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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
23rd March to 3rd April, 1946

Ninety-Eighth Day: Wednesday, 3rd April, 1946
(Part 3 of 6)

[Page 314]

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Nelte, although the Tribunal did say that they would hear Dr. Horn at 2 o'clock, they would not wish to interrupt the examination of the defendant Keitel if you prefer to go on with that now. It is a matter for you to consider, which ever you like.

DR. NELTE: Dr. Horn agrees that I continue the interrogation of Keitel now.


MR. DODD: If it pleases the Tribunal, for the assistance of the Tribunal I have ascertained that the first Halder affidavit, referred to this morning by Dr. Nelte, was introduced as Exhibit U.S.A. 531, On 4th January, by Colonel Taylor; and the second Halder affidavit referred to by Dr. Nelte was introduced as Exhibit U.S.A. 533, on 5th January, by Colonel Taylor.


DR. NELTE: Mr. President, Mr. Dodd was kind enough to put a number of copies of the thesis of "Principles of Organisation of the German Armed Forces" at my disposal, so that I can submit them to the Tribunal. I do so now.

[Page 315]




Q. You last explained that on the 4th February, 1938, part of the authority of the War Ministry was transferred to branches of the Armed Forces, and part to the High Command of the Armed Forces. In the decree which has been mentioned it says, concerning this matter:

"The O.K.W. at the same time is taking care of the affairs of the Reich War Ministry. The Chief of the O.K.W., on my orders, will exercise the authority which the Reich Minister of War had heretofore."
Tell me briefly to which fields this applied.

I myself will submit to the Tribunal a diagram which has already been sent to the Translating Division for translation. I do not know, however, if the Tribunal already has the translation.

A. The ministerial functions actually transferred to the O.K.W. were executed through a number of offices. I shall name the most important now, indicating their functions.

First of all, a few words about the Wehrmacht Fuhrungs Stab (Armed Forces Operations Staff) which, being an office of the O.K.W., was subordinated to it in the same way that the other offices were; but which was on a higher level than the other offices. As the name implies, the Armed Forces Operations Staff was an organ of the High Command with which the Fuehrer frequently - I might say, mostly - had personal contact. It had no ministerial powers.

Then there was the General Armed Forces Office (Allgemeines Wehrmachtsamt) which took care mainly of ministerial and administrative questions. One could almost call it a war ministry on a small scale.

Then the office of "Foreign Counter-Intelligence" (Amt Ausland-Abwehr), which was, to a large extent, ministerial, but to some degree an aid in operational questions.

Then the Armament and Economy Office (Rustungs-und Wirtschaftsamt), in regard to which I must point out that in the year 1940 this office was dissolved and only a small Defence Economy Office (Wehrwirtschaftsamt) remained, which was mainly concerned with questions of supply of all consumer goods needed by the Armed Forces - such as fuel, coal, gasoline, etc., and which I need not mention further.

Then an important field of activity: replacement administration for the entire Armed Forces - to put it briefly, recruiting a central office - which was designed mostly to take care of personnel questions within the O.K.W.

Then the legal administration, the budget department and a number of other offices which it is not necessary to enumerate.

In these offices the ministerial functions of the O.K.W. were carried out. I would like ...

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Nelte, I think the Tribunal has followed the distinction which the defendant has made between the General Staff for the High Commands and the position of the O.K.W.; but is it necessary for the Tribunal to go into all these details?

DR. NELTE: I had finished dealing with this section.


DR. NELTE: I want to put just one more -

THE PRESIDENT: Before you pass from this document that you have just put before the Tribunal - this diagram - are you desiring to make an exhibit of that?

DR. NELTE: I would like to submit it in evidence. You will also be given a translation.

THE PRESIDENT: If so, what number will you give it? You must number all your exhibits.

[Page 316]

DR. NELTE: Please number it K-1a, Keitel 1a.

THE PRESIDENT: Who prepared it?

DR. NELTE: We prepared it, and the technical division of the prosecution has reproduced it. The prosecution also is in possession of the diagram.

THE PRESIDENT: Have you asked the defendant to confirm that it is correct?


Q. Fieldmarshal, would you please look at this diagram and confirm whether it is correct?

A. Yes, I recognise the diagram.

GENERAL RUDENKO: Mr. President, the prosecution has not received this diagram. Therefore, the prosecution would like, before drawing conclusions, to acquaint itself with this diagram.

THE PRESIDENT: Have you got any more copies of it, Dr. Nelte?

DR. NELTE: They can be obtained and distributed right away. Then I would like the Tribunal to reserve its decision until the diagram has been submitted in sufficient numbers.

A. (continuing): I accept this diagram as correct. It does not contain the minor changes which occurred from the time of the creation of the O.K.W., up to the time which I have mentioned - changes brought about by the reorganisation of the Armament Ministries, etc - but it shows the manner in which it actually worked during the last years.

THE PRESIDENT: Go on, Dr. Nelte:


Q. In order to terminate this group of questions I would like to say the following: Is it correct that according to this all the Keitel orders, Keitel decrees, which have been submitted by the prosecution, should be considered as Fuehrer-orders - that is to say, orders which were the expression of Hitler's will, based on his instructions and commands?

A. Yes, that is the correct definition of the summary of the testimony I have given. I would like to state again in summarising that, as I have stated from the beginning, I assume and have assumed responsibility for these orders, in so far as they are connected with my name, for the position was this: I, of course, knew, the contents of these orders which I executed. I recognise my signature, of course, in the documents which have been submitted to me and therefore I accept the documents as authentic. I may add that insofar as I had military or other objections to the orders, I naturally expressed them very forcibly and that I endeavoured to prevent orders being given which I considered controversial. But I must state in all truth that if the decision had been finally made by Hitler, I then issued these orders and transmitted them, I might almost say, without checking them in any way.

DR. NELTE: Mr. President, before I enter upon the next phase of my questions I should like to state the following:

The prosecution has deduced that Keitel participated in the many crimes which have been described here from various facts, facts which cannot always be connected with each other and made to agree. The prosecution has stated that he was a powerful and important staff officer. That is set out in the Indictment. Then the prosecution stated that he was a tool without a will of his own and that the relation between himself and Hitler was an intimate one.

You will understand that if the defendant wants to clarify or to protest against these things he must explain the relation between himself and Hitler.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Nelte, that is what the defendant has been doing. He has been explaining his relationship to Hitler, and if you want to elucidate it further you must ask him further questions.

Q. I only wanted to let him speak about the private relationship to Hitler. So far we have only been concerned with the official relationship.

Would you please tell us something about the co-operation between you and

[Page 317]

Hitler? I ask you to be as brief as possible and tell us only the most necessary facts, but at the same time give us a clear picture.

A. The co-operation can only be characterised as one between a high military superior and his subordinate. In other words, the same relations as I have always had in my military career with the senior officers of whose staff I was a member. The relation between Hitler and myself never departed from this strictly military and soldierly relationship. Of course, it was my right and my duty to express my opinions. How difficult that was can only be judged by someone who knows that Hitler, after a few words, was wont to take over the entire conversation and to exhaust the subject entirely from his point of view. It was then very difficult, of course, to introduce the subject again. I may say that due to my various positions in high staff offices I was quite used to "getting round" the superior commanders, if I may use that expression. However, I was quite unaccustomed to the conditions which I encountered here. They surprised me, and not infrequently they reduced me to a state of real uncertainty. That can be understood if one knows that Hitler, in soldiering or military questions - if I wish to express myself very carefully - was a man with extensive plans for reform and with whom I, with my thirty- seven years of service as a soldier of the old school, was confronted.

Q. Was it the same during the war or do you refer to the time before the war?

A. During the war these oppositions were moderated by the fact that dealings were overshadowed by the urgency of the situation. To that extent these things did appear in that form. On the other hand, the position then was that Hitler, in his discussions about the situation, had a comparatively large circle of about twenty people assembled around him and, speaking in military terms, unsparingly made his accusations - objections and criticisms directed, as a rule, at people who were not present. I took the part of the absent person as a matter of principle, because he could not defend himself. The result was that the accusations and criticisms were then aimed at me, and my training as a soldier finally forced me to control myself, because it is unseemly to oppose or to attempt to contradict a superior before very young subordinates, such as those who were present. Opposition to a superior or to personalities, no matter what rank, was unbearable to the Fuehrer. One could then only attempt to speak to him about these things in private.

Q. Had you the feeling that you had Hitler's confidence?

A. I could not say yes. I must frankly admit that Hitler's confidence in me was not without reservations, and today I know only too well that there were many things concerning which he had never spoken frankly to me and about which he never took me into his confidence. It was a fact that Hitler was very suspicious of the old or elderly generals. For him they were products of an old and antiquated school and in this sense he was to us old soldiers a man who brought new revolutionary ideas into the Wehrmacht, and wished to incorporate them into Wehrmacht training. This frequently led to serious crises. I believe I do not have to elaborate on that. The real evil, however, was that this lack of confidence led him to believe that I was in conspiracy with the Army generals behind his back and that I supported them against him. Perhaps that was a result of my habit of defending them because they could not defend themselves. In various circumstances that led to extremely acute and serious crises.

Q. Much will depend upon discovering in what manner your work with Hitler can be estimated, particularly to what extent you could be considered his collaborator or adviser. Will you tell me whether Hitler discussed his plans with you in the manner which is customary in close collaboration?

A. In general I must answer no. It was not in any way in keeping with Hitler's peculiar disposition and personality to have advisers of that kind. That is, if you call an adviser someone who gives advice. I was an adviser, of course, in the sense of presenting, let us say, a great number of military elements from long experience as an officer, but not in the sense of an adviser to help formulate a

[Page 318]

decision, such far-reaching decisions which are doubtlessly meant here. In the main, the formulation of a decision was preceded by weeks or months of careful consideration. During that time one had to assist by procuring documents, but concerning the main point, the decision itself, he did not brook any influence. Therefore, strange as it may sound, the final answer always was: "This is my decision and it is unalterable." That was the announcement of his decision.

Q. But if various departments were competent for these decisions, were there no general conferences?

A. No. I cannot recall that any one of the really important decisions after the year 1938 had ever been formulated as the result of joint counsel - for instance, between the politicians, the soldiers or other ministers, because it was Adolf Hitler's peculiarity that, as a rule, he spoke privately to each department and each department chief, to learn from him what he wanted to know, and then to find out some element that could be used in the elaboration of his plans. Things were not at all as would appear from the documents here of minutes of conference of generals, of meetings and similar things with a list of those present. Never did such a meeting have the character of a deliberation. There could be no question of that. Rather, the Fuehrer had a certain idea, and if for various reasons he thought that we opposed that idea even inwardly, he used that as a reason to clarify his thoughts before a large circle without any discussion. In other words, in these assemblies, which the document here speaks of as conferences, there was never any deliberation. I must add that even the external form which these things took was such that, following the military example, the senior commander convened a certain number of generals, everyone was seated, the Fuehrer arrived, spoke and went out. No one in such a situation could have found an opening to say anything. To use just one word for it, and I certainly do not exaggerate, it was the issuing of an order but not a conference.

Q. To come to a different subject. The prosecution has asserted that you had been a member of the Reich Government. What do you have to say about that?

A. I never belonged to the Reich Government and I was also never a member of the cabinet. I must also state that I never became a minister, but as is stated in the decree of 1938 - "he had the rank of Reichsminister," not he is Reichsminister. The expression "Minister" is, of course, simply intended to indicate the rank of Minister and there was a good reason for that. I need only point out what I said this morning: It was not intended that there should be anyone holding an office with the authority of a minister between Hitler and the Wehrmacht, and the branches of the Wehrmacht.

I must clarify the question which has been frequently raised by the prosecution that "He had the rank of a Minister," by saying that, before the decree was issued, I asked whether I was to deal with the State secretaries or with the Ministers and Hitler said: "If on my orders you deal with other ministers of the Reich then, of course, you can only do so with the rank of a Minister, not that of a state secretary."

That is the explanation for the expression in the decree, "He has the rank of a Reichsminister."

Q. Did you, in the headquarters, have any conferences with other important and competent personalities, such as Ribbentrop, Rosenberg, Speer, Sauckel, etc.?

A. Ministers or special plenipotentiaries visited headquarters according to a plan which very seldom required, the simultaneous presence of several of them. Generally, it was carefully arranged so that a special time was set aside for each one. As a rule, I was of course informed that "the Foreign Minister is here" or "Minister Speer is here" or the "General Plenipotentiary for Employment of Labour Sauckel is here." However, I was called in only in regard to purely military questions which the Fuehrer discussed with these gentlemen in private and I could give instances of this. However, as has already been mentioned

[Page 319]

recently, during the interrogation of State Secretary Steengracht, it would be incorrect to believe that these gentlemen who came to headquarters formed a small or select cabinet. Hitler dealt with each of these officials and functionaries separately, gave him his orders, and dismissed him. It sometimes happened that on the way home, these gentlemen visited me, in passing, mostly to ask me about small questions and small favours which I could do for them, or to inform me about a decision or with the order to forward a decision to those military offices which had to be notified.

Q. In concluding, I would like to know whether the expression "intimate" which is contained in the Indictment, is correct in order to describe the relations between you and Hitler, privately or officially?

A. I found the word "intimate" in the Indictment and I asked myself the question "Where did this conception originate"? To be quite frank, I can only answer that no one ever heard a single word from me about the actual and constant difficulties that I had. I kept quiet about them. Intimate relations are, according to my definition of "intimate" - I do not know if in the English translation "intimate" expresses the same thing which we call "intim" - mean relations where there is confidence and frank discussions and these did not exist. I have already characterised it. Intimacy was not Hitler's attitude towards the older generals to whose circle I also belonged. Apart from the very formal association which sometimes lasted for weeks and in which merely the external forms were observed, the relationship never reached a point where it could be classified as that of a close adviser or a close co-worker as I conceived it in my many staff positions. I must say that for my part I have been faithful and loyal and I always fulfilled my duties in that manner. However, I must also say that a sincere relationship based upon personal understanding and confidence never existed. I always maintained a correct attitude, but it was military and official, and never went beyond that.

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