The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
12th March to 22nd March, 1946

Eighty-Third Day: Saturday, 16th March, 1946
(Part 1 of 5)

[Page 150]


DR. STAHMER: Mr. President, I have purposely deferred one single question and not yet dealt with it - that is, Goering's efforts to maintain peace in the months of July and August, 1939, before the outbreak of the war. I have deferred the question for the following reasons. Originally, I had intended to call Goering to the witness stand only after the interrogation of the witness Dahlerus. Only because Dahlerus had not yet arrived, and because I wanted to avoid an interruption of the proceedings, did I then call Goering first.

I now ask for a decision as to whether I may call Goering back to the witness stand after the examination of the witness Dahlerus, who in the meantime has arrived. I consider it expedient in the interest of saving time - because in my opinion quite a number of questions would thereby become unnecessary - or whether I may question him again on this point after the cross-examination. If that is not possible, I shall deal with this matter immediately. It seems to me advisable, however, to put this question after the examination of Dahlerus.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Your Honour, perhaps I can help on this point. If the Tribunal could consider this application without its establishing a precedent for other cases, I should have no objection, because in the case of Dahlerus we are to understand that someone will have to go into the matter in detail as to the events that happened within the last fortnight. It might well mean a saving of time if that detail were gone into only once and it would be rather difficult for Dr. Stahmer to examine the witness Dahlerus without going into the details. While I feel strongly with the Tribunal that a defendant should not be recalled except in the most exceptional circumstances, I think in this case it might conceivably bring about a shortening of time.

THE PRESIDENT: Do you mean that if the witness Dahlerus were called, it might obviate the necessity of calling the defendant Goering in reference to those events?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: It might obviate that necessity, and it would in any case mean, I should think, that the defendant Goering would have to answer only a very few questions; but if it were opened up now, it would be difficult to avoid both witnesses covering the same ground.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal is only concerned with the saving of time, and as the Tribunal is informed by the defendant's counsel, Dr. Stahmer, that it may save time, the Tribunal is prepared to adopt that course, and to allow the witness Dahlerus to be called before these questions are put to the defendant Goering; but it must not be taken as a precedent for the recalling of any other witnesses.

DR. STAHMER: Thank you, Sirs. Then I have no further questions to ask the defendant at this time.

DR. OTTO NELTE (counsel for the defendant Keitel):

Q. The prosecution, in their presentation, have frequently mentioned the defendant Keitel in connection with orders, directives and so forth. They were always quoted as Keitel- orders, Keitel-decrees, and upon this the prosecution have based, among other things, their indictment of the defendant Keitel. I am anxious to clear up, through questioning you, what was the

[Page 151]

position of Field-Marshal Keitel, what powers and what responsibility he had as Chief of the O.K.W., or in other official functions. Are you familiar with the decree of 4th February, 1938, by which the High Command of the Armed Forces, the O.K.W., was created and Field-Marshal Keitel appointed Chief of the O.K.W.

A. Of course I am familiar with that decree because I assisted in the making of the decree, in that the Fuehrer discussed with me the entire reshuffling of 8th February, and the resulting consequences and organisational changes of his entire staff.

Q. Can you remember the diagram which was submitted by the prosecution concerning the organisation of the German Armed Forces?

A. Yes, I remember that it was here on the board.

Q. I shall have it shown to you.

Do you think the O.K.W. is placed correctly on this diagram?

A. No, it is not correct. It says on top, "Commander-in- Chief of the Armed Forces," then there is a line, and below it says "Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces." From there, indicating a subordination, lines lead directly to the Commanders-in-Chief of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. That is wrong.

The High Command of the Armed Forces, and also the Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces, should not be so placed, but set separately to one side, that is to say, the three Commanders-in-Chief of the three branches of the Armed Forces were immediately subordinate to the Fuehrer, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, and in no subordination whatsoever to the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces or to the Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces.

The Fuehrer at that time, in February, reorganised his entire staff. For he had, in this capacity as Head of State (Staatsoberhaupt), the State Chancellery, and on that day he made Meissner, who was then State Secretary, State Minister, and established the State Chancellery as his personal office. Thus he, in collaboration with the Protocol Department of the Foreign Office, was in charge of all affairs that are purely matters for the Chief of State. He ruled that, in his capacity as Reich Chancellor and Chief of the Government, the organisation should be the Reich Chancellery; the State Secretary of the Reich Chancellery became on the same day Reich Minister and Chief of the Reich Chancellery. It was the function of this office to maintain liaison with the Ministries and the entire machinery of the Government of the Reich. The function of this Minister, as an organ of the Fuehrer, was not the issuing, but the execution, of the Fuehrer's orders and decrees.

Then, the Fuehrer, as leader of the Party, had the Party Chancery of which the Deputy of the Fuehrer (Stellvertreter des Fuehrers), Rudolf Hess, was in charge at that time and occupied a high position within that organisation. After he left, Bormann did not become Deputy of the Fuehrer (Stellvertreter des Fuehrers), but Chief of the Party Chancery (Chef der Parteikanzlei).

Next, there was the Private Chancery of the Fuehrer (Privatkanzlei des Fuehrers), with a Reichsleiter as chief.Militarily, as his military cabinet or military staff - or, as it used to be known in former years, the "Maison Militaire" - the High Command of the Armed Forces (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, O.K.W.) was formed.

This reorganisation was necessary, because after the retirement of Blomberg as Minister of War, no new Minister of War had been appointed, and the Fuehrer, since as Head of State he was at any rate Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, was now determined, not only formally to be this Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, but to execute that function in fact. In consequence, he needed a staff organisation. This was to be the High Command of

[Page 152]

the Armed Forces, and Keitel became Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces (the O.K.W.).

In Germany the word "chief" in the military sense has a different meaning from Commander-in-Chief. The responsibility and right to give orders rest with the Commander or the Commander-in-Chief. The assistant in staff administration, in the working out, administering and transmitting of orders, and in maintaining liaison, is the current chief of the respective staff. Thus, the former Colonel-General Keitel or General Keitel was Chief of Staff of the Military Staff of the Commander-in- Chief, called the High Command of the Armed Forces (O.K.W.). On the one hand, he had charge of the entire machinery of the Staff of the Commander-in-Chief, as far as military organisational and technical matters and military direction, that is to say, strategy, were concerned, in so far as the Fuehrer wanted to have his strategic orders worked out from a central point. Therefore there has been established in the High Command a purely strategic department, the Armed Forces Operations Staff (Wehrmachtsfuehrungsstab).

Q. If I understand you correctly, O.K.W. is translated as High Command of the Armed Forces, but this apparently has been used in different ways; first as the Staff of the High Command of the Armed Forces, as, for example, when Keitel was called the Chief of the O.K.W., and then as the O.K.W. Office of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, that is to say, Hitler. Is that right?

A. That is correct as such, but not very clear. The High Command of the Armed Forces is the Staff of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces in the same way that I, as Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force (Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe) had my General Staff (Generalstab der Luftwaffe), on the one hand, and my chief adjutant's office, on the other - these formed the staff with which I worked - so the High Command constituted for the Fuehrer, as Supreme Commander, a similar organisation. The Chief of my General Staff likewise could give no direct orders to the commanders of the Air Force, Commanding Generals of the air corps or divisions. The orders could only be issued "By command of the Commander-in-Chief," signed "I.A.," that is to say, "Im. Auftrag" (by command).

The chief of a staff, therefore, even the Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces, had no command function except to the members of his immediate office and the few administrative organisations connected with that staff. An order, command, or directive from the High Command of the Armed Forces, for instance, to me as Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, was only possible when the instruction began in the following form: "The Fuehrer has ordered . . ." or "By command of the Fuehrer, I hereby inform you . . "

May I express myself quite emphatically. At one time I told Colonel-General Keitel, "I am bound only by orders of the Fuehrer. Only orders in the original and signed by Adolf Hitler are presented to me personally. Instructions, directives or orders which start 'By command of the Fuehrer,' or 'By order of the Fuehrer,' go to my chief of staff who gives me an oral report indicating the most important points. Whether, then - to put it boldly - they are signed, By command of the Fuehrer: Keitel, Colonel- General, or Meier, P.F.C., makes no difference to me. But if they constitute a direct command from you, an order, which you want to give me, then save yourself time and paper because both are meaningless to me. I am Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, and immediately and exclusively subordinate to the Fuehrer."

Q. Do you know whether Hitler, on the one hand, and the Commanders-in-Chief of the branches of the Armed Forces, on the other, observed these command functions described by you or whether in other branches of the Armed Forces the actual procedure was, perhaps, different?

[Page 153]

A. Whether my two colleagues made it as clear to the Chief of the High Command as I did, I cannot say; but that the two other Commanders-in-Chief did not permit any interfering with their rights and prerogatives is obvious.

Q. Does the same apply to Himmler as Chief of the S.S.?

A. The S.S. was never subordinate to the High Command of the Armed Forces (O.K.W.). Within the Armed Forces there was, from the beginning of the war, the Waffen S.S. divided into divisions and corps. That was purely a combat unit. Tactically and strategically it was subordinate to those units of the Army to which it was assigned; in the matter of personnel and development, it was subordinate to Himmler; and he had nothing to do with the O.K.W. Here, too, it could happen that the Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces, in questions of development and organisation of the Waffen S.S., transmitted orders or decrees of the Fuehrer.

On this occasion I should like to correct an error which was made during Justice Jackson's examination of Field-Marshal Kesselring. Field-Marshal Kesselring spoke of the Waffen S.S. as "Garde Truppe." Then he was asked, "Whom did it have to guard?" In applying the word "Garde" we do not employ it as it has been translated, as "guard," meaning sentries, but, as Field-Marshal Kesselring intended, an "Elite Troop"; exactly as in the Russian military language there is a "Garde Korps," as in the old Imperial Army there was a "Garde Korps," and also formerly in other armies. The Waffen S.S. during the first years of the war was not to be regarded as a guard unit, but as an "elite unit" as far as personnel, etc., was concerned.

Q. I would like to ask you to tell something about the official relationship between Adolf Hitler and Field-Marshal Keitel, that is to say, what official relations had Adolf Hitler in mind when he established the office of the O.K.W. That is to say, I should like to know what Keitel was supposed to be and what, subsequently, his official functions actually were after 1938?

A. I believe that I have been explaining just that.

Q. I wanted to ask you, for instance, was he Hitler's adviser?

A. Adviser is a debatable expression. I can let somebody advise me as to whether or not he thinks it will rain during the coming three hours, when I am riding; but I can also get someone to advise me in very important and decisive questions. That depends on the temperament and the attitude of the person who wants to be advised and the one who wishes to advise.

With the dynamic personality of the Fuehrer, unsolicited advice was not in order, and one had to be on very good terms with him. That is to say, one had to have great influence, as I had - and I ask you to understand me correctly -as I had beyond doubt for many, many years, in order to come to him unsolicited, not only with advice, but also with suggestions or even persistent contradiction. On the other hand, if one had not this relationship with the Fuehrer, suggestions and advice were curtly brushed aside whenever he had made his decisions, or when he neither had nor would allow the one offering advice to attain that influence or that influential position. Here I wish to say that the Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces in important and decisive questions certainly was no adviser. In current, everyday affairs, he was an adviser in so far as he may have suggested to the Fuehrer here and there that this or that should be said to the commanders, or that in regard to the movement of troops this or that should be pointed out. After all, advice from the Chief of a General Staff is still more important than advice from the chief of an organisation or a State office. It was this way: In the sphere of important strategic and tactical decisions the chief responsibility lay with the adviser from the General Staff, the Commanders-in-Chief, the Chief of Staff, and the Fuehrer; in matters of pure strategy and tactics, more with the Chief of the Armed Forces Operations Staff; in organisational questions or current developments of the day, with the Chief of the High Command. Because the Fuehrer himself,

[Page 154]

as I said before, held several of the highest offices, he had to limit his signatures. It often took weeks before one could obtain the necessary signature from the Fuehrer, especially during the war when he had a tremendous amount of work, so that the secretaries of the respective State offices were authorised to sign "by order",("Im Auftrage"). This explains why there was hardly any decree or order that went out signed "By order of" or "By command of the Fuehrer" which was not signed by Keitel, who was very industrious.

Q. Was it not a very thankless task that Field-Marshal Keitel had, I mean, thankless in so far as he frequently was in the position of having to mediate between the various offices and the Supreme Commander, namely Hitler; to submit their grievances to him, and to exert himself on behalf of the two parties, helping here and restraining there?

A. That again depended very much on the personalities. It goes without saying that if it came to a clash between the Fuehrer and myself, or other determined Commanders-in-Chief, the Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces was, if I may so put it, stepped upon by both sides. He came between the millstones of the strong personalities; the one protested that, in speaking to the Fuehrer, he had not exerted enough pressure; the Fuehrer, when Keitel made representations, turned a deaf ear and said he himself would take care of it.

The task was certainly a very thankless one and a hard one; and I remember that once Field-Marshal Keitel approached me and asked me whether I could not arrange that he be given a front-line command, that he would be satisfied, though a Field-Marshal, with one division if he could only get away, because he was getting more kicks than ha'pence. Whether the task was thankless or appreciated was all the same, I answered him; he had to do his duty where the Fuehrer ordered it.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.