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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
4th April to 15th April, 1946

One Hundred and First Day: Saturday, 6th April, 1946
(Part 1 of 6)

[Page 70]




Q. Defendant Keitel, I am asking you about the directive concerning the so-called Communist insurrectionary movement in the occupied territories. Your counsel showed you this directive. It is dated 16th September, 1941, R-98. I shall remind you of one passage from this order. It states:

"In order to suppress any conspiracy, the strongest measures should be taken at the first sign of trouble in order to maintain the authority of the occupying power and to prevent the conspiracy from spreading";
and furthermore:
"One must bear in mind that human life in the countries affected has absolutely no value, and that intimidation is only possible through the application of extraordinarily harsh measures."
You remember this basic idea of the order, that human life is absolutely valueless. Do you remember this statement, the basic statement of the order, that "human life has absolutely no value"? Do you remember this sentence?

A. Yes.

Q. You signed the order containing this statement?

A. Yes.

Do you consider that necessity demanded this extremely evil order?

A. I explained some of the reasons for this order yesterday, and I pointed out that these instructions were addressed in the first place to the Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht offices in the South-east; that is, the Balkan regions, where extensive Partisan guerrilla warfare and a war between the leaders had assumed enormous proportions, and, secondly, because the same phenomena had been observed and. established on the same or a similar scale in certain defined areas of the occupied Soviet territory.

Q. Does this mean that you consider this order to have been entirely correct?

A. I have already explained in detail, in replying to questions, my fundamental standpoint with regard to all orders concerning the treatment of the population. I signed the order and by doing so I assumed responsibility within the scope of my official jurisdiction.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal considers that you are not answering the question. The question was perfectly capable of an answer "yes" or "no" and an explanation afterwards. It is not an answer to the question to say that you have already explained to your counsel.


Q. I ask you once more, do you consider this order, this particular order - and I emphasise - in which it is stated that "human life has absolutely no value," do you consider this order correct?

A. It does not contain these words, but I knew from years of experience that

[Page 71]

in the South-eastern territories and in certain parts of the Soviet territory human life was not highly valued.

Q. You say that these words do not figure in the order?

A. Those exact words do not appear to my knowledge; but it says that human life has very little value in these territories. I remember something like that.

Q. According to your recollection. Now you remember that you were interrogated by General Alexandrov on the 9th November, 1945. To a question in regard to the meaning of this sentence you replied:

"I must admit that this sentence is authentic, although the Fuehrer himself inserted this sentence in the order."
Do you remember your explanation?

A. That is correct. That is true.

Q. I can produce this order for you. I did not produce it because you were familiarising yourself with it yesterday.

A. I did not read through all the points yesterday. I merely admitted its actual existence.

THE PRESIDENT: It would help the Tribunal if you got a translation of the document. When you are cross-examining upon a document as to the actual words of it, it is very inconvenient for us not to have the document before us.

GENERAL RUDENKO: Mr. President, I shall at once present this order to the defendant.

(Witness is handed document.)


GENERAL RUDENKO: Yes, this is Document 389-PS.

THE PRESIDENT: When you are citing a document it would be a good thing if you would cite the number rather slowly, because very often the translation does not come through accurately to us.

GENERAL RUDENKO: Yes. These are Documents 389-PS, and R-98. I cited subparagraph "b" of this order.


Q. Defendant Keitel, have you familiarised yourself with the document?

A. Yes. The text in the German language says "That human life in the countries affected frequently has no value."

Q. And further?

A. ". . . and they can be intimidated by extreme harshness as atonement for the life of a German soldier."

Q. Quite clear. And in this same order in this same sub- paragraph "b" it is stated that:

"To atone for the death of one German soldier, fifty to a hundred Communists must, as a rule, be sentenced to death. The method of execution should strengthen the intimidation measure."
Is that correct?

A. The German text is slightly different. It says:

"Generally speaking, fifty to a hundred persons must be sentenced to death in such cases."
That is the German wording.

Q. For one German soldier?

A. Yes. I know that and I see it here.

Q. That is what I was asking you about. So now I ask you once more ...

A., Do you want an explanation of that or am I not to say any more?

Q. I shall now interrogate you on this matter. I ask you whether, when signing this order, you thereby expressed your personal opinion on these cruel measures? In other words, were you in agreement with Hitler?

[Page 72]

A. I signed the order, but the figures contained in it are alterations made personally in the order by Hitler himself.

Q. And what figures did you present to Hitler?

A. The figures in the original were five to ten.

Q. In other words, the divergence between you and Hitler consisted merely in the figures and not in the spirit of the document?

A. The idea was that the only way of intimidating them was to demand several sacrifices for the life of one soldier, as is stated here.

Q. But you ...

THE PRESIDENT: That was not an answer to the question. The question was whether the only difference between you and Hitler on this document was a question of figures. That admits of the answer yes or no. Was the only difference between you and Hitler a question of figures?

THE WITNESS: Then I must say that with reference to the underlying principle there was a difference of opinion, the final results of which I no longer feel myself in a position to justify, since I added my signature on behalf of my department. There was a fundamental difference of opinion on the entire question.


Q. Very well. Let us continue.

I would like to remind you of one more order. It is the order dated 16th December, 1942, referring to the so-called struggle against the "Partisan Bands." This document was submitted to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 16. I shall not examine you in detail with regard to this order. It was presented to you yesterday by your defence counsel.

A. I do not remember that at the moment.

Q. You do not remember?

A. Not the one that was presented yesterday.

Q. All right. If you do not remember I can hand you this document in order to refresh your memory.

(Witness is handed the document.)

Q. I shall interrogate you, defendant Keitel, on one question only in connection with this order. In sub- paragraph 1 of this order (paragraph 3) I would draw your attention to the following sentence:

"The detachment is therefore authorised and ordered in this struggle to take any measures without restriction, even against women and children, in order to achieve success."
Have you found this passage?

A. Yes.

Q. Have you found the order calling for the application of any kind of measures you like without restriction, even against women and children?

A. "To employ without restriction any means, even against women and children, if it is necessary." I have found that.

Q. That is exactly what I am asking you about.

I ask you, defendant Keitel, Field Marshal of the former German Army, do you consider that this order is a just one - that measures may be employed at will against women and children?

A. Measures, in so far as it means that women and children were also to be removed from territories where there was bandit warfare - never atrocities or the murder of women or children. Never.

Q. To "remove" - a German term - means to kill?

A. No. I do not think it would ever have been necessary to tell German soldiers that they could not and must not kill women and children.

Q. You did not answer my question.

Do you consider this order a just one in regard to measures against women and

[Page 73]

children or do you consider it unjust? Answer "Yes" or "No." Is it just or unjust? Explain the matter later.

A. I considered these measures to be right and as such I admit them; but not measures to kill. That was a crime.

Q. "Any kind of measures" include murder.

A. Yes, but not of women and children.

Q. Yes, but it says here "Any kind of measures against women and children."

A. No, it does not say "any measures." It says "Not to shrink from taking measures against women and children." That is what it says.

No German soldier or German officer ever thought of killing women and children.

Q. And in reality -

A. I cannot say in every individual case, since I do not know and I could not be everywhere, and since I received no reports about it.

Q. But there were millions of such cases?

A. I have no knowledge of that, and I do not believe that it happened in millions of cases.

Q. You do not believe it?

A. No.

Q. I shall proceed to another question. I shall now refer to the question of the treatment of Soviet prisoners of war. I do not intend to examine you in regard to the branding of Soviet prisoners of war and other facts, they are sufficiently well known to the Tribunal. I want to examine you in regard to one document, the report of Admiral Canaris, which was presented to you yesterday. You remember yesterday your counsel submitted to you the Canaris report, it is Exhibit USSR 356, dated 15th September, 1941. As you will remember, even a German officer drew attention to the exceptionally brutal tyranny and lawlessness admitted in connection with the Soviet prisoners of war. Canaris, in this report, pointed to the mass murders of Soviet prisoners of war and spoke of the necessity of definitely eliminating this infamous practice. Did you agree with the statements advanced by Canaris in his report addressed to you?

A. I did not understand the last statement with reference to myself.

Q. The last question amounts to this: Were you, Keitel, personally in agreement with the proposals made by Canaris in his report that the harsh treatment permitted should be done away with, where Soviet prisoners of war were concerned?

A. I answered my counsel yesterday ...

Q. You can answer my question briefly - were you in agreement with it?

A. Yes, I will be brief ... on receiving that letter, I immediately submitted it to the Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, particularly in view of the enclosed publication by the People's Commissar, which was dated the beginning of July, and I asked for a fresh decision. I shared the objections raised by Canaris, but I must supplement that . . .

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