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 6 of 9)

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

[Page 110]

Q. Excuse me, that is at the beginning of this speech of 5th November?

A. Yes, at the beginning of the speech. He told me he had spoken with the Fuehrer beforehand. The Fuehrer wanted to spur on the Army to carry out its rearmament somewhat faster. It was going too slowly. The subject of the

[Page 111]

speech was Austria and Czechoslovakia, which he said in one place he wanted Raeder to overthrow. He said that the latest date would be 1943-1945, because after that our situation would become worse. But the case could come up earlier under two conditions: In the first place, if internal unrest occurred in France; in the second place, in the event of a Mediterranean war - which in my opinion was fantastic - in which England, France, Italy - and I believe he added Spain - would participate.

The assertion that the arming of Army, Navy and Air Force was as good as completed in November 1937, I could not understand. The Navy had not a single battleship yet in service. The situation was similar in the Air Force and Army. In no way were we armed for war, and a war against England, for example, would have been sheer madness. As for me, the decisive sentences in his speech were that first, England and France, I believe, had already written off Czechoslovakia; and, second, that he was convinced that France and England would not interfere. In the third place was the fact that just a few months before, in July 1937, the second Naval Agreement had been signed. These three facts seemed to me to make it certain that Hitler would not seek a warlike solution, of these questions, Austria and Czechoslovakia - Sudetenland was the question of the day - under any circumstances; but that he would strive for a peaceful solution. For that reason the speech did not give me the impression that Hitler at the time wanted to change his policy, that he wanted to turn from a policy of peace to one of war. I can imagine that Herr von Neurath, not knowing the purpose of this speech, received a different impression. But, as I now think back over the matter, I can imagine that the exaggerated character of the speech was specifically intended to force von Neurath out of the cabinet, because I have learned that at that time the Fuehrer was inclined to replace von Neurath by von Ribbentrop. That was only an assumption which I made afterwards.

For me the conclusions to be drawn from the speech were none other than these: The construction of the fleet in the ratio of one to three, relative to England, was to be continued, and a friendly relationship with England was still to be striven for. The ratio agreement which had just been reached was to be observed.

Q. And, Grand Admiral, it appears, at the end of the document, namely in the fourth paragraph from the end, that Field Marshal von Blomberg and Colonel General von Fritsch, in giving their estimate of the situation, repeatedly pointed out the necessity that England and France must not appear as enemies. This is commented on further, and one sees that Blomberg and Fritsch were disturbed and for once they opposed Hitler.

After the speech you talked to von Blomberg. Is it true that he, who can unfortunately not be examined, and Fritsch, who is also dead, saw through this exaggeration of Hitler and therefore pointed out their misgivings and wanted to exert some influence on him? About what did you talk to Blomberg after this speech?

A. In the first place, Blomberg and Fritsch -

THE PRESIDENT: You must try not to put leading questions, Dr. Siemers. You are putting into the witness' mouth what you want him to answer. If you want to -

DR. SIEMERS: I am sorry I did so. It is a little difficult when the two men who were there, Blomberg and Fritsch, are dead. I can only point out that they are not alive any longer. My final question is -

THE PRESIDENT: That cannot be helped, the fact that they are dead. But, if you want to get anything in about that, you must get it from the witness, not from yourself.


Q. What impression did Blomberg have after this speech? What did he say to you afterwards?

[Page 112]

A. Blomberg himself, in a statement in a questionnaire, confirmed to Field Marshal Keitel that, when we left the room, Blomberg, who was with the Fuehrer most often, said that Hitler's statements were not meant and should not be taken too seriously. He believed that the Fuehrer would settle these questions peacefully, too. And as Dr. Siemers said, Blomberg and Fritsch had both already called the attention of the Fuehrer to the fact that in no circumstances should England and France be provoked to intervene, since the German Wehrmacht would not be able to deal with them.

I may add that in this case I intentionally did not make any such objections because it was, after all, a daily occurrence that, whenever I met the Fuehrer, I told him that we must steer such a course as to avoid becoming involved with England. And the Fuehrer repeatedly confirmed his intention to do this. It is typical that when the Chief of Army Operations, General von Fritsch, said that after these remarks he would not be able to take the vacation in Egypt in the winter of 1937-1938 which he had planned for his health, Hitler at once agreed and said that the affair was not so urgent he could go ahead on his vacation undisturbed, which he then did.

This shows that it was again a question of exerting pressure. That was the speech of 5th November, 1937. For in fact he did not then crush either Austria or Czechoslovakia, but in 1938 the question was settled peacefully, without bloodshed, and with the agreement of the other Powers.

Q. In this connection may I submit a document relating to the following year, Exhibit Raeder 23, Document Book 2, Page 127. On 30th September, 1938 - I need not say anything further about Munich because the defendant did not directly participate - Hitler and Chamberlain jointly declared that the agreement signed the previous night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement were considered symbols of the desires of both nations never again to wage war against each other. The rest of the contents is well known.

Then I come to the second key document which the prosecution submitted, namely L-79, the so-called " Little Schmundt." It is Exhibit USA 27, No. 10 in the Document Book of the British Delegation, on Page 24. The document, in spite of its astonishing length, was also presented in full by the prosecution, so I will not read from it. May I remind the Tribunal that it states that further successes could not be achieved without bloodshed, and on 23rd May, 1939, with reference to Poland, that not Danzig but the attainment of Lebensraum was the issue at stake.

THE PRESIDENT: Will you give us the reference? The reference we got was Document Book 10, Page 24.


THE PRESIDENT: 74, was it?

DR. SIEMERS: 74, please accept my apology.


Q. It speaks of the final attainment of Lebensraum, and of the fact that the Polish problem could not be separated from the conflict with the West. Thereupon Hitler said that he was still resolved to attack Poland at the first suitable opportunity. Unfortunately, this is again a document which is undated.

Do you know when Lieutenant-Colonel Schmundt prepared this report?

A. No, unfortunately I cannot say that.

THE PRESIDENT: Why do you say it is undated?

DR. SIEMERS: Mr. President, there is no date stating when the document was prepared. There is only the date referring to the minutes of the Conference of 23rd May. In the case of the Hoszbach Document the conference was on 5th November, but it was written down by Hoszbach five days later from memory,

[Page 113]

on 10th November. In the case of Schmundt, we do not know whether it was written down after one day, five days or four weeks.

THE PRESIDENT: Is it in evidence that the document of 5th November was written down five days later?

DR. SIFMERS: No, the document of 5th November shows that it was prepared five days later. The document is dated at the top "Berlin, 10th November, 1937; Notes on the Conference in the Reich Chancellery on 5th November, 1937."

THE PRESIDENT Well, that is right, then there is evidence.


Q. In the case of Schmundt, there is no indication?

A. No.

Q. You do not know when it was written down?

A. No, I never heard when.

Q. Did you ever see this document before this trial?

A. No.

Q. Does this document contain a correct reproduction, in all points, of Hitler's speech, or does what you said about the Hoszbach Document apply here also?

A. It applies even more here. In my opinion it is the most confusing document concerning a Hitler speech which exists, for a large part of the statements in my opinion makes no sense whatsoever, as I have tried to show. The adjutant wrote that only the sense of the statements was reproduced.

DR. SIEMERS: That is on the first page, where is written: "Reproduced in substance."


Q. Please explain to the Tribunal what impression this speech made on you at the time and why you believed, in spite of this speech, that Hitler was not planning any war of aggression.

A. I should like to point out again here that the trial brief makes the comment that consultation took place as to the scale on which the plan should be executed. Particularly in this case that comment does not at all represent the character of the speech correctly. The meaning of the whole first part of the speech, as I said, is extremely vague. Whereas, in the 1937 speech, 1943 to 1945 was given as the latest deadline, and the possibility of an earlier date was given under certain improbable circumstances, here Hitler speaks of a solution as being possible in fifteen to twenty years. He says that Poland is always on the side of the enemy, in spite of the treaties of friendship, that her secret intention is to take advantage of any opportunity to act against us, and that he therefore wants to attack Poland at the first suitable opportunity. He says that the Polish problem is inseparable from a conflict in the West, but a conflict in the West must not be permitted to arise simultaneously. Unless it is certain that a war with the West will not take place in the course of the German-Polish conflict, then the first line of battle must be against England and France. Then again, he says that we cannot allow ourselves to be drawn into a war on two fronts such as the incapable men of 1914 had brought about.

He says England - and that is comparatively new here - is the driving force against Germany. We must prepare for a long war, aside from a surprise attack - obviously against England. It is astonishing that we were to endeavour, at the beginning of such a war, to strike a destructive blow against England. The goal is to beat England to her knees.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Siemers, the defendant appears to be reading from a document an argument about this document. That is not giving evidence. If be can tell us anything about what happened at this meeting, it is open to him to do so.

[Page 114]

DR. SIEMERS: He is repeating, with the aid of this document, the involved thoughts which Hitler expressed at that time, and he is pointing out the contradictions contained in that speech.

THE PRESIDENT: That is a matter of argument, to point out that there are conflicts between one part of the document and another. That is not the subject of evidence.

He has already told us that Hitler's speeches - that one speech generally contradicted another, but we can see for ourselves from the document if one part o it conflicts with another.

DR. SIEMERS: Is it not of importance, Mr. President, that the unclear statements of Hitler at that time had such an effect on the witness that he says that there are so many contradictory statements that the conclusions which we derive from them are likely to be untrue. As I understand the witness, Hitler must have had a mental reservation in the back of his mind to say such unclear things to commanders; but I believe we can shorten it.


Q. Grand Admiral, according to the wish of the Tribunal, just explain what the effect was on you and what in your opinion were the special designs connected with this document.

A. I only wanted, by contrasting these sentences, to show how unclear the speech was. At the end there is a second part in which a number of doctrinaire, academic opinions on warfare are expressed, and a conclusion to the effect that it was also a wish of Hitler to have formed in the OKW a research staff to work out all these plans for war preparation, evaluation of individual weapons, etc., without the participation of the General Staffs, with whom he did not wish to collaborate. He wanted these things to be in his own hands. Thus it was the formation of a research staff which motivated this speech.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Siemers, I have already told you that the Tribunal thinks that argument is not evidence. This seems to be purely argument upon this document. If there is anything in the shape of recollection as to what passed at this meeting, that would be evidence, but merely to argue upon the document is not in evidence.

DR. SIEMERS: Mr. President, may the witness not say what effect Hitler's processes of thought had on him? The prosecution says that Hitler and Raeder entered into conspiracy together.

THE PRESIDENT: He can say he did not understand it or did not think it was sincere.

DR. SIEMERS: In this connection I should like to point out that the witness referred to this point because this is the only passage from this document which the prosecution has not read. In this document, the sentences about the research as I noticed immediately, were not read. This research staff was what Hitler wanted to obtain.


Q. Grand Admiral, after this speech, was anything changed in your department?

A. No. The conclusion which was drawn was, first, that the ship construction programme was to be continued as in the past - so Hitler himself said. In the second place he said that the armament programmes were to be adapted to the year 1943-1944. That was the positive thing which I could conclude for myself.

At that time, moreover, I was strongly impressed by the speech which Hitler himself made at the launching of the battleship Bismarck in Hamburg. There he said that the Wehrmacht, as the keenest instrument of war, had to protect and help to preserve the peace of true justice. That made the greatest impression on me at that time in regard to Hitler's intentions.

[Page 115]

Q. Was the fleet at that time in a position to do this?

A. No. It was completely incapable.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Siemers, if there are any passages in this document which have not been read and to which you attach importance, you may read them now and for the rest, all that the Tribunal thinks you ought to do is to ask the defendant what his recollection was or what happened at that meeting and if he can supplement the document as to what happened at the meeting, he is entitled to do so. The Tribunal does not intend to prevent your reading anything from the document which has not yet been read nor from getting from the witness anything which he says happened at the meeting.

DR. SIEMERS: Mr. President, I understood the defendant to mean that he recalled passages concerning the research staff, which the prosecution did not mention, and therefore referred to them. I believe that can explain the misunderstanding. The situation is clear to me, and perhaps I may read this sentence in that connection.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, certainly.

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