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-Sixth Day: Tuesday, 4th June, 1946
(Part 1 of 9)

[Page 294]




Q. General, yesterday afternoon we started dealing with war crimes; but today I should like, first of all, to put a few preliminary questions to you. What position and what tasks were yours during the period of the war?

A. I had to deal with the entire work of the Chief of Staff in connection with the strategic operational conduct of the war. Moreover, subordinate to me was the Military Propaganda Division, which had the duty of co-operating with the Press, and thirdly, I was head of an office which, speaking broadly, had to distribute reports and information to the various branches of the Wehrmacht. This sphere of work took up my time to such an extent that as a rule I worked until three o'clock in the morning night after night. I had no time at all to concern myself with other things. I already had to delegate to my personal adjutant almost all my work with the Press, which had to receive daily information.

Q. These tasks which you have just named were all tasks connected with your office - and that was the Wehrmacht Operational Staff - of which you were chief, is that right?

A. Yes, of which I was chief.

Q. And a branch of the operational staff, the main and most important one, was the operational branch?

A. The operational branch.

Q. And most of your tasks were concerned with this branch: The prosecution says you were Chief of Staff to Field-Marshal Keitel. Do you agree?

A. That is not correct and has already been shown by the division of the departments, which was explained here during Field-Marshal Keitel's case. There is a great difference. As Chief of Staff, I would have been Field-Marshal Keitel's assistant, concerned with all of his duties. However, I was only the chief of one of the many departments subordinate to Field-Marshal Keitel.

Beginning with the year 1941 it became the custom that I reported to the Fuehrer directly all matters concerned with operations and my operational branch, whereas Field-Marshal Keitel, by using my Quartermaster Division as a sort of personal working staff, took over all other tasks.

Q. Did you, as chief of the Wehrmacht Operational Staff, have authority to issue orders?

A. No, or rather only to my working staff. I was subordinate to Field-Marshal Keitel, and even Keitel himself was not a supreme commander, but only the chief of a staff. But, naturally, in the course of this war, I decided many operational details myself, and signed them myself. There was no disagreement of any sort in these matters with the commanders-in-chief, for I had their confidence and I worked on the best possible terms with them.

Q. For an outsider it is not quite easy to understand that, even though you had no authority to issue orders, so many orders have been submitted here which were, in fact, signed by you, and signed in different ways, sometimes with the

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entire signature, sometimes with a "J", the first initial of your name. Please explain these differences.

A. One must differentiate as follows: the decrees which the Fuehrer himself signed, if they were of an operational nature, bear my initial at the end, on the lower right; and that means that I at least assisted in the formulation of that order. Then there were orders which also came from the Fuehrer though they were not signed by him personally but "by order of Jodl", but then they always opened with the sentence: "The Fuehrer has decreed", or the sentence was found somewhere in the course of the order. There was a preamble, usually giving reasons for the order, and then it said: "The Fuehrer has therefore decreed."

Q. And what was the difference between these two groups of orders? Why was one group of orders signed by the Fuehrer, and the other only by you?

A. The difference was solely that the orders signed by me were of less importance.

Q. Now, there were other orders which did not begin with "the Fuehrer has decreed", but were signed by you, nevertheless. What about these?

A. These orders were as a rule signed: "The Chief of the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht, by Order of Jodl". These were orders which emanated from me, that is, I or my staff formulated them. The Fuehrer himself and Field-Marshal Keitel had perhaps been informed of these orders, but not in every case.

Then there were other orders, which bear my initial on the first page in the upper right-hand corner. Those were orders issued by other departments, my initial "J" on the first page was merely an office note to show that this order had been submitted to me. But it did not mean that I had read it, for if on perusing the first page I saw that the decree dealt with a matter not connected with my sphere of work, then I initialled it and put it aside because I had to save time.

Q. Now, there is another large volume of documents, of which some are being used as strongly incriminating evidence against you; they are not orders but summary notes. Can you comment on these?

A. These summary notes were an arrangement used on higher staff levels for the convenience of people who had not time to study enormous files. Therefore a summary note contained, in an abbreviated form, a description of any matter, frequently the views taken by other departments, and sometimes even a proposal. The decisive fact is that it was not an order, it was not a draft of an order, but it formed the basis for an order.

Q. Perhaps the situation will best be clarified if you can explain this to the Tribunal in the case of the summary draft dealing with the commissars; we touched on this matter yesterday. It is Document 884-PS, Exhibit R 351, Volume II of my Document Book, Page 152.

Before you start I should like to call the attention of the High Tribunal to an error in the translation. On Page 152, under (1), it says:

"OKH has presented a draft for instructions regarding high political officials, etc., regarding commissars."
The English translation says:
"The Army High Command presents a statement"; but it is a draft.
And I do not quite follow the French; it says: "Confirmation des instructions". It should obviously be "projet".

The German original says: "OKW (High Command of the Armed Forces) has presented a draft for instructions regarding treatment of high political officials, etc., for the uniform application of the order issued on 31st March, 1941 ..." and these are the Commissars. The whole of this is a summary draft. Will you please comment on it?

A. This document is a typical example. First of all, it contains the draft by another department of the High Command of the Armed Forces, not verbatim, but in abbreviated form. Then, secondly, under (II), on Page 153, the views of another department - that of Reichsleiter Rosenberg - are set forth. Then, under (III), it contains a proposal of my own staff.

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The whole matter, therefore, is far from being an order; it is to become one. And, of course, on such a summary draft, I made very many cursory marginal notes to serve as indications for further treatment and discussion or disposal of the matter. Therefore one cannot apply to this the same criteria which are applied to the well-considered words contained in an actual order.

Q. All right. So much for the summary draft and your notes.

Now we turn to the very intricate topic of the Commando Order. This matter has been dealt with here on various occasions, and indeed it goes beyond this Tribunal in its importance and its repercussions, as we know from the newspapers.

I should like to hear from you something about the antecedents of this order. This order is Document 498-PS, Exhibit USA 501. I do not have it in my Document Book, but I asked the General Secretary to have it put at the disposal of the High Tribunal in the various languages. I hope this has been done.

Then there is an explanatory decree in addition to the main order; both are signed by the Fuehrer. That is Document PS-503, Exhibit USA 542.

MR. ROBERTS: It is 498-PS. It is in the Keitel and Jodl Document Book No. 7, Page 64.


Q. The first order is addressed to the troops, the second is an explanatory order addressed to the commanders-in-chief. The first order threatens enemy soldiers with death if they engage in bandit-like warfare, and it refers to the Wehrmacht communique in this connection.

Can you first explain the connection between the Commando Order and the Wehrmacht communique of 7th October, 1942?

A. May I ask the Tribunal to permit me, as an exception, to go into greater detail. Very much is at stake in this order, not my person - my own person does not matter in this trial; but the honour of the German soldiers and the German officers, whom I represent here.

The Commando Order is inseparably linked with the announcement in the Wehrmacht communique of 7th October, 1942, for this announcement in the Wehrmacht communique foreshadowed the actual Commando Order.

Q. And who was responsible for this announcement in the Wehrmacht communique? Who wrote it?

A. In the main, this Wehrmacht communique of 7th October, 1942 - it was really a sort of supplement to the communique - emanated from me. It deals with the denial of a report by the British Ministry of War, a matter which I will not discuss further, for it is a very delicate point. The prosecution especially does not wish it to be brought up.

Q. But this supplement -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Exner, we do not know - at least I have not seen the document of 7th October, 1942, and the prosecution had made no objection to any answer to any English documents as far as we know.

DR. EXNER: I wished to submit this document but objections were raised.

THE PRESIDENT: What does the defendant mean by saying that the prosecution does not wish him to present it or to answer it?

DR. EXNER: He probably refers to the fact that we could not present this Wehrmacht communique, but he can give us the contents of it briefly.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it may be a question of translation, but if he means simply that no evidence has been given by the prosecution on the subject, of course there is no objection to his saying that; but when he says that the prosecution does not want him to put forward or does not want him to answer the document, that is a most improper statement to make.

DR. EXNER: Yes, I understand.

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Q. Perhaps you can tell us briefly the contents of this Wehrmacht communique of 7th October, 1942. I believe you have it in your own Document Book.

THE PRESIDENT: No, but, Dr. Exner, that is not quite what I mean. What the defendant has said was that the prosecution does not want him to deal with this subject.


THE PRESIDENT: Now, if that is the remark that is made, that is an improper remark to make. The prosecution have had no communication with the defence upon this subject, presumably, except that they have put it forward in the evidence in this case.


Q. Did you understand? You must not say that you are not allowed to touch upon this subject. Perhaps you will give us an explanation of what you meant?

A. This communique is in direct connection with the Commando Order. Only the last paragraph of this Wehrmacht communique is important; it was written by the Fuehrer himself, as Field-Marshal Keitel has already stated, and Professor Jahrreis read it here before the Tribunal. It is the sentence which reads:

"In future, all terror and sabotage troops of the British and their accomplices, who do not act like soldiers but rather like bandits, will be treated as such by the German troops and will be ruthlessly eliminated in battle, wherever they appear."
This sentence was written, word for word, by the Fuehrer himself.

Q. And then you were instructed to issue a detailed order to that effect -

THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute, wait a minute.

Defendant, what the Tribunal wants to know is this: You said that the Commando Order appeared originally in a Wehrmacht report of 7th October, 1942, which, in the main, emanated from you, and that that report refuted an English statement by the Ministry of War which the prosecution did not want you to deal with. What do you mean by that?

THE WITNESS: By that I meant that my Defence Counsel intended to submit the entire Wehrmacht communique of 7th October, 1942, as a document in evidence. But he refrained from doing so when the prosecution objected to the document.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, I have certainly never objected to this document. I have asked Mr. Roberts and he tells me that he has never objected to it and, as far as we know, no one on behalf of the prosecution has ever objected to it. I certainly have no objection to it at all myself; as a member of the English Government at the time when this matter was issued, I have never heard anything about it before, but I have no objection to it at all.

DR. EXNER: May I say something?


DR. EXNER: If there has been a misunderstanding, we shall be all the more pleased, and we shall submit this Wehrmacht communique either this afternoon or tomorrow.

I should like to clarify one point regarding the question which Mr. President put to the defendant.

The defendant said that the Wehrmacht communique, in the main, emanated from him, but that the Fuehrer wrote the supplementary sentence -

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THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Exner, if you want to correct anything that I have said you must do it through the witness and not through yourself. You are not entitled to give evidence. You only give evidence through the witness.

DR. EXNER: Yes. All right.


Q. Please state once more which part of the Wehrmacht communique you wrote and which part was added by the Fuehrer?

A. The entire first part of this Wehrmacht communique has nothing whatever to do with commando troops, but is concerned with the well-known affair of the shackling of German prisoners of war on the beach of Dieppe. I shall refer to that again later.

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