Although Doenitz built and trained the German U-boat
arm, the evidence does not show he was privy to the conspiracy to wage
aggressive wars or that he prepared and initiated such wars. He was
a line officer performing strictly tactical duties. He was not present
at the important conferences when plans for aggressive wars were announced,
and there is no evidence he was informed about the decisions reached
there. Doenitz did, however, wage aggressive war within the meaning
of that word as used by the Charter. Submarine warfare which began immediately
upon the outbreak of war, was fully co-ordinated with the other branches
of the Wehrmacht. It is clear that his U-boats, few in number at the
time, were fully prepared to wage war.
It is true that until his appointment in January, 1943,
as Commander-in-Chief he was not an "Oberbefehlshaber ". But
this statement underestimates the importance of Doenitz' position. He
was no mere Army or division commander. The U-boat arm was the principal
part of the German fleet and Doenitz was its leader. The High Seas fleet
made a few minor, if spectacular, raids during the early years of the
war but the real damage to the enemy was done almost exclusively by
his submarines as the millions of tons of allied and neutral shipping
sunk will testify. Doenitz was solely in charge of this warfare. The
Naval War Command reserved for itself only the decision as to the number
of submarines in each area. In the invasion of Norway, for example,
Doenitz made recommendations in October, 1939, as to submarine bases,
which he claims were no more than a staff study, and in March, 1940,
he made out the operational orders for the supporting U-boats, as discussed
elsewhere in this Judgment.
That his importance to the German war effort was so
regarded is eloquently proved by Raeder's recommendation of Doenitz
as his successor and his appointment by Hitler on 30th January, 1943,
as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. Hitler too knew that submarine warfare
was the essential part of Germany's naval warfare. From January, 1943,
Doenitz was consulted almost continuously by Hitler. The evidence was
that they conferred on naval problems about 120 times during the course
of the war.
As late as April, 1945, when he admits he knew the
struggle was hopeless, Doenitz as its Commander-in-Chief urged the Navy
to continue its fight. On 1st May, 1945, he became the Head of State
and as such ordered the Wehrmacht to continue its war in the East, until
capitulation on 9th May, 1945. Doenitz explained that his reason for
these orders was to insure that the German civilian population might
be evacuated and the Army might make an orderly retreat from the East.
In the view of the Tribunal, the evidence shows that
Doenitz was active in waging aggressive war.
Doenitz is charged with waging unrestricted submarine
warfare contrary to the Naval Protocol of 1936 to which Germany acceded,
and which reaffirmed the rules of submarine warfare laid down in the
London Naval Agreement of 1930.
The prosecution has submitted that on 3rd September,
1939, the German U-boat arm began to wage unrestricted submarine warfare
upon all merchant ships, whether enemy or neutral, cynically disregarding
the Protocol; ad that a calculated effort was made throughout the war
to disguise this practice by making hypocritical references to international
law and Supposed violations by the Allies.
Doenitz insists that at all times ,the Navy remained
within the confines of international law and of the Protocol. He testified
that when the war began, the guide to submarine warfare was the German
Prize Ordinance taken almost literally from the Protocol, that pursuant
to the German view, he ordered submarines to attack all merchant ships
in convoy, and all that refused to stop or used their radio upon sighting
a submarine. When his reports indicated that British merchant ships
were being used to give information by wireless, were being armed and
were attacking submarines on sight, he ordered his submarines on 17th
October, 1939, to attack all enemy merchant ships without warning on
the ground that resistance was to be expected. Orders already had been
issued on 21st September, 1939, to attack all ships, including neutrals,
sailing at night without lights in the English Channel.
On 24th November, 1939, the German Government issued
a warning to neutral shipping that, owing to the frequent engagements
taking place in the waters around the British Isles and the French Coast
between U-boats and Allied merchant ships which were armed and had instructions
to use those arms as well as to ram U-boats, the safety of neutral ships
in those waters could no longer be taken for granted. On 1st January,
1940, the German U-boat command, acting on the instructions of Hitler,
ordered U-boats to attack all Greek merchant ships in the zone surrounding
the British Isles which was banned by the United States to its own ships
and also merchant ships of every nationality in the limited area of
the Bristol Channel. Five days later a further order was given to U-boats
to " make immediately unrestricted use of weapons against all ships"
in an area of the North Sea the limits of which were defined. Finally
on the 18th January, 1940, U-boats were authorised to sink, without
warning, all ships " in those waiters near the enemy coasts in
which the use of mines can be pretended." Exceptions were to be
made in the cases of United States, Italian, Japanese and Soviet ships.
Shortly after the outbreak of war the British Admiralty,
in accordance with its Handbook of Instructions of 1938 to the Merchant
Navy, armed its merchant vessels, in many cases convoyed them with armed
escort, gave orders to send position reports upon sighting submarines,
thus integrating merchant vessels into the warning network of naval
intelligence. On 1st October, 1939, the British Admiralty announced
British merchant ships had been ordered to ram U-boats if possible.
In the actual circumstances of this case, the Tribunal
is not prepared to hold Doenitz guilty for his conduct of submarine
warfare against British armed merchant ships.
However, the proclamation of operational zones and
the sinking of neutral merchant vessels which enter those zones presents
a different question. This practice was employed in the War of 1914-18
by Germany and adopted in retaliation by Great Britain. The Washington
conference of 1922, the London Naval Agreement of 1930, and the Protocol
of 1936, were entered into with full knowledge that such zones had been
employed in the First World War. Yet the Protocol made no exception
for operational zones. The order of Doenitz to sink neutral ships without
warning when found within these zones was, therefore, in the opinion
of the Tribunal, violation of the Protocol.
It is also asserted that the German U-boat arm not
only did not carry out the warning and rescue provisions of the Protocol
but that Doenitz deliberately ordered the killing of survivors of shipwrecked
vessels, whether enemy or neutral. The prosecution has introduced much
evidence surrounding two orders of Doenitz, War Order No. 154, issued
in 1939, and the so-called " Laconia " Order of 1942. The
defence argues that these orders and the evidence supporting them do
not show such a policy and introduced much evidence to the contrary.
The Tribunal is of the opinion that the evidence does not establish
with the certainty required that Doenitz deliberately ordered the killing
of shipwrecked survivors. The orders were undoubtedly ambiguous and
deserve the strongest censure.
The evidence further shows that the rescue provisions
were not carried out and that the defendant ordered that they should
not be carried out. The argument of the defence is that the security
of the submarine is, as the first rule of the sea, paramount to rescue
and that the development of aircraft made rescue impossible. This may
be so, but the Protocol is explicit. If the commander cannot rescue,
then under its terms he cannot sink a merchant vessel and should allow
it to pass harmless before his periscope. The orders, then, prove Doenitz
is guilty of a violation of the Protocol.
In view of all the facts proved and in particular of
an order of the British Admiralty announced on the 8th May, 1940, according
to which all vessels should be sunk at sight in the Skagerrak, and the
answers to interrogatories by Admiral Nimitz stating that unrestricted
submarine warfare was carried on in the Pacific Ocean by the United
States from the first day that nation entered the war, the sentence
of Doenitz is not assessed on the ground of his breaches of the international
law of submarine warfare.
Doenitz was also charged with responsibility for Hitler's
Commando Order of l8th October, 1942. Doenitz admitted he received and
knew of the order when he was Flag Officer of U-boats, but disclaimed
responsibility. He points out that the order by its express terms excluded
men captured in naval warfare, that the Navy had no territorial commands
on land, and that submarine commanders would never encounter commandos.
In one instance, when he was Commander-in-Chief of
the Navy, in 1943, the members of an allied motor torpedo boat were
captured by German Naval Forces. They were interrogated for intelligence
purposes on behalf of the local admiral, and then turned over by his
order to the SD and shot. Doenitz said that if they were captured by
the Navy their execution was a violation of the commando order, that
the execution was not announced in the Wehrmacht communique, and that
he was never informed of the incident. He pointed out that the admiral
in question was not in his chain of command, but was subordinate to
the army general in command of the Norway occupation. But Doenitz permitted
the order to remain in full force when he became commander-in-chief,
and to that extent he is responsible.
In a conference of 11th December, 1944, Doenitz said
" 12,000 concentration camp prisoners will be employed in the shipyards
as additional labour." At this time Doenitz had no jurisdiction
over shipyard construction, and claims that this was merely a suggestion
at the meeting that the responsible officials do something about the
production of ships, that he took no steps to get these workers since
it was not a matter for his jurisdiction and that he does not know whether
they ever were procured. He admits he knew of concentration camps. A
man in his position must necessarily have known that citizens of occupied
countries in large numbers were confined in the concentration camps.
In 1945, Hitler requested the opinion of Jodl and Doenitz whether the Geneva Convention should be denounced. The notes
of the meeting between the two military leaders on 20th February, 1945,
show that Doenitz expressed his view that the disadvantages of such
an action outweighed the advantages. The summary of Doenitz's attitude
shown in the notes taken by an officer, included the following sentence:
" It would be better to carry out the measures considered necessary
without warning, and at all costs to save face with the outer world."
The prosecution insisted that " the measures
" referred to meant the Convention should not be denounced, but
should be broken at will. The defence explanation is that Hitler wanted
to break the Convention for two reasons: to take away from German troops
the protection of the Convention, thus preventing them from continuing
to surrender in large groups to the British and Americans, and also
to permit reprisals against Allied prisoners of war because of Allied
bombing raids. Doenitz claims that what he meant by " measures"
were disciplinary measures against German troops to prevent them from
surrendering, and that his words had no reference to measures against
the Allies; moreover that this was merely a suggestion, and that in
any event no such measures were ever taken, either against Allies or
Germans. The Tribunal, however, does not believe this explanation. The
Geneva Convention was not, however, denounced by Germany. The defence
has introduced several affidavits to prove that British naval prisoners
of war in camps under Doenitz's jurisdiction were treated strictly according
to the Convention, and the Tribunal takes this fact into consideration,
regarding it as a mitigating circumstance.