Wilhelm Groener, ministro de defensa
Bird, p. 77:
On 18 October 1928, Groener called a special meeting in which Raeder and General Heye were instructed to officially inform the government of “all those things which were not in harmony with the principles of sound budgeting and political honesty.” 51 Once Groener completed his review of the treaty violations, he determined which projects were to be continued and transferred the responsibility for further secret rearmament to the government. Groener “insisted absolutely” that nothing should be held from him and that only he had the authority to sanction any proposed secret project or funding. Even then, security concerns and lack of cooperation hindered a full disclosure of the navy’s records until Groener issued Raeder a “last chance.” Subsequently, noted Raeder, the government took full responsibility and exonerated the Reich’s defense minister, who continued to be responsible for covert rearmament. “We had to report to the Reichswehrminister everything that happened in the future and were not allowed to undertake any steps alone.” Only in this way, according to Raeder, did Groener feel he could “take the responsibility toward the Government.” 52 Beginning with the 1928 budget, the government established a committee to oversee a secret budget to fund rearmament activities. The existence of this committee and its purpose (which was outside the oversight of the Reichstag) represented a major blow to the parliamentary system and was, in fact, a violation of German law (which had adopted the Versailles treaty as law). The secret funds came from the inflated budgets of the Defense Ministry and other government offices. In five years, the navy was able to increase these funds from 6.8 million marks to 21 million marks—a deception that involved careful and coordinated planning on the part of the civilian and military leaders. 53 During debates over the budget in the Reichstag, Raeder had to answer probing questions evasively, “yet, at the same time, satisfy the questioner. [In this manner] many of the secret sums of vital importance for the navy were substantiated with innocent explanations.” 54
There was another reason to reorganize the program of secret rearmament. The publicity over the violations of the treaty and rumors of continuing transgressions had not escaped the attention of the Allies. To prepare for a surprise investigation, Raeder directed that any measures that violated the treaty were to be the responsibility of the Naval Command and the defense minister personally, and individual cases would be evaluated as to whether the benefits were worth the risk. Finally, high-risk items were to be disguised, along with appropriate cover-up statements to be issued along with preparations for removing these items if necessary. The deadline for reporting all violations was 1 January 1929, and Raeder admonished officers “to make sure that nothing was omitted from this list.” 55 These procedures and Raeder’s threat to monitor the effectiveness of all cover-up measures further bolstered the authority of the Marineleitung and Raeder’s role as the final arbiter in all naval affairs.
51 . IMT, XIII, 621–22, and XIV, 252–53. Cf. Severing’s account, Lebensweg, II, 137.
52 . IMT, XIII, 622; Kampf der Marine, C-156, IMT, XXIV, 601.
53 . Bird, Weimar, 233–34.
54 . Kampf der Marine, C-156, IMT, 602.
55 . Beitrag von V.G.M. zür Führerbesprechung am 14 December 1928, II M 62/I, BAMA.
In spring 1929, Groener asked Raeder to answer the question, “Does Germany need large warships?” Raeder’s careful response demonstrates his reading of Groener and the tactical nature of his policy of dealing with his superiors. He assured Groener that the navy’s primary mission focused on a potential conflict with France and Poland and expressly declared that the navy’s strategy was not determined by any “wishful thinking to reestablish an outstanding naval power.” The most important task of the navy was to prevent the enemy from interdicting German overseas commerce. The lessons of the World War had demonstrated that the “cutting off [of] our sea lanes is the simplest and safest way, without any bloodshed, of defeating us.” right from the start”). Even if they were freed from the restrictions of Versailles, the navy could only fight a second-class naval power, such as France. 60
Raeder’s reassurances aside, Groener remained skeptical. His studies of the navy’s operational plans concluded that the navy had ambitions beyond mere coastal defense. He also recognized that these plans did not take into regard either the kind or number of ships needed for the navy’s professed mission. Groener also noted the lack of any coordination with the army, with each service assuming that it would be able to fight its own war. Groener insisted that the navy’s primary area of operations should be the Baltic and the defense of East Prussia. 61 Although he publicly supported the Panzerschiff, he was well aware that this ship was not the most suitable ship for the role of the navy he envisioned. Winning approval for the new ships was, however, part of Groener’s attempt to create an unified national defense plan and the military-industrial infrastructure along with the funds to modernize the military (the navy claimed 30 percent of the military budget and the Panzerschiffe represented a long-term commitment of substantial funds). 62
60 . Braucht Deutschland grosse Kriegsschiffe? 28 May 1929, Rahn, Reichsmarine, 281–86.
61 . Das Panzerschiff, Groener N 46/147; Salewski, “ England, Hitler und die Marine, ” Vom Sinn der Geschichte, 165–66; Schreiber, Weltmachtstreben, 54–55.
62 . Deist, Wehrmacht and German Rearmament, 11.