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 4 of 9)

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

[Page 101]

Q. Grand Admiral, when did you report to Hitler for the first time on the Navy, and what was Hitler's general attitude on this occasion?

A. I gave my first report on the Navy in the presence of General von Blomberg, who, in his capacity of Reich Defence Minister, was my superior. I reported again a few days later, but I cannot recall the exact date.

On this occasion, Hitler gave me a further account of the principles on which I was to command the Navy. I reported to Hitler first of all on the rather slight degree to which the provisions of the Versailles Treaty had been carried out by the Navy, on its weakness, on the Shipping Replacement Plan and other matters concerned with naval policy, such as the Treaty of Washington, the Treaty of London, 1930, and the position of the Disarmament Conference. He was completely informed on all these matters.

He said he wanted to make clear to me the principles on which his policy was based and that this policy was to serve as the basis of long-term naval policy. I still remember his words quite clearly.

He did not, he said, under any circumstances wish to have complications with England, Japan, or Italy - least of all with England. And he wanted to prove this by fixing an agreement with England as to the strength to be allotted to the German Fleet in comparison with that of the English. By so doing, he wanted to show that he was prepared to acknowledge once and for all England's right to maintain a navy appropriate to the vastness of her interests all over the world. The German Navy only required to be expanded to the extent demanded by a European continental policy.

[Page 102]

I took this as the second main principle on which to base my command of the Navy. The actual ratio of strength between the two navies was not discussed at the time; it was discussed later on.

This decision of Hitler's afforded extreme satisfaction both to myself and to the whole of the Navy; for it meant that we no longer had to compete senselessly with the first sea power; and I saw the possibility of gradually building up our Navy on a solid foundation.

I believe that this decision was hailed by the whole Navy with joy and that they understood its significance. The Russian pact was later greeted with the same appreciation, as the combination of this pact and the naval agreement would have been a guarantee of wonderful development.

There were people - but not in the Navy - who believed that this amounted to yielding ground; but this limitation was accepted by the majority of Germans with considerable understanding.

Q. Grand Admiral, what were your personal relations with Hitler? How did you judge him in the course of the years - and what was Hitler's attitude toward you?

A. I thought favourably of this vigorous personality, who was obviously most intelligent, had tremendous will power, was a master in handling people, and - as I myself observed in the early years - a great and very skilful politician, whose national and social aims were already well known and accepted by the armed forces and the German people in its entirety.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal thinks this might be taken more shortly. We have heard it from so many of the others.

DR. SIEMERS: Yes; but is the defendant not to describe his relations with Hitler? Does the Tribunal consider them irrelevant?

THE PRESIDENT: He might do it shortly.

DR. SIEMERS: Yes; good. Grand Admiral, please do it shortly.

THE DEFENDANT: I would just like to say what I thought of Hitler in order to make clear my reasons for not at any time leaving him, which fact the prosecution has raised very strongly against me. His first steps in both domestic and foreign policy undoubtedly created admiration for his political ability, and awakened the hope that, as he had taken these first steps without bloodshed or political complications, he would be able to solve in the same way any problems which might arise later.

THE PRESIDENT: We have, as I have pointed out, heard about this quality or power of Hitler's ability from nearly every one of the defendants and it is very cumulative, and if this defendant wishes to say he was greatly impressed by Hitler's qualities, that is quite sufficient.

THE DEFENDANT: Very well. Then I shall only say that during the early years I had no reason to wonder whether I should remain in my position or not.

DR. SIEMERS: Grand Admiral, we shall automatically come to the later complications at a later stage of the hearing.

Q. I come now to the German-British Naval Agreement and would like to ask you briefly how this naval agreement of 1935 came about. I am referring to Exhibit Raeder 11, Document Book I, Page 59, which contains the naval agreement in the form of a Communication from the German Foreign Minister to the British Government. The actual content was fixed by the British, as the first few words show.

"Your Excellency,

"I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of your Excellency's note of today's date, in which you were so good as to communicate to me on behalf of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom the following:

[Page 103]

Then come the following statements by the British:-
"During the last few days the representatives of the German Government and His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have been engaged in conversations, the primary purpose of which has been to prepare the way for the holding of a general conference on the subject of the limitation of naval armaments. I now have much pleasure in notifying your Excellency of the formal acceptance by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom of the proposal of the German Government discussed at those conversations, that the future strength of the German Navy in relation to the aggregate naval strength of the Members of the British Commonwealth of Nations should be in the proportion of 35: 100. His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom regard this proposal as a contribution of the greatest importance to the cause of future naval limitation. They further believe that the agreement which they have now reached with the German Government, and which they regard as a permanent and definite agreement as from today between the two Governments - "
THE PRESIDENT: This is a well-known document and the Tribunal will take judicial notice of it, of course. It is not necessary to read it all.

DR. SIEMERS: Very well.

I should like to point out that according to Point 2 of this document the British Government recognized that as far as submarines were concerned, Germany should be allowed the same strength as Britain. At the time, that amounted to about 52,000 tons, or rather more than 100 U-boats. The Government of the German Reich, however, voluntarily undertook to restrict itself to 45 per cent of the total submarine tonnage of the British Empire.

Q. Did you and the Navy regard such considerable restrictions as the basis for Germany's peaceful development; and was it received favourably by the Navy in general?

A. Yes; as I have already said, it was received with satisfaction.

DR. SIEMERS: As a judgement formed some years ago carries more weight than a declaration made now in the course of the trial, I wish to submit Exhibit Raeder 12, Document Book 1, Page 64. This document deals with a communication made by Grand Admiral Raeder for the information of the Officers' Corps. It is dated 15th August, 1935 - a month after the signing of the Naval Agreement. Raeder says - and I quote the second paragraph:-

"The agreement resulted from the Fuehrer's decision to fix the ratio of the fleets of Germany and the British Empire at 35:100. This decision, which was based on considerations of European politics, formed the starting point of the London conferences. In spite of initial opposition from England, we held inflexibly to our decision; and our demands were granted in their entirety. The Fuehrer's decision was based on the desire to exclude the possibility of antagonism between Germany and England in the future; and so finally to exclude also the possibility of naval rivalry between the two countries."
The paragraph on Page 66 is also important. I wish to ask the High Tribunal to take judicial notice of the rest.
"By this agreement, the building-up of the German Navy to the extent fixed by the Fuehrer was formally approved by England."
This is followed by individual statements as to tonnage. Then I should like to call attention to the final sentence, which is indicative of Raeder's attitude at the time:-
"This agreement represents a signal success in the political sphere since it is the first step towards a practical understanding and signifies the first relaxation of the inflexible front so far maintained against Germany by our former opponents and demonstrated particularly implacably at Stresa recently."

[Page 104]

Q. Grand Admiral, were the lines of peaceful development laid down by you at that time followed in the next years?

A. Yes.

DR. SIEMERS: In this connection, I should like to submit Exhibit Raeder 13. This is a document which enables me to dispense with the testimony here in Court of Vice-Admiral Lohmann. This document will be found in Document Book I, Page 68, and is entitled: "The New Plan for the Development of the German Navy," and is a standard piece of work. It is a speech made by Vice-Admiral Lohmann in the summer of 1935 at the Hanseatic University in Hamburg. I ask the High Tribunal to take judicial notice of the essential points of this document and as this is an authoritative piece of work done at the request of the High Command, I may perhaps just quote the following: Admiral Lohmann sets forth first of all that, as we now had liberty to recruit and arm troops, the Navy was free of restrictions; but that that was not Hitler's view. I now quote:-

"The Fuehrer, however, chose another way. He preferred to negotiate on German naval armament direct with Britain which, as our one-time enemy" - I beg your pardon, I am quoting from Page 70 - "has tried for years to show understanding for our difficult position."
And on Page 71 Lohmann speaks about misleading reports published in the Press, etc.
"All the more surprising, then, was the ratification of the treaty which expressed the full agreement of both governments, and did not, like some armaments treaties of former times, leave more embitterment than understanding in its trail.

The sense of fairness, which British statesmen have retained, along all the frequently dirty paths of higher politics, broke through when confronted with the unreserved sincerity of the German declarations, the dignified firmness of the German representatives and the passionate desire for peace inspiring the speeches and acts of our Fuehrer. Unlike former times, the speeches of the British leaders expressed respect and recognition. We have acknowledged this as a sign of honest willingness to understand. The voices from the circles of British war- veterans are hardly less valuable than the attitude of the official leaders. In November 1918, for instance, when the German Fleet was received by British Squadrons before being interned in Scapa Flow, the British Commander-in-Chief, Lord Beatty, the great foe of our cruiser Admiral Hipper, sent the famous signal: 'Do not forget that the enemy is a contemptible beast', and this Commander-in-Chief expressed his dislike for Germany on many occasions. But on 26th June, this same Beatty stated in the House of Lords: 'I am of the opinion that we should be grateful to the Germans. They came to us with hands outstretched, announcing that they agreed to the ratio of 3.5:100.'

If they had submitted other proposals we could not have prevented them. We may be truly grateful for the fact that there is at least one country in the world whose competition in regard to armaments we do not need to fear."

Then I should like to refer to Page 73, which limits battleships to 35,000 tons. This limitation plays a part in the prosecution Document C-23. The fact that in this document next to the words "Panama Canal" are placed the words "battleship 35,000 tons", has a certain significance. The limitation to 35,000 tons is not so decisive and important as the prosecution would like us to believe. This is the origin: The United States of America at that time wanted to limit the tonnage to 35,000 tons an account of the width and depth of the Panama Canal, as the Panama Canal would have had to be enlarged in order to admit ships of greater tonnage. I shall return to this point later, as this limit of 35,000 tons was not maintained.

Then I should like to point to Page 67 where the figure mentioned is 52,700 tons, as evidence that this was the basis for comparison with German U-boats.

[Page 105]

It is an historical fact - which is set down here - that France took no part in this limitation and at that time was the strongest U-boat power, with her 96,000 tons. 96 were ready and 15 were under construction. It is also an historical fact that Germany - and this is shown on the same page - had agreed to abolish submarines, as she had had to destroy 315 after the first world war.


Q. Grand Admiral, did the agreement with the British which is shown by these documents, show itself on any other particular occasion?

A. 1 tried to maintain this good understanding and to express my views to the British Navy as, for instance, when I was informed by phone call from an English news agency of the death of Admiral Jellicoe. He served against us as the head of the Fleet in the first world war and we always considered him a very chivalrous opponent. Through this agency, I gave a message to the English Fleet.

THE PRESIDENT: I doubt if this really has any effect on the issues we have to consider.

THE WITNESS: In any event, I tried to bring about a good understanding with the British Navy for the future, and to maintain this good understanding.


Q. On 17th July, 1937, a further German-English Naval Agreement was signed. I am submitting this document as Exhibit Raeder 14, Document Book 1, Page 81. This is a rather lengthy document, only part of which has been translated and printed in the document book; and in order to understand the violation with which the prosecution charges us, I must refer to several of the points contained in it. The agreement concerns the limitation of naval armaments and the exchange of information on naval construction. In Article 4 we find the limitation of battleships to 35,000 tons, which has already been mentioned; and in Articles 11 and 12 - which I will not read, because of their technical nature, but would ask the Tribunal to take note of - both governments are bound to report annually the naval construction programme in hand. This must be done during the first four months of each calendar year; and details about certain ships - big ships in particular - four months before they are laid down. For a better understanding of the whole matter, which has been made the basis of a charge against the defendant in connection with the naval agreement, I may refer to Articles 24 to 26. The three articles show -

THE PRESIDENT: Can you summarize these articles?

DR. SIEMERS: Yes. I did not intend to read them, your Honour. I just want to quote a point or two from them.


Q. These articles enumerate the conditions under which either partner to the agreement could deviate from it. From the start, therefore, it was considered permissible under certain conditions to deviate from the agreement; if, for instance (Article 24) one of the partners became involved in war, or (Article 25) if another power, such as the United States or France or Japan were to build or purchase a vessel larger than those provided for in the agreement. In this article express reference is made to (4), i.e., to battleships of 35,000 tons - in the case of deviation, the only obligation was to notify one's partner. Article 26 states a very general basis for deviation from the agreement: namely, in cases where the security of the nation demands it, such deviation is held to be justified. No further details are necessary at this point.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: The deviation is subject to notification by the other party under sub-article 2. This applies equally to Article 26. Any deviation is subject to notification to the other party of the deviation.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.