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Berlin, 1 November 1939

Commander in Chief of the Kriegsmarine

Conference Notes.

1. The SCHARNHORST and the GNEISENAU are to be ready for action throughout November and then from 1 January 1940 on; in the intervening period they will be docked for repairs. The Panzerschiff GRAF SPEE has reported her intention to break through into home waters in January 1940 for engine overhaul. The Führer has repeatedly emphasized the fact that the DEUTSCHLAND should be recalled because of her name. In the North Atlantic the pressure from British forces is increasing, and in the long run evasion is far more difficult there than in the South Atlantic, the Indian Ocean, or the Pacific. It appears correct, therefore, to recall the DEUTSCHLAND in November, while the nights are dark and the battleships are ready for action (12 to 19 November). It would be wrong, though, to undertake any offensive action with the battleships during the time of the break-through, as this would merely lead to a concentration of British forces in the northern North Sea. It is important, on the other hand, for air reconnaissance to operate as far out to sea as possible; the DEUTSCHLAND must pass through the main channels by night and unexpectedly. Submarine escort must be sent out at the last moment. The battleships, cruisers, and destroyers must remain in full readiness. Submarines are to provide protection in a flanking position. The return of the DEUTSCHLAND must be kept secret as long as possible; the impression must be given rather that the Panzershiff is continuing operations in the North Atlantic to relieve the GRAF SPEE.

In accordance with the wishes of the Führer, the DEUTSCHLAND is to be named LÜTZOW on her return. (LÜTZOW is to be placed at the disposal of the Russians.)

So as not to complicate matters, the WESTERWALD is not to return with the DEUTSCHLAND. She will receive instructions later. On 22 October the GRAF SPEE was told to consider proceeding unexpectedly far into the Indian Ocean, should enemy pressure in the South Atlantic become stronger. In my opinion renewed operations by Panzerschiffe are possible only if Italy enters the war and British Mediterranean forces, at present operating on the high seas, are held down in the Mediterranean.

2. At present, submarine warfare against enemy shipping has been intensified as much as possible. Even passenger steamers proceeding without lights and in convoy may be torpedoed without warning. All that is lacking now is the declaration of a state of siege against England, in which case neutral ships could also be torpedoed without previous warning once the neutral states have been notified. As a result of consultations, the Commander in Chief, Luftwaffe, will give orders for action to be taken without warning by the Air Force against merchant ships sailing in convoy. This is entirely in accordance with international law. The moment for the declaration of a state of siege will depend on the political developments in the near future and on the time and nature of Army operations. Should these violate the neutrality of neutral states, then the appropriate moment for the most drastic measures on the part of the Navy has also come.

3. The submarine construction program has not yet been given priority by the Führer, as the replenishment of Army equipment and ammunition supplies is of prime concern at the moment. The extensive construction program is not possible with the present allocation of steel, metals, and labor. The question will be reconsidered in December. In order to carry out the large-scale submarine program, continuous pressure will be necessary.

signed: Raeder

countersigned: Assmann

Report of the Commander in Chief, Navy, to the Führer on 10 November 1939.

Present: Generaloberst Keitel
Korvettenkapitän von Puttkamer

1. The situation in the Baltic Sea and the North Sea; negotiations with Sweden on the question of the three mile limit; the plan to close the southern part of the Belts in friendly agreement with Denmark.

2. Mine-laying operations off the English Coast; charts showing the main barriers and the successes so far are examined. Further plans are discussed.

3. Submarine warfare. Recent developments. 6 submarines are known to have been lost up to now. That means that the replacements which should still be delivered in 1939 have already been exhausted. New instructions from the Commander in Chief, U-boats, and lessons from previous experience give rise to the hope that losses will decrease.

The question is raised whether the proclamation concerning the intensification of submarine warfare should be made to the neutral countries simultaneously with the beginning of a land offensive, so that any protests will coincide with other and possibly sharper protests on the part of the neutrals, thus attracting less attention in the world. The Commander in Chief, Navy, suggests putting off the proclamation for the time being, and instead continuing gradual intensification step by step. Such a statement is at the present time all the more unnecessary as the Americans have of their own accord declared a closed area around England and France for their ships, whereby clashes with the strongest neutral are eliminated. (See Annex 1.)

As the next step the Commander in Chief, Navy, suggests sinking enemy passenger steamers without previous warning. These are often heavily armed, transport troops, and carry valuable contraband. These vessels are known to be armed; there are photographs proving it. The Führer agrees, provided that the names of the large steamers concerned are made known previously and it is stated that they were being used as auxiliary cruisers and troop transport vessels.

As a later step the Commander in Chief, Navy, suggests sinking without warning neutral steamers which we definitely know are loaded with contraband, and whose points of departure, times of sailing, and routes are known to us, e.g., Greek steamers. The proposal of the Commander in Chief, Navy, will be brought up for consideration as soon as there is any change in the attitude of neutral countries, for example in the event of an offensive. The policy of not molesting ships belonging to friendly nations, i.e., Italy, Japan, Russia, and Spain, is to be continued in the future. Intelligence and control organizations are to be set up in neutral ports (see Annex 1, Paragraph B, d).

4. Political items.

Italy: If it is taken for granted that Italy will enter the war reasonably soon, should the most important military secrets (torpedoes and mines) be surrendered to them? The Commander in Chief, Navy, suggests not until Italy actually enters the war. The Führer is of the same opinion.

Russia: Negotiations are proceeding satisfactorily; however, deliveries of ship's equipment cannot be made at the expense of Armed Forces quotas. The Führer and Chief of the OKW state that such deliveries are to be made only from export quotas.

Japan: In answer to the statement of the Commander in Chief, Navy, the Japanese Naval Attaché has reported the following from the Japanese Admiralty: Japan will not enter the European war, but the Japanese Navy will support the German Navy in accordance with the negotiations of 1938. Germany is asked to make definite requests soon. The Commander in Chief, Navy, suggests requesting that German auxiliary cruisers and submarines be permitted to put into Japanese bases, and also that Japan cede to Germany several submarines for warfare against Great Britain in Eastern Asia. The Führer agrees.

The United States: The CITY OF FLINT case has been mismanaged, as the result of the behavior of the boarding officer who put into port at Tromsø and Murmansk, but above all owing to the fact that the Vice Consul stopped the prize at Haugesund. As matters stand at present, it appears advisable to allow the CITY OF FLINT to return to the United States unmolested, as the United States desires to avoid entanglements by declaring its own closed areas, and nothing is to be gained by reconfiscation. Submarines are deployed as required in case confiscation is desired. The Führer agrees with the Commander in Chief, Navy; no further action is to be taken against the CITY OF FLINT.

5. The situation regarding the DEUTSCHLAND and the GRAF SPEE and future plans for these ships are discussed.

6. The Führer asks the Commander in Chief, Navy, whether the Navy has any particular wishes in connection with bases on the Dutch-Belgian coast. The Commander in Chief, Navy, replied in the negative, as the bases lie too close to the coast of England and are therefore impracticable as submarine bases. If Den Helder were occupied it could be of occasional use as a base for light forces, although this would shorten the route to the English coast but little as compared with that from Borkum and Emden. The occupation of the Belgian and northern French ports is of importance only if British troop transports were thereby diverted further to the south and so more exposed to German countermeasures at sea such as submarines and mines. Generaloberst Keitel points out that it might be necessary to safeguard Belgian ports by means of coastal batteries.

signed Raeder

countersigned: Assmann

Annex 1

Annex to the Report of the Commander in Chief, Navy, to the Führer on 10 November 1939.

I. Proclamation.

A new situation regarding the necessity for making a proclamation has been created by the declaration of a closed area for American merchant ships in the European area. By intensifying naval warfare against Great Britain, practically the same results can be achieved as were intended by the proclamation. The need and time for issuing a proclamation can be determined only in accordance with the plans for the general war strategy.

II. Measures for intensifying the war against merchant shipping.

A. Present situation:

    1. Not yet affected by the drastic measures against merchant shipping (sinking without warning):
      a. All neutral merchant ships sailing alone or in neutral convoys.

      b. Passenger steamers sailing alone (even if armed) which are capable of carrying a large number of passengers.

    2. Exempt from capture up to now:
      a. Merchant ships belonging to friendly neutrals: Italy, Spain, Japan, and Russia.

      b. All neutral ships sailing alone to enemy ports which are not carrying contraband and are behaving correctly.

      c. All neutral ships sailing from enemy ports with any type of cargo.

B. Suggestions for further intensification: Intermediate measures leading up to the most drastic methods:
    1. Permission to sink all enemy ships, including enemy passenger steamers, since they are armed and are used as troop transports.

    2. Continuation of methodical mining of British harbors and approaches.

    3. Concentrated attacks on the main enemy ports of entry by the operational Air Force.

    4. These military measures should be supported by setting up an Intelligence and Control Organization in neutral ports, and by exercising the strongest possible political and economic pressure on the neutral countries for the purpose of interrupting their trade with Great Britain.

C. Further possibilities, at present inadvisable:
    1. War according to prize law against Italian, Spanish, Russian, and Japanese merchant ships.

    2. Sinking without warning all neutral ships proved to have contraband for England on board.


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