The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/03/17

DR. SIEMERS: Mr. President, I did not raise the accusation
of an aggressive war; the prosecution did that, but I have
to protect my client against the accusation that, in 1928,
he had intentions of carrying on an aggressive war; I assert
that he had no intention of that sort, that the Reich
Government knew about the violations of the Treaty, that the
Reich Government took the responsibility for them, and the
testimony of the witness will show that these are actual
facts which were challenged only yesterday.

THE PRESIDENT: Ask him some direct questions on issues of
fact. Then the Tribunal will listen to them if they are
relevant, but the Tribunal considers that the evidence of
his speech that you have been dealing with is an utter waste
of time.

DR. SIEMERS: I shall try to be brief. As a result, I shall
put questions to the witness which he will answer one by


You just said that you demanded of Groner confidence and
absolute truthfulness. Did you ask him in this connection
for enlightenment on the secret budget and the violations of
the Treaty of Versailles which had taken place up to that

A. I specifically asked him for enlightenment since, in
January of 1928, the then Reich Chancellor Marx had frankly
admitted that under Captain Lohmann in the Navy Department
there had been misrepresentations of the budget which could
not be in accordance with good bookkeeping and political
decency and honesty.

Q. What did Groner reply?

A. Groner then told me that he had the intention of
discussing and clarifying these matters at a cabinet

Q. Were the leaders of the Wehrmacht to be present at this

A. On 18th October, those leaders were to appear and did

Q. Herr Severing, when did you meet Grand Admiral Raeder for
the first time?

A. The first official contact, according to my recollection,
was made at the beginning of October, 1928, probably on the
day when he paid me an official visit on my assuming office.

DR. SIEMERS: As Exhibit Raeder No. 6, I submitted to the
High Tribunal, as the High Tribunal will probably recall, a
speech by Raeder dated 23rd January, 1928. There was a
covering letter with this document. This document will now
be submitted to the witness.


Q. According to this document, did your meeting with Raeder
take place on 5th October, 1928, five days after the
appointment of Raeder as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy?

A. This discussion probably took place on that day. May I
mention -

Q. Just a moment; Herr Severing. I think it to be safer if
you look at the letter. There it says: "Following our
discussion of 5th October ..." May I ask you to confirm to
the High Tribunal that this report made by Raeder was saved
by you and that it is a true and authentic copy?

A. The letter which I put at your disposal is the original
of the letter by Raeder. It is in accordance with the
incidents which you just mentioned.

                                                  [Page 255]

Q. Then, on 5th October, this conversation with Raeder did
take place. Were the conversations between you and Raeder
basically in accordance with the ideas expressed in this

A. Yes.

Q. Do you recall that in this speech, Raeder declared
emphatically that a war of aggression was a crime?

A. Yes, I remember that.

Q. Did you on the occasion of this conversation tell Raeder
that you had agreed with Groner that the actual violations
of the Treaty of Versailles would have to be discussed and
clarified and that a cabinet meeting would have to be held?

A. I do not recall this detail, but it was quite probable.

Q. Did you demand of Raeder that between yourself and him
there should be absolute sincerity and truthfulness?

A. Of Raeder, too, but especially of the chiefs of the land

Q. As a result of this discussion with Raeder, did you have
the impression that you could work with Raeder in a
satisfactory manner and that he would tell you the truth?

A. Yes, I had that impression.

Q. On October 18th, 1928, the cabinet meeting which we have
already mentioned, took place. May I ask you to describe
briefly that cabinet meeting, provided it is agreeable to
the High Tribunal to have the witness picture this session.
I believe that a description of this session would save
time, rather than to have me ask single questions.
Therefore, Herr Severing, be brief in telling us what

A. At this session, members of the cabinet were familiarised
with the details of what might be considered a concealment
of the budget or violations of the Versailles Treaty. Both
gentlemen, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and the
Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, spoke, if I remember

Q. Did the entire cabinet attend?

A. Yes, perhaps with the exception of one or two members who
were ill, but it was a session which in general might be
called a plenary session.

Q. The principal members were present?

A. Yes.

Q. Were Muller and Stresemann present?

A. I cannot tell you whether Stresemann was present. He was
ill in September, and whether he had recovered by 18th
October, I cannot say.

But I might add, that if Herr Stresemann was not present,
certainly someone else was present as an authorized deputy
from the Foreign Office.

Q. Did Admiral Raeder and General Heye at this meeting
expressly give the assurance to the cabinet - as I remember,
in form of an affidavit - that only those violations had
occurred which were mentioned by them?

A. Whether that was proclaimed in a solemn manner by
affidavit, I cannot say; but, in any event, at the request
of the Reich Chancellor and especially at my own request,
they said that no further violations would take place.

Q. They assured you specifically that there would be no
further violations without the knowledge of the Reich

A. Yes, exactly that.

Q. And over and above that, they stated that now the cabinet
knew about everything?

A. Yes.

Q. A declaration to that effect was made?

A. Yes, such a declaration was made.

Q. Were important matters connected with these secret
budgets or violations of the Treaty of Versailles?

A. I must admit that I was used to violations of the
Versailles Treaty; what I was especially interested in was
the extent of these violations, and what sum they
represented. I wanted to know what I could do in my new
capacity against

                                                  [Page 256]

secret and illegal organizations, and I asked what was the
total sum involved. I was thereupon told - and I believe
that this was put down and confirmed in writing later - that
perhaps five-and-a-half to six million marks was the amount
involved in these secret budgets.

Q. Herr Severing, you remember the budget figures of those
days better than I do. What can we gather from these
figures? Must we conclude that they were grave violations
involving aggressive intentions, or may we gather that in
the final analysis they were just trifles?

A. I have not the figures as they apply to the budget plans
of the Navy and the Army. I cannot quote them from memory.
But the impression I gained from the reports of the two
Wehrmacht leaders was that only trifles were involved. It
was this impression which caused me to assume a certain
political responsibility for these things, and especially in
view of the fact that we were assured that further
concealment of budget items or other violations were not to

Q. Do you remember that Groner at this session declared that
the small infringements of the Treaty dealt purely with
defence measures, with anti-aircraft guns, coastal
fortifications, etc.?

A. I cannot give you the details to-day, but I might remind
you that all the speeches which Groner made at the time when
he was Defence Minister, were along these general lines. In
all of his speeches in the Reichstag, Herr Groner expressly
declared that he was an advocate of sound pacifism. My reply
to your question is that Groner's statements, and also my
own, were based on defence and defensive measures.

Q. In other words, at the end of this session, the Reich
Government expressly took the responsibility for the
infringements and the small secret budget items?

A. To the extent that we have mentioned.

Q. Did Raeder then adhere to the clear directives of the
Reich Government?

A. I cannot answer that in a positive manner, but I can say
that I did not observe any violations on the part of the
Navy in respect to the agreements during my term of office
as Minister of the Interior.

Q. Are you personally of the opinion, since you know Raeder
sufficiently well, that lie kept the promise he made to you
not to resort to secret violations?

A. Raeder gave me the impression that he was a decent
person. I believed that he would keep his word.

Q. Just one more question, Herr Severing. Of course, you
cannot remember the details, but do you perhaps recall that
on the occasion of the cabinet meeting of 18th October,
there was a discussion about a Dutch firm which was
constructing U-boats?

A. No. I cannot give you details on this question, but I do
know that at the time, there was much talk - either in
another cabinet meeting, or by a subcommittee of the
Reichstag, or by a different parliamentarian body of
experimental stations which had been established for the
Army and the Navy in Russia, Sweden and Holland.

Q. Purely experimental stations?

A. I can say only that there was talk to this effect.
Whether these experimental stations had been established I
cannot tell you from my own experience.

Q. Herr Severing, could Germany, in consideration of
governmental discussions going on at the time, hope that
some day, despite the Versailles Treaty, she would be
permitted to build U-boats?

A. The leading statesmen -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Siemers, how can he answer that there was
a hope that they would be allowed to build U-boats? That is
what your question was, was it not; was there a hope?

                                                  [Page 257]

DR. SIEMERS: I know, Mr. President, these questions were
dealt with in the government which obtained through the
years 1928 to 1932, and I believe that Stresemann carried on
these discussions. Since Stresemann is no longer alive, I
would like to ask Herr Severing on this point.

THE PRESIDENT: It seems to the Tribunal that it is mere
political gossip.


Q. Herr Severing, on whom did it depend what was brought up
in the Reichstag? Raeder is accused of acting behind the
back of the Reichstag. Who submitted this to the Reichstag?
Did Raeder do that?

A. I do not quite follow you. Who submitted the budget, you

Q. Yes.

A. The budget went through the hands of the experts of the
various ministries to the entire cabinet, and from the
cabinet the budget went to the Reichstag.

Q. The matter of dealing with the budget before the
Reichstag was a matter for the Reich Government and not for
the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, is that right?

A. Inasmuch as a budget item was submitted to the Reichstag,
the competent Reich Minister took care of it in the main
committee and the plenary session of the Reichstag, but the
political responsibility was assumed by the entire Reich

THE PRESIDENT: It was never alleged as to the defendant
Raeder that he had submitted the budget to the Reichstag; it
was never put to him.

DR. SIEMERS: Mr. President, yesterday it was asserted -

THE PRESIDENT: Do not argue! Go on with any other questions.


Q. Do you recall whether at the end of 1929 you talked with
a member of the government with regard to the various
leading personalities in the Wehrmacht, and that you made a
comment which subsequently became known concerning certain

A. Yes, it is correct that on one occasion I had been asked
to give a personal evaluation of certain military
personalities, and I included Groner and Raeder in this

Q. Herr Severing, how many concentration camps do you know

A. How many do I know of now?

Q. I am sorry; not now. How many did you know of before the
collapse of Germany?

A. Perhaps six to eight.

Q. Herr Severing, did you know before the collapse of
Germany or rather did you know by 1944 about the mass
murders which have been dealt with so frequently in this

A. I gained knowledge of concentration camps when murder, if
I may say so, became commonplace, and when I heard of a few
cases which affected me personally very deeply. First of
all, I was told that the police president of Altona, a
member of the Reichstag and a Social Democrat of the right
wing of the Party, had been murdered in the concentration
camp at Papenburg. Another friend of mine, the chairman of
the Miners' Union, Fritz Hesemann, was said to have been
murdered shortly after his being committed to the same
concentration camp. Another friend of mine, Ernst Heimann,
according to the reports received by his family, was beaten
to death in the Oranienburg camp.

Dachau was known even in the north of Germany as a
concentration' camp. Some Jewish inmates returned from
Buchenwald in the spring of 1939, and in that way I learned
of this camp. Columbia House at Berlin, I figured to be a
concentration camp also.

                                                  [Page 258]

That was my only knowledge of camps and their horrors up
until the time the London radio started to report about
them. I perhaps might mention another case. In 1944, a
friend of mine, a member of the Reichstag, Stefan Meier, who
had served three years in the penitentiary, was put into a
concentration camp in or near Linz. After a brief stay
there, he was murdered, according to reports received by his

Q. Herr Severing, you just heard of these and similar
individual cases?

A. Yes.

Q. You were not familiar with the fact that thousands were
murdered every, day in gas chambers or otherwise in the

A. I feel I should tell the High Tribunal only of those
cases which were, so to say, authentically reported to me.
Everything I learned of later was through indirect reports,
from my friend Seger or from the book of the now General
Intendant Langhoff, but I had no possibility of checking up
on their accuracy.

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