The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
7th January to 19th January, 1946

Thirty-Fourth Day: Tuesday, January 15th, 1946
(Part 5 of 10)


[Page 262]

As an illustration of Raeder's concealment of rearmament, I would remind the Tribunal of the Document C-141, Exhibit USA 47, which is at Page 22 of the document book. In that document Raeder states 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

[Page 263]

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 us."
The next document, C-135, which will be Exhibit GB 213, and which is at Page 20 of the document book, is of unusual interest because it suggests that even in 1930 the intention ultimately to attack Poland was already current in German military circles. This document is an extract from the history of war organisation and of the scheme for mobilisation. The German text of this document is headed "850/38," which suggests that it was written in the year 1938. The extracts read:
"Since under the Treaty of Versailles all preparations for mobilisation were forbidden, these were at first confined to a very small body of collaborators and 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 Mobilisation.

An Establishment Organisation and adaptable instructions for establishment were drawn up for each A-year, cover name for mobilisation year.

As stated, the 'Establishment Organisations' of that time were to be judged purely theoretically, for they had no positive basis in the form of men and material. They provided, nevertheless, a valuable foundation for the establishment of a War Organisation as our ultimate aim."

Paragraph two:
"The crises between Germany and Poland, which were becoming increasingly acute, compelled us, instead of making theoretical preparation 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 Swinemunde were to be taken over. Thus in 1930 the Reinforcement Plan was evolved."

If the Tribunal turns over the page to paragraph 3, to the second sub-paragraph:
"Hitler had made a clear political request to build up for him in five years, that is to say, by the 1st April, 1938, armed forces which he could place in the balance as an instrument of political power."
Now that entry points to the fact that the Nazi seizure of power in 1933 was a signal to Raeder to go full speed ahead on rearmament. The detailed story of this development has already been told by my American colleague, Mr. Alderman, and I would simply refer the Court in the first place to Document C-189, Exhibit USA 44, which is at Page 66 of the document book. In that document Raeder tells Hitler in June, 1934, 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 battle-ship. It further, in the last paragraph, refers to Hitler's demand that the construction of U-boats should be kept completely secret, especially in view of the Saar plebiscite. In November, 1934, Raeder had a further talk with Hitler on the financing of naval rearmament, and on that occasion Hitler told him that in case of need he would get Doctor Ley to put 120 to 150,000,000 marks from the Labour Front at the disposal of the Navy. The reference to that is the Document C-190, Exhibit USA 45, at Page 67 of the document book. The Tribunal may think that that proposed fraud upon the German working people was a characteristic Nazi manifestation.

THE PRESIDENT: Would that be a convenient time to break off?

[Page 264]

MR. ELWYN JONES: If your Lordship pleases.

(A recess was taken until 14.00 hours.)

MAJOR ELWYN JONES: May it please the Tribunal, the next document I desire to draw to the Tribunal's attention is Document C-23, Exhibit USA 49, at Page 3 of the document book, which states that the true displacement of certain German battleships exceeded by 20 per cent. the displacement reported to the British. That, I submit, is typical of Raeder's use of deceit.

The next document, to which I refer briefly, is C-166, Exhibit USA 48, Page 36 of the document book. It is another such deceitful document, which orders that auxiliary cruisers, which were being secretly constructed, should be referred to as "transport ships."

Then there is Document C-29, Exhibit USA 46, at Page 8 of the document book, which is signed by Raeder and deals with the support given by the German Navy to the German armament industry, and, I submit, is an illustration of 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.

THE PRESIDENT: Has that been put in before?

MAJOR ELWYN JONES: It has been put in before, my Lord, as Exhibit USA 46.

A final commentary on post-1939 naval rearmament is Document C-155, at Page 24 of the document book, which is a new document and will be Exhibit GB 214, and is a letter from Raeder to the German Navy, dated 11th June, 1940. The original, which is now submitted to the Tribunal, shows the very wide distribution of this letter. There is provision in the distribution list for 467 copies. This letter of Raeder's is a letter both of self-justification and of apology. The extracts read:

"The most outstanding of the numerous subjects of discussion in the Officers' Corps are the torpedo positions, and the problem, whether the naval building programme, 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 Officers' Corps, that the entire naval building programme has been wrongly directed, and if, from the first, the emphasis should have been on the U-boat weapon and after its consolidation on the large ships, I must emphasise the following matters:

The building up of the Fleet was directed according to 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 favourable 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

[Page 265]

development of the U-boat arm, both as regards equipment and personnel, possible immediately after the assumption of power."
There the Tribunal sees no trace of reluctance in co- operating with the Nazi programme. On the contrary, the evidence points to the fact that Raeder welcomed and became one of the pillars of Nazi power. Now it will be my purpose to develop the relationship between Raeder, the Navy and the Nazi Party. The prosecution's submission is that Raeder, more than anyone else, was responsible for securing the unquestioned allegiance of the German Navy to the Nazi movement, an allegiance which Donitz was to make even more firm and fanatical.

Raeder's approval of Hitler was shown particularly clearly on 2nd August, 1934, the day of Hindenburg's death, when he 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. The oath is found in Document D- 481, at Page 101 of the document book. That will be Exhibit GB 215, and it may be of interest to the Court to see what the new oath was.

The last paragraph reads:

"The oath of allegiance taken by members of the Armed Forces reads 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 brave soldier, I will be willing to stake my life at any time for this oath."

The Tribunal will see that for his Fatherland, Raeder substituted the Fuehrer.

I am not proposing to take the Tribunal's time by reiterating the steps by which the German Navy was progressively drawn into the closest alliance with the Nazi Party. I would remind the Court of facts of history, like 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, which are facts which 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 recognised by Nazi propagandists and by the Nazi Press. On his 66th birthday, the chief Party organ, the "Volkischer Beobachter," published a special article about him, to which I desire to draw the Tribunal's attention. It is at Page 100 of the document book; it is Document D-448, Exhibit GB 216. It is a valuable summing up of Raeder's contribution to Nazi development:

"It was to Raeder's credit - writes the 'Volkischer Beobachter' - 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 the most fruitful period, also, in the reconstruction of the German Fleet.

The Fuehrer openly expressed his recognition of Raeder's faithful services and unstinted co-operation, by appointing him General-Admiral on 20th April, 1936."

THE PRESIDENT: Do you think it necessary to read the entire document?

MAJOR ELWYN JONES: I was going to turn to the last paragraph but one, my Lord, which I think is helpful.

"As a soldier and a seaman, the General-Admiral has proved himself to be the Fuehrer's first and foremost naval collaborator."
This, in my submission, is a summing up of his status and position in Nazi Germany.

I now propose to deal with Raeder's personal part in the Nazi conspiracy. The evidence indicates that Raeder, from the time of the Nazi seizure of power, became increasingly involved in responsibility for the general policies of the Nazi State.

[Page 266]

Long before he was promoted to General-Admiral in 1936 he had become a member of the very secret Reich Defence Council, joining it when it was founded on 4th April, 1933. And thus, at an early date, he was involved, both militarily and politically, in the Nazi conspiracy. The relevant document upon that is Document EC-177, Exhibit USA 390, at Page 68 of the document book, which I would remind the Tribunal contains the classic Nazi directive:
"Matters communicated orally cannot be proved; they can be denied by us in Geneva."
On the 4th February, 1938, Raeder was appointed to be a member of a newly formed Secret Advisory Council for Foreign Affairs, and the authority for that statement is Document 203 1 -PS, at Page 88 of the document book, which will be Exhibit GB 217.

Three weeks after this, 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. That has already been established in Document 2098-PS, which was submitted as Exhibit GB 206.

In my submission, therefore, 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, indeed, very much a member of the inner councils of the conspirators, and, I submit, must carry, with them, the responsibility for the acts that led to the German invasion of Poland in 1939 and the outbreak of the war.

As an illustration, I would remind the Tribunal that Raeder was present at two of the key meetings at which Hitler openly declared his intention of attacking neighbouring countries. I refer the Tribunal to Document 386-PS, which is Exhibit USA 25 and is found at Page 81 of the document book, which the Tribunal will remember is the record of Hitler's conference at the Reich Chancellery on 5th November, 1937, about matters which were said to be too important to discuss in the larger circle of the Reich Cabinet. This document, which Mr. Alderman submitted, establishes conclusively that the Nazis premeditated their crimes against peace.

Then there was the other conference of Hitler's on the 23rd May, 1939, the minutes of which are found in Document L-79, Exhibit USA 27, at Page 74 of the document book. That, the Tribunal will remember, 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.

Now, those two were key conferences. At many, many others Raeder was also present to place his knowledge and professional skill at the service of the Nazi war machine.

His active promotion of the military planning and preparation for the Polish campaign is by now well-known to the Tribunal, and I am not proposing to, reiterate that evidence again. Once the war did start, however, the defendant Raeder showed himself to be a master of the most typical of the conspirator's techniques, namely, that of deceit on a grand scale. There are few better examples of this allegation than that of his handling of the case of the Athenia.

The Athenia, as the Tribunal will be aware, was a passenger liner which was sunk on the evening of 3rd September, 1939, when she was outward bound to America, about one hundred lives being lost.

On 23rd October, 1939, the Nazi Party paper, the "Volkischer Beobachter, published, in screaming headlines, the story, "Churchill sank the Athenia." I would refer the Court to Document 3260-PS, at Page 97 of the document book, which will be Exhibit GB 218, and I would also like the Tribunal to, look for a moment at the copy of the "Volkischer Beobachter" here, and see the scale on which this deliberate lie was perpetrated. I have a photostat of the

[Page 267]

relevant page of the "Volkischer Beobachter" for that day. The Tribunal will see that on this front page, with the big red underlining, there are the words: "Churchill found guilty this time."

The extract from the "Volkischer Beobachter," which is at Page 97 of the document book, reads as follows:

"Churchill sank the Athenia.

The above picture" - and the Tribunal will see it is a fine picture of this fine ship - "shows the proud Athenia, the ocean giant, which was sunk by Churchill'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 to the American coastguard 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 his office, one of the richest in tradition known to Great Britain's history, be held by a murderer?"

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