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Commander in Chief of the Kriegsmarine

Minutes of Conferences at the Führer Headquarters on 19 August 1943.


17 AUGUST 1943.

The Admiral at the Führer Headquarters reports that Kapitän zur See von Kamptz was at the Führer Headquarters on 16 August. He accompanied General Student who had been called to see the Führer. They flew hack to Rome on 17 August.

In the evening, the Commander of the German Naval Command in Italy, Konteradmiral Meendsen-Bohlken, called up the Chief of Seekriegsleitung, Operations Division [Konteradmiral Wagner], and reported the following in a carefully disguised manner: He has very grave doubts concerning the new assignments given to Kapitän zur See von Kamptz. He is especially skeptical about the consequences. Previously made plans, he felt, had a good chance of being successful, but what is being attempted now is doomed to failure. He requests an audience before final decisions are made.

The Chief of Seekriegsleitung, Operations Division, called the Admiral at the Führer Headquarters. He found out that the matter to which von Meendsen-Bohlken apparently referred is not scheduled to come up for decision immediately. Thus action may be postponed until the Commander in Chief, Navy, goes to the Führer Headquarters. His visit is planned for the immediate future.

Further information cannot be gained at this time since telephone conversations or even written messages are out of question. Rumor now has it that Mussolini's hideout is in the area of Sardinia-Corsica.

18 AUGUST 1943.

1030. The Chief of Seekriegsleitung, Operations Division [Konteradmiral Wagner], reports to the Commander in Chief, Navy, in the presence of the Chief of Staff of the Seekriegsleitung [Vizeadmiral Meisel]. The Commander in Chief, Navy, decides that the conferences at Headquarters must take place before any decisions can be reached.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, directs the Admiral at the Führer Headquarters by telephone to present the following request to the Führer at the next conference on the war situation: Coastal and anti-aircraft batteries on the Calabria side of the Strait of Messina must be left intact until the naval forces which are to be transferred to the eastern Mediterranean have passed through the Strait of Messina (after execution or rescission of operation "Eiche").

1600. The Chief of Seekriegsleitung, Operations Division, instructs Konteradmiral Meendsen-Bohlken of the above decision by the Commander in Chief, Navy.

19 AUGUST 1943.

0930. Departure for the Führer Headquarters. The following accompanied the Commander in Chief, Navy: the Chief of Seekriegtsleitung, Operations Division, Kapitän zur See Rehm (for a planned conference concerning mines with the Commander in Chief, Luftwaffe: this conference was later cancelled because of the sudden death of the Chief of the General Staff of the Luftwaffe, Generaloberst Jeschonnek.), and an aide.

1230. Report on the Situation. No changes.

Afterwards the Commander in Chief, Navy, has a personal conference with the Führer (see minutes of the Commander in Chief, Navy). Reports from the Admiral at Headquarters reveal the following about developments of operation "Eiche". During one of his visits to Maddalena Kapitän zur See von Kamptz heard persistent rumors that cruisers which arrived at Maddalena some time ago brought the Duce with them. He is now quartered in a villa in Maddalena in the immediate vicinity of the naval air base and is under guard there. Von Kamptz requested an automobile under some pretext and intended to check the veracity of the rumor. The Italian in charge replied that, in view of the presence of the Duce, the only naval car available in Maddalena is being reserved for the exclusive use of the Chief of the Carabinieri. The German Chief of Staff attached to the Italian Admiral in Maddalena is directed to investigate the rumors further. Von Kamptz reported these observations immediately to General Student who in turn boarded a plane with him and flew to the Führer Headquarters.

The Führer ordered that a raid on the villa in Maddalena is to be included in operation "Eiche". Execution of such a raid is considered an easy matter. German ships are constantly steaming in and out of the harbor; that would make possible an inconspicuous transfer of German troops from Corsica and a surprise raid.

No final decision was made in the matter. It will depend on further political developments. In view of this situation the Commander in Chief, Navy, decided that Konteradmiral Meendsen-Bohlken's request of 17 August will not be granted.

1530. Conference between the Commander in Chief, Navy, and General Jodl in the presence of the Admiral at Headquarters and the Chief of Seekriegsleitung, Operations Division.

1. The decisive significance which the holding of the present front has on naval warfare in the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea and thus on warfare in general is extensively discussed in connection with the planned construction of the East Wall. Reference was made to a top secret communication from the Seekriegsleitung Operations Section 2397/43.

2. Situation Italy:

    a. The Führer's attitude remains generally unchanged. The conference of Rommel and Jodl with Roatta and Rossi [on 15 August] took place in an atmosphere completely void of cordiality. There is still no evidence of Italian treason, only certain indications lend themselves to such an interpretation. Therefore we are carrying on as before and pouring Rommel's Army Group into Italy according to plan and without Italian interference. The safety of our forces and our supply lines is ruthlessly assured but without giving the Italians an excuse for an open break. (Direct measures on our part are still being postponed. Operations "Achse" and "Eiche").

    b. The Commander in Chief, Navy, plans to use only 2 submarines in carrying out operation "Eiche" since present conditions still seem unchanged. Other submarines will not be assigned for special duty in the "Eiche" and "Achse" operations, if these should materialize.

    c. La Spezia and Genoa are not yet occupied by German troops since the Italians object to such a move. However, one division is stationed near each of these cities.

    d. The Commander in Chief, Navy, reaffirms his contention that it was a strategic error to evacuate Sicily. German naval forces cannot now be sent East through the Strait of Messina due to the fact that so many ships were required for the evacuation while others are still standing by for the operation "Eiche". General Jodl makes it clear that the OKW is fully aware of this fact.

1830. Conference between the Commander in Chief, Navy, and Ambassador von Mackensen.

Conference of the Chief of Seekriegsleitung, Operations Division, and Kapitän zur See Rehm with Oberst Christian, the Chief of General Staff, Luftwaffe, about questions concerning the joint mine offensive. (For details see files of the Seekriegsleitung Operations Division, Mine Warfare Section.)

2130. Evening report on the Situation.

20 AUGUST 1943.

0900. Return flight to Berlin.

signed: G. Wagner

[Chief of the Seekriegsleitung Operations Division]

Annex 1

Conversations with the Führer on 19 August 1943.

1. The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports to the Führer on his visit of the shipyards at Hamburg. The general feeling of the people is one of depression in spite of their willingness to work. Everybody sees only the many reverses. In view of the impressions I gained from my visit in Hamburg and on the basis of many reports and intelligence I believe it is very urgent that the Führer speak to the people very soon. I consider this to be absolutely necessary in view of the current difficult war situation; the entire German nation longs for it. The Führer says that he intends to speak, but that he must wait until the Italian situation is clarified.

The Commander in Chief, Navy: The questions which the workers in Hamburg asked were typical. They wanted revenge for the air raids and asked: "How well are we prepared for defense against further raids?" I believe that the workers are willing to work but they are beginning to ask themselves what there is to be gained if in future air raids all their work is smashed again. I did not tell the workers when we would start to retaliate or that our defenses would be improved in the near future, and gave as the reason that I would be working into the hands of the enemy if I were to tell them. I believe it is necessary to tell the German people that they must show patience and fortitude, that they cannot always expect to hear when and how conditions will improve, and that they have no right to give up if they are not told these things. The latter would merely confirm the well-established British opinion that they can bear up under the air raids because they can endure hardships while the Germans on the other hand are more like the Italians in this respect. Therefore I believe that we must appeal to German pride and honor without making promises or raising hopes which later cannot be fulfilled.

I believe that the air raids can hardly endanger our essential industries in a material way. I saw machines standing right next to a bomb crater in the machine shops of the Hamburg shipyards. Even though the bomb scored a direct hit on a shop, the machines were absolutely undamaged since the effect of the explosion seems to act not horizontally but vertically. It seems that steel construction with glass roofs is advantageous because the roofs shatter immediately and thus have no concentrating effect. Thus I believe that it is possible and necessary to maintain ship construction in the large western shipyards, in spite of the air raids, insofar as it is necessary that such facilities be located near the water. Only plants that do not require a location near the water should be moved. I thus believe that it is possible on the whole to preserve our armament program but think that the most important thing is to keep up confidence, and with that the will to work, and the spirit of the worker. Therefore, we do not have to succumb to the air raids, but we might if the morale of the worker suffers from them and in consequence our production decreases. I am of the opinion that we now have to inspire strength in the people and I keep telling my officers that this now is our solemn duty toward our soldiers as well as toward the entire German people. In my opinion the greatest danger arises when the intelligentsia starts to utter their opinions in a wise and important manner. These opinions are false most of the time since these people see only part of what is going on and do not have an over-all picture. They do untold harm since they weaken the will to resist. By senseless chatter these people help to bring about the destruction of the very things which are dear to them. Everything should be done to correct this state of of fairs.

The Führer listened very intently to these statements from the Commander in Chief, Navy, and agreed with him. The symptoms of weakness must be eradicated since they strengthen the enemy's will to attack us.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, concluded by saying that he considered it his duty to report his very deep concern to the Führer and that he therefore asked to be heard privately. The Führer thanked him very warmly.

2. The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports on the Metox radiations which may have been responsible for grievous losses. These radiations may explain all the uncanny and unsolved mysteries of the past, such as the enemy avoiding traps set for him, and losses on the open seas while comparatively few U-boats were destroyed during convoy attacks because the Metox was always turned off then. Future experiences will prove whether the assumption is justified that the Metox is responsible for the majority of our losses.

The Commander in Chief, Navy, reports that attacks on convoys in the North Atlantic are scheduled again for the end of September. He hopes that an improvement of the weapons will again enable us to fight but that the struggle will no doubt continue to be a hard one.

The Führer listens with utmost interest to these explanations. He believes that the theory just advanced does account for many baffling facts, such as the ability of the enemy frequently to determine the exact number of submarines in a patrol. With this discovery the Führer believes that a great step forward has been made.

3. Conference with Ambassador von Mackensen: Mackensen expresses his views concerning conditions in Italy. There is dissatisfaction in Fascist circles and confidence in the Duce's direction of the war has vanished. The Fascist Council voted without realizing the consequences. Not even the Duce was aware of conditions. It remained for the King to make the Duce aware of the state of affairs that even his Fascist Party had lost faith in him. Following this the Duce offered his resignation and asked for a guarantee of safety for himself and his family. The King agreed and the Duce then was allegedly placed in protective custody. Mackensen believes that Badoglio had no previous knowledge of the entire affair. He says that the longing for peace is widespread among the Italian people but that the present Government is willing to continue the fight because the impossibility of obtaining peace without making all of Italy a battlefield is realized. Mackensen states that present conditions do not warrant a pessimistic attitude; that the Führer was seeing matters in a more pessimistic manner than, in his opinion, was justified. He could of course offer no proof that he was right and the Führer wrong.

signed: Dönitz

countersigned: Korvettenkapitän Mejer


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