Erich Raeder: Wikis


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Erich Johann Albert Raeder
24 April 1876 (1876-04-24)6 November 1960 (1960-11-07) (aged 84)
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1980-128-63, Erich Raeder.jpg
Großadmiral Erich Raeder
Place of birth Wandsbek
Place of death Kiel
Allegiance German Empire German Empire (to 1918)
Germany Weimar Republic (to 1933)
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
War Ensign of Germany 1903-1918.svg Kaiserliche Marine
Flag of Weimar Republic (jack).svg Reichsmarine
Nazi Germany Kriegsmarine
Years of service 1894 – 1943
Rank Großadmiral
Battles/wars World War I

World War II

Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Erich Johann Albert Raeder (24 April 1876 – 6 November 1960) was a naval leader in Germany before and during World War II. Raeder attained the highest possible naval rank—that of Großadmiral (Grand Admiral)—in 1939, becoming the first person to hold that rank since Alfred von Tirpitz. Raeder led the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) for the first half of World War II, but resigned in 1943 and was replaced by Karl Dönitz. He was sentenced to life in prison at the Nuremberg Trials, but was later released.



Early years

Raeder was born into a middle-class family in Wandsbek in the Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein in the German Empire. His father was a headmaster. He joined the Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial Navy) in 1894 and rapidly rose in rank, becoming Chief of Staff for Franz von Hipper in 1912. He served in this position during World War I as well as in combat posts, taking part in the Battle of Dogger Bank in 1915 and the Battle of Jutland in 1916. After the war Raeder continued to rise steadily in the navy hierarchy, becoming a Konteradmiral (Rear Admiral) in 1922 and a Vizeadmiral (Vice Admiral) in 1925. In October 1928 Raeder was promoted to Admiral and made Commander-in-Chief of the Reichsmarine, the Weimar Republic Navy (Oberbefehlshaber der Reichsmarine).

Rebuilding the German Navy

Although he generally disliked the Nazi Party, he strongly supported Adolf Hitler's attempt to rebuild the Kriegsmarine, while apparently disagreeing equally strongly on most other matters. On 20 April 1936, just a few days before Raeder's sixtieth birthday, Hitler promoted him to Generaladmiral (General Admiral). In his quest to rebuild the German Navy, Raeder faced constant challenges from Hermann Göring's ongoing quest to build up the Luftwaffe.

World War II

Erich Raeder offers a Nazi salute in 1939 (Berlin)

He was promoted to Grand Admiral (Großadmiral) in 1939--the first to hold that rank since Alfred von Tirpitz. Later that year, he suggested Operation Weserübung, the invasions of Denmark and Norway in order to secure sheltered docks out of reach of the Royal Air Force, as well as provide direct exits into the North Sea. Britain and France had already prepared for their own occupation of the Narvik area (troops and materiel had been loaded on ships), but they were forestalled by the German actions. These operations were eventually successfully carried out, although with relatively heavy losses.

Raeder was not a strong supporter of Operation Sealion, the planned German invasion of the United Kingdom. He felt that the war at sea could be conducted far more successfully via an indirect strategic approach, by increasing the numbers of U-boats and small surface vessels in service. This, in addition to a strategic focus on the Mediterranean theater including a strong German presence in North Africa, plus an invasion of Malta and the Middle East. He believed that capturing Gibraltar, the Canary Islands and the Suez Canal would knock the United Kingdom out of the war. For instance, Raeder once told Hitler that a major offensive against Egypt and the Suez gave Germany a chance to strike a blow that "would be more deadly to the British Empire than the capture of London!"

He argued strongly against Operation Sealion because of his doubts about a decisive German air superiority over the English Channel and the lack of regional German naval superiority. Air superiority was a prerequisite to successfully preventing destruction of the German invasion fleet by the Royal Navy.

The invasion was postponed indefinitely due to the Luftwaffe's failure to obtain air superiority during the Battle of Britain, and the significantly greater power of the Royal Navy over the German Naval forces. Instead the German war machine was diverted to Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, which he vigorously opposed. He thought Hitler was so fixated on wiping out the Soviet regime that he didn't realize that a larger, global strategy could have easily tipped the balance in Germany's favor.

Resignation and retirement

A series of failed operations after that point, particularly the Battle of the Barents Sea, combined with the outstanding success of the U-boat fleet under the command of Karl Dönitz, led to his eventual demotion to the rank of Admiral Inspector of the Kriegsmarine in January 1943. Raeder offered his resignation as an apology and formally resigned from Kriegsmarine in May 1943. Karl Dönitz succeeded him in the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Navy on 30 January 1943.

Raeder was suspected of involvement in the 20 July plot, but immediately cleared himself by going to Rastenburg to personally assure Hitler of his loyalty.

After the war

Raeder with his wife at his 1955 release from Spandau.

After the war Raeder was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Nuremberg Trials, for waging a war of aggression, a charge arising from his planning of the German invasion of Norway. This sentence was later reduced and, due to ill health, he was released on 26 September 1955 at 11:35 am. After his release he settled down at the Uhlandstrasse in Lippstadt, Westphalia. He later wrote an autobiography, Mein Leben, in 1957. Erich Raeder died in Kiel, on 6 November 1960.

Dates of Rank


  • Alexander, Bevin (2000). How Hitler Could Have Won World War II, New York: Three Rivers Press. ISBN 0-609-80844-3
  • Gilbey, Joseph (2006). Kriegsmarine: Admiral Raeder's Navy - a broken dream
  • Huß, Jürgen & Viohl, Armin (2003). Die Ritterkreuzträger des Eisernen Kreuzes der preußischen Provinz Schleswig-Holstein und der Freien und Hansestadt Lübeck 1939-1945. Zweibrücken, Germany: VDM Heinz Nickel. ISBN 3-925 480-79-X.
  • Bird, Eugene, (1976). The loneliest man in the world, Rudolph Hess, in Spandau, London: Sphere books limited.

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Admiral Hans Zenker
Commander in Chief of the Reichsmarine
Succeeded by
himself as Commander in Chief of the Kriegsmarine
Preceded by
himself as Commander in Chief of the Reichsmarine
Commander in Chief of the Kriegsmarine
Succeeded by
Karl Dönitz
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Sir Stafford Cripps
Cover of Time Magazine
20 April 1942
Succeeded by
Pierre Laval


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Erich Raeder

Erich Johann Albert Raeder (April 24, 1876November 6, 1960) was a naval leader in Germany before and during World War II. Raeder attained the highest possible naval rank – that of Großadmiral (Grand Admiral) – in 1939, becoming the first person to hold that rank since Alfred von Tirpitz. Raeder led the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) for the first half of World War II, but resigned in 1943 and was replaced by Karl Dönitz. He was sentenced to life in prison at the Nuremberg Trials, but was released on September 26, 1955 and later wrote an autobiography, Mein Leben, in 1957. Erich Raeder died in Kiel, on November 6, 1960.



  • ...the basic principles of the military services are unchangeable. Courage and candor, obedience and comradeship, love of fatherland and loyalty to the State: these are ever the distinguishing characteristics of the soldier and sailor. Building character through intelligent training and education is always the first and greatest goal.
    • Quoted in "He Led Hitler's Navy," "New York Times" article, April 24, 1960.
  • protect our position in the Norwegian and Arctic areas by threatening the flank of enemy operations against the northern Norwegian areas, and by attacking White Sea tie down enemy forces in the Atlantic, so that they cannot operate in the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean or the Pacific.
    • Quoted in "The Great Ships Pass: British Battleships at War" - by Peter Charles Smith - History - 1977
  • All wars will be settled by sea power.
    • 1939. Quoted in "The Atlantic System: The Story of Anglo-American Control of the Seas" - Page 221 - by Forrest Davis - 1941


  • The German Navy managed mostly to show that they knew how to die gallantly, especially the surface fleet.
  • Hitler was a demon but I realized it too late.
  • I will bring to everyone's attention that, in case war with Great Britain were to burst; such a war could mean Germany's end.
    • To other admirals and high ranking officials, July 22, 1939.

About Raeder

  • Raeder, the political admiral, stealthily built up the German Navy in defiance of the Versailles Treaty, and then put it to use in a series of aggressions which he had taken a leading part in planning.
    • Robert H. Jackson
  • Navy Commander Erich Raeder was more concerned with enhancing the navy's position in the new Reich than with contributing to a rational grand strategy. His limited vision fitted nicely into Hitler's dreams of world empire.
    • Johannes Steinhoff (1994)
  • An irritable old man with a practical, unimaginative mentality, but academically intelligent.
    • G. M. Gilbert
  • The Athenia sinking — when I broadcast that this was done not by our U-boats but by the British, I had Raeder's word for it. It was Raeder's fault. He knew and Hitler knew it was a German submarine.

External links

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