From Doenitz's IMT testimony: We were always making changes, day and night, and it depended upon the degree of danger and weather conditions whether we gave orders for the U-boats to surface and re-charge when on the move .... Of course submarines, for example at night, had to be on the surface for attacks, but the main thing was to avoid every risk when on the move .... As far as possible, they were to try by all means to avoid danger from the air .... I gave them quite a number of orders, as I have already said, according to the weather, according to what part of the sea they were in, and whether it was day or night. The orders were different according to these factors, because the danger depended on these elements and varied accordingly. There were changes too—if we had bad experiences, if we found that night was more dangerous than day—then we surfaced during the day. We had the impression that in the end it was better to surface during the day, because then one could at least locate beforehand the aircraft attacking by direction-finding, so we changed. .... they did not have a chance to come to the surface in certain waters without being attacked immediately. That is just the point. The submarines were however in readiness, in the highest degree of readiness—and that is the big difference—for in rescue work readiness is disrupted; yet these heavy losses and difficulties occurred at the height of readiness. ... from the summer of 1942 onwards we found that the danger from the air suddenly increased. This danger from the air was making itself felt in all waters, also in those waters where submarines were not fighting convoys or were not fighting just outside the ports.March 21, 1942: Sauckel is appointed Generalbevollmaechtigter fuer den Arbeitseinsatz (General Plenipotentiary for the Employment of Labor).
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: They mean that it was important to us, as a consequence of the discussion with the Fuehrer at his headquarters, to find a good magnetic detonator which would lead to a more rapid sinking of the ships, and thereby achieve the results noted in this report in the war diary ... I mean that not several torpedoes would be required, as heretofore, to sink a ship by long and difficult attack; but that one torpedo, or very few, would suffice to bring about a more speedy loss of the ship and the crew .... The Fuehrer brought up the fact that, in the light of experience, a large percentage of the crews, because of the excellence of the rescue means, were reaching home and were used again and again to man new ships, and he asked whether there might not be some action taken against these rescue ships .... At this discussion, in which Grossadmiral Raeder participated, I rejected this unequivocally and told him that the only possibility of causing losses among the crews would lie in the attack itself, in striving for a faster sinking of the ship through the intensified effect of weapons. Hence this remark in my war diary. I believe, since I received knowledge here through the prosecution of the discussion between the Fuehrer and Oshima, that this question of the Fuehrer to Grossadmiral Raeder and myself arose out of this discussion.
If I have not got the old crews any more, I have to have new ones. It makes it more difficult. It says nothing about scaring off there, but the positive fact is stated that new crews have to be trained. ... it depends on the courage, the bravery of the people. The American Secretary Knox said that, if in peacetime—in 1941—the sinkings of German U-boats were not published, he expected it would have a deterrent effect on my U-boats. That was his opinion. I can only say that the silent disappearance through American sinkings in peacetime did not scare off my U-boats. It is a matter of taste .... He [Hitler] asked whether we could not take action against the crew; and I have already said, after I heard of the Oshima discussion here, that I believe this question to Grossadmiral Raeder and myself was the result of that Oshima discussion. My answer to that, of course, is known: it was 'No ... ' My answer was: Taking action against shipwrecked personnel is out of the question, but it is taken for granted that in a fight, one must use the best possible weapon. Every nation does that .... And also of course, because we considered the crews of the steamers as combatants since they were fighting with weapons."
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: Here we are concerned with an order of the Naval Operations Staff that captains are to be taken prisoners, that is, to be brought home and that again is something different from rescue. The Naval Operations Staff was of the opinion, and rightly, that since we could not have a very high percentage, say 80 to 90 percent, of the crews of the sunk merchantmen brought back, we even helped in their rescue, which was natural, then at least we must see to it that the enemy was deprived of the most important and significant parts of the crews: that is the captains; hence the order to take the captains from their lifeboats on to the U-boats as prisoners ... it was later even incorporated into the standing orders, because it was an order of the Naval Operations Staff. ... according to my recollection it was carried out now and then, even in the last few years of the war. But in general, the result of this order was very slight. I personally can remember only a very few cases. But through letters which I have now received from my commanders and which I read, I discovered that there were a few more cases than I believed, altogether perhaps 10 or 12 at the most ... The chief reason, (that so few captains were taken prisoner), without doubt, was that on an increasing scale, the more the mass of U-boats attacked enemy convoys, the convoy system of the enemy was perfected. The great bulk of the U-boats was engaged in the battle against convoys. In a few other cases it was not always possible by reason of the boat's safety to approach the lifeboats in order to pick out a captain. And thirdly, I believe that the commanders of the U-boats were reluctant, quite rightly from their viewpoint, to have a captain on board for so long during a mission. In any event, I know that the commanders were not at all happy about this order.June 11, 1942 Operation Drumbeat:13 U-boats begin laying mines off Boston, Delaware and Chesapeake Bay.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: In June 1942 or July. At the pinnacle of my success, it occurred to me that air power might someday stifle us and force us under water. Thus, despite the huge successes which I still had at that time, my fears for the future were great, and that they were not imaginary is shown by the actual trend of losses after the submarines left the dockyard in February 1943; in that month 18 boats were lost; in March, 15; in April, 14. And then the losses jumped to 38 .... The airplane, the surprise by airplane, and the equipment of the planes with radar—which in my opinion is, next to the atomic bomb, the decisive war-winning invention of the Anglo-Americans—brought about the collapse of U-boat warfare. The U-boats were forced under water, for they could not maintain their position on the surface at all. Not only were they located when the airplane spotted them, but this radar instrument actually located them up to 60 nautical miles away, beyond the range of sight during the day and at night. Of course, this necessity of staying under water was impossible for the old U-boats, for they had to surface at least in order to recharge their batteries. This development forced me, therefore' to have the old U-boats equipped with the so-called 'Schnorchel,' and to build up an entirely new U-boat force which could stay under water and which could travel from Germany to Japan, for example, without surfacing at all. It is evident, therefore, that I was in an increasingly dangerous situation.July 1, 1942: U-456 spots PQ-17 and flashes an alarm, but is driven under almost immediately by the destroyer HMS Leamington. The convoy is locate and shadowed byU-408, U-255 and U-703, in order to provide reports on the convoy while reinforcements are sent to the area.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: I only learned of this document of the naval war, here; I was not under pressure, therefore; but it is true that, in accordance with this document, the Naval Operations Staff had apparently had orders from the OKW to compile a list of all such cases and that the Naval Operations Staff very correctly took the point of view that one would have to be very careful in judging these cases and that it advised against reprisal measures. It appears to me that the compilation of this document served to convince us that, in principle, one should keep away from these reprisal measures .... I do not know about this entry in the War Diary of the Naval Operations Staff, and the appendix which is attached to it. I first heard of it here .... I did not know about the entry in the War Diary of the Naval Operations Staff. That was done in Berlin, and I was Commander of the Submarine Fleet in France at the time.September 5, 1942 Battle of the St. Lawrence: The carriers SS Saganaga and SS Lord Strathcona were sunk by U-513 at Bell Island, Newfoundland. Note: Bell Island is the only location in North America to be subject to direct attack by German forces in World War II.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: In September of 1942, the great bunk of the German U-boats fought convoys. The center of gravity in the deployment of U-boats was in the North Atlantic, where the protected convoys operated between England and America. The U-boats in the North fought in the same way, attacking only the convoys to Murmansk. There was no other traffic in that area. The same situation existed in the Mediterranean; there also, the objects of our attack were the convoys. Beyond that, a part of the boats was committed directly to American ports, Trinidad, New York, Boston, and other centers of congested maritime traffic. A small number of U-boats fought also in open areas in the middle or the south of the Atlantic. The criterion at this time was that the powerful Anglo-American air force was patrolling everywhere and in increasingly large numbers. That was a point which caused me great concern, for obviously the airplane, because of its speed, constitutes the most dangerous threat to the U-boat. And that was not a matter of fancy on my part, for from the summer of 1942—that is, a few months before September when this order was issued—the losses of our U-boats through air attacks rose suddenly, by more than 300 percent, I believe .... These developments caused me the greatest concern and resulted in a great number of orders to the submarine commanders on how they were to act while on the surface; for the losses were caused while the boats were above water, since the airplanes could sight or locate them; and so the boats had to limit their surface activities as much as possible. These losses also prompted me to issue memoranda to the Naval Operations Staff.September 12, 1942 Laconia Incident: The armed British liner Laconia, sailing in the South Atlantic,, is carrying 136 crew, 285 British soldiers, 80 civilian passengers, including women and children, 160 Polish guards and 1,800 Italian prisoners of war. Lieutenant Commander Hartenstein and the U-156 sink the Laconia, mistaking her for a troop ship. Realizing his mistake, Hartenstein radios the following message to headquarters while assisting survivors: "Sunk by Hartenstein British 'Laconia'. Grid FF 7721 310 degrees. Unfortunately with 1500 Italian POWs. So far 90 fished. 157 cubic meters (of oil). 19 eels (torpedoes), trade wind 3, request orders." Doenitz, though in principle reluctant to expose his boat's to attack by aircraft while performing surface rescue operations, decides to order all U-boats in the area to assist.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: I knew from the handbook on armed British ships which we had at our disposal that the Laconia was armed with 14 guns. I concluded, therefore, that it would have a British crew of at least about 500 men. When I heard that there were also Italian prisoners on board, it was clear to me that this number would be further increased by the guards of the prisoners ... When I received this report, I radioed to all U-boats in the whole area. I issued the order: "Schacht, Group Eisbar, Wurdemann and Wilamowitz, proceed to Hartenstein immediately." Hartenstein was the commander who had sunk the ship. Later, I had to have several boats turn back because their distance from the scene was too great. The boat that was furthest from the area and received orders to participate in the rescue was 710 miles away, and therefore could not arrive before two days. Above all, I asked Hartenstein—the commander who had sunk the ship—whether the Laconia had sent out radio messages, because I hoped that as a result British and American ships would come to the rescue. Hartenstein affirmed that and, besides, he himself sent out the following radio message in English: "If any ship will assist the shipwrecked Laconia crew, I will not attack her, provided I am not being attacked by ship or air force."
Summing up briefly, I gained the impression from the reports of the U-boats that they began the rescue work with great zeal .... There were three or four submarines. I received reports that the numbers of those taken on board by each U-boat were between 100 and 200. I believe Hartenstein had 156 and another 131. I received reports which spoke of the crew being cared for and taken over from lifeboats; one report mentioned 35 Italians, 25 Englishmen, and 4 Poles; another, 30 Italians and 24 Englishmen; a third, 26 Italians, 39 Englishmen, and 3 Poles. I received reports about the towing of lifeboats towards the submarines. All these reports caused me the greatest concern because I knew exactly that this would not end well.
My concern at that time was expressed in a message to the submarines, radioed four times: "Detailed boats to take over only so many as to remain fully able to dive." It is obvious that, if the narrow space of the submarine—our U-boats were half as big as the enemy's—is crowded with 100 to 200 additional people, the submarine is already in absolute danger, not to speak of its fitness to fight. Furthermore, I sent the message, "All boats are to take on only so many people ... " Then I sent another message: "Safety of U-boat is not to be endangered under any circumstances." That my concern was justified was clearly evident from the message which Hartenstein sent and which said that he had been attacked by bombs from an American bomber ... Hartenstein, as can be seen from a later report, also had 55 Englishmen and 55 Italians on board his submarine at that time. During the first bombing attack one of the lifeboats was hit by a bomb and capsized, and according to a report on his return there were considerable losses among those who had been rescued. During the second attack, one bomb exploded right in the middle of the submarine, and damaged it seriously; he reported that it was only by a miracle of German shipbuilding technique that the submarine did not fall to pieces.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: I deliberated at length whether, after this experience, I should not break off all attempts at rescue; and beyond doubt, from the military point of view, that would have been the right thing to do, because the attack showed clearly in what way the U-boats were endangered. That decision became more grave for me because I received a call from the Naval Operations Staff that the Fuehrer did not wish me to risk any submarines in rescue work or to summon them from distant areas. A very heated conference with my staff ensued, and I can remember closing it with the statement, "I cannot throw these people into the water now. I will carry on." Of course, it was clear to me that I would have to assume full responsibility for further losses, and from the military point of view this continuation of the rescue work was wrong. Of that I received proof from the submarine U-506 of Wurdemann, who also reported—I believe on the following morning—that he was bombed by an airplane .... Because I had ordered him to cast off the lifeboats, and we considered this general message as a supplementary later report, he was admonished by another message; and from that, the Prosecution wrongly concluded that I had prohibited the rescue of Englishmen. That I did not prohibit it can be seen from the fact that I did not raise objection to the many reports speaking of the rescue of Englishmen. Indeed, in the end I had the impression that the Italians did not fare very well in the rescue. That this impression was correct can be seen from the figures of those rescued. Of 811 Englishmen about 800 were rescued, and of 1,800 Italians, 450.
From the IMT testimony of Admiral Gerhard Wagner: The Naval Operations Staff, then as always, listened in on all the wireless messages of the Commander-in-Chief in the Laconia case. It approved of the measures taken by him, but it would not have been at all surprised if the Commander of the U-boats had stopped the entire rescue work at the very first air attack upon the U-boats.September 17, 1942 Laconia Order: From the naval war diary signed by Doenitz: "The attention of all commanding officers is again drawn again to the fact that all efforts to rescue members of the crews of ships which have been sunk contradict the most primitive demands for the conduct of warfare for annihilating enemy ships and their crews. Orders concerning the bringing in of the captains and chief engineers still stand."
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: That sentence (all efforts to rescue members of the crews ... contradict the most primitive demands for the conduct of warfare, etc.) is, of course, in a sense intended to be a justification. Now the Prosecution says I could quite simply have ordered that safety did not permit it, that the predominance of the enemy's air force did not permit it; and as we have seen in the case of the Laconia, I did order that four times. But that reasoning had been worn out. It was a much-played record, if I may use the expression, and I was now anxious to state to the commanders of the submarines a reason which would exclude all discretion and all independent decisions of the commanders. For again and again I had the experience that, for the reasons mentioned before, a clear sky was judged too favorably by the U-boats and then the submarine was lost; or that a commander, in the role of rescuer, was in time no longer master of his own decisions, as the Laconia case showed; therefore under no circumstances—under no circumstances whatsoever—did I want to repeat the old reason which again would give the U-boat commander the opportunity to say, "Well, at the moment there is no danger of an air attack"; that is, I did not want to give him a chance to act independently, to make his own decision, for instance, to say to himself, "Since the danger of air attack no longer permits." That is just what I did not want. I did not want an argument to arise in the mind of one of the 200 U-boat commanders. Nor did I want to say, "If somebody with great self-sacrifice rescues the enemy and in that process is killed by him, then that is a contradiction of the most elementary laws of warfare." I could have said that too. But I did not want to put it in that way, and therefore I worded the sentence as it now stands.
From the testimony of Karl Moehle before the IMT: When I received that order (Laconia Order) I noticed that it was not entirely clear, as orders of the B. d. U. normally were. One could see an ambiguity in it ... took the order to mean that something further was implied, only it was not actually ordered but was considered desirable ... I told the commanders in so many words: We are now approaching a very delicate and difficult chapter; it is the question of the treatment of lifeboats. The Commander of the U-boat fleet issued the following radio message in September 1942—I then read the radio message of September 1942 in full. For most of those present, the chapter was closed; no commander had any questions to ask. Explanations were not given unless questions were asked. In some few instances the commanders asked, "How should this order be interpreted?" Then as a means of interpretation I gave the two examples which had been related to me at the U-boat command and added, "Officially such a thing cannot be ordered; everybody has to reconcile that with his own conscience." .... Several commanders, following the reading of this radio message said, without making any further comment, 'That is very clear, but damned hard.'
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: I am responsible for all orders, for their form and their contents. Mohle, however, is the only person who had doubts about the meaning of that order. I regret that Mohle did not find occasion to clarify these doubts immediately, either through me, to whom everybody had access at all times, or through the numerous staff officers who, as members of my staff, were either also partly responsible or participated in the drafting of these orders; or, as another alternative, through his immediate superior in Kiel. I am convinced that the few U-boat commanders to whom he communicated his doubts remained quite unaffected by them. If there were any consequences I would of course assume responsibility for them ...
As Kapitanleutnant Eck stated at the end of his interrogation under oath, he knew nothing of Mohle's interpretation, or Mohle's doubts, nor of the completely twisted message, and my decision in the case of U-386. That was the incident which Mohle mentioned, when the submarine met pneumatic rafts with fliers, and I voiced my disapproval because he had not taken them on board. A written criticism of his actions was also forwarded to him. On the other hand, some authority pointed out that he had not destroyed these survivors. Eck knew nothing about the interpretation or the doubts of the Mohle order, nor of this affair. He acted on his own decision, and his aim was not to kill survivors but to remove the wreckage, because he was certain that otherwise this wreckage would on the following day give a clue to Anglo-American planes, and that they would spot and destroy him. His purpose, therefore, was entirely different from the one stated in the Mohle interpretation ...
I am sorry that Korvettenkapitan Mohle, being the only one who said he had doubts in connection with this order, as he declared here, did not report this right away. I could not know that he had these doubts. He had every opportunity of clearing up these doubts; and I did not know, and nobody on my staff had any idea, that he had these thoughts.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: This entry in the war diary refers to the radio order, the four regular radio messages which I sent during the Laconia incident and which were also acknowledged ... Since I am not to conceal anything here, I have to say that the keeping of the war diary was a difficult matter for me because there were no reliable officers available for this task. That entry, as I suspected and as has been confirmed to me here, was made by a former chief petty officer who tried to condense my orders during the entire case into an entry of this sort. Of course, I was responsible for each entry; but this entry had in reality no actual consequences; my radio order was the essential thing ...
My own lengthy deliberations were concerned with the order of the Naval Operations Staff, the order of the Fuehrer, and my own serious decision, whether or not I should discontinue that method of warfare; but they are not included in the war diary ... According to my best recollection, it [the order] was directed only to submarines on the High Seas. For the various operation areas: North Atlantic, Central Atlantic, South Atlantic, we had different radio channels. Since the other submarines were in contact with convoys and thus unable to carry out rescue measures, they could simply shelve the order. But I have now discovered that the order was sent out to all submarines, that is, on all channels; it was a technical matter of communication which of course could do no harm ...
There is, of course, a great difference in risk between rescue measures for which the submarine has to stop, and men have to go on deck, and a brief surfacing to pick up a captain; because while merely surfacing, the submarine remains in a state of alert, whereas otherwise, that alertness is completely disrupted. However, one thing is clear. There was a military purpose in the seizure of these captains for which I had received orders from the Naval Operations Staff. As a matter of principle, and generally, I would say that in the pursuit of a military aim, that is to say, not rescue work but the capture of important enemies, one must, and can, run a certain risk. Besides, that addition was not significant in my view because I knew that in practice it brought very meager results — I might say no results at all. I remember quite clearly having asked myself, "Why do we still pick them up?"
It was not our intention, however, to drop a general order of that importance. But the essential points are: first, the lesser risk that the state of alert might not be maintained during rescue and, secondly, the pursuit of an important military aim ... I had preached to my U-boat commanders for five and a half years, that they should be hard towards themselves. And when giving this order, I again felt that I had to emphasize to my commanders, in a very drastic way, my whole concern and my grave responsibility for the submarines, and thus the necessity of prohibiting rescue activities in view of the overwhelming power of the enemy air force. After all, it is very definite that on one side, there is the harshness of war—the necessity of saving one's own submarine—and on the other, the traditional sentiment of the sailor.
From the IMT testimony of Flotilla Commander Korvettenkapitan Karl Heinz Moehle: The orders of the U-boat command were always very clear and unambiguous. If there were any ambiguities I used to have these ambiguities cleared up myself at the Staff of the Commander-in-Chief of U-boats. ... each commander before leaving for an operational cruise went through a so-called commander's briefing ... all experiences of previous patrols and any questions of the ship's equipment were discussed with the commander at that session. Also, the commanders had an opportunity at the briefing to clarify any uncertainties, which might have existed in their minds, by asking questions ...
As far as that was possible ... (commanders went to Admiral Doenitz' headquarters for briefing) ... especially from the moment when the Commander-in-Chief of U-boats had transferred his office from Paris to Berlin ... In September (17) 1942 I received a wireless message (the Laconia Order) addressed to all commanders at sea, and it dealt with (the lifeboats) ... question. ... at my first visit to headquarters after receipt of the order, I personally discussed it with Lieutenant Commander Kuppisch who was a specialist on the staff of the U-boat command. At that meeting I asked Lieutenant Commander Kuppisch how the ambiguity contained in that order - or I might say, lack of clarity - should be understood. He explained the order by two illustrations.
The first example was that of a U-boat in the outer Bay of Biscay. It was sailing on patrol, when it sighted a rubber dinghy carrying survivors of a British plane. The fact that it was on an outgoing mission, that is, being fully equipped, made it impossible to take the crew of the plane on board, although, especially at that time, it appeared especially desirable to bring back specialists in navigation from shot down aircraft crews to get useful information from them. The commander of the U-boat made a wide circle around this rubber boat and continued on his mission. When he returned from his mission, he reported this case to the staff of the Commander-in-Chief of U-boats. The staff officers reproached him, saying that, if he were unable to bring these navigation specialists back with him, the right thing to do would have been to attack that crew, for it was to be expected that, in less than 24 hours at the latest, the dinghy would be rescued by British reconnaissance forces .... The right thing to do would have been to attack the air crew, as it was not possible to bring back the crew or these specialists, for it could be expected that that crew would be found and rescued within a short time by British reconnaissance forces; and in given circumstances, might again destroy one or two German U-boats ...
Example 2. During the first month of the U-boat warfare against the United States a great quantity of tonnage—I do not recollect the exact figure—had been sunk in the shallow waters off the American coast. In these sinkings the greater part of the crews were rescued, because of the close proximity of land. That was exceedingly regrettable, as to merchant shipping, not only tonnage but also crews belong; and in the meantime these crews were again able to man newly-built ships ... In my opinion, the order need only have read like this: It is pointed out anew that rescue measures have to be discontinued for reasons of safety for the submarines. This is how, I think, the order should have been worded, if only rescue measures had been forbidden ...
The order meant, in my own opinion, that although rescue measures remained prohibited, on the other hand, it was desirable in the case of sinkings of merchantmen that there should be no survivors .... I did not go to the headquarters of the U-boat command on account of this order alone; these visits took place at frequent intervals in order to discuss other questions also, and to have the opportunity of keeping constantly in touch with the views and opinions of the U-boat command, as I had to transmit them to the commanders .... At these briefing sessions I read the wording of the wireless message to the commanders, without making any comment. In a very few instances, some commanders asked me about the meaning of the order. In such cases, I gave them the two examples that headquarters had given to me. However, I added: '`U-boat command cannot give you such an order officially; everybody has to handle this according to his own conscience."
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: I preached during all these years: You must not rescue when your own safety is in danger. In the case of the Laconia, I myself, in my anxiety and worry, wirelessed that to the troops many times. Apart from that, I found again and again, that submarine commanders were taking the danger from the air too lightly. I also showed how that is to be explained psychologically. I described yesterday the overwhelming increase of the air force, and consequently in no circumstances would I have again given my people as a reason that, if there is danger from the air, or since you are being endangered from the air, et cetera, you must not rescue, or rescuing would be contrary to the elementary demands of warfare; because I did not want to leave it to my commanders to discuss whether there was danger from the air or not. After all my experience of the losses suffered, and in view of the ever present air force, which—as history has shown—was becoming stronger and stronger, I had to give a clear-cut order to the commanders, based on that experience: "You cannot go on like that, or while we rescue the enemy we shall be attacked and killed by the enemy." Therefore this reasoning must not enter into it. I did not wish to give the commanders another opportunity of deliberating or discussing. I told you already yesterday, that I could have added "If now, in view of the danger from the air, we are killed by that selfsame enemy while rescuing him, then rescue is contrary to the elementary demands of warfare." I did not want to do that, because I did not want any more discussion. We all had the impression that this refrain "Do not rescue if there is danger from the air" was outworn, because this would have meant that the commanders would nevertheless lose their liberty of action, and might slip into this thing ....
As far as I can remember, they (Doenitz's staff officers, Captain Godt and Captain Hessler) said something like this: "The bulk of the submarines"—I have said that here—"the bulk of the U-boats, that is, more than 90 percent of the U-boats, are already fighting the convoys, so that such an order is out of the question for them." That was the question: Should we issue such a general order at all, and would not the further developments which forced us all the time to issue new orders, namely, "Remain on the surface as little as possible" make such an order superfluous? However, since I was responsible for warding off every possible danger to a submarine, I had to give this order and my staff agreed with me perfectly as far as this measure was concerned ....
According to my recollection, at first, both advised against it. I have now heard that both are saying they did not advise against it, but that perhaps I or somebody else might have advised against it. I do not know for certain. I recollect that at first both advised me against issuing such an order at a time when 90 percent of our submarines were already engaged in fighting convoys, and when we were being forced under the water anyway, and it was absolutely impossible to make any more rescues since we were below the surface; and I said, "No; there will surely still be cases where such a thing can happen, and where the commander will be faced with an awkward situation, and in that case I want to relieve him of such a decision." That was the reason and the meaning of the discussion, nothing else .... Apart from the Mohle case, nobody misunderstood this order; and when we compiled the order, we were aware of that fact. That becomes clear from the communications which we had with U-boat commanders, and it becomes clear from my searching inquiries, when I asked whether they had in any way thought of that. The order does not show that at all, neither does the reason which led to it. The fact is, that we were rescuing for all we were worth. The question was, "to rescue or not to rescue," and nothing else. That is the key to the Laconia case.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: Apart from my great and constant anxiety for the submarines, and the strong feeling that the British and Americans had not helped in spite of the proximity of Freetown, I learned from this action very definitely that the time had passed when U-boats could carry out such operations on the surface without danger. The two bombing attacks showed clearly that, in spite of good weather, in spite of the large numbers of people to be rescued, who were more clearly visible to the aviators than in normal heavy sea conditions, when few people have to be rescued, the danger to the submarines was so great that, as the one responsible for the boats and the lives of the crews, I had to prohibit rescue activities in the face of the ever-present—I cannot express it differently—the ever-present tremendous Anglo-American air force. I want to mention, just as an example, that all the submarines which took part in that rescue operation were lost by bombing attack at their next action, or soon afterwards. The situation in which the enemy kills the rescuers while they are exposing themselves to great personal danger is really and emphatically contrary to ordinary common sense and the elementary laws of warfare ....
The whole question concerned rescue or non-rescue; the entire development leading up to that order speaks clearly against such an accusation. It was a fact that we rescued with devotion and were bombed while doing so; it was also a fact that the U-boat Command and I were faced with a serious decision and we acted in a humane way, which from a military point of view was wrong. I think, therefore, that no more words need be lost in rebuttal of this charge (that the incident was used to justify killing the shipwrecked enemy).
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: ... the vessel had reported to me that it had four boats in tow, and it says on Page 40: ". . . with British in tow." It was clear, considering the whole situation, that a submarine with vessels in tow could not remain on the surface without the greatest danger to itself. Hence, on Page 40 under heading 2, the order and the instructions given, "Boats with British and Poles to be cast adrift." I wanted to get rid of the boats. That was the only reason. And it was only afterwards—Page 41—when a long radio message came from him, which in itself was a repetition, but which was interpreted to mean that after the two air attacks had taken place, he had again endangered his boat by stopping and picking up men; only then did he receive this wireless message, after it had gradually dawned on me, during the first four days, or perhaps three days, I had nothing against rescuing the British, that the Italians, who after all were our allies, were getting the worst of it, which indeed proved to be the case ....
Of course; this wireless message contained both instructions, and it becomes unequivocally clear from these two instructions as well as from the impression I had, that the British who were rescued far outnumbered the Italians, who were left to drown .... The pressure, as I have very clearly explained here, was due to worry and anxiety regarding the fate of my submarines, because I knew that they were now being greatly jeopardized. We had evidence of that already from the bombing attacks; secondly, of course, from the Fuehrer's orders which Fricke gave. But I have also stated here that in spite of that order, even if it was not militarily correct to act in this way, I continued rescuing. However, the pressure, my worry and anxiety, were mostly caused by the fate of the submarines themselves.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: No U-boat commander purposely transgressed an order, or failed to execute it. Of course, considering the large number of naval actions, which ran into several thousands within the 5 1/2 years of war, a very few individual cases occurred in which, by mistake, such an order was not followed ... Every sailor knows how easily mistakes in identification can occur at sea; not only during a war, but also in peacetime, due to visibility, weather conditions, and other factors .... For again, every sailor knows that after a few days of bad weather, for instance, inaccuracy in the ship's course happens very easily. This occurs, however, not only in the case of the submarine, but also of the ship, which perhaps is under the impression of having been outside the operational area when torpedoed. It is very difficult to establish the fact in such cases ....
The main thing was the preventive measures, and that was done through training them to be thorough, and to investigate quietly and carefully before the commander took action. Moreover, this training had already been carried on in peacetime, so that our U-boat organization bore the motto: "We are a respectable firm." The second measure was that during the war, every commander, before leaving port, and after returning from his mission, had to report to me personally. That is, before leaving port he had to be briefed by me .... That was limited after 1943, after I had become Commander-in-Chief. Even then it did continue. In any case, it was the definite rule during my time as Commander of U-boats, so that a commander's mission was considered completed and satisfactory only after he had reported to me in full detail. If, on such an occasion, I could establish negligence, then I made my decision according to the nature of the case, as to whether disciplinary action or court-martial proceedings and punishment had to take place.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: I had sent my radio signal to the commander stating that after his return he would have to be answerable before a court-martial, because of the sinking. The commander did not return from this mission with his boat. Therefore this court-martial did not take place .... I remember a case against Kapitanleutnant Kraemer, who had to be acquitted by the court-martial because it was proven that, before the attack, before firing the shot, he had taken note once more through the periscope of the identification of the ship—it was a German blockade-runner—and, in spite of that, was of the opinion that it was a different ship, an enemy ship, and that he was justified in sinking it. In other words, it was not a case of negligence, and therefore in this case he was acquitted .... The simple facts speak for themselves. During the 5 1/2 years, several thousand naval actions were engaged in by submarines. The number of incidents is an extremely small fraction and I know that this result is only due to the unified leadership of all submarine commanders, to co-ordination and also to their proper training and their responsibility.September 1942: Wilhelm Keitel and Alfred Jodl defend Field Marshal Siegmund List against the criticisms of Adolf Hitler. This results in Jodl being sacked, and for many months afterwards Hitler refuses to shake hands with Keitel. This is the last time that Keitel is to challenge Hitler's military decisions.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: At times, [during] discussions of the general situation, neither Speer nor anybody else supplied a complete survey of the work being done. On the contrary, only acute questions of the day were discussed. As I have said, the happenings of the last 24 hours were discussed, and what should be done. That there was a staff there which in its report gave an overall picture, that was quite out of the question; it was not at all like that. The only one who had a complete picture of the situation was the Fuehrer. At these discussions of the military situation, the developments of the last 24 hours and the measure to be taken were discussed. These are the facts. Therefore, one cannot say that any one of the participants had an overall picture. Rather, everyone had a clear view of his own department, for which he was responsible. An overall picture in the mind of any of the participants is out of the question. Only the Fuehrer had that.September 28, 1942: The Antonico is torpedoed, set afire, and sunk off French Guiana. From the eye-witness account of the Antonico's second officer:
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: It is possible that the men might have imagined these happenings. I want to point out, however, that in a night fight—let us take the case of the Antonico first—which lasted 20 minutes, it could very easily have been imagined that these were shots, or that shots directed against the ship hit a lifeboat. At any rate, if someone makes a report on a night attack lasting 20 minutes, then it is a subjective report and everyone who knows how these reports vary, knows how easily a seaman can make a mistake. If, during such a night fight, the U-boat had wanted to destroy these people, then it would not have left after 20 minutes, particularly as the person states that he could not see the submarine in the darkness. These are certainly all very vague statements. The case of the Noreen Mary is quite similar. A large number of statements are made in this deposition which certainly are not true, for instance, that the submarine bore a swastika. Not a single submarine went to sea painted in any way. If someone is on some wreckage or in a lifeboat and there are shots nearby. then he very easily feels that he is being shot at. It was for this very reason that quite a number of cases of the Anglo-American side have been mentioned by us; not because we wanted to make an accusation, but because we wanted to show how very skeptical one has to be regarding these individual reports. And the only cases in 5.5 years of war, during several thousand attacks, are the ones brought up here.September 30, 1942: Hitler speaks in Berlin:
From the IMT testimony of Oberleutnant zur See Peter Josef Heisig: I was senior midshipman at the 2d U-boat Training Division .... I took part in the training course for U-boat officers of the watch .... On the last day of the course, Grossadmiral Doenitz, who was then Commander-in-Chief of the U-boats, reviewed the 2d U-boat Training Division ... At the end of his visit—not at the end but rather during his visit—Grossadmiral Doenitz made a speech before the officers of the 2d U-boat Training Division .... I remember the approximate date; it must have been at the end of September or the beginning of October 1942 .... Grossadmiral Doenitz said in his speech that the successes of the U- boats had declined. The strength of enemy air control was responsible for that decline. New antiaircraft guns had been developed which would in future make it possible for the U-boats to fight off enemy aircraft. Hitler had personally given him the assurance that U-boats would be equipped with these antiaircraft guns before all other branches of the Armed Forces. It could be expected, therefore, that the successes of former times would be reached again within a few months. After speaking about his good relations with Hitler, Grossadmiral Doenitz discussed the German armament program.
A question by an officer, regarding a newspaper article which stated that the Allied countries were building more than a million tons of merchant shipping every month, Admiral Doenitz answered by saying that he doubted the credibility of this estimate, and said it was based on an announcement by President Roosevelt. He then spoke briefly about President Roosevelt, about the American production program and armament potential, and added that the Allies had great difficulty in manning their ships. Allied seamen considered the route across the Atlantic dangerous, because German U boats were sinking Allied ships in great numbers. Many of the Allied seamen had been torpedoed more than once; these facts spread and make the seamen reluctant to go to sea again. Some of them were even trying to shirk a crossing of the Atlantic, so that the Allied authorities were compelled, if it became necessary, to retain the men aboard by force of law. Such indications were favorable to the Germans. From the facts that, firstly, the Allies were building very many new merchant ships and, secondly, that the Allies were having considerable difficulties in manning these newly built ships, Admiral Doenitz concluded that the question of personnel was a very grave matter for the Allies ... Grossadmiral Doenitz said that the losses of the Allies affected them very seriously, because they had no reserves, and also because the training of new seamen required a very long time...
Grossadmiral Doenitz continued, saying approximately that, under the circumstances, he could not understand how German U-boats could still rescue the crews of the merchant ships they had sunk, thereby endangering their own ships. By doing that, they were working for the enemy, since these rescued crews would sail again on new ships. The stage had now been reached in which total war had to be waged also at sea. The crews of ships, like the ships themselves, were a target for the U-boats; thus it would be impossible for the Allies to man their newly built ships; and moreover it could then be expected that in America and the other Allied countries [that] a strike would break out, for already a part of the seamen did not want to go back to sea. These results could be expected if our tactics would render the war at sea more vigorous. If any of us consider this war or these tactics harsh, we should also remember that our wives and our families at home are being bombed. That, in its main points, was the speech of Grossadmiral Doenitz .... I have no experience in fixing the number of people present at large indoor gatherings. I can only give you a rough estimate: approximately 120 officers.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: First of all, I want to state that Heisig, here in this witness box, said something different from what he said during his interrogation. During cross-examination, he has admitted here that I have not said anything about fighting against shipwrecked personnel; secondly, everything else he said is so vague that I do not attach much value to its credibility; thirdly, he stated quite clearly that I did not say this in a lecture, but during a discussion—which is in itself of no importance—and fourthly, it may well be that the subject of America's new construction program, and the manning of the new ships by trained crews, was discussed. It was possible during that discussion .... Everybody read and knew about the shipbuilding program .... I have always taken the view that losses of crews would make replacement difficult, and this is stated in my war diary together with similar ideas, and perhaps I said something of the kind to my midshipmen.October 10, 1942: Hans Ibbeken's U-178 sinks the ocean liner Duchess of Athol.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: I had a report from a commander that, because he had remained too long with the lifeboats, and thus had been pursued by the escorts, perhaps—or probably—summoned by wireless, his boat had been severely attacked by depth charges and had been badly damaged by the escorts, something which would not have happened if he had left the scene in time; then naturally I pointed out to him that his action had been wrong from a military point of view. I am also convinced that I lost ships through rescue. Of course I cannot prove that, since the boats are lost. But such is the whole mentality of the commander; and it is entirely natural, for every sailor retains from the days of peace the view that rescue is the noblest and most honorable act he can perform. And I believe there was no officer in the German Navy-it is no doubt true of all the other nations, who, for example, would not consider a medal for rescue, rescue at personal risk, as the highest peacetime decoration. In view of this basic attitude it is always very dangerous not to change to a wartime perspective and to the principle that the security of one's own ship comes first, and that war is, after all, a serious thing. ... the general order about rescue was a matter of course, and besides, it was contained in certain orders of the Naval Operations Staff at the beginning of the war. The stipulation of non-rescue, if the safety of the submarine is at stake, is taken for granted in every navy; and I made a special point of that in my reports on the cases which I have just discussed ....
The aircraft were very dangerous, especially for psychological reasons: when no aircraft is on the scene, the commander of the U-boat views his situation as perfectly clear but the next moment when the aircraft comes into sight, his situation is completely hopeless. And that happened not only to young commanders, but to old experienced commanders who remembered the good old times. Perhaps I may, quite briefly, give a clear-cut example. AU-boat needs one minute for the crew to come in through the hatch before it can submerge at all. An airplane flies on the average 6,000 meters in one minute. The U-boat, therefore, in order to be able to submerge at all—and not to be bombed while it is still on the surface—must sight the aircraft from a distance of at least 6,000 meters. But that also is not sufficient, for even if the U-boat has submerged, it still has not reached a safe depth. The U-boat, therefore, must sight the airplane even earlier, namely, at the extreme boundary of the field of vision. Therefore, it is an absolute condition of success that the U-boat is in a state of constant alert, that above all, it proceeds at maximum speed, because the greater the speed, the faster the U-boat submerges; and, secondly, that as few men as possible are on the tower so that they can come into the U-boat as quickly as possible which means that there should be no men on the upper deck at all, and so on. Now, rescue work, which necessitates being on the upper deck in order to bring help and take care of more people, and which may even mean taking in tow a number of lifeboats, naturally completely interrupts the submarine's state of alert, and the U-boat is, as a consequence, hopelessly exposed to any attack from the air.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: I was informed of this order after it was issued, while I was still Commander of the U-boats. For the soldiers at the front, this order was unequivocal. I had the feeling that it was a very grave matter; but under Point 1 of this order it was clearly and unequivocally expressed that members of the enemy forces, because of their behavior, because of the killing of prisoners, had placed themselves outside the Geneva Convention, and that therefore, the Fuehrer had ordered reprisals and that those reprisal measures, in addition, had been published in the Wehrmacht report ... As far as I remember I was never concerned with this order as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. One should not forget, first, that this decree excludes expressly those taken prisoner in battles at sea and, second, that the Navy had no territorial authority on land; and for this latter reason found itself less often in a position of having to carry out any point of this order ... I saw this order as Commander of U-boats and that as far as my field of activities was concerned, this order did not concern me in the least; and, secondly, that men captured during naval engagements were expressly excepted; so, as far as that goes, this order at that time had no actual, no real, significance. In view of the enormous number of things that I had to deal with when I became Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, it was quite natural that it did not occur to me to take up the question of this new order. I did not think of the order at all ...
As Commander-in-Chief of the Navy I was not concerned with this order. While I was Commander of U-boats, as I have already explained to you, I considered it simply a reprisal order. It was not up to me to start an investigation or to take it up with the office which had issued the order to find out whether the basis was correct or not. It was not up to me to start an investigation on the basis of international law. And it was quite clear in Point 1 of the order that here the enemy, the opponent, had placed himself outside the bounds of the Geneva Convention, because they were murdering prisoners, and that therefore we had to do certain things as reprisals. Whether these reprisal measures were necessary, or whether they were fully justified by the conditions in Point 1, that is something I did not and could not know ... I can tell you only how it affected me when I read it as Commander of U-boats; and I can also tell you that today I reject this order, now that I have learned that the basis on which it was issued was not so sound. And thirdly, I can tell you that I personally rejected any kind of reprisals in naval warfare—every kind, in every case, and whatever the proposal.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: At that time I was Commander of U-boats from the Atlantic Coast to the Bay of Biscay. I do not know this paper at all ... I do not know this teleprint. In any case, that is probably not Red Cross, but probably Reiko See, Reich Commissioner for Shipping-or so I assume. BDS is probably the SS Leader in Norway ... I think it is taken for granted that we should try to get as much information as possible, and since I cannot take the whole crew as prisoners on a U-boat, I have to confine myself to the most important persons. Therefore I remove these people from further engagement, whereas the others may engage again. Of course, in view of the limited room on a U-boat, I do not take unimportant people, but the important ones ...December 17, 1942: United Nations Statement:
From the IMT testimony of Admiral Gerhard Wagner: Admiral Doenitz' activity as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy began with a very strong opposition to Hitler. It was Hitler's intention to scrap the large ships of the Navy, that is to say the remaining battleships and cruisers. Admiral Raeder had already rejected that plan ... Apart from that, Hitler's respect for Doenitz was due to the fact that every statement which the Admiral made was absolutely reliable and absolutely honest. The Admiral attached particular importance to the fact that particularly unfavorable developments, failures, and mistakes were to be reported at headquarters without digression, objectively, and simply. ... wishes of the Party were, in my opinion, only put to the Navy in three cases. One was the question of the churches, which for the most part came up during the time of Admiral Raeder. I think it is generally known that the Navy retained its original religious organization and, in fact, extended it as the Navy grew. The second request made by the Party was that, modeled on the Russian example, political commissary should be set up within the Armed Forces. On that occasion Admiral Doenitz went to see Himmler and prevented the carrying out of that plan. When after 20 July 1944 Bormann nevertheless succeeded in getting the so-called "NSFO"—the National Socialist Leadership Officers—introduced into the Armed Forces, it did not happen in the way the Party wished, by appointing political commissary. It was merely done by using officers who were under the jurisdiction of the commander and who could not in any way interfere with the leadership of the troops. The third case was the intention on the part of the Party to take away from the Armed Forces the political penal cases.January 10, 1943: From a memorandum by Raeder: "The Importance of German Surface Forces for Conducting the War by the Powers Signatory to the Three Power Pact ... it was planned by the leaders of the National Socialist Reich to give the German Navy by 1944¨C45 such a strength that it would be possible to strike at the British vital arteries in the Atlantic with sufficient ships, fighting power, and range ... In 1939, the war having begun 5 years earlier, the construction of these forces was still in its initial stages... "
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: It was self-evidently a purely military position, namely, that of the first soldier at the head of the Navy. My appointment to this position also came about because of purely military reasons which motivated Grossadmiral Raeder to propose my name for this position. Purely military considerations were the decisive ones in respect to this appointment ... The idea never entered my head (that accepting the promotion would signify that I was in complete agreement with German policy, domestic and foreign). Nor do I believe that there is a soldier who, when he receives a military command, would entertain such thoughts or be conscious of such considerations. My appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy represented for me an order which I, of course, had to obey, just as I had to obey every other military order, unless for reasons of health I was not able to do so. Since I was in good health and believed that I could be of use to the Navy, I naturally also accepted this command with inner conviction. Anything else would have been desertion or disobedience ... We were soldiers, and I was interested in what the soldier could accomplish, what his personality was; and I did not concern myself in the main about a political line of thought, unless it affected his performance as a soldier. I want to mention, as an example, the fact that my closest colleague who from 1934 until the very end in 1945 always accompanied me as my adjutant, and later as Chief of Staff (Admiral Godt), was extremely critical of National Socialism—to put it mildly—without our official collaboration or my personal attitude toward him being affected thereby, as this long period of working together shows.January 30, 1943: Raeder resigns from command of the Kriegsmarine, becoming Admiral Inspector of the Navy, an honorary position. Doenitz becomes Commander-in-Chief of the German Navy (Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsmarine). Note: Doenitz remains in command of the U-boat fleet (Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote, B.d.U.). (Shirer)
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: This relationship (with Hitler) was based on three ties. First of all, I accepted and agreed to the national and social ideas of National Socialism: the national ideas which found expression in the honor and dignity of the nation, its freedom, and its equality among nations and its security; and the social tenets which had perhaps as their basis: no class struggle, but human and social respect of each person regardless of his class, profession, or economic position, and on the other hand, subordination of each and every one to the interests of the common weal. Naturally I regarded Adolf Hitler's high authority with admiration, and joyfully acknowledged it, when in times of peace he succeeded so quickly and without bloodshed in realizing his national and social objectives. My second tie was my oath. Adolf Hitler had, in a legal and lawful way, become the Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht, to whom the Wehrmacht had sworn its oath of allegiance. That this oath was sacred to me is self-evident and I believe that decency in this world will everywhere be on the side of him who keeps his oath. The third tie was my personal relationship: Before I became Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, I believe Hitler had no definite conception of me and my person. He had seen me too few times and always in large circles. How my relationship to him would shape itself was therefore a completely open question when I became Commander-in-Chief of the Navy.
My start in this connection was very unfavorable. It was made difficult, first, by the imminent—and then the actual—collapse of U-boat warfare and, secondly, by my refusal, just as Grossadmiral Raeder had already refused, to scrap the large ships, which in Hitler's opinion had no fighting value in view of the oppressive superiority of the foe. I, like Grossadmiral Raeder, had opposed the scrapping of these ships, and only after a quarrel did he finally agree. But, despite that, I noticed very soon that, in Navy matters, he had confidence in me; and in other respects as well, treated me with decided respect. Adolf Hitler always saw in me only the first soldier of the Navy. He never asked for my advice in military matters which did not concern the Navy, either in regard to the Army or the Air Force; nor did I ever express my opinion about matters concerning the Army or the Air Force, because basically I did not have sufficient knowledge of these matters. Of course, he never consulted me on political matters of a domestic or foreign nature ... First of all, as a matter of principle, there can be no question of a general consultation with the Fuehrer; as I have already said, the Fuehrer asked for, and received, advice from me only in matters concerning the Navy and the conduct of naval warfare — matters exclusively and absolutely restricted to my sphere of activity.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: 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 .... from 30 January 1943, when I became Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, until the end of January 1945—that is, approximately 2 years—the number was, I think, 57 times (that I met with Hitler). The larger figure arises from the fact that, in the last months of the war, I took part in the noontime conferences on the situation which took place daily in the Voss Strasse in Berlin.February 2, 1943: Paulus surrenders at Stalingrad.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: When in February 1943 I became Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, I was responsible for the fighting power of the entire Navy. A main source of strength in this war was the unity of our people. And those who had most to gain from this unity were the Armed Forces, for any rupture inside Germany would perforce have had an effect on the troops, and would have reduced that fighting spirit which was their mission. The Navy, in particular, in the First World War, had had bitter experiences in this direction in 1917¨C18. Therefore, in all of my speeches, I tried to preserve this unity and the feeling that we were the guarantors of this unity. This was necessary and right, and particularly necessary for me as a leader of troops. I could not preach disunity or dissolution, and it had its effect. Fighting power and discipline in the Navy were of a high standard until the end. And I believe that in every nation such an achievement is considered a proper and good achievement for a leader of troops. These are my reasons for talking the way I did.March 11, 1943: From a monitored account, broadcast was in English, of a talk by a German naval war reporter on the long wave propaganda service from Friesland:
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: I think in the summer of 1943 I received a letter from the Foreign Office, in which I was informed that about 87 percent of the crews of merchant ships which had been sunk were returning home. I was told that was a disadvantage, and was asked whether it was not possible to do something about it. Thereupon I had a letter sent to the Foreign Office, in which I wrote that I had already been forced to prohibit rescue, because it endangered the submarines, but that other measures were out of the question for me ... I only received reliable reports that when U-boats were bombed and destroyed from the air, the men swimming in the water were shot at. But whether these were individual acts or reprisals carried out on orders, I do not know. I assume they were individual acts...
We U-boat men knew that we had to fight a very hard war against the great sea powers. Germany had at her disposal for this naval warfare nothing but the U-boats. Therefore, from the beginning—already in peacetime—I trained the submarine crews in the spirit of pure idealism and patriotism. That was necessary, and I continued that training throughout the war, and supported it by very close personal contacts with the men at the bases. It was necessary to achieve very high morale fighting spirit, because otherwise the severe struggle and the enormous losses, as shown on the diagram, would have been morally impossible to bear. But in spite of these high losses, we continued the fight, because it had to be; and we made up for our losses; and again and again replenished our forces with volunteers full of enthusiasm, and full of moral strength, just because morale was so high. And I would never, even at the time of our most serious losses, have permitted that these men be given an order which was unethical or which would damage their fighting morale; much less would I myself ever have given such an order, for I placed my whole confidence in that high fighting morale and endeavored to maintain it.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: I have no reason to question that statement because the whole affair is completely unknown to me. I have already stated that the incident was not reported to me, nor, as I can prove, to the High Command of the Navy; and I told you yesterday that I could only assume, in consequence, that these men—here it is, in Paragraph 6—were captured on an island, not by the Navy, but by a detachment of the Police. Consequently, Admiral Von Schrader said that they were not Navy prisoners, but Police prisoners, and must be handed back to the Police; and for this reason, he did not make a report. I assume that that is what happened. I myself cannot furnish the full details of this story or explain how it came about, because it was not reported to me at the time ... The document says that the men reached the island—the reason is not clear. That the men were brought back from the island afterwards, in some sort of boat, is quite clear; but naturally they might remain Police prisoners if they were captured there by the Police or the coast guards. That is the only explanation I can think of, in view of Admiral Von Schrader's personality ... My estimate of Von Schrader's personality caused me to assume yesterday that it happened like that. Since I am informed today of a Lieutenant Fanger's statement, things may have happened differently for I may be wrong...
I still say that I did not receive any report, and I am equally convinced that the High Command of the Navy did not receive it either. I have a witness to prove that. I do not know where the report went. Admiral Von Schrader was not directly responsible to the High Command of the Navy; and the report may have been sent to the OKW, if this report was made at all. At any rate, the High Command of the Navy did not receive a report on this particular matter, hence my assumption that these men were captured on the island in the first place by the Police. Otherwise, I think Admiral Von Schrader would have reported it ... I will swear to that; because if Admiral Von Schrader really committed suicide on account of this incident, then he did make a mistake, because he treated naval personnel, engaged in a naval operation, in a wrong manner. If that is correct, he acted against orders. In any case, not even the slightest hint of the affair reached me ... I awarded the Knight's Cross to Admiral Von Schrader for entirely different reasons. I awarded it ... I still cannot imagine-and I do not believe-that a man like Admiral Von Schrader would treat naval personnel in this way. The document does not say that they were killed in a naval action, but that they were captured on an island. It seems to me peculiar that the High Command of the Navy should have received no report on it, since orders to that effect had been given, and that the Wehrmacht report should make no reference to it in accordance with the Commando Order. All these factors are against it. I personally am unable to form an opinion as to the affair.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: I do not think that I had proposed to the Fuehrer that we should occupy Spain. I described the situation very clearly; I said that we were blocked in that small corner of the Bay of Biscay and that the situation would be different if there was much more room. That, however, does not suggest that, in consideration of the defensive situation, we should occupy Spain ... Of course, when I discussed the situation, I mentioned the danger of the narrow strip along the Bay of Biscay; and I said that it would be more favorable to us if we could start our U-boats from a wider area. At that time nobody even contemplated a move against Spain, either with the consent of Spain or in the form of an attack. It was quite obvious that our forces were in no way sufficient for that. On the other hand, it is quite understandable that, in showing my concern about that narrow strip, I should say that it would have been better if the area had been larger. That is what I meant by that statement. I was referring to U-boat warfare and not to any move against Spain on land. It certainly would have been impossible for me as a naval officer to make a suggestion to attack Spain.May 19, 1943: Doenitz's younger son, Peter, is killed while serving as watch officer on U-954.
From Doenitz's interview by the US SBS Team: From April 1943 onward, we had very severe losses, and the numbers had again dropped. It came down again to probably 60. After April 1943, losses were much higher, and the new construction could not keep up. For instance in May 1943, we lost 42 submarines. Our total then was 22 loss, because only 20 were built. 1943 marked a decrease in our submarines and fewer successes. Toward the end of 1943 and (the) beginning of 1944, there were thirty to forty submarines in the combat zone. I had then decided to build a new type submarine, which did not need to surface, because I knew I was beaten by the aircraft as long as I stayed on the surface. When I started this production, the number of U-boats in the operation zone suffered through that again, and came down to 20 or 25. I let the old submarines run out of production gradually, and started building more and more of the new types. The drawings for the new submarines were made in the summer of 1943, and completed in December, 1943. The boats were then built in 1944. They included two types. A large one of 1500 tons and a small one of about 300 tons. At the time of capitulation, we had about five of the small ones—Type XXIII—in the combat zone, and of the large ones—Type XXI—only one boat went to sea, and it did not reach the combat zone. ... There were about 15 or 20 of the old type, and these were modified by the addition of the 'Schnorchel.' That was a sort of air mast which enabled the submarine to stay under water ... Just about all (of the U-boats) that went to the combat zone (were fitted with Schnorchels). That would make about 120 altogether.May 24, 1943: Labeled 'Black May' by the Germans, Doenitz loses 47 U-boats this month; one third of those on station. The admiral orders all his boats from the North Atlantic, and positions them south of the Azores. Doenitz has decidedly lost the Battle of the Atlantic. (Read)
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: I have already stated that, as far as my activity was concerned, even at headquarters, I was strictly limited to my own department, since it was a peculiarity of the Fuehrer's to listen to a person only about matters which were that person's express concern. It was also self-evident that at the discussions of the military situation, only purely military matters were discussed, that is, no problems of domestic policy, of the SD, or the SS, unless it was a question of SS divisions in military service under one of the army commanders. Therefore I had no knowledge of all these things. As I have already said, I never received an order from the Fuehrer which in any way violated military ethics. Thus, I firmly believe that in every respect I kept the Navy unsullied down to the last man until the end. In naval warfare my attention was focused on the sea; and the Navy, small as it was, tried to fulfill its duty according to its tasks. Therefore I had no reason at all to break with the Fuehrer.July 28, 1943: FDR delivers a Fireside Chat:
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: I knew, of course, that there were foreign workers in Germany. It is just as self-evident that, as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, I was not concerned as to how these workers were recruited. That was none of my business ... I did not have a single conversation with Gauleiter Sauckel. I have never had a discussion with anyone about questions referring to workers ... I, too, think that we needed workers ... During my conferences with Hitler and Speer, the system of obtaining these workers was never mentioned at all. The methods did not interest me at all. During these conferences the labor question was not discussed at all. I was interested merely in how many submarines I received, that is, how large my allotment was in terms of ships built.December 24, 1943: FDR delivers a Fireside Chat:
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: On 30 January 1944 I received from the Fuehrer, as a decoration, the Golden Party Badge; and I assume that I thereby became an honorary member of the Party.February 20, 1944: The Allies begin a massive bombing campaign of Germany.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: I meant that we were living in a state of unity and that this unity represented strength, and that all elements and all forces ... I could imagine that it would be very difficult for the population in the towns to hold out under the stress of heavy bombing attacks if such an influence was allowed to work, that is what I meant ... It means (the spreading poison of Jewry) that it might have had a disintegrating effect on the people's power of endurance, and in this life-and-death struggle of our country I, as a soldier, was especially anxious about this ... That statement was made during my memorial speech on Heroes' Day. It shows that I was of the opinion that the endurance, the power to endure, of the people, as it was composed, could be better preserved than if there were Jewish elements in the nation ...
Yes, of course I say that (I knew nothing about the action and the intention to do away with and exterminate the Jews). I did not know anything at all about it, and if such a statement was made, then that does not furnish evidence that I had any idea of any murders of Jews. That was in the year 1943 ... Nobody among my men thought of using violence against Jews, not one of them, and nobody can draw that conclusion from that sentence ... It has been reported to me that there was an informer there who, when new crews were brought in, was smuggled into the camp and, after listening around, passed information on to the enemy. The result was, that on the strength of that information, U-boats were lost. And it was then that the senior man in the camp, a petty officer, decided to remove that man as a traitor. That is what was reported to me and what I shall prove by a witness. In my opinion, and every nation will recognize that, the man acted like anyone else who finds himself in an extremely difficult situation ...
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: I do not approve his (Eck's) actions because, as I said before, in this respect one must not deviate from military ethics under any circumstances. However, I want to say that Kapitanleutnant Eck was faced with a very grave decision. He had to bear responsibility for his boat and his crew, and that responsibility is a serious one in time of war. Therefore, if for the reason that he believed he would otherwise be spotted and destroyed; and that reason was not unfounded, because in the same operational area and during the same time four submarines, I think, had been bombed; if he came to his decision for that reason, then a German court-martial would undoubtedly have taken it into consideration. I believe that after the war one views events differently, and one does not fully realize the great responsibility which an unfortunate commander carries ... I believe that they cannot stand the test of an impartial examination. We have a large number of similar reports about the other side, and we were always of the opinion, and also stated that opinion in writing to the Fuehrer and the OKW, that one must view these cases with a good deal of skepticism, because a shipwrecked person can easily believe that he is being fired on, whereas the shots may not be aimed at him at all, but at the ship, that is misses of some sort. The fact that the Prosecution gives just these two examples proves to me that my conviction is correct, that apart from the Eck case, no further instances of this kind occurred during those long years in the ranks of the large German U-boat force.March 24, 1944: 76 Allied prisoners-of-war crawl through a tunnel and escape Stalag Luft III, near Sagan, in Poland. Within a few days, 50 of the captured prisoners (only three will actually get away) will be murdered, by order of Hitler.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: ... this order (the V Order) did not have the slightest effect on his decision but that, as Eck has expressly said, his decision was to shoot up the wreckage; and he had quite a different aim, namely, to remove the wreckage because he was afraid for his boat, which would have been smashed to pieces, just like other boats in those wakes. He stated clearly that there was no connection whatsoever in his mind between the order with reference to the Laconia, which he had on board quite accidentally, and his decision ... Submarine commanders with the exception of the case of Eck have never shot up shipwrecked persons. There is not a single instance. That is not true ... In no case is that proved. On the contrary, they made the utmost efforts to rescue. No order to proceed against shipwrecked people has ever been given the U-boat force, with the exception of the case of Eck, and for that there was a definite reason. That is a fact.May 13, 1944: Doenitz's eldest son, Klaus, had been withdrawn from combat duties after the death of Peter, to begin his education as a naval doctor. On this, his 24th birthday, however, he goes along for the ride, with friends on the fast boat S-141 for an attack on Selsey, on the English coast. The S-141 is destroyed; and although 6 of its crew are rescued, Klaus Doenitz is not among them.
From Doenitz's IMT testimony: I do not agree with this procedure, but it expresses an idea of the Fuehrer's. This was not a discussion between the Fuehrer and myself; it represents notes on the military situation generally, made by the officer who accompanied me, and contains widely differing points ... The officer who made the minutes included it in order to inform our shipyard establishments that there was a general strike in Copenhagen. That one paragraph from the long situation discussions was included so that the shipyard establishments would know that there was a strike in Copenhagen. That was the whole point ... I did not even hear the Fuehrer make that statement, but it is possible that it was taken down by the accompanying officer, Wagner, for the reason which I have just given you, to warn our people of the general strike in Copenhagen.
From the IMT testimony of Admiral Gerhard Wagner: This is a statement made by Hitler during a situation discussion and addressed neither to Admiral Doenitz nor to the Navy ... I included in my record all statements which could be of any interest to the Navy. The High Command of the Navy was, of course, interested in the general strike in Copenhagen because our ships were repaired in Copenhagen; and apart from that, Copenhagen was a naval base ... From 1943 on the shipyards were entirely under the Ministry of Armaments.July 5, 1944: The fishing trawler Noreen Mary is sunk by U-247. From the eye-witness account of deckhand James MacAlister:
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