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-Second Day: Friday, 17th May, 1946
(Part 3 of 7)

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

[Page 138]

Q. I believe that is sufficient.

DR. SIEMERS: May I point out to the High Tribunal that in the English translation one sentence was underlined. That is: "The Wehrmacht and Party are one indivisible entity." The prosecution has submitted that. Apart from that, nothing is underlined.

I wish to say in passing that in reality, in the original, many other passages are underlined, particularly those sentences which Admiral Raeder has just read which deal with peace.

[Page 139]


Q. Admiral, the prosecution has accused you with relation to all the political activities of National Socialism. Therefore I am compelled to ask you briefly concerning your participation in actions in those countries in which participation by the navy is certainly surprising.

In what way were you connected with the measures concerning the annexation of Austria?

A. The Navy had nothing to do with the Anschluss of Austria at all and did not take part in any way.

Q. Did you make any preparations?

A. No. In the case of Austria, no preparations were needed. The case of Austria was mentioned in Document C-75, but that dealt only with the directive of the 1st July, 1937, for the unified preparation of the Armed Forces for war.

DR. SIEMERS: May I point out that C-175 is Exhibit USA 69, in the Document Book of the British Delegation, 10-A, Page 117. The prosecution considers this document important and therefore I should like you to say a few words about it.

A. It deals with a statement, which, as far as I know, is made annually in every State, and in which, according to the political situation, such cases are mentioned which may arise in the course of the year and for which, of course, certain preparations have to be made. For the Navy, however, that document had no sequel as far as Austria was concerned.

THE PRESIDENT: I am not sure that we have the reference to that right. It came through, I thought, as Document C-157, Exhibit USA 69, 10-A, and then I did not get the page.

DR. SIEMERS: Page 117.

THE PRESIDENT: Is that C-157 or 175?



Q. Does this concern strategic preparations for various eventualities?

A. Yes; various cases are mentioned here, for instance, the case "Rot" (Red) and the special case, "Erweiterung Rot- Grun" (Extension Red/Green). All these had to be dealt with, but they did not necessarily lead to any consequences.

DR. SIEMERS: Mr. President, in that connection I wanted to submit various documents, Raeder exhibits, from which it can be seen that the same type of preparations, since they are necessary for military and strategic reasons, were also undertaken by the Allies. At this moment I should like to forgo that because I cannot determine so quickly which of these documents are admitted and which have been rejected. Perhaps I may therefore submit the connected documents at the end in order that no misunderstanding may occur now by my quoting the wrong figures?


Q. In what way did you and the Navy participate in measures concerning the Sudetenland?

A. In what way -

Q. I beg your pardon. May I ask you to look at the prosecution's Document 388-PS. It is Exhibit USA 126 - no, excuse me - 26. It is in the British Delegation's Document Book 10-A, Page 147.

It is a draft for the new directive "Grun" of 20th May, 1938.

A. Yes, I have the directive here. It is of 20th May, 1938, and says with regard to the Navy:

[Page 140]

"The Navy participates in the operations of the Army by employing the Danube flotilla. That flotilla is put under the command of the Supreme Commander of the Army. In regard to the conduct of naval warfare, at first only those measures are to be taken which appear to be necessary for the careful protection of the North Sea and the Baltic against a sudden intervention in the conflict by other States. These measures must be confined to what is absolutely necessary and must be carried out inconspicuously."
The entire course of action at the end of September and beginning of October made the special measures unnecessary, so the Danube flotilla, which we had taken over from Austria, was put under the command of the Army.

Q. What was the size of the Danube flotilla?

A. It consisted of some small river craft, one small gunboat and minesweepers.

Q. That is the total extent to which the Navy participated?

A. Yes.

Q. In what way did you and the Navy participate in the preparations for the occupation of what the document calls the "remainder of Czechoslovakia"?

This concerns Document C-136, Exhibit USA 104, in the British Delegation's Document Book 10-A, Page 101. It is of 21st October, 1938. The prosecution points out that, according to that, you had already been informed in October that Czechoslovakia was to be occupied after some time; actually this took place in March. Will you please tell us something about that?

A. That directive looks suspicious at first but the way in which it is drafted shows that this again refers to possible cases. (1) deals with the securing of the borders of the German Reich and protection against surprise air attacks.

(2) and (3) are "Liquidation of the Remainder of Czechoslovakia," "Occupation of the Memel Country."

(2). "Liquidation of the Remainder of Czechoslovakia." The first sentence reads:-

"It must be possible to break the remainder of Czechoslovakia at any time if her policy should become hostile toward Germany."
That is the pre-requisite in case of any action against Czechoslovakia; but did not mean that it was certain that any action would be taken.

In the same manner, under (3), mention is made of the occupation of the Memel country, where it says:-

"The political situation, particularly warlike complications between Poland and Lithuania, may make it necessary for the German armed forces to occupy the Memel country."
DR. SIEMERS: Excuse me. May I point out that, according to my document, the part which the witness has just read is missing in the English translation - so, that you will not look for it unnecessarily.


Q. So here again this is merely an eventuality?

A. Yes.

Q. On 3rd September, 1939, at the beginning of the war, the Athenia was sunk. From the military point of view that case has already been clarified by Dr. Kranzbuhler, but I should like you, as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, to state your position and give any explanation of the incident, with special consideration for the fact that the prosecution, especially in this case, has made a very severe and damning accusation. They have made the accusation that you, purposely and in violation of the truth, held England and Churchill responsible for the sinking of the Athenia, although you knew perfectly well that the Athenia had been sunk by a German U-boat. As proof, the prosecution has submitted the article of 23rd October, 1939, from the Volkischer Beobachter.

DR. SIEMERS: Mr. President, that is Document 3260-PS, Exhibit GB 218, British Delegation's Document Book 10, on Page 97.

[Page 141]


Q. I should like you to explain that point.

A. The fact is that on 3rd September, at dusk, the young submarine commander of the submarine U-30 met an English passenger ship which had its lights dimmed, and torpedoed it because he assumed, by mistake, that it was an auxiliary cruiser. In order to avoid misunderstanding I should like to state here that the deliberations which have been mentioned here concerning the torpedoing of dimmed ships in the Channel, did not yet play any part in the Naval War Command, and that this commanding officer could not have known anything about them. He knew only that auxiliary cruisers had their lights blacked out, and be assumed that this was an auxiliary cruiser at the entrance of the North West channel, England-Scotland.

He did not make a report since it was not necessary. The information that a German U-boat had torpedoed the Athenia was broadcast by the British radio, and we probably received the news during the night of the third to the fourth, and transmitted it to the various news services.

In the morning of 4th September, we received that news at the offices of the Naval War Command, and I requested information as to how far our nearest submarine was from the place of the torpedoing. I was told, 75 nautical miles. At about the same time, State Secretary von Weizsaker in the Foreign Office, who had been a naval officer in the first world war, learned of this situation and made a telephone call to the Naval War Command, asking whether it was true. He did not call me personally.

He received the answer that, according to our information, it could not be right. Thereupon he sent for the American charge d'affaires - I believe Mr. Kirk - in order to speak to him about the matter because the radio broadcast had also mentioned that several Americans had been killed in that accident. From his experiences in the first world war it was clear to him how important it was that there should be no incident involving America. Therefore he told him what he had heard from the Naval War Command. I personally told the same thing to the American Naval Attache, Mr. Schrader, in good faith. I believed that I could tell him that in good faith because we had no other information. State Secretary von Weiszacker then came to see me personally, if I remember correctly. We were very close friends, and he told me what he had told the American Charge d'Affaires. He apologised, I believe, for not having spoken to me personally and that concluded the case for the time being.

The matter was such that if it had been reported in a normal way, we would not have hesitated to admit and to explain the reason. We would not have hesitated to apologise to the nations concerned. Disciplinary measures would have been taken against the officer. I also reported the incident to the Fuehrer himself in his headquarters and told him that we were convinced such was not the case, and the Fuehrer ordered that it should be denied. This was done by the Propaganda Ministry, which had been informed of the order by my Press department. The submarine returned on 27th September -

DR. SIEMIERS: Excuse me if I interrupt. That date, Mr. President, is identified by Document D-659, which was submitted by the prosecution, it is Exhibit GB 221 in Document Book 10, on Page 110.

A. The submarine commander returned on the 27th of September to Wilhelmshaven. Admiral Donitz has already described how he received him and how he immediately sent him to me in Berlin by air.

The U-boat commander reported the entire incident to me and confirmed that it was a sheer mistake, that it was only through all these messages he had heard that he himself discovered that it was not an auxiliary cruiser that was concerned but a passenger steamer.

[Page 142]

I reported this to the Fuehrer because it could have severe political consequences. He decided that, as it had been denied once, we had to keep it utterly secret, not only abroad, but also within official and governmental circles. Consequently I was not in a position to tell State Secretary von Weiszacker or the Propaganda Ministry that the facts were different. My order to the Commanding Officers of the U- boats read"
(1) "The affair is to be kept strictly secret upon orders of the Fuehrer.

(2) " On my part, no court martial would be ordered because the commanding officer acted in good faith, and it was an accident.

(3) "The further political handling of the matter would be attended to by the High Command of the Navy, as far as anything had to be done."

With that the commanding officer returned to Wilhelmshaven and Admiral Donitz has already reported that he was punished. To our complete surprise, about one month later that article appeared in the Volkischer Beobachter, in which Churchill was accused of being the author of that incident. I knew absolutely nothing about that article beforehand. I would certainly have prevented its appearance because, knowing that our submarine had torpedoed that ship, it was out of the question to lay the blame on our enemy, the First Lord of the Admiralty.

I found out later that the order to publish such an article was issued by Hitler and reached the Propaganda Ministry through the Reich Press Chief. As far as I remember I was told that the Propaganda Minister had himself drafted that article. Later I could not prevent it. I did not see the article nor did any of my officers of the High Command of the Navy see it. They would certainly have come to me at once so that I could have prevented its publication. We had no reason to expect such an article four weeks after the torpedoing of the Athenia. That is the case of the Athenia.

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