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"The building up of the Fleet was directed according to the political demands, which were decided by the Fuehrer. The Fuehrer hoped, until the last moment, to be able to put off the threatening conflict with England until 1944-45. At that time the Navy would have had available a fleet with a powerful U-boat superiority and a much more favorable ratio as regards strength in all other types of ships, particularly those designed for warfare on the high seas.
"The development of events forced the Navy, contrary to the expectation even of the Fuehrer, into a war, which it had to accept while still in the initial stage of its rearmament. The result is that those who represent the opinion that the emphasis should have been laid, from the start, on the building of the U-boat arm, appear to be right. I leave undiscussed, how far this development, quite apart from difficulties of personnel, training and dockyards, could have been appreciably improved in any way in view of the political limits of the Anglo-German Naval Treaty. I leave also undiscussed, how the early and necessary creation of an effective Air Force slowed down the desirable development of the other branches of the forces. I indicate, however, with pride the admirable and, in spite of the political restraints in the years of the Weimar Republic, far-reaching preparation for U-boat construction, which made the immensely rapid construction of the U-boat arm, both as regards equipment and personnel, possible immediately after the assumption of power." (C-155) This letter shows no trace of reluctance in cooperating with the Nazi program. On the contrary, it is evident that Raeder welcomed and became one of the pillars of the Nazi power.
(2) Conversion of the Navy into a tool of the Nazi conspiracy. Raeder, more than anyone else, was responsible for securing the unquestioned allegiance of the German Navy to the Nazi movement an allegiance which Doenitz was to make even more firm and fanatical.
Raeder's approval of Hitler was shown particularly clearly on 2 August 1934, the day of Hindenburg's death, when Raeder and all the men under him swore a new oath of loyalty with considerable ceremony, this time to Adolf Hitler and no longer to the Fatherland (D-481). The new oath ran as follows:
"I swear this holy oath by God that I will implicitly obey the Leader of the German Reich and people, Adolf Hitler, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and that, as a
brave soldier, I will be willing to stake my life at any time for this oath." (D-481)
For his fatherland, Raeder substituted the Fuehrer.
There is no need to elaborate upon the step by which the German Navy was progressively drawn into the closest alliance with the Nazi Party. The facts of history-such as the incorporation of the swastika into the ensign under which the German Fleet sailed, and the wearing of the swastika on the uniform of naval officers and men-these facts speak for themselves.
The Nazis, for their part, were not ungrateful for Raeder's obeisance and collaboration. His services in rebuilding the German Navy were widely recognized by Nazi propagandists and by the Nazi press. On his 66th birthday, the Chief Party Organ, the "Voelkischer Beobachter," published a special article about him, which summed up Raeder's contribution to Nazi development:
"It was to Raeder's credit to have already built up by that time a powerful striking force from the numerically small fleet, despite the fetters of Versailles.
"With the assumption of power through National Socialism began, too, the most fruitful period in the reconstruction of the German Fleet.
"The Fuehrer openly expressed his recognition of Raeder's faithful services and unstinted cooperation, by appointing him General Admiral on the 20th of April, 1936".
"As a soldier and a seaman, the General-Admiral has proved himself to be the Fuehrer's first and foremost naval collaborator." (D-448)
(3) Raeder's political activities and responsibilities. Raeder's personal part in the Nazi conspiracy arises from the fact that, from the time of the Nazi seizure of power, he became increasingly involved in responsibility for the general policies of the Nazi State.
Long before he was promoted to General-Admiral in 1936, he had become a member of the secret Reich Defense Council, joining it when it was founded, on 4 April 1933. Thus, at an early date, he was involved, both militarily and politically, in the Nazi conspiracy. These facts are contained in a document which contains the classic Nazi directive:
"Matters communicated orally cannot be proven; they can be denied by us in Geneva.” (EC-177)
On 4 February 1938, Raeder was appointed to be a member of a newly formed Secret Advisory Council for Foreign Affairs
(2031-PS). Three weeks later, a decree of Hitler's stated that, as well as being equal in rank with a Cabinet Minister, Raeder was also to take part in the sessions of the Cabinet (2098-PS). It is thus clear that Raeder's responsibility for the political decisions of the Nazi State was steadily developed from 1933 to 1938, and that in the course of time he had become a member of all the main political advisory bodies. He was a member of the inner councils of the conspirators.
As an illustration, Raeder was present at two of the key meetings at which Hitler openly declared his intention of attacking neighboring countries. The first of these was Hitler's conference at the Reichs Chancellory on 5 November 1937, concerning matters which were said to be too important to discuss in the larger circle of the Reich Cabinet. The minutes of this meeting establish conclusively that the Nazis premeditated their crimes against peace (386-PS). The second meeting which Raeder attended was Hitler's conference on 23 May 1939 (L-79). This was the conference at which Hitler confirmed his intention to make a deliberate attack upon Poland at the first opportunity, well knowing that this must cause widespread war in Europe.
In addition to those two key conferences, Raeder was also present at many others, where he placed his knowledge and professional skill at the service of the Nazi war machine. Raeder's promotion of the military planning and preparation for the Polish campaign is discussed in Section 8 of Chapter IX.
(4) The "Athenia Case". Once the war was underway, Raeder also showed himself to be a master of one of the conspirators' favorite techniques-deceit on the grand scale. His handling of the case of the "Athenia" is a case in point.
The "Athenia" was a passenger liner which was sunk in the evening of 3 September 1939, when she was outward bound to America. About one hundred lives were lost.
On 23 October 1939, the Nazi Party paper, the "Voelkischer Beobachter," published in screaming headlines the story, "Churchill sank the Athenia" (3260-PS). The scale on which this deliberate lie was perpetrated is indicated by the rest of the "Voelkischer Beobachter" for that day; on the front page, with large red underlining, were the words: "Now we indict Churchill" (3260-PS). An extract from the third page of this issue of the "Voelkischer Beobachter" refers to photograph of the ship and reads as follows:
"Churchill sank the 'Athenia'. The above picture shows the proud 'Athenia', the ocean giant, which was sunk by Chur
chill's crime. One can clearly see the big radio equipment on board the ship. But nowhere was an SOS heard from the ship. Why was the 'Athenia' silent? Because her captain was not allowed to tell the world anything. He very prudently refrained from telling the world that Winston Churchill attempted to sink the ship, through the explosion of an infernal machine. He knew it well, but he had to keep silent. Nearly fifteen hundred people would have lost their lives if Churchill's original plan had resulted as the criminal wanted. Yes, he longingly hoped that the one hundred Americans on board the ship would find death in the waves so that the anger of the American people, who were deceived by him, should be directed against Germany as the presumed author of the deed. It was fortunate that the majority escaped the fate intended for them by Churchill. Our picture on the right shows two wounded passengers. They were rescued by the freighter, 'City of Flint', and as can be seen here, turned over over to the American coast guard boat 'Gibb' for further medical treatment. They are an unspoken accusation against the criminal Churchill. Both they and the shades of those who lost their lives call him before the Tribunal of the world and ask the British people, 'How long will the office, one of the richest in tradition known to Britain's history, be held by a murderer?" (3260-PS)
Contrary to these Nazi allegations, the "Athenia" made repeated wireless distress signals, which were in fact intercepted and answered by His Majesty's ships "Electra" and "Escort," as well as by the Norwegian steamship "Knute Nelson" and the Swedish yacht "Southern Cross." In fact, the "Athenia" was sunk by the German U-boat U-30. So unjustifiable was the torpedoing of the "Athenia," however, that the German Navy embarked on a course of falsification of their records and on other dishonest measures, in the hope of hiding the guilty secret. Meanwhile, the Nazi propagandists sought to shift the responsibility to the British. The Captain of U-boat 30, Oberleutnant Lemp, was later killed in action, but some of the original crew of the U-30 have survived to tell the tale as prisoners of war. An affidavit by a member of the crew of the U-30 establishes the truth of this episode and reveals the Nazis' attempt to conceal the true facts (D-654). The affidavit reads:
"I, Adolf Schmidt, Official Number N 1043-33T,
"Do solomnly declare that:
"I am now confined to Camp No. 133, Lethbridge, Alberta.
approximately 10,000 tons was torpedoed in the late hours of the evening by the U-30.
"That after the ship was torpedoed and we surfaced again, approximately half an hour after the explosion, the Commandant called me to the tower in order to show me the torpedoed ship.
"That I have seen the ship with my very eyes, but that I do not think that the ship could see our U-boat at that time on account of the position of the moon.
"That only a few members of the crew had an opportunity to go to the tower in order to see the torpedoed ship. "That apart from myself, Oberleutnant Hinsch was in the tower when I saw the steamer after the attack.
"That I observed that the ship was listing.
"That no warning shot was fired before the torpedo was launched.
"That I myself observed much commotion on board of the torpedoed ship.
"That I believe that the ship had only one smoke stack.
"That in the attack on this steamer one or two torpedoes were fired which did not explode but that I myself heard the explosion of the torpedo which hit the steamer.
"That Oberleutnant Lemp waited until darkness before surfacing.
"That I was severely wounded by aircraft 14 September 1939.
"That Oberleutnant Lemp, shortly before my disembarkation in Reykjavik 19 September 1939, visited me in the forenoon in the Petty Officers quarters where I was lying severely wounded.
"That Oberleutnant Lemp then had the Petty Officers' quarters cleared in order to be alone with me.
"That Oberleutnant Lemp then showed me a declaration under oath according to which I had to bind myself to mention nothing concerning the incidents of 3 September 1939 on board the U-30.
"That this declaration under oath had approximately the following wording: 'I, the undersigned, swear hereby that I shall shroud in secrecy all happenings of 3 September 1939 on board the U-30, regardless whether foe or friend, and that I shall erase from my memory all happenings of this day.' "That I have signed this declaration under oath, which was drawn up by the Commandant in his own handwriting, with my left hand very illegibly.