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-Fifth Day: Tuesday, 21st May, 1946
(Part 1 of 9)

[Page 236]




Q. Grand Admiral, with reference to your examination yesterday, I have to put the following questions to you in re-examination. Sir David was talking about the fact that before 1933 you had carried out rearmament behind the backs of the law-making bodies. I think that question, as such, has been clarified, but there is one supplementary question. On whom did just what was submitted to the Reichstag depend?

A. On the Reichswehrminister.

Q. And who was that Minister at the time?

A. He was a member of the government and my direct superior. I had to submit everything to him which I wished to deal with.

Q. And his name was Groner, was not it?

A. Yes.

DR. SIEMERS: May I draw the Tribunal's attention to the extract which I have submitted as Exhibit Raeder 3, according to which Article 50 lays down that the Reich President gives all orders and decrees even where the armed forces are concerned. For their validity, decrees require to be countersigned by the Chancellor or the Minister concerned. By the act of countersigning responsibility is accepted. In this, our case, the Reichswehrminister was the competent Reich Minister, and anything that was done afterwards with reference to the law-making bodies was a matter for the government to decide. Sir David has submitted to you Document C17. It is the index of a book written by Oberst Scherf, called The History of the German Navy from 1919 to 1939.


Q. Was this book ever written?

A. As far as I know, only the index was compiled. I assume that if anything had been written, then it would have been submitted to me a long time ago, but I never heard of that at all.

DR. SIEMERS: May I remind the Tribunal that the American prosecution, at the time when they submitted the document, pointed out that as far as they know the book was not written.


Q. I believe that it is very difficult to base accusations on an index, but I want you to tell me, defendant, when did you learn of this index?

A. It became known to me during my first interrogation by an American Prosecutor.

[Page 237]

Q. Furthermore, Document D 854, which is GB 460, was put to you yesterday. May I come back to one question put by Sir David. On Page 1 Sir David had been reading as follows:-
"Although it was pointed out that long before 16th March, 1935, in almost every sphere of naval rearmament, the Versailles Treaty had been violated as far as the letter, and certainly as far as the spirit was concerned, or at least, violations had been prepared."
Then Sir David asked you:
"Do you want to say that this is untrue?"
You answered, but you did not quite finish your reply, at least it never became quite clear what you said in the German or the English record. I want you to tell me why you are of the opinion that Assmann was not quite right in this respect?

A. It is an utter exaggeration. First of all, violations - as has been proved here in detail - were mostly of a very minor nature, and it was, perhaps, only the number of deviations which gave the impression that there were many violations. Secondly, in its essential points, we never actually fulfilled the Versailles Treaty; in fact, we remained below the figures granted. Besides, only defence measures are involved, very primitive defence measures - Assmann's representations are just one large exaggeration.

Q. What you are trying to say, therefore, is that Assmann's way of putting it, "in practically every sphere of rearmament," is wrong?

A. Yes, Document C32 will have led him to that conclusion because there were so many points. However, on closer examination they turn out to be very minor points.

Q. With regard to the important points of rearmament, that is to say construction of large ships, the Navy did not violate the Treaty, did it?

A. No, no.

Q. By repeating it three times, Sir David emphasized the fact that you had a great deal of confidence in Assmann. I have nothing to say against it, but over and above it would like to put a supplementary question to you: Did you have that much confidence in him, that in your opinion, Assmann could pass a proper legal judgement? Was he a lawyer?

A. No. Assmann was a naval officer who was not used at the front any more. He was a very clever writer who had written a few volumes about the first World War. He wrote very well, but even these volumes were corrected a great deal by the persons concerned. However, against him and his ability to write history nothing can be said.

Q. I think you remember this document from yesterday. Is it a final historical work? Is it a final and corrected edition?

A. No. So far as I know, it had not reached that stage. It represents only summaries and extracts from war diaries and records.

Q. Assmann has written:

"If, in this light, there were plans for the construction in 1935 of twelve 275-ton submarines, six 550-ton submarines, and four 900-ton submarines, and in 1936, for six or eight 550-ton submarines, then one will have to consider the strategic considerations which existed at that time."
That amounts to twenty-two planned for 1935, and six to eight for 1936, not built, just planned. Are these figures correct in your opinion?

A. They are correct in my opinion. The only thing I am not sure about is the 900-ton type; I cannot quite explain that. I cannot remember that at that time we were building 900-ton boats. Apart from the 250-ton type, our first types were 550- tons, and only then did the 740-ton boats come. Perhaps he is thinking of those when he says goo tons. We did not actually build 900-ton boats.

[Page 238]

Q. On Page 158, Sir David has read to you the following sentence, which I want to repeat because it needs clarification.
"Germany, particularly where U-boat construction is concerned, has adhered the least to the limitations of the Anglo-German Treaty. Considering the size of the boats already under order, by 1938 about fifty-five submarines would have been permitted. In fact, 118 were completed or ordered."
I want to remind you that in the original there is the note No. 6 referring to a letter of the Chief of the Naval Budget Department from the year 1942, presumably containing statistics on the construction of submarines as the years went by. I believe that these figures need to be clarified.

According to material at my disposal, it appears that these fifty-five submarines were in accordance with the London Agreement; that is to say, in accordance with the forty-five per cent agreed in 1935- You probably have not got the exact figure in mind, but is that roughly correct?

A. Yes, that is probably right.

Q. And now, the figure 118. That, according to material at my disposal, is also well founded. That is the figure which corresponds to the one hundred per cent equality in regard to the tonnage of submarines. If we had 118 submarines, then our submarine equipment corresponded to that of Britain at that time. Is that so?

A. Yes, it is correct; and it is also correct that we included these further boats in the budget and had ordered them after we had seen Admiral Cunningham and his staff in Berlin on 30th December and had reached a friendly understanding in accordance with the agreement, allowing us to build one hundred per cent. The remark read at the beginning, saying that we had committed most violations in this sphere, is a complete untruth. Until the beginning of the war we only built such U-boats as we were allowed to build; that is to say, first forty-five per cent and later one hundred per cent. It was a great mistake, of course, that we did it.

Q. Grand Admiral, you have just said that it was a complete untruth. I think that, even if Sir David used that word against you, one ought not to pass such sharp judgement against Assmann. Do you not think, Grand Admiral, that there was possibly a legal error on his part when he wrote these details and that he was not really thinking of what you have just told us had happened; namely, that in 1938 there had been an agreement between England and Germany, according to which Germany could now build one hundred per cent?

A. That is quite probable. When I said "untruth," I meant incorrectness.

DR. SIEMERS: May I remind the Tribunal that in the Naval Agreement of 1935, one hundred per cent was planned from the beginning and that Germany at first renounced that, but had the right at any time to increase to one hundred per cent, provided that she notified Great Britain. The notification is presumably what you described, witness; that is the negotiation with Admiral Cunningham?

A. Yes, that was on 30th December, 1938 or it may have been the 31st December.

THE PRESIDENT: Is the defendant saying that there was a notification to Admiral Cunningham on 30th December, 1938? Is that what you said; that there was a notification to Admiral Cunningham On 30th of December, 1938?

THE WITNESS: Admiral Cunningham came to Berlin, to this friendly negotiation which had been provided for in the agreement. On that 30th of December we arranged with him that from now on, instead of forty-five per cent, one hundred per cent would be built.

THE PRESIDENT: Was that an oral arrangement or a written one?

THE WITNESS: It was a conference between the Chief of Staff of the Naval Command and Admiral Cunningham, and certain other individuals, but I cannot remember the details. However, I am pretty certain that minutes were taken.


[Page 239]


Q. Mr. President, unfortunately, I have not been able to trace any written evidence. I only know from Exhibit Raeder 11, that is the agreement of 1935, that Germany could increase the tonnage, and from the agreement of 1937, that it was her duty to give notification. Generally, notification is only in writing in diplomatic relations, although, in my opinion, it was not necessarily a duty in this case. Negotiations, as the witness said, did take place.

A. Yes. May I, perhaps, add that apart from the submarine problem, the question of two heavy cruisers was also settled, which we had originally dropped. We only wanted to build three for the time being, and now we were asking for assent to build the other two, to which we were entitled. That was also agreed upon in accordance with the agreement.

Q. Document C-340 was put before you yesterday; it is Exhibit USA 51. You will find it in the British Document Book 10-A on Page 104. I want to put one sentence from that document to you again, one which has not been quoted by the prosecution, either in November or yesterday. Under 2-C there is the following statement - I want to add that this is the question of sanctions and the possible preparation of a defence against sanctions in 1935:-

"For the time being I prohibit any practical preparations."
Witness, I want to ask you this -

THE PRESIDENT: That is not 10-A, 104.

DR. SIEMERS: Major Elwyn Jones has just been kind enough to point out to me the English translation. It appears from it that, as I have also the English translation before me, there are two documents C-140; one has one page and the other has two. One has not got a heading and is dated "Berlin, 25th October, 1933." In my opinion -

THE PRESIDENT: That is the one on Page 104?

DR. SIEMERS: No, on Page 104 there is, as I just heard from Major Elwyn Jones, the other document, C-140, which has the heading, "Directive for the Armed Forces in Case of Sanctions."

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, and the date of it is 25th October, 1933?

DR. SIEMERS: 25th October, 1935, but that is an error. It is 1933.

MAJOR ELWYN JONES: There appears to be another document which is not in the Document Book.

THE PRESIDENT: Not in the book?

MAJOR ELWYN JONES: Not in the book.


DR. SIEMERS: Mr. President; perhaps I may point out that the document C 140, Exhibit USA 51 presented by the prosecution must be the one I have referred to, because it tallies with the record; I mean the record of the session of 27th November. That is the document to which I have just now referred.

THE PRESIDENT: Is it C-140 or C-141?

DR. SIEMERS: C-140, the same number, and that is the same as Exhibit USA 51. Mr. President, perhaps to simplify matters, I may later, after today's session or tomorrow submit the Document C-140 in the English and German text.

THE PRESIDENT: Read the document now and you can settle with Major Elwyn Jones about the proper notation of the document, whether it should be C-140 or whatever the exhibit number ought to be.

DR. SIEMERS: Very well, sir.

[Page 240]


In the version submitted by the prosecution, preparation for the defence against sanctions is mentioned. I shall now read a further sentence to you, and I quote:-

"For the time being, I prohibit all practical preparations."
Would it be right, therefore, to say that in 1933 nothing whatever was prepared by you in the Navy?

A. Yes. Apart from the ordinary state of preparedness, nothing was allowed to be done, in accordance with this order. This was merely a precaution on the Fuehrer's part in case the enemy should make any move.

Q. You see, the reason why I am asking you this is that yesterday in the cross-examination the preparations that you were supposed to have made in this connection were held against you.

DR. SIEMERS: I now come to Document C-189, which is Exhibit USA 44. I beg to apologise for troubling the Tribunal in that I am asking them, if possible, to look at the document again. It is contained in Document Book Raeder 10, Page 14, and, incidentally, Sir David resubmitted it yesterday.


Q. Sir David attached great importance to the two words "against Britain." There under (2) it says, "The OBdM expresses the opinion that later on the fleet must anyhow be developed to oppose England and that, therefore, from 1936 onward, the largest ships must be armed with 3S-cm. guns like those of the King George class." Would this mean that you were following the British plans in connection with the calibre of the largest guns in the King George class of ships?

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Siemers, I am afraid the reference came through wrong. It came through to me 10, Page 14. It is not 10, Page 14,

DR. SIEMERS: My Lord, I am told it is on Page 66. I beg to apologise. Is my figure correct now? In my English document book it was on Page 14, but -

THE PRESIDENT: It is 66 or 68 in my copy, but -

DR. SIEMERS: And from there, Mr. President, I have just quoted Figure 2.

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