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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
2nd July to 15th July 1946

One Hundred and Seventy-Third Day: Monday, 8th July, 1946
(Part 11 of 12)

[Page 197]

DR. NELTE, Continued:

Hitler's sources of information were the responsible heads of each department; it was occasionally not clear whence Hitler obtained his information, as I have already stated. Gisevius did not know these conditions from his own experience; he himself was never near Keitel, who never saw or spoke to him, and whose name he did not know. If he gave his opinion here, he could only base it on information given him by Canaris, Thomas, and Oster.

General Jodl has been heard regarding this question. He certainly is the best witness in this matter, since he, as well as Keitel, lived in the direct proximity of Hitler and therefore could form his own judgement. He stated concerning this matter:

"Unfortunately, it was impossible to keep things from Hitler. Many channels of information led directly to Hitler."
Upon my interrogation, at the suggestion of the Tribunal, Jodl fully confirmed that what Keitel had testified was quite correct, and that what witness Gisevius stated in this respect was, in general, merely figures of speech.

The co-defendants Admirals Raeder and Donitz have confirmed that the allegation of the witness Gisevius that Keitel was able to keep the high commanders of the branches of the Wehrmacht away from Hitler, is false.

If, however, this was not the case, it follows that the way from the branches of the Wehrmacht to the Fuehrer was open at any time.

Through the hearing of witnesses it was also established that apart from Jodl, the Chief of the Supreme General Staff, Canaris in particular had direct access to Hitler.

Thus, the accusation of the witness Gisevius that Keitel had formed a ring round Hitler is proved false.

(2) The treatment of reports.

The witness Gisevius has declared that reports were submitted to Keitel by Canaris about atrocities in connection with deportations, extermination of Jews, concentration camps, the persecution of the Church, and the killing of insane persons, and that Keitel withheld all these reports from Hitler. The same is alleged about the reports of General Thomas, Chief of the Defence Economy Office, the purpose of which was to inform Hitler about the war potential of the enemy and make him listen to reason.

Concerning Admiral Canaris's reports, it must be said that as Chief of Espionage and Counter-Intelligence he naturally delivered regular reports which concerned the conduct of the war, including the conduct of economic warfare.

It is affirmed that reports were submitted on subjects which belonged neither to the jurisdiction of the Counter- Intelligence Office nor to that of the High Command of the Armed Forces (OKW). It has been proved that Hitler took strict care that every official confined himself to his own special field, and it was particularly forbidden for military offices to concern themselves with political affairs.

[Page 198]

Keitel has declared under oath that he knew nothing about the atrocities, and especially the extermination of the Jews and the concentration camps. This is in absolute contradiction to the assertion of the witness Gisevius that Canaris submitted reports to the defendant Keitel on the above-mentioned subjects.

One can assert that reports of any kind whatsoever were delivered to Keitel without fear of being contradicted, especially when one need not fear that these reports will be found. For if they were not delivered, they could not be found, because they did not exist. Now Gisevius has declared that he gathered documents from the beginning which contained incriminating material. Is it not remarkable, under these circumstances, that up to now none of these reports have been produced? If they had been available at the High Command of the Armed Forces (OKW), they would have been used in the accusation and as evidence. Can it be sufficient under these circumstances for a witness to declare that he knows from other persons that such reports were submitted to Keitel?

Canaris, because of his particular activity, which sent him constantly to foreign countries on personal, secret errands for Hitler, had access to Hitler at all times. He would thus have had an opportunity to go to Hitler immediately if he had had such serious misgivings of conscience as Gisevius has declared he had. Why did he not do so?

Now, Gisevius who in general has pronounced comprehensive and damning accusations, has, luckily for Keitel, at one point of his deposition made a positive declaration that permits of objective verification: I quote:

" ... I believe that I have still two examples to mention, which to me are particularly characteristic: first, the attempt was made by all possible means to induce Field-Marshal Keitel to warn Hitler against the invasion of Holland and Belgium, that is, to inform Hitler that the information submitted by Keitel about alleged violations of neutrality by the Dutch and Belgians was false. The Counter-Intelligence Office (Abwehr) was to prepare reports incriminating the Dutch and Belgians. Admiral Canaris at that time refused to sign these reports. I request that this be verified. He told Keitel repeatedly that this report which was ostensibly made by the High Command of the Armed Forces (OKW) was false. This is an instance where Herr Keitel did not transmit to Hitler what he was supposed to have transmitted .... "
I have submitted to Colonel-General Jodl, here on the witness stand, Document 790-PS which refers to the case of the White Paper concerning violations of neutrality by Holland and Belgium. Jodl testified, word for word, I quote:
" ... I understand the question and would like very briefly to state the facts, how it was possible - if disgust does not choke me. I was present when Canaris came to the Field-Marshal in the Reich Chancellery with these report notes and laid before him the draft of the Foreign Office's White Paper. Field-Marshal Keitel then looked it through, above all paying attention to the comments which Canaris had made at the request of the Foreign Office, namely, that the reports were perhaps still somewhat in need of improvement, that he should confirm the fact that a military operation against Holland and Belgium was absolutely necessary, and that, as is expressed here, a final really striking violation of neutrality was still lacking. Before Canaris had said a word, Field-Marshal Keitel threw the book on the table and said: 'I refuse to do this. Why should I take any responsibility at all for a political decision? In this White Paper appear word for word, true and correct, the very same reports that you, yourself, Canaris, brought to me.' To this Canaris said: 'I hold entirely the same point of view. It is, in my opinion too, entirely superfluous to have this document signed on the part of the Wehrmacht and the reports that we have here are altogether quite sufficient to prove the violations of neutrality which have taken place in Holland and Belgium.' And he advised Field-Marshal Keitel not to sign it at all. That is the way it happened. The Field-Marshal then took the paper with him and I do not know what happened subsequently ...."

[Page 199]

Keitel did not sign the White Paper. Therefore in the only verifiable case a clear proof is obtained of the incorrectness of Gisevius's testimony.

(3) According to the statement of the witness Gisevius, Keitel exerted a tremendous influence on the High Command of the Armed Forces (OKW) and the Army. These words, without any presentation of concrete facts, are only a phrase in the mouth of a man who had no contact whatsoever with Keitel. They are refuted by the statements of Reichsmarschall Goering, Admiral Donitz and Admiral Raeder. Jodl has defined this statement as merely a figure of speech.

In so far as the witness speaks of his tremendous influence on the OKW, it must appear questionable what the witness really means. Naturally, Keitel as a Chief of Staff had influence in the High Command of the Armed Forces, influence which resulted from his position which I have already discussed. His position in relation to his subordinates will be taken up later. The important thing, however, is whether Keitel had a decisive and culpable influence on what happened. That this was not the case has even been confirmed by Gisevius and also the fact that he had no decisive influence on the branches of the armed forces, it, has also been established by the results of the testimony.

(4) A particularly damaging charge against the defendant Keitel was "that instead of placing himself in front of his subordinate officers to protect them, he threatened to hand them over to the Gestapo."

In contradiction to this, it has been established that no office chief in the High Command of the Armed Forces was dismissed in the years up to 1944; furthermore, until 20th July, 1944, the day of the attempt on Hitler's life and the transfer of the judicial power in the home army to Himmler, no officer of the High Command of the Armed Forces was turned over to the police. Admiral Donitz has confirmed that the branches of the armed forces and the High Command of the Armed Forces were very scrupulous in maintaining the privileges of the armed forces in relation to the police.

The Court has also seen here how Colonel-General Jodl spoke about his relationship to the defendant Keitel. I think this remark has a special importance, not only because Keitel lived on companionable and friendly terms with his subordinate, Colonel-General Jodl, during their long years of co-operation.

As natural as that may appear, the less natural it is, if one reflects that Jodl in spite of his officially subordinate position, in reality became more and more Hitler's only strategic adviser. What this means, considering the preponderance of the operational tasks in the war, has been convincingly demonstrated here by Colonel- General Jodl.

If Keitel accepted this without jealousy, freely acknowledging the superiority of his subordinate Jodl in this domain, this proves that Keitel possessed a trait of character which refutes the information derived from obscure sources by the witness Gisevius.

The proven fact that Keitel lived on friendly and companionable terms with his subordinate Chief of Office, Canaris, also is incompatible with the contrary assertion of witness Gisevius.

In this connection it is necessary to refer to the fact not submitted by Keitel but testified to by Jodl without Keitel's consent, that the latter supported and helped Canaris's family after his arrest. I only refer to this to refute the perhaps most serious personal reproach, according to which Keitel did not behave decently towards his subordinates and abused his superior position - which was especially powerful in military life - even to the point of threatening violence.

In reality, according to Gisevius's evidence, Admiral Canaris not only played a double role officially, but also with respect to the defendant Keitel; while exploiting the friendship shown to him, he expressed a similar attitude, whereas among his own group he openly spoke in a spiteful way about Keitel.

Finally, in this connection reference must still be made to the evidence of the witnesses von Buttlar and Brandenfels (session of 7th June), from which it is clear

[Page 200]

that Keitel always treated the officers of the Armed Forces Operational Staff kindly.

The witness mentions a quarrel between himself and Lieutenant-Colonel von Ziervogel on the one hand and Himmler on the other, in which Keitel, to whom the incident was reported, immediately and energetically intervened in writing to protect his subordinates against Himmler. The affidavit of the Chief of Office in Canaris's office, Admiral Burkner, to which I refer, testifies in the same way to Keitel's kindly attitude towards his subordinates.

At any rate, it must be said in clarification that Keitel many times had occasion to speak energetically to his office and department chiefs.

I shall then continue by explaining that officers did not generally concern themselves with politics, and that only when the situation became worse did they make political information the subject of their argumentation. And I add that Keitel has, in fact, defined his attitude with words based on the assumption that the soldier in war must declare his faith and obedience and if Keitel ever heard anything about such matters, he would reprimand these officers.

I now continue at the bottom of Page 90:

Keitel did this with "words". That does not mean that this was mere camouflage which did not reflect his inner attitude; but it does mean that the way, perhaps often rough and harsh, in which the defendant Keitel spoke to his officers more than once led to an officer being punished or disciplined. Dr. Gisevius, however, perhaps wanted to suggest that Keitel had dealt with his subordinates in the High Command of the Armed Forces in a morally reprehensible way.

I now continue on Page 92 of my statement.

From an impartial estimation of the facts, verified by the evidence presented, it is shown that the accusations arising from the testimony of the witness Gisevius are not justified.

But the picture would not be complete if a light were not thrown on the personality of the witness Gisevius by his own evidence. This judgement is made up from two factors:

(1) The career and the position of the witness.

(2) The trustworthiness of his information.

On Page 92 of my text, I have stated in detail the functions Dr. Gisevius carried out. I have not emphasized anything which, from my point of view, might accuse him in any way for having given the evidence here which you all have heard. I have only impartially confirmed the following:
(a) He evaded the military service through falsified papers put at his disposal by Oster.

(b) He lived in Germany during the whole time from 1933 without restriction of liberty and remained in office up to 20th July, 1944.

(c) He was an official of the German Reich and was in its pay from the middle of 1937 to the beginning of 1939 with the exception of leave.

(d) He was Vice-Consul of the Reich in Switzerland from 1943 in the Consulate General at Zurich, placed there through Canaris as intelligence agent, and was naturally paid for it. At the same time he was in touch with the enemy's intelligence service.

(e) He had since 1933, when he worked in the Gestapo, exact knowledge of all the horrible happenings and the perception of what consequences could arise therefrom for the German people.

(f ) A special circumstance, which shows the witness Dr. Gisevius in his true light, is the advice, or the suggestion, which he gave to the experienced bank specialist, Dr. Schacht, that he should allow inflation to set in and thus get the control of matters into his own hands.

This suggestion leaves only two possibilities: A complete ignorance of the national economic importance and social effect of an inflation or a boundless unscrupulousness which completely disregards the fate of employees and workmen.

[Page 201]

An inflation brought about knowingly can be described only as a crime against the people. Schacht described it as a catastrophe. Schacht answered him, according to the record: "You want the catastrophe; I want to avoid it."

In order to judge the reliability of the statements by the witness Gisevius before this Tribunal, I must refer to the book submitted by the witness as evidence: To the Bitter End. This book is also a "statement" of the witness Gisevius.

To err is human, but when in the year 1945 - after the collapse of Germany - a book appears in which facts and occurrences are presented of historical and, for those personally involved, of moral and even criminal importance, the incorrectness of which has become obvious in the meantime, then the error is unforgivable and reference to false information is no longer an excuse.

Out of the many inaccuracies contained in this book I will only point out briefly the four which were established before this Tribunal through the cross-examination by Dr. Kubuschok, which refer to the defendant von Papen, and I beg you to take official cognizance of it and I now continue to Page 94 under 4. It could not be termed an unfounded reproach if such a statement were to be described as dubious and the author as unreliable.

It is difficult for me as a German defence counsel to deal calmly with this problem. The statement of Gisevius reveals the entire tragedy of the German people. It is for me a proof of the weakness and of the decadence of certain German circles who played with the idea of revolt and high treason, without any feeling for the distress of the people. They were a higher level of future ministers and generals without the backing of the large masses of our people, the working classes, as Reich Minister Severing has declared here very clearly.

Mr. Justice Jackson has used the word "resistance movement" in connection with the examination of the witness Gisevius. We have often heard during this trial about dauntless, brave men and women, who fought for their country and have suffered and died for it. They were our enemies. But no one who tries to judge these things impartially would deny them acknowledgement of their heroism. But where do you find this heroism in the group around Gisevius?

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