The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Fifty-Third Day: Thursday, 7th February, 1946
(Part 8 of 18)

[Page 137]

M. QUATRE: Mr. President, your Honours; to-day I have the honour to bring to a close the presentation of the French prosecution by recapitulating the charges against the defendants Wilhelm Keitel and Alfred Jodl. Before going into my statement, I shall ask the Tribunal for permission to present a few observations. First of all, to spare the time of the Tribunal, we have treated the two defendants jointly in the same brief. Their activities were carried on so much in common that in separating them we would run the risk of tedious repetitions, and for this reason I am condensing as far as possible what I have to say.

This presentation consists of three parts. In an introduction, I have endeavoured to show the position of the two defendants in the general design of their activities. The first part following this deals with the preparation of plans of aggression, and will only be mentioned. It has already been sufficiently expounded so that it need not be brought up again.

The second part will claim my special attention. It concerns the responsibility incurred by the defendants for the crimes committed in the course of the war. In this connection, I shall not mention all the documents, testimonies, and interrogatories concerning these two defendants. If their guilt is the outcome of the repetition of their crimes, its main characteristic is the criminal intent which caused these crimes to be carried out. This criminal intent is made particularly clear by the few documents to which I have limited myself. I shall ask the Tribunal's permission to make a few intentionally brief quotations from these.

The documents referred will be first quoted under the session number, which you will find written in red in the margin of the copy before you. I shall thereupon indicate the original number. If the document has already been submitted, I shall furnish the date at which it was submitted and the number under which it was submitted.

As Chief of the National Socialist Party and subsequently as Chancellor of the Reich, Hitler endeavoured to gain sole control of the German Army. He wanted the unity which he had established between Party and State to prevail throughout the Army, the State and the Party. Only under these conditions would the war machine be capable of fulfilling its function. The initial impulse would come from the Party, the State would translate it into action and the Army would impose it, if necessary, at home and abroad alike.

To achieve this aim it was necessary first of all to impose legislation which would in fact bring the whole military organisation under the Fuehrer's orders. It was also necessary to take steps to eliminate personalities too unyielding to submit to these measures. The execution of von Schleicher in 1934 and the disgrace of Blomberg in 1938 are two examples. All that remained was to provide for their replacement by military chiefs whose conscience was sufficiently elastic to allow them to play the part of faithful executives. Keitel and Jodl were among these.

Their personal convictions and their rapid rise to eminence prove this. Questioned on 3rd August, 1945, by Colonel Ecer of the Czechoslovak Court of Military Justice, the defendant Keitel spoke thus of his relations with Hitler and the National Socialist Party, (Exhibit RF 1430, formerly 710- RF):

"In my deepest beliefs, I was a faithful supporter of Adolf Hitler and my political convictions were National Socialist. When the Fuehrer accorded me his confidence, my personal contact with him further influenced me towards National Socialism. To-day I am still a firm partisan of Adolf Hitler, which does not imply that I adhere to all the points of the programme and policy of the Party."
On 7th November, 1943, in a speech delivered in Munich to the leaders of the Reich and of the Provinces, on the strategic position of Germany at the

[Page 138]

beginning of the fifth year of the war, Jodl made the following statement by way of peroration (Exhibit RF 1431, 172-L, submitted by the American prosecution of 27th November, 1945, as Exhibit USA 34):

"At this moment I should like to testify, not only with my lips but from the bottom of my heart, that our trust and confidence in the Fuehrer are boundless."
Keitel, who entered the Army in 1901, was still a colonel in 1931. Jodl, who was 3 years younger, was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel only in 1932, in spite of the opportunities offered by the war of 1914-18. The past years had brought them only mediocre advancement. Those which lay before them were to lead them to the heights of honour and responsibility. They saw their star rising at last, simultaneously with that of the new master of Germany. The immediate result was their admission to public life.

During the years preceding the war, Keitel did not cease to hold high office in the most exalted ranks of the German Armed Forces.

As he was in special favor with the new master of Germany, he adopted every possible means of strengthening the influence of Nazi ideology within the Army from the moment of Hitler's accession to power. His activities in the Wehrmachtsampt were particularly fruitful. This was a ministerial organisation which temporarily replaced the Reich Ministry of War, and was responsible, among other things, for the preparation and co-ordination of plans affecting the German Army.

The defendant's period in office is rendered the more noteworthy by the fact that sweeping changes in organisation had just been effected. The Reichswehr of the professional soldier was replaced by the Wehrmacht, recruited by compulsory military service. It was not enough to call the whole youth of Germany to the flag; it had to be clothed and fed and supplied with powerful modern weapons. This increase in the number of men under arms, these beginnings of a military economy and of a policy of rearmament, were largely due to the efforts of the defendant, who at that time enjoyed, in fact if not in theory, the prerogatives of a Minister of War.

On 4th February, 1938, when Hitler abolished the War Ministry and proclaimed himself Commander-in-Chief, he transferred the chief powers of the Ministry to the High Command of the Army and its chief, Keitel, became at the same time Chief of the Fuehrer's Personal Staff.

The defendant was to retain these functions until the German Army capitulated. As Chief of the High Command of the Army, Keitel did not exercise direct authority over the three services composing the Wehrmacht: the Army, the Air Force and the Navy, which were directly under Hitler. His particular function was the co-ordination of matters affecting the three Services, but he did more than this. His main role was that of adviser. He collated the information reaching him from the different Services under his orders.

This included reports from the Operations Staff under Jodl, information from the office of Admiral Canaris, reports made by the Economic Department of the Armed Forces under General Thomas, and by the administrative, financial and legal branches. No matter how personal and authoritative Hitler's way of working may have been, it did not exclude the regular and constant participation of Keitel in the acts of his master. He it was who was in a position to carry out his chief's demands, to suggest, to prepare or to modify his decisions.

If we consider his qualifications as a member of the Defence Council of the Reich and as a member of the Secret Cabinet Council and also consider their political importance, it is easy to see the scope of the role played by the defendant in every sphere, whether in the preparation of military plans in the strict sense of the term, the life or conduct of the German Army, the distribution of manpower, or the utilisation of the economic resources of Germany.

[Page 139]

Whenever a meeting was held at general headquarters or at the Chancellery, Keitel was present. He was present when Hitler made decisions of major importance. He was at his side on marches into the countries to be annexed. When orders by Hitler had to be transmitted, he in his turn would give orders, elaborating his chief's ideas and adding his personal contribution. In countersigning Hitler's decrees, Keitel did not alter the validity of these texts as regards the law of the Third Reich, but he gave Hitler a guarantee of their usefulness for the Wehrmacht and their execution to the last detail. It was in this point in particular that he acknowledged responsibility.

Like Keitel, Jodl was one of those men who staked their success on the success of the new regime and its creator.

His attitude, his orders and his activities show that he was a General inspired by political considerations, attached to Hitler, who showered favours on him. In assuming the direction of the General Staff of Operations of the Army, he also took an active and important part in the elaboration of his chief's orders.

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