The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
16th July to 27th July 1946

One Hundred and Seventy-Ninth Day: Tuesday, 16th July, 1946
(Part 9 of 11)

[DR. SIEMERS continues.]

[Page 38]

I now come to the allegation of the prosecution that Grand Admiral Raeder took part in a conspiracy to wage wars of aggression and in particular supported Hitler and National Socialism, despite his alleged knowledge that Hitler from the beginning had the intention of waging wars of aggression.

How did Raeder come to Hitler, and could he, or must he, at that time have known of an intention on the part of Hitler to wage wars of aggression?

As I have said, it has been proved that Raeder before 1933 had nothing to do with National Socialism and knew neither Hitler nor the Party collaborators; he met Hitler on 2nd February, 1933, when he and the other commanders were introduced to Hitler by Baron von Hammerstein. As Chief of the Naval Command, Raeder had only one superior, namely, the Reich President von Hindenburg, who, according to the constitution and the Defence Law, was the Commander-in-Chief of the whole Wehrmacht. Hindenburg, as Reich President, had appointed Hitler Chancellor of the Reich, and thus a connection was of necessity created between Hitler and the Wehrmacht. Any decision of Raeder, therefore, did not come into the question. As Hindenburg's subordinate, he had as a soldier to submit to the political decision which Hindenburg had taken as the President of the Reich. The constitutional basis with regard to the Wehrmacht was in no way altered by the fact that Hitler came to power. As Chief of the Naval Command Raeder took no part in this political decision, just as he had not taken part on previous occasions when Muller of the Social Democratic Party or Bruning of the Centre Party had become Chancellors of the Reich.

There was also no cause for Raeder to resign his post on account of this internal political decision, for Hitler had explained to him and the other high officers at the first conference of 2nd February, 1933, and particularly also on the occasion of the first naval report in the same month, that nothing in the Wehrmacht would be changed and that the Wehrmacht had to remain outside politics as laid down in the constitution and the Defence Law.

The testimony of Raeder and Schulte-Monting proves that during the naval report Hitler explained his fundamental ideas in regard to a peaceful policy, for which, in spite of the friendly revision of the Versailles Treaty at which he was aiming, it was necessary to come to a reasonable understanding with England by means of a treaty, providing for the development of the Navy within the general limitations of naval armament. During this conversation Hitler clearly indicated that he did not want a naval armament race and that the development of the Navy should take place only in friendly agreement with England. This was a principle which absolutely corresponded to the fundamental viewpoint of Raeder and of the Navy, and it was, therefore, quite out of question for Raeder to go to his superior Hindenburg and tell him that because of Hitler he could no longer head the Navy.

Now the prosecution maintains that the men leading Germany at that time already knew Hitler's true intentions from his book Mein Kampf, and has cited as proof several extracts, partly taken out of their context, from Hitler's propaganda book of 1924. This line of argument of the prosecution does not seem to be right, because Hitler wrote this book as a private individual, belonging to an opposition party. In this trial it has several times been pointed out that the statements of private foreign individuals are irrelevant even when these foreigners are very well known and subsequently - as in Hitler's case - received a position in the Government. Raeder could assume, as could anyone else, that as Reich Chancellor Hitler would not maintain all the Party doctrines which years before he had defended as a member of the opposition, particularly also since the statements of Hitler on military matters contradicted these former Party ideas. Moreover, for the Navy, the relationship with England was always decisive and in this connection Hitler had even said in his book Mein Kampf, Page 154:

"But for, such a policy there was only one possible partner in Europe England."

[Page 39]

Moreover it must be said in rebuttal of the quotations submitted by the prosecution that they are all taken from the 1933 edition and that, in spite of great pains, the General Secretary's Office has been unable to procure an earlier edition, particularly the first edition of 1925 and 1927. It is a known fact that in later years Hitler himself made changes on many points in several places of his book, consequently the quotations from the 1933 edition cannot without qualification be taken as a basis.

Must Raeder in the following years have realised that Hitler wanted to abandon the fundamental idea of a policy of understanding with England, and is it possible to agree with the argument of the prosecution that Raeder should have refused further collaboration some time before 1939?

I think that this question must be answered in the negative, for reasons which appear quite naturally from various facts which the prosecution or the defence submitted in evidence:

Hindenburg died on 2nd August, 1934, and the prosecution reproaches Raeder because he thereupon took an oath in which he named the Fuehrer in the place of the Fatherland.

This case was sufficiently clarified in the presentation of evidence. I, therefore, need only refer to the error which the prosecution made in its assertion; the prosecution itself produced Document 481-D which shows the oath of service taken by the soldiers of the Wehrmacht on Hitler's orders. The document is a law signed by Hitler, Frick and Blomberg, and it shows that it was not Raeder who replaced the word Vaterland by Hitler, but that Hitler himself demanded that all officers take the oath to him as Commander- in-Chief of the Wehrmacht. Before Hitler demanded this oath, which he had cleverly devised and which proved so fateful for the future, Raeder had neither been informed of it nor had his advice been asked on the wording of this oath. He was simply summoned to the Reich Chancellery without knowing the reason.

The question, what kind of oath is taken by an officer, is again a political one, a question of legislation upon which Raeder as an officer and Commander-in-Chief of the Navy had no influence.

The prosecution charges Raeder with having been informed of many political decisions and with having, as Commander-in- Chief of the Navy, made strategic plans and preparations on the occasions of such political measures. The prosecution referred to the withdrawal from the League of Nations on 14th October, 1933, the occupation of the Rhineland on 7th March, 1936, the Austrian Anschluss in March 1938, the incorporation of the Sudetenland in the autumn of 1938 and the establishment of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia in March, 1939.

The documents in question are in the main those marked in the footnote, and I can refer to them jointly in this connection.

There is one fact common to all these decisions, namely that Raeder did not politically take part in any of them. Raeder was never consulted beforehand, and as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, he had no authority to participate in such decisions. Raeder did nothing more than take note of these documents and reports, and then issue the appropriate military orders, which he was asked to draw up as a precautionary military measure in case the country became involved in war. It seems wholly incomprehensible that the Commander-in-Chief of a branch of the Wehrmacht should be reproached because he made strategic preparations for the possible event of political complications. I believe that it is so all over the world that an admiral never takes part in political decisions, but is at the same time obliged to make certain precautionary preparations on the basis of such political decisions of the Government. This is another example of the discrepancy I have already mentioned affecting the position of a military commander, which, though the prosecution considers it to be a political one, is in reality purely a military position.

[Page 40]

There is hardly any doubt that the military commands of foreign countries involved in these political decisions, or interested in them, were also at the same time taking precautionary military measures.

A military commander could not judge whether these political decisions of Hitler were crimes or even violations of International Law, particularly so if he was never summoned to the consultations. Neither the withdrawal from the League of Nations, as a result of the failure of the attempts to have all countries disarm in the spirit of the Versailles Treaty, nor the occupation of the Sudetenland, nor the establishment of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia can be regarded as criminal activities, in the sense of the Indictment, of a disinterested Commander-in-Chief. These were certainly deviations from the Versailles Treaty, but even the British Prosecutor, Sir Hartley Shawcross, declared on 4th December, 1945, in this court-room that "many objections against Versailles were possibly justified". And even Justice Jackson, as quoted above, said that the boldest measures would have been justified for the purpose of revising this treaty, but not a war.

All these above-mentioned measures of Germany were in fact carried out without a war, and therefore fall into the category of measures which Justice Jackson considers justified, all the more so since they were all silently tolerated by foreign countries, or even agreed upon by a treaty, as for instance in the case of the incorporation of the Sudetenland, by the Munich Agreement of September, 1938, or as in the case of Austria, by an agreement with the country affected.

Now, if in the cases of Austria and the establishment of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, the prosecution points out, and - looking at these cases objectively and retrospectively - with justification that Hitler used most doubtful and possibly criminal measure to achieve his aims, this can have no significance for the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, since it has been firmly established that he was not informed of these activities, nor even of the means used.

It has been established, in particular, that Raeder was neither informed of the details of the Austrian Anschluss nor of the kind of conference which ultimately led to an, agreement with President Hacha. He was not told of the discussions with Hacha, nor of the threat of a bombardment of Prague - a threat which had been made in the course of these discussions; I refer in this connection to the testimony of the witnesses Raeder and Schulte-Monting. In the eyes of Raeder, therefore, these were measures admitted by International Law, or agreements which could not cause him to interfere or to make inquiries of Hitler, quite apart from the fact that as a military commander he had no right whatsoever to do so.

Moreover, even if military complications had arisen, land operations only would have been involved, which is quite obvious from the location of the countries affected. It would have been unthinkable for the completely disinterested Commander-in-Chief of the Navy to have concerned himself with these things, even though some minor naval preparations were under consideration. In the case of Czechoslovakia, for example, Document 388-PS lays down, as far as the Navy is concerned, only that it is to participate in possible army operations by commitment of the Danube flotilla which for this purpose came under the orders of the High Command of the Army; this flotilla consisted of very small ships, of a few gunboats, if I remember correctly.

In this connection I also quote Sir Hartley Shawcross when on 4th December, 1945, he spoke of the German-Polish non- aggression pact of 1934:

"In no circumstances ... will they proceed to the application of force for the purpose of reaching a decision in such disputes."
Hitler, by concluding this treaty, convinced many people that his intentions were really peaceful.

Accordingly, Raeder, too, could not be otherwise than convinced.

It is true that Raeder belonged to the Secret Cabinet Council created in February, 1938. But it is also true and has been proved in the meantime, that the Secret

[Page 41]

Cabinet Council was just a farce. It is therefore unnecessary to deal with this point which the prosecution originally considered so important.

The claim of the prosecution that Raeder was a member of the Government and Reichsminister has been refuted in the same way. This assertion of the prosecution has from the beginning been incomprehensible. Document 2098-PS presented by the prosecution states with absolute clarity only that von Brauchitsch, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, and Raeder, the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, held - I quote - "a rank equivalent to that of a Reich Minister". This proves that he was not a Minister, but for reasons of etiquette held a rank equal to that of a Reich Minister, and it follows that this decree of Hitler did not assign a political task to Raeder, as the prosecution would like to have it.

Moreover, this decree does not even give him the right to participate in Cabinet sessions when he wished to do so, but as Hitler says in the above-mentioned document, only "upon my order". This then means nothing more than that Raeder could have been called upon, on Hitler's orders, to participate in a Cabinet session if technical naval problems were discussed. In reality, this hypothetical case, politically insignificant, never occurred.

Membership of the Reich Defence Council - Document PS-2194 - can also not be considered incriminating. In the first place, the Council was concerned, as the text says, only with "preparatory measures for the defence of the Reich", that is, neither with political activities nor with activities connected in any political sense with aggressive war.

Moreover, contrary to the claim of the prosecution, Raeder, according to Document 2018-PS, a later Fuehrer decree of 13th August, 1939, did not at all belong to the Ministerial Council for Reich Defence set up at that time, namely simply because he was not a Minister.

But other countries, too, have the institution of a Defence Council or Defence Committee. I call attention to the well- known fact that already long before the First World War the British Government had a Defence Committee which was of much greater importance than the equivalent institution in Germany.

As the last individual matter in this connection, I want to point out that the claim of the prosecution that Raeder was a Party member has also proved untenable. It is true that Raeder received the golden insignia of honour from Hitler; but this was only the award of a medal; it could not mean anything else, because a soldier could not be a member of the Party. This is clear beyond doubt from paragraph 36 of the Defence Law, which forbids soldiers to engage in politics and to be members of a political organization.

I also refer to the evidence, which proved sufficiently that Raeder never had connections with the Party, that indeed he more than once had differences of opinion with Party circles and that he was spurned by typical National Socialists because of his political and particularly his religious attitude. On Goebbels, for instance, he had the effect of a red rag, and this was not surprising, because on the one hand he always prevented the Party gaining any sort of influence on the officers' corps of the Navy, and on the other hand, unlike the Party, he supported the Church to the greatest extent and saw to it that the spirit of the Navy was founded on a Christian basis. I refer in this connection to the typical National Socialist phrase of Bormann:

"National Socialist and Christian concepts are incompatible."
In the same document, Bormann, as he so often did, expressed himself in views contradicting all civilised standards and railed at Christianity so strongly, and so violently advocated the destruction of all Christian ideas, that this Party line proves sufficiently that Raeder, as a convinced Christian, could never have taken up connections with the Party.

I have already stated that in 1933 Hitler said that it would be one of the fundamentals of his policy to make Germany a sound and strong nation by peaceful means, and that for. such peaceful development it was absolutely necessary to

[Page 42]

acknowledge British supremacy, to come to an agreement with England about the size of tile German fleet and even, if possible, to conic to an alliance. These ideas agreed with Raeder's fundamental attitude which he explained in detail during his examination here. Within the limits of my defence, it may be an open question whether and when Hitler abandoned that basic thought. In any case, Hitler always emphasized this basic thought to Raeder and also supported it with deeds; this ever-recurring thought runs like a red thread through all the years up to the outbreak of war, and it was in the pursuit of this basic principle that the second German-British Naval Agreement was concluded in 1937, that an agreement on submarines was reached with Lord Cunningham in 1938 and that the London Protocol on the subject of battleships was signed on 30th June, 1939. Thus, throughout the years of the reconstruction of the German Navy the same idea was always predominant, the idea of agreeing with England, of acknowledging England's supremacy and of avoiding any difference which might lead to a break with England.

Looking back now, with full knowledge of all the documents and all the facts proved during this trial, it must very likely be said that Hitler at some time, probably in 1938, became unfaithful to his own principles and thereby guilty of the tragic fate of Germany. But decisive in judging the accusations made against Raeder is not what must subsequently, in the light of all known facts, be acknowledged as objectively true; decisive is only whether Raeder realised or could have realised Hitler's deviation from his own ideas, and the answer to that is "No". Raeder could not have guessed, much less have known, that Hitler at some time became unfaithful to his own political ideas, which he had repeatedly stressed and demonstrated, and thus guilty of kindling the frightful danger of World War II.

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