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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
27th May to 6th June, 1946

One Hundred and Forty-Fifth Day: Monday, 3rd June, 1946
(Part 8 of 9)

[DR. EXNER continues his direct examination of ALFRED JODL]

[Page 284]

Q. Were there other possibilities of influencing Hitler?

A. If it was not possible to contradict him openly to prevent something, which according to my innermost convictions I had to prevent, there was still the means, which I often employed, of using delaying tactics, a kind of passive resistance. I delayed work on the matter and waited for a psychologically favourable moment to bring the matter before Hitler again.

This procedure, too, was often successful; for example, in the case of the intention to turn certain low-level flyers over to lynch justice. It had no success in the commando order.

Q. We will speak about these things later. The witness Gisevius, in answer to questions of the prosecution, said that "Jodl had a key position with Hitler."

Did you know this witness by sight, or by hearing about him, or in any other way?

A. I did not have that honour. I heard the name of this witness for the first time here, and I saw him here in the Court for the first time.

Q. What, if anything, could you influence Hitler not to do?

A. It is clear that I could only give the Fuehrer extracts of reports of events. In view of his inclination towards making emotional decisions, I, naturally, was very cautious in reporting unverified reports made by agents. If the witness meant this by his broad term "key position", he did not err in this case. But if he intended it to mean that I kept from the Fuehrer atrocities committed by our own Wehrmacht or atrocities committed by the SS, then that is absolutely untrue. How was that witness to know about it?

[Page 285]

On the contrary, I immediately reported any news of that kind to the Fuehrer, and no one could have stopped me from doing so. I will give examples: An affidavit by Rittmeister Scheidt was read here. He testified that Obergruppenfuehrer Fegelein told the Chief of the General Staff, Guderian, and General Jodl of atrocities of the SS Brigade "Keminski" in Warsaw, which was absolutely true. Ten minutes later I reported this fact to the Fuehrer and he immediately ordered the dissolution of this Brigade. When I heard from the American Radio through my Press chief of the shooting of 120 American prisoners near Malmedy, I immediately, on my own initiative, had an investigation started through the Commander-in-Chief West, in order to report the result to the Fuehrer. When unimaginable horrors committed by an Ustaschi company in Croatia came to my knowledge, I reported this to the Fuehrer immediately.

I should like to interrupt you a moment. In your diary, Document 1807-PS, you write, on 12th June, 1942 - Page 119, Second Document Book:

"The German field police disarmed and arrested an Ustaschi company in Eastern Bosnia because of atrocities against the' civil population."
I should like to add that this is noteworthy, since this Ustaschi company was something like an SS group in Croatia and was fighting on the German side. Because of the atrocities the German field police arrested this Ustaschi company.
"The Fuehrer did not approve of this measure, which was carried out by order of the commander of the 708th Division, as it undermined the authority of the Ustaschi on which the whole Croatian State was founded. This is bound to have an effect on peace and order in Croatia more harmful than the unrest of the population created by the atrocities."
Was this the incident of which you were thinking just now?

A. Yes.

Q. Have you another example?

A. After the issuing of the commando order, I reported violations of International Law by the enemy to the Fuehrer, only when he would certainly have heard of them by other means. I reported cases of commando undertakings and capture of commandos, only when I had to assume with certainty that he would hear of them through other channels.

In this connection I did try to bar new spontaneous decisions.

Q. Was it possible to bar Hitler?

A. Unfortunately not.

Q. I do not understand.

A. I can only say, unfortunately not. There were numberless ways in which the Fuehrer was informed on military matters. Every individual and every establishment could report to the adjutant's department directly. The photographer sent out by the Fuehrer to take pictures at the front found it expedient on this occasion to report to the Fuehrer on military matters also. When I objected to this, the Fuehrer answered: "I don't care from whom I hear the truth; the main thing is that I hear it." These reports, however, were not reports of atrocities but just the opposite. Unfortunately, through many channels hostile to the Wehrmacht reports against the correct and chivalrous attitude of the Wehrmacht reached the Fuehrer. It was these reports which brought about these decisions for brutal proceedings. A tremendous amount of damage would have been avoided if we soldiers had been in a position to keep this information from the Fuehrer.

Q. What role did Canaris play in this connection?

A. Canaris saw the Fuehrer dozens of times. Canaris could report to him what he wanted and whatever he knew. It sears to me that he knew much more than I, who was concerned exclusively with the operational conduct of the war. But he never said a word. He never said one word to me, and it is quite clear why. This man, who is now dead, had the very best understanding with Himmler and with Heydrich. He needed that, so that they would not become suspicious of this nest of conspirators.

[Page 286]

Q. The witness Gisevius said a great deal about a putsch and intentions to carry out a putsch. Did you personally know anything about such plans?

A. I never heard a single word or intimation about any putsch, or about any intentions of carrying out a putsch.

Q. At any time, before or during the war, would you have considered a putsch possible or promising?

A. The witness spoke of putsches as casually as of washing his hands. That alone proves to me that he never thought about it seriously. The results of the Kapp putsch in 1921, of the Hitler putsch of 1923 are well-known. If more proof is necessary, there is the result of the 20th of July, 1944. At that time no one any longer expected victory in the true sense of the word. Nevertheless, in this putsch, in this attempt, not one soldier, not one worker, rose. All the members of the attempted putsch were alone. In order to overthrow this system, a revolution would have been necessary, a mightier, a more powerful revolution than the National Socialist one had been. And behind such a revolution there would have had to be the mass of the workers and the majority of the Wehrmacht as a whole and not simply the commander of the Potsdam garrison, of whom the witness spoke.

But how one was to wage a war for survival with other countries and at the same time carry on a revolution and expect to gain anything positive for the German people, I do not know. Only geniuses who lived in Switzerland can judge that. The German Wehrmacht and the German officers were not trained for revolution. Once the Prussian officers struck the ground with their sabres, that was the only revolutionary deed of the Wehrmacht that I know of. That was in the year 1848. If today people who co-operated actively in order to bring Hitler to power, who had a part in the laws which we soldiers with our oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler were bound to support, if these people demanded revolution and mutiny on the part of the Wehrmacht when they did not like the man any more or when reverses occurred, then I can only call that immoral.

Q. Were there tensions and crises in your relation with Hitler? You have already intimated something in that connection.

A. I could write a book about that more easily than give a brief answer. I should only like to say that, apart from many exalting moments, our life in the Fuehrer's Headquarters was in the long run a martyrdom for us soldiers, for it was not a military headquarters; it was a civilian one, and we soldiers were guests there. It is not easy to be a guest anywhere for five and a half years. I should like to add just one thing: among the few officers who dared to face the Fuehrer eye to eye and to speak in a tone and manner that made the listeners hold their breath because they feared a catastrophe - among these few officers was myself.

Q. Give us an example of such a crisis in your relations with Hitler.

A. The worst crisis was in August, 1942, in Winnitza, when I defended General Halder against unjustified criticism. It was an operational problem, the details of which will not interest the Tribunal. Never in my life did I experience such an outbreak of rage from any human being. From that day on, he never came to eat.

Q. To the common meal?

A. No, he never came to the common meal. The report on the situation no longer took place in my map room but in the Fuehrer's quarters. At every report on the situation from that day on, an SS officer took part. Eight stenographers were ordered to be there. From that day on, they took down every word. The Fuehrer refused to shake hands with me any more. He did not greet me any more or rarely. This condition lasted until the 30th January, 1943, when he told me through Field-Marshal Keitel that he could no longer work with me and that I would be replaced by General Paulus as soon as Paulus had taken Stalingrad.

Q. Did you yourself not try during this time to be released from the OKW?

[Page 287]

A. During all this time, every third day I asked General Schmundt to see to it that I might be sent to a position at the front with the mountain troops in Finland. I wanted to go there. But this did not happen.

Q. The prosecution has asserted that you enjoyed the good graces of the Fuehrer and that he lavished his favour on you. What is true in that?

A. I do not need to waste many words on that. What I said is the actual. truth. I am afraid that what the prosecution said is only imagined.

Q. It was also said that you were a career soldier. How about that?

A. If the prosecution means that as a so-called political soldier I was promoted especially quickly, they are mistaken. I became a general in my fiftieth year. That was quite normal. In July, 1940, when I was appointed General (of Artillery) it is true I by-passed the grade of Lieutenant-General, but that was only a coincidence. A much younger general of the Air Force, Jeschonnek, Chief of the General Staff of the Luftwaffe, was to be promoted to General of the Air Force. Then Schmundt said to the Fuehrer: "Jodl could perhaps do that." So shortly before the Reichstag session the Fuehrer decided to promote me also to General (of Artillery). This Jeschonnek, who is much younger than I, became Colonel-General much sooner than I. Zeitler, who was formerly my subordinate, became Colonel-General at the same time as I did.

THE PRESIDENT: I think we will break off.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn this afternoon at 4.30.


Q. We were discussing to what extent you enjoyed the favour of the Fuehrer, that is with regard to -

Was it not an outstanding event if you received any decorations from Hitler?

A. Surprisingly, when the Winnitza crisis was over on the 30th January, 1943. I received from the Fuehrer the Party Golden Emblem of Honour; and that was the only decoration which I received from the Fuehrer.

Q. In the entire five and a half years of war?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you receive a gift or donation from Hitler, or from the Party?

A. Not a cent, not a bean. In order to conceal nothing I can mention the fact that in Headquarters we received a package of coffee from the Fuehrer each Christmas.

Q. Did you acquire any estates or receive them as a recognition or gift in the territories occupied by us?

A. Not one. If in the Indictment the sentence is set down in a summary manner: "the defendants enriched themselves in the occupied territories," I can, as far as I am concerned, describe this in one word, and I must be frank, that it is a libel against a decent German officer.

Q. During the war you saved some of your pay as a General. How did you invest this money?

A. My entire savings of this war are at the moment in Reich bonds ....

THE PRESIDENT: He said that he could not save a penny. He has not yet been cross-examined about it.


Q. During the entire period of the war you were with Hitler and therefore you must really know him best. Consequently I should like to ask you in detail about the personality of the Fuehrer; but the Tribunal does not desire repetition. Therefore tell us quite briefly what particularly influenced you in Hitler's behaviour, what impressed you particularly? What were the things you disliked?

A. Hitler was a leader of exceptional scope. His knowledge and his intellect, his rhetoric and his will power triumphed in the end in every spiritual conflict

[Page 288]

over every adversary. He combined to an unusual degree logic and clarity of thought, scepticism and excess of imagination, which very frequently foresaw what would happen, but also very often went astray. I really marvelled at him when, in the winter of 1941-42, with his faith and with his energy he stabilised the wavering Eastern front, for at that time, as in 1812, a catastrophe was imminent. His life in the Fuehrer Headquarters was nothing but duty and work. The modesty in his manner of life was impressive. There was not one day during the war -

THE PRESIDENT: (interposing). One moment. As you said, Dr. Exner, the Tribunal has had to listen to this sort of thing over and aver again already. We are not interested in that.


Q. Perhaps you can tell the High Tribunal something which it has heard less frequently, what you disliked in the personality of Hitler.

THE PRESIDENT: I do not think that, put in that general way, it is of any interest to the Tribunal, what he disliked in Hitler. I mean, can he not get on with his own case?


Q. Did you have that feeling that you were close to the Fuehrer personally?

A. No, in no way at all.

Q. All your relationships were essentially official?

A. Yes, purely official. I did not belong to his private circle, and he did not know any more about me than that my name was Jodl, and therefore presumably I must have come from Bavaria.

Q. Who belonged to the private circle?

A. Chiefly the "old guard" from the time when the party was in its developing stage: Bormann first of all, the original woman secretaries, his personal physician, and the political or SS adjutants.

Q. Your speech to the Gauleiter was used by the prosecution to prove that you were an unconditional follower of the Fuehrer and his enthusiastic adherent. Tell us, how did you come to make that speech?

A. Bormann asked the Fuehrer for this speech, and the Fuehrer ordered it, even though I made this speech very reluctantly, chiefly because of lack of time. But it was generally the wish in this period of crisis -

Q. When was this speech?

A. In November, 1943. The Italian defection had preceded it. It was the time of the heavy bombing attacks. At this time it was naturally necessary to give the political leaders at home a completely unvarnished picture of the whole military situation, but at the same time to fill them with a certain amount of confidence in the supreme leadership. This speech, which had the title, "The Strategic Situation of Germany at the Beginning of the Fifth Year of the War," could obviously not be made by a Block leader, it could only be made by an officer of the Operational Staff of the Wehrmacht, and so I delivered this speech.

Q. What were the contents of this speech?

A. The contents, as I have already said, were an overall picture of the strategic situation. Here, before the Tribunal, naturally only the introduction was read. This introduction painted a picture in retrospect about what lay behind us, but not from the political point of view, rather from the strategic angle. I described the operational necessity for all the operations of the so-called wars of aggression. In no way did I identify myself with the National Socialist Party, but, as is quite understandable for an officer of the General Staff, with my Supreme Commander; for at that time it was no longer a question of National Socialism or democracy. The question was the "to be or not to be" of the German people. And there were patriots in Germany, too, not only in the neighbouring States. And I count myself among these patriots as long as I live. Besides, it is not important to whom

[Page 289]

one speaks, but it is important what one says. I can also establish that I delivered that same speech to the military district commanders and to the senior officers of the reserve army.

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