Archive/File: imt/nca/nca-02/nca-02-16-responsibility-15-01 Last-Modified: 1997/05/25 Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume Two, Chapter XIV 15. ERICH RAEDER [Page 849] A. POSITIONS HELD BY RAEDER. Erich Raeder was born in 1876 and joined the German Navy in 1896. By 1915 he had become commander of the Cruiser Koeln. In 1928 he became an admiral, Chief of Naval Command, and head of the German Navy. In 1935 he became Commander-in- Chief of the Navy. In 1936 he became General Admiral, a creation of Hitler's, on his forty-seventh birthday. In 1937 he received the golden badge of honor of the Nazi Party. In 1938 he became a member of the Secret Cabinet Council. In 1939 he was made Grand Admiral, a rank created by Hitler, who presented Raeder with a marshal's baton. In 1943 he became Admiral Inspector of the German Navy, which was a kind of retirement into oblivion, since after January 1943 Doenitz was the effective commander of the German Navy. (2888-PS) B. RAEDER'S PART IN THE CONSPIRACY TO PLAN AND WAGE WARS OF AGGRESSION During the years of Raeder's command of the German Navy, from 1928 to 1943, he played a vital role in building up the Navy as an instrument of war, to implement the Nazis' general plan of aggression. (1) Concealed rearmament in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. In successive and secret steps, the small Navy permitted to Germany under the Treaty of Versailles was enormously expanded under the guidance of Raeder. The story of Germany's secret rearmament in violation of the Treaty of Versailles is told in a history of the fight of the German Navy against Versailles, 1919 to 1935, which was published secretly by the German Admiralty in 1937 (C-156). This history shows that before the Nazis came to power the German Admiralty was deceiving not only the governments of other countries, but its own legislature and at one stage its own government, regarding the secret measures of rearmament ranging from experimental U-Boat an E-Boat building to the creation of secret intelligence and finance organizations. Raeder's role in these developments are described as follows: "The Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, Admiral Raeder, had received hereby a far-reaching independence in the building and development of the Navy. This was only hampered insofar as the previous concealment of rearmament had to [Page 850] be continued in consideration of the Versailles Treaty." (C-156) An illustration of Raeder's concealment of rearmament is contained in his statement that: "In view of Germany's treaty obligations and the disarmament conference, steps must be taken to prevent the first E-boat Half-Flotilla from appearing openly as a formation of torpedo-carrying boats, as it was not intended to count these E-boats against the number of torpedo-carrying boats allowed them." (C-141) It appears that even in 1930 the intention ultimately to attack Poland was already current in German military circles. An extract from the History of War Organization and of the Scheme for Mobilization (C-135) which is headed "All 850/38", suggesting that the document was written in 1938, reads: "Since under the Treaty of Versailles all preparations for mobilization were forbidden, these were at first confined to a very small body of collaborators and were at first only of a theoretical nature. Nevertheless, there existed at that time an 'Establishment Order' and 'Instructions for Establishment,' the forerunners of the present-day scheme for Mobilization. "An 'establishment organization' and 'adaptable instructions for establishment' were drawn up for each A-year, the cover name for a mobilization year. "As stated, the 'Establishment Organizations' of that time were to be judged purely theoretically, for they had no positive basis in the form of men and materials. They provided, nevertheless, a valuable foundation for the establishment of a War Organization as our ultimate aim." ******* "The crises between Germany and Poland, which were becoming increasingly acute, compelled us, instead of making theoretical preparations for war, to prepare in a practical manner for a purely German-Polish conflict. "The strategic idea of a rapid forcing of the Polish base of Gdynia was made a basis, and the fleet on active service was to be reinforced by the auxiliary forces which would be indispensable to attain this strategic end, and the essential coastal and flak batteries, especially those in Pillau and Swinemuende were to be taken over. Thus in 1930 the Reinforcement Plan was evolved." (C-135) The extract further shows that Hitler had made a clear political request to build up for him in five years, that is, by April 1938, [Page 851] armed forces which he could place in the balance as an instrument of political power. (C-135) The Nazi seizure of power in 1933 was a signal to Raeder to go full speed ahead on rearmament. In June 1934 Raeder told Hitler that the German fleet must be developed to oppose England, and that therefore from 1936 on, the big ships must be armed with big guns to match the British "King George" class of battleship. Raeder also went along with Hitler's demand that the construction of U-Boats should be kept completely secret, especially in view of the Saar plebiscite (C-189). In November 1934 Raeder had a further talk with Hitler on the financing naval rearmament, and on that occasion Hitler told him that in case of need he would get Doctor Ley to put 120,000,000 to 160,000,000 RM. from the Labor Front at the disposal of the Navy. (C-190) Another example of the deceit used by Raeder in building up the German Navy is the fact that the true displacement of certain German battleships exceeded by twenty percent the displacement which the Nazis had reported to the British (C- 23). In similar vein, it was ordered that auxiliary cruisers, which were being secretly constructed, should be referred to as "transport ships O." (C-166) The support given by the German Navy to the German Armament Industry illustrates Raeder's concern with the broader aspects of Nazi policy and of the close link between Nazi politicians, German Service Chiefs, and German armament manufacturers. (C-29) A commentary on post-1939 naval rearmament is contained in a letter from Raeder to the German Navy, dated 11 June 1940. This letter was given extensive distribution; in fact there is provision in the distribution list for 467 copies. This letter of Raeder which is marked with both self- justification and apology, reads: "The most outstanding of the numerous subjects of discussion in the Officer Corps are the Torpedo position and the problem whether the naval building program, up to Autumn 1939, envisaged the possibility of the outbreak of war as early as 1939, or whether the emphasis ought not to have been laid, from the first, on the construction of U-boats. "If the opinion is voiced in the Officer Corps that the entire naval building program has been wrongly directed, and that, from the first, the emphasis should have been on the U-boat weapon and, after its consolidation, on the large ships, I must emphasize the following matters: [Page 852] "The building up of the Fleet was directed according to the political demands, which were decided by the Fuehrer. The Fuehrer hoped, until the last moment, to be able to put off the threatening conflict with England until 1944-45. At that time the Navy would have had available a fleet with a powerful U-boat superiority and a much more favorable ratio as regards strength in all other types of ships, particularly those designed for warfare on the high seas. "The development of events forced the Navy, contrary to the expectation even of the Fuehrer, into a war, which it had to accept while still in the initial stage of its rearmament. The result is that those who represent the opinion that the emphasis should have been laid, from the start, on the building of the U-boat arm, appear to be right. I leave undiscussed, how far this development, quite apart from difficulties of personnel, training and dockyards, could have been appreciably improved in any way in view of the political limits of the Anglo-German Naval Treaty. I leave also undiscussed, how the early and necessary creation of an effective Air Force slowed down the desirable development of the other branches of the forces. I indicate, however, with pride the admirable and, in spite of the political restraints in the years of the Weimar Republic, far-reaching preparation for U- boat construction, which made the immensely rapid construction of the U-boat arm, both as regards equipment and personnel, possible immediately after the assumption of power." (C-155) This letter shows no trace of reluctance in cooperating with the Nazi program. On the contrary, it is evident that Raeder welcomed and became one of the pillars of the Nazi power. (2) Conversion of the Navy into a tool of the Nazi conspiracy. Raeder, more than anyone else, was responsible for securing the unquestioned allegiance of the German Navy to the Nazi movement -- an allegiance which Doenitz was to make even more firm and fanatical. Raeder's approval of Hitler was shown particularly clearly on 2 August 1934, the day of Hindenburg's death, when Raeder and all the men under him swore a new oath of loyalty with considerable ceremony, this time to Adolf Hitler and no longer to the Fatherland (D-481). The new oath ran as follows: "I swear this holy oath by God that I will implicitly obey the Leader of the German Reich and people, Adolf Hitler the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and that, as a [Page 853] brave soldier, I will be willing to stake my life at any time for this oath." (D-481) For his fatherland, Raeder substituted the Fuehrer. There is no need to elaborate upon the step by which the German Navy was progressively drawn into the closest alliance with the Nazi Party. The facts of history -- such as the incorporation of the swastika into the ensign under which the German Fleet sailed, and the wearing of the swastika on the uniform of naval officers and men -- these facts speak for themselves. The Nazis, for their part, were not ungrateful for Raeder's obeisance and collaboration. His services in rebuilding the German Navy were widely recognized by Nazi propagandists and by the Nazi press. On his 66th birthday, the Chief Party Organ, the "Voelkischer Beobachter," published a special article about him, which summed up Raeder's contribution to Nazi development: "It was to Raeder's credit to have already built up by that time a powerful striking force from the numerically small fleet, despite the fetters of Versailles. "With the assumption of power through National Socialism began, too, the most fruitful period in the reconstruction of the German Fleet. "The Fuehrer openly expressed his recognition of Raeder's faithful services and unstinted cooperation, by appointing him General Admiral on 20 April 1936". ******* "As a soldier and a seaman, the General-Admiral has proved himself to be the Fuehrer's first and foremost naval collaborator." (D-448) (3) Raeder's political activities and responsibilities. Raeder's personal part in the Nazi conspiracy arises from the fact that, from the time of the Nazi seizure of power, he became increasingly involved in responsibility for the general policies of the Nazi State. Long before he was promoted to General-Admiral in 1936, he had become a member of the secret Reich Defense Council, joining it when it was founded, on 4 April 1933. Thus, at an early date, he was involved, both militarily and politically, in the Nazi conspiracy. These facts are contained in a document which contains the classic Nazi directive: "Matters communicated orally cannot be proven; they can be denied by us in Geneva." (EC-177) On 4 February 1938, Raeder was appointed to be a member of a newly formed Secret Advisory Council for Foreign Affairs [Page 854] (2031-PS). Three weeks later, a decree of Hitler's stated that as well as being equal in rank with a Cabinet Minister, Raeder was also to take part in the sessions of the Cabinet (2098-PS). It is thus clear that Raeder's responsibility for the political decisions of the Nazi State was steadily developed from 1933 to 1938, and that in the course of time he had become a member of all the main political advisory bodies. He was a member of the inner councils of the conspirators. As an illustration, Raeder was present at two of the key meetings at which Hitler openly declared his intention of attacking neighboring countries. The first of these was Hitler's conference at the Reichs Chancellory on 5 November 1937, concerning matters which were said to be too important to discuss in the larger circle of the Reich Cabinet. The minutes of this meeting establish conclusively that the Nazis premeditated their crimes against peace (386-PS). The second meeting which Raeder attended was Hitler's conference on 23 May 1939 (L-79). This was the conference at which Hitler confirmed his intention to make a deliberate attack upon Poland at the first opportunity, well knowing that this must cause widespread war in Europe. In addition to those two key conferences, Raeder was also present at many others, where he placed his knowledge and professional skill at the service of the Nazi war machine. Raeder's promotion of the military planning and preparation for the Polish campaign is discussed in Section 8 of Chapter IX.
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