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-Eighth Day: Thursday, 6th June, 1946
(Part 1 of 12)

[Page 375]




Q. General, yesterday in answer to my last question about General Thomas, you said that he constantly made reports on the war potential of enemy powers to you and Field Marshal Keitel. Were these important reports always submitted to Hitler?

A. These reports, with detailed graphic descriptions, sketches and drawings, were regularly submitted to the Fuehrer and often occasioned violent disputes, because the Fuehrer considered this representation of the enemy potential as greatly exaggerated.

Q. Did you and Field Marshal Keitel hold the point of view that the representations of General Thomas were well-founded?

A. Field Marshal Keitel and I were both of the opinion that, after a very careful study of enemy armament achievements, these statements of Thomas were, on the whole, accurate.

Q. You heard the witness Gisevius say that Thomas was supposed to have been an opponent of Hitler's war leadership. In the course of years and in the reports made, did you ever realize this fact?

A. I did not observe this. The only thing that I observed was that he objected to this exaggerated optimism in which the Fuehrer habitually indulged, and that perhaps in his basic attitude he was pessimistic rather than optimistic.

Q. Was General Thomas dismissed from his position in the office of War Economy through Keitel's efforts?

A. No, at the time he retired from active service, General Thomas was under Minister Speer, but Minister Speer no longer cared to work with him and requested the Fuehrer that he should be dismissed from the armament office which Minister Speer had taken over. And that was done by the Field Marshal on the order of the Fuehrer.

DR. NELTE: I can therefore establish . . .

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Nelte, how is the evidence about General Thomas relevant to the case of Keitel - how is the question of whether General Thomas was acting against the supposed interests of Germany or not relevant to the cases of either Keitel or Jodl. The evidence of Gisevius was relevant to the case of the defendant Schacht. It seems to me - and I think, to the Tribunal - to be entirely irrelevant to the case of either the defendant whom you represent or the case of the defendant Jodl. What does it matter to us whether General Thomas was trying to overthrow Hitler or not?

DR. NELTE: The question which concerns the defendant Keitel is whether Field Marshal Keitel submitted and supported the reports handed in by Thomas. The witness Gisevius said here, referring to Thomas as a source of information, that these reports of Thomas were kept from Hitler. Therefore this evidence ....

THE PRESIDENT: We went into that yesterday, and now the defendant Jodl has said that the reports of Thomas were submitted to the Fuehrer. But what I was pointing out to you was that the question whether Thomas was making his reports honestly or not is a matter which is entirely irrelevant.

[Page 376]

DR. NELTE: Not as to the credibility of Gisevius' sources of information, in my opinion; but I will withdraw this question. However, in this connection I must ask one more question with regard to the other source of information, Canaris.

Q. Canaris was a regular and frequent guest in the Fuehrer's Headquarters and a guest of yours. What was the relationship of Field Marshal Keitel to his oldest office chief?

A. The relationship of Field Marshal Keitel with Canaris from the first day to the last was outstandingly friendly and good, and unfortunately, one of too much blind confidence.

Q. May I ask what the relationship was after the 20th of July?

A. I know that even after the 20th of July, Field Marshal Keitel did not believe the charges against Canaris, and that after the arrest of Canaris, he supported his family with money.

Q. What was the relationship of Canaris to Heydrich?

A. I mentioned that once before. Canaris always tried to maintain an especially good relationship with Himmler and Heydrich so that they would not distrust him.

Q. What can you say about the attitude of Field Marshal Keitel to Hitler's plan in October, 1939, the plan to attack in the West?

A. I know that Field Marshal Keitel was apparently strongly impressed by the attitude of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and the General Staff of the Army, and also raised a warning voice against this attack in the West. I know, although I did not experience it personally, but Schmundt told me about it later, that during this time he also had a controversy with the Fuehrer which led to his first request to resign. This is what I can report according to what Schmundt told me; I did not witness it myself. Nor did Field Marshal Keitel tell me about it personally then.

Q. In Document 447-PS, which the prosecution submitted-these are the guiding principles for special tasks issued with Directive No. 21 - is the now famous Paragraph 1-b, according to which, in the operational area of the Army, the Reichsfuehrer SS is given a special task, on behalf of the Fuehrer, in connection with the preparation of a political administration, resulting from the mortal struggle of two conflicting political systems. So much for the abridged quotation. I will not hand the document to you, since you are certainly well acquainted with it, and to make the matter brief, I will only ask you to tell the Tribunal how Field Marshal Keitel reacted to this order.

A. The demand of the Fuehrer to encroach with Himmler and the police upon the sovereignty of the Army in its operational area, led to days of bitter discussion with the Fuehrer. The same arguments had already taken place when Terboven was appointed in Norway. One need only read my entries in my Diary, Document 1780-PS. Of course I know today why the Fuehrer insisted on this point of view under all circumstances and why he forced the police, under Himmler, into the operational area. It was against all our rules. It was against all previous agreements with the police and with Himmler, but in the end, the Fuehrer put this measure through in spite of the strong resistance.

Q. The prosecution asserted here that in 1940, Field Marshal Keitel gave the order to kill General Weygand, at that time Chief of the General Staff' of the French Army. This statement is based principally on the testimony of the witness, General Lahousen. I have a few brief questions to put to you on this matter. Was Field Marshal Keitel competent to order the killing of a general?

A. No. Any death sentence at all had to be confirmed by the Fuehrer.

Q. Well, I naturally do not mean a death sentence ... in this connection.

A. Well. No one at all had the authority to order murder to be committed.

Q. I ask this because Lahousen's testimony made it appear as if this order had been given by Field Marshal Keitel to Admiral Canaris. If we assume that such an order was issued by Hitler, this would have been a highly political act considering the importance of Weygand.

A. Undoubtedly.

[Page 377]

Q. Would it not also have been a foolish act in terms of policy?

A. It would first of all have been a crime ....

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Nelte, this is all argument, and you are putting your questions in an entirely leading form. The real objection to it is that it is argumentative. Go on.


If such an order had been given, could it have remained unknown to you?

A. I cannot imagine that Field Marshal Keitel, charged with the ordering of the murder, would not have spoken about it to me.

Q. What exactly did you hear about the Weygand case?

A. I never heard a single word about the Weygand case. The only thing I heard about Weygand was when Himmler reported to the Fuehrer in my presence: "I have given Weygand a very nice villa in Baden. He is completely provided for there in such a way that he can be satisfied." That is the only thing I ever heard in which the name of Weygand figured.

Q. The witness Lahousen was also heard in the case of General Giraud. Did you also know anything of this case of Giraud which attracted much attention?

A. I heard a little more about the Giraud case. Shortly after the successful flight of Giraud, Field Marshal Keitel told me once in a conversation that he was having him watched by Canaris to prevent Giraud, as the Fuehrer always feared, going to North Africa and there directing the formation of the Colonial Army against us, so that he could be arrested if he should rejoin his family in the territory actually occupied. That is what he told me. Several months later he said to me again: "I have now withdrawn this assignment from Canaris because the Fuehrer has given it to Himmler. If two agencies are concerned with it, there will only be difficulties and differences." The third time I heard about the Giraud case was when Field Marshal Keitel told me that a deputy of Giraud - I believe it was about the end of 1943, or in the spring of 1944 - approached the counterintelligence and said that Giraud, who could not agree with De Gaulle in North Africa, requested to be told whether he might not return to France. I told Marshal Keitel then that we absolutely must agree to that immediately, because that was extremely favourable for us politically. That is the only thing I ever heard about the Giraud case. Nothing else.

Q. The day before yesterday you spoke about the talks in the Fuehrer's train in September, 1939, at which General Lahousen was also present. In this connection you said: "I have no objections to Lahousen's statement." But to avoid misunderstandings, I should like you to say whether you mean ... meant by that that all the testimony of Lahousen, which also referred to Giraud and Weygand, is credible and correct, or only the part regarding your presence in the Fuehrer's train?

A. Of course, I meant only those statements of Lahousen which he made about me. As for the other statements which were made here, I have my own opinion, but perhaps that is not appropriate here.

Q. Yesterday, in answer to a question of Dr. Stahmer, you spoke about the dispute on the occasion of the 80 RAF officers who escaped. In order to clarify this question, which weighs particularly heavily against Field Marshal Keitel, I should like to know the following: Did you hear that Keitel objected violently because the recaptured RAF officers were turned over to Himmler, that is, to the Gestapo?

A. When I stood at the curtain for those one or two minutes, I heard the Fuehrer say first of all: "That is unheard of. That is the tenth time that dozens of officer prisoners have escaped. These officers are an enormous danger. You don't realize" - meaning Keitel - "that in view of the six million foreign people who are prisoners and workers in Germany, they are the leaders who could organize an uprising. That is the result of this careless attitude of the commandants. These escaped Air Force officers are to be turned over to Himmler immediately."

[Page 378]

And then I heard Field Marshal Keitel answer: "My Fuehrer, some of them have already been put back into the camp. They are prisoners of war again. I cannot turn them over." And the Fuehrer said: "Very well, then they can stay there." That is what I heard with my own ears just before I was called to the telephone.

Q. Afterwards did you speak again with Field Marshal Keitel about this incident?

A. We drove back to Berchtesgaden together from the Berghof. Field Marshal Keitel was beside himself, for on the way up he had told me that he would not report the escape of these flyers to the Fuehrer. He hoped that on the next day he would have them all back. He was furious with Himmler, who had immediately reported the escape to the Fuehrer. I told him that if the Fuehrer, in view of the total situation in Germany, saw such a great danger in the escape of foreign officers, then England should be notified so that the order might be rescinded that all officers who were prisoners had to make an attempt to escape.

I must say openly that at this moment, neither of us had any thought that these recaptured flyers might be shot. For they had done nothing except escape from a camp, which German officers had also done dozens of tines. I imagined that he wanted to remove them from the disciplinary jurisdiction of the army, which certainly, in his opinion, would be far too lenient, and wanted to have them work in a concentration camp for Himmler for a time as punishment. That is what I imagined.

Q. In any case, in your presence, and in your hearing, Hitler's orders to Himmler to shoot these officers were not issued?

A. I know that with absolute certainty, for I know how I felt when I suddenly received the news that they had been shot.

Q. Now I should like to ask you a few brief concluding questions.

The Tribunal asked the defendant Keitel on the witness stand whether he had submitted written applications asking for his resignation. You were present. What can you tell the Tribunal about Keitel's efforts to resign from his position?

A. The first effort I mentioned a while ago must have been in the spring of 1940, because of the Western campaign. Schmundt told me about it. The second, about which I know personally, was in 1947, in November, when there was a heated controversy between the Fuehrer and Field Marshal Keitel, and the Fuehrer chose to use the expression "I am only dealing with blockheads."

THE PRESIDENT: We do not want the details. I mean, if he can tell us when Keitel attempted to resign ....

THE WITNESS: This second attempt was in the autumn of 1947. After the controversy, Field Marshal Keitel wrote out his request for his resignation. When I entered the room, his pistol lay before him on his desk, and I took it away from him.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Nelte, I have told you that the Tribunal does not want the details, and now we are being told details about the resignation, about the way in which it was made.

DR. NELTE: Can it be of no importance to the Tribunal to know how serious the matter was to the defendant Keitel that he even wanted to use his pistol?

THE PRESIDENT: He is going into details about the particular desk on which the document was put, or something of that sort. He made his efforts to resign in writing. That is of importance.


Q. . You can testify about this case that Field Marshal Keitel handed in his resignation in writing?

A. I myself saw him writing it, and I read the introduction.

Q. If things like this occurred frequently, as you have stated in the course of your testimony, and went as far as the pistol incident indicates, how did it happen that Keitel always remained?

[Page 379]

A. Because the Fuehrer would not part from him under any circumstances. He absolutely refused to let him go. I believe that also various attempts were made through other sources to get him away, but the Fuehrer did not let him go. In addition, of course, there was the attitude of both of us, that we were engaged in a war for existence, in which an officer, after all, could not stay at home and knit stockings. Over and over again it was the sense of duty that won the upper hand and caused us to bear all the hardships.

Q. You will understand that one is forced to accuse the Generals of loyalty for loyalty's sake, as duty can only go to the point where it does not injure human dignity. Have you ever thought of that?

A. I have thought a lot about it.

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