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 5 of 6)

[SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE continues his cross examination of Wilhelm Bodewin Johann Gustav Keitel]

[Page 85]

Q. The sabotage service must be people who are going to do sabotage if they are going to be of any use, must they not? They do sabotage, don't they?

A. Undoubtedly, but not by means of airborne troops and parachutists. These are saboteurs such as are in the frontier zones and offer their services for this kind of work. Yes, that is what they are thinking of. We had many such people in the Sudeten region.

Q. I am not going to argue with you but I want to have it clear. I now want to come to the way in which this order of the Fuehrer was announced. You will find the order - the Tribunal will find it on Page 64 - but what I want him to look at if he would be so kind, is Page 66 of the book, Page 25, defendant, of your book. The second sentence of the defendant Jodl "To the Commanders" about this order. That is on Page 25, and defendant Jodl says, "This order is for the commanders only and must not under any circumstances fall into enemy hands." Was it because you and the defendant Jodl were ashamed of the order, that you had this secrecy provision put on it?

A. I have not found it yet, and I would like to know the connection. Page 25 is a teletype letter.

Q. From the Oberkommando Wehrmacht, dated 19th October. Now have you got it, the second sentence.

A. Dated 18th October, 1942?

Q. 19th October, issuing order of the 18th. "This order is for commanders only and must not under any circumstances fall into enemy hands." Was it because you were ashamed of the order, that it was put like that?

A. I have not seen the letter and I think General Jodl should be asked about it. I do not know the contents, but I have already stated the opinion of both of us. I cannot give you the reason.

Q. You can't give me the reason for this secrecy?

A. I do not know the motives behind it and I would ask you to put this question to General Jodl. I have not seen it. But I have already stated my own views and those of General Jodl.

Q. Well, now, I want you to look at the way that even Hitler expresses it with regard to this. If you look at Page 31, our book, you will see a report from Hitler wherein he says:

"The report which should appear on this subject in the Armed Forces' communiques will state briefly and laconically that a sabotage, terror, or destruction unit has been encountered and exterminated to the last man."
You were doing your best - and when I say "you," I mean you collectively, Hitler, yourself, and Jodl and everyone else concerned - you were doing your best to avoid anything being known about this order, weren't you?

A. That was not my impression. On the contrary, in every case we subsequently published the facts in the Wehrmacht orders, and Wehrmacht reports. It is my recollection that in the Wehrmacht report we stated that such and such an

[Page 86]

incident had occurred, followed by such and such consequences. That is my recollection.

Q. I am now only going to ask you to look at one document further on, because in that regard, you remember after the Soviet Union tried certain people at Kharkov, when you were trying to get up some counter propaganda - now, look at this document, about these executions; it is Page 308, Document UK 57. You have got a copy of it. I am only going to ask you about two incidents. You see it is a memorandum, and the passage that I want you to look at is number 2, the fourth memorandum, paragraph 2, which is headed "Attempted attacks on the Battleship Tirpitz." Do you see that?

A. Just one moment, I have not found it yet. Battleship Tirpitz, oh, yes.

Q. Have you got it? Good, now, listen:

"At the end of October, 1942, a British commando, that had come to Norway in a cutter, had orders to carry out an attack on the Battleship Tirpitz in Drontheim Fjord, by means of a 'two-man torpedo.' The action failed since both torpedoes, which were attached to the cutter, were lost in the stormy sea. From among the crew, consisting of eight men who were English and four Norwegians, a party of three Englishmen and two Norwegians were challenged on the Swedish border; however, only the British seaman in civilian clothes, Robert Paul Evans, born 14th January, 1922, in London, was arrested, the others escaping into Sweden.

Evans had a pistol pouch in his possession, such as are used to carry weapons under the armpit, and also a knuckle duster."

And now the next page:
"Violence representing a breach of International Law could not be proved."
Did incidents such as that, under this order, come to your attention?

A. I do not remember the actual incident, but I can see that it has been reported by the department.

Q. Well, now, you have told us that you have been a soldier for 41 years. That emphasised your military position. What, in the name of all military tradition, had that boy done wrong by coming with a two-man torpedo to make an attack on a battleship, what had he done wrong?

A. No, this is an attack against a weapon of war - if carried out by soldiers in their capacity as members of the Armed Forces, it is an attack made with the object of eliminating a battleship by means of sabotage.

Q. But why, why should you not, if you were prepared to do so, use a two-man torpedo for an attack against a battleship? What is wrong with a sailor doing that? I want to understand what is in your mind. What do you as a man who has been a soldier for forty years, what do you see wrong in a man doing that, launching a torpedo against a battleship? Tell us. I cannot understand what is wrong.

A. This is no more wrong than an attack with an aerial bomb if it is successful. I recognise that it is a right and perfectly permissible attack.

Q. Well now, if you did not see that incident I will not put the others in, as they are all just the same, men in uniform coming up to the Girond to attack German ships.

What I want to understand is this. You were a Field Marshal, standing in the boots of Blucher, Gneisenau and Moltke. How did you tolerate all these young men being murdered one after the other without making any protests?

A. I have stated here in detail my reasons for not making any further resistance or objection and I cannot alter any statement now. I know that these incidents occurred and I know the consequences.

Q. But, Field Marshal, I want you to understand this. As far as I know, in the German military code, as in every military code, there is no obligation on the part

[Page 87]

of a soldier to obey an order which he knows is wrong, which he knows is contrary to the laws of war and criminal law. It is the same in your Army and our Army and I think in every Army, isn't that so?

A. I did not personally carry out the orders of 18th October, 1942. I was not present either at the mouth of the Girond or at the attack on the Battleship Tirpitz. I only knew that the order was issued, together with all the threats of punishment which made it so difficult for the commanders to alter or deviate from the order. You, Sir David, asked me yourself whether I considered this order was right or served any useful purpose and I have given you a definite answer: that I could not have prevented the action taken at the mouth of the Girond or in the case of the Tirpitz if I had wanted to.

Q. You see my difficulty. I have only given you two, there are plenty more. There are others which occurred in Italy, of which we have heard. The point I am putting to you is this. You were the representative, so you have told us a hundred times, of the military tradition. You had behind you an officer corps with all its -

A. No, Sir David, I must deny that. I was not responsible either for the Navy or for the Army or for the Air Force. I was not a commander, I was a Chief of Staff and I had no authority to intervene in the execution of orders in the various branches of the Armed Forces, each of whom had its own Commander.

Q. We have heard about your staff rank but I want to make this point perfectly clear. You were a Field Marshal, Kesselring was a Field Marshal, Milch was a Field Marshal, all, I gather, with military training behind them and all having their influence, if not their command, amongst the Armed Forces of Germany. How was it that there was not one man of your rank, of your military tradition, with the courage to stand up and oppose cold-blooded murder? That is what I want to know.

A. I did not do it. I made no further objection to these things. I can say no more and I cannot speak for others.

Q. Now, let us proceed if you can say no more than that.

I want to see what you did with regard to our French allies, because I have been asked to deal with some matters for the French Delegation.

You remember that on the Eastern Front you captured some Frenchmen who were fighting with the Russians. Do you remember making an order about that? You captured some De Gaullists, as you called them, that is Free French people who were fighting for the Russians. Do you remember your action with regard to that?

A. I recollect the transmission of a Fuehrer order in regard to the surrender of these Frenchmen to their own government, which was obeyed by us.

Q. That is not, of course, the part of the order which I want to put to you.

"Detailed investigations are to be made in appropriate cases with regard to relatives of Frenchmen fighting for the Russians. If the investigation reveals that relatives have given assistance to facilitate escape from France, then severe measures are to be taken.

OKW/WR is to make the necessary preparations with the authorised military commander and the higher S.S. and police chiefs. (Signed) Keitel."

Can you imagine anything more dreadful than taking severe measures against the mother of a young man who has helped him to go and fight with the allies of his country? Can you imagine anything more despicable?

A. I can think of many things since I have lost sons of my own in the war. I am not the inventor of this idea; it did not originate with me. I only transmitted it.

Q. You appreciate the difference, defendant, between the point which you make and the point which I make. Losing sons in a war is a terrible tragedy. Taking severe measures against a mother of a boy who wants to go and fight for his country's

[Page 88]

allies, I am suggesting to you, is despicable. The one is a tragedy, the other is the height of brutality. Do you not agree?

A. I can only say that it does not state the consequences of the investigations and findings. I do not know.

Q. Well, if that is all the answer you can make I will ask you to look at something else.

A. No, I should like to add that I regret that any families were held responsible for the misdeeds of their sons.

Q. Well, I will not waste the time by taking up the word "misdeed." If you think that is a misdeed it is not worth our discussing it further. I just want to protest against your word.

Now, let us see, that was not an isolated case. Just look at Page 110(a) of the document book which you have (Page 122). This is quite an early order, of the 1st October, 1941.

"Attacks committed lately on members of the Armed Forces in the occupied territories necessitate emphasising that it is advisable that military commanders always have at their disposal a number of hostages of different political tendencies, namely:
(1) Nationalists,
(2) Democratic-bourgeois, and
(3) Communists.
It is important that these should include well-known, leading personalities or members of their families whose names are to be made public.

Hostages belonging to the same group as the culprit are to be shot in case of attacks. It is asked that commanders be instructed accordingly. (Signed) Keitel."

Why were you so particular that, if you happened to arrest a democratic-bourgeois, your commanders should have a sufficient bag of democratic-bourgeois as hostages to shoot? I thought you were not a politician.

A. I was not at all particular and the idea did not originate with me; but it is in accordance with the instructions - the official regulations - regarding hostages which I discussed yesterday or on the day before and which state that those held as hostages must come from the circles responsible for the attacks. That is the explanation - or confirmation - of that, as far as my memory goes.

Q. Did you agree, with this course of action, that, if you found a member of a democratic-bourgeois family who had been taking part in sabotage or resistance, you should shoot a number of democratic-bourgeois? Did you approve of that?

A. I have already explained how orders for shooting hostages we're to be applied and how they were to be carried out in the case of those deserving of death and who had already been sentenced.

Q. I am asking you a perfectly simple question, defendant. Did you or did you not approve of a number of democratic- bourgeois being taken as hostages for one democratic- bourgeois who happened to be -

A. It does not say so in the document; it only says that hostages must be taken. It says nothing about shooting them.

Q. Would you mind looking at it since you correct me so emphatically - depending upon the membership of the culprits, that is, whether they are nationalists, or democratic-bourgeois or communists, "hostages of the corresponding group are to be shot in case of attacks."

A. If that is in the document then I must have carried it out in that way. The document referring to the discussion between the commanders shows clearly how it was carried out in practice.

Q. Now answer my question. Did you approve of that?

[Page 89]

A. I personally had different views on the hostage system; but I signed it, because I had been ordered to do so.

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