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 Eightieth Day: Wednesday, 17th July, 1946
(Part 1 of 6)

[Page 52]

DR. SIEMERS (for the defendant Raeder): Yesterday I dealt with the events, before the outbreak of war. Now I shall turn to the events which occurred during the war.

I think I have shown that the Navy had an extremely insignificant part in all events prior to the war, and that the transactions in which the Navy was authoritatively involved were carried out on a peace basis, namely, on the basis of the Naval Treaty with England.

When the war ultimately broke out involving England on the 3rd September, 1939, a regrettable incident occurred at the outset, on the first day, namely the sinking of the Athenia, from which the prosecution attempts, in exaggerated terms, to construe a ponderous moral accusation against Raeder, not so much indeed on the basis of its actual military aspect, that is, the sinking, which my colleague Dr. Kranzbuehler has already discussed, as on account of an article published in the Volkischer Beobachter of 23rd October, 1939, entitled "Churchill Sinks the Athenia." Were the statement of facts brought forward by the prosecution correct, the moral accusations against Raeder and the Navy would be justified, even though, of course, an untruthful newspaper article is no crime. Consequently, the accusation brought by the prosecution is only made for the purpose of depreciating Raeder's personality in contradiction to the life-long esteem which Raeder has enjoyed in the whole world and especially abroad.

I think the evidence has sufficiently revealed that the statement of facts presented by the prosecution is not correct. Surely this must be our conclusion if, at first, the prosecution believed that the odious article in the Volkischer Beobachter could not have appeared without the knowledge of the Naval Command. The prosecution believed this because, in view of their conspiracy bias, they think in every case that there were constant discussions and close co-operation between the various departments. The course of the Trial has shown how far from correct this assumption is. The contact between the individual departments, and especially between the Navy and Propaganda Ministry, between Raeder and Goebbels, was far less than the contact between individual departments in a democratic State. In addition, the testimonies of the witnesses Raeder, Schulte-Monting, Weizsaecker and Fritzsche, together with the documents, establish the following facts absolutely clearly

1. In early September, 1939, Raeder himself firmly believed that the sinking was not imputable to a German U-boat because it was revealed by the reports that the nearest German U-boat was at least 75 nautical miles away from the spot of the sinking.

2. Accordingly, Raeder, as stated in Document D-912, published a bona fide denial, and issued declarations to this effect to the American Naval Attache and to the German State Secretary Baron Weizsaecker.

3. Raeder did not realize the mistake until after the return of the U-30 on 27th September, 1939.

4. Hitler insisted, as evidenced by witnesses Raeder and Schulte-Monting, that no rectification of the facts should be made to any other German or foreign department, that is to say, that the sinking should not be acknowledged as caused

[Page 53]

by a German U-boat. He apparently let himself be guided by political considerations and wished to avoid complications with the USA over an incident which could not be remedied, however regrettable it was. Hitler's order was so strict that the few officers who knew were put under oath to keep it secret.

5. Fritzsche disclosed that after the first investigation by the Navy in early September, 1939, he made no further investigation and that the Volkischer Beobachter article appeared as a consequence of an agreement between Hitler and Goebbels alone, without previous notice to Raeder. On this point the testimonies of Raeder and Schulte-Monting coincide. It is consequently clear that Raeder - contrary to the claim of the prosecution - was not the author of the article and moreover heard nothing about the article before its appearance. I regret that in spite of this clarification the prosecution apparently are intent upon persisting in their claim by the submission, on 3rd July, 1946, of a new document, D-912. This newly-submitted document contains only radio broadcasts by the Propaganda Ministry which are of the same nature as the Volkischer Beobachter article. These radio broadcasts were a propaganda instrument of Goebbels and cannot, any more than the article, be used to bolster up a charge against Raeder, who, in fact, was at the time informed of the article only and not of the radio broadcasts. Even the fact that Raeder did not attempt any rectification, after being informed of the article, cannot be made a moral charge against him since he was bound by Hitler's order and had no idea at the time that Hitler himself had a hand in the article, which Weizsaecker aptly described as perverse fantasy.

I venture, in this connection, to remind the Tribunal that it is a well-known fact that at the beginning of the war inaccurate reports also appeared in the English Press about alleged German atrocities, which, even after their clarification, were not rectified, as for instance, the false report about the murder of 10,000 Czechs in Prague by German elements in September, 1939, although the matter had been cleared up by a commission of neutral journalists.

The prosecution believe they possess overwhelming material against all the defendants. If this presumption was correct with reference to Raeder, the prosecution would scarcely have felt the necessity of particularly bringing forward this Athenia case in such ponderous and injurious terms with the sole purpose of discrediting the former Commander-in- Chief of the Navy.

Concerning Greece, the prosecution makes the accusation against Raeder of violation of neutrality and breach of International Law on two counts, namely:

1. On the basis of Document C-12 according to which Hitler decided, because of a report by Raeder on 30th December, 1939, that:

"Greek merchant ships in the zone around England which the USA declared prohibited are to be treated as enemy ships."
2. According to Document C-176 on the occasion of the delivery of a report to Hitler on 18th March, 1941, Raeder asked for confirmation that "all of Greece is to be occupied, even in ease of peaceful settlement".

In the course of the Trial both accusations have turned out to be untenable; in both cases there is no action which violated International Law.

With reference to accusation one: Raeder and the German Naval Command learned in October-November, 1939, that quite a number of Greek merchant ships had been put at the disposal of England, either at the instance or with the approval of the Greek Government. This fact cannot be reconciled with strict neutrality and, according to principles of International Law, it gave Germany the right to take an equivalent counter-measure. This justified counter-measure consisted in treating Greek ships which sailed for England as enemy ships, from the moment they were in the zone around England which had been declared prohibited by the United States.

With reference to accusation two: Germany, especially the High Command of the Navy, had received reports that certain Greek military and political circles had maintained very close connections with the Allied General Staff ever since

[Page 54]

1939. As time went by, more and more reports came in. What the Allies were planning in the Balkans is known; the intentions were to establish a Balkan front against Germany. For this purpose local conditions in Greece, as well as in Roumania, were examined by Allied officers on behalf of the Allied General Staff with regard to building aeroplane bases there. Furthermore, preparations were made to land in Greece. As proof I have presented, as Exhibit Raeder 59, the minutes of the session of the French War Committee of 26th April, 1940, which shows that the War Committee was at that time already investigating the question of possible operations in the Caucasus area and in the Balkans, and which further reveals the activity of General Jauneau in Greece for the purpose of continuing investigations and preparations and the attempt by officers concerned to camouflage the purpose of the trip by making it in civilian clothing.

This attitude of Greece and especially her agreement with Allied plans represents a violation of neutrality on the part of Greece; for Greece did not appear as England's ally but formally continued to maintain her neutrality. Therefore, Greece could no longer expect that Germany would fully respect Greek neutrality Germany nevertheless respected Greek neutrality for a long time. The occupation of Greece took place in April, 1941, only after British troops had already landed in Southern Greece on 3rd March, 1941.

The fact that Greece agreed to the British landing is, according to generally recognized rules, without significance in international legal relations and with regard to the international legal decision between Germany and England and between Germany and Greece; it has importance only in the legal relations between England and Greece.

The British prosecution tried to justify the occupation of Greece with the fact that Greek neutrality was menaced by Germany, especially by the occupation of Bulgaria on 1st March, 1941. In this connection the prosecution is overlooking the fact that not only the execution of the occupation of Greece by British forces, but also the planning of the Allies, started quite considerably earlier than the German planning. But however that may be, no accusation at all can be made against Raeder, because the date of the document submitted by the prosecution is 18th March, 1941, which means it is 14 days later than the landing of the English in Southern Greece. In any case, at that time Greece could no longer demand that her alleged neutrality be respected. But beyond that the accusation is also unjustified by the fact, as the prosecution points out, that Raeder asks for confirmation that all of Greece would be occupied. This request by Raeder cannot be considered the cause of the fact that all of Greece was occupied, for Hitler had provided already in his directive No. 20 of 13th December, 1940, that the entire Greek mainland was to be occupied in order to frustrate English intentions of creating a dangerous basis for air operations under the protection of a Balkan front, especially for the Roumanian oil district. In addition to that, the inquiry of Raeder on 18th March, 1941, was justified on strategic grounds, because Greece offered many landing possibilities for the British and the only possible defence was for Greece to be firmly in the hands of Germany, as the witnesses Raeder and Schulte-Monting have explained.

This strategic conception of Raeder had nothing to do with plans of conquest or desire for glory, as the prosecution thinks, for the Navy won no glory whatsoever in Greece, as the occupation was a land operation, and the occupation of an originally neutral country is simply the regrettable consequence of such a large-scale war; it cannot be charged to one belligerent if both belligerents had similar plans concerning the same State and carried out these plans.

I should like now to go on to the subject of Norway. On 9th April, 1940, troops of all three branches of the German armed forces occupied Norway and Denmark. On this and the preceding plans, the prosecution have based the gravest accusation against Grand Admiral Raeder, alongside the collective charge of participation in a conspiracy.

[Page 55]

The British Prosecutor pointed out that it was Raeder who first suggested the. occupation of Norway to Hitler and believes that Raeder accomplished this out of a spirit of conquest and vainglory. I shall demonstrate that this argumentation is incorrect. Only one thing is correct, that is, that in this single instance Raeder took the initiative of first approaching Hitler on the subject of Norway, namely on 10th October, 1939. I shall, however, show that he in fact acted in this connection not as a politician but exclusively as a strategist. Raeder sensed purely strategic dangers, and pointed out these strategic dangers to Hitler, because he assumed that the Allies contemplated the establishment of a new front in Scandinavia, in Norway in particular, and knew that an occupation of Norway by Britain could have a militarily decisive consequence to the detriment of Germany. I shall show that Germany committed no violation of International Law by the occupation of Norway. Before I state the legal foundation and connect the facts. established by the appraisal of evidence with the principles of International Law, I should like first to state an important fact:

As Raeder's examination shows, and as disclosed by Schulte- Monting's interrogations, he was very reluctant in acting as Supreme Commander for the Norwegian action. Raeder had the natural feeling born of justice that a neutral State could not be drawn into the existing war without an absolutely imperative emergency. In the period between October, 1939, and spring, 1940, Raeder had always advocate the opinion that by far the best solution would be that Norway and all Scandinavia remain absolutely neutral. Raeder and Schulte- Monting were in agreement on this point during their interrogations and it is, moreover, proved by documents. For this, I refer to Exhibit Raeder 69. In it is expressed the conviction of Raeder that the most favourable solution is undoubtedly the preservation of the strictest neutrality by Norway; this is entered in the War Diary on 13th January, 1940. Raeder saw clearly that an occupation of Norway by Germany for reasons based on International Law or strategy could only be conceivable if Norway could not or would not maintain an absolute neutrality.

The prosecution has referred to the treaties between Germany and Norway, in particular to Document TC-31, in which the German Reich Government, on 2nd September, 1939, expressly assures Norway of her inviolability and integrity. In this memorandum, however, the following legitimate remark is added:

"If the Reich Cabinet makes this declaration it, of course, also expects: that Norway in turn will observe irreproachable neutrality towards the Reich and that it will not tolerate breaches of Norwegian neutrality should attempts. along that line be made by third parties."
If, despite this fundamental attitude, Germany decided to occupy Norway, this was done because of the threat that the plans of the Allies created the danger Occupation of Norwegian bases by them. In his opening speech, Sir Hartley Shawcross declared that Germany's breach of neutrality and its war of aggression against Norway re-maintained criminal in the sense of the Indictment even if the allegations regarding Allied plans for the occupation had been correct and he added that in reality allegations of such plans were not true. I believe that the argument advanced here by Sir Hartley Shawcross is contrary to accepted International Law. If Allied plans for the occupation of Norwegian bases existed, and there were dangers that Norway neither would nor could maintain strict neutrality, in such a case accepted standards of International Law did justify Germany's Norway campaign.

I would first like to bring up the juridical viewpoints based on prevailing International Law in order to create a foundation for my own statements, and thereby at the same time to set forth those legal viewpoints which contradict the prosecution's interpretation. In order to save time, in this legal exposition, and in order to make the subject matter comprehensible, I have submitted as Exhibit Raeder 66 an opinion on International Law on the Norway Campaign by Dr. Hermann Mosler, Professor of International Law at the University of Bonn.

[Page 56]

The High Tribunal will remember that I was given permission to make use of this opinion for purposes of argumentation, and I may therefore refer at this point to this detailed scientific compilation and argument. In my final pleading I shall confine myself to a summary of the most essential concepts of the opinion.

Articles 1 and 2 of the Hague Convention on Rights and Obligations of Neutrals in the event of Warfare at Sea stipulate that, "the parties at war are bound to respect the rights of sovereignty of neutral powers in the territory and coastal waters of the neutral power, and all hostile acts by warships of the belligerent parties within the coastal waters of a neutral power are strictly banned as violations of neutrality." Contrary to these stipulations, Great Britain violated Norway's neutrality through the laying of mines in Norwegian coastal waters for the purpose of obstructing the legitimate passage of German warships and merchantmen, especially in order to cut off the importation of iron ore from Narvik to Germany. In the letter of the Foreign Office which I received in reply to my petition for authorisation to submit files of the British Admiralty, confirmation as per Exhibit Raeder 130 was received to the effect that His Majesty's forces laid mine-fields in Norwegian waters, and in addition it was stated that this was a well-known fact.

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