The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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In contrast to this line of evidence of the prosecution, I
should like to emphasize the attitude which Admiral Donitz
actually showed towards the population of the occupied
territories. There is before the Tribunal a survey of the
administration of justice by the Naval Courts for the
protection of the inhabitants of the occupied territories
against excesses of members of the Navy. The survey is based
on an examination of about 2,000 files on delicts and some
of the sentences given are quoted with the findings and the
bases of the verdicts. Judging from that survey, one can
fairly say that the Naval Courts protected the inhabitants
in the West and in the East with justice and strictness,
protected their lives as well as their property and the
honour of their women.

This administration of justice was constantly supervised by
the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy as the highest legal
authority. According to the statutes of the courts, he had
to confirm death penalties imposed on German soldiers.

                                                   [Page 29]

The time at my disposal does not permit a more detailed
discussion of some of these judgements. What is set down in
one of them applies to all: All soldiers must know that in
occupied territory also the life and property of others will
be fully safeguarded. This was the general attitude in the
Navy, and the severity of the penalties inflicted proves how
seriously it was taken.

I need only say a few words about the order of the spring of
1945, in which a German prisoner of war, an N.C.O., was held
up as an example, because he had unobtrusively and
systematically liquidated some Communists who were
attracting attention to themselves in their prison camp. As
Wagner recalled, it was actually an informer who was
liquidated. But the facts were camouflaged as described in
order to avoid giving the enemy intelligence a clue to the
camp and the person of the N.C.O. That this order in its
true foundations could be justified, cannot be doubted by
anyone, in view of the enormous number of political murders
which have been committed with the connivance or assistance
of governments engaged in the war, and the perpetrators of
which are today extolled as heroes. I cannot, however,
seriously consider that the unsuccessfully camouflaged
wording could be proof of a general plan to liquidate
Communists. An example will serve to reveal the true
circumstances. A sergeant had stolen hospital blankets which
were intended for Soviet prisoners of war and had taken a
dead prisoner's gold teeth. This sergeant was condemned to
death by a Naval Court and executed after the sentence had
been confirmed by the Commander-in-Chief.

Finally, the prosecution also established a connection with
the Jewish question through a remark in which the Grand
Admiral speaks of the "lingering poison of Jewry". On this
point I should like to say the following:

Donitz knew as little of the plan for the destruction of the
Jews as he did of its execution. He did know of the
resettlement in the Government General of Jews living in
Germany. I do not think that a resettlement of this sort can
be condemned at a time when expulsions of Germans on a much
larger scale are taking place before the eyes of a silent
world. Here, too, I refer to a sentence of long penitentiary
terms against two German sailors. Together with some
Frenchmen they had robbed French Jews. From the findings of
the Court I again quote a sentence which characterises the
general attitude: "That the crimes were committed against
Jews does not exonerate the defendants in any way."

Similarly, it seems to me that the efforts of the
prosecution to include Admiral Donitz in its construction of
the conspiracy as being a so-called fanatical Nazi have
failed. He was neither a member of the Party nor was he ever
politically prominent before his appointment as Commander-in-
Chief of the Navy. The assertion of the prosecution that he
became Commander-in-Chief of the Navy because of his
political attitude lacks all foundation. As a professional
officer, to whom every political activity was forbidden by
the Defence Law, he had no reason for dealing with National
Socialism in any way. However, he, too, like millions of
other Germans, recognized the unique success of Hitler's
leadership in social and economic fields and, of course,
also the liberation from the obligations of Versailles which
Hitler had brought about, and which particularly concerned
Admiral Donitz as a soldier. Therefore, at the time of his
appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, he was,
politically, in no way active, but he was loyal to the
National Socialist State.

This appointment introduced two new elements into his
relations with National Socialism. There was first of all
his personal contact with Adolf Hitler. Like almost everyone
else who had personal dealings with this man, he too was
most deeply impressed by him. Added to respect for the head
of the State and loyalty to the Supreme Commander, in which
the professional officer is trained, was admiration for the
statesman and the strategist. It is difficult to understand
such an attitude completely, in view of the information
which has come to light in the course of this trial. I feel
neither qualified nor able to judge a personality like Adolf
Hitler. But one thing seems to me certain, namely that with
the accomplished

                                                   [Page 30]

art of camouflage he skilfully concealed the repulsive -
repulsive from a human point of view - traits of his
character, from those of his colleagues to whom he did not
dare to reveal this part of his nature. The Hitler with whom
the new Commander-in-Chief of the Navy became acquainted at
that time and whom he admired was therefore an entirely
different man from the one which the world - rightly or
wrongly - sees in him today.

The second new element in the relations between the Grand
Admiral and National Socialism was that in the performance
of his military duties he necessarily came into contact with
the political authorities of the Reich. Whether he needed
more men, more ships, or more arms; in the end he always had
to discuss these matters with the political authorities, and
in order to be successful in his demands, it was necessary
that any political mistrust be eliminated from the very
start. This he did intentionally, and he demanded the same
of his subordinates. To him the Party was not an ideological
factor, but rather the actual representative of political
power. He was linked with it in the common aim to win the
war, and for the achievement of this aim he considered it as
his ally. But to obtain the advantages which one expects of
an ally, one must be willing to make certain sacrifices,
especially sacrifices in overlooking faults, and in ignoring

The connection with the Fuehrer, however, and the contact
with the Party which were concomitants of his position and
of his duties as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, never led
him to participate in anything for which he could not be
responsible before his conscience. Some points of the
prosecution even prove this. The Fuehrer demanded action
against the shipwrecked; Admiral Donitz rejected it. The
Fuehrer asked for withdrawal from the Geneva Convention;
Admiral Donitz rejected it. He stubbornly and successfully
resisted the Party's influence upon the armed forces. Thanks
to his resistance the National Socialist educational
officers did not become political commissars, but were, as
genuine officers, merely advisers to their commander, who
retained the sole responsibility for the leadership of his
unit. The transfer of proceedings against soldiers on
political grounds from the military courts to the People's
Courts, which had been advocated by the Party, was prevented
by Admiral Donitz until the winter of 1944-45, and a Fuehrer
order to this effect issued at that time was never carried
out in the Navy. Thus he never identified himself with the
Party and can, therefore, surely not be held responsible for
its ideological endeavours or its excesses, just as in
foreign politics a government would not be ready to assume
responsibility for such things if they had been done by an

I do not by any means want to give the impression that
Admiral Donitz was not a National Socialist. On the
contrary, I just want to use him as an example to disprove
the theory that every National Socialist as such must be a
criminal. This Tribunal is the sole instance in which
authoritative personalities of the great allied powers are
dealing directly and in detail with the last twelve years of
the German past. It is, therefore, the only hope of very
many Germans for the removal of a fatal error which is
causing the weaker elements of our nation to become
hypocrites and is thus proving a decisive obstacle on the
road to political recovery.

And now I should like to deal with the charge that in
February, 1945, Admiral Donitz protracted the inevitable
surrender out of political fanaticism, and I want to deal
with this for a particular reason. This charge, which does
not seem to have anything to do with the indictment before
an international tribunal, weighs particularly heavily in
the eyes of the German people, for this nation truly knows
what destruction and what losses it endured in those last
months from February until May, 1945. I submitted
declarations of Darlan, Chamberlain and Churchill from the
year 1940, in which those statesmen, in a critical hour for
their country, called for desperate resistance, for the
defence of every village and of every house. Nobody will
conclude from this that these men were fanatical National
Socialists. The question of unconditional surrender is,
indeed, of such colossal import to a nation that, in fact,
it is possible only after the event to judge whether a

                                                   [Page 31]

who had to face this question did or did not do the right
thing. Admiral Donitz however, was not a statesman in
February, 1945, but the Supreme Commander of the Navy.
Should he have asked his subordinates to lay down their arms
at a time when the political authority of the State still
considered military resistance as opportune and necessary?
Nobody will seriously demand that.

Much more difficult seems to me the question of whether in
view of the high esteem Hitler had for him he should not
have considered it his duty to point out clearly to Hitler
the hopelessness of a prolonged resistance.

Personally, I would have affirmed this as a duty towards his
nation, if Admiral Donitz himself had considered at that
time that a surrender was justified. He did not consider it
justified, and he gave his reasons: surrender implied a halt
of the armies and of the population; the German Army on the
Eastern front - still more than two million men strong in
February, 1945 - and the entire civilian population of the
German eastern provinces would therefore have fallen into
the hands of the Soviet armies, and this in a bitterly cold
winter month. Admiral Donitz therefore, was of the opinion -
shared by Colonel-General Jodl - that the losses in men
suffered in that way would be far greater than the losses
which would necessarily be caused if the capitulation were
postponed until the warmer season. Only in future years,
when more exact data regarding casualties of the Army and of
the civilian population, both before and after the surrender
in the East and in the West, are available, will it be
possible to view this opinion objectively. But it may
already be said today that such considerations were based
only on a serious sense of responsibility for the life of
German men and women.

The same sense of responsibility caused him, when he became
head of the State on 1st May, 1945, to cease hostilities
against the West, but to protract the surrender in the East
for a few days, days in which hundreds of thousands were
able to escape to the West. From the moment when - to his
own complete surprise - he became political head, he calmly
and intelligently averted a threatening chaos, prevented
desperate acts of masses without a leader, and assumed
responsibility, before the German people, for the gravest
action which any statesman can take at all. Thus, to come
back to the beginning of the Indictment, he did nothing to
start this war, but he took the decisive steps to end it.

Since that moment the German nation has learned many things
which it did not expect, and more than once it has been
referred to the unconditional surrender which the last head
of the State carried through. It is for this Tribunal to
decide whether, in the future, this nation will be referred
to the binding value of the signature of a man who is being
outlawed as a criminal, in front of the whole world, by his
partners in the agreement.

At the beginning of my speech I referred to the doubts which
any trial of war criminals is bound to call forth in the
mind and heart of any lawyer. They must weigh upon all who
bear the responsibility for such a trial. I could not more
fittingly describe the task of all the responsible persons
than in the words of a British attorney speaking of the
trials before the German Supreme Court in the year 1921. I

  "The War Criminals' trials were demanded by an angry
  public rather than by statesmen or the fighting services.
  Had public opinion in 1919 had its way, the trials might
  have presented a grim spectacle, of which future
  generations would have been ashamed. But thanks to the
  statesmen and the lawyers, a public yearning for revenge
  was converted into a real demonstration of the Majesty of
  Right and the Power of Law."

May the verdict of this Tribunal be valid in a similar way
before the judgement of history.

THE PRESIDENT: I call on Dr. Siemers for the defendant

DR. SIEMERS (counsel for the defendant Raeder): Gentlemen of
the Tribunal, in my final speech for the defendant Grand
Admiral Raeder, I should like to

                                                   [Page 32]

keep to the order I chose for my document books and for the
whole presentation of my evidence. I think a survey of the
whole case will thus be made easier.

Raeder, who has just turned 70 years of age, has been
exclusively an officer, body and soul, ever since the age of
18, that is to say for half a century or so, in an eventful
period. Although he has never known anything but his duties
as an officer, the prosecution has accused him, in this
major trial against National Socialism, not only as an
officer, namely as Commander-in-Chief of the German Navy,
but - which is singular and decisive - as a politician, as a
political conspirator, and as a government member, three
things which in truth he never was.

I am, therefore, faced with the singular task of defending
Raeder as a politician, although it was precisely, as I
shall demonstrate, his life principle to be completely
detached from politics as an officer and to command an
officers' corps and a navy which were likewise committed to
remain entirely free from politics.

If the prosecution levels such manifold and grave
accusations against Raeder, this is primarily because it has
conceived a notion entirely foreign to the German Wehrmacht,
namely the notion of an admiral responsible for foreign
policy and for the outbreak of a war.

I shall disprove this conception and show that it was
unjustified and unfounded even in Hitler's National
Socialist State. True, Hitler consistently imposed his
polity on the whole of the nation and endeavoured to lead
the nation in one fixed political direction. Foreign
countries knew this, and they might therefore be all the
more surprised by the fact that Hitler refrained from such
political interference in one single instance. Every
administration, every organization, and every police
institution was directed by Hitler on political principles
with the single exception of the Wehrmacht. The Wehrmacht,
and the Navy in particular, remained for a long time and far
into the war absolutely unpolitical. And not only did Hitler
give Raeder an assurance to this effect, but he had also
given the same assurance to Hindenburg as Reichspresident.
This explains the fact, which has also been made clear in
this trial, that up to 1944 an officer could not be a member
of the Party, or, if he was, his membership was suspended.

After these preliminary reflections, it will be understood
why Raeder, as his interrogation showed, was disconcerted
and amazed by these accusations which amount to a political
charge. A man who is nothing but an officer cannot
understand why he should suddenly and without any relation
to his duties be made responsible for things which at no
time came within the compass of his activity.

I shall naturally also discuss the military accusations,
with the exception of the U-boat warfare, which, for the
sake of uniformity, has already been dealt with by Dr.
Kranzbuehler on behalf of Raeder, too.

It will be seen from other military accusations - as for
instance in the cases of Norway and Greece - that again and
again there is this discrepancy between the political and
the military aspects: Raeder acted as commander-in-chief on
the basis of military considerations, but the prosecution
now calls him to account on the basis of political
considerations, by evaluating the military actions as
political ones.

The first instance of this discrepancy just described lies
in the accusations raised against Raeder already with regard
to the period before 1933, that is, before National
Socialism. In connection with these accusations, it must be
specially remembered that Hitler, the head of the alleged
conspiracy for the waging of wars of aggression, did not
even rule Germany at that time, and yet even then there is
supposed to have existed a common conspiracy between Hitler
and some of the defendants.

This is all the more surprising, because Raeder, as a naval
officer and after 1928 as Chief of the Naval Command, had at
that time nothing, absolutely nothing at all to do with
National Socialism, and did not even know Hitler and his co-
workers in the Party. The accusations concerning the
violations of the Versailles Treaty are included by the
prosecution in the conspiracy, although the violations did
not take place under Hitler's leadership, but under the
leadership or with the approval

                                                   [Page 33]

of the democratic governments in Germany at the time. This
shows that the prosecution does not only want to hit
National Socialism through this trial, as has been
emphasized again and again during the war and after the
collapse, but, beyond that, that the Indictment affects
large circles in Germany which had nothing to do with
National Socialism, and some of which were even direct
enemies of National Socialism.

For this very reason it seemed to me so very important to
clear up completely the question of the violation of the
Treaty of Versailles as part of the presentation of evidence
in the Raeder case. I tried to do this, with the approval of
the Tribunal, and I am firmly convinced that I succeeded. I
need not discuss each of the violations, which have been
treated in detail and which the prosecution has produced in
Document 32-C. It should be sufficient if I refer to the
extensive evidence, as well as to the following facts:

1. Every single point was a mere trifle or else was a
military measure, such as, for example, the anti-aircraft
batteries, and so on, measures which were based exclusively
on ideas of defence. Raeder has plainly admitted that treaty
infractions did occur, but the smallness of the infractions
showed that these measures could not possibly have been
connected with an intention to wage wars of aggression.

Moreover, I need only to point out that from the legal point
of view a treaty violation cannot ipso jure be a crime.
Certainly the violation of a treaty between nations is no
more permissible than the violation of a contract between
private firms in commercial law. Such a violation is,
however, not a punishable action, much less a crime. Even on
the basis of the argument of the prosecution, such an action
would be punishable only if the violation had been the
result of a criminal intention that is, if it had been aimed
at a war of aggression in contradiction to the Kellogg Pact.

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