The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants

Erich Raeder

(Part 2 of 9)

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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:

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"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

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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

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(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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