The story of the "Athenia" establishes that the German Navy under Raeder embarked upon deliberate fraud. Even before receiving Lemp's reports, the German Admiralty had repeatedly denied the possibility that a German U-boat could be in the area concerned. The charts which showed the disposition of U-boats and the position of sinking of the "Athenia" (discussed in Section 14 on Doenitz) have shown the dishonesty of these announcements. The conclusion to be drawn is this; Raeder, as head of the German Navy, knew all the facts. Censorship and information control in Nazi Germany were so complete that Raeder, as head of the Navy, must have been party to the falsification published in the "Voelkischer Beobachter," which was an attempt by the Nazi conspirators to save face with their own people and uphold the myth of an infallible Fuehrer backed by an impeccable war machine.
(5) The Attack on Norway and Denmark. Truth mattered little in Nazi propaganda, and Raeder's camouflage was not confined to painting his ships or sailing them under the British flag, as he did in attacking Norway or Denmark. Raeder's proud comment upon the invasions of Denmark and Norway, in which he played a leading part, (see Section 9 of Chapter IX on aggression against Norway and Denmark), is contained in a letter of Raeder's to the Navy, which stated in part:
"The operations of the Navy in the occupation of Norway will for all time remain the great contribution of the Navy to this war."
(6) The Attack on the U.S.S.R. With the occupation of Norway and much of Western Europe safely completed, Hitler turned his eyes towards Russia. Raeder was against the attack on Russia and tried his best to dissuade Hitler from embarking upon it. Raeder approached the problem with cynicism. He did not object to the aggressive war on Russia because of its illegality, its morality, its inhumanity. His only objection to it was its untimeliness. He wanted to finish England first before going further afield.
The story of Raeder's part in the deliberations upon the war against Russia is told in extracts from a German compilation of official naval-notes by the German Naval War Staff (C- 170). The first entry, dated 26 September 1940, shows that Raeder was advocating to Hitler an aggressive Mediterranean policy, in which
the Navy would play a paramount role, as opposed to a continental land policy. The entry reads:
"Naval Supreme Commander with the Fuehrer: Naval Supreme Commander presents his opinion about the situation: the Suez Canal must be captured with German assistance From Suez advance through Palestine and Syria; then Turkey in our power. The Russian problem will then assume a different appearance. Russia is fundamentally frightened of Germany. It is questionable whether action against Russia from the North will then be still necessary." (C-170)
The entry for 14 November reads:
"Naval Supreme Commander with the Fuehrer: Fuehrer is still inclined to instigate the conflict with Russia. Naval Supreme Commander recommends putting it off until the time after the victory over England since there is heavy strain on German forces and the end of warfare is not in sight. According to the opinion of the Naval Supreme Commander, Russia will not press for a conflict within the next year, since she is in the process of building up her Navy with Germany's help -- 38 cm. turrets for battleships, etc.: thus, during these years she continues to be dependent upon German assistance." (C-170)
And again, the entry for 27 December states:
"Naval Supreme Commander with the Fuehrer: Naval Supreme Commander emphasizes again that strict concentration of our entire war effort against England as our main enemy is the most urgent need of the hour. On the one side England has gained strength by the unfortunate Italian conduct of the war in the eastern Mediterranean and by the increasing American support. On the other hand, however, she can be hit mortally by a strangulation of her ocean traffic which is already taking effect. What is being done for submarine and naval air force construction is much too little. Our entire war potential must work for the conduct of the war against England; thus for Navy and air force every fissure of strength prolongs the war and endangers the final success. Naval Supreme Commander voices serious objections against Russia campaign before the defeat of England." (C-l 70)
The entry for 18 February 1941 reads as follows:
"Chief, Naval Operations (SKL) insists on the occupation of Malta even before 'Barbarossa'." (C-170)
The 23 February entry reads:
"Instruction from Supreme Command, Armed Forces
(OKW) that seizure of Malta is contemplated for the fall of 1941 after the execution of 'Barbarossa'." (C- 170)
The entry for 19 March 1941 shows that by March 1941 Raeder had begun to consider what prospects of naval action the Russian aggression had to offer. The entry states:
"In case of 'Barbarossa', Supreme Naval Commander describes the occupation of Murmansk as an absolute necessity for the Navy. Chief of the Supreme Command, Armed Forces, considers compliance very difficult." (C- 170).
In the meantime, the entries show that Mussolini was crying out for a more active Nazi Mediterranean policy. The entry for 30 May reads:
"Duce] demands urgently decisive offensive Egypt-Suez for fall 1941; 12 divisions are needed for that; 'This stroke would be more deadly to the British Empire than the capture of London'; Chief Naval Operations agrees completely." (C-170)
Finally, the entry for 6 June indicates the strategic views of Raeder and the German Navy at that stage:
"Naval Supreme Commander with the Fuehrer: Memorandum of the Chief, Naval Operations. Observation on the strategic situation in the Eastern Mediterranean after the Balkan campaign and the occupation of Crete and further conduct of the war."
"The memorandum points with impressive clarity to the decisive aims of the war in the Near East. Their advancement has moved into grasping distance by the successes in the Aegean area, and the memorandum emphasizes that the offensive utilization of the present favorable situation must take place with the greatest acceleration and energy, before England has again strengthened her position in the Near East with help from the United States of America. The memorandum realizes the unalterable fact that the campaign against Russia would be opened very shortly; demands, however, that the undertaking 'Barbarossa', which because of the magnitude of its aims naturally stands in the foreground of the operational plans of the armed forces leadership, must under no circumstances lead to an abandonment, diminishing delay of the conduct of the war in the Eastern Mediterranean." (C-170)
Thus Raeder, throughout, was seeking an active role for his Navy in the Nazi war plans.
The original plaintext version of this file is available via ftp.
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