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 8 of 9)

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

[Page 363]

Q. One moment, please. Go ahead.

A. The SKL had asked that in bombarding, occupying or attacking Leningrad the dockyards, wharf installations, and all other special naval installations were to be spared, so that they might be used as bases later on. That request was turned down by Hitler's statement as shown by this document. That may be seen from Point 3 of the document.

We had to report this fact to Admiral Karls so that he could act accordingly, and because in the case of a later occupation of Leningrad he could not count on this port as a base.

Q. Because of the significance of this testimony, I would like to quote to the Tribunal the decisive point to which the witness just referred, and that is III of Exhibit USSR 130:

[Page 364]

"The original demands of the Navy to spare the dock, harbour and other installations important from the Navy viewpoint are known to the High Command of the Wehrmacht. The fulfilling of these demands, because of the fundamental aim of the action against Petersburg, is not possible."
That was the decisive point which the SKL told Admiral Karls as Commander-in-Chief of Group North?

A. That was the sole reason for this communication.

Q. Do you know whether Admiral Karls did anything with this document. Did he transmit it to anyone, or don't you know anything about that?

A. As far as I am informed, this communication was not passed on, and it was not the intention that it should be passed on, for it was meant solely for Group North. On the strength of this document, General Karls stopped the preparations which had already been made for using the Leningrad naval installations later on and made the personnel available for other purposes.

That is the only measure which the Navy took on the basis of this communication and the only measure which could have been taken.

DR. SIEMERS: I should tell the Tribunal that accordingly in my document book Raeder, I will submit under No. III, an affidavit which contains this fact, which the witness also points out, that nothing was passed on by Group North, so the commanding naval officers never learned of this document.

This concerns an affidavit by Admiral Butow, who at that time was Commander-in-Chief in Finland, and I shall come back to this point when I present the case on behalf of Raeder.

I have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Does any other member of defendants' Counsel wish to ask any questions?

The prosecution may cross-examine.


COLONEL PHILLIMORE: May it please the Tribunal, with regard to the questions asked by Dr. Siemers, I was going to leave the cross-examination on those points to the cross- examination of the defendant Raeder, so as to avoid any duplication.


Q. As I understand the evidence which the defendant Donitz has given, and your evidence, you are telling the Tribunal that in respect of the treatment of neutral merchant ships, the German Navy has nothing to reproach itself with. Is that right?

A. Yes.

Q. And the defendant has said that the German Navy was scrupulous in adhering to orders about the attitude towards neutral shipping, and the neutrals were fully warned of what they should and should not do. Is that right?

A. Yes.

Q. Admiral Donitz has also said that there was no question of deceiving neutral governments; they were given fair warning of what their ships should not do. Do you agree?

A. Yes.

Q. Now, I want just to remind you of what steps were taken as regards neutrals, as they appear from the defence documents.

First of all, on 3rd September, orders were issued that strict respect for all rules of neutrality and compliance with all agreements of international law which were generally recognized were to be observed.

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: My Lord, that is D-55, Page 139.

THE PRESIDENT: In the British Document Book?

[Page 365]

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: In the Defence Document Book. Donitz 55.


Q. And then, on 28th September, a warning was sent to neutrals to avoid suspicious conduct, changing course, zigzagging, and so on. That is Donitz 61, at Page 150.

On the 19th October, that warning was repeated and neutrals were advised to refuse convoy escort. That is Donitz 62, at Page 153. On 22nd October, there was a repetition of the warning, that is Donitz 62, Page 162; and on 24th November, the neutrals were told that the safety of their ships in waters around the British Isles and in the vicinity of the French coast could no longer be taken for granted. That is Donitz 73, at Page 206; and then from 6th January onwards, certain zones were declared dangerous zones. That is right, is it not?

A. No. On 24th November, a general warning was issued that the entire United States fighting zone was to be considered dangerous. The specific zones which, since January, were used as operational zones, were not made public, since they came within the scope of the first warning, and they served only for internal use within the Navy.

Q. That is the point I want to be clear about. The zones that you declared from 6th January onwards, weren't announced. Is that the point?

A. Yes, the neutrals were warned on the 24th of November that all of those zones which had been specifically declared as operational zones since January, would be dangerous for shipping.

Q. But when you fixed the specific zones from 6th January onwards, no further specific warning was given. Is that the case?

A. That is correct. After the general warning, we issued no further specific warnings about parts of this zone.

Q. Now, you are not suggesting, are you, that by these warnings and by this declaration of an enormous danger zone, you were entitled to sink neutral shipping without warning?

A. Yes. I am of the opinion that in this zone which we, as well as the United States of America before us, regarded as dangerous for shipping, it was no longer necessary to show consideration to neutrals.

Q. Do you mean to say that from 24th November onwards, every neutral government was given fair warning that its ships would be sunk without warning if they were anywhere in that zone?

A. What I want to say is that on 24th November, all the neutral countries were notified officially that the entire United States of America zone was to be considered as dangerous and that the German Reich could assume no responsibility for losses in combat in this zone.

Q. That is quite a different case. Do not let us have any mistake about this. Are you saying that by that warning, you were entitled to sink neutral ships anywhere in that zone without warning, sink on sight?

A. I did not quite catch the last few words.

Q. Are you suggesting that you were entitled to sink at sight neutral shipping anywhere in that zone, as from 24th November?

A. I am of the opinion that we were justified from that period of time onwards in having no special consideration for neutral shipping. If we had made exceptions in our orders to our U-boats it would have meant in every case that they could not have sunk enemy ships without warning.

Q. It is not a question of any special consideration. Do you say that you became entitled to sink at sight any neutral ship or sink it deliberately whether you recognized it as neutral or not?

THE PRESIDENT: Surely you can answer that question yes or no.

THE WITNESS: Yes, I am of that opinion.

[Page 366]

BY COLONEL PHILLIMORE: Will you tell me how that compares with the submarine rules?

A. I do not feel competent to give a legal opinion on this question because that is a matter of international law.

Q. At any rate, that is what you proceeded to do, is it not? You proceeded to sink neutral ships at sight and without warning anywhere in that zone?

A. Yes, not just anywhere in this zone but in the operational zones stipulated by us, neutral ships were -

Q. But wherever you could, wherever you could?

A. In the operational zones stipulated by us we sank neutral ships without warning, for we are of the opinion that in this case, we were concerned with secured zones near the enemy coast which could no longer be considered the open sea.

Q. And that is what you desired to do at the very start of the war, was it not? That is what you decided to do?

A. From the beginning of the war on, we decided to adhere strictly to the London Agreement.

Q. Would you look at the document which was put in yesterday. My Lord, it is D-851. It is put in as Exhibit GB 451. It is a memorandum of 3rd September.

THE PRESIDENT: Where is it?

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: My Lord, it was the only new document that Sir David Maxwell Fyfe put in cross-examination.


Q. Would you look at the third paragraph: "The Navy has arrived at the conclusion that the maximum damage to England can be achieved with the forces available, only if the U- boats are permitted an unrestricted use of arms without warning against enemy and neutral shipping in the prohibited area indicated on the enclosed map." Do you still say that you didn't intend from the start of the war to sink neutral shipping without warning as soon as you could get Hitler to agree to let you do so? Do you still say that?

A. Yes, absolutely. In this document, in the first paragraph it says "In the attached documents sent to the Navy by the OKW the question of unrestricted U-boat warfare against England is discussed." I cannot judge these documents if they are not submitted to me.

Q. You were on the General Staff at this time. You were in charge of the Department i-A. This point of view must have been put forward by your department?

A. Yes. I have said already that we had decided after consulting with the Foreign Office, to adhere strictly to the London Agreement until we had proof that English merchant shipping was armed and was being used for war purposes. Here, we are apparently concerned solely with instructing, with an exchange of opinions with the Foreign Office -

Q. I did not ask for your general view on the document. We can read that for ourselves. Your object was to terrorise the small neutrals and frighten them from sailing on their ordinary lawful occasions. Is that not right?

A. No.

Q. And isn't that why, in the orders you issued in January of 1940, you excepted the larger countries from this "sink at sight" risk? Would you look at Document C-21. That is Exhibit GB 194, at Page 30, of the prosecution document book in English; Page 59 to 60 in the German. Now, just look at the second entry on Page 5, 2nd January, 1940 "Report by 1- A." That is you, is it not? That was you, was it not?

[Page 367]

A. Yes, but I cannot find the point which you are quoting.

Q. Page 5 of the original, under the date Of 2nd January, 1940. Report by 1-A on directive of armed forces - High Command - dated 30th of December, referring to intensified measures in naval and air warfare in connection with "Fall Gelb" (Case Yellow).

"Through this directive, the Navy will authorize, simultaneously with the beginning of the general intensification of the war, the sinking by U-boats without any warning of all ships in those waters near the enemy coasts in which mines can be employed. In this case, for external consumption, the use of mines should be simulated. The behaviour of and use of weapons by U- boats should be adapted to this purpose."
That has nothing to do with the arming of British merchant ships. That is not the reason that is given, is it? The reason is because it fitted in with your operations for "Fall Gelb."

A. I did not understand the last sentence.

Q. You do not give as your reason that the British were arming their merchant ships. The reason you give is that it was necessary in connection with intensified measures for "Fall Gelb." Why is that?

DR. KRANZBUHLER: The German translation is so inadequate that it is almost impossible to understand the question.


Q. I will put the question to you again. The excuse for this directive is to be the intensification of measures in connection with "Fall Gelb." You notice, do you not, that nothing is said about the arming of British merchant ships as justifying this step? That is correct, is it not?

A. May I have time, please, to peruse these papers first?

Q. Certainly. This was written by yourself, you know.

A. No, that was not written by me.

This measure really came within the warning which one gave to the neutrals on 24th November, 1939.

Q. Nothing is said about the warning Of 24th November. If you were entitled, as you have told us, under that to sink neutral ships, there would not be any need for this special directive, would there?

A. No.

Q. No. Now, let us just -

A. (Interposing). For military and political reasons we ordered that a hit by a mine was to be simulated and that is a special point of this order.

Q. And just before we leave that document, look at the entry on 18th January, will you? Have you got it? 18th of January.

A. Yes.

Q. That is the actual order for sinking without warning. You notice the last sentence:-

"Ships of the United States, Italy, Japan and Russia, are exempted from these attacks."
And then Spain is added in pencil.

Is it not right that you were out to terrorise the small neutrals and to bully them, but you were not running any risks with the big ones?

A. No, that is not correct. The explanation is, of course, that one must take the disadvantages of war into the bargain if one can obtain political advantages for them.

Q. Oh, yes, it was just entirely a question of how it paid you politically. That is all it was, was it not?

A. Of course, all actions of war were strongly influenced by the political interests of one's own country.

[Page 368]

Q. And because the Danes and the Swedes were not in any position to make any serious protest, it did not matter sinking their ships at sight. That is right, is it not?

A. The motive you give to this conduct is entirely incorrect.

Q. Well, but what is the difference?

A. We sank the ships of all neutrals in these areas with the exception of those countries where we had a special political interest.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.