Jim Cain asks, Thursday, November 1, 2007, about a little known episode which led to a lengthy estrangement between Hitler and his naval C-in-C
Photo: Hitler with his staff, including Grand Admiral Raeder
Admiral Raeder's tiff with Hitler
Admiral Raeder wrote in his memoirs: "IN May of 1939, however, I had another violent brush with Hitler. The officer who had recently been appointed his naval aide requested official permission to marry, in accordance with the usual procedure. I naturally granted it. Shortly afterward, though, a civilian official reported that the marriage had transpired under circumstances which would invalidate it. Investigation proved this report to be correct, with the alternative that either the marriage should be invalidated or the officer should leave his assignment. Hitler's decision, however, was that the marriage should be approved and also that the officer should remain his naval aide.
"I held the diametrically opposite view, and dismissed the officer from the Navy. When Hitler objected to my decision, I wrote him a personal letter ...."
Is this incident dealt with in Hitler's War?
What do you know of who this 'naval aide' was, and what are the known factual circumstances regarding the marriage and Hitler's on-record reaction to it? (Admiral Raeder's description seems uncharacteristic of Hitler's usual adherence to a very strict 'public morality' standard in all other such known incidents.)
Many thanks, as usual, and best wishes!
David Irving replies:
THE naval aide was Alwin Broder Albrecht. I discussed this episode with Admiral von Puttkamer and Albrecht's widow. The full story is in my book Hitler's War (free download), and in more detail in The War Path [SEE BELOW] Hitler then appointed him his personal adjutant, which he stayed until the very end. He wrote his wife a farewell letter -- which she let me read, too late for the book, averring that National Socialism was a great healing force for society, but that it had been perverted by a few evil men around Hitler. Hitler said very much the same -- and he says it in the film Der Untergang too. Albrecht stayed in the Berlin bunker until the very end, and was last seen defending it with a machine gun in his hands.
HITLER'S adjutants and military advisers went on rou tine summer furloughs. Jodl and Schmundt took five weeks until the end of July, Keitel then went until mid-August. Late in June 1938 a new naval adjutant arrived, a dour Frisian navy commander, Alwin-Broder Albrecht; Puttkamer returned to the destroyers.
All of Hitler's staff wishing to marry -- from field marshal down to his humblest adjutant -- had to secure his permission first. The Blomberg incident was a notorious example; the Alwin-Broder Albrecht case had yet to come.* Some times, while he did not refuse consent, he did what he could to break the match. He took a personal interest in the prospective wives of army officers, requiring to see their photographs ...
It led to a complete rupture in Raeder's relations with Hitler for three months, from June to August 1939.
This left the naval adjutant: and thereby hung a tale. Since Puttkamer had returned to the destroyers in June 1938, Hitler's naval adjutant had been Lieutenant-Commander Al win Broder Albrecht, aged thirty-five: but in June 1939 the appointment ended abruptly, under circumstances that demand we pay more attention to him than to the other adjutants. Once again -- as with the Blomberg mésalliance of 1938 -- a faulty marriage was the cause.
Albrecht had recently married a young schoolmistress of Kiel, but she was well known to the local naval garrison. Worse, she had been living in sin with a wealthy man -- according to anonymous letters received by the stern and puritanical Grand-Admiral Raeder (left) -- who had actually been a witness at the Albrecht wedding. The navy's wives raised a howl of protest. Albrecht was obliged to sue one complainer, and unhappily lost. Raeder sent him on "married leave" and when the commander's absence was noticed and questioned, Raeder called unannounced at the Berghof and insisted on Albrecht's dismissal as adjutant for contracting such a dishonourable marriage.
To Raeder's chagrin, Hitler refused. The argument in the Great Hall raged back and forth for two hours, loud enough for the whole building to hear. Raeder indignantly described it as a new Blomberg affair. Hitler however had been caught before, and demanded proof. He sneered, "How many of the navy wives now flaunting their virtue have had affairs of their own in the past! Frau Albrecht's past is the concern of nobody but herself. The Blomberg case was quite different. He deliberately married a woman who committed immoral acts for cash and other considerations."
Admiral Raeder, thirteen years Hitler's senior, stiffly announced that he would resign unless Albrecht went. Hitler replied that Raeder might do as he pleased. The admiral returned in a huff to Berlin.
Hitler meanwhile invited Frau Grete Albrecht to present herself on the Obersalzberg for his personal inspection. Strolling with his adjutants he growled, "It looks like there's another typical officers' intrigue afoot. But I've forbidden any attempt at blackening my naval adjutant's name. It's always nasty when people allege things and then can't come up with the proof. But I'm not going to let go. I'm going to get to the bottom of it." Engel collected Frau Albrecht from the Berchtesgadener Hof hotel the next day and smuggled her up to the Bechstein guest house near the Berghof.
Then he drove Hitler alone to the isolated villa, and left them together for ninety minutes. Hitler noticed that the tall blonde schoolmistress had considerable female charm, and he was satisfied that Albrecht had done well to marry her. He showed her every sympathy. Engel drove her back down into the valley, after which he picked up Hitler on the villa steps. Hitler grumbled ominously about the double standards of the officer corps; subsequently he would see that the culprits were found and punished. All this had an extraordinary consequence. Raeder still insisted, and dismissed Albrecht as Hitler's naval adjutant. Hitler retaliated by making Albrecht a personal adjutant. (Albrecht's records show he left the navy on 30 June 1939, becoming an Oberführer -- brigadier -- in the Nazi Motor Corps the next day.)
Raeder responded by refusing to appoint a new naval adjutant; eventually, on 25 August, Puttkamer was recalled from the destroyers but until October he was formally referred to as Jodl's adjutant, to save Raeder's face. Hitler in turn retaliated by declining to attend the navy's next launching ceremony at Bremen on 1 July. The navy rallied round Raeder: social invitations went to Albrecht -- but not to his new wife, Grete. She completed the farce by returning to her other lover, and in 1940 the unfortunate adjutant had to divorce her. He never forgot Hitler's loyalty to him. He became a convinced National Socialist and put duty above all else, as his moving last letters from Berlin show. Albrecht is believed to have died with a machine-gun in his hands when the Russians took the Reich Chancellery in 1945.
Raeder also never forgot Hitler's June 1939 "insult." He ensconced himself in the admiralty in Berlin and petulantly refused to confer with the Führer any more. He passively attended Hitler's conference of 14 August, and the famous harangue 22 August 1939; but it took the outbreak of war itself to persuade him to resume personal contact with Hitler again.