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 12 of 12)

[Page 201]

DR. NELTE, Continued:

If one has read his book To the Bitter End and has heard him here, one looks in vain for a cheerfully self-sacrificing man. Even the late deed of a Stauffenberg lacks heroism, because it lacked the resolution of self-sacrifice. Gisevius up to 1938 - when there might still have been time to succeed in holding back the wheel of fate - always speaks about negotiations; conferences; but all these men wished the others, that is the generals, to negotiate. If one considers the knowledge of affairs which Gisevius had as a member of the Gestapo, and all his friends had; if one takes into account the realization of the great danger hovering over the people, then the decision to take action should not have been in doubt for an instant for patriotic men, as the members of the group claimed themselves to be. But what did they do? When the leaders of the army hesitated or refused, they did not think of taking action themselves, but turned to the foreign countries.

I shall pass on to Page 96.

I should not like to leave any doubt that the fact of the conspiracy in itself is of no importance in the question of credibility to be discussed here. Whoever is a conspirator out of pure motives, who, in the realization of the danger which threatens his country, risks his life, is not only clean, but also deserves the gratitude of the fatherland.

If Gisevius and his friends, who owing to their positions were informed about everything - which most Germans only learned of, in all its horror, through this trial - had served their country in unselfish sacrifice, then perhaps we and the whole world would have been spared much distress and suffering.

Admiral Donitz, who knew Admiral Canaris, the source of information, well, said:

"During the time that he was in the Navy, Admiral Canaris was an officer in whom little trust was placed. He was altogether different from us. We said that he had seven sides to his character."

[Page 202]

But gentlemen, what does Dr. Gisevius say about Canaris on Page 319 of the book To the Bitter End?
"The successor was Canaris, at that time captain in the Navy, quite clever and more cunning than Himmler and Heydrich put together."
On the subsequent pages I have analysed those personalities who have been quoted by Gisevius as being the chief sources of information. I do not wish to go into this in any more detail. We are concerned here with the persons Canaris, Nebe, and Thomas.

As regards Pages 96 to 102, I shall make the following brief summary. With reference to Canaris, I only want to say that he was living in the closest touch and was very friendly with Himmler, Heydrich and the Gestapo although he was supposed to be their sworn enemy. Thomas, who was also allegedly a member of the group from the beginning, was an excellent General Staff officer, and he was an exemplary organiser and untiring worker in the Army Economic Staff under Keitel and later in the Army Economic Armament Staff in the High Command of the Army; you know his writings, 2353- PS. This man was the spirit and the driving power of rearmament, which he as well as Keitel and others considered necessary to the extent which he energetically pursued. But he is also the same man who organized the Barbarossa- Oldenburg Plan and who later, under the Four-Year Plan, became the head of the economic staff of the Plan Oldenburg. The results of that plan need not be explained here by me.

It was General Thomas who, according to very convincing outward appearances, used all his powers for the economic direction of the war, and who after leaving Speer's division was not dismissed but was assigned by Keitel to work with the records office so that he could write the book which forms the main point of the Indictment with regard to rearmament. 2353-PS.

If what Gisevius has said about Thomas is true, then since 1933 he played a double game, and was an opportunist and not a man who can be expected to give impartial information. But it is worst of all with friend Nebe. I draw your attention to Page 103.

The witness Gisevius has described Nebe as one of his most intimate friends who held the same views as he did.

According to the statements of Dr. Gisevius, Nebe had been his friend since 1933 and was thoroughly familiar with the views of the witness. He remained in the RSHA - an organization discussed from many angles here - until 20th July, 1944 and in the year 1944 he was in charge of the headquarters of the Special Service (Sonderdienst) for the prevention of the escape of prisoners of war. This is shown by Document USSR 413, submitted by the prosecution.

To describe this witness - from whom Dr. Gisevius after leaving the Gestapo claims to have received important information continuously - it should be pointed out that from 1933 to 1944 Nebe served in the RSHA, evidently to the satisfaction of his superiors Himmler, Heydrich and Kaltenbrunner, otherwise he would not have stayed in office so long and would not have been promoted to the rank of Police General and SS Gruppenfuehrer.

So whilst on the one hand, for eleven years, he carried out the duties of his office with the well-known methods of the Gestapo - which was under Himmler - and later the Kripo, Dr. Gisevius refers to him as his friend and staunch political associate. Now, it might be assumed, perhaps, that in the position he held he was able to prevent disaster, possibly even to hold up execution of orders. Document USSR 413, just referred to, shows that Nebe did not do this. In the deposition by Wielen - forming part of the document - the horrible case of the fifty escaped R.A.F. officers, in which General Nebe, the friend of Dr. Gisevius, was involved, is dealt with.

Wielen states as follows in this connection:

"One day during that time I received, about noon, an order by telegraph from General Nebe to proceed to Berlin immediately, to be entrusted with a confidential order. Arriving in Berlin on the evening of that day, I reported

[Page 203]

to General Nebe at his office, Werderscher Markt 5 to 7. I gave him a condensed report on the position of the matter at that time. He then showed me a teletype order, signed by Kaltenbrunner, to the effect that, in conformity with the Fuehrer's explicit and personal order, more than half of the officers who had escaped from Sagan were to be shot when recaptured. General Nebe himself seemed shocked at this order. He was deeply worried. I heard later that he did not go to bed that night but spent the night on his sofa in his office. I myself was likewise shocked at this frightful step which was to be taken, and refused to carry it out. I said it violated laws of war and undoubtedly was bound to result in reprisal measures against those of our own officers who were in English camps as prisoners of war, and that I flatly refused to take any responsibility in the matter. General Nebe declared that in this instance I would not be in any way responsible as the State Police was to act entirely independently and that, after all, orders given by the Fuehrer had to be executed without protest."
Any comment seems superfluous. This is significant of Nebe's personality. The trustworthiness of a person is an inseparable part of his entire personality. Information obtained from a person who for more than a decade was able to play such an abominable double role can lay no claim to credibility.

I believe that this analysis of the statements of the witness Dr. Gisevius and of the men belonging to the Gisevius group gives me the right to say that the charges made against the defendant Keitel by the witness can be no suitable foundation for the argument of the prosecution, namely, that the defendant Keitel:

(1) formed a circle around Hitler;

(2) that his influence on the OKW and the armed forces was tremendous;

(3) that he did not submit reports on atrocities and crimes to Hitler;

(4) that he did not protect his subordinates, but even threatened them with the Gestapo.

On the other hand it is true that the real position of Keitel, however important it may have seemed to outsiders, was neither decisive nor of causal importance, either for the total sum of events or for the basic and important decisions of Hitler. Justice can be done to the actual importance of this activity if one says that it was tremendous, because physically and spiritually it went beyond human strength; because it placed the defendant perpetually in a dilemma between his military point of view and the unbending will of Hitler, to whom he was faithfully, far too faithfully, devoted. Physically because it was almost insoluble for it had no sharply defined, clear outline but consisted of the perpetual balancing of essential differences; the adjustment of personal sensitiveness; the "self-protection" against encroachments of the individual offices among themselves or on the OKW; clever manoeuvring when Hitler, in explosive reaction to disagreeable news, wished to issue extravagant orders, the settlement of all disagreeable matters which Hitler did not wish to attend to himself.

It was a tremendously thankless task, which found only very slight compensation in the brilliant position in the immediate proximity to the head of the State, in the decorative participation in all events of what is called world history, in the representative application of the duties of a "Field-Marshal."

Was Keitel a political general? The defendant Keitel is accused of having taken part in, helped and promoted the planning and preparing of and inciting to aggressive wars and in so doing of violating international treaties and assurances.

The defendant has testified in the witness box in this connection.

In so far as knowledge or having cognizance of the intention to attack is concerned, I shall come back to the subject in connection with another point. The facts as such are set forth by the defendant Keitel.

As far as the initiating and carrying out of strategic measures are concerned, the defence counsel for General Jodl will deal with these questions.

I would like to mention a single event which gained historical importance, and

[Page 204]

a personal importance for the defendant Keitel, during this trial: the conversation between Hitler and von Schuschnigg at the Obersalzberg on 12th February, 1938. This was the sheet-lightning that might have revealed the coming of the storm to clear-sighted people. Keitel, chief of the German High Command for only a week, so far without any contact with high political events, did not perceive these signs of approaching stormy weather. Hitler, who after the sudden change of 4th February, 1938, had immediately gone to the Obersalzberg, called Keitel to him for the first time, without giving any explanation. Keitel came, without knowing what Hitler wanted or what was to happen at Obersalzberg. Only in the course of the day did he realize that his presence could have any connection with the presence of Schuschnigg and the discussion of the Austrian question. He did not participate in any of the conversations, especially with Schuschnigg or Dr. Schmidt, as is shown by the evidence. He however realised that his presence together with that of General von Reichenau and Sperrle was to have some significance for the conversations with Schuschnigg; for as Hitler did not speak to him at all about military matters, he was forced to the conclusion that the representatives of the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht, the Army and the Air Force had been invited in order that their presence should indicate the power of the Wehrmacht to Schuschnigg.

The situation therefore was that Hitler had the intention of using the representatives of the Wehrmacht as a means of pressure for the realization of his political plans and that the latter had no knowledge of this beforehand, but realised this intention only later on.

This meeting at the Obersalzberg is now being used by the prosecution as a basis for the accusation that Keitel was a political general.

The prosecution introduced the conversations of Hitler with Hacha and Tiso, at which the defendant Keitel was also present, as a further symptomatic event to bear out this charge.

This evidence does not appear convincing if it is intended to prove that Keitel also actively participated in the political conversations.

When the defendant Keitel took part in State visits and conversations with foreign statesmen, he did not participate in the conversations, but he was present.

Hitler liked to have Keitel in his entourage as representative of the Wehrmacht. Thus Keitel was also present at Godesberg when Prime Minister Chamberlain went there, also at Munich on 30th September, 1938, and at the visit of Molotov in November, 1940. He was also present at the meetings of Hitler with Marshal Petain, General Franco, King Boris, Regent von Horthy and Mussolini.

This function of Keitel is however insufficient to make the defendant a general who must have taken a decisive part in the shaping of political events.

How little this assertion is justified is seen from the fact, testified to by Admiral Burckner, that Keitel was extremely careful not to intrude in the affairs of the Foreign Office and gave his officers the order not to engage in matters referring to foreign policy.

In internal politics the exclusion of the chief of the OKW resulted from the removal of the Reich Minister for War, already dealt with, and the thereby aimed at and achieved elimination of the political representation of the Wehrmacht in the Cabinet.

It is obvious, and has also already been pointed out, that the position of the defendant Keitel as Chief of the OKW involved, and in time of war to an increased extent, his coming into some kind of contact with all the Ministries and highest offices, and dealing with them as the representative of the OKW, that is to say, of Hitler.

That did not make Keitel a politician, i.e., a man who took part in an advisory capacity in the determination of the Government's aims and had an influence on them.

In his high office he naturally worked to carry out these aims and bears a responsibility to that extent, but not as a political general.

[Page 205]

Mr. President, I am now beginning a long chapter. Do you want me to start with it?

THE PRESIDENT: Go on reading then until five o'clock.

DR. NELTE: The idea of war against Russia was rejected by Keitel. This found visible expression in the memorandum which Field-Marshal Keitel drew up, discussed with von Ribbentrop, and handed over to Hitler. According to his, sworn statements the reasons were as follows:

(a) military considerations;

(b) the non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, dated 23rd August, 1939.

In spite of being personally presented the memorandum had no success. Hitler, as usual in questions of strategic nature, rejected Keitel's point of view as, unconvincing.

In this connection, and owing to Hitler's curt refusal, Keitel asked for release and transfer to the front. This is the case which Reich Marshal Goering confirmed in his interrogation. Hitler refused, sharply criticising the habit of generals: asking to be released or tendering their resignation whenever he (Hitler) did not approve their opinions or suggestions.

That was decisive for Keitel: he remained at his post, did his duty, and fulfilled his obligations in carrying out the tasks assigned to him within the framework of further preparations. Here, too, in keeping with his conception of duty, Keitel did not make known to the outside world his basically negative attitude towards the war with Russia, after Hitler had made his decision.

This case is in several respects typical of Keitel and of the way he is judged by others. We know - and it has been proved by the evidence - that other generals were also opposed to war with the Soviet Union. Their objections, too, were dispersed or rejected by Hitler. They, too, accepted the decision of the Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht, continued to do their duty and carried out the orders given to them.

But there was one basic difference: these other generals went back to their headquarters after the discussion. There, in their own circle of officers, they spoke about the decision made by Hitler. Of course, it was disputed, but they acted in accordance with it.

Since Field-Marshal Keitel, due to his military conception, as already depicted, did not make known to the generals, when they appeared in the Fuehrer headquarters for discussions, what his own attitude was which also was at variance, the impression was bound to be created that Field- Marshal Keitel completely agreed with Hitler and did not share the scruples of the Wehrmacht branches.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Nelte, I think you might stop there.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 9th July, 1946, at 1000 hours.)

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