The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants

Erich Raeder

(Part 9 of 9)

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Raeder was not just a military puppet carrying out political orders. Before the Nazis came to power he had worked actively rebuild the German Navy behind the back of the Reichstag. When the Nazis seized power, he unreservedly joined forces with them. He was the prime mover in transferring the loyalty of

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the German Navy to the Nazi Party. He himself was as much a member of the inner councils of the Nazis as any other defendant. He accepted membership in their main political advisory bodies.

He was well aware of the designs of the Nazis and assisted in their realization not only as a military technician, but also as a mendacious politician. And he furthered brutal methods of warfare. And yet of all the conspirators Raeder was one of the first to fall from his high position. It is true that the extension of the war beyond the boundaries of Poland came as a disappointment to him. His vision of a Nazi Armada mastering the Atlantic reckoned without Ribbentrop's diplomacy and Hitler's ideas of strategy.

In a memorandum dated 10 January 1943, just before his retirement, entitled, "The Importance of German Surface Forces for the War by powers signatory to the Three Power Pact," Raeder stated:

"It was planned by the leaders of the National Socialist Reich to give the German Navy by 1944/45 such a strength that it would be possible to strike at the British vital arteries in the Atlantic with sufficient ships, fighting power and range.

"In 1939, the war having begun five years earlier, the construction of these forces was still in its initial stages." (C-161).

This memorandum shows how completely Raeder was cheated in his ambitious plans by miscalculation as to when his high seas fleet would be required. Raeder made a great effort to recover some of his lost glory with his attack on Norway. He made many efforts to liven up the war at sea, both at the expense of neutrals and also of the customs and laws of the sea. His further schemes, however, were disregarded by his fellow conspirators, and in January 1943 he retired, and thereafter was a leader in name only.

The record, in Raeder's handwriting, of his interview with Hitler on 6 January 1943, which led to Raeder's retirement, states in part:

"If the Fuehrer was anxious to demonstrate that the parting was of the friendliest and wished that the name Raeder should continue to be associated with the Navy, particularly abroad, it would perhaps be possible to make an appointment to General Inspector, giving appropriate publicity in the press, etc. But a new C. in C. Navy with full responsibility for the office must be appointed. The position of General

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Inspector, or whatever it was decided to call it, must be purely nominal.

"Hitler accepted this suggestion with alacrity. The General Inspector could perhaps carry out special tasks for him, make tours of inspection, etc. The name of Raeder was still to be associated with the Navy. After C. in C. Navy had repeated his request, the Fuehrer definitely agreed to 30th January as his release date. He would like to think over the details." (D-655)

This was Raeder's twilight, different from the period of his ascendancy in 1939, when on 12 March he spoke on the occasion of the German Heroes' Day (D-653). In that speech, during the celebration of "freedom to rearm," Raeder stated, in the presence of Hitler and representatives of the Party and Armed Forces:

" National Socialism, which originates from the spirit of the German fighting soldier, has been chosen by the German people as its ideology. The German people follow the symbols of its regeneration with the same great love and fanatical passion. The German people has had practical experience of National Socialism and it has not been imposed, as so many outside critics believe. The Fuehrer has shown his people that in the National Socialist racial community lies the greatest and invincible sources of strength, whose dynamic power ensures not only peace at home, but also enables to make use of all the Nation's creative powers:" (D-653).

After eulogies of Hitler, Raeder continued as follows:

"This is the reason for the clear and unsparing summons to fight Bolshevism and international Jewry, whose race- destroying activities we have sufficiently experienced on our own people. Therefore, the alliance with all similar-minded Nations who, like Germany, are not willing to allow their strength, dedicated to construction and peaceful work at home, to be disrupted by alien ideologies as by parasites of a foreign race. *** If later on we instruct in the technical handling of weapons, this task demands that the young soldier should also be taught National Socialist ideology and the problems of life. This part of the task, which becomes for us both a duty of honor and a demand which cannot be refused, can and will be carried out if we stand shoulder to shoulder and in sincere comradeship to the Party and its organization. The armed forces and the

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Party thus became more and more united in attitude and spirit."

"Germany is the protector of all Germans within and beyond our frontiers. The shots fired at Almeria are proof of that." (D-653)

(The reference is to the bombardment of the Spanish town of Almeria, carried out by a German naval squadron on 31 May 1937 during the course of the Spanish Civil War.) After further panegyrics on the Fuehrer and his leadership, Raeder hinted of what was to come:

"They all planted into a younger generation the great tradition of death for a holy cause, knowing that their blood will lead the way towards the freedom of their dreams." (D-65)

That speech of Raeder's illustrates his deep personal involvement in the Nazi conspiracy. There is the mixture of heroics and fatalism that led millions of Germans to slaughter. There are boasts of the violence used on the people of Almeria. There is the lip service to peace by a man who planned conquest. "Armed forces and party have become more and more united in attitude and spirit" -- there is the authentic Nazi voice. There is the assertion of racialism. Finally, there is the anti-Semitic gesture, Raeder's contribution to the outlook that produced Belsen. Imbued with these ideas, he became an active participant on both the political and military level in the Nazi conspiracy to wage wars of aggression and to wage them ruthlessly.

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