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Nuremberg Trial Defendants:
Erich Raeder


Nuremberg Defendants: Table of Contents | Hermann Goering | Hans Frank


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A. POSITIONS HELD BY RAEDER.

Erich Raeder was born in 1876 and joined the German Navy in 1896. By 1915 he had become commander of the Cruiser Koeln. In 1928 he became an admiral, Chief of Naval Command, and head of the German Navy. In 1935 he became Commander-in- Chief of the Navy. In 1936 he became General Admiral, a creation of Hitler's, on his forty-seventh birthday. In 1937 he received the golden badge of honor of the Nazi Party. In 1938 he became a member of the Secret Cabinet Council. In 1939 he was made Grand Admiral, a rank created by Hitler, who presented Raeder with a marshal's baton. In 1943 he became Admiral Inspector of the German Navy, which was a kind of retirement into oblivion, since after January 1943 Doenitz was the effective commander of the German Navy. (2888-PS)

B. RAEDER'S PART IN THE CONSPIRACY TO PLAN AND WAGE WARS OF AGGRESSION

During the years of Raeder's command of the German Navy, from 1928 to 1943, he played a vital role in building up the Navy as an instrument of war, to implement the Nazis' general plan of aggression.

(1) Concealed rearmament in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. In successive and secret steps, the small Navy permitted to Germany under the Treaty of Versailles was enormously expanded under the guidance of Raeder.

The story of Germany's secret rearmament in violation of the Treaty of Versailles is told in a history of the fight of the German Navy against Versailles, 1919 to 1935, which was published secretly by the German Admiralty in 1937 (C-156). This history shows that before the Nazis came to power the German Admiralty was deceiving not only the governments of other countries, but its own legislature and at one stage its own government, regarding the secret measures of rearmament ranging from experimental U-Boat an E-Boat building to the creation of secret intelligence and finance organizations. Raeder's role in these developments are described as follows:

"The Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, Admiral Raeder, had received hereby a far-reaching independence in the building and development of the Navy. This was only hampered insofar as the previous concealment of rearmament had to be continued in consideration of the Versailles Treaty." (C-156)

An illustration of Raeder's concealment of rearmament is contained in his statement that:

"In view of Germany's treaty obligations and the disarmament conference, steps must be taken to prevent the first E-boat Half-Flotilla from appearing openly as a formation of torpedo-carrying boats, as it was not intended to count these E-boats against the number of torpedo-carrying boats allowed them." (C-141)

It appears that even in 1930 the intention ultimately to attack Poland was already current in German military circles. An extract from the History of War Organization and of the Scheme for Mobilization (C-135) which is headed "All 850/38" suggesting that the document was written in 1938, reads:

"Since under the Treaty of Versailles all preparations for mobilization were forbidden, these were at first confined to a very small body of collaborators and were at first only of a theoretical nature. Nevertheless, there existed at that time an 'Establishment Order' and 'Instructions for Establishment,' the forerunners of the present-day scheme for Mobilization.

"An 'establishment organization' and 'adaptable instructions for establishment' were drawn up for each A-year, the cover name for a mobilization year.

"As stated, the 'Establishment Organizations' of that time were to be judged purely theoretically, for they had no positive basis in the form of men and materials. They provided, nevertheless, a valuable foundation for the establishment of a War Organization as our ultimate aim."

*******

"The crises between Germany and Poland, which were becoming increasingly acute, compelled us, instead of making theoretical preparations for war, to prepare in a practical manner for a purely German-Polish conflict.

"The strategic idea of a rapid forcing of the Polish base of Gdynia was made a basis, and the fleet on active service was to be reinforced by the auxiliary forces which would be indispensable to attain this strategic end, and the essential coastal and flak batteries, especially those in Pillau and Swinemuende were to be taken over. Thus in 1930 the Reinforcement Plan was evolved." (C-135)

The extract further shows that Hitler had made a clear political request to build up for him in five years, that is, by April 1938, armed forces which he could place in the balance as an instrument of political power. (C-135)

The Nazi seizure of power in 1933 was a signal to Raeder to go full speed ahead on rearmament. In June 1934 Raeder told Hitler that the German fleet must be developed to oppose England, and that therefore from 1936 on, the big ships must be armed with big guns to match the British "King George" class of battleship. Raeder also went along with Hitler's demand that the construction of U-Boats should be kept completely secret, especially in view of the Saar plebiscite (C-189). In November 1934 Raeder had a further talk with Hitler on the financing naval rearmament, and on that occasion Hitler told him that in case of need he would get Doctor Ley to put 120,000,000 to 160,000,000 RM. from the Labor Front at the disposal of the Navy. (C-190)

Another example of the deceit used by Raeder in building up the German Navy is the fact that the true displacement of certain German battleships exceeded by twenty percent the displacement which the Nazis had reported to the British (C- 23). In similar vein, it was ordered that auxiliary cruisers, which were being secretly constructed, should be referred to as "transport ships O." (C-166)

 

The support given by the German Navy to the German Armament Industry illustrates Raeder's concern with the broader aspects of Nazi policy and of the close link between Nazi politicians, German Service Chiefs, and German armament manufacturers. (C-29)

A commentary on post-1939 naval rearmament is contained in a letter from Raeder to the German Navy, dated 11 June 1940. This letter was given extensive distribution; in fact there is provision in the distribution list for 467 copies. This letter of Raeder which is marked with both self- justification and apology, reads:

"The most outstanding of the numerous subjects of discussion in the Officer Corps are the Torpedo position and the problem whether the naval building program, up to Autumn 1939, envisaged the possibility of the outbreak of war as early as 1939, or whether the emphasis ought not to have been laid, from the first, on the construction of U-boats.

"If the opinion is voiced in the Officer Corps that the entire naval building program has been wrongly directed, and that, from the first, the emphasis should have been on the U-boat weapon and, after its consolidation, on the large ships, I must emphasize the following matters:

"The building up of the Fleet was directed according to the political demands, which were decided by the Fuehrer. The Fuehrer hoped, until the last moment, to be able to put off the threatening conflict with England until 1944-45. At that time the Navy would have had available a fleet with a powerful U-boat superiority and a much more favorable ratio as regards strength in all other types of ships, particularly those designed for warfare on the high seas.

"The development of events forced the Navy, contrary to the expectation even of the Fuehrer, into a war, which it had to accept while still in the initial stage of its rearmament. The result is that those who represent the opinion that the emphasis should have been laid, from the start, on the building of the U-boat arm, appear to be right. I leave undiscussed, how far this development, quite apart from difficulties of personnel, training and dockyards, could have been appreciably improved in any way in view of the political limits of the Anglo-German Naval Treaty. I leave also undiscussed, how the early and necessary creation of an effective Air Force slowed down the desirable development of the other branches of the forces. I indicate, however, with pride the admirable and, in spite of the political restraints in the years of the Weimar Republic, far-reaching preparation for U- boat construction, which made the immensely rapid construction of the U-boat arm, both as regards equipment and personnel, possible immediately after the assumption of power." (C-155)

This letter shows no trace of reluctance in cooperating with the Nazi program. On the contrary, it is evident that Raeder welcomed and became one of the pillars of the Nazi power.

(2) Conversion of the Navy into a tool of the Nazi conspiracy. Raeder, more than anyone else, was responsible for securing the unquestioned allegiance of the German Navy to the Nazi movement -- an allegiance which Doenitz was to make even more firm and fanatical.

Raeder's approval of Hitler was shown particularly clearly on 2 August 1934, the day of Hindenburg's death, when Raeder and all the men under him swore a new oath of loyalty with considerable ceremony, this time to Adolf Hitler and no longer to the Fatherland (D-481). The new oath ran as follows:

"I swear this holy oath by God that I will implicitly obey the Leader of the German Reich and people, Adolf Hitler the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and that, as a brave soldier, I will be willing to stake my life at any time for this oath." (D-481)

For his fatherland, Raeder substituted the Fuehrer.

There is no need to elaborate upon the step by which the German Navy was progressively drawn into the closest alliance with the Nazi Party. The facts of history -- such as the incorporation of the swastika into the ensign under which the German Fleet sailed, and the wearing of the swastika on the uniform of naval officers and men -- these facts speak for themselves.

The Nazis, for their part, were not ungrateful for Raeder's obeisance and collaboration. His services in rebuilding the German Navy were widely recognized by Nazi propagandists and by the Nazi press. On his 66th birthday, the Chief Party Organ, the "Voelkischer Beobachter," published a special article about him, which summed up Raeder's contribution to Nazi development:

"It was to Raeder's credit to have already built up by that time a powerful striking force from the numerically small fleet, despite the fetters of Versailles.

"With the assumption of power through National Socialism began, too, the most fruitful period in the reconstruction of the German Fleet.

"The Fuehrer openly expressed his recognition of Raeder's faithful services and unstinted cooperation, by appointing him General Admiral on 20 April 1936"

*******

"As a soldier and a seaman, the General-Admiral has proved himself to be the Fuehrer's first and foremost naval collaborator." (D-448)

(3) Raeder's political activities and responsibilities. Raeder's personal part in the Nazi conspiracy arises from the fact that, from the time of the Nazi seizure of power, he became increasingly involved in responsibility for the general policies of the Nazi State.

Long before he was promoted to General-Admiral in 1936, he had become a member of the secret Reich Defense Council, joining it when it was founded, on 4 April 1933. Thus, at an early date, he was involved, both militarily and politically, in the Nazi conspiracy. These facts are contained in a document which contains the classic Nazi directive:

"Matters communicated orally cannot be proven; they can be denied by us in Geneva." (EC-177)

On 4 February 1938, Raeder was appointed to be a member of a newly formed Secret Advisory Council for Foreign Affairs (2031-PS).

Three weeks later, a decree of Hitler's stated that as well as being equal in rank with a Cabinet Minister, Raeder was also to take part in the sessions of the Cabinet (2098-PS). It is thus clear that Raeder's responsibility for the political decisions of the Nazi State was steadily developed from 1933 to 1938, and that in the course of time he had become a member of all the main political advisory bodies. He was a member of the inner councils of the conspirators.

As an illustration, Raeder was present at two of the key meetings at which Hitler openly declared his intention of attacking neighboring countries. The first of these was Hitler's conference at the Reichs Chancellory on 5 November 1937, concerning matters which were said to be too important to discuss in the larger circle of the Reich Cabinet. The minutes of this meeting establish conclusively that the Nazis premeditated their crimes against peace (386-PS). The second meeting which Raeder attended was Hitler's conference on 23 May 1939 (L-79). This was the conference at which Hitler confirmed his intention to make a deliberate attack upon Poland at the first opportunity, well knowing that this must cause widespread war in Europe.

In addition to those two key conferences, Raeder was also present at many others, where he placed his knowledge and professional skill at the service of the Nazi war machine. Raeder's promotion of the military planning and preparation for the Polish campaign is discussed in Section 8 of Chapter IX.

 

(4) The "Athenia Case". Once the war was underway, Raeder also showed himself to be a master of one of the conspirators' favorite techniques -- deceit on the grand scale. His handling of the case of the "Athenia" is a case in point.

The "Athenia" was a passenger liner which was sunk in the evening of 3 September 1939, when she was outward bound to America. About one hundred lives were lost.

On 23 October 1939, the Nazi Party paper, the "Voelkischer Beobachter," published in screaming headlines the story, "Churchill sank the Athenia" (3260-PS). The scale on which this deliberate lie was perpetrated is indicated by the rest of the "Voelkischer Beobachter" for that day; on the front page, with large red underlining, were the words: "Now we indict Churchill" (3260-PS). An extract from the third page of this issue of the "Voelkischer Beobachter" refers to photograph of the ship and reads as follows:

"Churchill sank the 'Athenia'. The above picture shows the proud 'Athenia', the ocean giant, which was sunk by Churchill's crime. One can clearly see the big radio equipment on board the ship. But nowhere was an SOS heard from the ship. Why was the 'Athenia' silent? Because her captain was not allowed to tell the world anything. He very prudently refrained from telling the world that Winston Churchill attempted to sink the ship, through the explosion of an infernal machine. He knew it well, but he had to keep silent. Nearly fifteen hundred people would have lost their lives if Churchill's original plan had resulted as the criminal wanted. Yes, he longingly hoped that the one hundred Americans on board the ship would find death in the waves so that the anger of the American people, who were deceived by him, should be directed against Germany as the presumed author of the deed. It was fortunate that the majority escaped the fate intended for them by Churchill. Our picture on the right shows two wounded passengers. They were rescued by the freighter, 'City of Flint', and as can be seen here, turned over over [sic] to the American coast guard boat 'Gibb' for further medical treatment. They are an unspoken accusation against the criminal Churchill. Both they and the shades of those who lost their lives call him before the Tribunal of the world and ask the British people, 'How long will the office, one of the richest in tradition known to Britain's history, be held by a murderer?' " (3260-PS)

Contrary to these Nazi allegations, the "Athenia" made repeated wireless distress signals, which were in fact intercepted and answered by His Majesty's ships "Electra" and "Escort," as well as by the Norwegian steamship "Knute Nelson" and the Swedish yacht "Southern Cross." In fact, the "Athenia" was sunk by the German U-boat U-30. So unjustifiable was the torpedoing of the "Athenia," however, that the German Navy embarked on a course of falsification of their records and on other dishonest measures, in the hope of hiding the guilty secret. Meanwhile the Nazi propagandists sought to shift the responsibility the British. The Captain of U-boat 30, Oberleutnant Lemp, was later killed in action, but some of the original crew of the 30 have survived to tell the tale as prisoners of war. An affidavit by a member of the crew of the U-30 establishes the truth of this episode and reveals the Nazis' attempt to conceal the true facts (D-654). The affidavit

"I, Adolf Schmidt, Official Number N 1043-33T,

"Do solemnly declare that:

"I am now confined to Camp No. 133, Lethbridge, Alberta.

"That on the first day of war, 3 September 1939, a ship of approximately 10,000 tons was torpedoed in the late hours of the evening by the U-30.

"That after the ship was torpedoed and we surfaced again, approximately half an hour after the explosion, the Commandant called me to the tower in order to show me the torpedoed ship.

"That I have seen the ship with my very eyes, but that I do not think that the ship could see our U-boat at that time on account of the position of the moon.

"That only a few members of the crew had an opportunity to go to the tower in order to see the torpedoed ship.

"That apart from myself, Oberleutnant Hinsch was in the tower when I saw the steamer after the attack.

"That I observed that the ship was listing.

"That no warning shot was fired before the torpedo was launched.

"That I myself observed much commotion on board of the torpedoed ship.

"That I believe that the ship had only one smoke stack.

"That in the attack on this steamer one or two torpedoes were fired which did not explode but that I myself heard the explosion of the torpedo which hit the steamer.

"That Oberleutnant Lemp waited until darkness before surfacing.

"That I was severely wounded by aircraft 14 September 1939.

"That Oberleutnant Lemp, shortly before my disembarkation in Reykjavik 19 September 1939, visited me in the forenoon in the Petty Officers quarters where I was lying severely wounded.

"That Oberleutnant Lemp then had the Petty Officers' quarters cleared in order to be alone with me.

"That Oberleutnant Lemp then showed me a declaration under oath according to which I had to bind myself to mention nothing concerning the incidents of 3 September 1939 on board the U-30.

"That this declaration under oath had approximately the following wording: 'I, the undersigned, swear hereby that I shall shroud in secrecy all happenings of 3 September 1939 on board the U-30, regardless whether foe or friend, and that I shall erase from my memory all happenings of this day.'

"That I have signed this declaration under oath, which was drawn up by the Commandant in his own handwriting, with my left hand very illegibly.

"That later on in Iceland when I heard about the sinking of the 'Athenia,' the idea came into my mind that the U-30 on the 3 September 1939 might have sunk the 'Athenia,' especially since the Captain caused me to sign the above-mentioned declaration.

"That up to today I have never spoken to anyone concerning these events.

"That due to the termination of the war I consider myself freed from my oaths" (D-654)

 

Doenitz's part in the "Athena" episode is described in an affidavit which he has sworn, in English (D-68). At the end of the affidavit four words are added in Doenitz's handwriting, the significance of which will be adverted to shortly. Doenitz states:

"U-30 returned to harbor about Mid-September. I met the captain, Oberleutnant Lemp, on the dockside at Wilhelmshafen, as the boat was entering harbor, and he asked permission to speak to me in private. I noticed immediately that he was looking very unhappy and he told me at once that he thought he was responsible for the sinking of the 'Athenia' in the North Channel area. In accordance with my previous instructions, he had been keeping a sharp lookout for possible armed merchant cruisers in the approaches to the British Isles, and had torpedoed a ship he afterwards identified as the 'Athenia' from wireless broadcasts, under the impression that she was an armed merchant cruiser on patrol. I had never specified in my instructions any particular type of ship as armed merchant cruiser nor mentioned any names of ships. I despatched Lemp at once by air to report to the SKL at Berlin; in the meantime, I ordered complete secrecy as a provisional measure. Later the same day or early on the following day, I received a verbal order from Kapitaen zur See Fricke [head of the Operations Division of the Naval War Staff] that:

"1. The affair was to be kept a total secret.

"2. The OKM considered that a court martial was not necessary as they were satisfied that the captain had acted in good faith.

"3. Political explanations would be handled by the OKM.

"I had had no part whatsoever in the political events in which the Fuehrer claimed that no U-boat had sunk the 'Athenia.'

"After Lemp returned to Wilhelmshafen from Berlin, I interrogated him thoroughly on the sinking and formed the impression that although he had taken reasonable care, he had still not taken sufficient precautions to establish fully the identity of the ship before attacking. I had previously given very strict orders that all merchant vessels and neutrals were to be treated according to naval prize law, before the occurrence of this incident. I accordingly placed him under cabin arrest, as I felt certain that a court-martial could only acquit him and would entail unnecessary publicity' [whereat Doenitz has added the words, "and too much time" (D-638)

Doenitz's suggestion that the captain of the U-30 sank the "Athenia" in mistake for a merchant cruiser must be considered in the light of Doenitz's order of 22 September 1939, that

"the sinking of a merchant ship must be justified in the War Diary as due to possible confusion with a warship or an auxiliary cruiser." (C-191)

The U-30 returned to Wilhelmshaven on 27 September 1939. On that date another fraudulent entry was made in the War Diary of the Chief of U-Boats:

"U-30 comes in. She had sunk: 'S.S. BIairlogie'; 'S.S. Fanal Head'." (D-659) There is no reference at all to the sinking of the "Athenia."

Perhaps the most elaborate forgery in connection with this episode was made on the log book of the U-30, which was responsible for sinking the "Athenia" (D-662). The Prosecution submits that the first page of that log book is a forgery which shows a curiously un-German carelessness about detail. It is clear on the original document that the first page of the text is a substitute for pages that have been removed. The dates in the first column of that page are in Arabic numerals. On the second and more authentic-looking page, and throughout the other pages of the log book, they are in Roman numerals.

Furthermore, all reference to the sinking of the "Athenia" on 3 September is omitted. The log book shows that at 1400 hours on 3 September 1939 the position of the U-30 is given as AL 0278, which is one of the few positions quoted at all upon that page, and which was some 200 miles west of the position where the "Athenia" was sunk. The recorded course (due south) and the recorded speed (10 knots)those entries are obviously designed to suggest that the U-3 was- well clear of the "Athenia's" position on 3 September. (D-662)

Finally, the original shows Lemp's own signature upon the page dealing with 3 September differs from his other signature in the text. The difference appears in the final letter of his name. The signature in question shows a Roman "p" whereas on the other signatures there is a script "p." The inference is that either the signature is a forgery or it was made by Lemp at some other and probably considerably later, date. (D- 662)

 

The story of the "Athenia" establishes that the German Navy under Raeder embarked upon deliberate fraud. Even before receiving Lemp's reports, the German Admiralty had repeatedly denied the possibility that a German U-boat could be in the area concerned. The charts which showed the disposition of U-boats and the position of sinking of the "Athenia" (discussed in Section 14 on Doenitz) have shown the dishonesty of these announcements. The conclusion to be drawn is this; Raeder, as head of the German Navy, knew all the facts. Censorship and information control in Nazi Germany were so complete that Raeder, as head of the Navy, must have been party to the falsification published in the "Voelkischer Beobachter," which was an attempt by the Nazi conspirators to save face with their own people and uphold the myth of an infallible Fuehrer backed by an impeccable war machine.

(5) The Attack on Norway and Denmark. Truth mattered little in Nazi propaganda, and Raeder's camouflage was not confined to painting his ships or sailing them under the British flag, as he did in attacking Norway or Denmark. Raeder's proud comment upon the invasions of Denmark and Norway, in which he played a leading part, (see Section 9 of Chapter IX on aggression against Norway and Denmark), is contained in a letter of Raeder's to the Navy, which stated in part:

"The operations of the Navy in the occupation of Norway will for all time remain the great contribution of the Navy to this war."

(6) The Attack on the U.S.S.R. With the occupation of Norway and much of Western Europe safely completed, Hitler turned his eyes towards Russia. Raeder was against the attack on Russia and tried his best to dissuade Hitler from embarking upon it. Raeder approached the problem with cynicism. He did not object to the aggressive war on Russia because of its illegality, its morality, its inhumanity. His only objection to it was its untimeliness. He wanted to finish England first before going further afield.

The story of Raeder's part in the deliberations upon the war against Russia is told in extracts from a German compilation of official naval-notes by the German Naval War Staff (C- 170). The first entry, dated 26 September 1940, shows that Raeder was advocating to Hitler an aggressive Mediterranean policy, in which the Navy would play a paramount role, as opposed to a continental land policy. The entry reads:

"Naval Supreme Commander with the Fuehrer: Naval Supreme Commander presents his opinion about the situation: the Suez Canal must be captured with German assistance From Suez advance through Palestine and Syria; then Turkey in our power. The Russian problem will then assume a different appearance. Russia is fundamentally frightened of Germany. It is questionable whether action against Russia from the North will then be still necessary." (C-170)

The entry for 14 November reads:

"Naval Supreme Commander with the Fuehrer: Fuehrer is still inclined to instigate the conflict with Russia. Naval Supreme Commander recommends putting it off until the time after the victory over England since there is heavy strain on German forces and the end of warfare is not in sight. According to the opinion of the Naval Supreme Commander, Russia will not press for a conflict within the next year, since she is in the process of building up her Navy with Germany's help -- 38 cm. turrets for battleships, etc.: thus, during these years she continues to be dependent upon German assistance." (C-170)

And again, the entry for 27 December states:

"Naval Supreme Commander with the Fuehrer: Naval Supreme Commander emphasizes again that strict concentration of our entire war effort against England as our main enemy is the most urgent need of the hour. On the one side England has gained strength by the unfortunate Italian conduct of the war in the eastern Mediterranean and by the increasing American support. On the other hand, however, she can be hit mortally by a strangulation of her ocean traffic which is already taking effect. What is being done for submarine and naval air force construction is much too little. Our entire war potential must work for the conduct of the war against England; thus for Navy and air force every fissure of strength prolongs the war and endangers the final success. Naval Supreme Commander voices serious objections against Russia campaign before the defeat of England." (C-l 70)

The entry for 18 February 1941 reads as follows:

"Chief, Naval Operations (SKL) insists on the occupation of Malta even before 'Barbarossa'." (C-170)

The 23 February entry reads:

"Instruction from Supreme Command, Armed Forces (OKW) that seizure of Malta is contemplated for the fall of 1941 after the execution of 'Barbarossa'." (C- 170)

The entry for 19 March 1941 shows that by March 1941 Raeder had begun to consider what prospects of naval action the Russian aggression had to offer. The entry states:

"In case of 'Barbarossa', Supreme Naval Commander describes the occupation of Murmansk as an absolute necessity for the Navy. Chief of the Supreme Command, Armed Forces, considers compliance very difficult." (C- 170).

In the meantime, the entries show that Mussolini was crying out for a more active Nazi Mediterranean policy. The entry for 30 May reads:

"Duce] demands urgently decisive offensive Egypt-Suez for fall 1941; 12 divisions are needed for that; 'This stroke would be more deadly to the British Empire than the capture of London'; Chief Naval Operations agrees completely." (C-170)

Finally, the entry for 6 June indicates the strategic views of Raeder and the German Navy at that stage:

"Naval Supreme Commander with the Fuehrer: Memorandum of the Chief, Naval Operations. Observation on the strategic situation in the Eastern Mediterranean after the Balkan campaign and the occupation of Crete and further conduct of the war."

"The memorandum points with impressive clarity to the decisive aims of the war in the Near East. Their advancement has moved into grasping distance by the successes in the Aegean area, and the memorandum emphasizes that the offensive utilization of the present favorable situation must take place with the greatest acceleration and energy, before England has again strengthened her position in the Near East with help from the United States of America. The memorandum realizes the unalterable fact that the campaign against Russia would be opened very shortly; demands, however, that the undertaking 'Barbarossa', which because of the magnitude of its aims naturally stands in the foreground of the operational plans of the armed forces leadership, must under no circumstances lead to an abandonment, diminishing delay of the conduct of the war in the Eastern Mediterranean." (C-170)

Thus Raeder, throughout, was seeking an active role for his Navy in the Nazi war plans.

 

Once Hitler had decided to attack Russia, Raeder sought a role for the Navy in the Russian campaign. The first naval operational plan against Russia was characteristically Nazi. The entry for 15 June 1941 in the notes of the German Naval War Staff reads:

"On the proposal of Chief Naval Operations, use of arms against Russian submarines, south of the northern boundary of the Poland warning area is permitted immediately; ruthless destruction is to be aimed at." (C-170)

Keitel provides a typically fraudulent pretext for this action in his letter dated 15 June 1941 (C-38):

"Subject: Offensive action against enemy submarines in the Baltic Sea.

"To: "High Command of the Navy -- OKM (SKL)

"Offensive action against submarine south of the line Memel southern tip of Oeland is authorized if the boats cannot be definitely identified as Swedish during the approach by German naval forces.

"The reason to be given up to B-day is that our naval forces believed to be dealing with penetrating British submarines." (C-38).

This order was given on 15 June 1941, although the Nazi attack on Russia did not take place until 22 June 1941.

(7) Instigation of Japanese aggression. In the meantime, Raeder was urging Hitler, as early as 18 March 1941, to enlarge the scope of the world war by inducing Japan to seize Singapore. Raeder's views at his audience with Hitler on 18 March were as follows:

"Japan must take steps to seize Singapore as soon as possible, since the opportunity will never again be as favorable (whole English Fleet contained; unpreparedness of USA. for war against Japan; inferiority of US Fleet vis-a-vis the Japanese). Japan is indeed making preparations for this action, but according to all declarations made by Japanese officers she will only carry it out if Germany proceeds to land in England. Germany must therefore concentrate all her efforts on spurring Japan to act immediately. If Japan has Singapore all other East Asiatic questions regarding the USA. and England are thereby solved (Guam, Philippines, Borneo, Dutch East Indies).

"Japan wishes if possible to avoid war against USA. She can do so if she determinedly takes Singapore as soon as possible." (C-152)

By 20 April 1941 Hitler had agreed with Raeder's proposition to induce the Japanese to take offensive action against Singapore. The entry in the notes of the German Naval War Staff, for 20 April 1941, reads:

"Naval Supreme Commander with the Fuehrer: Navy Supreme Commander asks about result of Matsuoka's visit, and evaluation of Japanese-Russian pact. Fuehrer has in- formed Matsuoka, 'that Russia will not be touched if she behaves friendly according to the treaty. Otherwise, he reserves action for himself.' Japan- Russia pact has been concluded in agreement with Germany, and is to prevent Japan from advancing against Vladivostok, and to cause her to attack Singapore." (C- 170).

The real purpose of Hitler's words to Matsuoka is revealed in another description of their conversation:

"At that time the Fuehrer was firmly resolved on a surprise attack on Russia, regardless of what was the Russian attitude to Germany. This, according to reports coming in, was frequently changing. The communication to Matsuoka was designed entirely as a camouflage measure and to ensure surprise." (C-66)

The Axis partners were not even honest with each other. This is typical of the jungle diplomacy with which Raeder associated himself.

C. RAEDER'S PART IN THE CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT WAR CRIMES.

(1) Instigation of the Navy to Violate the Rules of Warfare. Raeder throughout his career showed a complete disregard for any international rule or usage of war which conflicted with his intention of carrying through the Nazi program of conquest. Raeder has himself summarized his attitude in a long memorandum compiled by Raeder and the German Naval War Staff and dated 15 October 1939, only a few weeks after the war started UK-65). The memorandum, which concerns the intensification f the war at sea, reads in part as follows:

"I. Military requirements for the decisive struggle against Great Britain.

"Our naval strategy will have to employ all the military means at our disposal as expeditiously as possible. Military success can be most confidently expected if we attack British sea-communications wherever they are accessible to us with the greatest ruthlessness; the final aim of such attacks is to cut off all imports into and exports from Britain. We should try to consider the requirements. It is desirable to base all military measures, taken on existing International Law; however measures which are considered necessary from a military point of view, provided a decisive success can be expected from them, will have to be carried out, even if they are not covered by existing International Law. In principle therefore, any means of warfare which is effective in breaking enemy resistance should be used on some legal conception, even if that entails the creation of a new code of naval warfare.

"The supreme War Council will have to decide what measures of military and legal nature are to be taken. Once it has been decided to conduct economic warfare in its most ruthless form, in fulfilment of military requirements, this decision is to be adhered to under all circumstances and under no circumstances may such a decision for the most ruthless form of economic warfare, once it has been made, be dropped or released under political pressure from neutral powers; that is what happened in the World War to our own detriment. Every protest by neutral powers must be turned down. Even threats of further countries, including the US coming into the war, which can be expected with certainty should the war last a long time, must not lead to a relaxation in the form of economic warfare once embarked upon. The more ruthlessly economic warfare is waged, the earlier will it show results and the sooner will the war come to an end. The economic effect of such military measures on our own war economy must be fully recognized and compensated through immediate re-orientation of German war economy and the re-drafting of the respective agreements with neutral states; for this, strong political and economic pressure must be employed if necessary."

Those comments of Raeder are revealing and show that as an active member of the inner councils of the Nazi state up to 1943, Raeder must share responsibility for the many war crimes committed by his confederates and underlings in the course of their wars.

(2) The Navy's Crimes at Sea. Apart from this over-all responsibility of Raeder, certain war crimes were essentially initiated or ordered through the naval chain of command by Raeder himself.

(a) Attacks on neutral shipping. The minutes of a meeting between Hitler and Raeder on 30 December 1939 read in part as follows:

"The Chief of Naval War Staff requests that full power be given to the Naval War Staff in making any intensification suited to the situation and to the means of war. The Fuehrer fundamentally agrees to the sinking without warning of Greek ships in the American prohibited area in which the fiction of mine danger can be upheld, e.g., the Bristol Channel." (C-27)

At this time Greek ships also were neutral. This is another demonstration that Raeder was a man without principle. This incitement to crime was a typical group effort, since a directive effectuating those naval views was issued on 30 December 1939 by the OKW, and signed by Jodl (C-12). This directive reads:

"On 30 December 1939, according to a report of Ob.d.M., the Fuehrer and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces decided that:

"1) Greek merchant ships in the area around England declared by USA. to be a barred zone are to be treated as enemy vessels.

"2) In the Bristol Channel, all shipping may be attacked without warning -- where the impression of a mining incident can be created.

"Both measures are authorized to come into effect immediately." (C-12)

A pencilled note at the foot of this directive reads:

"Add to (1) Attack must be carried out without being seen. The denial of the sinking of these steamships in case the expected protests are made must be possible." (C-12)

Another example of the callous attitude of Raeder's Navy towards neutral shipping is found in an entry in Jodl's diary for 16 June 1942 (1807-PS). This extract reads as follows:

"The operational staff of the Navy (SKL) applied on the 29th May for permission to attack the Brazilian sea and air forces. The SKL considers that a sudden blow against the Brazilian naval and merchant ships is expedient at this juncture (a) because defense measures are still incomplete; (b) because there is the possibility of achieving surprise; and (c) because Brazil is to all intents and purposes fighting Germany at sea." (1807-PS).

This was a plan for a kind of Brazilian "Pearl Harbor," although war did not in fact break out between Germany and Brazil until the 22 August 1942.

Raeder also caused the Navy to participate in war crimes ordered by other conspirators. A single example will suffice.

(b) The order to shoot commandos. On 28 October 1942 the head of the Operations Division of the Naval War Staff promulgated to naval commands Hitler's order of 18 October 1942 requiring the shooting of commandos. The effect of this order was to deny the protection of the Geneva Convention to captured commandos. The document dated 28 October 1942 reads:

"Enclosed please find a Fuehrer Order regarding annihilation of terror and sabotage units.

"This order must not be distributed in writing by Flotilla leaders, Section Commanders or officers of this rank.

"After verbal distribution to subordinate sections the above authorities must hand this order over to the next highest section which is responsible for its confiscation and destruction." (C-179).

It will be difficult to conceive of clearer evidence than this, that Raeder appreciated the wrongfulness of Hitler's commando order.

One example will show that this order was executed by the German Navy during the period when Raeder was its Commander.

A certain commando operation of December 1942 had as its objective an attack on shipping in Bordeaux harbor. The Wehrmacht account of this incident states that six of the ten participants in that commando raid were arrested, and that all were shot on 23 March 1943 (UK-57). On this particular occasion the Navy under Raeder had implemented Hitler's order much more expeditiously. This fact appears in extracts from the war diary of Admiral Bachmann, who was the German Flag Officer in charge of Western France (C-176). The entry for 10 December 1942 reads:

"About 1015. Telephone call from personal representative of the Officer-in-charge of the Security Service in Paris, SS Obersturmfuehrer Dr. Schmidt to Flag Officer-in-charge s Flag Lieutenant, requesting postponement of the shooting, as interrogation had not been concluded. After consultation with the Chief of Operations Staff the Security Service had been directed to get approval direct from Headquarters.

"1820. Security Service, Bordeaux, requested Security Service authorities at Fuehrer's headquarters to postpone the shooting for three days. Interrogations- continued for the time being." (C-176)

The entry for the next day, 11 December 1942, reads:

"Shooting of the two prisoners was carried out by a unit (strength 1/16) belonging to the naval officer in charge Bordeaux, in the presence of an officer of the Security Service, Bordeaux, on order of the Fuehrer." (C-176)

A note in green pencil in the margin opposite this entry reads:

"Security Service should have done this. Phone Flag Officer in Charge in future cases." (C-176)

This provision for "future cases" was in fact an order that commandos should be handed over to the Security Service to be shot.

It is therefore evident from Admiral Bachmann's war diary (C- 176) that the first two men to be shot from the Bordeaux operation were actually put to death by a naval firing party on 1 December 1942.

The Naval War Staff had this comment to make upon that shooting:

"The Naval Commander, West France, reports that during the course of the day explosives with magnets to stick on, mapping material dealing with the mouth of the Gironde, aerial photographs of the port installations at Bordeaux, camouflage material and food and water for several days were found. Attempts to salvage the canoe were unsuccessful. The Naval Commander, West France, has ordered that both soldiers be shot immediately for attempted sabotage, if their interrogation, which has begun, confirms what has so far been discovered. Their execution has, however, been -postponed in order to obtain more information.

"According to a Wehrmacht report, both soldiers have meanwhile been shot. The measure would be in accordance with the Fuehrer's special order, but is nevertheless something new in international law, since the soldiers were in uniform." (D-658)

That last sentence shows clearly that the Naval High Command under Raeder accepted allegiance to the Nazi conspiracy as of greater importance than any question of moral principle or professional honor. The shooting of commandos was not an act of war, but simple murder.

D. RAEDER'S ASSISTANCE TO THE CONSPIRACY THROUGH HIS POLITICAL ACTIVITIES.

Raeder was not just a military puppet carrying out political orders. Before the Nazis came to power he had worked actively rebuild the German Navy behind the back of the Reichstag. When the Nazis seized power, he unreservedly joined forces with them. He was the prime mover in transferring the loyalty of the German Navy to the Nazi Party. He himself was as much a member of the inner councils of the Nazis as any other defendant. He accepted membership in their main political advisory bodies.

He was well aware of the designs of the Nazis and assisted in their realization not only as a military technician, but also as a mendacious politician. And he furthered brutal methods of warfare. And yet of all the conspirators Raeder was one of the first to fall from his high position. It is true that the extension of the war beyond the boundaries of Poland came as a disappointment to him. His vision of a Nazi Armada mastering the Atlantic reckoned without Ribbentrop's diplomacy and Hitler's ideas of strategy.

In a memorandum dated 10 January 1943, just before his retirement, entitled, "The Importance of German Surface Forces for the War by powers signatory to the Three Power Pact," Raeder stated:

"It was planned by the leaders of the National Socialist Reich to give the German Navy by 1944/45 such a strength that it would be possible to strike at the British vital arteries in the Atlantic with sufficient ships, fighting power and range.

"In 1939, the war having begun five years earlier, the construction of these forces was still in its initial stages." (C-161).

This memorandum shows how completely Raeder was cheated in his ambitious plans by miscalculation as to when his high seas fleet would be required. Raeder made a great effort to recover some of his lost glory with his attack on Norway. He made many efforts to liven up the war at sea, both at the expense of neutrals and also of the customs and laws of the sea. His further schemes, however, were disregarded by his fellow conspirators, and in January 1943 he retired, and thereafter was a leader in name only.

The record, in Raeder's handwriting, of his interview with Hitler on 6 January 1943, which led to Raeder's retirement, states in part:

"If the Fuehrer was anxious to demonstrate that the parting was of the friendliest and wished that the name Raeder should continue to be associated with the Navy, particularly abroad, it would perhaps be possible to make an appointment to General Inspector, giving appropriate publicity in the press, etc. But a new C. in C. Navy with full responsibility for the office must be appointed. The position of General Inspector, or whatever it was decided to call it, must be purely nominal.

"Hitler accepted this suggestion with alacrity. The General Inspector could perhaps carry out special tasks for him, make tours of inspection, etc. The name of Raeder was still to be associated with the Navy. After C. in C. Navy had repeated his request, the Fuehrer definitely agreed to 30th January as his release date. He would like to think over the details." (D-655)

This was Raeder's twilight, different from the period of his ascendancy in 1939, when on 12 March he spoke on the occasion of the German Heroes' Day (D-653). In that speech, during the celebration of "freedom to rearm," Raeder stated, in the presence of Hitler and representatives of the Party and Armed Forces:

"National Socialism, which originates from the spirit of the German fighting soldier, has been chosen by the German people as its ideology. The German people follow the symbols of its regeneration with the same great love and fanatical passion. The German people has had practical experience of National Socialism and it has not been imposed, as so many outside critics believe. The Fuehrer has shown his people that in the National Socialist racial community lies the greatest and invincible sources of strength, whose dynamic power ensures not only peace at home, but also enables to make use of all the Nation's creative powers:" (D-653).

After eulogies of Hitler, Raeder continued as follows:

"This is the reason for the clear and unsparing summons to fight Bolshevism and international Jewry, whose race- destroying activities we have sufficiently experienced on our own people. Therefore, the alliance with all similar-minded Nations who, like Germany, are not willing to allow their strength, dedicated to construction and peaceful work at home, to be disrupted by alien ideologies as by parasites of a foreign race. *** If later on we instruct in the technical handling of weapons, this task demands that the young soldier should also be taught National Socialist ideology and the problems of life. This part of the task, which becomes for us both a duty of honor and a demand which cannot be refused, can and will be carried out if we stand shoulder to shoulder and in sincere comradeship to the Party and its organization. The armed forces and the Party thus became more and more united in attitude and spirit."

"Germany is the protector of all Germans within and beyond our frontiers. The shots fired at Almeria are proof of that." (D-653)

(The reference is to the bombardment of the Spanish town of Almeria, carried out by a German naval squadron on 31 May 1937 during the course of the Spanish Civil War.) After further panegyrics on the Fuehrer and his leadership, Raeder hinted of what was to come:

"They all planted into a younger generation the great tradition of death for a holy cause, knowing that their blood will lead the way towards the freedom of their dreams." (D-65)

That speech of Raeder's illustrates his deep personal involvement in the Nazi conspiracy. There is the mixture of heroics and fatalism that led millions of Germans to slaughter. There are boasts of the violence used on the people of Almeria. There is the lip service to peace by a man who planned conquest. "Armed forces and party have become more and more united in attitude and spirit" -- there is the authentic Nazi voice. There is the assertion of racialism. Finally, there is the anti-Semitic gesture, Raeder's contribution to the outlook that produced Belsen. Imbued with these ideas, he became an active participant on both the political and military level in the Nazi conspiracy to wage wars of aggression and to wage them ruthlessly.


Sources: Nizkor. Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression, Volume II, Chapter XVI, pp.849-869.

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