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Erich Raeder

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Erich Raeder.
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Erich Raeder.

Erich Johann Albert Raeder (April 24, 1876November 6, 1960) was a naval leader in Nazi Germany during World War II. Raeder attained the high rank of Grand Admiral (Großadmiral) in 1939, becoming the first person to hold that rank in wartime since Alfred von Tirpitz. Raeder led the Kriegsmarine (German War Navy) for the first half of World War II but was eventually demoted and replaced by Karl Dönitz in 1942. He was sentenced to life in prison during the Nuremberg Trials, but was later released and wrote his autobiography. Raeder died in 1960.

Raeder was born in a middle-class family in Wandsbek, near Hamburg, Germany. His father was a headmaster. He joined the Kaiserliche Marine (German 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 Rear Admiral (Konteradmiral) in 1922 and a Vice Admiral (Vizeadmiral) in 1925. In October 1928 Raeder was promoted to Admiral and made Commander in Chief of the German Navy (Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsmarine).

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

Nevertheless he was promoted to Grand Admiral (Großadmiral) in 1939, and later that year 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. These operations were eventually successfully carried out, although with relatively heavy losses.

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Grand Admiral Erich Raeder holding his baton

Raeder was not a strong supporter of the Operation Sealion, the planned German invasion of the British Isles for he felt the war at sea could be conducted far more successfully via an indirect strategic approach by increasing the numbers of u-boote, and small surface vessels in service 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 argued strongly against Sealion unless decisive German air superiority was present over the English Channel especially due to a great lacking in regional German naval superiority in addition to the catastrophic harassment that a contesting Royal Air Force would cause to any German invasion force. Since such circumstances were never gained, the invasion was thus postponed indefinitely due to the Luftwaffe's failure to obtain the invasion prerequisite of air superiority during the Battle of Britain, and instead the focus of the German war machine was diverted to Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of Soviet Union, which Raeder opposed strongly.

A series of failed operations after that point, combined with the outstanding success of the U-boat fleets under the command of Karl Dönitz led to his eventual demotion to the rank of Admiral Inspector of the German Navy in January of 1943, and eventually to resignation and retirement in May of 1943. Karl Dönitz succeeded him in the post of the Commander in Chief of the German Navy on 30 January 1943.

After the war he was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Nuremberg Trials, for waging a "war of aggression". This much criticized sentence was later reduced, and due to ill health he was released on 26 September 1955, later writing an autobiography, Mein Leben in 1957. Erich Raeder died in Kiel, on 6 November 1960.

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German Field Marshals (Generalfeldmarschall) of World War II

Werner von Blomberg | Hermann Göring | Walther von Brauchitsch | Albert Kesselring | Wilhelm Keitel | Günther von Kluge | Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb | Fedor von Bock | Wilhelm List | Erwin von Witzleben | Walther von Reichenau | Erhard Milch | Hugo Sperrle | Gerd von Rundstedt | Erwin Rommel | Georg von Küchler | Erich von Manstein | Friedrich Paulus | Ewald von Kleist | Maximilian von Weichs | Ernst Busch | Wolfram von Richthofen | Walther Model | Ferdinand Schörner | Robert Ritter von Greim

Honorary: Eduard von Böhm-Ermolli

 
German Grand Admirals (Großadmiral) of World War II

Erich Raeder | Karl Dönitz

de:Erich Raeder

fr:Erich Raeder nl:Erich Raeder sv:Erich Raeder

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