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

Ninety-Ninth Day: Thursday, 4th April, 1946
(Part 4 of 7)

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

[Page 14]

Q. After that conference were any military orders given?

A. I think not even then, but Hitler told us at the time that he wished to wait for the reaction to these discussions in the Eastern area after the delegation had returned to Russia. Certain orders had been given to the ambassador, too, in that respect. However, orders were not given directly after the Molotov visit.

Q. May I ask you to state the date when the first definite instructions were given?

A. I can only reconstruct it on the strength of the "Barbarossa" instructions, which have been shown to me here and which came out in December. I believe it must have been during the first half of December that the well-known "Barbarossa" orders were given. To be precise, these orders were given at the beginning of December, namely, the orders to work out the strategic plan.

Q. Did you know about the conferences which took place at Zossen in December and which have been mentioned by the prosecution here? Perhaps I may remind you that the Finnish General Heinrichs was present.

A. No, I knew nothing about the conference in Zossen. I think General Buschenhagen was also there, according to the statements he has made here. I did not know anything about the Finnish General Heinrichs' presence in Zossen and have heard about it for the first time here. The only way I can explain this is that the General Staff of the Army wanted to get documents or other things and that they discussed that in addition with the persons concerned. I did not meet General Heinrichs until May, 1941. At that time I had a talk with him and General Jodl at Salzburg. Before that I had never seen him and I had never talked to him.

Q. Is there any significance in the fact that Directive No. 21 says that Hitler would order the attack and the actual troop dispositions eight weeks before the operational plan would become effective?

A. Yes, there was considerable significance attached to that. I have been interrogated about that by the Soviet Union Delegation here. The reason was that according to the Army's calculations, it would take about eight weeks to get these troops, which were to be transported by rail, into position; that is to say, if troops from Reich territory were to be placed in position on an operative starting line. Hitler emphasised, when the repeated revisions of the plan were made, that he wanted to have complete control of those dispositions. In other words, troop movements without his approval were not to be made. That was the purpose of this directive.

Q. When did it become clear to you that Hitler had decided to attack the Soviet Union?

A. As far as I can recollect, it was at the beginning of March. The idea was that the attack might be made approximately in the middle of May. Therefore the decision regarding the transport of troops by rail had to be made in the, middle of March. For that reason, during the first half of March a meeting of generals was called - that is to say, a command reception of generals at Hitler's headquarters, and the explanations given by him at that time had the clear purpose of telling the generals that he had on his own initiative decided to carry out those troop movements, although an order had not yet been given. He produced several suggestions, and issued certain instructions on matters which are contained in these directives here for the Special Case Barbarossa. This is Document 447-PS,

[Page 15]

and these are the directives which were eventually signed by me too. He then gave us the directive for these guiding principles and ideas, so that the generals were already informed about the contents, which in turn induced me to confirm it in writing in this form; for there was nothing new in it for any one who had taken part in the discussions.

Q. It appears to me, however, that what Hitler told the generals in his address was something new; and it also seems to me that you who were concerned with these matters, that is to say, who had worked on them, understood or should have understood that now a completely abnormal method of warfare was about to begin, at least when seen from your traditional point of view as a soldier.

A. That is correct. Here views were expressed regarding the administration and economic exploitation of the territories to be conquered or occupied. There was the completely new idea of setting up Reich Commissioners and civil administrations. There was the definite decision to give Supreme Command to the Trustee of the Four-Year Plan in the economic field; and what was for me the most important point and the one that affected me most was the fact that apart from the authority of the commander of the occupation forces, as such, to administer those territories, it was clear that Reich Leader S.S. Himmler was to be given extensive plenipotentiary powers concerning all police actions which would, later, become necessary. I firmly opposed that, since to me it seemed impossible that there should be two forces working side by side. In the directives here it says: "The authority of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army is not affected by this."

That was a complete illusion and self-deception. Quite the opposite happened. As long as it was possible, I fought against it. I think I ought to say that I have no witness to that other than General Jodl, who shared these experiences with me. Eventually, however, Hitler worked out these directives himself, more or less, and gave them the meaning he wanted. That I had no power to order the things which are contained in these directives is clear from the fact that it says that the Reich Marshal receives this task, and the Reich Leader S.S. receives that task, and so on. I had no say in these matters.

Q. Was it never actually discussed that if one wanted to launch an attack on the Soviet Union, one would have to take diplomatic steps or else send a declaration of war, or an ultimatum?

A. Oh yes, I discussed that. As early as the winter of 1940- 1, whenever there were discussions regarding the strength of the Russian forces on the demarcation line - that is in December-January - I asked Hitler to send a note to the Soviet Union so as to bring about a cleaning up, so to speak, of the situation. I can add now that the first time he said nothing at all, and the second time he refused, maintaining that it was useless, for he would only receive the answer that this was an internal affair and that it was none of our business, or something like that. At any rate, he refused. I tried again, at a later stage, that is to say, I voiced the request that an ultimatum should be presented before we entered upon an action, so that in some form the basis would be created to justify a preventive war, as we called it, if attacked.

Q. You say "preventive war." When the final decisions were made, what was the military situation?

A. I am best reminded of how we, or rather the Army judged the situation, by a summary or memorandum - I believe it is Document 872-PS - yes, 872-PS ... dated the end of January or the beginning of February - of a report made by the Chief of the General Staff of the Army to Hitler regarding the state of operative and strategic preparations. In this document I found full details as to what we then knew of the strength of the Red Army, and other existing information.

Apart from that, I have to add that the intelligence service of the O.K.W. - Admiral Canaris - placed at my disposal or at the Army's disposal very little material, because the Russian sector was closely sealed against German intelligence.

[Page 16]

In other words, there were gaps up to a certain point. Only the things contained in Document 872-PS were known.

Q. Would you like to say briefly what it contained, so as to justify your decision?

A. Yes, there were - Halder reported that there were approximately 150 Soviet divisions deployed along the line of demarcation and the borders. Then there were aerial photographs of a large number of aerodromes. In other words, there was a degree of preparedness on the part of Soviet Russia, which could at any time lead to military action. Only the actual fighting later made it clear just how far the enemy, had been prepared. I must say that we only fully realised all these things during the actual attack.

Q. You were present during Hitler's last speech to the Commanders in the East, made on 14th June, 1941, in the Reich Chancellery, were you not? I ask you to state briefly, without going over the same ground, what Hitler said on that occasion, and what effect it had on the generals.

THE PRESIDENT: Isn't there a document in connection with this? It must all be in the document. Isn't that so?

DR. NELTE: I wanted to ask one question on that subject and then submit the document; or, if the Tribunal so desires, I will not read the document at all, but will merely quote the short summary which is at the end of it. Will the Tribunal agree to that?

THE PRESIDENT: But what you did was to ask the defendant what was in the document.

DR. NELTE: The document contains, if I may briefly indicate it, the following:

The development, and the continuously increasing influence of non-military organisations on the conduct of the war. This document proves that the Armed Forces, during this war - which must be called a degenerate war - tried, as far as possible, to keep within the limits of International Law and that when the .

THE PRESIDENT: I only want to know what your question is, that is all.

DR. NELTE: My question was directed to Field Marshal Keitel, and I asked him to tell me about the speech on 14th June, 1941; what Hitler ordered the generals to do, and what was their reaction. With that, I intended to conclude the preparations for the Russian campaign.

THE PRESIDENT: He can tell what the effect was upon himself, but I don't see how he can tell what the effect was upon the other generals.

DR. NELTE: He can only give his own opinion, of course, but he can say whether the others reacted in any way, and if there were arguments or expostulations? I merely wanted to know whether this happened or not.

THE PRESIDENT: Perhaps you had better ask him what happened that day at the conference; if you want to know what happened at the conference, why don't you ask him?


Q. Please say.

A. After short addresses regarding the operational orders to the various commanders, there followed a recapitulation, which I must describe as a political speech. The main theme was that this was the decisive battle between two ideologies, and that this fact made it impossible to use in this war methods as we soldiers knew them and which were considered to be the only correct ones under International Law. The war could not be carried on by these means. In this case completely different standards had to be applied. This was an entirely new kind of war, based on completely different arguments and principles.

After certain details had been explained, various orders were given with regard, to the abolition of any legal system in territories which were not pacified, and to the suppression, by brutal means, of all resistance. Every local resistance movement was to be considered as the logical outcome of the deep rift between the two ideologies. These were decidedly entirely new and very impressive ideas, and they affected us deeply.

[Page 17]

Q. Did you, or any other generals raise objections to or make any expostulations against these explanations, directives and orders?

A. I personally did not - I had already voiced my objections. As to the other generals, I do not know whether any of them spoke to the Fuehrer on these matters.

They did not, in any case, do so after that conference.

DR. NELTE: Mr. President, I think that now the time has come to decide whether you will accept the affidavits of the defendant Keitel contained in my document book No. 2 under the numbers 3 and 5, as exhibits. Perhaps the prosecution will express an opinion on this.

Up to now we have merely discussed the history before the actual Russian campaign. In so far as the defendant Keitel and the O.K.W. is concerned, I should like to shorten the examination by submitting these two affidavits. The affidavit - No. 3 - is, an account of the conditions concerning orders in the East. The extent of the territory and the numerous organisations led to an extremely complicated procedure for giving orders. To make it possible for you to ascertain whether it was the defendant Keitel or the O.K.W., or some department that was responsible, the conditions concerning the giving of orders in the East have been presented in detail. I believe it would save a great deal of time if you would accept this document as an exhibit.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, Mr. Dodd and I have no objection to this procedure used by the defence and we believe that it might probably help the Tribunal to have in front of them the printed accounts.

THE PRESIDENT: Does Dr. Nelte intend to read or only summarise these affidavits?

DR. NELTE: I intend merely to submit it to you after I have asked the defendant whether the contents of the affidavits have been written and signed by him.

THE PRESIDENT: And the prosecution, of course, have had these affidavits for some time?


DR. NELTE: The same applies, if I understand Sir David correctly, to affidavit No. 5!


THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Nelte, it would be convenient, I think, if you gave these affidavits numbers in the sequence of your exhibit numbers and give us also the dates of them so that we can identify them. Can you give us the dates of the affidavits ?

DR. NELTE: May I be permitted to arrange the matter in the secretary's office during the luncheon interval?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. The first is dated 8th March, isn't it, and the other 18th March, I believe? Dr. Nelte, you can do it at the recess and give them numbers.

It is nearly 1 o'clock now, and we are just going to adjourn. You can give them numbers then. Does that conclude your examination?

DR. NELTE: We come now to the individual cases which I hope, however, to conclude in the course of the afternoon. I fear I must discuss the prisoner-of-war circumstances and individual matters. I think I still need this afternoon for myself. I believe that if I bear in mind the interests of the defendant Keitel, I am limiting myself a good deal.

THE PRESIDENT: Do you desire to put your questions to him now or not?

DR. NELTE: I think - I don't know how the President feels about it - it would be suitable if we had a recess now so that in the meantime I can put the affidavits in order. I have not yet finished the discussion of this subject.

THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn now.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 14.00 hours.)

[Page 18]

DR. NELTE: Mr. President, of the two documents mentioned this morning, the first document, No. 3 of the second document book, entitled "The Command Relationships in the East," will be given the number 10 of the Keitel Documents.

THE PRESIDENT: That is dated 14th March, 1946?


THE PRESIDENT: The document that I have got is headed 23rd February, 1946, and, at the end, 14th March, 1946. Is that the one?

DR. NELTE: The document was first written down and later sworn to. There is, therefore, a difference in the two dates.

THE PRESIDENT: I only wanted to identify which it is, that is all.

DR. NELTE: It is the document of 14th March.


DR. NELTE: The affidavit is dated 14th March.

THE PRESIDENT: And you are giving it what number?

DR. NELTE: I give it No. K-10. The second document, which is fifth in the document book, is dated 18th March, 1946, and has at the end the defendant's attestation as of 29th March. This document has received the number K-12. Permit me to read a few points on Pages 11 and 12 of the German copy. This, as it appears to me, is of very great importance for this Trial.

THE PRESIDENT: Of which document?

DR. NELTE: Document No. 12.


DR. NELTE: The question in this document -

THE PRESIDENT: Just a minute. I do not think the interpreters have found the document yet, have they? It comes just after a certificate by Catherine Bedford, and I think it is about halfway through the book, and although the pages are not numbered consecutively, it appears to have the figure 51 on it.

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