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 6 of 13)

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

[Page 202]

Q. And did you say this with regard to the von Fritsch incident:-
"I was convinced that Goering had a hand in this well- prepared situation, since in order to attain his goal it was necessary to eliminate every possible successor to von Blomberg"?
Do you remember saying that?

A. I do not remember that now; but I believe that I held that opinion. To be quite just, however, I must say that Baron von Fritsch's acquittal was due principally to the way in which Goering conducted the proceedings. The witness who was brought up told so many lies and made so many contradictory statements every ten minutes, that only Goering could cope with him. After seeing that, I was thankful that I had not been appointed President, as suggested by the Minister of Justice. I could not have coped with those people. It was entirely due to Goering's intervention that he was cleared without friction.

Q. But of course, I think you have said, witness, that whether he was acquitted or not, the authority of von Fritsch in the German Army was in his own view destroyed by the fact that this charge had been brought against him. That was the result of it, was it not?

A. Baron von Fritsch thought so. I would have insisted on being reinstated after I had been acquitted in that manner.

Q. Did it not strike you as curious that the two people who on the 5th of November had tried to head Hitler off from a course that might have meant war, were both disgraced in two months? Did it not strike you as curious?

A. That did not strike me as curious at all; and there is certainly no connection. If Hitler had thought it necessary to remove the men in high positions who opposed him in such matters, he would have had to remove me long ago. But he never said anything about it to me, and I have never felt that he held it against me because I contradicted him, and frequently pointed out that on no account should we enter into a war with England and France.

Q. Now, just let us take it very shortly. Within six weeks of the disgrace of Blomberg and the removal of von Fritsch, the Anschluss with Austria took place.

Are you telling the Tribunal that you did not know that there were military preparations for the Anschluss with Austria, the ones described by General Jodl in his diary and also described by Field-Marshal Keitel? Did you know that these threats of military action would have been carried out?

[Page 203]

A. I do not believe that I ever took part in a military meeting concerning the Austrian Anschluss, because actually I had nothing to do with it. But I should like to emphasize here, once and for all, that I learned of such enterprises as the annexation of Austria through a directive issued by the Fuehrer, and not before, because one copy of these directives, regardless of whether they concerned the Navy, was sent to me as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. So, of course, I must have received a directive in this case, too. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you the date of it; but I confirm that a directive came to my knowledge.

Q. You see, the point that I am putting - and I do not want to waste time on it - is this: that on 5th November Hitler said that he was going to get Austria, in 1943 to 1945 at the latest, and earlier if an opportunity arose. Four months later, in March 1938, he took Austria, after having got rid of the people who threw cold water on his plans. But if you did not know about it, we shall not waste time, but shall look at Czechoslovakia, because there you did get the decree.

You will find that on Page 163 of Document Book 10-A, Page 276 of the German Document Book. That is the distribution of the directive for operations against Czechoslovakia. It is bringing up to date the one of 24th June, and you will see that it said its execution must be assured as from 1st October, 1938, at the latest, and Copy No. 2 goes to you as C.-in-C. of the Navy.

Now, if you will turn over the page to the actual directive, you will see the first sentence of Paragraph 1, "Political Prerequisites":-

"It is my unalterable decision to smash Czechoslovakia by military action in the near future. It is the job of the political leaders to await or bring about the politically or militarily suitable moment."
A. May I ask where it is? I do not seem able to find it.

Q. The first sentence in the directive, paragraph 1, political pre-requisites - sentence 1: " It is my unalterable decision to smash Czechoslovakia by military action in the near future."

A. The numbering is confused here.

Q. I am very sorry. Pages 277, 278.

A. Yes. Now I have found it. What was the date?

Q. 28th May, 1938, that is approximately six months after the meeting which you had attended at which Hitler had said he would attack Czechoslovakia at the earliest opportunity that he could. Did not that make you think that Hitler's speech in November was not merely froth, but an actual statement of his plans?

A. No, because he kept on changing his decisions all summer. He made a fresh decision every month. That can be seen from Document 388-PS. And it was like this, I believe: on 10th September troops began to assemble and on the same day negotiations were started. On 1st October the peaceful occupation of the Sudetenland took place, after the other powers had agreed to that at Munich. After the Munich negotiations -

Q. We all know that. The point is perfectly clear.

A. I should like to finish.

Q. In May, there were the plans, and the Fuehrer had mentioned in his speeches that it was his determination at the end of May to smash Czechoslovakia by military action. Are you telling the Tribunal that you read that directive and still took the view that Hitler had not got aggressive intentions? That is the question.

A. Yes.

Q. Why, what more proof could you want than his own determination to smash it? What clearer proof could you want?

A. He frequently said that he intended to smash something and then did not do it. The question was peacefully solved later, after 30th May - I believe that that was the date, for mobilization had just been carried out in Czechoslovakia, and that had led him to use such stern words, and from this ... I think he was justified in doing so, for this mobilization could only be directed against Germany, and as I said, he changed his opinion at least three or four times in the course

[Page 204]

of the summer, saying that he would reserve his decision or that he did not wish to use military force.

Q. Well, the Tribunal has got the whole of Document 388-PS in mind. I will not argue it. You say that did not convince you.

When Hitler went into Prague on 15th March, 1939, did it then occur to you that there might have been something in what he said in the meeting of 5th November, 1937, when he occupied the Slav part of Bohemia and Moravia and broke his own rule about keeping Germany for the Germans? Did it then occur to you that he might not then have been joking or merely talking purposelessly? Did it?

A. He had issued a directive saying that the aims for that year were:-

(1) The defence of Germany against outside attack.
(2) The settlement of the rest of Czechoslovakia in case she adopted a line of policy hostile to Germany.

I heard nothing about his negotiations with Hacha and his decision following them, to occupy Czechoslovakia. I only knew that he wanted to take action against Czechoslovakia according to his directive, in case Czechoslovakia should adopt a line of policy hostile to Germany; and according to the propaganda at that period, that actually did occur. I had nothing to do with the occupation of Czechoslovakia; nor with the occupation of the Sudeten area, because the only service which we could have rendered in these operations was our small Danube Flotilla which was subordinated to the Army for this purpose. I had nothing at all to do with it. There were no other military orders.

Q. It is your answer that even when Hitler went into Prague on 15th March, 1939, you still thought he had no aggressive intentions? Is that what you want the Tribunal to believe from you? Is that right?

A. Yes, I ask the Tribunal to do so, because I believe that he did not want to fight a war, to conduct a campaign against Czechoslovakia. By means of his political measures with Hacha he succeeded in getting so far that war did not break out.

Q. Oh yes, you heard the defendant Goering give his evidence that he told President Hacha that his armed forces would bomb Prague if he did not agree. If that is not war, it is next door to it, is it not?

A. It is very close to it. Yes, a threat.

Q. Well, let us go further on for another two months, if you did not see it in March. On 23rd May, when you came to the Reich Chancellery, there were six high-ranking officers, of whom you were one. Hitler said that he would give you an indoctrination on the political situation. And his indoctrination was: "We are left with a decision to attack Poland at the first opportunity." When you heard him say that on 25th May, did you still think that he had no aggressive intentions?

A. I thought so for a long time after that. Just as General Jodl said - since he had solved the Czech problem by purely political means, it was to be hoped that he would be able to solve the Polish question also without bloodshed; and I believed that up to the last moment, up to 22nd August.

Q. Just take one glance - I shall not keep you long - at Document L-79, which you will find on Page 74, I think it is, in Document Book 10. I am sorry. Page 298 of the German Document Book. I beg your pardon. I am not going to ask you about the document, because the Tribunal has had that. I want you to look at the people who were there - Page 298 in the German Document Book.

A. I know the people who were there.

Q. Let us look: Lieutenant-Colonel Schmundt; he was afterwards General Hitler's principal adjutant, killed on 20th July, 1944, is not that right? Then the defendant Goering, Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force; yourself as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy; Colonel-General von Brauchitsch, who was Commander-in-Chief of the Army; General Keitel, who was head of the OKW; General Milch, who was Goering's Deputy; Halder, who was Chief of Staff;

[Page 205]

Schniewind, who was your Chief of Staff, and Jeschonick, who was, I think, a Chief of Staff or -

A. Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

Q. Yes; and Colonel Warlimont, who was General Jodl's assistant.

Now, why do you think Hitler got these high-ranking generals together and told them, "We are left with a decision to attack Poland at the first opportunity," if he had not any aggressive intentions? What were these people there for if it was not to develop a war?

A. I have already explained that the main purpose of that speech, as may be seen from the last part of it, was to give a purely academic lecture on the conduct of war, and on the basis of that lecture to create a special study staff, a project which the Chief of the Armed Forces had so far strongly opposed. I also explained at the start that his explanations were at first the most confused that I have ever heard regarding the matter, and that he issued no directives in regard to them, but that the last lines read: "The service branches determine what will be built. There will be no alteration in the shipbuilding programme. The armament programme is to be delayed to 1943 or 1944 as the case may be." When he said that, he could certainly not have intended to solve the Polish question by a war in the near future.

Q. Are you telling the Tribunal that when he said, "We cannot expect a repetition of the Czech affair; further successes cannot be obtained without the shedding of blood," you paid no attention to it at all? You are seriously telling the Tribunal that you paid no attention to that?

A. No, I certainly did not, because by this time I was getting to know Hitler and was familiar with the exaggerations contained in his speeches.

Q. At this time you had already had the directives for a surprise attack on Danzig, in November 1938. You had had the directive on 3rd April for the Fall Weiss, and you knew this whole matter was en train. Are you seriously, defendant, telling the Tribunal that you had any doubt after 23rd May that Hitler intended war against Poland and was quite prepared to fight England and France, if they carried out their guarantee? I mean, seriously, I give you this chance before we adjourn: Do you say that you had any doubt at all?

A. Of course; I have surely explained that even in August I was still doubtful. For instance, in estimating this speech, I must compare it, as has already been done here, with the speech which Hitler had made a few weeks earlier at the launching of the Bismarck, where he spoke only of the peace of true justice. That speech was decisive for me. I did not base my conclusions on this particular speech, which is reproduced in such an extremely confused manner. That is proved by the fact that during the whole of the summer I never said a word to the Navy to suggest that war might break out in the autumn. Confirmation of that was given here; and many others can give confirmation. I thought very highly of his political ability, and even on 22nd August, when we were informed of the Pact with Russia, I was still convinced that we should again be able to find a peaceful solution of the problem. That was my definite conviction. I may be accused of faulty judgement, but I thought I had formed a correct estimate of Hitler.

Q. Now, I understand you to say that even on 22nd August you did not think that Hitler had any aggressive intentions. Do you really mean that?

A. Yes, and there is a perfectly good reason for it, because there was every prospect of our forming an alliance with Russia. He had given all sorts of reasons why England and France would not intervene; and all those who were assembled there, drew from his words the sincere hope that he would again be successful in getting out of the affair without fighting.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Will this be a convenient time to adjourn, my Lord?

(The Tribunal adjourned until 1400 hours.)


SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, I am most anxious not to take up unnecessary time. With regard to the meeting of 22nd of August, Your Lordship may remember that Dr. Siemers raised a point as to the two accounts of the meeting, one in Documents 1014-PS and 789-PS, and the other in the account by Admiral Bohm. I have had a comparison made out in English and German showing the points which are similar to both, and I thought it would be more convenient just to put that in. Let Dr. Siemers see the German copy and make any suggestion at the appropriate time rather than spend any time in cross- examining the witness as to any discrepancies. My Lord, with the permission of the Tribunal, I will put that in now and hand Dr. Siemers a copy so that he can draw the Tribunal's attention to any points at a convenient stage.

THE PRESIDENT: Did not Admiral Bohm make the accounts?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, the prosecution's account is in Documents 789-PS and 1014-PS.


SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: There was another document which was mentioned by my friend, Mr. Alderman, but not put in. It was an account by a journalist which was the first account the prosecution had had, but when they got the two accounts from the OKW files, they did not use that first one; so I had only taken the two accounts from the OKW files and Admiral Bohm's account.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. But does not that make three documents in all, apart from the one which has been left out?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Yes, my Lord, and I have taken each of the two and compared it with Admiral Bohm's.


SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: So, on that I shall not pursue this interview. I thought that it would save time.


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