At the morning session of 14 January 1946, Colonel Harry Phillimore of the British prosecution team began to read out evidence of the individual guilt of Defendant Karl Dönitz.
The Grossadmiral and former Supreme Commander of the German navy was charged with criminal conspiracy and Nazi seizure of power, aggression against Norway, Denmark, and Poland. Moreover, he was accused of war crimes of destroying merchant and passenger ships, including those belonging to neutral countries.
In December 1939 Dönitz issued War Order No. 154 to use the tactics of the unrestricted submarine warfare. The order instructed to abstain from rescuing crews and passengers from ships attacked by submarines. British prosecutor Phillimore read out to the Tribunal an extract from the document:
"Paragraph e) Do pot pick up men or take them with you. Do not worry about the merchant ship's boats. Weather conditions and distance from land play no part. Have a care only for your own ship and strive only to attain your next success as soon as possible. We must be harsh in this war. The enemy began the war in order to destroy us, so nothing else matters".
Grossadmiral Dönitz's call contradicts the second international London Naval Treaty which Germany signed in 1936. The rules laid down were as follows:
"(1) In action with regard to merchant ships, submarines must conform to the rules of international law to which surface vessels are subjected".
"(2) In particular, except in the case of persistent refusal to stop on being summoned or of active resistance to visit and search, a war ship, whether surface vessel or submarine, may not sink or render incapable of navigation a merchant vessel without having first placed passengers, crew, and ships' papers in a place of safety. For this purpose, the ship's boats are not regarded as a place of safety unless the safety of the passengers and crew is assured in the existing sea and weather conditions by the proximity of land or the presence of another vessel which is in a position to take them on board".