The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
14th May to 24th May, 1946

One Hundred and Thirty-Fourth Day: Monday, 20th May, 1946
(Part 9 of 13)

[SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE continues his cross examination of Erich Raeder]

[Page 214]

Q. 447-PS.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: I am sorry, my Lord, this is entirely my fault. I beg the Tribunal's pardon. I have given the wrong reference. I really wanted him to look at Page 59 in Document Book 10, Document C-170. I am very sorry, my Lord.


Q. Now, that is the extract from the Naval War Diary, the one that I want you to look at is on Page 59, entry of 15th June.

"On the proposal of the Naval War Staff (SKL) the use of arms against Russian submarines south of the northern boundary of Oeland warning area - "
Have you got it?

A. Yes.

Q. " - is permitted immediately, and ruthless destruction is to be aimed at."

Now, would you mind, before I ask you a question, turning back to Document C-38, which is on Page 11 of the British Document Book, and Page 19 of your own Document Book. That is an order of the same date, signed by defendant Keitel, to the C.-in-C. of the Navy.

[Page 215]

"Offensive action against submarines south of the line Memel to the southern tip of Oeland is authorized if the boats cannot be definitely identified as Swedish during the approach by German naval forces. The reason to be given up to 'B' Day - that is 'Barbarossa' - is that our naval forces are believed to be dealing with penetrating British submarines."
Why did you suggest that you should attack the Soviet submarines six days before your own invasion when they would not be expecting any attack and there was no question of any war?

A. As it has already been explained once here, it had happened just before, that is before 15th June, that a submarine had penetrated into the area of Bornholm, which is a long way to the west, and then bad given wrong recognition signals when the patrol boat near Bornholm called it. As the wrong recognition signals were given, it meant that it could not be a German submarine but it must be a foreign one. In this case, the course and position of the ship led us to the conclusion that it must be Russian. Apart from that, Russian submarines at that time had repeatedly been located and reported off German ports - Memel, for instance. Consequently, we had the impression that Russian submarines were already occupying positions outside German ports, either to lay mines or to attack merchant or warships. For that reason, as a precaution, I had to report, and I had to propose that we should take action against non-German submarines in these areas outside German ports. That suggestion was passed on the same day and this additional statement was added, which in my opinion was not necessary at all, but which prevented complications from arising.

Q. That is still not an answer to my question. I will put it this way. You considered it right to attack and urge the ruthless destruction of Soviet submarines six days before you attacked the Soviet Union? You consider that right? And then, to blame it on penetrating British submarines, this is Keitel's suggestion - is that your view of proper warfare?

A. Well, I consider the first point right, because it is always important to get in before one's opponent, and this was happening under certain definite conditions. The second point was ordered by the Fuehrer. Neither of the two points was ever carried out, and therefore it is useless, in my opinion, to discuss this matter.

Q. That is something for the Tribunal, and I will decide what is useful to discuss.

Do I take it, then, that you entirely approve of attacking Soviet submarines and ruthlessly destroying them six days before you start the war? That is what the Tribunal is to understand, is it?

A. Yes, if they appeared in our waters to reconnoitre or to carry out some other war action, then I considered it right. I considered that better than that our ships should run into Russian mines.

Q. Well now, let us just come, for a short time, to your views on U-boat warfare. Do you remember the document which I put to the defendant Donitz about the memorandum of the Foreign Office, D-851, which became GB 451?

A. I have it before me.

Q. Right. Well, I will ask about that in a moment. This is what you said about it when you were answering Dr. Kranzbuhler, I think on Saturday. You said:-

"Since the war against England came quite as a surprise to us, we had, up to then, dealt with detailed questions of submarine warfare only to a small extent. Among other things, we had not discussed at all the questions of the so-called unrestricted submarine warfare which, in the previous war, played a very important part. Therefore, on 3rd September, the officer who had recently been mentioned here was sent to the Foreign Office with a few points to be discussed concerning that question of unrestricted submarine warfare, so that we should clarify with the Foreign Office just how far we ought to go."
Now, do you think that is -

[Page 216]

A. So far as I can recollect, that is the way it happened. Unrestricted warfare had not been considered.

Q. Have you got the document in front of you?

A. You mean the one regarding the Foreign Office, D-851?

Q. Donitz 851, yes -

A. Yes.

S I R DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: I do not think this is in any book, my Lord.

Has your Lordship a copy?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I do not think so.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, I did put it in when I was cross-examining the defendant Donitz.

THE PRESIDENT: It is very likely with our Donitz papers.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Perhaps your Lordship will allow me to just read it slowly, for the moment. The document says this:-

"The question of an unrestricted U-boat warfare against England is discussed in the enclosed data submitted by the Naval High Command.

The Navy has arrived at the conclusion that the maximum damage to England which can be achieved with the forces available can only be attained 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. The Navy does not fail to realize that:-

(a) Germany would thereby publicly disregard the agreement of 1936 regarding the prosecution of economic warfare.

(b) Prosecution of the war on these lines could not be justified on the basis of the hitherto generally accepted principles of International Law."

Then I ought to read this, or point it out. I have dealt with it before, it is the second last paragraph:-
"Points of view based on foreign politics would favour using the method of unrestricted U-boat warfare only if England gives us a justification by her method of waging war to order this form of warfare as a reprisal."

Q. Now, I want you to take it by stages. You see the paragraph that says:-

"The Navy has arrived at the conclusion that the maximum damage to England which can be achieved with the forces available can only be attained if U-boats are permitted an unrestricted use of arms without warning in the area."
Is that your view? Was that your view on 3rd September?

A. No, it was not my view; it is a conditional view. We had given submarines the order to wage economic warfare according to the Prize Ordinance, and we had provided that if the British were to arm merchant ships or something like that, then certain intensifications -

Q. Will you please give me an answer to the question I asked you? It is a perfectly easy question.

A. Yes.

Q. Well, is it not your view?

A. In theory, of course, considering the small resources that we had, the greatest possible damage to England could only be achieved through ... We had to discuss with the Foreign Office just how far we could go with this intensive action. For this reason, this officer was sent there for discussions, and these resulted in the submarine memorandum, which shows, from beginning to end, that we were trying to adhere to the existing law as far as possible. The whole memorandum is nothing more than just that sort of discussion.

[Page 217]

Q. Now, will you answer my question? When this document says, "the Navy has arrived at the conclusion," is it true that the Navy had arrived at that conclusion?

A. Yes.

Q. Is that true or not?

A. But of course, everybody would arrive at that conclusion.

Q. It is much easier to say, "yes," than to give a long explanation.

Now, let us come to another point. Is it true that you had arrived at that conclusion without consulting the Flag Officer, U-boats, as the defendant Donitz said when he gave evidence?

A. Regarding these matters, we only agreed before the submarines put to sea that they should wage war according to the Prize Ordinance. We did not ask the Flag Officer whether he wanted to carry out unrestricted U-boat warfare, because I did not want it. First of all I had to discuss it with the Foreign Office, to find out how far we could go. The purpose was to give individual orders, such orders as we were entitled to give, step by step, in accordance with the behaviour of the British. This was a question of International Law, which I had to discuss with the International Law Expert in the Foreign Office.

Q. Is it not correct that you continued to press this point of view, the conclusion of which you had arrived at, with the Foreign Office for the next three months? Is it not correct that you continued to press for an unrestricted U- boat warfare within the area for the next three months?

A. I hardly think so; otherwise I would not have issued the memorandum of 3rd September. Maybe we did go to the Foreign Office and put on pressure, but what we did is contained in the memorandum and our measures were intensified step by step, following steps taken by the British.

Q. Well, now, the next step with the Foreign Office was a conference with Baron von Weiszacker, on 25th September, which you will see in Document D-85a, Exhibit GB 469. You see paragraph 3 of that document:-

"The OKM (Naval High Command) will submit to the Foreign Office a proposal, as a basis for a communication to the neutral powers, in which will be communicated those intensifications of naval warfare, the ordering of which has already taken place or is impending in the near future. This includes, particularly, a warning not to use wireless on being stopped, not to sail in convoy, and not to black out."
That was your first step, was it not? That was put up to the Foreign Office, with a number of other proposals?

A. But of course. The first measure was that armed merchant ships could be attacked, because as early as 6th or 8th September, a submarine had stopped a merchant ship, the Manar, had fired a warning shot, and had at once been fired on by the British steamer. Thereupon the submarine started firing at the merchant ship. Such cases were known. And since one cannot recognize in every case whether the ship is armed or not, we assumed that it would end in all ships being fired at. However, at that time it was ordered that only armed British merchant ships should be fired at. Secondly, that ships which sent a wireless message when stopped could also be shot at, because this use of wireless, which was done by order of the Admiralty, would immediately bring to the spot both naval and air forces, especially the latter, which would shoot at the U-boat.

The first step, therefore, was firing on armed merchant ships - the passenger steamers were still excepted - and secondly, firing on blacked-out vessels and firing on those who made use of wireless. Blacked-out vessels are -

Q. Well, now would you look at Document D-853. I only want you to look at the next document, which will be Exhibit GB 470. I want you to come as soon as possible to this memorandum of which you talked.

D-853, if you will look at section 2, is a report by the Under Secretary of State of the Foreign Office, dated 27th September, which goes through these matters

[Page 218]

which you talked about just now, the sinking at sight of French and British ships, under the assumption that they are armed. In paragraph 2 it is said:-
"The Naval War Staff indicated anew that the Fuehrer will probably order ruthless U-boat warfare in the restricted area in the very near future. The previous participation of the Foreign Office remains guaranteed."
Were you still pressing for absolutely unrestricted warfare within a large area to the west of Britain and around Britain?

A. Yes. In so far as we took intensification actions step by step on the basis of our observations regarding the attitude of enemy forces, particularly in cases where intensification was perfectly justified, which later on proved to be right.

Q. Would you look at Baron Weizsacker's minutes of the 14th October - Document D-857, which will be Exhibit GB 471.

Now, you see, this is after these measures have been taken, which you have just explained to the Tribunal. Baron von Weiszacker reports to the defendant von Ribbentrop:-

"According to my information, the decision on unrestricted U-boat warfare against England is imminent. This is at least as much a political decision as it is a technicality of war. A short while ago I submitted in writing my personal view that unrestricted U-boat warfare would bring new enemies upon us at a time when we still lack the necessary U-boats to defeat England. On the other hand, the Navy's attitude of insisting on the opening of unrestricted U-boat warfare is backed by every convincing reason."
Then he says that it is necessary to ask for certain information. On that you put in - at that point you put in your memorandum of 15th October, which, my Lord, is Document C-157, Exhibit GB 224,

A. First of all, may I say something about the previous document? This expression, "unrestricted warfare" -

Q. You can do it later on, because we have got a lot of ground to cover here.

THE PRESIDENT: Sir David, the Tribunal thinks he ought to be allowed to say what he wants to say on that document.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: I am sorry, my Lord, if your Lordship pleases. Please go on, defendant, my fault.

A. Now the two documents are gone. What I wanted to say was that the expression, "unrestricted submarine warfare," on the part of the Foreign Office originated from the previous World War. In reality, and during the entire war, we did not wage unrestricted U-boat warfare in the sense of the unrestricted submarine warfare of the first World War. Even then, where he says, "unrestricted submarine warfare might be imminent" - we only ordered very restricted measures, which always were based on the fact that the British had ordered something on their part. The chief action on the part of the British was that of militarising the entire Merchant Navy to a certain extent. That is to say, the Merchant Navy was being armed, and they received the order to use these arms.

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