Birthday: April 24, 1876
Died At Age: 84
Sun Sign: Taurus
Also Known As: Erich Johann Albert Raeder
Born Country: Germany
Born in: Wandsbek, Hamburg, Germany
Famous as: Admiral
Spouse/Ex-: Augusta Schultz, Erika Hindermann (m. 1920 – 1959)
father: Hans Friedrich Eduard Raeder
mother: Gertrud Wilhelmine Margaretha
Died on: November 6, 1960
place of death: Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein, West Germany
City: Hamburg, Germany
awards: Third Class Military Merit Cross
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Order of the Red Eagle 4th Class
Order of Franz Joseph
Order of the White Rose of Finland
Golden Party Badge
Order of Saint Stanislaus
Order of Michael the Brave
Erich Raeder was a German naval officer who held the highest possible naval rank of Grand Admiral from April 1939 to January 1943 and played a major role during the Second World War as the leader of the German Imperial Navy (Kriegsmarine). He was eventually demoted to the ceremonial post of Admiral Inspector and resigned soon after. He had previously participated in the First World War and contributed significantly to the rebuilding and rearmament of the German Navy. In 1945, he was captured by the soviet army and was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Nuremberg Trials for criminal conspiracy against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity and waging wars of aggression. He was released early in 1955 due to ill health and published his ghostwritten memoir 'Mein Leben' in 1957.
Childhood & Early Life
Erich Johann Albert Raeder was born on April 24, 1876, in Wandsbek in the Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein, German Empire, to Hans Friedrich Eduard Raeder and Gertrud Wilhelmine Margaretha. His authoritarian father, a school headmaster, inculcated values like hard work, faith and obedience into his son, and believed that democracy was government by men "playing politics".
He completed his schooling from the Grunberg Gymansium in Silesia and joined Kaiserliche Marine, the Imperial Navy, as a cadet in 1894. He was promoted to second lieutenant in 1897 and to Lieutenant in 1900, and became a Lieutenant Commander after studying at Kiel Navy Academy in 1903-05.
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In 1901-03, Erich Raeder served on the staff of Prince Heinrich of Prussia, who became one of his influential patrons. Because he could speak Russian fluently, he was sent to the Far East to serve as an observer during the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-05.
Joining the public relations section of the Navy in 1905, he worked with Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, the autocratic State Secretary of the Navy, who wanted to build a powerful navy to counter the British. He played a crucial part in promoting the Seemachtideologie, and with Tirpitz, lobbied in the Reichstag to pass the Third Navy Law of 1906, which practically began the Anglo-German naval race.
He joined as an officer in SMY Hohenzollern, Kaiser Wilhelm II's private yacht, in 1910 and earned the rank of Captain of Corvette in 1911. He was remarkably intelligent and through hard work became Chief of Staff for Rear Admiral Franz von Hipper in 1912, and helped him with paperwork.
World War I
After World War I started, in addition to his position as Chief of Staff, Erich Raeder also served in combat posts and participated in the Battle of Dogger Bank in 1915. The following year, he sparked a feud with Commander Wolfgang Wegener after he wrote a paper criticizing Wegener's thesis of 'guerre de course'.
In 1916, he was involved in the planning and execution of Hipper's raid with battlecruisers that aggravated into the Battle of Jutland between the British and the German navies. He had a major role in the battle, but when Hipper's flagship vessel SMS Lützow was heavily damaged, he was forced to move to SMS Moltke.
He again helped in devising Hipper's plan to sail across the Atlantic with a German battlecruiser squadron to sink British cruisers in South America, but the plan was rejected for being too risky. He was promoted to the position of deputy to the Naval State Secretary, Admiral Paul Behncke, in October 1918, and subsequently attempted to quell the mutiny of the Imperial German fleet.
In 1920, Erich Raeder became involved in a failed coup against the Weimar Republic, known as the Kapp Putsch after its leader Wolfgang Kapp, whom he had openly supported alongside other naval officer corps. He was subsequently transferred to the Naval Archives, where he spent two years writing about the Navy's official history and the performance of the cruisers during the war.
He became Rear Admiral and was appointed inspector of the Navy in 1922, and was promoted to Vice Admiral in 1925, which year he also assumed command of the Navy bases on the Baltic coast. Despite being in the service of the Weimar Republic, he was secretly involved in rearming and rebuilding of the German Navy, which violated the Treaty of Versailles.
He became the Admiral and Commander-in-Chief of the Reichsmarine in October 1928, and between 1929 and 1933, took huge steps to secure funding for the rearmament of the Navy and drew up future war plans. After the Nazis rose to power in 1933, he declared his support for Hitler and became involved in political affairs of the government as he negotiated with Hitler to secretly siphon funds for naval improvements.
World War II
Hitler promoted Erich Raeder to Grand Admiral in April 1939, following which he supported the Third Reich against its struggle with "international Judaism and communism", although he was against relieving Jews from official posts. He wanted to delay the war with Great Britain because he felt that five more years were needed to complete the reconstruction of the navy, but the Second World War broke out later that year.
He discussed with Hitler the risk posed by a naval blockade in Norway by the Allies and ordered the Scandinavian invasion, 'Operation Weserübung', which happened in April-June 1940 and cost the Germans dearly. He had plans to bolster the German navy by confiscating the French ships, surrendered previously in September 1939, and while Hitler rejected the idea, it still caused the British attack on Mers-el-Kébir in July 1940.
In July 1940, he secured Hitler's support in rebuilding and reequipping the battleships under 'Plan Z' and successfully orchestrated 'Operation Berlin', the commerce raiding mission in the Atlantic in early 1941. However, it followed a series of failed operations, including the Battle of the Barents Sea, whereas the U-boat fleet commanded by Karl Dönitz registered huge successes, prompting Hitler to promote the latter to Grand Admiral.
He resigned in January 1943, and in June 1945, was captured from Berlin by the Red Army which took him to Moscow where he was treated more like a guest than war criminal. He was nevertheless indicted at the Nuremberg trial and was awarded life imprisonment, but was eventually released in September 1955 due to ill health.
Family & Personal Life
Erich Raeder married his first wife, Augusta Schultz, in 1903, and had three children with her. He went through a personal crisis during the First World War as he lost his two younger brothers and his relationship with wife became strained, ultimately resulting in divorce in 1919.
A strict puritan, he felt disgraced at the outcome of his first marriage, which he often denied, and later married Erika Hindermann in 1920 and had a daughter named Anita. He lost his wife in 1959 and died on November 6, 1960 in Kiel, where he was buried in the Nordfriedhof.
In his memoir 'Mein Leben', Erich Raeder claimed that he first learnt about the criminal activities of the Nazi regime after visiting an old colleague who was disfigured following torture in the concentration camp. While he mentioned that he protested by not wearing the Nazi Golden Party Badge, British historian Sir John Wheeler-Bennett mocked him by calling it 'pathetic'.