The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants

Erich Raeder

(Part 3 of 9)

[Page 854]

(4) The "Athenia Case". Once the war was underway, Raeder also showed himself to be a master of one of the conspirators' favorite techniques -- deceit on the grand scale. His handling of the case of the "Athenia" is a case in point.

The "Athenia" was a passenger liner which was sunk in the evening of 3 September 1939, when she was outward bound to America. About one hundred lives were lost.

On 23 October 1939, the Nazi Party paper, the "Voelkischer Beobachter," published in screaming headlines the story, "Churchill sank the Athenia" (3260-PS). The scale on which this deliberate lie was perpetrated is indicated by the rest of the "Voelkischer Beobachter" for that day; on the front page, with large red underlining, were the words: "Now we indict Churchill" (3260-PS). An extract from the third page of this issue of the "Voelkischer Beobachter" refers to photograph of the ship and reads as follows:

"Churchill sank the 'Athenia'. The above picture shows the proud 'Athenia', the ocean giant, which was sunk by Chur-

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chill's crime. One can clearly see the big radio equipment on board the ship. But nowhere was an SOS heard from the ship. Why was the 'Athenia' silent? Because her captain was not allowed to tell the world anything. He very prudently refrained from telling the world that Winston Churchill attempted to sink the ship, through the explosion of an infernal machine. He knew it well, but he had to keep silent. Nearly fifteen hundred people would have lost their lives if Churchill's original plan had resulted as the criminal wanted. Yes, he longingly hoped that the one hundred Americans on board the ship would find death in the waves so that the anger of the American people, who were deceived by him, should be directed against Germany as the presumed author of the deed. It was fortunate that the majority escaped the fate intended for them by Churchill. Our picture on the right shows two wounded passengers. They were rescued by the freighter, 'City of Flint', and as can be seen here, turned over over [sic] to the American coast guard boat 'Gibb' for further medical treatment. They are an unspoken accusation against the criminal Churchill. Both they and the shades of those who lost their lives call him before the Tribunal of the world and ask the British people, 'How long will the office, one of the richest in tradition known to Britain's history, be held by a murderer?' " (3260-PS)

Contrary to these Nazi allegations, the "Athenia" made repeated wireless distress signals, which were in fact intercepted and answered by His Majesty's ships "Electra" and "Escort," as well as by the Norwegian steamship "Knute Nelson" and the Swedish yacht "Southern Cross." In fact, the "Athenia" was sunk by the German U-boat U-30. So unjustifiable was the torpedoing of the "Athenia," however, that the German Navy embarked on a course of falsification of their records and on other dishonest measures, in the hope of hiding the guilty secret. Meanwhile the Nazi propagandists sought to shift the responsibility the British. The Captain of U-boat 30, Oberleutnant Lemp, was later killed in action, but some of the original crew of the 30 have survived to tell the tale as prisoners of war. An affidavit by a member of the crew of the U-30 establishes the truth of this episode and reveals the Nazis' attempt to conceal the true facts (D-654). The affidavit

"I, Adolf Schmidt, Official Number N 1043-33T,

"Do solemnly declare that:

"I am now confined to Camp No. 133, Lethbridge, Alberta.

"That on the first day of war, 3 September 1939, a ship of

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approximately 10,000 tons was torpedoed in the late hours of the evening by the U-30.

"That after the ship was torpedoed and we surfaced again, approximately half an hour after the explosion, the Commandant called me to the tower in order to show me the torpedoed ship.

"That I have seen the ship with my very eyes, but that I do not think that the ship could see our U-boat at that time on account of the position of the moon.

"That only a few members of the crew had an opportunity to go to the tower in order to see the torpedoed ship.

"That apart from myself, Oberleutnant Hinsch was in the tower when I saw the steamer after the attack.

"That I observed that the ship was listing.

"That no warning shot was fired before the torpedo was launched.

"That I myself observed much commotion on board of the torpedoed ship.

"That I believe that the ship had only one smoke stack.

"That in the attack on this steamer one or two torpedoes were fired which did not explode but that I myself heard the explosion of the torpedo which hit the steamer.

"That Oberleutnant Lemp waited until darkness before surfacing.

"That I was severely wounded by aircraft 14 September 1939.

"That Oberleutnant Lemp, shortly before my disembarkation in Reykjavik 19 September 1939, visited me in the forenoon in the Petty Officers quarters where I was lying severely wounded.

"That Oberleutnant Lemp then had the Petty Officers' quarters cleared in order to be alone with me.

"That Oberleutnant Lemp then showed me a declaration under oath according to which I had to bind myself to mention nothing concerning the incidents of 3 September 1939 on board the U-30.

"That this declaration under oath had approximately the following wording: 'I, the undersigned, swear hereby that I shall shroud in secrecy all happenings of 3 September 1939 on board the U-30, regardless whether foe or friend, and that I shall erase from my memory all happenings of this day.'

"That I have signed this declaration under oath, which was drawn up by the Commandant in his own handwriting, with my left hand very illegibly.

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"That later on in Iceland when I heard about the sinking of the 'Athenia,' the idea came into my mind that the U-30 on the 3 September 1939 might have sunk the 'Athenia,' especially since the Captain caused me to sign the above-mentioned declaration.

"That up to today I have never spoken to anyone concerning these events.

"That due to the termination of the war I consider myself freed from my oaths" (D-654)

The original plaintext version of this file is available via ftp.

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