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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
16th July to 27th July 1946

One Hundred and Eighty-Second Day: Friday, 19th July, 1946
(Part 3 of 12)

[DR. EXNER continues.]

[Page 134]

He wavered for many months in his opinion about the intentions of the Soviet Union.

The relations of the armies of both sides on the demarcation line were from the very beginning full of incidents. The Soviets at once occupied the territories of the Baltic States and of Poland with disproportionately strong forces.

In May and June, 1940, when there were only 5 to 6 German covering divisions in the East, the Russian deployment against Bessarabia with at least 30 divisions, reported by Canaris, and the deployment into the Baltic territory caused great anxiety. On 30th June, 1940, apprehensions were again allayed, so that Jodl - as Document 1776-PS has shown - even thought that Russia could be counted on for assistance in the fight against the British Empire. But in July there were renewed worries. Russian influence was advancing energetically in the Balkans and the Baltic territories. Hitler began to fear Russian aggressive intentions, as he told Jodl on 29th July.

The sending off of several divisions from the West, where they were no longer required, actually had nothing to do with this. It occurred at the request of the Commander-in- Chief in the East who could not fulfil his security task with his weak forces.

Hitler's worry concerned above all the Roumanian oil-fields. He would have liked most to have eliminated this threat in 1940 by a surprise action. Jodl replied that, owing to the bad deployment possibilities in the German Eastern territories, this could not be considered before winter. Hitler demanded verification of this opinion and Jodl arranged for the necessary investigations in a conference with his staff in Reichenhall, which was obviously misunderstood by the Russian prosecution. On 2nd August, Hitler ordered improvements to be made in the deployment possibilities in the East - a measure which was no less indispensable for defence than for an offensive.

Towards the end of August - this is the order of 27th August - 10 infantry divisions and 2 Panzer divisions were brought into the Government General in case a Blitz action should become necessary for the defence of the Roumanian oilfields. The German troops, now totalling 25 divisions, were certainly intended to appear stronger than they really were, so that an action should actually be unnecessary. This is the sense of Jodl's order for counter-espionage (PS-1229). Had there been offensive intentions then, there would rather have been an attempt to make one's own forces appear smaller than they were.

At the same time Hitler appears to have given the Army General Staff orders - without Jodl knowing anything about it - to prepare an operational plan against Russia for any eventuality. In any case, the Army General Staff worked on operational plans of this kind from the autumn of 1940 onward (General Paulus).

Unfavourable information then accumulated after the Vienna award on 30th August, 1940. If Jodl was to believe his utterances, Hitler was becoming convinced that the Soviet Union had firmly resolved to annihilate Germany in a surprise attack while she was engaged against England. The leaders of the Red Army had, according to a report of 18th September, declared a German-Russian war to be inevitable (Doc. C-170). In addition, reports came in of feverish Russian preparations along the demarcation line. Hitler counted on a Russian attack in the summer of 1941 or winter of 1941-42. He thus decided, should the discussions with Molotov not clear up the situation favourably, to take preventive steps. For then the only chance for Germany lay in offensive defence. For this eventuality, preparatory measures were ordered by Hitler on 12th November, 1940 (444- PS).

The failure of the discussions with Molotov decided the question. On 18th December, 1940, Hitler ordered the military preparations. Should the coming months clear up the situation, all the better. But it was necessary to be prepared in order to deliver the blow in the spring of 1941 at the latest. This was presumably the latest possible moment, but also the earliest, since more than four months were required for the deployment.

[Page 135]

Jodl, as an expert, emphatically pointed out to Hitler the enormous military risk, the undertaking of which could be decided upon only if all political possibilities of averting the Russian attack were really exhausted. Jodl became convinced at that time that Hitler actually had exploited every possibility.

The situation grew worse. According to the reports which were received by the Army General Staff, at the beginning of February, 1941, 150 Russian divisions, i.e., two-thirds of the total Russian strength known to us, had deployed opposite Germany. But only the first stage of the German deployment had begun.

The Soviet Government's telegram of friendship to the participants in the Belgrade Putsch on 27th March, 1941, destroyed Hitler's last hope. He decided upon an attack, which, however, had to be postponed for more than a month owing to the Balkan war.

The deployment was undertaken in such a manner that the fast German units, without which the attack could not be conducted at all, were brought to the front only in the last two weeks, i.e., after 10th June.

Real preventive war is one of the indispensable means of self-preservation, and was indisputably permitted according to the Kellogg-Briand Pact. The "Right of Self-Defence" was understood thus by all the signatory States.

If the situation was wrongly conceived, the German military leaders are not to be blamed for their error. They had reliable reports on Russian preparations which could only make sense if they were preparations for war.

The reports were later confirmed. For when the German attack met the Russian forces, the leadership of the German front got the impression of running into a gigantic deployment against Germany. General Winter developed this here in detail in addition to Jodl's statements, particularly with regard to the enormous number of new airports near the line of demarcation, and he drew particular attention to the fact that the Russian staffs were provided with maps of German territories. Field-Marshal von Rundstedt also confirmed this as witness before the Commission. This will come before the Tribunal during the further course of the trial.

Jodl firmly believes that Hitler would never have waged war against Russia unless he had been absolutely convinced that no other way lay open for him at all. Jodl was aware that Hitler knew the danger of a two-front war fully and would risk the victory over England - which he thought was no longer in doubt - only in an inescapable emergency.

Jodl only did his job as an officer of the General Staff. He was convinced, and still is today, that we were waging a genuine preventive war.

I come now to Point 10 of the Trial Brief concerning the war against the United States. That Jodl had no desire to increase the number of our enemies by a world Power is obvious, and is also shown by documents. Now what is the position with regard to the responsibility for these campaigns? A declaration of war is a decision in the field of foreign politics, the most important one in the whole of this field.

It depends on the constitutional structure of the concrete State as to who is responsible for this decision - politically, criminally and morally; it depends on the way the formation of a decision in the field of foreign politics takes place in this State according to its constitution. Prof. Dr. Jahrreiss has spoken about this in the Fuehrer State it is exclusively the Fuehrer who has to make this decision. Anyone who advises him about this cannot be responsible, for if what the Fuehrer orders is legally right, he who influences this order cannot be acting illegally.

The Charter obviously represents the opinion that those who in any way participate in the Fuehrer's decision or influence it are also co-responsible. If we take this legal conception as authoritative the question of responsibility crystallises into a problem of competence.

In every community the tasks of its organs must be limited, there must be rulings on competence laying down what each official is called upon to do and not to do.

[Page 136]

Thus in all States the relations between the military and the civil administration are naturally regulated, as also within the military and within the civil administration the tasks and the relations between their thousands of offices are regulated. If things were otherwise chaos would reign.

Particularly in war time the problem of competence in the relations between the political and, military leadership is important. For the military, being the most important instrument of policy, as such may easily try to become master and endeavour to interfere in politics. It was German tradition to avoid this; the Bismarck Reich took great pains to keep the officers away from politics; they had no right to vote, were not allowed to go to political meetings and in fact any statements on politics made by an officer were looked upon askance. For it could in some way be looked upon as taking sides, which was strictly prohibited. The military were to be politically blind, completely neutral and knowing only one point of view, which was that of legitimacy, i.e. subordination to the legitimate ruler.

Thus in the years 1866 and 1870, when there was danger of war, it was not Moltke but Bismarck who advised the king as to the political decision. This changed during the last years of the First World War. General Ludendorff became the strongest man in the Reich owing to the force of his personality and the weakness of his political opponents. People often talk of Prussian militarism. For the time when the soldier seized political power this was justified. The Weimar State got rid of this completely. The non-political character of the armed forces was stressed very emphatically and the military was again limited to its particular field. This went so far that a civilian was made Minister for War, who had to represent the armed forces politically in the Reichstag. For a considerable period it was a Liberal- Democratic minister, who was meticulously careful to avoid all political influence by the generals.

When creating the Wehrmacht, Adolf Hitler maintained this sharp distinction between politics and the military, indeed he even stressed it in a certain sense. He, who wished to make the whole people politically minded, wanted a non- political Wehrmacht. The soldier was deprived of political rights; he was not allowed to vote or to belong to any party, not even the NSDAP, as long as the old law on military service was in force. In keeping with that, he also kept his generals and highest military advisers away from any part in political affairs. He also remained consistent towards his own Party. When, after Fritsch had gone, a new Commander-in-Chief of the Army was to be appointed, it would have been easy enough to have chosen Reichenau, who had National Socialist leanings, but he appointed von Brauchitsch. He did not want any political generals, not even National Socialist ones. His point of view was that he was the Fuehrer and he the politician; the generals had to mind their own affairs; they knew nothing about politics. He did not even tolerate advice when it concerned politics. The generals did, in fact, repeatedly venture to express doubts as to his political plans, but were obliged here to limit themselves strictly to purely military points of view. This sharp division of political and military spheres of competence is, for that matter, not characteristically German. It applies also, if I see rightly, to the Anglo- Saxon democracies, and indeed to a particularly strong degree.

At any rate it was so under Hitler: he made political decisions, and it was only on their military execution that the generals had any influence. It was their task to make the military preparations necessary for all political eventualities. But it was Hitler who pressed the button to set the machine in motion. The "whether" and "when" were decided by the Fuehrer. It was not for them to weigh the opportuneness, the political possibility or the legal permissibility.

Psychologically this attitude of the Fuehrer became still more pronounced owing to the hardly comprehensible mistrust he felt towards his generals. A remarkable phenomenon - anyone who disregards it can never come to understand the atmosphere which reigned in the Fuehrer's headquarters. It was a mistrust - as he

[Page 137]

thought - of the reactionary attitude of the officer corps. He never forgot that the Reichswehr had fired at National Socialists in 1923. It was, moreover, the natural mistrust by the military dilettante of the military expert, and also probably the mistrust by the political expert of the political dilettantes in officers' uniform. This mistrust of the political outlook of his military entourage was moreover by no means entirely unfounded. For the generals had wanted to put a brake on his rearmament plans, to hold him back from the occupation of the Rhineland, and had expressed objections to his march into Austria, and to his occupation of the Sudetenland. And yet all these actions had succeeded smoothly and without bloodshed. The generals felt like gamblers when carrying out the plans, but Hitler was sure of his game. Is it to be wondered at that their political judgement did not carry too much weight with him, and is it to be wondered at that, on the other hand, the apparent infallibility of his political judgement met with more and more recognition?

Thus Hitler tolerated no interference with his political plans and the result of it, as has been drastically represented to us here, was that, had a general raised objections to Hitler's political decisions, he would not actually have been shot, but his sanity would have been doubted.

To receive advice was not the concern of this dominant man. Thus, at the beginning of a military undertaking the chances of the plan were hardly ever considered in general discussions. None of the important decisions since 1938 came as the result of advice. On the contrary, the decision often came as a total surprise to the military command. Thus it was, for instance, with the march into Austria, of which Jodl learned two days before it happened, or in the case of the attack on Yugoslavia, which was suddenly decided upon by Hitler and carried out without any preparations within a few days. The alleged "discussions" at the Fuehrer's headquarters, the course of which the witness Field-Marshal Milch described so clearly, were nothing else but the "issuing of orders".

Within the Wehrmacht too, of course, the spheres of competence of the individual departments were sharply divided, and the method which Hitler used in order to make these divisions as insurmountable as possible is of interest. This was achieved by the method of secrecy. Enough has been said about this, particularly about the so-called "Blinkers Order", which forbade anybody to get an insight into anybody else's work. It thus happened that each department was isolated and strictly limited to its own tasks. Obviously what Hitler desired to achieve by this system was that he should retain the reins in his hands as the only informed person.

Indeed, even more: he strengthened this system still more by only too often playing off one against the other, individual personalities, groups and departments, to prevent any conspiracy amongst them.

Mr. President, I have concluded my paragraph.

THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn now.

(A short recess was taken.)

DR. EXNER: These methods of isolationism which I mentioned before are interesting because they often inevitably came into conflict with one of the basic ideas of National Socialism - the Fuehrer principle - but they were carried through in spite of this, for instance, when the competence of two departments covered the same territory, such as perhaps the competence of a military commander and of Himmler in the same occupied territory. What was ordered by one did not concern the other, even though the carrying out of the order might encroach upon the arrangement for which the other was responsible. Thus the military commander was in no way the master in his territory. Things were the same in the civil administration too: there was the duplication of the Landrat (prefect) as a State functionary and the Kreisleiter (district leader) as a Party functionary, of the Reich Governor (Statthalter) and the Gauleiter.

[Page 138]

Everywhere there was a dualism of powers and therefore a dissipation of power. There was a method in this; it prevented lower organs becoming too strong and secured the power of the supreme leadership. It may be said epigrammatically that the Fuehrer principle was realised only in the Fuehrer.

What then was the position of Jodl's sphere of competence within all this machinery?

He was the Chief of the Operational Staff of the Armed Forces, which was a department of the OKW coming under Keitel. Jodl's main task was, as the name of the department implies, to assist the Supreme Commander in the operational leadership of the armed forces. He was the Fuehrer's adviser on all operational questions - in a certain sense the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces. The task of this Chief of the General Staff in all countries in which this arrangement is known is not that of giving orders but of advising, assisting and carrying out. From this alone it has come about that Jodl's position has frequently been misunderstood during the course of this trial.

1. He was not Keitel's Chief of Staff, but the chief of the most important department of the OKW, though he had nothing to do with the other departments and sections of the OKW.

Here I have to make an interpolation which deviates from my manuscript.

He was also not Keitel's representative. Keitel in Berlin was represented by the senior departmental chief, and that was Admiral Canaris. At the Fuehrer's headquarters there was only the Operational Staff of the Armed Forces for which Jodl reported directly to the Fuehrer. He had nothing to do with the other sections of the OKW.

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