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-Second Day: Friday, 17th May, 1946
(Part 2 of 7)

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

[Page 133]

Q. We have heard details of that during previous proceedings, and I do not think we need go into it now. In this connection we come to the last document that is C-126, which you also have in front of you, Exhibit GB 45- It is in Document Book 10-A on Page 92.

With regard to the preparation of the war against Poland, the prosecution has submitted this document of the High Command of the Armed Forces, dated 22nd June, 1939, and signed by Keitel, because it contains a time-table for "Fall Weiss"; that is, the operation against Poland. Did that document or that directive indicate to you a definite aggressive intention?

A. No. Not a definite intention of aggression at all. In all cases certain long range questions had to be cleared up, such as, for instance, whether our training ships which used to put to sea in summer should leave, or whether they should wait. This decision, however, was only to be made in the beginning of August. In connection with that order I issued the order of 2nd August, also

[Page 134]

pertaining to that document, to the individual higher Naval offices, an operational directive for the use of Atlantic submarines in the "Fall Weiss"; I may be permitted to read the first lines, because the wording is important:
"Attached is an operational directive for the employment of U-boats which are to be sent out into the Atlantic, by the way of precaution, should the intention to carry out "Fall Weiss" remain unchanged. Flag Officer of U-boats is to hand in his Operation Orders to SKL, by 12th August. The decision regarding the sailing of U-boats for the Atlantic will probably be made in the middle of August. If the operations are not carried out, this directive must be destroyed by 1st October, 1939, at the latest."
Thus it was not definite that such operations would take place. It was rather a precautionary measure which had to be taken under all circumstances in connection with the "Fall Weiss."

Q. Admiral, you have said that Hitler assured you repeatedly, particularly when you spoke to him personally, that there would be no war?

A. Yes.

Q. Particularly there would be no war against England?

A. Yes.

Q. Now, then, on the 3rd September, 1939, war did start with England. In connection with this did you speak to Hitler about that question - and if so, when?

A. On 3rd September, in the morning, I believe between 10 and 11 - I cannot remember the exact hour - I was called into the Reich Chancellery. The SKL had already informed me that the ultimatum had been received from England and France. I came into the Fuehrer's study, where a number of persons were assembled. The only one I remember to have been there was Hess, the Fuehrer's deputy. I could not say who else was there. I noticed that Hitler was particularly embarrassed when he told me that despite all his hopes, war with England was imminent, and that the ultimatum had been received. It was an expression of embarrassment such as I had never noticed in Hitler before.

Q. I come now to the charge made by the prosecution, that you, Admiral, agreed with National Socialism and strongly supported it.

DR. SIEMERS: May I be permitted to ask the Tribunal to look at Document D-481, which is Exhibit GB 215 in Document Book 10, Page 101. This deals with the oath of civil servants and the oath of soldiers. The prosecution, with reference to this document, has stated that on 2nd August, 1934, in a special ceremony, you took an oath to Adolf Hitler, and not to the Fatherland. In Part 4, Page 265 we read:

"The Tribunal will see that for his Fatherland, Raeder substituted the Fuehrer."
I do not understand this and I will ask you to explain. Had you any part in changing the oath from Fatherland to Hitler.

A. No. I cannot understand that accusation at all. The entire matter was not particularly a ceremony. I do not know who is supposed to have observed it so that he could make such a statement. The Commander-in-Chief, von Blomberg, and the three commanders of the Wehrmacht were called to Hitler on the morning of the 2nd of August. We were in his study and Hitler asked us to come to his desk without ceremony or staging. There we took the oath which he, as Chief of State and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, read to us. We repeated that oath. None of us participated in the writing of that oath and no one had asked us to do so. That would have been quite unusual. The oath referred to the person of Hitler. No previous oath had ever been rendered to, the Fatherland as far as the words were concerned. Once I took an oath to the, Kaiser as Supreme War Lord, once to the Weimar Constitution, and the third oath to the person of the Chief of State and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces - Hitler. In all three cases I took the oath to my people, my Fatherland. That is a matter of course.

[Page 135]

Q. Admiral, you were ordered to that meeting on 2nd August, did you know what it was to deal with?

A. Well, I would assume that Hitler's adjutant informed my adjutant that I was to come, in connection with the taking of the oath. I could not speak with certainty now, but I assume so.

Q. It was the morning after the death of Hindenburg?

A. Yes.

Q. On the day after the death of Hindenburg?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you know about the wording of the oath?

A. No, but the oath was written on a piece of paper and I assume that we were informed of the wording when we went to the desk.

DR. SIEMIERS: May I say at this time, Mr. President, that the wording is contained in the document that I have mentioned and represents a Reich Law.

Q. The prosecution asserts that on 30th January, 1937, you became a Party member by virtue of the fact that you received the Golden Party Emblem. Will you answer briefly on this point, which has been discussed previously in other cases?

A. When the Fuehrer gave me the Golden Party Emblem he said, specifically, that this was the highest decoration which he could give at the time. I could not become a Party member at all because it had been stated that soldiers could not be members of the Party. That was generally known, and for this reason that assertion likewise is incomprehensible.

Q. The membership of soldiers was prohibited by the constitution?

A. Yes, prohibited. May I say one more thing to prevent any misunderstanding? It was prohibited both by the Weimar Constitution and the decrees which Hitler had issued.

Q. Were you in opposition to the Party because of your Christian and church attitude, which was generally known? Briefly, how did it work out? Did you have any difficulties with the Party because of it?

A. In general I had no great difficulties with the Party, which I think is best explained by the fact that the Navy had considerable prestige in the Party, as it did in all Germany. I always arranged for the higher officers, at least the Chiefs of bases and Fleet Commanders, to settle any friction which occurred in the lower ranks, through the proper authorities. If they were more important they were brought to my attention and I dealt with them; if they dealt with matters of principle I passed them on to the OKW. Since I never let anything slip through, in case of incitement by the Party, relations soon improved and I could prevent all sorts of friction, so that before long it rarely occurred. In that respect we had the advantage in the Navy because there were no territorial matters to administer. We were concerned with the sea and only worked in the coastal cities where actually everything concerned the Navy. I had some trouble with Heydrich, whom I had removed from the Navy in 1929 after an Honour Court had sentenced him for unscrupulous treatment of a young girl. He held that against me for a long time and he tried on various occasions to denounce me to the leadership of the Party, or to Bormann and even to the Fuehrer. However, I was always able to counteract these attacks so that they had no effect on my situation in general.

This attitude of Heydrich communicated itself in some way to Himmler, so that I had on occasion to write him strongly- worded letters; but it was precisely the strong wording of those letters which was of help in most cases.

I should not like to waste any time by mentioning various instances, such as the one with the SD; however, there were no direct attacks because of my position in regard to the Church. There was only the statement made by Goebbels, which I learned of through my co-defendant, Hans Fritzsche, that I was in disfavour with the Party on account of my attitude toward the church; but, as I have said, I was not made to feel it in a disagreeable way.

[Page 136]

Q. I believe I do not need to ask you to waste any time in explaining the emphasis which you place on religious matters in the Navy. I will submit an affidavit to this effect without reading it. It was made by Navy Chaplain Ronnberger, whom you have known for many years and who described the situation and thus clarified everything. In that connection, however, may I put one question: Did you emphasize repeatedly to Hitler that a religious attitude was necessary for the soldiers and the Navy?

A. Yes, frequently, and I kept unhesitatingly to this course in the Navy until the end.

DR. SIEMERS: In this connection, Mr. President, I might submit Exhibit Raeder 121. It is in my Document Book Raeder 6, Page 523. I should not like to take the time of the Tribunal by asking questions about the contrasting views between the Party and the Navy in matters of the church. I believe that this document makes it sufficiently clear that a relation between church and National Socialism was not possible. In this field Bormann is the most outstanding figure and I should like to read only the first paragraph of the expose which I have submitted:

"National Socialistic and Christian concepts are incompatible. Christian churches are built on the ignorance of man and are at pains to sustain the ignorance of as large a part of the population as possible, for only in this way can the Christian churches maintain their power. In contrast to this, National Socialism rests on scientific foundations."
In the second paragraph, the last sentence
"If therefore in the future our young people do not learn anything more about Christianity, the teachings of which are far inferior to our own, then Christianity will disappear of itself."
And, on the second page at the end:
"Just as the harmful influence of astrologers, soothsayers and other swindlers are eliminated and suppressed by the State, so the possibilities for the Church to exert its influence must also be entirely removed. Only when this has happened, will the State Leadership have full influence over the individual citizen. Only then will the people and the Reich be guaranteed stability for all time."
Since the religious and Christian attitude of the defendant is generally known, I believe this is enough to show the contrast between the Party and the defendant in these matters.


Q. Concerning the conspiracy, the prosecution has also accused you of belonging to the Secret Cabinet Council and the Defence Council. Will you please answer quite briefly, because these questions have been discussed so often that I assume that no one in this court wishes to hear anything further about these things. Were you a member of the Reich Government?

A. No.

Q. According to Document 2098-PS, which is Exhibit GB 206, Document Book 10, Page 39, a decree of the Fuehrer of 25th February, 1938, you and the Commander-in-Chief of the Army were made equal in rank to the Reich Ministers?

THE PRESIDENT: What page did you say?

DR. SIEMERS: Document Book 10, Page 39.

THE PRESIDENT: Is it 10 or 10-A?


THE PRESIDENT: I do not think this is right. 39 is a translation of Document C-170.

[Page 137]

DR. SIEMERS I beg your pardon. I just heard from Sir David that it is 89.

Q. According to this, you and the Commander-in-Chief of the Army were equal in rank to the Reich Ministers. The prosecution asserts that therefore you were a member of the Cabinet and were permitted to and did participate in the meetings. Is that correct?

A. No. I was not a Reich Minister, but only equivalent in rank. The reason for that was, I believe, that General Keitel was made equal in rank with the Reich Ministers because, in administering the affairs of the War Ministry, he was frequently in contact with them, and had to be on the same level in order to negotiate with them. And since Brauchitsch and myself had seniority over General Keitel we also received the same rank. I was not a member of the Cabinet at all, but the decree states that on the order of the Fuehrer I could participate in a Cabinet meeting. It was probably intended that I was to come to the Cabinet when technical matters had to be explained. However, that never occurred, since after that time there were no Cabinet meetings.

Q. May I point out that in Paragraph 2 of that decree by Hitler it states:-

"Upon my orders he shall participate in the meetings of the Reich Cabinet."
A. Yes. And as far as the Secret Cabinet Council is concerned, I need only confirm that, as Hitler told me himself, the Secret Cabinet Council had only been formed in order to honour the retiring Foreign Minister von Neurath, in order to retain the impression abroad and at home that von Neurath would still be consulted in foreign policy in the future. However, that Secret Cabinet Council never met.

Q. The prosecution has made the charge that on the 12th of March, 1939 on the day commemorating the heroes, you made a speech and that in that speech you came forth with a ruthless announcement of a fight against Bolshevism and International Jewry.

(Addressing the Tribunal): May I state, if it please the Tribunal that unfortunately the speech was quoted by the prosecution only to the extent of an excerpt, which was selected from a certain point of view, and I believe that it would be well to know the continuity of the entire speech. Of course, I shall not read it, but I should like to submit it as Exhibit Raeder 46. The sentence is in my Document Book, No. 3, Page 235, the page from which the prosecution took the quotation. Will you please briefly express your opinion of that.

THE WITNESS: May I in doing so read a few short sentences which will characterise the entire speech?

Q. I have no doubt that the Tribunal will permit that. I only ask you to use only a few significant sentences, just as the prosecution has done,.

A. On Page 7, line 6, it says -

Q. Excuse me. That is on Page 235, the same page which contains the quotation of the prosecution.

A. Shortly before the sentences quoted by the prosecution we read, on line 6:

"He has given back self-confidence and confidence in their own ability to the German people, and thereby enabled them to retake, by their own strength, their sacred right refused to them during the time of their weakness and, beyond that, to grasp the tremendous problems of the times with courage and to solve them. Thus the German people and the Fuehrer have done more for the peace of Europe and the world than some of our neighbours, are able to realize to-day."
Then we come to the sentence where I speak about the announcement of the fight against Bolshevism and International Jewry, the sentence which has been quoted by the prosecution. I should like to state briefly in connection with it that after the experiences of the years 1917 to 1919, Communism and International Jewry had destroyed the resistance of the German people to a considerable degree, and had gained an excessively large and oppressive influence in German affairs, in affairs of State as well as in economic and legal matters. As a result, one could

[Page 138]

not, in my opinion, be surprised that the National Socialist Government tried to loosen and as far as possible remove this large and oppressive influence. Although in pursuing this course the National Socialist Government took rather severe steps, which led to the Nuremberg Laws - the aggravations of which I regretted, of course - nevertheless, in the course of the speech which I made in public at the orders of the Reich Government, I could not find it compatible with my conscience to express my personal opinions I which were basically different. It must also be considered that such a speech had to fit into a general framework. The sentence quoted by the prosecution, however, is only a short one, and there were other points of much more prominence. In that connection I ask for permission to read two more short sentences:-
"And this is the reason for the demand for equal rights and equal respect with all other peoples, which alone can guarantee that the nations will live peacefully together on this earth."
Then the last sentence, on Page 235:-
"Within the framework of the German community of people the Fuehrer has assigned us our tasks as soldiers to protect our homeland and our peaceful national reconstruction, and to train the young men, fit for military service, who will pass through our hands."
The next sentence was quoted by the prosecution, because there I spoke of the fact that we should not only train these young people in the technical use of arms, but also educate them in the sense of National Socialist ideology and philosophy, and because I stated that we had to march shoulder to shoulder with the Party.

I have always taken the view that the Armed Forces should not be a completely extraneous body in the State. It would be impossible to have a republican Armed Force in a monarchist State or an Armed Force with monarchist tendencies in a democratic State. Thus our Armed Forces would have to be incorporated into the National Socialist State to the extent necessary to create a real people's community, and it would be the task of the commanders of the Armed Forces to educate their branches of the Forces in such a way that they would recognize and live up to the good national and socialist ideals of the National Socialist State. This should be done in the same way as I did it as Supreme Commander of the Navy. In this way it was possible to incorporate the Armed Forces in an orderly manner, to keep them from all exaggerations and excesses and at the same time to form a people's community within the State.

And then on the bottom of Page 236:-

"This nation needs a new, a true peace, the peace of justice and honour, a peace without hatred. The world also needs peace. Because a weak Germany could not obtain peace, a strong one has won it for herself. It is the proud task of the German Wehrmacht to secure this peace for the German nation against everybody."
And quite at the end of the document, the 11th or 12th line from the bottom of the page:-
"But the soldier over there whom we respect as the valiant representative of his country, may accept a soldier's words: What Germany needs and wants is peace."
These are not words only but have been proved by practical examples. The construction work of Germany requires many years of quiet development.

[ 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.