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 4 of 13)

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

[Page 193]

Q. Defendant, I want you to understand what my next series of questions is directed to. I do not want there to be any misapprehension. I am now going to suggest to you that these breaches of treaty and your naval plans were directed towards the possibility, and then the probability of war. I would just like you to take the same document that I have been dealing with, C-23. We will use that to pass from one to the other.

[Page 194]

Would you turn to Page 5 of Document Book 10, and there you will see that there is a memorandum, I think of the Planning Committee to the Commander-in-Chief of the Fleet, Admiral Karls. We have heard your view of Admiral Karls, that you thought he was a very good officer, and in fact he was your first choice as your successor.

Now, that is in September 1938, and it is a top secret opinion on the strategic study of naval warfare against England, and you see "a" says:-

"There is full agreement with the main theme of the study."
Now, look at paragraph 1:-
"If, according to the Fuehrer's decision, Germany is to acquire a position as a world power, she needs not only sufficient colonial possessions, but also secure naval communications and secure access to the oceans."
Do you agree with that, defendant?

A. Yes, that is correct. I know the whole document.

Q. Now, look at "2":-

"Both these requirements can only be fulfilled in opposition to Anglo-French interests, and would limit their position as world powers. It is unlikely that this can be achieved by peaceful means. The decision to make Germany a world power, therefore, forces upon us the necessity of making corresponding preparations for war."
Do you agree with that?

A. Yes, that is all quite correct.

Q. Now, let us take "3":-

"War against England means at the same time war against the Empire, against France, probably against Russia as well, and a large number of countries overseas - in fact, against half to two-thirds of the whole world."
I need not ask you about that, because the facts have shown it.

Now, look at the next:-

"It can only be justified - "
A. (Interposing.) Yes, but I must be allowed to comment on that document.

Q. Oh certainly, I am sorry. We got on so quickly I thought we were not going to have any explanation.

A. In 1938, as has been stated here quite often, the Fuehrer's attitude towards Great Britain became more difficult in spite of all the efforts of Blomberg and myself to tell him that it was possible to live in peace with England. In spite of that the Fuehrer ordered us to prepare for possible opposition by England to his plans. He, for his part, never contemplated a war of aggression against her; and we in the Navy less; in fact, I have proved that I did nothing but try to dissuade him from that. In 1938 he ordered us to make a study similar to those we had already made in the case of other possibilities of war - which it was the duty of the Wehrmacht Command to do - but dealing with the course which a war against England might take and what we would require for it. This study was prepared, and I reported to the Fuehrer that we could never increase our fighting forces to such an extent that we could undertake a war against England with any prospect of success. It would have been madness for me to say that we could. I told him repeatedly that by 1944 or 1945 we might build up a small naval force with which we could start an economic war against England or seize her commercial shipping routes, but that we would never really be in a position to conquer England with that force. I sent this study, which was compiled under my guidance in the Naval War Staff, to Admiral Karls who was very clear-sighted in all such questions. He thought it his duty to explain in this introduction, which agreed with our opinion, the consequences which such a war against Great Britain would have for ourselves, namely, that it would bring about a new world war, which neither he nor we in the Navy nor anyone in the Armed Forces wanted - not even Hitler himself, as I proved the other day - hence this statement. He said that if we must have war with England, it was essential that we should first of all have access to the ocean, and, secondly, that we should attack English trade

[Page 195]

on the sea routes of the Atlantic. Not that he planned such a venture. He was only thinking of the case of such a war breaking out very much against our will. It was our duty to follow this train of thought to its logical conclusion.

Q. You say that, "The war against it" - that is the war against England - "can only be justified and have a chance of success if it is prepared economically as well as politically and militarily."

Then you go on to say, "waged with the aim of conquering for Germany an outlet to the ocean."

Now, I just want to see how you prepared.

A. Yes, that is quite clear and quite correct.

Q. Let us just look how you had begun to prepare economically. Let us take that first, as you put it first.

Would you look at Document C-29, which is Page 8.

THE PRESIDENT: Sir David, had we not better break off now before going into this?

(A recess was taken.)


Q. I told you, defendant, that I was next going to ask you a question about Document C-29, which is on Page 8 of the English Document Book 10, and on Pages 13 and 14 of the German Document Book. You will remember, this document gives general directions for export given by the German Navy to the German armament industry -

A. Yes.

Q. ... and you told us when you were dealing with the document, that you wanted your service not to be small- minded about matters of a not very high secrecy but in addition to that, your general policy was that the German armament firms should develop a foreign trade so that they would have the capacity to deal with the increased demands of the German Navy as soon as possible. Is that right, is that a fair summary, or shall I repeat it?

A. Yes, but it must be added that I said that we hoped at that time that the Treaty of Versailles would be relaxed, because it was a comparatively favourable period for negotiations about disarmament, and we already had government departments, headed by Papen and Schleicher, both of whom showed great understanding for the needs of the Armed Forces and therefore fought hard for that at the disarmament conference. So a definitely legal development might be hoped for in this direction; and on the other hand, our entire industry was unable to cope with armaments production except on an insignificant scale and had therefore to be increased. I again stress the fact that it had nothing to do with the Hitler regime. That decree just happened to come out on 31st January.

Q. I do not think you are really disagreeing with me that your policy, your broad economic policy for the German armament industry, was to develop its export trade so as to be able to deal with increased home requirements in future years; that is what you advocated, is it not, that the German armament industry should at once increase its export trade so as to be able to deal with increased home requirements when these requirements arose? Is not that right?

A. Yes, that is correct, but I do not quite understand that expression. Did you say "Eigenhandel" or "Eisenhandel" - internal trade or iron trade? I did not quite hear the expression - "Eigenhandel" or "Eisenhandel".

Q. "Aussenhandel" (Foreign trade).

A. "Aussenhandel" - yes, we wanted to be able to compete industrially with other nations, so that our industry would be in a favourable position and would gain strength.

[Page 196]

Q. Now, I will ask you to turn to Document C-135, which is Page 20 of the English Document Book and Page 73 of the German Document Book.


SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Book 10, my Lord, yes.


Q. Now, you remember that document, you dealt with it. You said -

A. Yes, it was dealt with in the Lohmann affidavit.

Q. Yes, it is a document of, I think, April, 1933, judging by the dates which I put to you a moment ago, and you said to the Tribunal, in giving your evidence, that it was mere chance that the year 1938 was mentioned; that that was the same period as has been dealt with.

A. It has already been stated several times that the year 1938 was mentioned.

Q. Has it been mentioned in some Weimar Republic document? Will you just look at the second last paragraph; that will be on your Page 74, Page 21 of the English document. It is in the middle paragraph of Paragraph 3:-

"Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler had made a clear political request to build up for him in five years, that is, by the first of April, 1938, armed forces which he could place in the balance as an instrument of political power."
Is that sure, that Hitler had made a clear political request?

A. Yes, as far as I remember, he demanded a sort of Five- Year Plan in 1933, the last year of which - 1938 - happened to coincide with the 1938 start of our substitute plan for subsurface construction, and that directive had obviously been given for the whole of the armed forces; since the Naval Agreement, which gave us the right to arm only in the proportion of 1:3, and not in accordance with any special plans of our own, had become the basis for the Navy as early as 1935.

Q. The point that I want to deal with is this: Did Hitler tell you that be wanted these forces to place in the balance as an instrument of political power, did he tell you that?

A. I can no longer tell you that; but I believe that it is a perfectly ordinary expression to say that one uses one's armed forces as a political instrument which could be thrown into the scales, so that we need no longer be kicked around by the different nations, as had so far been the case. In my opinion, no suspicion attached to the expression.

Q. To put it bluntly, Hitler was telling you, "by 1938 I want armed forces that I can use in war, if war should become necessary." That is what it means, is it not? That is what you understood it to mean, is not that right?

A. No. There was no word about a war, only about the fact that we had to keep our position among the other nations so that we could no longer be tossed about, as had hitherto been the case.

Q. If anyone tried to push you over, you could fight; that is it, was it not?

A. That is obvious. That would be the case, of course, if we were attacked. We wanted to be in a position to defend ourselves if we were attacked. Up till that point we were unable to do this.

Q. Now, just let us take the first example, when you contemplated fighting. If you look at Document Book 10 A, C- 140, Page 104 of the English translation and Page 157 of the German version, you remember that is the directive of Field- Marshal von Blomberg on Germany leaving the disarmament conference and League of Nations. Here there is a pretty full general directive as to what military measures you would take if the members of the League of Nations applied sanctions against you; in other words you were quite prepared -

A. Yes -

Q. - for a war in that eventuality; that is so, is it not, and that is what it says, it shows all preparations for a war?

[Page 197]

A. These preparations were made, if I remember correctly, eleven days after we had left the League of Nations, and it was quite natural that, if the Fuehrer believed that, in consequence of our leaving the League of Nations, which was quite a peaceful action in itself, warlike measures or sanctions would be applied against us, we should have to defend ourselves; and if such an attack was probable we had to take these preparatory steps.

Q. So you realised, defendant, that as early as October, 1933 the course of Hitler's foreign policy might have brought about an immediate war, did you not?

A. No, I did not consider that such a measure as the secession from the League of Nations, where we had always been treated unjustly because we had no power behind us, would result in war with any, other power. Nevertheless, it was right to take such eventualities into consideration.

Q. I see. That is good enough for me.

Now, just let us look at the same Document Book, C-153, on Page 107 of the English version and Pages 164 to 167 of the German version. That is, you will remember, your armament plan for the third armament phase, and I would just like you first of all to look at paragraph 3.

In (a) and (b) of paragraph 3 you give the general basis for your arrangements:

(a) For the military leaders a sound basis for their operations and considerations, and

(b) for the political leaders a clear picture of what may be achieved with the military means available at a given time.

A. Yes, it is obvious that such a plan would have this purpose.

Q. And that your political leaders were to make their plans on what armed forces you had available for war, if necessary. That was what you were contemplating then, was it not?

A. Yes, that is a matter of course; I reported to the Fuehrer that I could put a certain military strength at his disposal during that year. The Chief of State had to know that, in order to know what he could count on. But that has nothing to do with plans for war. That is the case in every nation. On the other hand, I cannot influence the political leader as to what forces we should have. I can only tell him what I can muster for him. Therefore I had nothing to do with political matters. I only do what is necessary and what is done in every State.

Q. Now just look at paragraph 7.

I am not going to argue with you as to whether States base their foreign politics on things other than war as a matter of argument, but look at paragraph 7.

"All theoretical and practical B-preparations are to be drawn up with a primary view to readiness for a war without setting a starting time."
That means that you had to put the Navy on a war footing without delay. Is not that right?

A. No, no. This concerns the sequence of the measures to be taken. The armament plan listed the most important immediate requirements of the Navy, and at that point I said that this applied to forces to be used in a sudden war - in plain language, the mobile fleet, which must be in a state of constant readiness. It had to be kept ready for action at a moment's notice and this had to have priority. All other matters, such as quarters, and things that had nothing to do with direct combat, were attended to afterwards.

Q. I thought that is what I put to you, that the fleet had to be ready and ready for war. However, you have given your account of it.

Just turn over, if you will be so good, to Page 66 of Document Book 10, Page 285 of the German Document Book, C- 189, my Lord.

Q. Now, I want to raise just this. one matter on which you made a point in your examination and which I must challenge. You say in paragraph 2:- "The C.-in-C. Navy expresses the opinion that later on" - and I ask you to note the words 'later on' - "the fleet must, in any case, be strengthened against England, and that therefore, from 1936 onwards, the large ships must be armed with a 35-cm- gun."

[Page 198]

Now, are you telling the Tribunal that "gegen England " does not mean "against" in the sense of in antagonism to, directed against, in opposition to - that it merely means in comparison to? Are you seriously saying that, are you?

A. I explained the other day that we are dealing here with the question of keeping pace with other navies. Up to that time we had kept pace with the French Navy, which had 33-cm. guns. Then England went beyond that in mounting 35.6-cm. guns on her ships and then, as I said before, France went beyond England in using 38-cm. guns. Therefore I told the Fuehrer that our 28-cm. guns, which we believed we could use against the French Dunkerque class, would not be heavy enough, and that we would have to take the next bigger calibre, that is 35.6, like those of the English ships. That was never done, because the French began to use 38-cm. guns and our Bismarck class followed the French lines.

That comparison of calibres and classes of vessels was at that time quite customary and was also -

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