Erich Raeder


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German admiral who commanded his country's navy in the first half of World War II.

Raeder served as chief of staff to Admiral Franz von Hipper (1863–1932) during World War I, taking part in the naval battles of Dogger Bank and Jutland. After the war he was promoted to rear-admiral (1922) and in 1928 became admiral and commander-in-chief of the navy. Raeder started to build up the small fleet, ordering the construction of pocket battleships and, after Hitler's accession to power in 1933, a new generation of submarines, both contrary to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. By the outbreak of World War II, Raeder's efforts had restored the German navy as a significant force. Hitler promoted him to grand admiral in 1939.

In April 1940, Germany invaded Denmark and Norway, partly at Raeder's urging, to provide the German fleet with deep water fjords from which to operate. By the summer, Germany controlled the entire northern coastline of mainland Europe. Raeder argued for air supremacy before any invasion of Britain. Meanwhile his U-boats mounted a wide-ranging campaign against vessels supplying Britain in an attempt to starve the island into submission. When plans for the invasion were shelved in 1941–42, Raeder pressed for the major campaign to be focused on gaining control of the Mediterranean. However, Hitler, who consistently underrated the navy, insisted on invading the Soviet Union. Differences between them culminated in Raeder's resignation on 30 January 1943 and his replacement by the submarine commander Doenitz.

After the war, Raeder was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg but was released in 1955 because of ill health.

Subjects: Second World War — Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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