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 6 of 6)

[DR. NELTE continues his direct examination of Wilhelm Bodewin Johann Gustav Keitel]

[Page 328]

Q. Did you know that the occupation of the Rhineland in the demilitarised zone, the re-establishment of the Wehrhoheit, the introduction of conscription, the building up of an air force and the increase in the number of Wehrmacht contingents violated the Versailles Treaty?

A. The wording of the Versailles Treaty, as long as we considered it binding and acknowledged its existence, did not, of course, permit any of these things. The Treaty of Versailles, may I say, was studied very closely by us in order to find loopholes which allowed us, without violating the Treaty, to take suitable measures which would not make us guilty of breaking the Treaty. That was the daily task of the Reich Defence Committee.

From 1935 on, conditions were entirely different, and after my return as Chief, under Blomberg, I must state frankly that I no longer had any misgivings as to whether the Treaty of Versailles was violated or not because what was done was done openly. We announced that we would raise 36 divisions. Discussions were held quite openly, and I could see nothing in this which we soldiers could in any way call a violation of the Treaty. It was clear to all of us, and it was our will to do everything to free ourselves of the territorial and military fetters of the Treaty of Versailles. I must say frankly that any soldier or officer who did not feel similarly about these things would, in my estimation, have been worthless. It was taken as a matter of course if one was a soldier.

Q. During this trial, an order, C-194, which bears your signature, was submitted. It concerns aerial reconnaissance and movements of U-boats at the time of the occupation of the Rhineland. This order leads to the inference that you participated in the occupation of the Rhineland. In what capacity did you sign this order?

A. The order is also introduced further on with the words: "The Commander-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht, Minister von Blomberg, on the basis of reports, has

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ordered." I transmitted in this form an instruction which Blomberg had given me, to the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy and the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force and I recall that it concerned the introduction of control measures during the days when the three battalions were marching into the demilitarised zone.

Q. Did you, up to the time of your appointment as the chief of the O.K.W., discover from Hitler himself or from other sources, that there were plans in existence which, contrary to Hitler's assurances of peaceful intentions could be put into effect only by force, that is, through a war?

A. During this period of time until the first practical measures were taken in the case of Austria I cannot remember having any knowledge of a programme or the establishment of a programme or far-reaching plan, or one covering a period of years. I must say also that we were so occupied with the reorganisation of this small army of seven divisions into an expanded force of twice or three times its original size, apart from the creation of a large Air Force, which was non- existent at that time, that in those years a visit to our office would have shown that we were completely occupied with purely organisational problems, and the way Hitler worked, as described by me to-day, is ample proof that we saw nothing of these things.

Q. Did you have any personal connection with Hitler before the 4th of February, 1938?

A. In the years from 1935 to 1938, as chief under von Blomberg, I saw the Fuehrer three times. He never spoke one word to me and he did not know me. If he knew anything at all about me it could only have been through von Blomberg. I had no contact either personally with the Fuehrer or through other people who were prominent in the Party or in politics. My first conversation with him was in the last days of January before I was appointed to office.

Q. Did you hear anything of the meeting or discussion with Hitler in November, 1937? I am referring to a conference in which Hitler, as it is alleged, made public his "last will and testament."

A. I already stated under oath at the preliminary interrogation that I did not know about this, and that I saw a document or the minutes or a record of this meeting at this trial for the first time. I believe it is the Hoszbach document, and I do not remember that von Blomberg gave me any directions to take preparatory steps after this conference. That is not the case.

Q. Did you know of any of Hitler's intentions regarding territorial questions?

A. Yes. I must answer that in the affirmative. I learned of them, and I also knew from public political discussions, that he proposed to settle in some form, gradually or over a short or long period of time, a series of territorial problems which were the result of the Treaty of Versailles.

Q. And what did you think about the realisation of these territorial aims, I mean the manner in which they were to be solved?

A. At that time I only saw these things and judged them according to what we were capable of in military terms. I can only say, when I left my troops in 1935, none of these 24 divisions which were to be established existed. I did not view all this from the standpoint of political aims, but with the sober consideration: Can we accomplish anything through aggression and war if we have no military means at our disposal. Consequently for me everything in this connection revolved around the programmes of rearmament, which were to be completed in 1943-1945, and for the Navy, 1945. Therefore, we had ten years in which to build up a concentrated Wehrmacht. Consequently, I did not consider these problems were acute even when they came to my attention in a political way, for I considered it impossible to realise these plans except through negotiations.

Q. How do you explain the general directives of June, 1937, for preparation for mobilisation?

A. This document is actually a general instruction for mobilisation and was in line with our traditional General Staff policy before the war and before the World

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War, the First World War, that basically something like that must be prepared beforehand. In my opinion, it had nothing to do with any of Hitler's political plans, for at that time I was already the Chief of Staff under Blomberg and General Jodl was at that time the Chief of the National Defence Division. Perhaps it is somewhat arrogant for me to say that we were very much satisfied that we were at last beginning to tell the Wehrmacht each year what it had to do intellectually and theoretically. In the former General Staff training which I received before the World War, the chief aim of these instructions was that these journeys for the purpose of study should afford an opportunity for thinking out all problems in theory. Such was the training of the large General Staff. I no longer know whether in this connection von Blomberg himself originally thought out these examples of possible complications or possible military contingencies, or whether he was perhaps influenced by the Fuehrer. It is certain that Hitler never saw this. It was the inside work of the General Staff of the Wehrmacht.

Q. But in it you find a reference to the case of "Otto," and you know that that was the affair with Austria.

A. Of course, I remember the "Case Otto," which indicates by its name that it concerns Otto von Hapsburg. There were, of course, certain reports about an attempted restoration, and in that case an armed intervention was actually to take place. The Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, wished to prevent a restoration of the monarchy in Austria. Later this came up again in connection with the "Anschluss." I believe that I can omit that now and perhaps explain it later. In any event, we believed that on the basis of the deliberations by the Army some sort of preparations were being made which would bring into being "Case Otto," because the code word was "Case Otto comes into force."

Q. You mean to say that no concrete orders were given in regard to "Case Otto" on the basis of this general directive.

A. You mean the "Anschluss" at the beginning of February?

Q. I beg your pardon?

A. I can only state here what I experienced when Hitler sent me to the Army. I went into General Beck's office and said "The Fuehrer demands that you report to him immediately and inform him about the preparations which have already been made for a possible invasion of Austria," and General Beck then said, "We have prepared nothing; nothing has been done at all, nothing."

Q. The prosecution contends that you participated in planning the action against Austria when it was put into effect in March of 1938. I have here the directive regarding "Case Otto" - C-102.

Can you still affirm that the whole matter was improvised?

A. I remember that this order was issued to the Commander-in- Chief of the Army and it was not issued to the other Commanders-in-Chief until the whole project was under way. Nothing had been prepared. It was all improvised and this was to be the recorded statement of facts which were then put into practice. The commands were given verbally and individually regarding what was to be done and what actually was done on the morning of the 12th of March when Austria was invaded.

Q. I must now return to the events preceding the case of Austria. You know that in General Jodl's diary it is stated "Schuschnigg is signing under the strongest political and military pressure." In what manner did you participate in this conference at the Obersalzberg, which took place with Schuschnigg?

A. May I add to my previous answer that we can see from this that the invasion took place on the morning of 12th March, and the order was issued late in the evening of March 11. Therefore this document could not have had any real influence on this affair. Such an order cannot be worked out between 10 in the evening and 6 in the morning.

I can say the following in regard to my participation at Obersalzberg, on the 10th or 11th of February:

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It was the first official action in which I participated. On the evening of the 4th of February Hitter left Berlin. He summoned me to be at Obersalzberg on the 10th of February. There, on that day, the meeting with the Austrian Federal Chancellor, Schuschnigg, which has been frequently discussed here, took place. Shortly after I arrived - I had no idea why I had been summoned - General von Reichenau arrived from Munich and General of the Air Force, Sperrle; so that we three Generals were present when at about 10.30 Herr Schuschnigg arrived with Herr von Papen. Since I had never attended a conference or a political action or any meeting of that nature, I did not know what to do. I must tell you this frankly, otherwise you will not understand it. In the course of the day the reason for the presence of the three representatives of the Wehrmacht naturally became clear to me. In certain respects they represented a military - at least, a military demonstration - I may safely call it that. In the preliminary interrogation and also in later discussions I was asked the significance of the fact that in the afternoon my name was suddenly called and I was to visit the Fuehrer. I went to him in his room. Perhaps it sounds strange for me to say that when I entered the room I thought that he would give me a directive, but the words were "Nothing at all." He used the words, "Please sit down." Then he said, "Yes, the Federal Chancellor wishes to have a short conference with his Foreign Minister Schmidt; otherwise there is nothing at all." I can only assure you that not one word was said to me about a political action apart from the fact that Herr Schuschnigg did not leave until the evening and that further conferences took place.

We generals sat in the ante room, and when, in the evening, shortly before my departure, I received the directive to launch reports regarding certain measures for mobilisation, of which you have been informed here through a document, it became quite clear to me that this day had served to bring the discussions to a head by the introduction of military representatives, and the directive to spread reports was to keep up the pressure, as has been shown here.

Upon my return to my apartment in Berlin, in the presence of Goebbels and Canaris, we discussed the reports which were to be sent out and which Canaris then broadcast in Munich. Finally in order to conclude this matter it might be interesting to point out that the Chief of Intelligence in the Austrian Federal Ministry, Lahousen, who had been present, told Jodl and me when later on he went into the service of the Wehrmacht, that: "We were not taken in by this bluff." And I indubitably gave Jodl a basis for his entry in the diary, even though it is somewhat drastically worded, for I was naturally impressed by this first experience.

Q. What is your position to the measures against Austria?

A. Nothing further need be said concerning the further developments of the affair. It has already been presented here in detail. On the day of the invasion by the troops I flew with Hitler to the front. We drove along the highways through Braunau, Linz. We stayed overnight and proceeded to Vienna. And soberly speaking, it is true that in every village we were received most enthusiastically, and the Austrian Federal Army marched side by side with the German soldiers through the streets over which we drove. Not a shot was heard. On the other side the only formation which had a certain military significance was an armoured unit on the road from Passau to Vienna which arrived in Vienna with very few vehicles. This division was on the spot for the parade the next day. That is a very sober picture of what I saw.

Q. Now we come to the question of Czechoslovakia. When did Hitler discuss with you for the first time the question of Czechoslovakia, and his intentions in that respect?

A. I believe six to eight weeks after the march into Austria, that is, after the "Anschluss" toward the end of April. It was about the middle of March and that also took the form of a sudden summons one evening to the Reich Chancellery where the Fuehrer then explained matters to me. This resulted in the well-known

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directive in the Case "Green." The history of this case is well known through the Schmundt files, which I identified in the preliminary interrogations. At that time he gave me the first directives, in a rather hasty manner. It was not possible for me to ask any questions, as he wished to leave Berlin immediately. These were the bases for the questions regarding the conditions under which a warlike action against Czechoslovakia could or would arise.

Q. Then you had the impression that Hitler wanted to attack Czechoslovakia?

A. In any event, the instructions which he gave me that evening were to the effect that preparations for a military action with all the preliminary work, which was the responsibility of the General Staff, were to be made. He expressed himself very precisely when he said that the time was left quite open and used the words: " ... for the time being it is not my intention."

Q. In this connection was a differentiation made between the Sudetenland and the whole of Czechoslovakia?

A. I do not believe that we discussed it that evening during that short conference. The Fuehrer did not discuss with me the political aspects; he merely assigned me to consider the necessary military measures. He did not say whether he would be content with the Sudetenland, or whether we were to break through the fortress of Czechoslovakia. That was not the problem at that time. In any event, that had to be settled by going to war, preparations for the war would have to be made so that the clash would be with the Czechoslovakian Army, that is, we would have to make preparations for a real war.

Q. You know that the record about the Hitler-General Keitel Conference on the 21st of March, of which there are two versions, speaks of a lightning action being necessary in the case of an incident. In the first one after the word "incident" it reads: "for example, the assassination of the German Ambassador," in connection with a demonstration hostile to Germany. In the second one, after the word "incident" it reads only "for example, action in case of an incident." Will you please explain to what this note, which is not a record in the proper sense of the word, can be attributed?

A. I saw the Schmundt notes for the first time here. We did not receive it at that time, as a document to work with. It is not a record. These are notes made subsequently by an adjutant. I do not doubt the correctness or the accuracy, for memory would not permit me to recall today the exact words which were used. However, this question, which is considered significant here, "The assassination of the German Ambassador in Prague," is a situation which I had never heard of, if only for the reason that no one ever said such a thing. They did say that the Ambassador might be assassinated and I asked which Ambassador, or something similar. Then, as I recall it, Hitler said that the war of 1914 also started with an assassination at Sarajevo, and that such incidents could happen. I did not get the impression at that time that a war was to be created through a provocation.

Q. You will have to tell me something further on that point.

THE PRESIDENT: Perhaps we had better adjourn now.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 4th April, 1946, at 1000 hours.)

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