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 6 of 6)

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

[Page 177]

Q. The prosecution has furthermore asserted that, after the seizure of power by Hitler, the high military leaders had the choice either of co-operating or of accepting the consequence that the new regime would establish new armed forces,

[Page 178]

that is, armed forces of their own, and that, on the basis of this situation, the generals decided to co-operate. Is that assertion by the prosecution correct?

A. No. It is not true that thereupon any joining of forces took place, though, as I know, such tendencies existed. For instance, once in 1934 I reported to the Fuehrer that I had been informed that SA Gruppenfuehrer Killinger, who had formerly been in the Navy, and had risen to a high rank in the SA, had the intention of becoming the Chief of Naval Operations. But I was not aware of any great effort in that direction on his part. But above all, there was no coalition of the generals for defensive action against such an intention.

Q. So the assertion made by the prosecution is not correct?

A. No, not correct. The idea of such a coalition would not in any way have been in accordance with the sentiments of the soldier.

Q. The prosecution furthermore asserts that the group, above all the generals, let themselves be won over by the regime because of the chance of conquest. Is that assertion correct?

A. That is an absolutely incorrect and far-fetched assertion.

Q. Was the effort of the Party to acquire for itself supreme authority ever supported or promoted by military circles?

A. I do not know that that ever happened. Do you mean the seizure of power?

Q. After the seizure of power was the Party supported by military leaders, as far as you know, in its efforts to attain sole domination in Germany?

A. No.

Q. Yesterday, in reply to the question of your counsel, you described how you came to swear your oath to Hitler. If the intention had existed in the mind of one of the Commanders- in-Chief, would it have been possible for him to refuse the oath?

A. That I cannot say, but I believe that not one of us saw any necessity for refusing that oath.

Q. The prosecution has further asserted that the high military chiefs agreed completely with the principles and aims of National Socialism. Is that correct?

A. I explained here yesterday how far one could agree with the principles of National Socialism and to what extent one trained one's soldiers according to these principles. Anything that went beyond that was rejected and, speaking for the Navy, found no acceptance.

Q. Did the officers who were subordinate to you and fall into the group ever have an insight into the political situation and Hitler's intentions to the extent that one could speak about their participation in his plans?

A. No. There was an absolute prohibition on speaking to anyone about speeches in which Hitler mentioned intentions and possible developments. The officers below the rank of Armed Forces commander were informed only when it had gone so far that the directive had been issued.

Q. The prosecution further asserts -

A. I have to qualify that. That directive was first worked out by the High Command of the Army and the Navy. Thus they received information as soon as the directive of the individual branches of the Armed Forces was issued and that always happened some time later.

Q. The prosecution also asserts that the high military leaders were not military experts but that they knew Hitler's intentions of aggression and willingly co-operated. Can you name any military leaders who, before they had received orders, took a positive attitude toward any aggressive action?

A. I cannot answer that. I explained yesterday how Admiral Karls pointed out to me the danger which was threatening in Norway; but he did not do anything more than give me the information, point out the danger and explain the situation there.

Q. The attitude of the former Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, von Fritsch, and of the Chief of the General Staff Beck to the question of a war is known. I just wanted to ask you, did the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, Field Marshal von Brauchitsch, have the same attitude concerning the war?

[Page 179]

A. I believe so, yes.

Q. Concerning the conference on 5th November, 1937, you made detailed statements yesterday.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Laternser, you have been putting this class of question to every naval and military witness who has been called, and what the Tribunal desires me to point out to you is that there has been no cross-examination by any member of the prosecution challenging any of these points, so this evidence is entirely repetitive and cumulative and is not bound to be put by you to every military and naval witness who comes into the witness box; it is simply a waste of time to the Tribunal. When questions are answered by a witness and are not cross-examined to by the other side, it is the practice to assume that the answers are accepted.

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, for me this is an extremely important question which has just been touched upon, namely, the question of whether a question is inadmissible because, in the opinion of the Tribunal it is cumulative. I should like to make a few statements concerning whether or not a question is cumulative.

THE PRESIDENT: Surely, Dr. Laternser, you can understand what the Tribunal has said to you, that it is now desired, In view of the directives of the Charter, that this trial should be as expeditious as it can reasonably be, and it does not desire to have the same evidence adduced to it over and over again. Is that not clear?

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, if I can assume that the Tribunal, accepts as true these proofs which I want to bring by means of my questions, then I can, of course, forgo them. But I cannot determine whether that is the case unless I know for sure that I have succeeded in bringing definite proof -

THE PRESIDENT: What I wanted to point out to you was that you asked the same question of a great number of witnesses and that those questions have not been cross-examined to, and in such circumstances von can assume that the answers given by the witnesses are accepted.

DR. LATERNSER: If I am justified in drawing this conclusion, then, of course, I shall dispense with such questions in the future. I have only a few more questions, Mr. President.


Q. In support of the indictment of the group of the General Staff and the OKW two affidavits have been presented by the prosecution, one by Field Marshal von Blomberg and one by General Blaskowitz. In these two affidavits both these officers state that as a whole, within the circle of generals before the war, the opinion existed that the question of the Corridor would have to be decided unconditionally and, if necessary, with force. Is that correct? Was that the general attitude at that time?

A. I never heard of such an opinion. In my presence General von Blomberg never made any statement of that kind. The Polish question was discussed by us in the Navy only to the extent already mentioned here during the last few days, namely that an attack on Poland by Germany would have to be prevented under all circumstances. The political treatment of this question -

THE PRESIDENT The defendant says he has never heard of this suggestion.

DR. LATERNSER That was the reason why I put the question to the witness.

THE WITNESS: After 1933, political questions were handled and decided by Hitler exclusively, and he said that he made all policies.


Q. It is therefore correct that this opinion which Blomberg and Blaskowitz have mentioned does not apply for the circle of generals?

[Page 180]

A. Well, at any rate, I have never heard it expressed by the generals. It certainly did not exist in the Navy.

Q. You were present at the conferences of 23rd November, 1939?

A. Yes.

I should like to put one supplementary question concerning those conferences. Admiral, do you remember that in the course of these conferences Hitler reproached the generals because they still had old-fashioned ideas of chivalry and that these ideas had to be rejected?

A. That I cannot say with certainty. I believe that I can recall having once heard it said that Hitler was of that opinion.

Now, I have one last question concerning the document which your counsel put to you in the course of your examination. It is Document C-66, submitted by the British prosecution as Exhibit GB 81. It is in Document Book 10, on Page 13, or 10A, Page 35. On Page 5 of the document, last paragraph, you said the following:

"It can be seen from my statements and plans that the Fuehrer counted on a definite conclusion of the Eastern campaign in the autumn of 1941, whereas the High Command of the Army (General Staff) was very sceptical."
Admiral, I wanted to ask you of what this scepticism amounted to.

A. As far as I know, the High Command of the Army was of the opinion that it was impossible to conclude such a tremendous campaign in so short a time, and many others shared that opinion, whereas the Fuehrer, because of the new weapons and his strategy, believed the opposite.

Q. Do you know anything about whether the High Command of the Army had any fundamental objections to the Russian campaign before it was begun?

A. As far as I know, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army was very much against it; but that too, I cannot say definitely,

DR. LATERNSER: Thank you. I have no more questions.

DR. KRAUS: (representing Dr. von Luedinghausen, counsel for the defendant von Neurath).


Q. Admiral, in the course of the proceedings it has been testified, I believe by Goering, that Field Marshal von Hindenburg had expressly desired that Herr von Neurath should become Foreign Minister. Do you know anything about that?

A. I learned at the time that Hindenburg had expressed that wish, and it attracted my attention because Field Marshal von Hindenburg until that time had always considered it his right to appoint the Minister of Defence and the Chiefs of Staff of the Army and Navy. This was the first time that he expressed such a wish in the case of a foreign minister.

Q. So it was not the practice of the Field Marshal to make any suggestions regarding the appointments of ministers?

A. No. Up to that time he had exercised his privilege of making appointments only as regards the Minister of Defence and Chiefs of Staff, even in the former Cabinets.

Q. What may have been the reason for Field Marshal von Hindenburg making that exception in the case of Neurath?

A. He probably wanted to make sure under all circumstances that the peaceful policies which had prevailed in Germany up to that time, would be continued. He was sure that Herr von Neurath would carry on these policies.

Q. So he had particular confidence in Herr von Neurath's attitude up to that time?

A. Yes, beyond a doubt.

Q. You knew von Neurath very well, and you were informed about his political principles, were you not? What were the main lines of his policies?

[Page 181]

A. Herr von Neurath wanted to see the gradual return of the German people to normal conditions, and he wanted to strive with peaceful means for equal rights for the German Reich. Above all, he wanted to have good relations with England, which was also in conformity with Hindenburg's intentions, and on this very point both of us agreed completely.

Q. So one can say that you considered von Neurath an exponent of a policy of understanding with England?

A. Yes,

Q. Then I have a second question for you, Admiral. A Fritz Wiedemann, who was Hitler's adjutant from 193S to 1939, has deposited an affidavit. The prosecution has submitted that affidavit as Document PS 3073. In this affidavit Herr Wiedemann states that on 28th May, 1938, a conference took place in the Winter Garden of the Reich Chancellery with all important people of the Foreign Office, the Army, and the operational Staffs present, a conference so large that one almost doubted whether all these people would have room in the Winter Garden.

And here, he says, in addition to Goering, General Beck, General Keitel, and von Brauchitsch, there were also present von Neurath, von Ribbentrop and yourself.

In this meeting Hitler spoke among other things about Czechoslovakia and stated that it was his unshakeable intention that Czechoslovakia must disappear from the map. Do you know anything about that meeting?

A. Although I can recall every such large or important meeting, I have not the slightest recollection of this meeting at that time. The list of those present also seems very unlikely to be correct. I have never seen Herr von Neurath and Herr von Ribbentrop together at the same meeting. I even doubt whether Herr von Neurath at that time was in Berlin at all. He was quite definitely not present at that meeting. But I also do not remember any meeting at which von Ribbentrop was present as foreign minister when military matters were discussed. I believe this Herr Wiedemann is mistaken, because I believe also that I have never seen him at a meeting in which such matters are supposed to have been discussed. The Fuehrer always sent this personal adjutant of his out of the room beforehand. I believe there is some mistake.

Q. You could undoubtedly remember such an important statement by the Fuehrer.

A. Yes. During that summer the Fuehrer's opinions fluctuated greatly. I believe that at the end of May a mobilization took place in Czechoslovakia, but I do not remember exactly. But I attended no meeting, as far as I know, at which such a statement was made.

DR. KRAUS: Thank you. I have no more questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Does any other defendant's counsel wish to ask any questions?

(No response.)

Sir David, it seems scarcely worth-while starting the cross- examination.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: If your lordship pleases, I entirely agree.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 20th May, 1946, at 1000 hours.)

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