The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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TUESDAY, 4th JUNE, 1946




Q. General, yesterday afternoon we started dealing with war
crimes; but today I should like, first of all, to put a few
preliminary questions to you. What position and what tasks
were yours during the period of the war?

A. I had to deal with the entire work of the Chief of Staff
in connection with the strategic operational conduct of the
war. Moreover, subordinate to me was the Military Propaganda
Division, which had the duty of co-operating with the Press,
and thirdly, I was head of an office which, speaking
broadly, had to distribute reports and information to the
various branches of the Wehrmacht. This sphere of work took
up my time to such an extent that as a rule I worked until
three o'clock in the morning night after night. I had no
time at all to concern myself with other things. I already
had to delegate to my personal adjutant almost all my work
with the Press, which had to receive daily information.

Q. These tasks which you have just named were all tasks
connected with your office - and that was the Wehrmacht
Operational Staff - of which you were chief, is that right?

A. Yes, of which I was chief.

Q. And a branch of the operational staff, the main and most
important one, was the operational branch?

A. The operational branch.

Q. And most of your tasks were concerned with this branch:
The prosecution says you were Chief of Staff to
Field-Marshal Keitel. Do you agree?

A. That is not correct and has already been shown by the
division of the departments, which was explained here during
Field-Marshal Keitel's case. There is a great difference. As
Chief of Staff, I would have been Field-Marshal Keitel's
assistant, concerned with all of his duties. However, I was
only the chief of one of the many departments subordinate to
Field-Marshal Keitel.

Beginning with the year 1941 it became the custom that I
reported to the Fuehrer directly all matters concerned with
operations and my operational branch, whereas Field-Marshal
Keitel, by using my Quartermaster Division as a sort of
personal working staff, took over all other tasks.

Q. Did you, as chief of the Wehrmacht Operational Staff,
have authority to issue orders?

A. No, or rather only to my working staff. I was subordinate
to Field-Marshal Keitel, and even Keitel himself was not a
supreme commander, but only the chief of a staff. But,
naturally, in the course of this war, I decided many
operational details myself, and signed them myself. There
was no disagreement of any sort in these matters with the
commanders-in-chief, for I had their confidence and I worked
on the best possible terms with them.

Q. For an outsider it is not quite easy to understand that,
even though you had no authority to issue orders, so many
orders have been submitted here which were, in fact, signed
by you, and signed in different ways, sometimes with the

                                                  [Page 295]

entire signature, sometimes with a "J", the first initial of
your name. Please explain these differences.

A. One must differentiate as follows: the decrees which the
Fuehrer himself signed, if they were of an operational
nature, bear my initial at the end, on the lower right; and
that means that I at least assisted in the formulation of
that order. Then there were orders which also came from the
Fuehrer though they were not signed by him personally but
"by order of Jodl", but then they always opened with the
sentence: "The Fuehrer has decreed", or the sentence was
found somewhere in the course of the order. There was a
preamble, usually giving reasons for the order, and then it
said: "The Fuehrer has therefore decreed."

Q. And what was the difference between these two groups of
orders? Why was one group of orders signed by the Fuehrer,
and the other only by you?

A. The difference was solely that the orders signed by me
were of less importance.

Q. Now, there were other orders which did not begin with
"the Fuehrer has decreed", but were signed by you,
nevertheless. What about these?

A. These orders were as a rule signed: "The Chief of the
Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht, by Order of Jodl". These
were orders which emanated from me, that is, I or my staff
formulated them. The Fuehrer himself and Field-Marshal
Keitel had perhaps been informed of these orders, but not in
every case.

Then there were other orders, which bear my initial on the
first page in the upper right-hand corner. Those were orders
issued by other departments, my initial "J" on the first
page was merely an office note to show that this order had
been submitted to me. But it did not mean that I had read
it, for if on perusing the first page I saw that the decree
dealt with a matter not connected with my sphere of work,
then I initialled it and put it aside because I had to save

Q. Now, there is another large volume of documents, of which
some are being used as strongly incriminating evidence
against you; they are not orders but summary notes. Can you
comment on these?

A. These summary notes were an arrangement used on higher
staff levels for the convenience of people who had not time
to study enormous files. Therefore a summary note contained,
in an abbreviated form, a description of any matter,
frequently the views taken by other departments, and
sometimes even a proposal. The decisive fact is that it was
not an order, it was not a draft of an order, but it formed
the basis for an order.

Q. Perhaps the situation will best be clarified if you can
explain this to the Tribunal in the case of the summary
draft dealing with the commissars; we touched on this matter
yesterday. It is Document 884-PS, Exhibit R 351, Volume II
of my Document Book, Page 152.

Before you start I should like to call the attention of the
High Tribunal to an error in the translation. On Page 152,
under (1), it says:

  "OKH has presented a draft for instructions regarding
  high political officials, etc., regarding commissars."

The English translation says:

  "The Army High Command presents a statement"; but it is a

And I do not quite follow the French; it says: "Confirmation
des instructions". It should obviously be "projet".

The German original says: "OKW (High Command of the Armed
Forces) has presented a draft for instructions regarding
treatment of high political officials, etc., for the uniform
application of the order issued on 31st March, 1941 ..." and
these are the Commissars. The whole of this is a summary
draft. Will you please comment on it?

A. This document is a typical example. First of all, it
contains the draft by another department of the High Command
of the Armed Forces, not verbatim, but in abbreviated form.
Then, secondly, under (II), on Page 153, the views of
another department - that of Reichsleiter Rosenberg - are
set forth. Then, under (III), it contains a proposal of my
own staff.

                                                  [Page 296]

The whole matter, therefore, is far from being an order; it
is to become one. And, of course, on such a summary draft, I
made very many cursory marginal notes to serve as
indications for further treatment and discussion or disposal
of the matter. Therefore one cannot apply to this the same
criteria which are applied to the well-considered words
contained in an actual order.

Q. All right. So much for the summary draft and your notes.

Now we turn to the very intricate topic of the Commando
Order. This matter has been dealt with here on various
occasions, and indeed it goes beyond this Tribunal in its
importance and its repercussions, as we know from the

I should like to hear from you something about the
antecedents of this order. This order is Document 498-PS,
Exhibit USA 501. I do not have it in my Document Book, but I
asked the General Secretary to have it put at the disposal
of the High Tribunal in the various languages. I hope this
has been done.

Then there is an explanatory decree in addition to the main
order; both are signed by the Fuehrer. That is Document
PS-503, Exhibit USA 542.

MR. ROBERTS: It is 498-PS. It is in the Keitel and Jodl
Document Book No. 7, Page 64.


Q. The first order is addressed to the troops, the second is
an explanatory order addressed to the commanders-in-chief.
The first order threatens enemy soldiers with death if they
engage in bandit-like warfare, and it refers to the
Wehrmacht communique in this connection.

Can you first explain the connection between the Commando
Order and the Wehrmacht communique of 7th October, 1942?

A. May I ask the Tribunal to permit me, as an exception, to
go into greater detail. Very much is at stake in this order,
not my person - my own person does not matter in this trial;
but the honour of the German soldiers and the German
officers, whom I represent here.

The Commando Order is inseparably linked with the
announcement in the Wehrmacht communique of 7th October,
1942, for this announcement in the Wehrmacht communique
foreshadowed the actual Commando Order.

Q. And who was responsible for this announcement in the
Wehrmacht communique? Who wrote it?

A. In the main, this Wehrmacht communique of 7th October,
1942 - it was really a sort of supplement to the communique
- emanated from me. It deals with the denial of a report by
the British Ministry of War, a matter which I will not
discuss further, for it is a very delicate point. The
prosecution especially does not wish it to be brought up.

Q. But this supplement -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Exner, we do not know - at least I have
not seen the document of 7th October, 1942, and the
prosecution had made no objection to any answer to any
English documents as far as we know.

DR. EXNER: I wished to submit this document but objections
were raised.

THE PRESIDENT: What does the defendant mean by saying that
the prosecution does not wish him to present it or to answer

DR. EXNER: He probably refers to the fact that we could not
present this Wehrmacht communique, but he can give us the
contents of it briefly.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it may be a question of translation,
but if he means simply that no evidence has been given by
the prosecution on the subject, of course there is no
objection to his saying that; but when he says that the
prosecution does not want him to put forward or does not
want him to answer the document, that is a most improper
statement to make.

DR. EXNER: Yes, I understand.

                                                  [Page 297]


Q. Perhaps you can tell us briefly the contents of this
Wehrmacht communique of 7th October, 1942. I believe you
have it in your own Document Book.

THE PRESIDENT: No, but, Dr. Exner, that is not quite what I
mean. What the defendant has said was that the prosecution
does not want him to deal with this subject.


THE PRESIDENT: Now, if that is the remark that is made, that
is an improper remark to make. The prosecution have had no
communication with the defence upon this subject,
presumably, except that they have put it forward in the
evidence in this case.


Q. Did you understand? You must not say that you are not
allowed to touch upon this subject. Perhaps you will give us
an explanation of what you meant?

A. This communique is in direct connection with the Commando
Order. Only the last paragraph of this Wehrmacht communique
is important; it was written by the Fuehrer himself, as
Field-Marshal Keitel has already stated, and Professor
Jahrreis read it here before the Tribunal. It is the
sentence which reads:

  "In future, all terror and sabotage troops of the British
  and their accomplices, who do not act like soldiers but
  rather like bandits, will be treated as such by the
  German troops and will be ruthlessly eliminated in
  battle, wherever they appear."

This sentence was written, word for word, by the Fuehrer

Q. And then you were instructed to issue a detailed order to
that effect -

THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute, wait a minute.

Defendant, what the Tribunal wants to know is this: You said
that the Commando Order appeared originally in a Wehrmacht
report of 7th October, 1942, which, in the main, emanated
from you, and that that report refuted an English statement
by the Ministry of War which the prosecution did not want
you to deal with. What do you mean by that?

THE WITNESS: By that I meant that my Defence Counsel
intended to submit the entire Wehrmacht communique of 7th
October, 1942, as a document in evidence. But he refrained
from doing so when the prosecution objected to the document.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, I have certainly never
objected to this document. I have asked Mr. Roberts and he
tells me that he has never objected to it and, as far as we
know, no one on behalf of the prosecution has ever objected
to it. I certainly have no objection to it at all myself; as
a member of the English Government at the time when this
matter was issued, I have never heard anything about it
before, but I have no objection to it at all.

DR. EXNER: May I say something?


DR. EXNER: If there has been a misunderstanding, we shall be
all the more pleased, and we shall submit this Wehrmacht
communique either this afternoon or tomorrow.

I should like to clarify one point regarding the question
which Mr. President put to the defendant.

The defendant said that the Wehrmacht communique, in the
main, emanated from him, but that the Fuehrer wrote the
supplementary sentence -

                                                  [Page 298]

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Exner, if you want to correct anything
that I have said you must do it through the witness and not
through yourself. You are not entitled to give evidence. You
only give evidence through the witness.

DR. EXNER: Yes. All right.


Q. Please state once more which part of the Wehrmacht
communique you wrote and which part was added by the

A. The entire first part of this Wehrmacht communique has
nothing whatever to do with commando troops, but is
concerned with the well-known affair of the shackling of
German prisoners of war on the beach of Dieppe. I shall
refer to that again later.

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