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 3 of 9)

[DR. KRANZBUHLER continues his direct examination of Gerhard Wagner]

[Page 342]

THE WITNESS: This memorandum was issued due to the situation that existed since the beginning of the war. On 3rd September, 1939, Britain had begun a total blockade against Germany. Naturally, that was not directed only against the fighting men, but against all non-combatants, including women, children, the aged, and the sick. It meant that Britain would declare all food rations, all luxury goods, all clothing, as well as all raw materials necessary for these items, as contraband, and would also exercise a strict control of neutral shipping of which Germany would be deprived in as far as it would have to go through waters controlled by Great Britain. Apart from that, England exercised a growing political and economic pressure upon the European neighbours of Germany, to cease all commerce with Germany.

That intention of the total blockade was emphatically confirmed by the head of the British Government, Prime Minister Chamberlain, during a speech before the House of Commons at the end of September. He described Germany as a beleaguered fort; and he added that it was not customary that beleaguered forts were accorded free rations, That expression of the beleaguered fort was also taken up by the French Press.

Furthermore, Prime Minister Chamberlain stated around the beginning of October - according to this memorandum it was on 12th October - that in this war, Britain would utilize her entire strength for the destruction of Germany. From this we drew the conclusion, aided by the experiences of the last World War, that England would soon hit German exports under some pretext or other.

With the shadow of the total blockade, which no doubt had been thoroughly prepared during long years of peace, creeping upon us, we now had a great deal to do to catch up, since we had not prepared for war against Great

[Page 343]

Britain. We examined, both from the legal and military point of view, the possibilities at our disposal by which we, in turn, might cut off Britain's supplies. That was the aim and purpose of that memorandum.

Q. You are saying, therefore, that this memorandum contains considerations regarding means for countering the British measures with correspondingly effective German measures?

A. Yes, that was definitely the purpose of that memorandum.

Q. Studying that memorandum you will find a sentence, C-1 is the paragraph according to which the Naval War Staff had to basically remain within the limits of International Law, but that decisive war measures would have to be carried out, even if the existing International Law could not be applied to them.

Did this mean that International Law was to be generally disregarded by the Naval War Staff, or what is the meaning of this sentence?

A. That question was duly studied by the Naval War Staff and discussed at great length. I should like to point out that on Page 2 of the memorandum, in the first paragraph, it is stated that obedience to the laws of chivalry comes before all else in naval warfare. That, from the outset, would prevent a barbarous waging of war at sea. We did think, however, that the modern technical developments would create conditions for naval warfare which would certainly justify and necessitate further developments of its laws.

Q. Which technical developments do you mean?

A. I am thinking mainly of two points:-

First, the overwhelming use of the aeroplane in naval warfare; as a result of its speed and wide range, militarily guarded zones could be created around the coasts of all warfaring nations, and in respect to these zones, one can no longer speak of freedom of the seas.

Second, the introduction of electrical equipment which made it possible, even at the beginning of the war, to spot an unseen opponent and to send fighting forces against him.

Q. It says in this memorandum that decisive war measures are to be made even though they create new laws at sea. Did occasion arise for such measures?

A. No - at any rate, not at once. In the meantime, I think on 4th November, the United States of America declared the so-called American combat zone, and the specific reason given for it was that in that zone, actual belligerent actions rendered the sea dangerous for American shipping. By this announcement, some of the points of that memorandum were in immediate need of being revised. As a rule, we remained within the limits of the measures as they had been employed by both parties during the First World War.

Q. By these measures do you mean the warning against navigating in certain zones?

A. Yes.

Q. In some of the documents used by the prosecution, Exhibits GB 194 and 226, it is stated that submarines were permitted to attack all ships without warning in certain areas, beginning with January, 1940. The attacks were to be carried out, if possible, unseen, while the fiction that the ships struck mines was to be maintained.

Will you please tell the Tribunal which sea lanes or areas were concerned in this? I shall have a sea-chart handed to you for that purpose. I am submitting it to the Tribunal as Exhibit Donitz 93.

Please, will you explain what can be seen on that chart?

A. In the middle of the chart you will find the British Isles. The large part of the ocean which is shaded on the edge shows the aforementioned American combat zone. The shaded parts of the sea near the British coast are those parts which were ordered to be German submarine operational zones. They were given letters from A to F in accordance with the time when they were set up.

Q. Can you tell us up to which depth these German operational zones went?

A. I think perhaps as far as the 200-metre line.

[Page 344]

Q. Does this depth guarantee favourable use of mines?

A. Yes, down to 200 metres the use of anchored mines is possible without any difficulty.

Q. In these operational zones, certain dates have been entered. Will you please explain how it happened that on those particular dates and in that sequence these areas were made operational zones?

A. All those areas were declared to be operational zones where our fighting forces came into clash with enemy traffic and a concentration of the enemy defence, resulting in central points of fighting.

To begin with, they were the zones at the northern and southern end of the British mines zones, which had been declared to be on the British East Coast, apart from that, the Bristol Channel. You can see, therefore, Zone A lies to the east of Scotland and is dated January 6. The Bristol Channel Zone is dated January 12, and finally at the southern end of this danger zone, that is, to the east of London, there is the date of January 24.

Later on, according to the fluctuations of the actual fighting, further areas around the British Isles and then off the French Coast were designated.

Q. Up to what date did this development continue?

A. The last zone was declared on 28 May, 1940.

Q. Had neutrals been warned against navigating in these zones?

A. Yes, an official note had informed neutral countries that the entire USA fighting zone had to be considered as being dangerous, and that they should remain in the North Sea, to the east and to the south of the German mine area which was to the north of Holland.

Q. What difference is there between the situation as shown by this chart, and the German declaration of a blockade of 17 August, 1940?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: That is, Mr. President, the declaration I have submitted as Donitz 104, which can be found on Page 214, in Volume 4 of the document book.


Q. What difference was there between that situation and the declaration of August?

A. As far as the limits of the danger zone are concerned, there was really no difference. This fact was also stated by Prime Minister Churchill in the House of Commons at the time. However, the difference which did exist was that, up to that time, we confined ourselves to the area I have just described, near the British Coast, whereas now we considered the entire USA combat zone as an operational zone.

The declaration regarding a blockade was based on the fact that in the meantime France had been eliminated from the war, and that Britain now was the focal point of all belligerent action.

Q. Did the German blockade zone in its entirety correspond exactly or more or less with the USA combat zone?

A. It was nearly exactly the same as the USA combat zone. There were merely a few insignificant corrections.

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Mr. President, I am submitting another sea- chart as Donitz; 94, in which -

THE PRESIDENT: I think perhaps that would be a good time to break off.

(A recess was taken.)

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Now, Mr. President, as Donitz 94 I submit a chart of the German blockade zone dated 17th August.


Q. Admiral Wagner, would you mind repeating the limits of the German blockade region in relation to the US fighting zone?

[Page 345]

THE PRESIDENT: I thought you had already told us that. You told us that the blockade zone was the same as the American zone, did you not

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Yes, Mr. President, I thought that we had not been understood quite correctly before the recess.


Q. What was the naval practice on the side of your opponents as far as this operational zone was concerned? Was there any practice that they followed?

A. Yes, the practice on the part of the opponent was identified with ours. In the areas controlled by us in the Baltic, in the eastern part of the North Sea, around Skagerrak and later on in the Norwegian and French waters, the opponents used all suitable fighting means without giving previous warning, without notifying us in advance by which means of combat other ships were to be sunk - submarines, mines, aircraft or surface vessels. In these regions the same thing applied to neutrals and especially to Sweden.

Q. Now, I would like to confront you with a statement by the First Lord of the British Admiralty. You will find this on Page 208 of the document book, Volume 4. This statement is dated 8th May, 1940, and I have ascertained, Mr. President, that unfortunately it is wrongly reproduced in the British Document Book; so I shall quote from the original.

"Therefore we limited our operations in the Skagerrak to the submarines. In order to make this work as effective as possible, the usual restrictions which we have imposed on the actions of our submarines were relaxed. As I told the House, all German ships by day and all ships by night were to be sunk as opportunity served."
I should like to submit this as Exhibit Donitz 102.

THE PRESIDENT: What is the difference that you were making in the copy we have before us "... all ships were to be sunk by day and German ships by night ..." Is that it?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: Yes, Mr. President. It should be corrected to read "all German ships by day and all ships by night were to be sunk."

THE PRESIDENT: I see, I said it wrong - "and all ships by night." Yes, very well.


Q. Admiral Wagner, what was the significance of this statement and this practice so far as the German ships were concerned?

A. It means that all German ships by day and by night in this area were to be sunk without warning.

Q. And what does it mean for, the neutral ships?

A. It means that without warning all neutral ships in this area by night -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kranzbuhler, surely the document speaks for itself. We do not need to have it interpreted by a witness who is not a lawyer.



Q. Then, tell me, please, from what period of time onward, according to German experience, did this practice exist in the Skagerrak?

A. With certainty, from 8th April, 1940, but I believe I recall that even on 7th April this practice was already in existence.

Q. Had this area at this period of time, that is, 7th or 8th April, already been declared as a danger zone?

A. No, the first declaration of danger zone for this area took place on 12th April, 1940.

[Page 346]

Q. Now I shall have a sea-chart handed to you dealing with the British danger zones, and this will be Donitz 92. Please explain the significance of this chart briefly to the Tribunal.

A. This chart shows the danger zones in European waters as declared by England on the basis of German data. The following areas are of special significance:-

First of all, the area in the Bay of Heligoland which, On 4th September, 1939 - that is, on the second day of the war - was declared dangerous. Then the aforementioned danger zone, Skagerrak and the area south of Norway, which was declared on 12th April, 1940. Then the danger zone in the Baltic, on 14th April, 1940; and following upon that, the other danger zones as declared in the course of the year 1940.

I should like to remark also that, according to my recollection, these danger zones were all declared as mine danger zones, with the exception of the Channel zone and of the Bay of Biscay, on 17th August, 1940. These were generally called danger zones.

Q. Were these areas actually dominated by the British sea and air forces, or did German traffic still continue?

A. Even in these areas there was considerable German traffic. Therefore the Baltic Sea, which in its entire expanse from east to west, about 400 sea miles in length, was declared a danger zone and was in reality controlled by us during the entire war. In this area there was an extensive freight traffic, the entire ore traffic from Sweden and the corresponding exports to Sweden.

Q. Was there only traffic of German ships or also of neutral ships?

A. This traffic was in German and Swedish ships, but other neutrals also participated in it, for instance, Finland. A similar situation applied in the Skagerrak where, besides the German supply traffic, a large part of the foodstuffs for the Norwegian population was transported. Of course during this time both German and neutral ships were lost.

Q. I assume, therefore, that both German and neutral seamen lost their lives. Is that correct?

A. Of course.

Q. Were the German merchantmen, at the time when these operational zones were declared, armed - that is, at the end of 1939 - beginning of 1940?

A. Until the middle of 194o German merchantmen were not armed at all. From then on they were comparatively slightly armed, especially with antiaircraft weapons.

From the beginning, transport ships of the Navy were armed, that is, State ships, which supplied German cruisers and armed merchant cruisers in the Atlantic.

Q. Now I shall submit to you the Exhibit GB 193, which can be found in the prosecution's document book on Page 29. This deals with a proposal by the commander of the U-boats "... in the Channel, ships with dimmed lights may be sunk without warning." Can you tell me just whose ideas we are dealing with in the statements set forth in this document?

A. From the signature found in this document it appears that we are concerned with a document of a U-boat expert in the Naval War Staff.

Q. Who was that?

A. Lieutenant Friesdorf, who was my subordinate.

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