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 10 of 13)

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

[Page 218]

Q. I do not see how that arises out of the last document at all. Unless the Tribunal wants to go into it, I think we might pass on.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Does not your Lordship think so?

THE WITNESS: Out of both documents. Not out of one only -


Q. You have put that point, I should think, at least seven times this afternoon. I am going to suggest to you that your real object of the submarine war was set out in the first paragraph of the memorandum. Would you just look at it? You see, " Berlin, 15th October - "

[Page 219]

A. No, I must still say that there was not any such unrestricted U-boat warfare but merely an intensification of measures, step by step, as I have repeatedly said, and these were always taken only after the British took some measure.

Q. I suggest that that is entirely untrue, and that I will show you out of this document. Look at your own document, this memorandum. In the first paragraph:-

"The Fuehrer's proposal for the restoration - "
A. I am not telling untruths, I would not think of doing it. I do not do that sort of thing.

Q. Well, that is what I am suggesting to you, and I will show it out of this document.

"The Fuehrer's proposal for the restoration of a just, honourable peace and the new adjustment of the political order in Central Europe has been turned down. The enemy powers want the war, with the aim of destroying Germany. In this fight, in which Germany is now forced to defend her existence and her rights, she must use her weapons with the utmost ruthlessness, at the same time fully respecting the laws of military ethics."
Now, let us see what you were suggesting.
"Germany's principal enemy in this war is Britain. Her most vulnerable spot is her maritime trade. The war at sea against Britain must therefore be conducted as an economic war, with the aim of destroying Britain's fighting spirit within the shortest possible time and forcing her to accept peace."
Now, miss one paragraph and look at the next:-
"The principal target of our naval strategy is the merchant ship" - now let us look - "not only the enemy's, but in general every merchant ship which sails the seas - in order to supply the enemy's war industry, both by way of imports and exports. Side by side with this the enemy warship also remains an objective."
Now, was not that the object which you in the Naval Command were putting up to Hitler and to the Foreign Office, to use the utmost ruthlessness to destroy Britain's fighting spirit, and to attack every merchant ship coming into or going out of Britain? Was not that your object?

A. Of course, but attacks on neutrals only in so far as they were warned and advised not to enter certain zones. Throughout the centuries in economic warfare the neutral merchant ship as well as the enemy merchant ship has been the object of attack.

Q. You are not telling the Tribunal that you were suggesting use of warnings. Are you seriously suggesting to the Tribunal that what you meant by that paragraph was that neutral ships were only to be attacked with warning?

A. Of course, and that happened. Afterwards we issued the warning to neutral ships, after our blockade zone was established in accordance with the American blockade area. We warned them that they should not enter this area because they would run into considerable danger. That I am saying, and I can prove it.

Q. I suggest to you that that is untrue, and I will show it out of the document. Now, just turn to page -

A. On 24th November that warning was issued.

Q. If you will turn to Section C of the document, "Military requirements for the decisive struggle against Great Britain."

"Our naval strategy will have to employ to the utmost advantage every weapon at our disposal. Military success can be most confidently expected if we attack British sea communications wherever they are accessible to us with the greatest ruthlessness; the final aim of such attacks is to cut off all imports into and exports from Britain. We should try to consider the interest of neutrals, in so far as this is possible without detriment to military requirements. It is desirable to base all military measures taken on existing

[Page 220]

International Law; however, measures which are considered necessary from a military point of view, provided a decisive success can be expected from them, will have to be carried out, even if they are not covered by existing International Law."
Was not that the view that you were putting up to the Foreign Office and the Fuehrer - use International Law as long as you can, but if International Law conflicts with what is necessary for military success, throw International Law overboard? Was not that your view?

A. No, that is quite incorrectly expressed.

Q. Well, then, explain these words. Explain these words

"We should try to consider the interest of neutrals in so far as this is possible without detriment to military requirements. However, measures which are considered necessary from a military point of view, provided a decisive success can be expected from them, will have to be carried out even if they are not covered by International Law."
What did you mean by that if you did not mean to throw International Law overboard?

A. It says, "If the existing International Law cannot be applied." It is generally known that International Law had not yet been co-ordinated with submarine warfare, just as the use of aircraft at that time. It says:-

"In principle, therefore, any means of warfare which i s effective in breaking enemy resistance should be based on some legal conception, even if that entails the creation of a new code of naval warfare, that is, a new code of naval warfare on the basis of actual developments."
Throughout the war a new code of naval warfare was developing, starting with the neutrals themselves. For instance, the Pan-American Security Conference defined a safety zone 300 miles around the American coast, which was a tremendous sea area for traffic.

Likewise, the U.S.A. fixed a fighting zone around the British Isles which was not at all to our liking, and, on 4th November, 1939, the U.S.A. itself maintained that it would be extremely dangerous for neutral ships to enter it, and it prohibited its own ships and its own citizens from entering this area.

We followed that up by asking the neutrals that they too should proceed in the same way as the U.S.A., and then they would not be harmed. Then only those neutrals sailed to Great Britain which had contraband on board and made a lot of money out of it, or which were forced by the British through their ports of control to enter that area and lay themselves open to those dangers. Of course, they were quite free to discontinue doing that.

Q. Now, tell me, what changes had taken place in the development of either aeroplanes or submarines from the time that Germany signed the Submarine Protocol of 1936 to the beginning of the war? You say that International Law had to adapt itself to changes in weapons of war. What changes had taken place between 1936 and 1939?

A. The following change took place: The Submarine Protocol Of 1936 was signed by us because we assumed that it concerned peaceful negotiations -

Q. That is not an answer to my question. My question is quite clear. It is: at changes in weapons of war, either in the air or in the submarines, had taken place between 1936 and 1939? Now, there is a question. You are a naval officer of fifty years' experience. Tell me, what were the changes?

A. It turned out that because of the aeroplane the submarine was no longer in a position to surface to investigate enemy ships or any other merchant ships, particularly near the enemy coast where the U-boats carried on their activities. here was no regulation at all issued about aeroplanes.

THE PRESIDENT: Defendant, that is not an answer to the question. The question you were asked was, what changes had taken place in the weapons of war, either aeroplanes or submarines.

[Page 221]

THE WITNESS: But, Mr. President, the changes took place in the aeroplane. The ever-increasing efficiency 'of the aeroplane and its many uses above the water led to the situation where it became impossible to examine any merchant vessel without aircraft being called to threaten the submarine. That got worse and worse, so that later on even rescuing had to be restricted because of enemy aircraft, and the entire submarine warfare was completely turned upside down in that manner.


Q. Is that the only change that you can mention in order to justify your statement that International Law was to be thrown overboard where it did not fit in with military necessities? Is that the only change, the increase in the power of aircraft between 1936 and 1939?

A. I have already said once it was not thrown overboard. It was to be limited and changed and that was done by others, too.

Q. Well, now would you just look at the next paragraph. You talked about your consideration for neutrals. At the top of Page 5 in the English text; it is the paragraph that follows the one that I have just read. You say:-

"In principle, therefore, any means of warfare which is effective in breaking enemy resistance should be based on some legal conception, even if that entails the creation of a new code of naval warfare.

The Supreme War Council, after considering the political, military and economic consequences within the framework of the general conduct of the war, will have to decide what measures of a military nature are to be taken, and what our attitude to the usage of war is to be. Once it has been decided to conduct economic warfare in its most ruthless form, in fulfilment of military requirements, this decision is to be adhered to under all circumstances. On no account may such a decision for the most ruthless form of economic warfare, once it has been made, be dropped or subsequently relaxed under political pressure from neutral powers, as took place in the World War, to our own detriment. Every protest by neutral powers must be turned down. Even threats from other countries, especially the United States, to come into the war, which can be expected with certainty, should the war last a long time, must not lead to a relaxation in the form of economic warfare once embarked upon. The more ruthlessly economic warfare is waged, the earlier will it show results and the sooner will the war come to an end."

A. Yes.

Q. Do you now agree with that suggestion and that point of view expressed in the paragraph which I have just read to you?

A. It has to be understood quite differently from the way you are trying to present it.

Q. Quite differently from what it says -

A. No, not what it says. This is the point. We had had the experience during the First World War that, as soon as the order for intensification had been given and as soon as the first neutral had raised a finger to object, these measures were immediately repeated, particularly when the United States had a hand. And here I am saying that under all circumstances it must be avoided that we withdraw our measures at once; and I give a warning to the effect that we should consider our measures as carefully as possible. That is the reason for the discussion with the Foreign Office and others, namely, to avoid the situation where later on they might be withdrawn, which would mean a considerable loss of prestige and nothing achieved.

That is the reason. Numerous protests were received by Britain, too, and in most cases they were unanswered. I can quote from the Document C-170, Exhibit USA 136, where there are a lot of figures, Number 14, where it says:-

[Page 222]

"Sharp Russian note against the British blockade warfare on 20th October, 1939 ";
and Number 17, on 31st October, where it states:-
"Political Speech of Molotov."
Q. (Interposing) All that I ask is, was that a proper procedure?

A. I must give an explanation on that matter, and I was just about to do that. Sharp attacks on the British blockade, in violation of International Law - these attacks were made by Mr. Molotov. Here, too, protests were made which were turned down But I wanted to prevent protests and the entire document shows that our deliberations always aimed at taking measures in such a way that they could not be objected to, but were always legally justified.

Q. Now, will you tell me, defendant, how it was going to prevent protests if you suggest in this paragraph to use the most ruthless measures and disregard every protest that neutrals made? How is that going to prevent protests?

A. These measures were to be taken in such a way that no objection was possible. If I tell the neutrals: "This is a dangerous area in every way," and nevertheless they go there because they want to make money or because they are being forced by the British, then I need not accept any protest. They are acting for personal reasons, and they must pay the bill if they die. I must also add -

Q. That is true. They must pay the bill if they die. That was what it came to, was it not?

A. They received large premiums for exposing themselves to that risk, and it was their business to decide about it.

THE PRESIDENT: Sir David, we might break off now for ten minutes.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: Are you going to be much longer, Sir David?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: I thought about half an hour, my Lord.


Q. Defendant, in this document the Naval Command suggests that it calls for a siege of England, that is, the sinking without warning of all ships that come into a big area around England.

Did you not hear? Sorry. In this document the Naval Command suggests what is called the siege of England, on Pages 10 to 13. And that is, the sinking of all merchant ships, including neutrals and tankers, which come into an area around England. Is not that so?

A. No, that is not true. The Navy Command does not suggest that, but discusses the idea of a siege after the blockade bad been discussed and rejected. It likewise comes to a conclusion why the siege, which until that time had not been accepted as a recognized idea by International Law, should not be undertaken; and it shows the result of all these discussions by setting out on the last page, the last page but one, what was to be considered the final conclusion: to take only those measures which can be justified by the actions already taken by the British. And during the entire discussion about blockading, the consideration was always in the foreground as to whether the neutrals would not suffer too much damage by that. And the whole idea of a siege is based on the fact that Prime Minister Chamberlain had already said - on 26th September - that there would not be any difference between a blockade on the seas and a siege on land, and the commander of a land siege would try to prevent with all means the entry of anything into the fortress. Also, the French Press had mentioned that Germany was in the same situation as a fortress under siege.

[ 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.