Commander in Chief of the Kriegsmarine
Minutes of the Discussions at the Führer's Headquarters, 1 to 11 August 1943.
30 JULY 1943.
Word is received from Admiral, Führer's Headquarters, that relations with Italy are becoming more strained, since there are further indications that the Italian government is double-crossing us. Nevertheless, operation "Schwarz" is to be deferred, in order to permit pouring as many troops into Italy as possible while cooperation still continues.
31 JULY 1943.
Chief of Seekriegsleitung, Operations Section (Ia), is dispatched to Rome with instructions for [Vizeadmiral] Ruge covering the following points:
2. Operation "Schwarz". It will be the task of the Navy to seize Italian warships and merchant vessels.
3. Methods for guaranteeing availability of fuel for German naval forces and transport facilities. Bases. Supplies from southern France.
4. Measures for instructing and equipping the scattered German marine troops.
5. Transfer of ships to the Aegean.
1 AUGUST 1943.
Early. A teletype message concerning operation "Achse" is received from the Commander in Chief, Wehrmacht.
0930. Departure from Tempelhof.
1130. Arrival at Headquarters.
1230. At a conference with the Führer, information is obtained from Engineer Dessauer concerning the Duce's possible whereabouts. Thereafter the order is issued to the Navy, under Ruge, and the Luftwaffe, under Student, to proceed with operation "Eiche" [to liberate Mussolini]. This order is handed to General Student, who leaves 2 August at 0700. A copy of the order goes to General Jodl.
Movement of German troops into northern Italy continues. The Chief of Seekriegsleitung, Operations Section (Ia), arrives in Berlin in the evening.
2 AUGUST 1943.
1000. The Chief of Seekriegsleitung, Operations Section (Ia), arrives at Headquarters. He reports on his trip to Rome (see report). The main points covered are as follows:
2. Italian warships can be seized only with the help of strong military forces (about one division each will be needed in Spezia and Taranto). No final decision has as yet been reached by Kesselring.
3. Stationing our submarines off Spezia involves grave risk of compromise.
4. The Supermarina is becoming increasingly mistrustful. The transfer of S-boats to Cotrone and Taranto, for example, has made the Supermarina suspicious, since this move was evidently not sufficiently justified by Ruge on military grounds.
5. The great risks involved in the passage of steamers through the Straits of Messina.
6. The general impression is that the various German offices understand the task at hand. They are, however, somewhat overwhelmed by the difficulties that must be dealt with and overcome by the weak and widely scattered units of the German Navy in the event of operation "Achse".
2. The terrific destruction in Hamburg [Operation Gomorrah] and its effect on the war economy are discussed. The Führer remarks that, in spite of the many devastating attacks on the Ruhr, production there has been cut by only 8%. The workers in the Ruhr area have helped themselves in a remarkable manner by building shelters for their families. Miners are, of course, particularly tough. The Commander in Chief, Navy asserts: No matter how painful the destruction is in Hamburg, we must strive to keep the factories going by providing housing for the workers.
3.. The Führer continues: The pursuit plane and anti-aircraft program is functioning well. However, defensive operations alone are not enough. We must resume the offensive. However, we cannot do this as long as the resulting losses are too great as is the case, for example, in submarine warfare at the present time.
4. The present predicament can be overcome only if we bear all hardships and do everything humanly possible to keep armament production going.
5. In connection with the situation in the Bay of Biscay, the Führer remarks that Spain was ready to enter the war in 1940, and that only Italy's jealousy kept her from actually doing so.
2000. Arrival of Konteradmiral Meendsen-Bohlken. He receives instructions from the Chief of Seekriegsleitung, Operations Division [Konteradmiral Wagner], and then from the Commander in Chief, Navy, who tells him to have Vizeadmiral Ruge report at once on the following points:
b. to what extent the Army will have to help.
c. what further provisions must be made by the Seekriegsleitung for this task.
2. Provisions for the seizure of merchant vessels. Extent to which the anti-aircraft units afloat have been informed.
3. Extent to which the naval units on land have been informed.
4. Preparations made to ensure the proper employment of German naval forces. Safeguarding of certain bases. Movement of fuel, provisions and munitions supplies from southern France.
5. Possibilities and intentions of transferring ships to the Aegean.
6. Preparations made for operation "Eiche", including provisions for taking over the body, if necessary.
In the afternoon, Aviation-Engineer Desaauer has a conference with the Führer. He reports that a column of cars, heavily guarded by Carabinieri, was sighted but the Duce himself was not seen. During the evening session, the order is given to immediately bring Petty Officer Laurich unobtrusively from Gaeta to Headquarters via Berlin. He was mentioned by Dessauer as an additional witness. Furthermore, it is directed that operation "Eiche" be limited to Ventolene Island. Orders are sent out accordingly.
3 AUGUST 1943.
1230. At the Führer conference General Jodl reports that the Italians have completely ceased resistance to our measures. During the discussion of the possible reasons for this, the Führer advances the theory that they may just be biding their time in order to come to terms with the Anglo-Saxons before an open break with Germany. Jodl and the Commander in Chief, Navy, suggest that the Italians may feel helpless and therefore want to rely more on us again. It remains to be seen what the actual situation is. Operations "Achse", "Eiche" and "Schwarz" are not to be undertaken yet.
1500. The Commander in Chief, Navy, visits the Führer once more and makes the suggestion that readiness for operation "Eiche" be put on 48 hours notice. He requests permission to leave for Berlin. The Führer agrees as far as Operation "Eiche" is concerned. In view of the fact that the Commander in Chief, Navy, can be recalled to Headquarters within a few hours, the Führer reluctantly consents to his departure.
1615. Departure from Führer Headquarters for Berlin.
1835. Arrival at Tempelhof.
In the afternoon a message is received from Vizeadmiral Ruge that everything will be ready for operation "Eiche" by August 6. Whether everything can be ready by the 4th, will be apparent only by the evening of the 3rd.
4 AUGUST 1943.
Forenoon. A long-distance call is received from the Admiral at the Führer's Headquarters. The Führer requests the Commander in Chief, Navy, to reduce the time of preparation for the operation "Eiche" to 24 hours or to as short a period as possible. A corresponding inquiry is sent by wire to the Admiral, German Naval Command, Italy (1 Skl 2229/43 gkdos Chefs).
1000. Kapitän zur See Bramesfeld who is the Chief of Staff, German Naval Command, Italy, makes his report to the Commander in Chief, Navy. Konteradmiral Meendsen-Bohlken is also present. The following points come up for discussion:
2. Ships required for these operations: The Commander in Chief, Navy, decides that half of the German tonnage in the Tyrrhenian Sea, exclusive of small vessels, is to be transferred to the Aegian Sea. Vizeadmiral Ruge is given orders to report which ships are to be released and how their transfer is to be accomplished.
3. Operation "Achse".
b. The seizure of the Italian ports and warships must be carried out by Armed forces, but the Navy will provide "pilots".
c. It will be the task of the specially assigned anti-aircraft detachments to safeguard the ships. These detachments should therefore be reinforced insofar as possible. Ships stationed in the harbors without such German detachments on board must be seized at the time the respective harbors are taken over.
5 AUGUST 1943.
The Admiral at the Führer's Headquarters reports that, according to additional information from the Reichsführer SS [Himmler], only the island Ventolene needs to be considered for operation "Eiche". A wire from Vizeadmiral Ruge states that a minimum of 48 hours is required for the preparation of "Eiche" if armed forces are to carry on their regular assignments to a limited extent.
Afternoon. After reporting this to the Führer, the Admiral at the Führer's Headquarters transmits the former's approval.
6 AUGUST 1943.
1345. The Admiral at the Führer's Headquarters reports that the Reichsführer SS has sent information that the Italians are holding a destroyer in readiness for removal of the "valuable object" in case of an emergency. The destroyer is said to be stationed at Gaeta. The Führer wishes to have the Commander in Chief, Navy, informed at once asking him to re-examine the distribution of the Italian destroyers. Preventive measures must be taken at once; he suggests the use of submarines.
1400. The Admiral at the Führer's Headquarters telephones that the Führer has no objection to a blockade of Ventolene harbor by submarines. After consultation, the Commander in Chief, Navy, decides to send the following reply: An inconspicuous blockade of the harbor, even by submarine, is impossible since it would have to stand right off the harbor entrance. Likewise, he knows of no inconspicuous means with which to render the destroyer at its present anchorage harmless. The Commander in Chief, Navy, therefore advises against a blockade, not because of its impossibility, but in order to prevent our intentions from being recognized prematurely. If the Italians become aware of our plans, they will certainly remove the "valuable object" secretly, e.g. by motorboat, to a different place. The only possible military solution exists in forestalling the Italians, but such a step will have serious consequences. It is not within the province of the Commander in Chief, Navy, to make decisions in such matters.
1630. The above report is forwarded to the Admiral at the Führer's Headquarters.
1830. Answer from the Admiral at the Führer's Headquarters: "The Führer will reconsider the matter."
A telegraphic message from Admiral de Courten informing us of his intention to take the offensive with his cruisers and to reinforce the troops on the islands off Naples and North of it, is transmitted to the Admiral at the Führer's Headquarters. The Commander in Chief, Navy, comments that if Admiral de Courten actually carries out the contemplated offensive, he would interpret this as proof of a sincere desire for cooperation.
8 AUGUST 1943.
Laurich, PO/2c, reports to the Commander in Chief, Navy, who decides that Laurich shall fly with him the next day to the Führer's Headquarters. He is put under oath to observe absolute secrecy. For his report, consult the minutes.
9 AUGUST 1943.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, leaves for the Führer's Headquarters accompanied by the Chief of Seekriegsleitung, Operations Division [Konteradmiral Wagner], and the Aide of the Commander in Chief, Navy.
1330. A report was made on the general war situation, which was followed by a discussion of the situation in Italy. The entry of our troops into Italy has been marked by an ever increasing number of incidents still of minor importance. Distrust is mounting. The Führer is convinced that both the King of Italy and the Badoglio Government are planning treachery. He is struck by the increased activity of the Italian Navy, e.g. their success at Gibraltar [Italian manned torpedoes sank 3 merchantmen on 3 August], sorties of their cruisers, and new mine laying operations. The Commander in Chief, Navy, believes that the Italian Navy is probably not informed about any political intrigues and is cooperating with us in good faith. He holds this opinion because an influential group of officers has accused the former High Command of inactivity. The Führer gives orders that General Student and Kapitän zur See von Kamptz be called at once to the Führer's Headquarters.
The Commander in Chief, Navy reports to a select few about the situation of the submarine warfare. Details are given in the notes of the Admiral at the Führer's Headquarters.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, has breakfast with the Führer and the Ministers Dr. Goebbels and von Ribbentrop. At supper the same group is present. (Notes by the Commander in Chief, Navy.)
Afternoon. Conference of the Chief of Seekriegsleitung, Operations Division, with Kapitän zur See Junge.
2230. After the general war situation has been discussed, Laurich, PO/2c, makes his report before a select few. Present are besides the Führer, the Commander in Chief, Navy, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Reichsmarschall, the Reichsführer SS, Field Marshal Keitel, Ambassador Hevel, the Admiral at the Führer's Headquarters, the Chief of Seekriegsleitung, Operations Division, and Kapitän zur See von Puttkamer. For his statements see the Minutes. The Führer dismisses him with the words "Well done, my boy". Then follows a long discussion concerning the operation "Eiche" and Italy.
Result of the conference: An early execution of the operation "Eiche" appears necessary. The general conviction is that Mussolini is on San Stefano. Therefore the action will be confined to this island. An aerial photograph shows that the only possible access to the island, by means of steps and a road cut into the rocks, can easily be secured. The rest of the coast is practically inaccessible because of cliffs over 150 feet high. The question, whether the use of parachutists is preferable to a landing along the coast, is debated at length. The Commander in Chief, Navy, considers a sea landing, at an unguarded spot at night, the only possibility that promises success. An alternative, in case the landing party cannot get through, the use of parachutists and support by the Luftwaffe might be planned. The Führer points out the necessity of covering the operation with several submarines. Under given circumstances it may become necessary to deny, at least temporarily, any part played by the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe in order to give the impression that the deed was accomplished by local Fascists.
Thereupon the Führer expresses his views on the Italian situation in detail. He calls it shameful the way the Duce has been treated after he had directed the destinies of Italy for 20 years and had been hailed by all of Italy during this time. He especially criticizes the attitude of the King and speaks about the lack of responsibility among many rulers who rely upon unscrupulous historians to touch up their record and who therefore fail to recognize their accountability before history. The Führer feels the predicament of the Duce all the more due to the close ties of friendship which exist between them.
The Führer still considers the Italian Government as being extremely unreliable and, on the basis of recent events, believes it capable of most any kind of treason.
10 AUGUST 1943.
1230. During the discussion of the general war situation, General Jodl proposes the evacuation of Sicily. He is convinced that it cannot he held because of insufficient manpower and increasing difficulties with supplies. These deficiencies will increase when traffic in Italy comes to a complete standstill as a result of the operations "Eiche" and "Achse". We can no longer fight on the islands.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, objects very strongly to this proposal because, in doing so, we would voluntarily abandon an extremely important position. We will thereby release strong enemy forces for further thrusts in the direction of the main line of attack: southern Italy - Balkan Peninsula. The southern part of Calabria and Apulia will then likewise become untenable. Furthermore the possibility of being cut off by an enemy landing in central Italy remains, so that little is gained by an evacuation of Sicily, but much would be lost which can never be recovered. Defense of the bridgehead Sicily is still justifiable on the basis of current political events.
The Führer is of the opinion that the Commander in Chief, Navy, would doubtlessly be right if Italy had a reliable government. However, this is not so. The pro and con is discussed at great length but no decision is reached.
The Führer suggests during the evening of 9 August that aerial photographs of St. Stefano should be made. Since it is doubtful whether the Chief of the OKW has given the necessary order, Oberst Christian is asked to request the Chief of General Staff of the Luftwaffe [Generaloberst Jeschonnek] to take the necessary steps.
11 AUGUST 1943.
1230. After reviewing the general war situation, the Italian problem is discussed again at great length. The Führer states: The Italians will not show their true colors until the presumed trip of Grandi to Lisbon or the meeting of Churchill and Roosevelt in Canada has produced results. The Italians are going ahead with their negotiations at full speed. They will be taken in by any promise of the Anglo-Saxons if only the continued rule of the Royal House is guaranteed. Their negotiations are treasonable. They go along with us in order to gain time. The Italian Army cannot be used in combat against the Allies. In contrast to former occasions, they have not appealed to us for military support in connection with the meeting at Tarvisio, but remained completely inactive. During our last meeting at the station, the Duce suddenly remarked: "I don't know how my generals reason, where they want to defend Italy and why they keep such strong forces in northern Italy!"
On the other hand it is quite conceivable that they themselves are becoming frightened since they realize they face two great dangers: capitulation or communism. The one and only point that speaks against treason is the fact that the Crown Prince has sent his children to northwestern upper Italy. However, if the Government remains on our side, there exists the danger of an uprising among the people.
General Jodl still maintains that Sicily must be abandoned because the German forces in southern Italy must be concentrated in view of the danger of an attack near Naples. The Commander in Chief, Navy, is in favor of our holding on to Sicily since we don't know yet
b. when they might do it,
c. whether it would then be possible to return our troops even from southern Italy, in which case it would be better to have our men in Sicily.
The Führer believes that the enemy will not attack the Italian mainland if Italy remains loyal, but possibly Sardinia. However his intuition tells him that Italy is planning treason. Field Marshal Rommel suggests frank negotiations, the removal of German divisions from the Rome area in order to ease the pressure on the Italians, and the proposal of a common defense plan, including Sicily. In this manner they will be forced to commit themselves.
The Commander in Chief, Navy believes that we ought not to show our hand sooner than necessary in order that we may utilize the time to best advantage before a political decision is reached. The Führer replies that everything so far indicates treason. Clarification of the situation now becomes imperative. Rommel shall negotiate.
Subsequently the Führer discusses indications which point to growing differences between the Anglo-Saxons and the Russians: the recall of Maisky and Litvinoff; the meeting of Churchill and Roosevelt without Stalin. The Anglo-Saxons do not wish to see Russia in Finland nor, under any circumstances, to have Russia improve her sea communications with the Atlantic in the North; Poland is to be restored; the Russians shall not come near the Bosporus and shall be kept out of the Balkans as well as Iran and Iraq. These reasons are enough to nettle Stalin.
1445. The Commander in Chief, Navy, has breakfast with the Führer together with von Ribbentrop, Himmler, Rommel, and Jodl.
1300. Kapitän zur See von Kamptz arrives. During the afternoon he is brought up to date on the discussions concerning the operation "Eiche" and reports on his own preparations which seem to promise success for the operation. Contrary to previous deliberations, he is of the opinion that the removal of the "valuable object" by submarine takes too much time and is therefore dangerous; he proposes transportation by airplane.
2045. The Commander in Chief, Navy, has supper with the Führer.
2130. Discussion of the general war situation.
a. An aerial photograph of St. Stefano is presented. It gives a clear picture of many important details on the island.
b. The Rommel-Jodl defense plan for Italy which is to be used as a basis for discussions with Italian leaders and which is intended to clarify the situation, is presented. This plan calls for continued resistance in Sicily, the southern tip of Calabria and Apulia, as well as in several defensive positions strung across the island. The northernmost and main defensive position is to be at the southern slope of the Apennine Mountains. Protection against landings is to be given by motorized reserve troops. The Führer agrees. In regard to Sicily and the southern tip of Italy he makes no definite decision but wishes to have the various solutions considered as possible choices. The military discussions shall be started immediately and shall be carried out by Rommel and Jodl.
c. Following the review of the general war situation details of the operation "Eiche" are discussed. Present are: the Führer, the Commander in Chief, Navy, Himmler, Ribbentrop, Jodl, Student, Hevel, Wagner, von Kamptz, von Puttkamer, Scherf. As a result, the following orders are given:
2. The operation is to be limited to St. Stefano. Only in case M. [Mussolini] is not found there and his actual whereabouts have become known, will a new action be undertaken immediately by parachutists against the new site. Participation of the naval forces will have to be improvised accordingly. For this purpose special code words are given for Ventolene and Ponza.
3. Regardless of other assignments, one anti-aircraft corvette and possibly more minesweepers and S-boats are to be added to the naval forces already agreed upon in order to have sufficient transportation for parachutists and liberated fascists.
4. From 100 to 200 parachutists are to jump from troop-carrying gliders and small gliders and to land soon after dawn. These will be followed by additional forces coming in from the sea. If necessary, the way for the troops landed from the sea must be cleared by the parachutists.
5. The "Würzburg" radar station in Ventolene is to be given secret orders not to take radar-bearings of airplanes on this day. Part of the crew is therefore to be relieved by men who have received the new instructions. The relieved men shall be questioned about St. Stefano, particularly about cables, wireless station, other observations made, and rumors among the population. It may be advisable to send the commanding officer of the 1st Parachute Regiment in anti-aircraft uniform to enable him to survey the location.
6. The most important liberated men shall be flown by seaplane to Pratica, near Ostia, and from there to Germany by land-based plane. Other liberated men are to be brought to southern France by submarine as quickly as possible.
7. In order to make all the facilities of the 2nd Air Force available to General Student without revealing the secret to more persons, he will be charged with the duties of Richthofen who during that time will be called to the Führer's Headquarters for report.
8. The Führer gives some hints as to his future plans.
Kapitän zur See von Kamptz is given orders to convey point 3 as an order of the Commander in Chief, Navy, to the Admiral, German Naval Command, Italy.
[Chief of the Seekriegsleitung Operations Division]
Annex 1Conversations with the Führer at the Führer's Headquarters between 9 and 11 August 1943.
The Führer: We shall overcome the air menace by employing new methods of defense and by expanding our anti-aircraft and fighter defenses. This we must do, for the people are under a severe strain. Those who are not needed in the cities for war work must get out of the cities. Small houses will be built in very large numbers. They are to have a bedroom for the parents, another one for the children with double-decker bunks, and a place for cooking. We shall succeed in keeping up our armament program; the new defensive weapons which technology is providing will make the air raids too costly and will cause them to be discontinued. The present situation is perilous and the coming months will bring hardships, however there are many instances in history, when an unexpected way out presented itself in the midst of a difficult situation such as ours. As our difficulties mount, the conflicting objectives of the Allies increase and become more evident. Maisky and Litvinov have been recalled unexpectedly. The war aims of Moscow and the German Committee have caused the British to sit up and listen and they are commented upon uneasily by responsible British newspapers. There is danger of an expansion of Russian power into the heart of Europe. I have no doubt whatsoever that the Anglo-Saxons are still ruthlessly bent upon our annihilation. Actually the British have maneuvered themselves into an awkward position. They entered the war in order to preserve the "balance of power" in Europe. Meanwhile Russia has awakened and, from the viewpoint of technological and material advancement, developed into a great power, which now constitutes much more of a menace than in the past. Only if all of Europe is united under a strong central power, can there be any security for Europe from now on. Small sovereign states no longer have a right to exist. In the future, wars cannot be fought without strong air forces. Small countries are in no position to maintain such forces. That means that in the future the challenge of the East can be met only by a Europe united under German leadership. This will be to the advantage of Britain also.
The Commander in Chief, Navy, is of the opinion that the British must hold themselves in readiness in the eastern Mediterranean against a possible Russian thrust in the direction of the Balkans. In that area the interests of Britain and Russia clash sharply. This war has strongly impressed England with the importance of the Mediterranean to her existence. In the future she will wish to make the sea route through the Mediterranean fully secure; under no conditions will she give up Sicily and North Africa again, and under no conditions will she tolerate that the Russians get a foothold in the Dardanelles.
The Führer agrees. The Russians are aware of this opposition. Britain, furthermore, is interested in seeing Finland and the Baltic countries restored. All this shows quite clearly the discrepancies between the war aims of Britain and Russia. In North Africa, in turn, Britain and America do not see eye to eye. Britain will want to keep North Africa. America does not approve of that. Even though today the Anglo-Saxons are still determined to annihilate us, favorable political developments are by no means impossible in the future.
The Commander in Chief, Navy: As far as we are concerned, everything will depend on our holding out stubbornly. We are much better off with regard to food than we were in 1918. In addition, we have the great psychological asset of the unity of the German people. Being our most precious possession, this unity must be maintained religiously. I believe that there are numerous groups among the German people who lack stamina and easily become critical without being able to improve conditions or even to comprehend them fully.
The Führer: It is hardly possible for me to speak to the German people now. I am not in a position to express my views on the Italian question. If I should do so in an approving manner, I would lend support to the circles who are even now preparing for treachery. Nor can I speak out against the present Government of Italy, for well-known military reasons. However, I cannot ignore the problem of Italy either, since that would be interpreted as a sign of internal and external weakness. As soon as the Italian question has been clarified one way or the other, I shall be in a much better position to address the German people.
As to the food situation, Backe considers it safe to announce to the public even at this early moment that there will be more bread in the future, and perhaps more fat also. Since Backe has always been very conservative in his estimates, I see no reason why I should not publicize that now.
The Commander in Chief, Navy: I do not believe for a moment that the British intend to right in Europe on a wide front. The British shrink from heavy losses. They will look for strategic bases, possibly Norway, or for air bases.
The Führer: Yes, and they are still facing the war with Japan. Besides, the war is not very popular in the U.S.A. and heavy losses will not make it any more popular. We just have to gather all our faith and all our strength and act.
Note by the Commander in Chief, Navy: The enormous strength which the Führer radiates, his unwavering confidence, and his far-sighted appraisal of the Italian situation have made it very clear in these days that we are all very insignificant in comparison with the Führer, and that our knowledge and the picture we get from our limited vantage are fragmentary. Anyone who believes that he can do better than the Führer is silly.
countersigned: Korvettenkapitän Meyer
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