships carrying war materials to England.

I now come to two examples mentioned in Exhibit GB 191 as characteristic examples of illegal German naval warfare. The first is the case of the Danish steamer Vendia. The prosecution's document says -

"On 30th September, 1939, the first sinking of a neutral ship by a submarine took place without a warning signal having been given. On that occasion some people lost their lives. The ship was the Danish steamer Vendia."
With reference to this, I am submitting Donitz 83, Page 235. That is the War Log of Submarine U-3, which sank the Vendia. I should like to read parts of it on account of its importance. I begin with the second sentence:
"The steamer turns away gradually and increases speed. The boat comes up only very slowly. Obvious attempt to escape.

The steamer is clearly recognizable as the Danish steamer Vendia.

Boat reduces speed and uncovers her machine-gun.

[Page 321]

Several warning shots are fired across the steamer's bow. Thereupon the steamer stops very slowly; nothing more happens for a while. Then some more shots are fired. The Vendia lies into the wind.

For ten minutes nothing is visible on deck to remove suspicion of possible intended resistance, at 11.24 hours I suddenly see bow waves and screw movements. The steamer swings sharply round toward the boat. The officer on watch and the first mate agree with my view that this is an attempt at ramming. For this reason I turn in the same angle as the steamer. A torpedo is fired 30 seconds later; point of aim, bow; point of impact, extreme rear of stern. The stem is torn off and goes down. The front part remains afloat.

By risking the loss of our own crew and boat (heavy sea and numerous floating pieces of wreckage) six men of the Danish crew are rescued, among them the captain and helmsman. No further survivors can be seen. In the meantime, the Danish steamer Sawa approaches and is stopped. She is requested to send her papers across in a boat. She is carrying a mixed cargo from Amsterdam to Copenhagen. The six persons rescued are transferred to the steamer for repatriation."

I read the second last sentence on the next page
"After the crew of the steamer had been handed over, it was learned that the engineer artificer of the steamer had told the stoker Blank that the captain had intended to ram the submarine."
The document on page 237, an excerpt from the prosecution's Exhibit GB 82, shows that the Vendia case formed the subject of a protest by the German Government to the Danish Government.

I shall deal now with the sinking of the City of Benares on 18th September, 1940. In this connection I should like first to read several sentences from the prosecution's document, because, in my opinion, it is characteristic of the probative value of the entire Exhibit GB 191. I read from the British Document Book, Page 23, starting at the passage where the prosecution stopped reading. The Tribunal will remember that the City of Benares had children on board. The Foreign Office report says here:-

"The captain of the U-boat presumably did not know that there were children on board the City of Benares when he fired the torpedoes. Perhaps he did not even know the name of the ship, although there the evidence suggests strongly that he had been dogging her for several hours before torpedoing her. He must have known, however, that this was a large merchant ship, probably with civilian passengers on board, and certainly with a crew of merchant seamen. He knew the state of the weather, and he knew that they were six hundred miles from land, and yet he followed them outside the blockade area and deliberately abstained from firing his torpedo until after nightfall when the chances of rescue would be enormously reduced."
The next document I submit is Donitz 84, Page 238, the War Diary of U-boat 48, which sank the City of Benares. I read the entry of 17th September, 1940:-
"Time 1002. Convoy sighted. Course about 240 degrees, speed seven nautical miles. Contact maintained, since underwater attack is no longer possible because of the heavy swell. No escort can be seen with the convoy."
I will summarize the entry of 18th September, 1940.

It describes the firing of a torpedo on a ship belonging to that convoy - the City of Benares.

A few minutes later, at 0007 hours, the submarine attacked a second ship in the convoy, the British steamer Marina. Both ships send wireless messages. Twenty minutes later the submarine again has an artillery combat with a tanker from the convoy. That is the true story of the City of Benares.

I reproduce the prosecution's Exhibit GB 192 again on Page 240. It concerns the sinking of the Sheaf Mead. In this connection I should like to point out that that ship was heavily armed, and that it probably was no merchant vessel, but a submarine trap.

[Page 322]

Prosecution's Exhibit GB 195, which was dealt with in yesterday's hearing, contains an order issued by the Fuehrer in July, 1941, concerning attacks on United States merchant vessels in the blockade zone which had been declared around England. On the basis of this document, the prosecution charges Donitz with conducting a cynical and opportunistic warfare against neutrals. My next document is Donitz 86, Page 43. It shows the efforts -

THE PRESIDENT: Was it not 243?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: 243, Mr. President. I beg your pardon. It shows the efforts which were made to avoid a conflict with the United States. I read the entry dated 5th March, 1940, from the War Diary of the Naval War Command (SKL):-

"With reference to the conduct of economic warfare, orders are given to the Naval Forces that US ships are not to be stopped, seized or sunk. The reason is the assurance given by the Commander-in-Chief to the American Naval Attache, whom he received on 20th February, that German submarines had orders not to stop any American ships whatsoever. All possibility of difficulties arising between the USA and Germany as a result of economic warfare are thereby to be eliminated from the start."
This order means, therefore, that illegal measures were renounced.

The next document, Donitz 87, Page 244, shows the practical recognition of the American zone of neutrality. It reads:-

"4th April, 1941.

The following WIT message is directed to all ships at sea:-

American neutrality zone from now on to be observed south of 20 degrees North only at a distance of 300 nautical miles from the coast. For reasons of foreign policy, the hitherto existing limitation will for the time being continue to be observed north of the above-mentioned line."

That means full recognition of the neutral zone.

My next document, Donitz 88, shows President Roosevelt's attitude to the question of neutrality toward Germany in that war. It's an excerpt from the speech of 11th September, 1941, and is well known:-

"Hitler knows that he must win the mastery of the seas if he wants to win the mastery of the world. He knows that he must first tear down the bridge of ships which we are building over the Atlantic and over which we constantly transport the war material that will help, in the end, to destroy him and all his works. He has to destroy our patrols on the sea and in the air."
I should like to say a few words about the view also expressed in Exhibit GB 191, namely, that the crews of enemy merchant ships were civilians and non-combatants. On Page 254 of the document book - I reproduce part of Document Donitz 67, which I have already submitted. It is an excerpt from the confidential Admiralty Fleet Orders, and deals with gunnery training for the civilian crews of merchant ships. I only wish to refer to the first page of these orders which say that, as a general rule, there should be only one Navy man at a gun, all the rest being taken from the crew of the ship. I read from the paragraph headed "Training," Section (d):-
"In addition to the gunlayer and the men specially trained for serving guns, five to seven men more - depending on the size of the gun - are needed to complete the gun crew and to bring ammunition from the magazine."
This is followed by regulations for training in port, and gunnery drill for the crews.

The next document, re-numbered Donitz 106, is a circular decree issued by the French Minister for the Merchant Marine on 11th November, 1939. It deals with the creation of a special badge for men serving on merchant ships who are liable for military service. That is on Page 256. I should like to point out that this decree was signed by the head of the Military Cabinet, a Rear Admiral. The character of the order is demonstrated by the second last paragraph:-

[Page 323]

"This armlet may only be worn in France or in the French colonies. In no case may men issued with the armlet wear it in foreign waters."
I come now to several documents dealing with the question of the rescue of survivors. These documents can be found in Document Books I and 2.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kranzbuhler, don't you think it would be sufficient if you were to refer to these documents, give us the numbers without reading from them? They are all dealing, as you say, with rescue.

D R. KRANZBUHLER: I believe I can do this with most of them. On Page 9 there is the ruling of the Hague Convention, regarding the application of the Geneva Convention to naval warfare. Page 10 is Document Donitz 8, the order of 4th October, 1939, concerning the sinking of armed merchantmen. It contains the order already read: namely, that rescues should be effected wherever possible without endangering their own ship.

Donitz 9, Page 12, gives examples of exaggerated rescue measures by German submarines which even let enemy ships pass without attack while so engaged.

Donitz 10 deals with the same subject, and gives a further example.

The collection of statements made by commanding officers in Donitz 13 can be found on Pages 19 to 26. I should like to deal with it along with War Order 145, which is the prosecution's Exhibit GB 196. These statements contain numerous examples, taken from all the war years, of rescue measures on the part of German submarines. One of these statements is supplemented by photographs - Page 21 - which are included in the original. The facts stated in these statements are confirmed by Document Donitz 14, Page 27, on rescue measures in the War Diary of a submarine; and at the end we find the sentence:-

"Taking British airmen on board is sanctioned. It is signed by the Commander-in-Chief U-boats."
The next document, Donitz 15, is again an excerpt from the War Diary, giving an example of rescue measures after a battle with a convoy on 21st October, 1941. It is on Page 28.

The next two documents concern the Laconia order. The Tribunal has permitted me to use Standing War Orders 511 and 513 in cross-examining Mohle. They deal with the capture of captains, chief engineers and air crews. I submit them as Donitz 24 and 25, and they can be found on Page 46 and 47, I should like to point out that both orders explicitly state that capture should only be effected as far as is possible without endangering the boats.

Document Donitz 24 explains that the British Admiralty, on its part, has issued orders to prevent the capture of British captains by German submarines.

The next excerpt, on Page 48, cites an example showing that this British order was carried out and that a U-boat searched in vain among the life-boats for the captain.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kranzbuhler, could you inform the Tribunal what Paragraph 2 on Page 46 refers to and means?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: The paragraph refers to Standing War Order No. 101, i.e., the order specifying which neutral ships can be sunk. That is, of course, in the blockade area.

THE PRESIDENT: Would it mean that those officers have to be sunk with the ship, or what?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: No, Mr. President. That means that captains and ships' officers of neutral ships might be left in the lifeboats and must not be taken aboard the submarine from the lifeboats. The fact that it was actually much safer on the lifeboat than on the submarine, is seen from the English order instructing captains to remain in the lifeboats and to hide from the U-boats.

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