The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
14th May to 24th May, 1946

One Hundred and Thirty-First Day: Thursday, 16th May, 1946
(Part 2 of 9)

[DR. SIEMERS continues his direct examination of Erich Raeder]

[Page 92]

Q. That would be certainly two to three weeks before this letter was written?

A. Yes, certainly.

Q. May I ask you now to tell me one thing more in connection with the relaxation of the existing restrictions, that is to say the relaxation of the Versailles Treaty, I presume, through a disarmament conference. You have mentioned that four times in this Document, so that I assume that was its basis.

A. Yes, it was. The whole atmosphere at that time, under both the governments I mentioned, was such that one could expect an improvement.

Q. And this was the basis for which, to quote a few names only, Stresemann, Bruning, fought?

A. Yes.

Q. As they felt it their duty to take certain advance precautions?

A. Yes.

Q. I think there is no need for me to go into further details. I have read this document again and again, and have been unable to find any point on which the prosecution could base the conclusion that you had National Socialist ideas.

I now come to Document C-140. It is Exhibit USA 51, and is in the Document Book 10-A at Page 104.

A. May I interrupt you please? Would it not be appropriate that I should say now what I wanted to say to supplement the statement in Document C-156, regarding aircraft?

DR. SIEMERS: I beg to apologise. It might be practical to finish with the infringements of the Versailles Treaty before going on to another subject. I had forgotten that.

The prosecution has submitted Document C-156. It is Captain Schnitzler's book from the year 1937 and it contains almost the same infringements as Document C-32, so that that Document can be disposed of at the same time.


Q. In addition, it deals with the case of submarines to be constructed in Holland, with which we have already dealt; but there is still one point on which I should like to have your comments; and that concerns certain preparations in connection with navy aircraft which might be permitted later.

[Page 93]

A. All sorts of preparations had been made in the field of aviation long before I came into office. A number of aircraft had been purchased, as I see from this book. They were put in the hands of a firm called Severa G.m.b.H., a limited Company, which was known to the Minister of Defence. The Versailles Treaty had permitted anti-aircraft guns, both on ships and on the coast, as was mentioned yesterday; and for these anti-aircraft firing practice had to be arranged. The Control Commission had allowed us a certain number of aircraft to tow the necessary targets. These aircraft were flown by ex-naval pilots employed by this company. The company, in turn, was managed by an ex- naval pilot.

In addition, as we were not allowed to train naval pilots, or were not allowed to have any naval air arm, we gave a year's training in the civil aviation school to certain prospective naval officers before they joined the Navy, and through this year's training they developed into very good pilots. Then they joined the Navy and went through their ordinary naval training.

The aircraft purchased in this way were temporarily in the possession of Severa. G.m.b.H., which also had a good deal to do with the Lohmann affairs and for that reason was dissolved by Minister of Defence Groner in the summer of 1928. Groner established a new company with similar assignments in the autumn of 1928. But he had signed the agreement himself in order to be able to ensure that the whole affair was properly conducted.

In this company, in addition to their ordinary work, the naval pilots carried out experiments in connection with the development of aircraft for a later naval air arm.

We had the Government's permission to manufacture a model of every type likely to be of use; but we were not allowed to accumulate aircraft. The Government had expressly forbidden that. The result was that in the course of years the company developed a number of aircraft types which would be useful at a later date, when we were once more allowed to have them.

In the early period, exercises in the Navy were carried out by ex-naval pilots. During these exercises the ships learned how to behave with regard to aircraft. When these young naval pilots had to take part in such a course of exercises, they were discharged from the Navy for that period. It was a matter involving a good many formalities, but it was always carried out punctiliously.

Q. I may now turn to Document C-140, which is in Document Book 10-A, Page 104. It is a letter from Reich Defence Minister von Blomberg dated 25th October, 1933.

THE PRESIDENT: Did you say 1933?

DR. SIEMERS: Yes, Mr. President, Page 104.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, my Page 104 says 1935

DR. SIEMERS: I beg to apologise, but according to my list, which I got from the British Delegation, it should be on Page 104.

THE PRESIDENT How is it headed? Is it "Directives for the Armed Forces in case of Sanctions"?

DR. SIEMERS: Yes. Sanctions are mentioned under Figure I, but that is not the heading.

THE PRESIDENT: No, but it is signed "Blomberg." It begins, "Appendix to the Reich Minister for Defence. 7a IIIa."

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, it must be 1933 from the subject matter. It must be a misprint. I notice that Dr. Siemers's copy has got 1933, and from the subject matter dealt with it must be 1933.

THE PRESIDENT: I see. Very well.

[Page 94]


Q. It is a letter from Reich Minister for Defence Blomberg, dated 25th October, 1933. It is addressed to the Chief of the Army, the Chief of the Navy and the Reich Minister for Aviation.

On this Document the prosecution based its accusations that you, witness, prepared military plans for an armed resistance which might become necessary in consequence of Germany's withdrawal from the Disarmament Conference and the League of Nations. Perhaps you can briefly state your view.

A. I had no previous knowledge of our imminent withdrawal from the League of Nations. This directive came out 11 days after we left the League of Nations; and it deals only with defensive measures in the event of sanctions being applied against Germany by other powers in consequence of her departure from the League of Nations.

It says under 2-C: "I prohibit any practical preparations in the meantime." So, at first, nothing was done in consequence of this directive; and the Reich Minister for Defence merely asked for a report from me as to what should be done.

As far as I remember, no practical preparations of any kind were carried out by the Navy at the time, because the situation remained absolutely quiet and there was no reason to assume that there would be any need for defence.

Q. That is probably indicated by the words under (2)A: "Preparation for defence against sanctions."

It is well known that we left the League of Nations in October 1933, 11 days before the document was written; and this fact has been mentioned by the prosecution on Page 257 of the record.

We now come to Document C-166. This is Exhibit USA 48.

DR. SIEMERS: Mr. President, this is in Document Book 10, on Page 36. It is a document dated 12th March, 1934. It emanates from a Naval Command Office and refers to the preparation of auxiliary cruisers for action. The prosecution has quoted only the first two paragraphs of this document; and it has pointed out that it shows that auxiliary cruisers were to be built and camouflaged as transport ships "0".

The two paragraphs sound incriminating, but this can very easily be disproved. May I refer to Lohmann's affidavit, Document Raeder 2, Volume 1, Page 5 of my document Book. I refer to paragraph 2. I quote:-

"Document C-166, submitted to me as a communication from the Naval Command Office and dated 12th March, 1934, deals with the preparation of auxiliary cruisers for action; which, as stated in the document, were to be indicated as transport ships '0'. These ships were not to be newly constructed but were to be selected from the strength of the German merchant navy in accordance with the specifications given in the document; and were to be examined as to their suitability for the tasks to be assigned them. Then plans were made for reconstruction in case of necessity, but the ships remained in the merchant navy."
May I state at this point that in the English translation the word "Umbau" appears as "reconstruction". I have my doubts as to whether this is quite correct. I presume that the interpreter has now translated it in the same way. As far as I know the German word "Umbau" only means much the same thing as the English word "changes."

I continue to quote:-

"The order to select such ships from German shipowners was received by various Naval Command Offices, including that of Hamburg, where I was serving at the time."
Thus far Admiral Lohmann.


Witness, is Lohmann's statement correct? Have you anything to add?

[Page 95]

A. No, I can only emphasize again that there was no question of immediate construction but only of selecting suitable ships and examining them with a view to ascertaining the alterations necessary to enable them to function as auxiliary cruisers in the case of a general mobilization. The preparation of the plans and the plans themselves were to be ready by 1st April, 1935, as laid down in (12). They were to be submitted to the naval administration, so that in the case of mobilization, the ship concerned could be taken off the strength of the merchant navy and converted.

All these proposals for mobilization were, of course, kept secret.

DR. SIEMERS: I believe, gentlemen of the Tribunal, that the whole mis-understanding would not have arisen if the prosecution had translated two further paragraphs. The English version is very short and (II) is missing. I quote the text thereof:-

"It is requested that in co-operation with 'K', first of all suitable vessels should be selected and the number of 15-cm guns which must be mounted to achieve the required broadside be determined," and so forth.
The word "selected" is used here; so that the intention is not-as the prosecution asserts-the building of auxiliary cruisers but the making of a selection from merchant vessels.

THE WITNESS: Yes; and the ships continued to sail in the service of the merchant marine.

DR. SIEMERS: The second sentence which I find to have been unfortunately omitted from the English translation reads as follows:-

"As long as only a restricted number of guns" - Page 24 - "can be placed at our disposal for this purpose, preparations are to be tried out for only four transport ships. An increase of this number to six will be postponed to a date when more guns are available. By that time we shall have some experience in regard to the preparation of the first auxiliary cruisers."
The fact that only four, or at the most six, merchant navy vessels were involved shows the insignificance of the whole matter.

I now come to Document C-189, Exhibit USA 44. It is in Document Book No. 10 of the British Delegation, Page 66.

I should like your comments. I beg your pardon; I should remind you that this concerns the conversation between Grand Admiral Raeder and the Fuehrer aboard the Karlsruhe in June 1934.

Grand Admiral, will you please state your views on the three points mentioned in this brief document, which you discussed with Hitler in June 1934.

First: Why was Hitler unwilling to reveal the increase in displacement of D and E, the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau, when, according to this document, these were defensive weapons and every expert would notice the increased tonnage of these ships and, as I know, did notice it?

A. At that period we were considering what we could do with the two armoured ships D and E, after the conclusion of the impending naval pact with England - i.e., the two ships which Hitler had granted me for the Navy in the 1934 budget. We had definitely decided not to continue building these armoured ships as such as we could make better use of the material at our disposal.

Q. But surely you realised that every expert in the British or American or any other Admiralty on a trip would see as soon as he sighted the ship, that the 10,000 tons had now become 26,000?

A. Yes, of course.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Siemers, when you are examining a witness directly, you ought not to put leading questions which put into his mouth the very answer that you desire. You are stating all sorts of things to this witness and then asking him, "is not that so?"

[Page 96]

DR. SIEMERS: I beg your pardon. I shall make every effort to put my questions differently.

THE WITNESS: My answer is different anyway.


Q. Yes?

A. We are dealing here in the first place with plans. I asked permission to revise the plans for these two armoured ships, first, by strengthening their defensive weapons, that is the armour plating and underwater compartments, and then by increasing their offensive armaments, namely, by adding a third 28-cm. - instead of 26-cm. gun turret. The Fuehrer was not yet willing to sanction a new 28-cm. gun turret because, as I said before, he did not in any circumstances want to prejudice the negotiations going on with Great Britain. To begin with, therefore, he sanctioned only a medium displacement of 18,000 to 19,000 tons; and we knew that when matters reached the stage where a third 28-cm. gun turret could be mounted, the displacement would be about 25,000 to 26,000 tons.

However, we saw no cause to announce it at this stage, because it is customary in the Navy that new construction plans and especially new types of ships should be announced at the latest possible moment. That was the principal reason; and apart from that, Hitler did not want to draw the attention of other countries to these constructions by giving the figures mentioned or stating the very high speed. There was no other reason for not announcing these things.

Q. I should like your comments on (2) of the Document. That has been specially held against you by the prosecution, because there you state the view that the fleet must be developed to oppose England later on.

A. At first, as I shall explain later, we had taken the new French ships as our model. The French Navy was developing the Dunkerque class with eight 33-cm. guns and a high speed; and we took that as our model, especially as in Hitler's, opinion - as you will hear later - there was no question of arming against England. We intended to reconstruct these two armoured ships on this pattern as battleships with nine z8- cm. guns and capable of a high speed. But then we heard that the King George class was being designed in England with 35.6-cm. guns, and therefore more powerful than the French type; and so I said, "We shall, in any case, have to depart from the French type later on and model ourselves on England, which, is now building ships with 35-cm- guns."

There is an error in the translation, namely: "oppose England." It says in my text, that developments should follow the lines of British developments - in other words, that we should design vessels similar in type to the English ships. But they were out of date, too, shortly afterwards, because France was now building ships of the Richelieu class with 38-cm. guns. Therefore, we decided that we, too, would build ships with 38-cm. guns. That was how the Bismarck came to be built; the word "oppose" has no meaning at a time when we were aiming at an agreement with Britain which would lead to our being no match for her in any circumstances.

Q. Now we come to point 3 of this Document, which the prosecution regards as equally important, I quote:

"The Fuehrer demands complete secrecy with regard to the construction of U-boats, in consideration, also, of the Saar plebiscite."
A. I have already referred to the Fuehrer's wish for secrecy in connection with both the construction of submarines and the preparations for that construction. This is one of the points on which he was most sensitive, because in no circumstances did he wish to prejudice the negotiations. He himself was extremely cautious generally during this period and would not in any circumstances do anything which might sabotage the naval pact which he was so anxious to conclude.

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