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-Eighth Day: Monday, 13th May, 1946
(Part 2 of 9)

[Page 338]

MR. DODD: Mr. President, while the witness is being called in, I would like to raise one matter with the Tribunal. On Saturday I understand that the question of when the witness Hewel would be called was raised before the Tribunal. As I understand it from the record, it was left for Counsel to settle the matter as to whether he should be called before or after the Raeder case comes on.

I should like to say that we have some reasons for asking that he be called before the Raeder case, and here are two: First, he is here in the prison under a kind of confinement different from that under which he has been held by the French in the French territory; and second, the officer, Lieutenant Meltzer, who has been assisting in the Funk case is very anxious - for urgent personal reasons - to return to the United States, and of course he will not be able to do so until we have concluded the Funk case. Also, Mr. President, it will not take very long, in my judgement, to hear this witness. He is only here for cross-examination on his affidavit and we would appreciate it if he could be called at the conclusion of the Donitz case.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well, Mr. Dodd, he can be brought for cross-examination after the Donitz case.

(The witness, Gerhard Wagner, came to the witness-stand.)


Q. Will you state your full name, please?

A. Gerhard Wagner.

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me: 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.)

Will you sit down?

[Page 339]



Q. Admiral, when did you join the Navy?

A. On the 4th June, 1916.

Q. Which positions did you hold in the Supreme Command of the Navy, and at what time?

A. From summer, 1933, until the summer of 1935, I was adviser in the operations department of the Supreme Command. I was Lieutenant Senior Grade and then a Lieutenant Commander.

In 1937, from January until September, I had the same position. From April, 1939, until June, 1941, I was head of the operations group, and I was also the head of Department called 1A, in the operational department of the Naval War Staff. From June, 1941 -

THE PRESIDENT: Not quite so fast.

A. (Continuing): From June, 1941, until June, 1944, I was the chief of the operations department of the Naval War Staff. From June, 1944, until May, 1945, I was Admiral for special tasks attached to the Supreme Commander of the Navy.

Q. Therefore, during the entire war you were a member of the Naval War Staff?

A. Yes, that is so.

Q. What were the general tasks of the Naval War Staff?

A. All tasks of the Naval War Staff, both at sea, and those regarding coastal defence, and also protection of our own merchant ships -

THE PRESIDENT: One moment. Witness, will you make a slight pause after the question has been asked, between the question and the answer?

WITNESS: Very well.

The tasks of the Naval War Staff included all those involved in naval warfare both at sea and in the defence of the coasts, and also in the protection of our own merchant shipping. As far as territorial tasks were concerned, the Naval War Staff did not have any, neither at home nor in the occupied territories.

Q. Was the Naval War Staff part of the Supreme Command of the Navy, OKM?

A. The Naval War Staff

Q. Please, will you make a pause between my question and your answer?

A. The Naval War Staff was part of the Supreme Command of the Navy.

Q. What was the relationship between the Naval War Staff and the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces (OKW)?

A. The OKW passed on the instructions and orders of Hitler, as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces regarding the conduct of the war; and as far as naval warfare was particularly concerned, usually after having been examined and reviewed by the Naval War Staff. General questions of the conduct of the war were decided without previous consultations with members of the Naval War Staff.

Q. In which manner were the preparations of the Supreme Command of the Navy for a possible war carried out?

A. Generally speaking, there were mobilization preparations, tactical training, strategic considerations for the event of a possible conflict.

Q. Did the Naval War Staff during your time receive an order to prepare for a definite possibility of war?

A. The first instance was the order for "Case White," the war against Poland. Before that, only tasks regarding security measures were given us.

Q. Were plans elaborated for the naval war against England?

[Page 340]

A. A plan for the war against England did not exist at all before the beginning of the war. Such a war seemed to us outside the realm of possibility. Considering the overwhelming superiority of the British fleet, which can hardly be expressed in proportionate figures, and considering England's strategical domination of the seas, such a war appeared to us to be absolutely hopeless. The only means by which Britain, in spite of our inferiority in all other naval departments, could have been damaged effectively, was by submarine warfare; but even the submarine weapon was by no means being given preferential treatment, nor was its production accelerated. It was merely given its corresponding place in the creation of a well- balanced homogenous fleet.

At the beginning of the war, all we had were 40 submarines ready for action, of which - as far as I can remember - barely half could have been used in the Atlantic. That, in comparison with the sea supremacy at the disposal of the first-ranking world-power, England, was negligible. As a comparison, I should like to cite the fact that the British and the French Navy at that time had more than 100 submarines each.

Q. Did the then Captain Donitz, as the head of the submarines, have anything to do with the planning of the war?

A. Captain Donitz at that time was a subordinate front commander, under the command of the Chief of the Fleet, and he, because of his warfare experiences, had the task of training and tactically guiding the inexperienced submarine personnel.

Q. Did he, in turn, make any suggestions or instigate any plans for the war?

A. No, these preparations and this war planning in particular for the "Case White" were exclusively the task of the Naval War Staff.

Q. Did Donitz at any previous time hear about the military intentions of the Naval War Staff?

A. No.

Q. Did he have the order to carry out his orders - ?

A. I am afraid I didn't understand the last part of your question.

Q. Did Admiral Donitz hear of the military intentions of the Naval War Staff before he had to carry out the orders given him?

A. No, he heard of them by means of the orders reaching him from the Naval War Staff.

Q. Admiral Wagner, you know of the London Agreement of 1935, regarding submarine warfare. Did the Naval War Staff draw any conclusions from that agreement for their preparation for a war, in particular, for carrying on a possible economic war?

A. The prize regulations still existing from the last war were revised and made to conform with the protocol of London. For that purpose a committee was formed which included representatives from the Supreme Command of the Navy, the Foreign Office, the Reich Ministry of justice, and scientific experts.

Q. Were these revised prize regulations made known to the commanders some time before the war, or were they communicated to them just when they were published, shortly before the outbreak of the war.

A. These revised prize regulations were published in 1938 as an internal ordinance of the Navy, and were available for the purpose of training officers. During the autumn manoeuvres of the fleet in 1938, a number of exercises were arranged for the purpose of acquainting the officer corps with these regulations. I myself, at that time -

THE PRESIDENT: Where are the revised prize regulations you are referring to?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: I am talking about the regulations published on 26th August, 1939, and which are contained in my document book. They are on Page 137, in the third volume of my document book.


[Page 341]

DR. KRANZBUHLER: I beg your pardon, Mr. President; the date is not the 26th, but the 28th of August.

THE PRESIDENT: The witness was saying that exercises were carried out?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Yes, in the year 1938.



Q. What conceptions did the Naval War Staff have after the beginning of the war, regarding the development of the naval war against Britain?

A. The Naval War Staff thought that Great Britain would probably start where she had stopped at the end of the first World War. That meant that there would be a hunger blockade against Germany, a control of the merchandise of neutral countries, introduction of a system of control, the arming of merchant ships, and the delimitation of operational waters.

Q. I am now going to have the battle order of 3rd September, 1939, shown to you. It is Document Donitz 55. It can be found on Page 139, in Volume 3 of the document book. You will see from this that submarines, like all naval forces, had orders to adhere to this prize ordinance in the economic warfare.

Then, at the end, you will find an order which I propose to read to you. This is on Page 140.

"Order prepared for intensifying the economic war because of the arming of enemy merchant ships.

1. Arming of and resistance on the part of the majority of English and French merchant ships is to be expected.

2. Submarines and merchant ships shall only be stopped if own vessels are not endangered. Attack without warning by submarines is allowed against easily recognized enemy merchant ships.

3. When stopping battleships and armed merchant ships, watch for possibility of use of arms by merchant ships."

I should like to ask you whether this order was prepared long ago or whether it was improvised at the last moment?

A. At the beginning of the war we were forced to improvise a great many orders being issued.

Q. Did this order become operative at all?

A. No.

Q. Why not?

A. After consultation with the Foreign Office, we had decided that we would strictly adhere to the London Agreement until we had clear-cut evidence of the British Merchant Navy being used for military purposes. We remembered from the last war the power which the enemy propaganda had, and we did not under any circumstances want to give anyone cause once more to decry us as sea pirates.

When, at what stage, did the military use of enemy merchant ships become clear to the Naval War Staff?

A. The fact that enemy merchant navy vessels were armed became clear after a few weeks of the war. We had a large number of reports about gun duels which had occurred between U-boats and armed enemy merchant ships. At least one or probably several boats were lost by us. One British steamer, I think it was called Storm, was praised publicly by the British Admiralty for its success in fighting submarines.

Q. The Tribunal already has knowledge of the order of 4th October, allowing attacks against all armed merchant ships of the enemy, and also the order of 17th October, allowing attacks on all enemy merchant ships with certain exceptions.

Were these orders the result of experiences which the Naval War Staff had regarding the naval use of enemy merchant ships?

A. Yes, exclusively.

[Page 342]

Q. Both orders contain exceptions favouring passenger ships. They were not to be attacked, even when they were members of an enemy convoy. To what were these exceptions due?

A. They were due to an order from the Fuehrer. At the beginning of the war, he had stated that Germany had no intention of waging war against women and children. He wished, for that reason, that in naval war, too, any incidents in which women and children might lose their lives should be avoided. Consequently, even the stopping of any passenger ships was prohibited. The military necessities of naval warfare made it very difficult to adhere to this order, particularly where passenger ships were travelling in enemy convoys. Later on, and step by step, this order was altered, as it became evident that there was no longer any peaceful passenger traffic at all, and that enemy passenger ships were particularly strongly armed, and used more and more as auxiliary cruisers and troop transport ships.

Q. Were the orders of the German Naval War Staff regarding attacks on armed enemy ships, and later enemy ships as a whole, made known to the British Admiralty?

A. Neither side made its war measures known during the war, and that held true in this case, also. But, in October, the German Press left no doubt whatsoever, that every armed enemy merchant ship would be sunk by us without warning, and later on, it was equally well known that we were forced to consider the entire enemy merchant marine as being under naval direction and in naval use.

These statements by our Press must no doubt have been known to the British Admiralty and the neutral governments. Apart from that, and I think this was in October, Grand Admiral Raeder gave an interview to the Press on the same theme.

Q. A memorandum of the Naval War Staff was issued in the middle of October: "On the possibilities of intensifying the war against merchant shipping," I am going to have this memorandum shown to you. It is Exhibit GB 224.

Please, after looking at this memorandum, will you tell me what its purpose was and what the memorandum contains?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Mr. President, some extracts can be found on Page 199, in Volume 4 of the document book.

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