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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
5th April to 15th April, 1946

One Hundredth Day: Friday, 5th April, 1946
(Part 7 of 9)

[Page 57]

BY DR. BABEL (counsel for the S.S.):

Q. Witness, you have said in your affidavit, Document K-12, that the S.S. at the beginning of the war became the champions and standard-bearers of a policy of conquest and force. In order to avoid any misunderstanding, I should like to clarify the following: What did you mean by S.S. in this case?

[Wilhelm Bodewin Johann Gustav Keitel] A. My answer is, that what has been read here by my counsel was a short summary of a much longer affidavit. Should you read the latter, you would find the answer to your question. More precisely, it concerned the Reich S.S. Leadership

[Page 58]

(Reichsfuhrung S.S.) under Himmler and under those functionaries within his sphere of command, the police and S.S., who were active in the occupied territories. The concept of the so-called General S.S. in the homeland had nothing to do with it. I hope that makes it clear.

Q. Yes, thank you.

BY DR. BERGOLD (counsel for Bormann):

Q. Witness, the prosecution in its trial brief has charged the defendant Bormann also with his activity in the so- called Volkssturm. In that connection, I would like to put a few questions to you.

Was any offensive or defensive activity planned for the Volkssturm, when it was formed by the Fuehrer's decree of 18th October, 1944?

A. I can only say that Reichsleiter Bormann refused to give the military authorities any advice, any co-operation and any information on the Volkssturm.

Q. You mean to say that you knew nothing of the purpose of the Volkssturm?

A. No, I only had the impression that it was the last attempt of our people to defend their own homesteads.

Q. That means that the Volkssturm was not designed for any offensive purpose within the framework of the Armed Forces?

A. No, but all officers of the Armed Forces which encountered the Volkssturm units in their areas either incorporated them or sent them home.

Q. Did I understand you to say that the Volkssturm was Bormann's idea, or did it originate with Hitler?

A. I do not know that. Perhaps both.

Q. Hitler did not tell you about it either?

A. No, he only just mentioned the Volkssturm and similar things, but military authorities had nothing to do with it.

Q. Did Bormann report on military matters to the Fuehrer, other than the Volkssturm?

A. He has often accused the Armed Forces of all sorts of things. From what I was told I can only assume that they originated with Bormann. I do not know it.

BY DR. HORN (counsel for the defendant von Ribbentrop):

Q. Is it correct that the defendant von Ribbentrop, after his return from Moscow in August, 1939, on account of the changed foreign political situation - the guarantee pact between England and Poland had been ratified - advised Hitler to stop the military measures which had been set in motion?

A. I had the impression at that time that the orders given to me by Hitler were based upon a conversation between him and his Foreign Minister. I was not present at that conversation.

Q. Is it correct that von Ribbentrop, just like all the other ministers with portfolio, was not as a rule informed about the strategic plans?

A. I can speak only for myself and for the Chief of the Armed Forces Operational Staff. We were not authorised to give any information, and that we never did. If the Reich Foreign Minister was informed about such questions, that information could have come only from Hitler himself. I doubt whether he made an exception in this case.

Q. The prosecution has submitted a letter of 3rd April, 1940, concerning the impending occupation of Denmark and Norway, which you sent to the then Reich Foreign Minister. In that letter you informed him of the impending occupation and requested him to take the necessary political steps. Had you already before that date instructed von Ribbentrop about the intended occupation of Norway and Denmark?

A. No, I would not have been allowed to do that, according to the way in which the Fuehrer insisted on our working; that letter was a somewhat unusual method of giving information to the Reich Foreign Minister, who knew nothing about these things. I was ordered by the Fuehrer to write to him on the matter.

Q. In connection with the testimony by General Lahousen, I want to ask you

[Page 59]

one question. At the time of the Polish campaign, was there a directive or an order by Hitler to exterminate the Jews in the Polish Ukraine?

A. I cannot recall anything like it. I only know that during the occupation of Poland, after the initial occupation, the problem of the Polish Jews was a very important one. In that connection I myself once put a question to Hitler to which I think he answered that that area was well suited for settling the Jews. I do not know or remember anything else.

Q. At the time of the Polish Campaign, was there any plan to instigate a revolt in the Polish Ukraine?

A. I cannot answer that question, although I have heard such statements made here by Lahousen. I do not know or remember anything about it.

DR. HORN: Thank you.

BY DR. BOEHM (counsel for the S.A.):

Q. Field Marshal, you were Chief of the O.K.W. and also Chief of the Kgf., that is, prisoner-of-war affairs. Did you ever issue orders or have orders issued on the basis of which members of the S.A. or units of the S.A. were detailed to guard prisoners of war or prisoner-of-war camps, or were to be used for that purpose?

A. I cannot remember that any such directive was issued by the O.K.W. I believe that certainly was not the case.

Q. In that respect, was a report ever made to you that any such guard duty was performed?

A. I cannot remember, but I do not mean to deny that some units of the Army in some particular place may have used S.A. men temporarily to assist in guard duty. I would not have known of this.

DR. BOEHM: Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Perhaps we had better adjourn now for ten minutes.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will sit in open session tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock. At 12.30 it will take the supplementary applications for witnesses and documents, and after that at a quarter to one it will adjourn into a closed session.



Q. Defendant Keitel, I would like you to tell me exactly when you received your first commission as an officer?

A. On 18th August, 1902.

Q: What military education did you receive?

A. I came into the Army as an officer candidate. Starting simply as a private I was promoted through the various ranks of lance-corporal, corporal and cadet to lieutenant.

Q. I asked you about your military education.

A. I was an army officer until 1909, and then for almost six years regimental adjutant. Then during the first World War, battery commander, and then after the spring of 1915 I served on the General Staff.

Q. You were evidently not given a correct translation. Did you go through Staff College or did you receive your professional training elsewhere?

A. I never attended the war academy. Twice I participated in so-called "greater general staff" courses as regimental adjutant, and in the summer of 1914 I was detailed to the greater General Staff, returning to my regiment later when the war broke out.

Q. What military training and military rank did Hitler possess?

A. Only a few years ago I found out from Hitler himself that after the end of the first World War, he was a lieutenant in a Bavarian infantry regiment. During the war he was a private, then lance-corporal and maybe corporal during the last period.

Q. Should we not, therefore, conclude that you, with your reliable military

[Page 60]

training and great experience, could have had an opportunity of influencing Hitler very considerably in solving questions of a strategic and military nature, as well as other matters pertaining to the Armed Forces?

A. No. I have to declare in that respect that to a degree which is almost incomprehensible to the layman and the professional officer, Hitler had studied general staff publications, military literature, essays on tactics, operations and strategy and that he had a knowledge in military fields which can only be called amazing. May I give an example of that, which can be confirmed by other officers of the Armed Forces. Hitler was so well informed concerning the organisation, armament, leadership and equipment of all the armies, and what is more remarkable, of all the navies of the world, that it was impossible to prove any error on his part. I must add that even during the war, while I was at his headquarters and in his close proximity, Hitler studied at night all the big general staff books by Moltke, Schlieffen and von Clausewitz, and in that way acquired his vast knowledge. We felt that only a genius could have done this.

Q. You will not deny that by reason of your military training and experience you were Hitler's adviser in a number of highly important matters?

A. I belonged to his closest military entourage and I heard a lot from him; but only yesterday in answer to my counsel I pointed out that even in the simple questions, every-day questions, concerning organisation and equipment of the Armed Forces, I had to admit openly that I was the one who was advised and not the adviser.

Q. When do you consider that your co-operation with Hitler began?

A. Exactly from the day when I was appointed Chief of the High Command, 4th February, 1938.

Q. That means you were working together with Hitler during the entire period of preparation for and realisation of aggressive warfare?

A. Yes. I have given all the necessary explanations as to how, after I took over my new post in the beginning of February, events followed in quick succession, often very surprisingly.

Who, besides you, among the military leaders of the O.K.W. and the O.K.H. had the rank of Reich Minister?

A. The rank of Reich Minister was given to the three Commanders-in-Chief of the sections of the Armed Forces, and among these the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, Reich Marshal Goering, was also Reich Minister of Aviation; similarly I received, as I said yesterday, the rank but not the competence and qualification of a minister.

Q. Who, besides you, among the military leaders of the O.K.H. and the O.K.W. signed decrees together with Hitler and the other Reich ministers?

A. On the ministerial side of the Reich Government, stamps with the signatures of the Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor and the ministers immediately concerned, and, at the end, of the Chief of the Reich Chancellery, were utilised. This did not hold good on the military side for, according to the traditions of the German Army and the Armed Forces the signatures were given by the experts who had worked on the matter, by the Chief of Staff or by whoever had given or at least drafted the order, and an initial was added on the margin.

Q. You said yesterday that you signed such decrees together with other ministers of the Reich.

A. Yes, yesterday I mentioned individual decrees and also gave the reasons why I signed them, and I pointed out that, in so doing, I was not a Reich Minister and did not have the functions of a minister in office.

Q. What organization fulfilled the functions of the War Ministry from February, 1938 on?

A. Until the last days of January, or the first days of February, it was the former Reich Minister for War, von Blomberg. From 4th February, 1938, there was neither a Minister for War nor a War Ministry.

[Page 61]

Q. That is precisely why I asked you what government organisation had replaced the War Ministry and fulfilled its functions, since I knew that this Ministry did not exist.

A. I myself with the former Staff of the War Ministry whose chief I was, continued its work and delegated it, as I described in detail yesterday, that is, I transferred all supreme rights to the Commanders-in-Chief of the branches of the Armed Forces. But this was not an order of mine but an order of Hitler's.

Q. From the evidence you have submitted to the Tribunal it would appear that the O.K.W. was the central, connecting and supreme military link in the chain of the Reich and that it was directly under Hitler's control. Would this conclusion be correct?

A. Yes, that was the military staff of Hitler.

Q. Who, in the O.K.W., directly supervised the drafting of military and strategic plans? I am referring specifically to the plans for the attacks on Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Belgium, Holland, France, Norway, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union.

A. I think that yesterday I stated that very precisely, saying that the operational and strategic planning, after an order had been given by Hitler, was prepared and then submitted to Hitler by the Commanders-in-Chief of the branches of the Armed Forces; that is to say, for the Army, by the High Command of the Army and the General Staff of the Army, and then further decisions were made with respect to it.

Q. With regard to Yugoslavia I should like to ask you the following question. Do you admit that a directive issued under your signature, for the preliminary partition of Yugoslavia, is - per se - a document of great political and international importance, providing for the factual abolition of Yugoslavia as a sovereign State?

A. I did nothing more, or less, than write down a decree of the Fuehrer, and forward it to those offices which were interested and concerned. I had no personal or political influence whatsoever in these questions.

Q. Even under your own signature?

A. For the signatures which I have written I gave an explanation yesterday, which exhausts the subject as to how they came about and what their significance is.

Q. Yes, we did talk about it, we did hear about it and I shall ask some more questions on the subject later on. I should now like to determine, with greater precision, your own position in the question of Yugoslavia. Do you agree that you, with the direct participation of the O.K.W., organised acts of provocation in order to find a pretext for aggression against Yugoslavia and a justification for this aggression in the eyes of the world?

A. I have this morning, in response to questions of the counsel of another defendant, answered clearly that I did not participate in any preparation of an incident, neither did Hitler wish that any military offices should ever participate in the discussion, preparation, deliberation, or the execution of incidents. I use "incident" here in the sense of provocation.

Q. Undoubtedly. What part did the O.K.W. take to ensure the arming of the Free Corps in the Sudetenland?

A. General, which Free Corps? I do not know which Free Corps you refer to.

Q. The Free Corps of the Sudetenland.

A. I am not informed as to whether any military office had illicitly - if I may say so - or secretly sent arms there. I have no knowledge concerning that. An order to that effect was not given, or at any rate did not pass through my hands.

I cannot remember it.

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