The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Raeder could not have suspected or known that in the last
period before the war Hitler spoke to him; too, in words
different from his thoughts, and also different from his
actions. As far as the Navy, in particular, was concerned,
the relatively slow rebuilding of the German fleet showed
that Hitler wanted to remain faithful to the ideas which I
described. There was no indication at all of a change of
mind on Hitler's part in this field, for a change of mind
would surely have resulted in a naval rebuilding programme
bigger than the one which Hitler actually carried out. At
least he would then have used the possibilities offered by
the German-British Naval Agreement to the full. According to
the Naval Agreement, the German fleet was allowed a total
tonnage of 420,595 tons, but in fact this maximum was never
reached. Even in regard to battleships, Germany remained
short of the Naval Agreement, with the result that the
battleships Bismarck and Tirpitz were not available in the
first year of the war, and thus could not take part in the
occupation of Norway; the Bismarck was completed only in
August, 1940, and the Tirpitz in 1941.

According to the Naval Agreement, Germany was allowed the
same tonnage of submarines as England. In reality, however,
U-boat construction was so slow that at the beginning of the
war in 1939, as the evidence has proved, Germany had only
the small figure of 26 U-boats available for Atlantic
service. And further, according to Document 79-L, the so-
called "Little Schmundt", it was laid down as late as the
end of May, 1939, that - I quote - "no change will be made
in the shipbuilding programme".

All this must have firmly convinced the Commander-in-Chief
of the Navy, both from his own point of view and from that
of his particular sphere, that Hitler wanted to stand by his
much-stressed basic principle to prevent a war.

Raeder's strong conviction, and this seems important, was to
a large extent confirmed by the attitude of foreign

Winston Churchill, in his book, Great Contemporaries, wrote
in 1935:

  "It is not possible to pass just judgement on a
  personality in public life who has reached the enormous
  proportions of Adolf Hitler, before his life's work
  stands revealed before us as a whole .... We cannot say
  whether Hitler will be the man who once again will
  unleash a world war in which civilisation will

                                                   [Page 43]

  go down irrevocably, or whether he will enter history as
  the man who has restored the honour and the peaceful
  intent of the great German nation, and has brought it
  back, cheerful, helpful and strong, to the front rank of
  the European family of nations."

One year later, at the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936, the
representatives of the foreign countries appeared in a body
and greeted Hitler in a manner which, in its approval and
impartial enthusiasm, was incomprehensible to many
sceptically-inclined Germans. Subsequently, the greatest
foreign politicians and also members of various governments
visited Hitler and reached complete understanding with him,
and finally, in the autumn of 1938, agreement was again
reached under Chamberlain and Halifax, an agreement which
strengthened Hitler immeasurably, and through which he tried
to prove to the Germans how right all of his actions had
been, since they were being approved by foreign countries.
The declaration of their aims, which Chamberlain and Hitler
issued in Munich on 30th September, 1938, can never be
overestimated in its importance. I would, therefore, like to
quote the first two decisive sentences from it:

  "We have had a further discussion today, and agree that
  the question of Anglo-German relations is of primary
  importance for both countries and for Europe."

  "We regard the agreement signed last night and the German-
  English Naval Treaty as symbolic of the wish of our two
  nations never again to wage war against each other."

I think that these references are sufficient. Now, can one
demand of a German Grand Admiral, who has never been a
politician, but always only an officer, that in judging
Hitler he should have looked farther ahead than the great
British statesmen Chamberlain and Churchill? The question as
such indicates that the answer is "No".

The prosecution can seriously confront these numerous
aspects only with a few documents which might speak for
Raeder's knowledge of Hitler's aggressive plans. The
prosecution has indeed presented innumerable documents of
which Raeder or the Naval Operations Command or the Supreme
Command of the Navy allegedly received copies, but in a
considerable number of these cases the prosecution could not
say anything beyond the fact that Raeder received a copy of
the documents; a real connection did not exist for the most
part, and was not alleged by the prosecution, either. It is
naturally not surprising that for the sake of uniformity
military documents went to all branches of the armed forces,
even if in individual cases one branch of the armed forces
was not at all, or only vaguely, concerned with them. Of all
these documents which have been submitted in the case of
Raeder, only the four documents which, because of their
importance, the prosecution described as key documents, can
be really incriminating. These are the four Hitler speeches
to the Commanders-in-Chief of 5th November, 1937, 23rd May,
1939, 22nd August, 1939, 23rd November, 1939.

The prosecution claims that these speeches show
participation in the conspiracy, and that it is clearly
evident from them that Hitler wanted to wage wars of
aggression. I would therefore like to deal with these
documents individually and in detail, and in doing so, show
why they cannot influence the picture as a whole which I
have presented.

Undoubtedly these key documents are of the utmost importance
for the subsequent historical findings on what trains of
thought dictated Hitler's actions; they are important
because they are expressions of Hitler's opinion, and in
spite of the tremendous amount of captured documentary
material there are hardly any written notes of Hitler. One
is tempted, of course, to the conclusion that the contents
of these documents must be true, because they are statements
made before a small circle in which Hitler would naturally
express himself more openly than in his public speeches.
Even though I do not at all fail to recognize the value of
the documents, I believe nevertheless that the prosecution

                                                   [Page 44]

the importance of these four documents. Certainly, to some
extent they are key documents, since they provide the key to
an understanding of Hitler's mind and methods, but they are
not a key to the real intentions of Hitler and particularly
not a scale for any conclusions which those who listened to
the speeches had, in the opinion of the prosecution, to draw
from them.

Therefore, in order to explain the value of the documents
completely, I would like, first of all, to mention several
general points which apply equally to each of these four
documents, and which limit their probative value which the
prosecution has overestimated.

None of these speeches was taken down in shorthand, so that
the actual text of the speeches is not available.
Accordingly, in the record of the address of 5th November,
1937, Hoszbach correctly chose the indirect form of speech,
and Admiral Boehm in his record of the speech of 22nd
August, 1939, did the same. Surprisingly and not quite
correctly, Schmundt chose the direct form of speech in his
record of 23rd May, 1939, although it was not a verbatim
record; however, he was at least careful, and stated at the
beginning that Hitler's statements were being reproduced
"according to their sense".

The weakest documents, namely the two versions of the speech
of 22nd August, 1939, which the prosecution has submitted,
are written in the direct form of speech, and the authors of
these documents, whose names are unknown, have not even
considered it necessary to give some sort of explanation as
Schmundt did. However this may be, in considering the
documents it must be kept in mind that they were not
reproduced word by word, and that therefore the reliability
of the reproduction depends on the manner of work and
attitude of the author of the document, especially on
whether and to what extent he made notes during the speech,
and when he prepared his record. In this connection it is
important to note that, as Document 386-PS shows, Adjutant
Hoszbach wrote the record a full five days later, namely on
10th November, though the speech itself had already been
made on 5th November. In the case of Schmundt, the date of
the record is missing altogether, and in the two prosecution
documents on the speech of 22nd August, 1939, there is also
no date. The last two documents also lack the signature, so
that in this case it is not even possible to say who bears
the responsibility for the record. The same applies to the
document on the speech of 23rd November, 1939 The same
formal mistakes and doubts concerning probative value and

It is different in the case of the document of Boehm, who in
his affidavit certifies that he wrote down Hitler's speech
as it was being made, that he noted down the exact text of
particularly important passages, and that he edited the
final draft which has been submitted here, on the same
evening. Since in all these documents the true text is not
available, it is plain how important it is if one can at
least establish that the record was made simultaneously with
the speech, or at least on the same day, and not, as in the
case of Hoszbach, five days later. Even with the best of
memories the best adjutant who has to handle many new
matters every day cannot possibly after five days make an
absolutely reliable reproduction of a speech.

Just as important is the second point, namely, that unlike
other military documents these are not official documents
with a distribution list, that is, they are not documents
which were subsequently sent to those concerned. That the
documents were not sent to Raeder was established in the
evidence by him and by the witness Schulte-Monting, apart
from the fact that it is already shown by the lack of a
distribution list on the document. This point, in
particular, seems to me to be of great importance. Listening
to a speech once - and as is well known, Hitler spoke
extremely quickly - does not induce the listener to make
final conclusions in a way in which the reading of the
record might, since a record always makes a check and
recheck of the contents of the speech possible. We who have
come to know these speeches in the proceedings in their
written form, and have again and again checked their
wording, naturally consider individual words

                                                   [Page 45]

and phrases of more importance than we would have done if we
had heard them as part of a quickly-delivered address. In
addition, all of us are readily inclined to lend more
importance to individual phrases; because from our present
standpoint and in view of our more extensive knowledge, we
can now survey everything much more easily; for we have not
only one speech on which to base our opinions but we have
all speeches; and in addition all the many other documents
showing the historical development. In discussing these
documents it must always be kept in mind that individual
listeners react to the spoken word quite differently, and
that often, even after only a few hours, the reports of
various listeners differ from each other.

The prosecution considers these speeches of Hitler to be the
basis of the conspiracy, and says that on these occasions
Hitler consulted with the Commanders, reached a certain
decision and concluded a certain plan of conspiracy with
them. The prosecution must maintain this, because one can
only speak of a conspiracy if something is being planned in
common. In reality, the assertion of the prosecution that an
influential group of Nazis assembled to examine the
situation and make decisions is incorrect; the occasion took
the form of an address by Hitler alone, and no discussion
and no consultation took place. No decision was reached,
either, but Hitler spoke quite generally about - I quote -
"possibilities of development". If one can speak of
decisions at all, it was a decision solely on the part of
Hitler. All this contradicts the existence of a real
conspiracy. Altogether I have the impression that, in its
conception of a conspiracy to wage wars of aggression, the
prosecution has imagined a completely false picture of the
real distribution of power within the National Socialist
State. In my opinion; the prosecution fails to recognize the
characteristics of a dictatorship, and indeed it may be very
difficult to understand the immeasurable dictatorial power
of Hitler if one has not personally experienced the whole of
those twelve years in Germany, in particular the development
of Hitler's power from its first beginnings until it finally
turned the State into a dictatorship using the most fearful
and horrible terror. A dictator like Hitler, who moreover
quite obviously exercised immense powers of suggestion and
fascination, is not a president of a parliamentary
government. I have the impression that in judging the
situation as a whole the prosecution has never completely
freed itself of the idea of a parliamentary government, and
has never taken the uncompromising ways of a dictator into

The idea of a conspiracy between ham and the members of the
Cabinet or between him and the commanders was quite opposed
to Hitler's own nature, as the testimony of several
witnesses showed in the course of the trial. This was proved
with particular emphasis by the testimony of the Swedish
industrialist Dahlerus, who by reason of his excellent and
extensive connections both with England and with Germany was
in the course of time able to obtain an objective picture of
both countries, and who during his negotiations with
Chamberlain and Halifax on the one hand, and with Hitler and
Goering on the other, was best able to recognize the
difference between the parliamentary British Government and
the German dictatorship of Hitler. The account of Dahlerus
proves convincingly that the difference was irreconcilable.
After he had spoken with Chamberlain and Halifax, a
discussion with the Cabinet naturally took place before a
final decision was taken. On the other hand, when in the
night of 26th to 27th August, 1939 Dahlerus had a discussion
of decisive importance with Hitler at which only Goring was
present, Hitler at once made six propositions, without
saying a word to any of the Cabinet members or any of the
military commanders, without even consulting Goring who sat
by silently; proposals, moreover, which did not exactly
correspond to what he himself had told Sir Nevile Henderson
a short time before. A stronger argument against a
conspiracy with commanders or members of the Cabinet can
hardly exist, unless it be the equally important fact which
the witness Dahlerus added that during the entire two and a
half hours Goering did not dare to say a single word, and
that it was humiliating to see the degree of servility which
Hitler demanded even of Goering, his closest associate.

                                                   [Page 46]

All these Hitler speeches are full of contradictions. Such
contradictions naturally impair clarity of thought, and they
rob individual ideas of their importance. When one reads the
documents in their entirety, the number of contradictions
becomes evident, as the witness Admiral Schulte-Monting
correctly pointed out during his examination and cross-
examination. It is just because of such contradictions and
often illogical thinking that the evidential value of the
documents is diminished. Naturally for a military adjutant
like Hoszbach or Schmundt, it is difficult to record unclear
and contradictory trains of thought; and it is also easy to
understand that a military adjutant will be inclined to
introduce as clear a line of thought as possible, and will
in consequence be misled to stress certain ideas, which have
become clear to him, with more force than they were actually
put in the speech itself. To this can be added a remark of
Raeder - who not only points to the contradictions, but
especially to Hitler's over-active imagination, and very
appropriately calls him a "Master of bluff".

Moreover, in every speech of that type Hitler followed a.
very, definite tendency. He had a definite purpose in view,
namely to bring about the desired impression on all or some
of his hearers, either by intentional exaggeration or by
making things appear deliberately harmless. While he spoke,
Hitler followed the intuition of the moment; as Schulte-
Monting termed it, he freed himself of his concept. He
thought aloud and wanted to carry his hearers with him, but
he did not want to be taken at his word. One must agree with
me that such practices and such purposefully designed
speeches give no clear indication at all of Hitler's true
views at the time. In addition, there is this to be said
about all these documents in general:

Following his address of 23rd May, 1939 - the so-called
"Little Schmundt" - Raeder had an interview with Hitler
alone, in which he called Hitler's attention to
contradictions in his address and also to the contradiction
arising out of Hitler's assurance to Raeder personally that
he, Hitler, would under all circumstances also settle the
case of Poland peacefully. Hitler thereupon completely
calmed Raeder and told him that he had a firm hold on
matters, politically. This was stated by the witness Schulte-
Monting, who added that Hitler allayed Raeder's misgivings
about the contradiction between the speech of 23rd May,
1939, and his other statements by telling him that, for him
(Hitler), there were three grades of keeping matters secret:
firstly, by private conversation without other witnesses;
secondly, by keeping thoughts to himself; and, thirdly, by
not even thinking some ideas through to their conclusion.

I believe Hitler's way of thinking illustrates most
strikingly how little reliance could ultimately be placed on
statements which he made before a small or a large group of
people. It seems to me understandable, therefore, if in his
deliberations Raeder kept neither to Hitler's general
speeches nor to the address before the Commanders which was
discussed here, but went solely by what Hitler told him in
private discussion. In this respect, the statements of
Schulte-Monting, Boehm and Albrecht all prove that as late
as 1939, Hitler was still, in private conversation,
repeatedly giving Raeder the explicit assurance that there
would be no war; and he did this whenever for some reason or
other Raeder was particularly anxious and wanted to call
Hitler's attention to the dangers ahead.

In conclusion, therefore, I believe it may be said that the
so-called key documents are extremely interesting for
estimating Hitler from a psychological point of view, but
that their evidential value as regards Hitler's real
intentions is very limited and slight. One cannot reproach
Raeder for not accepting as his guide tendentious and
purposeful speeches which Hitler made before his Commanders
on the spur of the moment, but rather relying only on
assurances which Hitler himself gave him, and on the reality
that until the summer of 1939, until the outbreak of the
war, these assurances were in perfect accord with the facts
and with Hitler's actions, that is, with the four Naval
Agreements and the Munich Pact.

It is understandable that Raeder did not permit this basic
attitude to be shattered by these speeches to the Commanders-
in-Chief, though they were undoubtedly

                                                   [Page 47]

of a questionable nature, but that he held steadfastly to
his belief that Hitler would not deceive him. The fact that
we now subsequently realize that Hitler, after all, did
deceive Raeder in his private conversations with him and
also by his special second and third grade of secrecy, does
not indicate guilt on Raeder's part, but solely on Hitler's
part. The voluminous amount of material in this connection
does not indicate that in 1938 and 1939 Raeder planned a war
of aggression, in violation of international Law, but it
reveals only that Hitler planned a war of aggression, in
violation of International Law.

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