Erich Raeder: Admiral of the Third Reich

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Long before he was promoted to General-Admiral in , he had become a member of the secret Reich Defense Council, joining it when it was founded, on 4 April 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:.

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 PS. It is thus clear that Raeder's responsibility for the political decisions of the Nazi State was steadily developed from to , 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 , 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 PS. The second meeting which Raeder attended was Hitler's conference on 23 May L 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. 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 , when she was outward bound to America. About one hundred lives were lost. 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" PS.

An extract from the third page of this issue of the "Voelkischer Beobachter" refers to photograph of the ship and reads as follows:. The above picture shows the proud 'Athenia', the ocean giant, which was sunk by Churchill'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.

Erich Raeder: Admiral of the Third Reich – By Keith Bird

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? 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.

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 have survived to tell the tale as prisoners of war.

An affidavit by a member of the crew of the U establishes the truth of this episode and reveals the Nazis' attempt to conceal the true facts D The affidavit reads:. Doenitz's part in the "Athenia" episode is described in an affidavit which he has sworn, in English D At the end of the affidavit four words are added in Doenitz's handwriting, the significance of which will be adverted to shortly. Doenitz states:.

BBC - History - Admiral Karl Dönitz

I met the captain, Oberleutnant Lemp, on the lockside at Wilhelmshaven, as the boat was entering harbor, and he asked permission to speak to me in private. I notice immediately that he was looking very unhappy and he told me at once that he thought he was responsible for the sinking of the 'Athenia' in the North Channel area. In accordance with my previous instructions, he had been keeping a sharp lookout for possible armed merchant cruisers in the approaches to the British Isles, and had torpedoed a ship he afterwards identified as the 'Athenia' from wireless broadcasts, under the impression that she was an armed merchant cruiser on patrol.

I had never specified in my instructions any particular type of ship as armed merchant cruiser nor mentioned any names of ships. I dispatched Lemp at once by air to report to the SKL at Berlin; in the meantime, I ordered complete secrecy as a provisional measure. Later the same day or early on the following day, I received a verbal order from Kapitaen zur See Fricke [head of the Operations Division of the Naval War Staff] that:. The OKM considered that a court martial was not necessary as they were satisfied that the captain had acted in good faith.

I had previously given very strict orders that all merchant vessels and neutrals were to be treated according to naval prize law, before the occurrence of this incident. I accordingly placed him under cabin arrest, as I felt certain that a court-martial could only acquit him and would entail unnecessary publicity" [whereat Doenitz has added the words, "and too much time"].

Doenitz's suggestion that the captain of the U sank the "Athenia" in mistake for a merchant cruiser must be considered in the light of Doenitz's order of 22 September , that. The U returned to Wilhelmshaven on 27 September On that date another fraudulent entry was made in the War Diary of the Chief of U-boats:. Perhaps the most elaborate forgery in connection with this episode was made on the log book of the U, which was responsible for sinking the "Athenia" D The Prosecution submits that the first page of that log book is a forgery which shows a curiously un-German carelessness about detail.

It is clear on the original document that the first page of the text is a substitute for pages that have been removed. The dates in the first column of that page are in Arabic numerals. On the second and more authentic-looking page, and throughout the other pages of the log book, they are in Roman numerals. Furthermore, all reference to the sinking of the "Athenia" on 3 September is omitted. The log book shows that at hours on 3 September the position of the U is given as AL , which is one of the few positions quoted at all upon that page, and which was some miles west of the position where the "Athenia" was sunk.

The recorded course due south and the recorded speed 10 knots -those entries are obviously designed to suggest that the U was well clear of the "Athenia's" position on 3 September. Finally, the original shows Lemp's own signature upon the page dealing with 3 September differs from his other signature in the text. The difference appears in the final letter of his name. The signature in question shows a Roman "p", whereas on the other signatures there is a script "p. The story of the "Athenia" establishes that the German Navy under Raeder embarked upon deliberate fraud.

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Erich Johann Albert Raeder (24 April – 6 November ) was a German admiral who .. Bird, Keith Erich Raeder Admiral of the Third Reich, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, , ISBN ; Buchanan, Patrick Churchill, Hitler. From to , Erich Raeder led the German navy during the last turbulent years of the Weimar Republic, the rise of Hitler, and through World War II, yet.

Even before receiving Lemp's reports, the German Admiralty had repeatedly denied the possibility that a German U-boat could be in the area concerned. The charts which showed the disposition of U-boats and the position of sinking of the "Athenia" discussed in Section 14 on Doenitz have shown the dishonesty of these announcements. The conclusion to be drawn is this: Raeder, as head of the German Navy, knew all the facts. Censorship and information control in Nazi Germany were so complete that Raeder, as head of the Navy, must have been party to the falsification published in the "Voelkischer Beobachter," which was an attempt by the Nazi conspirators to save face with their own people and to uphold the myth of an infallible Fuehrer backed by an impeccable war machine.

Truth mattered little in Nazi propaganda, and Raeder's camouflage was not confined to painting his ships or sailing them under the British flag, as he did in attacking Norway or Denmark. Raeder's proud comment upon the invasions of Denmark and Norway, in which he played a leading part, see Section 9 of Chapter IX on aggression against Norway and Denmark , is contained in a letter of Raeder's to the Navy, which stated in part:.

With the occupation of Norway and much of Western Europe safely completed, Hitler turned his eyes towards Russia. Raeder was against the attack on Russia and tried his best to dissuade Hitler from embarking upon it. Raeder approached the problem with cynicism. He did not object to the aggressive war on Russia because of its illegality, its immorality, its inhumanity. His only objection to it was its untimeliness.

He wanted to finish England first before going further afield. The story of Raeder's part in the deliberations upon the war against Russia is told in extracts from a German compilation of official naval notes by the German Naval War Staff C The first entry, dated 26 September , shows that Raeder was advocating to Hitler an aggressive Mediterranean policy, in which the Navy would play a paramount role, as opposed to a continental land policy. The entry reads:.

From Suez advance through Palestine and Syria; then Turkey in our power. The Russian problem will then assume a different appearance. Russia is fundamentally frightened of Germany. It is questionable whether action against Russia from the North will then be still necessary. Naval Supreme Commander recommends putting it off until the time after the victory over England since there is heavy strain on German forces and the end of warfare is not in sight. According to the opinion of the Naval Supreme Commander, Russia will not press for a conflict within the next year, since she is in the process of building up her Navy with Germany's help cm.

On the one side England has gained strength by the unfortunate Italian conduct of the war in the eastern Mediterranean and by the increasing American support. On the other hand, however, she can be hit mortally by a strangulation of her ocean traffic which is already taking effect.