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-Sixth Day: Wednesday, 22nd May, 1946
(Part 7 of 11)

[DR. SIEMERS continues his direct examination of Erich Schulte-Monting]

[Page 299]

Q. The prosecution accuses Grand Admiral Raeder of not having gone to Freiherr von Weizsacker to tell him that it actually was a German U-boat and of not having said to the American Naval Attache, "I'm sorry; it was a German U-boat after all."

A. Such an idea occurred to us as well, but we thought that any, so to speak, "discrepancies" which might arise and lead to political ill-feeling in America, were to be avoided as much as possible. Stirring up this case once more would have greatly aroused public feeling. I remember, for instance, the Lusitania case during the First World War. To have stirred up this case again after a few weeks and to arouse public opinion, would have been senseless.

Q. And that was the train of thought which caused Hitler to issue this decree?

A. It was the train of thought which, actually, we also shared.

Q. You said it was not to be stirred up again, but regrettably, as you know, this case was stirred up again. On 23rd October, 1939, in the Volkischer Beobachter, a very unfortunate article appeared with the heading: "Churchill Sinks the Athenia." Do you remember that article?

A. Yes, of course. That article was published without Raeder's knowledge, and without the knowledge or complicity of the Navy. I still do not know who the author of the article was. It originated in the Propaganda Ministry, and Raeder and the rest of us in the High Command of the Navy were most indignant, not so much because this topic was being stirred up again, but rather because of the tenor of the article, for, whether deliberately or unintentionally - we did not know which it was - there was a misrepresentation.

We were obliged to keep silence. To what extent the Propaganda Ministry had been informed about this matter by Hitler, we did not know. We also had no opportunity to speak with the Propaganda Ministry about it, and we were completely surprised when this article appeared several weeks later in the Volkischer

[Page 300]

Beobachter. We were therefore deeply indignant, especially Raeder, because it was fundamentally against his principles that leading foreign statesmen be attacked in an abusive manner; and, in addition, the facts were completely distorted. And besides - this may also be important - this involved Raeder's opponent, one whom Raeder did not in the least wish to disparage before the German public, for Raeder took him only too seriously; and this was, I believe, no other than Churchill.

Q. Now, one last question: Did the Propaganda Ministry call you or Raeder up before this article appeared?

A. No, no.

Q. Then I should like to turn to the last question of my examination. This is the last point.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Siemers, that is about the sixth final question you have asked.

DR. SIEMERS: I beg your pardon, Mr. President, the translation must have been wrong. The previous question was the final question on the Athenia problem. Now, this is actually the final question which I wish to put.


Q. The prosecution accuses Grand Admiral Raeder of not supporting General Freiherr von Fritsch after the latter had been exonerated and acquitted in court and accuses Raeder of not having used his influence to reinstate Fritsch in office and restore his dignity. Is that correct?

A. No, that is not correct. Raeder gave me all the files of the legal proceedings against General von Fritsch sometime in the beginning of 1939, to be kept in the safe. At that time he told me that the course of the proceedings had impressed him very deeply, and that he had made General von Fritsch the offer of a complete reinstatement in his previous office. Von Fritsch thanked him for that and told him personally that he would never assume his former office again, that he would not even consider returning after what had happened, and for that reason, he asked Raeder not to make any efforts in this direction.

For the rest, Fritsch and Raeder were on good personal terms with each other - to say that they were friends is going perhaps too far. But I have often seen Fritsch at Raeder's house, even after his dismissal.

DR. SIEMERS: Thank you, Admiral.

Mr. President, I have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Does any other member of the defendant's counsel want to ask any questions?

BY DR. KRANZBUHLER (Counsel for the defendant Donitz):

Q. Admiral Schulte-Monting, you just spoke about the correct treatment of prisoners in connection with a U-boat attack on the Tirpitz. Do you mean by that the attack in November 7943, in the Alta Fjord?

A. Yes, that is the one I mean.

Q. Was it a two-man U-boat?

A. Whether it was a two-man or three-man U-boat, I don't know, but it was a midget U-boat. Several U-boats attacked simultaneously. Some of them were sunk, and the commandant who successfully, I believe, used his magnetic mine was taken prisoner.

Q. And this commandant was treated according to the Geneva Convention?

A. Absolutely.


THE PRESIDENT: Does the prosecution-wish to cross-examine?

[Page 301]



Q. Witness, I want to ask you first about the Athenia episode. I take it you agree that the article in the Volkischer Beobachter was thoroughly dishonourable, lying, and discreditable.

A. I heard nothing at all in German.

Q. I will repeat my question. With regard to the Athenia - do you hear me now?

A. Yes.

Q. With regard to the Volkischer Beobachter article on the Athenia, do you agree that it was a thoroughly dishonourable publication?

A. Yes, I agree that it was a dishonourable publication, untrue and dishonourable.

Q. And you say that the defendant Raeder thought the same?

A. Yes, he did.

Q. What action did he take to manifest his displeasure?

A. In this case he valued the interests of the State more than a newspaper article. The interests of the State required that in any event, all complications with the United States were to be avoided.

Q. That appears to be a characteristic on the part of Raeder that runs throughout his life story from 1928 to 1943, that throughout he put what he thought were the interests of the Nazi State before conditions of morality, honour, and public decency, is that not so?

A. That I do not believe. I believe that in this case he acted consistently as a good patriot would act.

Q. You see, with regard to the invasion of Russia, for example, you said to the Tribunal that on both moral and strategic grounds, Raeder was against the invasion of Russia. Why did he not resign?

A. By way of reply I must mention first Hitler's answer to Raeder's protests against a war with Russia. This answer was to the effect that he saw no possibility of avoiding a conflict for the following reasons:

First, because of the personal impression which he, Hitler, had received from Molotov's visit, which had taken place in the meantime. By "in the meantime," I mean between the directive and the carrying through of the directive.

Secondly, the fact that allegedly the economic negotiations had not only been dragged out by the Russians, but, as Hitler expressed it, had been conducted in an extortionate manner.

Thirdly, as he had been informed by the German General Staff, Russian troop deployment had taken on such threatening proportions that he, Hitler, could not wait for the first blow from the other side, because of the air threat to Brandenburg and its capital, and to the Silesian industry. Raeder then, of course, had to realize that he could not refute these arguments or prove the opposite.

Q. You are not suggesting that you thought that the war between Germany and Russia was a defensive war so far as Germany was concerned, are you?

A. No, we were of the opinion that the deployment of troops on both sides had reached such an extreme point that it would not take long for the storm to break, and that from the military point of view, anyone who sees that a conflict is inevitable, will, of course, want the advantages which result from grasping the initiative.

Q. The invasion of Russia was a brutal aggression. on the part of Nazi Germany, you admit that now, do you not?

A. Yes, I do admit that.

Q. I want you to turn your mind for a moment, if you will, to Document L-79, which is in the British Document Book 10, Page 74. Those are the minutes of the Hitler conference on 23rd May, 1939, which you discussed in your evidence in chief this morning. I take it that you have read those minutes, witness?

[Page 302]

A. May I look at them now? I have never seen these minutes before. If I were to be asked about them, I would first have to read them in toto.

Q. Well, you need not trouble to do that, witness. You gave evidence this morning as to Raeder's discussion with you about this conference. Did Raeder tell you that Hitler had said on 23rd May, 1939, for instance:

"There is no question of sparing Poland, and we are left with the decision to attack Poland at the first suitable opportunity. We cannot expect a repetition of the Czechoslovakian affair. There will be war."
Then further, Page 76 of the report:
"The Fuehrer doubts the possibility of a peaceful settlement with England. We must prepare ourselves for the conflict. England is therefore our enemy, and the conflict with England will be a life and death struggle."
And then the next paragraph but one:
"The Dutch and Belgian air bases must be occupied by armed force. Declarations of neutrality must be ignored."
Now, I am suggesting to you that those statements of Hitler, represented Hitler's considered policy, and that that policy was in fact carried out in the field of action. Is that not so?

A. First of all, I must correct a mistake. I thought that you had shown me a minute on Russia and not on Poland. I saw it in a different version, and I thought it was a different minute. If it is the same one which I mentioned this morning then I must state again that Raeder did not agree with the belligerent wording of these minutes as written down by Schmundt.

Q. Just one moment, witness, if you please. I have read out certain extracts from that document, which I take it that you heard interpreted. Do you agree with me that those extracts represented Hitler's considered policy at the time and that that policy was in fact carried out in the field of action?

A. I should like to remark in this connection that Hitler in his speeches, pursued a certain purpose. In preparations for war he saw a means of political pressure, and in the phrase "war of nerves" (a phrase which was used not only in Germany, but broadcast everywhere, even far beyond Europe's boundaries) he tried to find a means of preventing war as well as a means of exerting pressure. This document itself contains contradictions which lead to the conclusion that he himself could not seriously have thought that a war would develop. I can prove this by saying, for example, that he states that the General Staff or the General Staffs, are not to concern themselves with this question; but toward the end, he says that all the branches of the Wehrmacht must get together to study the problem. He says that a war with Poland must in no event result in war with England; politics must see to that ... but in the next paragraph one reads: "But if a war actually does break out, I shall deal short sharp blows in order to reach a quick decision." In the next paragraph it says again, "But I need ten to fifteen years to prepare," and in the concluding paragraph it says: "The construction programme of the Navy will in no wise be changed."

If, therefore, Hitler at that time had really been serious in his speech, that is, that an armed conflict with Poland would result shortly, then he would not have exclaimed, firstly, that we would have time until 1943, and, secondly, that there were to be no modifications as far as the Navy was concerned. Rather he would have said to Raeder privately at least: "In all haste prepare a strong U-boat programme, because I do not know what course events will take."

Q. But it is a fact that at about this time, the Fall Weiss Operation was being prepared to the very last detail, was it not? That is the operation against Poland.

A. The operation had reached such a stage of preparation that when it was cancelled so late, we thought that we would not be able to reach our forces at sea by wireless. We considered this an extreme policy of exerting pressure in the form of a war of nerves. Since at the last minute everything was cancelled, we believed without doubt that it was only a means of pressure and not an entry into

[Page 303]

war. Not until we heard the guns were we convinced that the war was no longer to be prevented. I personally believe -

Q. If you would shorten your answers as best you can, it would be very convenient.

I want to go from Poland to Norway. The first conference of the defendant Raeder with regard to Norway took place on 10th October, you have told us. I want you to hear the record of that conference, which is found in Admiral Assmann's headline diary. It is dated l0th October, 1939:

"The Commander-in-Chief of the Navy states, conquering the Belgian coast no advantage for U-boat warfare; refers to value of Norwegian bases (Trondhjem)."
I suggest to you that the interests of the German Navy in Norway from the point of view of requiring submarine bases was manifesting itself at that time; is that not so?

A. May I look at this document first? It is unknown to me.

Q. You shall see the original diary, if you want to re-assure yourself that I am reading it correctly.

(A document was handed to the witness.)

A. In this sentence, I do not see any belligerent intentions. It says expressly that he attaches importance to the winning of Norwegian bases.

Q. That is all I am putting to you at the moment. Do you know that on 3rd October, the defendant Raeder was sending out a questionnaire upon the possibility of extending the operational base to the north, because it would be desirable for German power to acquire this?

MAJOR ELWYN JONES: I am referring to Document C-122, my Lord. The Document C-122 is in Document Book 10A at Page 91.

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