The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/01/05

Q. You shared it. Very well. I shall now present you with
the original copy of Canaris's report, containing your

Mr. President, I shall now present the document containing
his decision to the defendant. This decision was not read
into the record in Court, and I shall
also present the text of his final decision to the Tribunal.

THE PRESIDENT: Have you the original?

GENERAL RUDENKO: Yes, I gave it to the defendant.


Q. And now, defendant Keitel, will you please follow?

A. I know the document with the marginal notes.

Q. Listen to me and follow the text of the decision. This is
Canaris's document, which you consider a just one. The
following are the contents of your decision:

  "These objections arise from the military conception of
  chivalrous warfare. We are dealing here with the
  destruction of a world philosophy and, therefore, I
  approve such measures and I sanction them. Signed:

                                                   [Page 74]

Is this your resolution?

A. Yes, I wrote that after it had been submitted to the
Fuehrer for decision. I wrote it then.

Q. It is not written there that the Fuehrer said so; it is
said "I sanction them" - meaning Keitel.

A. And I state this on oath, and I said it even before I
read it.

Q. This means that you acknowledge the decision. I will now
draw your attention to another document. I draw your
attention to Page 2 of this document. Please observe that
the text of Canaris's report mentions the following:

  "The separation of civilian personnel and prisoners of
  war who are politically undesirable and decisions to be
  made in regard to their fate are to be effected by
  operations squads (Einsatzkommando) belonging to the
  Security Police and the S.D., in accordance with
  directives not known to the Wehrmacht establishments and
  execution of which cannot be checked by the latter."

Canaris writes this. Your decision, defendant Keitel, is
written in the margin, and reads, "Highly expedient." Is
that correct?

A. Please repeat the last question. The last words I heard
were "Canaris writes."

Q. Yes, and I am now mentioning the fact that your decision
"Highly expedient" appears in the margin, opposite that
paragraph, and written by your own hand. Have you found this

A. Yes. The word "expedient" refers to the fact that the
army agencies had nothing to do with these Einsatzkommandos
and knew nothing about them. It states that they are not
known to the Wehrmacht.

Q. And did you consider it highly expedient that the
Security Police and the S.D. should wreak vengeance on
civilians and prisoners of war?

A. No, I thought it expedient that the activities of these
commandos should be unknown to the Armed Forces. That is
what I meant. That appears here and I underlined "unknown."

Q. I am asking you, defendant Keitel, known as a Field
Marshal and one who, before this Tribunal, has repeatedly
referred to yourself as a soldier, whether you, in your own
bloodthirsty decision of September, 1941, confirmed and
sanctioned the murder of the unarmed soldiers whom you had
captured? Is that right?

A. I signed both decrees and I, therefore, bear the
responsibility within the sphere of my office; I assume the

Q. That is quite clear. In this connection I would like to
ask you - since you have repeatedly mentioned it before the
Tribunal - about the duty of the soldier.

I want to ask you: Is it in accordance with the concept of a
"soldier's duty" and the "honour of an officer" to
promulgate such orders for reprisals on prisoners of war and
on peaceful citizens?

A. Yes, as far as the reprisals during August and September
are concerned, in view of what happened to German prisoners
of war whom we found on the field of battle, and in Lemberg
(Lvov) where we found hundreds of them murdered.

Q. Defendant Keitel, do you again wish to follow the path to
which you resorted once before, and revive the question of
the alleged butchery of German prisoners of war? You and I
agreed yesterday that as far back as May, 1941, prior to the
beginning of the war, you had signed a directive on the
shooting of political and military workers in the Red Army.

A. Yes, I also signed the orders before the war but they did
not contain the word "murder."

Q. I am not going to argue with you since this means arguing
against documents; and documents speak for themselves.

I have a few brief questions to ask you: You informed the
Tribunal that the generals of the German Army were only
blindly carrying out Hitler's orders.

A. I have stated that I do not know if any generals raised
objections or who

                                                   [Page 75]
they were, and I said that it did not happen in my presence
when Hitler proclaimed the principles of an ideological war
and ordered them to be put into practice.Q. And do you know
that the generals, on their own initiative, promulgated
orders for atrocities and the violation of the laws and
customs of war, and that these orders were approved by
Hitler? Do you know such facts?

A. I know that, as regards jurisdiction, of the March decree
and other measures. For example, high authorities in the
Army issued orders altering, modifying and even cancelling
them in part, because they discussed it with me.

Q. You do not understand me. I did not ask about
modifications, but if the generals, on their own initiative,
ever promulgated orders inciting to the violation of the
laws and customs of war ...

A. I do not know of that. I do not know.

Q. You do not know?

A. I do not know.

Q. I shall merely refer to ...

A. I do not know what order you are referring to, General.
At the moment I cannot say that I know that.

Q. I shall refer to one order only, namely that of General
Field Marshal Reichenau, governing the conduct of troops in
the East. This document, Mr. President, was presented by the
Soviet prosecution as Exhibit USSR 13, and I shall read into
the record one quotation from this order, governing the
conduct of troops in the East: "Feeding the inhabitants and
prisoners of war is mistaken kindness."

A. I know the order. It was shown to me during a preliminary

Q. This order, issued on Reichenau's initiative and approved
by Hitler, was distributed, as a model order, among all the
army commanders.

A. I did not know that. I heard about it here for the first
time. To the best of my belief I never saw the order.

Q. Of course, you would, quite obviously, consider such
orders as entirely insignificant. After all, could the fate
of Soviet prisoners of war and of the civilian population be
of any possible interest to the Chief of the O.K.W., since
their lives were of no value whatsoever.

A. I had no contact with the commanders at the front and had
no official connection with them. The Supreme Commander of
the Army was the only one who had.

Q. When testifying before the Tribunal you very often
referred, as did your accomplices - the defendants Goering
and Ribbentrop - to the Treaty of Versailles, and I am
asking you, were Vienna, Prague, Belgrade and the Crimea the
property of Germany before the Treaty of Versailles?

A. No.

Q. You stated here that in 1944, after the law had been
amended, you received an offer to join the Nazi Party. You
accepted this offer, presented your personal credentials to
the Leadership of the Party, and paid your membership fees.
Tell us, did your acceptance to join the membership of the
Nazi Party signify that you were in agreement with the
programme, objectives and methods of the Party?

A. As I had already been in possession of the Gold Party
Badge for three or four years, I thought that this request
for my personal particulars was only a formal registration;
and I paid the required Party membership subscription. I did
both these things and have admitted doing them.

Q. In other words, before this formal offer was ever made,
you already, defacto, considered yourself a member of the
Nazi Party?

A. I have always thought of myself as a soldier; not as a
political soldier or politician.

Q. Should we not conclude, after all that has been said
here, that you were a "Hitler" General, not because duty
called you but on account of your own convictions?

                                                   [Page 76]

A. I have stated here that I was a true and obedient soldier
of my Fuehrer. I do not think that there are generals in
Russia who do not give Marshal Stalin implicit
obedience.GENERAL RUDENKO: I have no further questions.


Q. Defendant, do you remember on the 2nd October, 1945,
writing a letter to Colonel Amen, explaining your position?
It was after your interrogations, and in your own time you
wrote a letter explaining your point of view. Do you
remember that?

A. Yes, I think I did write a letter, but I no longer
remember the contents. It referred to the interrogations,

Q. Yes.

A. And I think it contained a request that I be given a
further opportunity of thinking things over, as the
questions put to me took me by surprise and I was often
unable to remember at the moment.

Q. I want to remind you of one passage and ask you whether
it correctly expresses your view:

  "In carrying out these thankless and difficult tasks, I
  had to fulfil my duty under the hardest exigencies of
  war, often acting against the inner voice of my
  conscience and against my own convictions. The fulfilment
  of urgent tasks assigned by Hitler, to whom I was
  directly responsible, demanded complete self-abnegation."

A. Yes.

Q. Well, now, I just want you to tell the Tribunal what
were, in your view, the worst matters in which you often
acted against the inner voice of your conscience?

A. I found myself in such a situation quite frequently, but
the decisive questions which conflicted most violently with
my conscience and my convictions were those which were
contrary to the training which I had undergone during my
thirty-seven years as an officer in the German Army. That
was a blow at my most intimate personal principles.

Q. Can you tell the Tribunal the three worst things you had
to do which were against the inner voice of your conscience?
What do you pick out as the three worst things you had to

A. Perhaps, to start with the last, the orders given for the
conduct of the war in the East, in so far as they were
contrary to the acknowledged usage of war; then something
which particularly concerns the British Delegation, the
question of the fifty R.A.F. officers - the question which I
particularly disliked, that of the "terror flyers" - and,
worst of all, the "Nacht und Nebel" decree and the actual
consequences it entailed at a later stage, and about which I
did not know. Those caused the worst struggles with my

Q. We will take the "Nacht und Nebel."

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, this document and a good
many to which I shall refer are in the British Document Book
No. 7, Wilhelm Keitel and Alfred Jodl, and it occurs on Page
279. It is L-90; Exhibit USA 503.

Q. Defendant, I will give you the German Document Book. It
is Page 279 of the British Document Book, and 289 of the
German. You see, the purpose of the decree is set out a few
lines from the beginning, where it is stated that in all
cases where the death penalty is pronounced and not carried
out within a week ". . . the accused are in future to be
deported to Germany secretly, and further proceedings in
connection with the offences will take place there. The
deterrent effect of these measures lies in:

  (a) the complete disappearance of the accused;
  (b) the fact that no information is given as to their
  whereabouts or their fate."

                                                   [Page 77]

Both these purposes, you will agree, were extremely cruel
and brutal, were they not?

A. I said both at the time and yesterday, that I personally
thought that to deport individuals secretly was very much
more cruel than to impose a sentence of death.

Q. Would you turn to Page 281 - 291 of the German; 281 in
the British Document Book?

A. Yes, I have it.

Q. You say this in your covering letter:

   "The Fuehrer is of the opinion:
   In the case of offences such as these, punishment by
   imprisonment, even to the extent of penal servitude for
   life, will be considered a sign of weakness. Effective
   and lasting intimidation can only be achieved either by
   capital punishment or by measures which keep the
   culprit's relatives and the population generally
   uncertain as to his fate."

You will agree that there again these sentences of the
Fuehrer which you are here transmitting were cruel and
brutal, were they not?

A. Yes.

Q. Now, what I -

A. May I add something?

Q. Certainly, as shortly as you can.

A. I made a statement yesterday on this subject and I drew
your attention particularly to the words: "This order has
been under consideration by the Fuehrer for a long time,"
which were intended to convey to the generals who were
receiving these orders what was written between the lines.

Q. But, you know, defendant, that that was by no means the
end of this series of orders. This order was unsuccessful,
despite its cruelty and brutality, in achieving its purpose,
was it not? This order, the "Nacht und Nebel" order, did not
stop what it was designed to stop. Is that right?

A. Yes, it did not cease.

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