The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/09/15

DR. NELTE, Continued:

These three mobilization plans taken all together form the
basis of your decision. You may see from them whether the
prosecution is right in its assumption of a total planning
for aggressive war, or whether the defendant Keitel was
right when he stated during his hearing:

  "What has been discussed and planned here is what every
  country is entitled to do, and what the responsible
  agencies are bound to do if they do not wish to violate
  their most sacred duty, namely, the safeguarding of the
  security of their country."

The decision of 4th February, 1938, was fateful for General
Keitel as well as for the German Wehrmacht: For Keitel who
could not yet form an opinion of the newly-created office of
the "Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht" (OKW); for the
Wehrmacht which lost on that day its relative independence.

Hitler broke down the last barriers between himself and the
Wehrmacht - the nation in arms - by removing both the
Commander-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht and the constitutionally
responsible Reich Minister of War. This truly portentous

                                                  [Page 189]

decision became fatal for Keitel and the German nation,
though at the time of its occurrence this was not realised
by the participants. That they may be blamed for not
realising it is easy to say now in retrospect. At the time,
everybody who was not an inveterate sceptic or pessimist had
to base his judgement on the development of things in
general and on the strength of the personalities involved.

Neither the one nor the other could be clearly perceived on
4th February, 1938.

It was no personal decision for the defendant Keitel, who
did not know Hitler personally in these days and who met him
for the first time man to man in the preliminary
discussions. Hitler assigned him to the newly created office
of Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht and Keitel accepted
it. Even if we disregard entirely the human emotions
connected with such a brilliant promotion, there was no
reasonable ground for the then Chief of the Wehrmacht Office
in the Reich Ministry of War to decline the offer, since von
Blomberg himself had suggested him.

Hitler's ideas about this office could not be discerned by

Now I shall pass on to the next page; and shall quote out of
my manuscript the following from the statements made by Dr.
Lammers and from the affidavit deposed by Blomberg, on Page
59, I quote the penultimate paragraph:

  "In the future, I shall not have any Minister of War;
  neither will I have in the future a Supreme Commander of
  the Wehrmacht to stand between me, as the highest
  commander, and the other high commanders of the

On Page 60, from Blomberg's affidavit in answer to question
24, I quote the second half:

  "He asked for a suggestion for the assignment of a 'Chef
  du Bureau' who would direct and carry out current affairs
  under him and thus under Hitler's responsibility."

In answer to question 27:

  "I proposed Keitel as 'Chef du Bureau', believing that I
  had put him in the right job."

Question 29:

  "Was it not Hitler's intention to create a tool for
  himself in the person of Keitel, whose capacity for
  organization and hard work seemed to him valuable as an
  executive organ for his decisions and orders?"


  "This question is emphatically confirmed by me. Hitler's
  original intention at that time was most certainly to
  have at his disposal a trustworthy subordinate organ and
  in no way an adviser endowed with some responsibility."

The decree of 4th February, 1938, regarding leadership in
the Wehrmacht is known to the Tribunal. Therefore, I do not
need to read it to you. One sees from this and from the
hearing of witnesses that, regarding the position of the
defendant Keitel, and thus the questions of his competence
and responsibility:

(1) Hitler did not want either a responsible ministry of war
or any other person but himself to exercise the commanding
authority over the entire Wehrmacht. He united in his own
person both of these institutions by declaring that in
regard to the commanding authority he would from now on
exercise it directly and personally, as well as the
functions of the Reich Ministry of War which were to be
administered by Keitel under his instructions.

(2) Hitler thus created a military staff for a military-
technical programme. He designated it as the High Command of
the Wehrmacht. This "Oberkommando der Wehrmacht" was
therefore nothing more - and I may add no less - than the
military chancellery of the Fuehrer and Supreme Commander.
Such chancelleries already existed as Reich Chancellery,
Chancellery of the Reich President, and Party Chancellery.
The defendant Keitel was assigned to the post of Chief of
the Military Chancellery with the title of Chief of Staff of
the High Command of the Wehrmacht (for short, Chief OKW).

(3) Hence, it follows that the OKW was not intended to be an
intermediary agency between the Supreme Commander of the
Wehrmacht and the three

                                                  [Page 190]

Wehrmacht sections. The contrary assumption of the
prosecution, which is connected with a graphic
representation, is founded upon an erroneous judgement.

An intermediary level between the Supreme Commander and the
three high commanders of the Army, Navy, and Air Force such
as existed before 4th February, 1938, with rights of its
own, no longer existed. The OKW, in which the defendant
Keitel was the Chief of Staff, was no independent military
agency or authority, but exclusively Hitler's military-
technical staff and his war ministry office. The OKW had no
independent authority whatsoever, neither the power to issue
orders nor the command authority. Therefore, the OKW could
not issue its own orders. On the contrary, all instructions,
decrees, general directions or orders issued by the OKW were
the expression of the desires of the Supreme Commander of
the Wehrmacht. The Commanders-in-Chief of the three
Wehrmacht branches were always aware of the fact that no
intermediary level existed between them and the Supreme
Commander, and they never considered or recognized the OKW
as such. This is confirmed by the affidavits of the co-
defendants Admiral Donitz and Admiral Raeder as well as by
the testimony of Reich Marshal Goering and Dr. Lammers.

The idea that the OKW or the defendant Keitel as Chief of
the OKW would have had the authority to issue instructions
or orders independently is therefore erroneous. All official
business, oral or in writing, which went beyond an exchange
of ideas with other military agencies or authorities, was
subject to the exclusive decision of the Supreme Commander
himself. The OKW was merely the executive staff of the
Supreme Commander.

(4) Therefore, when documents issued by the Supreme
Commander or by the OKW show signatures or initials of the
defendant Keitel, or those of a chief of office or a section
chief, one cannot draw the conclusion that their own
independent authority for issuing orders existed. In each
instance it was merely a case of taking notice of,
forwarding or transmitting the orders of the Supreme
Commander himself. Because of the heavy claims on Hitler's
time in his positions as Chief of State, Reich Chancellor,
Party Leader and Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht, it was
impossible to obtain always his personal signature, unless
it concerned matters of particular importance or fundamental
significance. It has to be noted that in all cases Hitler's
personal decision or approval had to be obtained.

If, with such a state of affairs, the prosecution advances
the argument that because of the signing of documents or
because of the existence of initials the defendant Keitel is
co-responsible for the actual contents of the documents,
this cannot be accepted. It would be going by the letter of
the law to infer the responsibility of the defendant Keitel
as Chief of the Military Chancellery from his forwarding or
signing of orders, instructions and so on, a responsibility
which in my opinion can be laid only upon that person who
issues or brings about the order by virtue of his authority.

A real responsibility for this could be laid upon the
defendant Keitel only in case it could be proved that he
wilfully and causatively participated in drawing up these
orders, instructions, etc.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Nelte, would that be a convenient time to
break off?

(A recess was taken.)

M. DUBOST: Gentlemen, counsel for the defence have presented
a request to the French prosecution to have certain
documents communicated to them. This request is divided into
two parts.

The first part concerns the Scapini incident, which arose at
the publication of a document in the course of my own
statement. I am able to communicate to the defence the
answer which the French Government has made to its request.

The French Government has found in the archives left behind
by the German authorities the answer which was made to the
protest raised at the time of the massacre of French
prisoners. It is, by the way, a purely dilatory answer. The

                                                  [Page 191]

German authorities replied that the Armistice Commission was
not competent; that the request must be made by the Scapini

I have passed this document to the defence and I think that,
on that side, the incident is closed.

The second part of the defence counsel's request concerns a
statement made by my colleague, M. Edgar Faure, who at the
beginning of his speech announced to the Tribunal that he
had examined approximately 2,500 documents, of which he had
retained only 200. I can, of course, not answer on behalf of
M. Edgar Faure. I only know that the French Delegation has
but a total of Boo documents in its archives, and has
submitted them all to the Tribunal and to the defence. I
therefore think that it is merely a figure of speech and
that my colleague wished to allude to covering letters which
were of no importance.

In any case, I said earlier to the defence counsel, Dr.
Nelte, that I had all the documents of our delegation open
for him to see and that he would be able to, verify that we
had no other documents than those which we had published.

On the other hand, the requests which we forwarded to Paris
that any complementary documents which might have been
forgotten should be sent to us have not resulted in
anything. We therefore conclude that we have here all the
documents which we could make use of in this Trial.

DR. NELTE: Mr. President, I am grateful to the French
Delegation for the explanation given now regarding the
complaint I made this morning. If I had had that explanation
a few days earlier, what happened this morning would not
have occurred. I regret it very much indeed.

I continue on Page 64 to the effect that he co-operated in
drawing up orders. In order to clarify this as much as
possible I would like furthermore to point out the

The "instructions", which were of fundamental significance
for the planning of military operations, are operational
orders issued to the Commanders-in-Chief of the three
Wehrmacht branches, by the Supreme Commander in this
capacity. Before these instructions were framed, Hitler
discussed the military-technical aspect of the order with
the competent OKW experts and also with the defendant
Keitel. The instructions, without considering the opinions
manifested by the individual experts, were exclusively the
expression of the Supreme Commander's. Wishes and they were
not directed to the OKW but to the Commanders-in-Chief of
the three Wehrmacht branches to whom they were forwarded
through the OKW. The three Wehrmacht branches for their part
ordered, on the basis of the general instructions, the
details for carrying them out. Therefore, I shall also not
refer in this connection to the Article of the Charter
according to which the carrying out of orders is not
accepted as a ground for exemption from punishment. For the
transmission of the order was not an order issued by the OKW
to the Wehrmacht branches but the forwarding of the
expression of the wishes of the Supreme Commander of the
Wehrmacht. The order directed to the OKW, if one wants to
express it that way, referred in all cases to the
elaboration of some desire expressed by the Supreme
Commander, and to the purely external act of transmitting
the idea without having the authority of expressing an
opinion thereon. It must be assumed that the prosecution,
perhaps influenced by the defendant's rank of Field-Marshal,
did not recognize correctly this position of the defendant
Keitel. This rank had no relationship to the real authority
of the defendant to issue military orders. One is inclined
to imagine that a General Field-Marshal is a military
commander. However, as we have seen, the defendant Keitel
had no command authority whatsoever.

Field-Marshal von Blomberg, whose testimony has been
submitted to the Tribunal by the prosecution, defines the
position of the defendant Keitel as "Chef du Bureau". This
definition is materially correct. A "Chef du Bureau" has to
see to it that the bureau which he directs operates
properly; that the affairs are correctly and promptly
settled by the competent officials. But he does not
participate in the final decisions considered correct by his
superior, in this case the

                                                  [Page 192]

Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht. If this principle holds
true in general, it is in particular true here. It is known
that Hitler did not accept any advice from Keitel concerning
military decisions. This has been proved through the hearing
of evidence, particularly through the testimony of General

The defendant Keitel has clearly outlined in the affidavit
No. 8, called "Co-ordination in the State and in the
Wehrmacht", the activity of the OKW and his activity. The
affidavit gives an idea of the difficult and thankless work
of the defendant Keitel. It consisted mainly of a co-
ordination of the desires and needs' of the Wehrmacht
branches. It consisted, furthermore, of the settlement of
arising divergencies and of a struggle against Hitler's
negative attitude towards any proper settlement, i.e., a
settlement through the competent departments.

In any branch of the armed forces there are interests which
differ from the interests of other branches and which cannot
be entirely satisfied; sometimes they even oppose each
other. This is true especially for the replacement of
personnel but also for the supply of everything that is
required for special warfare.

The point of intersection of all these factual and personal
differences of opinion was the OKW.

If one desires to rate at its true value the incontestable
fact that the defendant Keitel was shown hostility and was
personally judged unfavourably by nearly all sides, one must
note that this was the necessary result of the overlapping
of factual opposing interests and personal differences of
opinion which Keitel tried to settle by means of co-
ordination or mediation, i.e., in nearly all cases by means
of mutual compromise. No particular personal experience is
needed in order to know that the objective mediator will
always incur the ingratitude of both parties.

The same becomes evident in the relationship to the numerous
offices which were endowed with special official authorities
or which had Hitler's favour and special confidence for
personal, mostly Party-political, reasons.

One must realize these differences and overlapping interests
to appreciate the heavy burden of work involved in Keitel's
position and, I might add, in order to judge correctly the
significance of his position.

The realisation of the special relationship between the
leadership of the Wehrmacht and the political sector becomes
difficult because the functions of the Supreme Commander of
the Armed Forces, of the Reich Minister of War and of the
Chief of State were embodied in the person of Hitler from
4th February, 1938.

Therefore, since 4th February, 1938, complete accord existed
between the political leadership and the highest leadership
of the Wehrmacht because both powers rested in one and the
same person.

The assumption suggests itself, and the prosecution has so
assumed, that the Chief of Hitler's Military Staff was
closely connected with his superior, Hitler, that he must
also be responsible for the political questions, if not as
the perpetrator, then in some form as provided in Article 6
of the Charter.

This assumption is erroneous.

In this connection there is no need to enter into the
hierarchy of the Fuehrer State, and the forcible character
of the Fuehrer order. The military hierarchy is older than
the National Socialist ideology; moreover it must be stated
and taken into consideration that the introduction of the
absolute Fuehrer principle into the Wehrmacht signifies the
final elimination of all efforts which could perhaps be
regarded as democratic in a certain sense or in any case as
a restraint on the dictatorial appetite of Hitler. In this
connection I refer to the affidavit of Keitel, Document Book
2/9, "OKW and the General Staff." The rigid execution of the
Fuehrer principle - judged retrospectively - gradually
intensified the healthy military principle of obedience into
immoderate militarism. This found its expression, among
other things, in the prohibition of all criticism from the
highest authorities to the lowest. I refer you to the speech
made by Hitler in the Kroll Opera House, 1936-37, also to
the rejecting marginal note, 1938 - statement of General
Winter - in the decree prohibiting resignation of generals
and finally in the removal of the Supreme Commander of the
Wehrmacht and the War Minister.

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