Raeder, Erich Johann Albert, born 24-04-1876 in Wandsbek, Schleswig Holstein, the son of a headmaster, after a good classical education entered the Imperial Navy in 1894. Raeder was the captain of Kaiser Wilhelm II‘s private yacht the Hohenzolernl, in the years leading up to World War I. In itself, this was not a rewarding post, but often people in this post were quickly promoted afterwards. He made rapid progress and became Chief of Staff to Franz von Hipper in 1912. Franz von Hipper died on 25 May 1932, age 68; he was cremated and was buried in his hometown of Weilheim. During the First World War he saw action and in 1928 was promoted to admiral and head of the German Navy. Raeder disliked the domestic policies of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) but supported Adolf Hitler (did you know) in his attempts to restore Germany as a great power. Raeder is also well known for dismissing Reinhard Heydrich from the Reichsmarine in April 1931 for “conduct unbecoming to an officer and a gentleman”. Heydrich was a notorious womanizer, having countless affairs and in April 1931, Gross Admiral, Erich Raeder sentenced Heydrich to “dismissal for impropriety.” Heydrich was devastated, but he remained engaged to Lina von Osten. In 1939 Hitler promoted Raeder to the rank of Grand Admiral, the first German to hold this post since Alfred von Tirpitz who lived from 19-03-1849 until 06-03-1930. The same year in a speech, Hitler pledged unconditional support to the battle against “Bolshevism and international Jewry”. Raeder’s strategy was to build a German Navy that could challenge the British Navy . Although he was no follower of the N.S.D.A.P., he did support Adolf Hitler’s efforts from the beginning to make a major power out of the German navy again. This brought him into conflict with Hermann Goering (did you know) (see Goering Fock) who as director of the German economy directed more resources to the Luftwaffe than the navy. In October 1939, Raeder sent Adolf Hitler a proposal for capturing Denmark and Norway. He argued that Germany would not be able to defeat Britain unless it created naval bases in these countries. In April 1940 Hitler gave permission for this move but he was disappointed by the heavy losses that the German Navy suffered during the achievement of this objective. Raeder supported Operation Sealion, the planned German invasion of Britain, but argued that first the Luftwaffe had to gain air superiority. When Hermann Goering failed to win the Battle of Britain, (see Bomber Harris) Reader advised Hitler to call off the invasion.
He was also a strong opponent of Operation Barbarossa. Adolf Hitler grew increasingly disillusioned with the performance of the German Navy and after the Luetzow and Admiral Hipper failed to stop a large Arctic convoy he accused his commander of incompetence. To emphasize this, Raeder was forced to retire and was replaced by the U-boat expert Grossadmiral, Karl Dönitz on January 30th, 1943. Raeder was given the honorary title of Admiralinspektor. For services rendered, Raeder had been awarded the Iron Cross 2nd class as well as the Iron Cross 1st class in 1914 as Commander in Chief of the Navy. One result of Raeder’s efforts to indoctrinate the Kriegsmarine was to make a great many of his officers and men into Nazi fanatics. Royal Navy reports of captured Kriegsmarine officers and sailors often commented as one report from October 1940 noted the POWs “were all fanatical Nazis and hated the British intensely, which had not been so evident in previous cases”. The Royal Navy went on to note that based on its interrogations of Kriegsmarine POWs that Raeder’s indoctrination policy had borne fruit in that the morale of the Kriegsmarine was extremely high, with the majority of officers and sailors very proud to fight for Führer and fatherland.
A harsh disciplinarian, Raeder was obsessed with the fear that the Navy might “disgrace” itself as it did in the last war with High Seas mutiny of 1918, and to prevent another mutiny, Raeder imposed a “ruthless discipline” designed to terrorize his sailors into obedience. Under the leadership of Raeder and even more so under his successor Karl Dönitz, it was official policy for naval courts-martial to impose the death penalty as often as possible, no matter how slight the offence, so that the sailors would fear their officers more than the enemy. Historians have described Raeder as someone who “supported the Nazi regime unflinchingly and proved merciless against malingerers, deserters and those who questioned the authority of the Führer
At war’s end, Raeder was captured by the Soviets, taken to Moscow for interrogation and subsequently turned over to the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg. This Tribunal found Raeder guilty of having prepared and waged a war of aggression, of having committed war crimes and sentenced him to life imprisonment. He served a notice of appeal to have his sentence altered to execution by firing squad but his appeal was rejected on October 10th, 1946
. Whilst in prison, Raeder conducted a feud with Dönitz. There were several campaigns to free Raeder, by his wife and German veterans. Owing to his deteriorating health, he was released on 26-09-1955, age 79 and in the last of his retirement wrote his memoirs Mein Leben, My Life (1957). He also enjoyed attending and speaking at veteran meetings.
Death and burial ground of Raeder, Erich Johann Albert.
Erich Raeder died in Kiel, old age 84, on 06-11-1960 and is buried with his wife Erika, born Hindermann, who died age 71, on 02-08-1959, on the Nordfriedhof of Kiel. They had one daughter Anita, who married Eberhard Diestel. Erika who was imprisoned by the Russians from 1945 untill 1949, was Raeder’s second wife and the first was Augusta Schulz, from who he had three children. On this cemetery close by the grave of Vize Admiral, Kommandeur Kriegsarsenal Kiel, Karl Kaufmann, General Admiral, Commander of the German Naval Forces in Norway, Hermann Boehm, Chief of the Navy, General Admiral Walter Warzecha, Generaladmiral and commander of the Naval station Command East, Rolf Carls, General Admiral, commander of the SMS “Hessen” Wilhelm Marschall and Kapitän zur See, Chief of the 2nd Räumbootflottille, Gerhard von Kamptz.