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 5 of 13)

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

[Page 198]

Q. You told us all that before and my question is a perfectly simple one that this document in the original German, when you say "gegen England" is exactly the same as in your song, "Wir fahren gegen England." It means against, in antagonism and directed against, and not in comparison. That is what I am putting to you and it is a perfectly short point.

Are you telling this Tribunal that "gegen England" means in comparison with England?

A. I am telling you that, because it says, "develop gegen England", and at that time we had not even signed the naval agreement. ft is hardly likely that I would consider following an anti-British policy.

Q. Look at the next page, Document C-190, Page 67 of the English Document Book, Page 284 of the German Document Book. That is your conversation with Hitler on 2nd November, 1934, when you are discussing bigger naval estimates and the availability of more money. I want you to look at the end of the first paragraph, which gives Hitler's reasons.

"He considered it vital that the Navy should be increased as planned," - now look - "as no war could be carried on if the Navy was not able to safeguard the ore imports from Scandinavia."
Are you still telling the Tribunal that you were not, from 1934 onwards, contemplating war? Well, if so, why does Hitler say that? That is one of the most vital points of German naval strategy.
"No war could be carried on if the Navy was not able to safeguard the ore imports from Sweden."
Were you not contemplating war in November? Were you not?

A. Hitler said that a navy was built so that, if war became necessary, it could use its weapons to defend the country. A navy is established for no other purpose and that was definitely one of the general reasons for the existence of a German Navy. There were many people who thought the Navy was unnecessary.

Q. You see, what I am putting to you is this. You have told the Tribunal that the Navy was purely defensive, all your preparations were purely defensive. I am suggesting to you, that Hitler there is contemplating a war and contemplating the task of a navy during a war, a few months before be intended to denounce the military clauses of Versailles.

You were all set for a war if it should become necessary, and you know that. Was that not the position?

A. That is a complete misrepresentation of the facts, Mr. Prosecutor. Of course it is necessary during peacetime to contemplate the circumstances which might arise to make it necessary to call on the armed forces for defence. At that time nobody thought of a war of aggression, and the individual tasks must be understood. One of the Navy's tasks was undoubtedly to secure the Swedish and Norwegian ore exports in case of war.

[Page 199]

Q. Would you just look at the next sentence, in paragraph 2:-
"Then I pointed out that, owing to the critical political situation in the first quarter of 1935, it would be desirable to have six U-boats already assembled."
You were preparing for possible consequences of the critical political situation.

A. Yes.

Q. Let us look at what you were doing in 1936. (Would you give the defendant and Dr. Siemers, Document D-80.)

That is a report of yours dated 11th November, 1936, dealing with the U-boat construction programme, and you say this in the second paragraph:-

"The military and political situation urgently demands that the extension of our U-boat fleet should be taken in hand immediately and completed with the greatest energy and despatch, as it is a particularly valuable part of our armament at sea and possesses special striking powers."
Are you saying that what you were urging there was purely defensive and you had no idea of the special striking powers that would be needed in a war?

A. The entire political situation, or so I seem to remember, made me consider it necessary to put the construction of submarines in the foreground. But I never expected that we would start a war on our own account. Hitler himself had told me that again and again, but he had also made political moves, which might undoubtedly lead us into war if the other powers were antagonistic to them. The charge made against me was that I did not push the construction of U-boats sufficiently far ahead.

Q. You are stressing it sufficiently there, are you not? "On the military and political situation" - you were kept fully informed of the political situation and were adjusting your naval armament accordingly; is that not so?

A. At that time I knew nothing about what was going to happen, but I did know that we had occupied the Rhineland during that year, and that in consequence of the clouds which appeared on the horizon as a result of that occupation, Hitler maintained an attitude of great caution and said that we must be prepared for further complications. For that reason a special directive was issued in 1936, and I took the necessary and obvious precautions. My main duty was to watch; and on the basis of my observations and the conclusions which I drew from them, I had to strengthen the naval forces as much as possible. The previous document, about which you did not question me, had the same connotation. I asked whether - should political tension develop at the beginning of 1935, before the signing of the Naval Treaty - which could not be until June - we should perhaps assemble six U-boats. That was also in the case of tension arising; and I knew at that time that the declaration of freedom of territorial defence was to be made in 1935.

Q. Well, now you have told us what you knew in 1936. Now, just let us pass on to 1937, I want to know exactly what you say. That, of course, as you remember, turns on the Hoszbach Notes, Document 386-PS, which is at Page 81 of Document Book 10, Page 314 of the German Document Book.

THE PRESIDENT: Sir David, did you give a number to that last document?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: I am very grateful, my Lord. It is Exhibit GB 462.


Q. Now, I want you just - have you got that, Page 314 of the German Document Book?

A. Can you tell me the paragraph? I have -

[Page 200]

Q. Yes, the first thing I want to ask you about is the third paragraph, the last sentence, where Hitler is reported as saying:-
"The German future is therefore dependent exclusively on the solution of the need for living space."
And then I wanted you, if you would be so good, to turn over two pages to 316. My Lord, it is Page 83 of the English Document Book. That is repeated. My Lord, it is about seven lines down. Where Hitler says:-
"The only way out, and one which may appear imaginary, is the securing of greater living space."
And then he says that:-
"The history of all times has proved that every space expansion can only be effected by breaking resistance."
And then in a separate paragraph he says:-
"The question for Germany is where the greatest possible conquest could be made at the lowest cost."
Do you see that, on Page 316?

A. May I begin with the last one? It is wrongly translated.

Q. Yes, that is what I am really going to ask you. I want you to just tell us, did you hear Hitler say that that was the general problem, "the greatest possible conquest to be made at the lowest cost "?

A. No. The English document has the word "conquest" (Eroberung), but that is not in the German document. The German text reads "the highest possible gain (Gewinn) with the smallest risk." That is a phrase borrowed from sport. There is no mention of conquest.

Q. I am quite prepared to accept that. It comes after the passage which I have referred to you in considerable detail, because I do not want to select anything out of the context. Did you appreciate that Hitler there was saying "The only possibility for Germany is to get extra living space", and that had to be got at the expense of other nations? He said that, did he not?

A. He did say that; and I explained recently how that is to be understood. He was speaking of Austria and Czechoslovakia, of the Sudetenland. We were of the opinion that no change was intended in that policy; nor did one take place later. War was not waged against Austria or Czechoslovakia.

We were all convinced that he would solve that question peacefully, like all other political questions. I explained that in detail.

Q. Well, now that is what I was going to ask you about. You have taken my second point yourself. The rest of the document deals with action against Austria and Czechoslovakia. Would you look at Page 86?

I think you will agree with me that Field-Marshal von Blomberg and General von Fritsch rather poured cold water on Hitler's ideas. Is not that a fair way of putting it?

A. Yes.

Q. They showed a certain antipathy?

A. Yes.

Q. Now, that was in November 1937.

A. All of us told him constantly that in no circumstances was he in a position to start a war with England and France, and he always agreed. But I explained that this entire speech had a definite purpose; and that he therefore exaggerated a great deal, but stopped that exaggeration immediately when a hint was given to him about the danger of a war with France and England.

Q. That was what I was going to ask you. That was in November. By January, Field-Marshal von Blomberg had made his unfortunate marriage, had he not?

A. I believe it was in January. I do not know exactly.

Q. And you took the view, did you not, that he had been encouraged to do that by the defendant Goering?

A. I never said that.

[Page 201]

Q. Oh, didn't you?

A. No, not that I know of. I never thought that at all.

Q. You remember making a statement in Moscow on this point? Let me read it to you.

A. To whom, please?

Q. In Moscow to the Russians.

"At the beginning of the year 1938 I had experiences of a personal nature, which, although they did not concern the Navy directly, caused me to lose confidence, not only in Goering but also in the sincerity of the Fuehrer. The situation in which Field-Marshal von Blomberg found himself as a result of his unfortunate marriage, made his position as a commander-in-chief of the armed forces impossible. I came to the belated conclusion that Goering was making every effort to obtain the post of Commander- in-Chief of the Wehrmacht in place of Blomberg.

He favoured the marriage because it made Blomberg ineligible for this post, while Blomberg believed - and even stated repeatedly - that such a marriage was possible under the present system. Goering had already had him shadowed in the past, as I learned from later remarks."

Did you not say that?

A. In Moscow, immediately after the collapse, I wrote about the causes of the collapse as seen in the light of my own experience. I was treated very chivalrously there, and I had no hesitation in informing the General Commissariat of the Interior of my opinions when I was asked to do so.

Q. All I want to know is, is that true, what you said?

A. Yes, and it is also true that it occurred to me afterwards that Goering might have favoured the marriage. I believe that he himself told me that here. He helped Blomberg, who, I think, did not know what the true state of affairs was or how serious the matter was.

Q. But you see, your view at that time was that Goering was encouraging the marriage because he knew that it would put Blomberg off the map as commander-in-chief, because he, Goering, wanted the position. Was that the view that you held last summer?

A. I believed that last summer, yes. And it is also true that Goering certainly wanted to be commander-in-chief of the armed forces, but the Fuehrer himself thwarted him in that.

Q. Now, that was von Blomberg. We know what happened to him. Your second choice, after von Blomberg, was von Fritsch, was it not? You thought that von Fritsch would have been the best commander-in-chief if von Blomberg went, did you not?

A. Yes.

Q. You mentioned that to Hitler? And -

A. He asked me, and I said that if I were consulted, I would suggest Baron von Fritsch. But the Fuehrer said that that was out of the question.

Q. Yes, but some people were bringing a charge of homosexuality against von Fritsch; is not that right? That was why it was out of the question?

A. Yes. He said in general terms, that some kind of moral crime existed.

Q. You were one of the court who inquired into that charge, were you not? Goering as president, you and General von Brauchitsch?

A. Yes.

Q. And you came to the conclusion that the charge of homosexuality against von Fritsch was a frame-up by the Gestapo, did you not? Do you know what I mean? I am afraid "frame-up" is rather difficult to translate.

A. Yes. The whole thing gave me that impression. Yes.

[Page 202]

Q. That is because the denunciation had been by some shady character who you thought was a hanger-on of the Gestapo; and -at the trial, the co-operation of the Gestapo with the accuser was brought to light; that is right, is is not?

You were satisfied on that point by the evidence at the trial?

A. Yes.

Q. And you agreed that there had been - not a confusion - but that the guilty party was a cavalry captain, Rittmeister von Fritsch, and not this general at all; is not that right?

A. I agree absolutely. We acquitted Baron von Fritsch because his innocence was proved. There was no suspicion of any kind remaining against him.

Q. You acquitted him, but his reinstatement did not follow? His reinstatement in command did not follow?

A. No. I went to him, as I knew him very well, and asked him if he would agree to my going to Hitler and suggesting that he, Baron von Fritsch, be reinstated. But von Fritsch replied that he considered that quite impossible. He thought that his authority was so much impaired that he would no longer care to resume his position as Commander-in-Chief of the Army.

After that, unfortunately, I could do no more about it. I reported this to the Fuehrer, but there were no further developments. All that happened was that the Fuehrer confirmed the absolute innocence of Baron von Fritsch in a large assembly of generals and admirals.

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