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-Fourth Day: Monday, 20th May, 1946
(Part 3 of 13)

[SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE continues his cross examination of Erich Raeder]

[Page 189]

Q. I am not asking you about that. I like you to answer the right question. I am not asking you about the question of Versailles any longer. I am asking you about Admiral Assmann's assertion, that you did not adhere to the restrictions of the German-British Treaty in 1935, and what you did in Finland in the '20s has nothing to do with that. Now, that is all. You can give your explanation.

[Page 190]

A. That is entirely wrong. We particularly restricted ourselves with regard to the construction of U-boats; and in 1938 we had still not built the forty-five per cent which we were entitled to build, so we made an application for permission to build up to one hundred per cent; and this was agreed on, and came into effect, as appears from the text of the English treaty, after a friendly discussion with the British Admiralty at the end of 1938. At the beginning of the war we still did not have one hundred per cent. We were always behind with the construction of submarines.

Admiral Assmann, who probably had no up-to-date knowledge of these matters, is quite wrong.

Q. Just look at the next sentences. This is dealing -

A. What page are you speaking of?

Q. Page 156. I will read it very slowly again:-

"Considering the size of the U-boats for which orders had already been given, about fifty-five U-boats could have been provided for up to 1938. In reality 118 were completed or ordered."
Are you saying that Admiral Assmann is wrong when he states that?

A. I am very sorry; I still have not got the passage from which you are reading, that is quite ... which line ...?

(Court attendant indicates passage to witness.)

A.... this is ... yes, Page 156.

Q. Have you got the sentence, defendant?

A. Yes, I have found it now.

Q. Well now, you see what Admiral Assmann says, that "Considering the size of the U-boats for which orders had already been given, about fifty-five U-boats could have been provided for up to 1938." That is before there was any mention of going from forty-five to one hundred.

"In reality 118 were completed or ordered."
Are you saying that Admiral Assmann is wrong in giving these figures?

A. Certainly. In 1939 we entered the war with, I think, forty submarines. This is either a misprint or a quite incredible figure. As you know, we started the war with, I think, twenty-six U-boats capable of sailing the Atlantic, and in addition a number of smaller boats. I cannot tell you for certain now what was the number under construction at the beginning of the war but it was nowhere near the figure mentioned. Indeed that was the very accusation made against me - that I did not have sufficient U-boats ready in good time. I dispute the whole of that sentence.

Q. You agree then, defendant, that Admiral Assmann's figures are quite incompatible with what you have told the Tribunal about the number of U-boats with which you started the war?

A. Yes.

DR. SIEMERS: I should be grateful to Sir David if he would read the entire sentence; that is, if he would also read Note 6, which appears after the number 118 and after the word "ordered." Note 6, which, as I have just observed, is not included in the English translation is worded as follows:-

"Chief of the Naval Budget Department, B, No. E, 311/42, most secret, of 18th November, 1942."
The figure, Mr. President, refers to a much later period, not 1938 at all.

I should be extremely grateful if, after the experience we have just had, I could in future have not only the German document but also the English translation from Sir David. I should be very grateful to Sir David if he could have this done.

THE PRESIDENT: Could you not have the passage you want translated from the German into English by the time you want to re-examine? As I understand it, you are referring, to some note which is an addition to what has been translated into English. Will you read it again, would you read the passage again?

[Page 191]

DR. SIEMERS: Sir David has been reading the following:-
"In reality 118 were completed or ordered."
That is as far as Sir David has read. After the word "ordered" there is a figure (6). This refers to Note 6. Note 6 is worded as follows:-
"Chief of the Naval Budget Department, B, No. E, 311/42, most secret, of 19th November, 1942. (Page 19.)"
In other words, this shows that the number 118 must have been mentioned on Page 19 of this document of the Budget Department in 1942. The figure therefore does not refer to the year 1938, but to a later date.

THE WITNESS: I can add another explanation to that which is quite possible.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, I will look into that, but the text says - and there is no difference in the German text - exactly what I read - that "about fifty-five could have been provided up to 1938, and that in reality 118 were completed or ordered." That is Admiral Assmann's text.

DR. SIEMERS: But not 1938.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Really, my Lord, I think that my friend, Dr. Siemers, will have ample opportunity ... If there is any point, I shall consider it, but there is the text, and the text includes that. What the footnote says, Dr. Siemers, can be put in re-examination.

THE TRIBUNAL (Mr. Biddle): Sir David, will you look at the note and see if the date 1942 refers to the report, rather than to construction?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Really, my translation of this note is "Chief of the Naval Budget Department." Then it gives the reference to his note, dated 19th November, 1942. It seems entirely to bear out the suggestion of the learned American judge that this is the reference to the report, nothing more. It is only a matter of suggestion to say that 1942 refers to the date of construction, and I think it really would be convenient if, unless Dr. Siemers has got something to say on the text that I am putting, he reserved these argumentative points to re-examination.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Siemers, you can raise it all in re- examination. You can have a translation of this note laid before us by that time.

DR. SIEMERS: Mr. President, I am perfectly agreeable. I have merely requested that one copy of the English translation of the newly submitted documents should be given to me.

Mr. President, you will admit that my work is considerably increased if I have to ascertain during the cross- examination what passages are missing from the translation and translate them myself, when the British Delegation have an English translation at hand. I think it might be easier if Sir David would be good enough to let me have an English translation for my own use.

THE PRESIDENT: Sir David, you will be able to let him have an English translation of any new document?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Certainly. The Tribunal has ordered that. That is prepared. Surely you got the English translation? Certainly, my Lord. As I put each document, a translation will be given to Dr. Siemers.

THE PRESIDENT: There may have been some mistake.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: You will certainly get it.


Q. Now, we will pass to another gentleman on your staff. You told us a good deal about the naval budgets. Do you remember a Flottenintendant in your department, Secretary Flottenintendant Thiele, of the OKM Department E, the Budget Department of the German Admiralty? Do you remember?

A. Yes. But may I just say one more thing about the question of that figure 118? I have just remembered something in connection with this note

[Page 192]

No. 6, Chief of the Naval Budget Department. It is perfectly possible that in this case Admiral Assmann has taken two things together. All U-boats and ships were, of course, included in the Budget and in this way sanctioned. This Budget was drafted at the end of the year and published before the year to which it applied. As this large figure suddenly appears, it is perfectly possible that here the figure 118 originates on the basis of the agreement with England made on 30th or 31st December. It is perfectly natural that we should include in the Budget all the other U- boats which we were allowed to build to complete the one hundred per cent. This does not necessarily mean that we started to build the U-boats in 1938. Incidentally I think we might have perhaps begun, because you can only build a certain number of U-boats in any one year. I think that this explanation, which occurred to me when I saw the words "Budget Department," is a perfectly correct one.

Q. The Tribunal has the wording; that is, "up to 1938 ", and I am not going to argue the point with you. The words, speak for themselves.

I would like you to look at Document D-855, which becomes Exhibit GB 461, and is an extract from a lecture by the gentleman I have just mentioned, Herr Thiele, which was given at the German Naval Training Centre for Administrative Officers in Prague on 12th July, 1944. The extract I want to put to you is on Page 22, and it is headed, "Ship Construction Plan". Have you got that - Page 22, and the heading is, "Ship Construction Plan"? You see the paragraph beginning,

"The era of the very large development of the Navy had therefore come at the moment of the seizure of power. Already in the second year after this, in March 1935, the construction of battle cruisers with a displacement of 27,000 tons was proceeded with. Such a vessel was ordered to be constructed. Thus one of the clauses of the Treaty of Versailles which were the most important for us was at once violated in the naval sphere in a manner which in a short time could no longer be camouflaged."
Is not Flottenintendant Thiele right when he says that in his lecture?

A. Of. course it was a violation, but I have explained here at length that there was no question of building new battle cruisers but of utilising the two armoured ships which had been granted us; and I said that in 1934 Hitler had only given me permission to enlarge somewhat the plans for these ships, so that the armour might be heavier. I see from this that it was not until March 1935, when it was certain that the treaty would be concluded and also that England would allow us to build such ships through this treaty in a few months' time, that the Fuehrer sanctioned the plans projected for the 26,500-ton ships which were to be the first of the battleships in the new programme, and they were then begun, and the 3.28-cm. turrets - the offensive weapons which he had not yet approved in 1934 - were included.

Q. This gentleman seems to agree with you more than the other. Just look at what he says about U-boats two sentences further on. He says:-

"The U-boats were completed in separate parts, as their construction was under no circumstances to be apparent to the outside world. These parts were stored in sheds for the time being and only needed to be assembled after the declaration of freedom to re-arm."
Is not Flottenintendant Thiele right on that point?

A. Yes, he is right. We have admitted that.

Q. Let us look at his next point.

A. Perhaps I can complete my explanation? We -

Q. Do try to keep it as short as you can. I do not want to cut you out, but keep it as short as you can.

A. Of course, but I must complete my defence.

We had U-boat parts manufactured abroad and only at the beginning of 1935 did we bring them in and assemble them, when the treaty was concluded.

[Page 193]

Q. I see. You say you were anticipating the treaty; well now, just took at what he says after that:-
"The third of these clauses of the Treaty of Versailles that were most disadvantageous for us, the limitation of personnel to 15,000 men, was immediately ignored after the seizure of power. The total personnel of the Navy was already 25,000 in 1934, and in 1935, the year of the London Naval Agreement, 34,000 men."
Is not Flottenintendant Thiele right on that? Is that right?

A. Yes, that is admitted. It was clear that we had to train personnel in good time so that crews might be found for our increased naval force.

Q. Well, now I just want you to look for a moment at the document which is on Page 3 of Document Book 10, which you did refer to in your examination-in-chief. That is Document C-23, about the displacement of the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau and the Tirpitz and the Bismarck and the other ships. Now, you are familiar with that document; we have discussed it.

A. Yes.

Q. Well now, that is dated the 18th February, 1938. Germany did not denounce the Anglo-German Naval Treaty until after the British guarantee to Poland in April 1939, which is fourteen months later. Why did you not simply send a notification to Great Britain that the displacements had come out twenty per cent bigger because of certain defensive details in construction? Why did you not do it?

A. I cannot tell you that today. We explained recently how the displacements gradually increased through quite insignificant changes.

Q. Yes. Really, defendant, I have got that well in mind. We have got the reason why the displacements came out bigger, and I do not think you are prejudicing yourself if you do not repeat it, but just look at the bottom of that page, because I think you will find the reason which you cannot remember there will you not?

"In the opinion of AMT IV, it would be quite wrong to report a larger tonnage than that which will probably be published shortly, for instance, by England, Russia or Japan, so as not to bring upon ourselves the odium of an armament race."
Is not that the reason?

A. Yes, that was intended for a future date. We wished in no circumstance to create the impression that we were increasing the offensive power of our ships.

Q. Defendant, I am going to pass to another subject, and I want to put quite shortly and bluntly, as you will appreciate, the point the prosecution puts to you, that for twenty years, from 1918 to 1938, you and the German Navy had been involved in a course of complete, cold and deliberate deception of your treaty obligations. That is what I am putting to you. Do you understand? After these documents, do you deny that that is so?

A: Of course. It was not a cold-blooded affair. All our evasions of the Versailles Treaty were due to our desire to be able to defend our country more efficiently than we had been allowed to. I have proved here that in the Versailles regulations the only points restricted were those unfavourable to the defence of our country and favouring aggression from without. As regards the ships, I may add that we could never complete any very great number of ships, and consequently we were interested in increasing as far as possible the power of resistance, that is, their sea-going security, etc. At no time did we increase the offensive power above the strength which was permitted.

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