The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
16th July to 27th July 1946

One Hundred and Seventy-Ninth Day: Tuesday, 16th July, 1946
(Part 10 of 11)

[DR. SIEMERS continues.]

[Page 42]

Raeder could not have suspected or known that in the last period before the war Hitler spoke to him; too, in words different from his thoughts, and also different from his actions. As far as the Navy, in particular, was concerned, the relatively slow rebuilding of the German fleet showed that Hitler wanted to remain faithful to the ideas which I described. There was no indication at all of a change of mind on Hitler's part in this field, for a change of mind would surely have resulted in a naval rebuilding programme bigger than the one which Hitler actually carried out. At least he would then have used the possibilities offered by the German-British Naval Agreement to the full. According to the Naval Agreement, the German fleet was allowed a total tonnage of 420,595 tons, but in fact this maximum was never reached. Even in regard to battleships, Germany remained short of the Naval Agreement, with the result that the battleships Bismarck and Tirpitz were not available in the first year of the war, and thus could not take part in the occupation of Norway; the Bismarck was completed only in August, 1940, and the Tirpitz in 1941.

According to the Naval Agreement, Germany was allowed the same tonnage of submarines as England. In reality, however, U-boat construction was so slow that at the beginning of the war in 1939, as the evidence has proved, Germany had only the small figure of 26 U-boats available for Atlantic service. And further, according to Document 79-L, the so- called "Little Schmundt", it was laid down as late as the end of May, 1939, that - I quote - "no change will be made in the shipbuilding programme".

All this must have firmly convinced the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, both from his own point of view and from that of his particular sphere, that Hitler wanted to stand by his much-stressed basic principle to prevent a war.

Raeder's strong conviction, and this seems important, was to a large extent confirmed by the attitude of foreign countries.

Winston Churchill, in his book, Great Contemporaries, wrote in 1935:

"It is not possible to pass just judgement on a personality in public life who has reached the enormous proportions of Adolf Hitler, before his life's work stands revealed before us as a whole .... We cannot say whether Hitler will be the man who once again will unleash a world war in which civilisation will

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go down irrevocably, or whether he will enter history as the man who has restored the honour and the peaceful intent of the great German nation, and has brought it back, cheerful, helpful and strong, to the front rank of the European family of nations."
One year later, at the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936, the representatives of the foreign countries appeared in a body and greeted Hitler in a manner which, in its approval and impartial enthusiasm, was incomprehensible to many sceptically-inclined Germans. Subsequently, the greatest foreign politicians and also members of various governments visited Hitler and reached complete understanding with him, and finally, in the autumn of 1938, agreement was again reached under Chamberlain and Halifax, an agreement which strengthened Hitler immeasurably, and through which he tried to prove to the Germans how right all of his actions had been, since they were being approved by foreign countries. The declaration of their aims, which Chamberlain and Hitler issued in Munich on 30th September, 1938, can never be overestimated in its importance. I would, therefore, like to quote the first two decisive sentences from it:
"We have had a further discussion today, and agree that the question of Anglo-German relations is of primary importance for both countries and for Europe."

"We regard the agreement signed last night and the German- English Naval Treaty as symbolic of the wish of our two nations never again to wage war against each other."

I think that these references are sufficient. Now, can one demand of a German Grand Admiral, who has never been a politician, but always only an officer, that in judging Hitler he should have looked farther ahead than the great British statesmen Chamberlain and Churchill? The question as such indicates that the answer is "No". The prosecution can seriously confront these numerous aspects only with a few documents which might speak for Raeder's knowledge of Hitler's aggressive plans. The prosecution has indeed presented innumerable documents of which Raeder or the Naval Operations Command or the Supreme Command of the Navy allegedly received copies, but in a considerable number of these cases the prosecution could not say anything beyond the fact that Raeder received a copy of the documents; a real connection did not exist for the most part, and was not alleged by the prosecution, either. It is naturally not surprising that for the sake of uniformity military documents went to all branches of the armed forces, even if in individual cases one branch of the armed forces was not at all, or only vaguely, concerned with them. Of all these documents which have been submitted in the case of Raeder, only the four documents which, because of their importance, the prosecution described as key documents, can be really incriminating. These are the four Hitler speeches to the Commanders-in-Chief of 5th November, 1937, 23rd May, 1939, 22nd August, 1939, 23rd November, 1939.

The prosecution claims that these speeches show participation in the conspiracy, and that it is clearly evident from them that Hitler wanted to wage wars of aggression. I would therefore like to deal with these documents individually and in detail, and in doing so, show why they cannot influence the picture as a whole which I have presented.

Undoubtedly these key documents are of the utmost importance for the subsequent historical findings on what trains of thought dictated Hitler's actions; they are important because they are expressions of Hitler's opinion, and in spite of the tremendous amount of captured documentary material there are hardly any written notes of Hitler. One is tempted, of course, to the conclusion that the contents of these documents must be true, because they are statements made before a small circle in which Hitler would naturally express himself more openly than in his public speeches. Even though I do not at all fail to recognize the value of the documents, I believe nevertheless that the prosecution overestimates

[Page 44]

the importance of these four documents. Certainly, to some extent they are key documents, since they provide the key to an understanding of Hitler's mind and methods, but they are not a key to the real intentions of Hitler and particularly not a scale for any conclusions which those who listened to the speeches had, in the opinion of the prosecution, to draw from them.

Therefore, in order to explain the value of the documents completely, I would like, first of all, to mention several general points which apply equally to each of these four documents, and which limit their probative value which the prosecution has overestimated.

None of these speeches was taken down in shorthand, so that the actual text of the speeches is not available. Accordingly, in the record of the address of 5th November, 1937, Hoszbach correctly chose the indirect form of speech, and Admiral Boehm in his record of the speech of 22nd August, 1939, did the same. Surprisingly and not quite correctly, Schmundt chose the direct form of speech in his record of 23rd May, 1939, although it was not a verbatim record; however, he was at least careful, and stated at the beginning that Hitler's statements were being reproduced "according to their sense".

The weakest documents, namely the two versions of the speech of 22nd August, 1939, which the prosecution has submitted, are written in the direct form of speech, and the authors of these documents, whose names are unknown, have not even considered it necessary to give some sort of explanation as Schmundt did. However this may be, in considering the documents it must be kept in mind that they were not reproduced word by word, and that therefore the reliability of the reproduction depends on the manner of work and attitude of the author of the document, especially on whether and to what extent he made notes during the speech, and when he prepared his record. In this connection it is important to note that, as Document 386-PS shows, Adjutant Hoszbach wrote the record a full five days later, namely on 10th November, though the speech itself had already been made on 5th November. In the case of Schmundt, the date of the record is missing altogether, and in the two prosecution documents on the speech of 22nd August, 1939, there is also no date. The last two documents also lack the signature, so that in this case it is not even possible to say who bears the responsibility for the record. The same applies to the document on the speech of 23rd November, 1939 The same formal mistakes and doubts concerning probative value and reliability.

It is different in the case of the document of Boehm, who in his affidavit certifies that he wrote down Hitler's speech as it was being made, that he noted down the exact text of particularly important passages, and that he edited the final draft which has been submitted here, on the same evening. Since in all these documents the true text is not available, it is plain how important it is if one can at least establish that the record was made simultaneously with the speech, or at least on the same day, and not, as in the case of Hoszbach, five days later. Even with the best of memories the best adjutant who has to handle many new matters every day cannot possibly after five days make an absolutely reliable reproduction of a speech.

Just as important is the second point, namely, that unlike other military documents these are not official documents with a distribution list, that is, they are not documents which were subsequently sent to those concerned. That the documents were not sent to Raeder was established in the evidence by him and by the witness Schulte-Monting, apart from the fact that it is already shown by the lack of a distribution list on the document. This point, in particular, seems to me to be of great importance. Listening to a speech once - and as is well known, Hitler spoke extremely quickly - does not induce the listener to make final conclusions in a way in which the reading of the record might, since a record always makes a check and recheck of the contents of the speech possible. We who have come to know these speeches in the proceedings in their written form, and have again and again checked their wording, naturally consider individual words

[Page 45]

and phrases of more importance than we would have done if we had heard them as part of a quickly-delivered address. In addition, all of us are readily inclined to lend more importance to individual phrases; because from our present standpoint and in view of our more extensive knowledge, we can now survey everything much more easily; for we have not only one speech on which to base our opinions but we have all speeches; and in addition all the many other documents showing the historical development. In discussing these documents it must always be kept in mind that individual listeners react to the spoken word quite differently, and that often, even after only a few hours, the reports of various listeners differ from each other.

The prosecution considers these speeches of Hitler to be the basis of the conspiracy, and says that on these occasions Hitler consulted with the Commanders, reached a certain decision and concluded a certain plan of conspiracy with them. The prosecution must maintain this, because one can only speak of a conspiracy if something is being planned in common. In reality, the assertion of the prosecution that an influential group of Nazis assembled to examine the situation and make decisions is incorrect; the occasion took the form of an address by Hitler alone, and no discussion and no consultation took place. No decision was reached, either, but Hitler spoke quite generally about - I quote - "possibilities of development". If one can speak of decisions at all, it was a decision solely on the part of Hitler. All this contradicts the existence of a real conspiracy. Altogether I have the impression that, in its conception of a conspiracy to wage wars of aggression, the prosecution has imagined a completely false picture of the real distribution of power within the National Socialist State. In my opinion; the prosecution fails to recognize the characteristics of a dictatorship, and indeed it may be very difficult to understand the immeasurable dictatorial power of Hitler if one has not personally experienced the whole of those twelve years in Germany, in particular the development of Hitler's power from its first beginnings until it finally turned the State into a dictatorship using the most fearful and horrible terror. A dictator like Hitler, who moreover quite obviously exercised immense powers of suggestion and fascination, is not a president of a parliamentary government. I have the impression that in judging the situation as a whole the prosecution has never completely freed itself of the idea of a parliamentary government, and has never taken the uncompromising ways of a dictator into account.

The idea of a conspiracy between ham and the members of the Cabinet or between him and the commanders was quite opposed to Hitler's own nature, as the testimony of several witnesses showed in the course of the trial. This was proved with particular emphasis by the testimony of the Swedish industrialist Dahlerus, who by reason of his excellent and extensive connections both with England and with Germany was in the course of time able to obtain an objective picture of both countries, and who during his negotiations with Chamberlain and Halifax on the one hand, and with Hitler and Goering on the other, was best able to recognize the difference between the parliamentary British Government and the German dictatorship of Hitler. The account of Dahlerus proves convincingly that the difference was irreconcilable. After he had spoken with Chamberlain and Halifax, a discussion with the Cabinet naturally took place before a final decision was taken. On the other hand, when in the night of 26th to 27th August, 1939 Dahlerus had a discussion of decisive importance with Hitler at which only Goring was present, Hitler at once made six propositions, without saying a word to any of the Cabinet members or any of the military commanders, without even consulting Goring who sat by silently; proposals, moreover, which did not exactly correspond to what he himself had told Sir Nevile Henderson a short time before. A stronger argument against a conspiracy with commanders or members of the Cabinet can hardly exist, unless it be the equally important fact which the witness Dahlerus added that during the entire two and a half hours Goering did not dare to say a single word, and that it was humiliating to see the degree of servility which Hitler demanded even of Goering, his closest associate.

[Page 46]

All these Hitler speeches are full of contradictions. Such contradictions naturally impair clarity of thought, and they rob individual ideas of their importance. When one reads the documents in their entirety, the number of contradictions becomes evident, as the witness Admiral Schulte-Monting correctly pointed out during his examination and cross- examination. It is just because of such contradictions and often illogical thinking that the evidential value of the documents is diminished. Naturally for a military adjutant like Hoszbach or Schmundt, it is difficult to record unclear and contradictory trains of thought; and it is also easy to understand that a military adjutant will be inclined to introduce as clear a line of thought as possible, and will in consequence be misled to stress certain ideas, which have become clear to him, with more force than they were actually put in the speech itself. To this can be added a remark of Raeder - who not only points to the contradictions, but especially to Hitler's over-active imagination, and very appropriately calls him a "Master of bluff".

Moreover, in every speech of that type Hitler followed a. very, definite tendency. He had a definite purpose in view, namely to bring about the desired impression on all or some of his hearers, either by intentional exaggeration or by making things appear deliberately harmless. While he spoke, Hitler followed the intuition of the moment; as Schulte- Monting termed it, he freed himself of his concept. He thought aloud and wanted to carry his hearers with him, but he did not want to be taken at his word. One must agree with me that such practices and such purposefully designed speeches give no clear indication at all of Hitler's true views at the time. In addition, there is this to be said about all these documents in general:

Following his address of 23rd May, 1939 - the so-called "Little Schmundt" - Raeder had an interview with Hitler alone, in which he called Hitler's attention to contradictions in his address and also to the contradiction arising out of Hitler's assurance to Raeder personally that he, Hitler, would under all circumstances also settle the case of Poland peacefully. Hitler thereupon completely calmed Raeder and told him that he had a firm hold on matters, politically. This was stated by the witness Schulte- Monting, who added that Hitler allayed Raeder's misgivings about the contradiction between the speech of 23rd May, 1939, and his other statements by telling him that, for him (Hitler), there were three grades of keeping matters secret: firstly, by private conversation without other witnesses; secondly, by keeping thoughts to himself; and, thirdly, by not even thinking some ideas through to their conclusion.

I believe Hitler's way of thinking illustrates most strikingly how little reliance could ultimately be placed on statements which he made before a small or a large group of people. It seems to me understandable, therefore, if in his deliberations Raeder kept neither to Hitler's general speeches nor to the address before the Commanders which was discussed here, but went solely by what Hitler told him in private discussion. In this respect, the statements of Schulte-Monting, Boehm and Albrecht all prove that as late as 1939, Hitler was still, in private conversation, repeatedly giving Raeder the explicit assurance that there would be no war; and he did this whenever for some reason or other Raeder was particularly anxious and wanted to call Hitler's attention to the dangers ahead.

In conclusion, therefore, I believe it may be said that the so-called key documents are extremely interesting for estimating Hitler from a psychological point of view, but that their evidential value as regards Hitler's real intentions is very limited and slight. One cannot reproach Raeder for not accepting as his guide tendentious and purposeful speeches which Hitler made before his Commanders on the spur of the moment, but rather relying only on assurances which Hitler himself gave him, and on the reality that until the summer of 1939, until the outbreak of the war, these assurances were in perfect accord with the facts and with Hitler's actions, that is, with the four Naval Agreements and the Munich Pact.

It is understandable that Raeder did not permit this basic attitude to be shattered by these speeches to the Commanders- in-Chief, though they were undoubtedly

[Page 47]

of a questionable nature, but that he held steadfastly to his belief that Hitler would not deceive him. The fact that we now subsequently realize that Hitler, after all, did deceive Raeder in his private conversations with him and also by his special second and third grade of secrecy, does not indicate guilt on Raeder's part, but solely on Hitler's part. The voluminous amount of material in this connection does not indicate that in 1938 and 1939 Raeder planned a war of aggression, in violation of international Law, but it reveals only that Hitler planned a war of aggression, in violation of International Law.

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