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-Third Day: Saturday, 18th May, 1946
(Part 4 of 6)

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

[Page 170]


Q. Admiral, have you anything to add to these extracts from the War Diary?

[Page 171]

A. No, I have nothing to add. The matter is quite clear.

Q. May I ask you now to describe to the High Tribunal - and with this I am coming to the conclusion of my examination - how it came about that you resigned in January, 1943?

DR. SIEMERS: Your Honours, shall we have a recess first?

THE PRESIDENT: It depends on whether you hope to finish in a few minutes. If you hope to finish in a few minutes we will sit on so that you may finish your examination.

DR. SIEMERS: I believe it will take perhaps ten minutes.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well, go on.


Q. Please describe how it came about that you resigned in January of 1943 but first I should like to ask you one more question: Had you, already before this, thought of resigning?

A. I should like to say briefly that before the war I asked the Fuehrer on several occasions to relieve me of my post-or I put an ultimatum to him. I should like briefly to cite two cases as examples. In November, 1938, in the presence of General Keitel, I made a report to the Fuehrer about the type of ships and our plans as to how the ships should be developed further. On this occasion the Fuehrer began to attack, in a way that defies description, all our plans for construction, including those for the Bismarck, and to declare them wrong. Later I found out that things like that happened whenever some person of his entourage, who knew very little about such things, gave him his opinion - that he always followed it up because he wanted, as I told myself later, to check whether the things he had been told were actually correct.

This case, however, was so extreme that I could not do anything else but simply pick up my plans, put them in my brief-case, and leave the room. General Keitel was present. The Fuehrer followed me to the door, asked me to come in again, softened his accusations and asked me not to resign now under any circumstances.

The second case was a purely personal one, but it is rather typical. His naval adjutant, who had just been appointed, wanted to marry a young girl who had a very unsavoury reputation at the University of Kiel. I told him I would never consent to the marriage. The Fuehrer had the girl introduced to him and decided he had nothing against the marriage; I left the Berghof and sent the Fuehrer a letter via a staff officer, in which I told him that I would refuse my consent, and that should the officer marry, either he or I would leave the Navy. I asked the officer who acted as my courier to bring back the answer, since I wanted to reach a decision at once. The Fuehrer made the officer wait two days at the Berghof and then sent him back to me with a letter, saying, "Very well, the officer cannot marry and remain in the Navy and he will not be used further as a Naval adjutant; someone else will be put in his place. He will become some sort of leader in my National Socialist Motor Corps and will then serve as one of my Party adjutants." It was typical of the Fuehrer that up to a certain point he wanted to see his wishes carried out; but anyway this man was out of the Navy, and in this case I had been able to make my convictions felt. Under these circumstances I declared myself ready to continue in office. That was at the beginning of 1939; in the course of the spring, however, I asked again whether I could not be relieved of my position, since I had served for many years in the Navy and I did not believe I would be able to maintain the dignity of the office much longer. I suggested to Hitler that perhaps in October, 1939, I should leave my post. He refused at the time, and on the 1st October we were at war, and in time of war I did not believe that I could leave the Navy under any circumstances unless it was very urgent, especially since I considered myself totally responsible for all preparations and for the training of the Navy. Up to the time when the war started, the Fuehrer and I had, apart from incidents such as I have just described, worked together quite amicably, and I had always been treated

[Page 172]

with considerable respect. But now this relationship gradually became strained. The Fuehrer became more nervous when I made reports, flared up in rage when we disagreed, or if there had been any incidents, as for instance, a technical defect in, or poor performance by, a ship. It happened again and again that his entourage influenced him before I could actually explain matters to him, and I was called in subsequently to set him straight on these matters. In that way unpleasant scenes ensued which wore me out badly.

One point about which the Fuehrer was especially sensitive was the large ships. He was always uneasy when our large ships were out on the high seas and were carrying on raids against shipping. The crippling of a ship, such as the Graf Spee, or later the Bismarck, he considered a tremendous loss of prestige, and matters like that therefore excited him tremendously. That went on until the end of 1942. Then there came - and this particularly impressed me - my defeat at the consultation with the Fuehrer on questions dealing with Norway, France, and, above all, Russia. In the final analysis he always listened more to the Party people, as for example, Terboven, than to an old officer. That led to a situation which could not be tolerated for any length of time. One of the basic characteristics of the Fuehrer was a tremendous suspicion toward anyone and every one, but especially directed against old officers who had come from the old Wehrmacht and of whom he always assured - although they always treated him with great respect - that in their hearts they did not share those feelings which he expected them to. The case of Russia in particular led me to so many conflicts with him that our relations were strongly influenced thereby. Indeed, the man who compiled all these War Diaries and minutes, Admiral Assmann, said, on one occasion at the conclusion of such a discussion: "The Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, therefore, is in complete opposition to the Fuehrer in this matter."

At the end Of 1942, just after I had had to put an end to our discussions about Norway, an incident occurred which led to the final break. There was to have been an attack on a convoy which was going to Murmansk or Archangel from England. It was in December, at a time when in these northern regions there are just one or two hours of light, and no favourable weather for fighting by large ships, if they find themselves facing large numbers of destroyers. Our attacking force had started on its journey and had reached the convoy while it was still light. But since the daylight soon disappeared and darkness fell, and since the convoy was guarded by many destroyers, the admiral considered it expedient to withdraw the large ships from the battle. That was the only correct decision, for he might have lost them all by torpedo attack. This fact and, secondly, the fact that unfortunately the radio connection between this admiral and the Naval Operations Staff was made difficult and at times completely broken off, caused the Fuehrer, when I reported at his headquarters, and told him all that I knew, to become extremely excited. The whole day was spent with questions back and forth, and even in the evening I could not give him a clear picture. This excited him extremely. Through Admiral Kranke he had all sorts of insults transmitted to me and demanded that I report to him immediately, and I could see that very strong friction would result. I arranged it so that I did not need to report to him until six days later, on 6th January, in order that the atmosphere could first cool off a little. By that date I was able to give him a complete report; and in the evening, at a discussion at which Field Marshal Keitel was also present, he made a speech of about an hour's duration in which he made derogatory remarks about everything that the Navy had done so far, in direct contrast to all that he had said about that service before. From this I saw that he was anxious to bring about a break.

I personally was firmly prepared to seize this opportunity to resign, especially as it became even clearer that the war was becoming purely a U-boat war, and I therefore felt that I could leave at this moment with a clean conscience.

After the Fuehrer concluded his speech, I asked to be permitted to speak with him alone. Field Marshal Keitel and the stenographers left and I told him that I was asking for my resignation as I could see from his words that he was entirely dis-

[Page 173]

satisfied with me and, therefore, this was the proper moment for me to leave. As always, he tried at first to dissuade me, but I remained adamant and told him that a new Commander- in-Chief of the Navy would definitely have to be appointed, who would have complete responsibility. He said that it would be a great burden for him if I were to leave now, since for one thing, the situation was very critical - Stalingrad was impending - and secondly, since he had already been accused of dismissing so many generals. In the eyes of the outside world it would incriminate him if I were to leave at this point. I told him that I would do everything I could to prevent that happening. If he wanted to give the appearance, as far as the out-side world was concerned, that I had not resigned because of a clash, then he could make me a general inspector with some sort of nominal title, which would create the impression that I was still with the Navy and that my name was still connected with it. This appealed to him at once, and I told him on that day that I wanted to be dismissed on 30th January, by which date I should have concluded ten years of service as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy under him. He agreed to this proposal and asked me to suggest two successors so that he could make a choice.

On 30th January he then personally dismissed me by appointing me Admiral Inspector of the Navy. He said that he would still on occasion ask me for advice; but that never happened. I was merely sent out twice, once to Bulgaria when the King of Bulgaria was buried, and once to Hungary, to (Regent) Horthy to bring him a gift from the Fuehrer.

Q. You performed no other tasks as Admiral Inspector?

A. I had no functions and received no orders.

Q. Then my last question: Did you have the impression, on the occasion of your conversation of 6th January, 1943, with Hitler, that he, in a way, was glad to get rid of you in view of the many differences of opinion and the fact, that you contradicted him frequently on technical, naval and political matters concerning Norway, France, Russia?

A. I do believe that he wanted to get rid of me at this time, for I was, in a certain way, an inconvenience to him. This one case, which I described, where I had my way in the end, he had never forgotten.

Q. Thank you very much.

DR. SIEMERS: This concludes my examination of Admiral of the Fleet Raeder.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will sit today until half past one. It will adjourn now for ten minutes.

(A recess was taken.)

(The defendant Raeder resumed the witness-stand.)

THE PRESIDENT: Do any of the defendants' counsel want to ask questions?

BY DR. KRANZBUHLER: (Counsel for the defendant Karl Donitz):

Q. Admiral, you recall the memorandum of the Naval Operations Staff of 15th October, concerning possibilities for an intensification of the economic war. That is in Document Book 10 of the British Delegation, on Pages 96 and 97 of the English text. Admiral Wagner has already testified about it here. Can you add anything to that statement concerning the purpose and the meaning of that memorandum?

A. Since the war against England came as a complete surprise to us, we had up until then dealt very little with detailed questions of submarine warfare. Among other things we had not yet discussed the question of so-called unrestricted submarine warfare, which had played such a very important part in the previous war. That was why, on the 3rd September, that officer who was recently mentioned here was sent to the Foreign Office with some points for discussion on the question of I unrestricted submarine warfare, so that we could determine just how far we could go. That is the document which recently played a role here, D-851, Exhibit GB-451, of 3rd November.

Q. 3rd September, you mean.

[Page 174]

A. Yes, 3rd September.

This touches upon all these questions. Then discussions with the Foreign Office took place and this U-boat memorandum, which was mentioned by you, was worked out in the High Command of the Navy on the basis of these discussions, and released on 15th October. I believe that on 15th October I presented it to the Fuehrer who, in principle, agreed to the contents. But the very fact that a memorandum about submarine warfare concerning possibilities for an intensification of submarine warfare was issued only on 15th October, shows how little we were prepared for that eventuality.

That memorandum contains, near the beginning, the sentence which has been quoted by the prosecution concerning our position with respect to International Law, where reference is made to highest ethics of warfare, adherence to International Law and the basing of all military measures on existing rules of war wherever possible. But when this is not possible or when by deviation it is possible to achieve decisive military results, and one can take the responsibility for this deviation, then in case of necessity one must depart from existing International Law. That means that a new International Law may have to be developed.

However, this entire memorandum represents merely a constant search for possibilities for conducting submarine warfare with the least damage to neutrals, and the greatest possible adherence to International Law, and in such a way that it would become a decisive factor in the outcome of the war.

Various cases were discussed as to how an intensification could be introduced, but it always was a question of finding counter-measures against the enemy. Such possibilities as a blockade or the new concept, siege of England by submarine warfare, were examined in detail; but the conclusion was as always that, in view of the small number of submarines and other conditions, it was not yet possible to conduct such operations.

The final result of that entire memorandum, as set down in that document, can be found in the two last pages. Unfortunately, I have only the German copy in front of me, where, under the last paragraph D, the final conclusions at which we arrived deserve notice -

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