The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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                                                   [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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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