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-First Day: Thursday, 16th May, 1946
(Part 5 of 9)

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

[Page 106]

THE PRESIDENT: Is it, Dr. Siemers?

DR. SIEMERS: Yes, of course. I believe -

THE PRESIDENT: Do the prosecution say that this agreement was broken?

DR. SIEMERS: Yes. With reference to the remarks just made by Sir David, I would like to say that I pointed out that deviation was permitted under these conditions but that there was an obligation to notify the other partners. Perhaps that did not come through before.


Q. Was this agreement concluded, Grand Admiral, in 1937, from the same point of view which you have already stated? Are there any other noteworthy facts which led to the agreement?

A. In 1936, as far as I remember, the treaties so far made by England with other Powers expired; and England was therefore anxious to renew them. The fact that we were invited in 1937 to join in a new agreement by all the Powers, meant that Germany would henceforth be completely included in these treaties.

DR. SIEMERS: There seems to be a technical disturbance. The German is not coming through to me. The witness and the court reporters cannot hear, either.

(A short recess was taken.)


Q. The prosecution has accused you of violating this German- English Naval Agreement, and this charge is based on Document C-23, Exhibit USA 49, in the British Delegation's Document Book 10, Page 3. This document is dated 18th February, 1938; it has been mentioned repeatedly in these proceedings and begins as follows: "The actual displacement of the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau is in both cases 20 per cent greater than the displacement stated to the British." Then we find a list which shows that the displacement of the Scharnhorst was given as 26,000 tons but was actually 31,000 tons, and draught stated one metre less than was actually the case. The Bismarck and Tirpitz were listed as 35,000 tons but had an actual displacement of 41,700 and a difference of 80 centimetres in draught. Therefore, according to what we have seen, there is an evident infringement of the Treaty. Grand Admiral, I am assuming that you do not dispute this violation of the Treaty?

A. No, in no way.

Q. Certainly, at the time of this document there were only four battleships in question: Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Bismarck and Tirpitz -

THE PRESIDENT: It seems you are again stating these things to the Tribunal - making statements instead of asking questions of the witness.

DR. SIEMERS: I believe, Mr. President, that I was incorporating my documentary evidence in order to show the connection, so as to make clear what we are dealing with. I was about to put the question, or questions: Were the four battleships mentioned actually in commission when this document was drawn up?

A. No, they had not yet been commissioned.

Q. None of these battleships?

A. No.

DR. SIEMERS: If I am permitted to do so, I may say that the exact dates on which these ships were commissioned - dates which the defendant can hardly repeat from memory - can be seen from Point IV of Lohmann's affidavit, Exhibit Raeder 2.

THE PRESIDENT: I think you must prove them. You cannot state them without proving them.

[Page 107]

DR. SIEMERS: Yes, certainly, your Honour.

I am referring to Exhibit Raeder No. 2, which has been submitted to the Tribunal already. This is the affidavit by Lohmann, Page 5 of Document Book 1, Page 8. I quote:-

"Within the limits defined by the German-English Naval Agreement, the German Navy commissioned four battleships. I append the dates of laying down, launching and commissioning, as far as they can still be determined. Scharnhorst - Laid down: exact date cannot be determined. Launched: 3rd October, 1936. Commissioned: 7th January, 1939. Gneisenau - Laid down: date cannot be determined. Launched: 8th December, 1936. Commissioned: 31st May, 1938. Bismarck - Laid down: 1936. Launched: 14th February, 1939. Commissioned: 2nd August, 1940. Tirpitz - Laid down: 1936. Launched: 1st April, 1939. Commissioned: 1941."
Admiral Lohmann was unable to ascertain the exact date. The other ships mentioned under C-23 were laid down but were broken up later. They had already been broken up in the summer of 1939. So far there is no question of final preparation or construction. As an obvious violation of the Treaty exists, we now have to consider in what light this violation should be regarded. The prosecution has said that this violation of the Treaty is criminal since it implies intended aggression. In order to save time, especially as technical problems are involved, I should like, before questioning the defendant further, to submit Exhibit Raeder 15, within the scope of the documentary evidence which I have submitted with the Tribunal's permission. In my opinion, this document proves that there was no intention of aggression.

Exhibit Raeder 15 is an affidavit - I beg your pardon - it is Document 1, Page 94. This document deals with an affidavit deposed at Hamburg by Dr. Ing.h.c. Suchting, and this document is of importance because of its reference to Document C-23, and for that purpose I should like to quote:-

"I formerly directed the shipbuilding yard of Blohm & Voss in Hamburg. I was with this firm from 1907 to 1945, and I am conversant with all questions concerning the construction of warships and merchant ships. In particular, as an engineer, I had detailed information about the building of battleships for the German Navy. Dr. Walter Siemers, attorney-at-law, of Hamburg, presented to me the Document C-23, dated 18th February, 1938; and asked me to comment on it. This document shows that the Navy - contrary to the previous agreement - informed the British that the capital ships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau - as well as other intended constructions - had a displacement and draught of about 20 per cent less than was actually the case. I can give some details to explain why this information was given.

I assume that the information given to the British- information which, according to Naval Agreement 4, had to be supplied four months before the keel was laid down - was based on the fact that the capital ships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were originally intended to have a displacement of 26,000 tons and a draught of 750 metres and the battleship - Bismarck - a displacement of 35,000 tons and a draught of 790 metres, as stated.

If these battleships were afterwards built with a greater displacement and a greater draught, the changes were the result of orders or requests made by the Navy while the plans were being drafted and which the construction office had to carry out. The changes were based upon the opinion repeatedly expressed by the Navy, namely, that the battleships should be constructed in such a way as to be as nearly as possible unsinkable. The increase of the tonnage was meant to increase the offensive power of the ship" - I beg your pardon, Mr. President. I shall be finished in a moment - "The increase of the tonnage was not meant to increase the offensive power of the ship but was done for defensive and protective purposes."

[Page 108]

I may perhaps point out that in the English text there is a mistake in translation. In this text the word "not," n-o-t, is missing. It should read "was not meant"; and here it says only: " meant."
"As time went on, the Navy attached more and more importance top dividing the hull of the battleship into a greater number of compartments in order to make the ship as unsinkable as possible and to afford the maximum protection in case of leakage. The new battleships were therefore built broad in the beam with many bulkheads, only about ten metres apart, and many longitudinal and latitudinal bulkheads outside the torpedo bulkhead. At the same time, both the vertical and the horizontal armour-plating, are, as far as my information goes, heavier and composed of larger plates than those used by other navies. In order - "
THE PRESIDENT: In other words, his explanation is that they were altered in the course of construction for technical reasons. It doesn't matter what the technical reasons are.

DR. SIEMERS: I beg your pardon, Mr. President, but I do believe that when we are dealing with a clearly-established violation of a Treaty, the reason for this violation is of some importance. I do not believe that each and every violation of a treaty can be described as a war crime. The point is whether this violation of the Treaty was a war crime in the sense of the Charter - in other words, whether it was motivated by the intention of waging a war of aggression. An insignificant violation of a kind which, after all, is found in every commercial lawsuit, cannot be a crime.

THE PRESIDENT: The affidavit is before us. We shall read it. In fact you have already read the material parts of it.

Now, I think we had better adjourn. How long do you expect to be?

DR. SIEMERS: Mr. President, it is very difficult for me to judge that accurately, but I imagine I shall be able to conclude sometime tomorrow. I hope, Mr. President, that I shall be able to conclude at noon, but I am asking your Honour to take into consideration the fact that I am incorporating my documentary proof in the interrogation; and that this documentary proof, which in many other cases has taken hours to present, is thus dealt with simultaneously.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal hopes that you will make your presentation as short as you possibly can. We have already been a long time over this defendant.

(A recess was taken.)

DR. SIEMERS: Mr. President, first I make a formal request, namely that I may have here in the courtroom a second secretary beside my own, who was here this morning. She has just been told that she may not come into the courtroom, and now is standing outside the door.


(The defendant Raeder entered the witness box.)


Q. Grand Admiral, you have just seen the affidavit of Dr. Suchting. I ask you: Is it true - or rather, not to confuse you I will ask - what was the original cause of the Navy's idea of enlarging the battleships by about twenty per cent?

A. Originally there was no intention to enlarge the ships by twenty per cent. But at the time when we resumed battleship construction, when we could see that we would in any case only be allowed a very small number of battleships, it

[Page 109]

occurred to us to increase their resistance to sinking as much as possible and to make them as impregnable as possible. It had nothing to do with stronger armament, or anything like that, but merely with increasing the resistance to sinking and to enemy guns. For this reason a new system was worked out at that time in order to increase and strengthen the subdivision of the space within the ship. This meant that a great deal of new iron had to be built into the ships, which resulted in increased draught and displacement. This was unfortunate from my point of view; we had designed the ships with a comparatively shallow draught, because the mouths of our rivers, the Elbe, Weser, Jade, are extremely shallow so that ships with a deep draught cannot navigate all stages of the rivers. Therefore we had built these ships broad, intending to give them a shallow draught, and the addition of these many latitudinal and longitudinal bulkheads increased both the draught and displacement.

Q. Were these disadvantageous changes due partly to a comparatively limited experience in battleship construction?

A . Yes. As the Naval designers and engineers in the big shipyards had not built any heavy warships for a very long time they lacked experience. As a result the Navy High Command had to issue supplementary orders to the shipyards. This in itself was a drawback which I tried hard to overcome.

Q. Did the construction of these four battleships surpass the total tonnage accorded by the Naval Agreement?

A. No, the total tonnage was not overstepped until the beginning of the war.

Q. Your Honours, in this connection I should like to refer to Exhibit Raeder 8, which has already been submitted in Document Book No. 1, Page 40, under 11. In this affidavit Vice-Admiral Lohmann gives comparative figures which show how much battleship tonnage Germany was allowed under the Naval Agreement. Please take notice of it without my reading all the figures. What is important is that, according to comparison with the British figures, Germany was allowed to have 183,750 tons. At that time she had three completed armoured cruisers totalling 30,000 tons - which is shown here - so that according to this affidavit 153,750 tons still remained.

With reference to Exhibit Raeder 127 I should like to submit a short correction, because Grand Admiral Raeder, in looking through the affidavit, observed that Vice-Admiral Lohmann had made a mistake in one figure. The mistake is unimportant in terms of the whole, but in order to be absolutely fair and correct I thought it necessary to point it out to Vice- Admiral Lohmann.

Instead of 30,000 it should actually be about 34,000 tons, so that there is a difference, not of 153,750 tons, but of 149,750. According to the Naval Agreement we were allowed to build 146,000, the final figure, so that the result is not changed. Admiral Lohmann's mistake - as the Tribunal knows - can be attributed to the fact that we were very limited in our material resources.

A. May I add a sentence to what I said before? These displacements deviated from the terms of the treaty only as regards the details of construction originally reported and not from those which gradually resulted from the constructional additions referred to.

Q. In addition, may I mention the following: The Naval Agreement of 1937 was changed by the London Protocol of 30th June, 1938. I refer to Exhibit Raeder 16. My secretary has just told me that it is not here at the moment; I will bring it up later. It is the last document in Document Book 1, on Page 97.

May I remind the Tribunal that Document C-23 is of February 1938. By this London Protocol, at the suggestion of the British Government, the limitation on battleship tonnage to 35,000 tons was changed because the British Government, as well as the German Government, realised that the figure of 35,000 tons was too low. As the Protocol shows, effective 30th June, 1938, the battleship tonnage was raised to 45,000 tons. Thereby this difference in the battleship tonnage referred to in Document C-23 was settled a few months later.

[Page 110]

Now, I shall take up, a new subject, the question of your participation in the planning and conspiracy to wage wars of aggression. This is the question of the so-called key documents which the prosecution presented. Since you, Grand Admiral, were present during these speeches of Hitler to the Commanders-in-Chief, I must ask you to comment on these documents. The first is 386-PSthe so-called "Hoszbach Notes" - Exhibit USA 25, in the Document Book of the British Delegation, No. 10, Page 81. It is Hitler's speech of 5th November, 1937.

Did you ever see this document before the trial began?

A. No. I saw no document and no minutes of any speeches which Hitler made. No minutes were taken officially. Only in later years - I believe since 1941 - stenographers were present who wrote down every word. These are really not minutes at all, since the document is written in indirect speech. It was written down by the author five days after the speech itself, as we have heard.

Q. Although it is a very important document, I have noted that, in contrast 40 other documents, it has no distribution list; it was written down five days after the speech, and is not even marked "secret." Can you explain where these minutes were set down?

A. I have no insight into the conditions that prevailed. I can only imagine that the adjutant in question kept the minutes in his secret cabinet.

Q. Then you only have an over-all impression of this speech, after eight or nine years?

A. Yes.

Q. The document was read in full here by the prosecution and it cannot be denied at all that it contains serious references to a war of aggression. There is, for instance, a mention in what was to be regarded as his testament, of the problem of space, of the enemies - England and France it says that, armament being now completed, the first goal is to overthrow Czechoslovakia and Austria.

Please explain to the Tribunal what effect the speech had on you at that time and how it happened that you did not ascribe such importance to the speech as, for example, Herr von Neurath, who was also present? And in spite of the speech how did you retain your opinion that Hitler would adhere to the old policy and not seek a solution by force?

A. By way of introduction I may say that the assertion contained in the trial brief that an influential group of Nazis met in order to examine the situation does not give a correct picture at all. Hitler called together the persons mentioned in the document to explain to them the political possibilities for development and in order to give them any instructions he might have.

And here I should like to say something general - since there are a number of Hitler's speeches coming - about the nature of his speeches. Hitler spoke at great length, he went very far afield, above all, in every speech he had a special purpose, depending on the circle of listeners. just as he was a master of dialectics, he was also a master of bluff. He used strong expressions, again according to the objective he was pursuing. He gave full play to fantasy. He also contradicted himself frequently in successive speeches. One never knew what his final goal and intentions were. At the end of such a speech it was very difficult to determine them. As a rule, his speeches made a greater impression on people who heard him infrequently than on those already acquainted with his whole manner of speaking on such occasions. It was never a question of consultation but, as has been said, always of giving undisputed orders.

The purpose of the speech on 5th November, 1937, was, as Reich Marshal Goering said at the beginning -

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.