The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/09/15

DR. NELTE, Continued:

What Keitel denies, however, is that he knew - or that prior
to the Nuremberg trial he knew - that on arrival in the
Reich the persons involved were imprisoned by the police and
then transferred to concentration camps. This was contrary
to the meaning and purpose of the decree. The defendant
Keitel could not know of this because, in cases which did
not involve proceedings by a military court, the competency
of the Wehrmacht only extended to turning over the persons
concerned to the police, to be transferred to Germany and
there dealt with by the Administration of Justice. The
defendant Keitel is unable to say from his own knowledge why
so many persons were brought into concentration camps and
there subjected to the treatment known as "Nacht and Nebel"
and described by witnesses who have appeared here. The
evidence presented to this Tribunal must lead to the
conclusion that all political suspects who, as a result of
political measures, were removed from the occupied
territories to Germany for detention in concentration camps
were, without the knowledge of the military authorities,
designated "Nacht and Nebel" prisoners by the police, for,
according to the testimonies we have heard, the majority of
persons in these camps had not been formally sentenced by
military courts in occupied territories to transfer to

It is evident therefore that police authorities in the
occupied territories made use of this decree as a universal
and unrestricted carte blanche for deportations, and totally
disregarded the exclusive rights exercised by the military
authorities and the rules of procedure imposed upon them.

The existence of such a situation in the occupied
territories without the knowledge of the Wehrmacht
authorities can only be explained by the fact that as a
result of the appointment of senior SS and police leaders
the military authorities

                                                  [Page 215]

no longer had executive powers in police affairs and that
these higher SS and police leaders received their orders
from the Reichsfuehrer SS.

The Reichsfuehrer SS and the higher SS and police leaders
were never authorized by OKW to apply this decree, which was
intended as a police executive measure to be used only by
the Wehrmacht. The decree affected only those offices of the
Wehrmacht exercising judicial authority; and it is clear
from the wording that it was restricted to these and drafted
to suit them.

The German Armistice Commission's letter of 10th August,
1944 (Document 843-PS) proves that OKW really had no
knowledge of this improper application of the decree of 7th
December, 1941. It says therein:

  " ... that the basis for arrests seems to have undergone
  a change, since in the early stages they were made in the
  case of isolated incidents and attacks on the Reich or
  members of the occupation forces. In other words, those
  elements were apprehended who had played an active part
  in certain cases (and who were liable to punishment under
  those articles of the Hague Convention which refer to
  land warfare); whereas at present numerous persons are
  also deported to Germany who, on account of their anti-
  German sentiments, are being removed from France as a
  precautionary measure."

Paragraph 4 of that letter contains the following passage:

  "The above-mentioned decree is based on the condition
  that the persons arrested will be made the subject of
  judicial proceedings. There is reason to believe that on
  account of the number of cases - especially those coming
  within the scope of precautionary measures - such
  proceedings are now frequently dispensed with and
  prisoners are no longer confined in prisons or
  penitentiaries of the German legal authorities, but in
  concentration camps."
OKW's reply of 2nd September, 1944, which is signed by Dr.
Lehmann, refers expressly to the directives of the Fuehrer
decree of 7th December, 1941, the so-called "Nacht and
Nebel" decree. It contains no statement to the effect that
the original conditions for deportation to Germany were

This reply, however, was sent from Berlin without the
knowledge of the defendant Keitel; and the Armistice
Commission's letter was obviously also sent to Berlin, where
the legal department of the armed forces was situated.
Keitel himself was at the Fuehrer's Headquarters and did not
know of the correspondence.

It must be admitted that failure to reply immediately to the
German Armistice Commission's letter of 10th August, 1944,
pointing out that this was an abuse of the decree of 7th
December, 1941, and the directives issued in connection with
it, was a grave omission. An investigation should have been
initiated at once, in order to find and punish those
responsible for this abuse. In so far as the Tribunal should
regard Hitler's military staff as guilty, the defendant
Keitel accepts responsibility within the scope of his
general responsibility as chief of the OKW.

THE PRESIDENT: Perhaps this will be a convenient time to
take a recess.

(A recess was taken.)

Mr. President, the prosecution has charged the defendant
Keitel with participating in the deportations for the
purpose of obtaining forced labour. In this connection,
Keitel declares that his competency did not cover the
procurement, recruiting and conscription of people in the
occupied territories, nor did it cover allocation of the
labour forces procured in this way for the armament
industry. The co-defendant Sauckel confirmed this in his
testimony of 29th May, 1946.

Mr. President, I should like judicial notice to be taken of
the following statements, without my reading them. My
colleague, Dr. Servatius, according to our agreement, will
explain the connection between the Wehrmacht replacement and
the procurement of manpower through the General
Plenipotentiary for the Employment of Labour (G.B.A.).
However, I have to refer to some documents which the French
prosecution has submitted against the OKW and Keitel on
account of active participation in deportation. These are
Documents 1293-PS, 3819-PS, 814-PS and 824-PS.

                                                  [Page 216]

The first is a marginal note by the chief of the Reich
Chancellery Dr. Lammers on a conference with Hitler, at
which the question of procuring labour for 1944 was
discussed. The defendant Keitel took part in this
discussion. Annexed to this report is a copy of a letter
from the defendant Sauckel dated 5th January, 1944, to which
Sauckel sums up the results of the conference of 4th January
and proposes a Fuehrer decree. I quote the following

  "The Fuehrer pointed out that all the German offices in
  occupied territories and countries within the Tripartite
  Agreement would have to be convinced of the necessity of
  taking in foreign labour, in order to be able to give
  uniform support to the General Plenipotentiary for labour
  commitment in carrying out the required organization,
  propaganda and police measures."

The penultimate paragraph:

  "In my opinion the decree should in the first place be
  sent to the following offices ...
  The Chief of the OKW, General Field-Marshal Keitel, for
  the information of the Military Commanders in France and
  Belgium, the Military Commander South-East, the General
  accredited to the Fascist Republican Government of Italy,
  the chiefs of the Army Groups East."

The document therefore proves:

(a) that Field-Marshal Keitel took part in a conference,
without, however, stating his point of view on the problem
of labour procurement.

(b) that Field-Marshal Keitel was to be informed of the
Fuehrer decree so that the military commanders might be
instructed. This confirms what the defendant Keitel stated
in the passages which I have not read, as to how he came to
be concerned with this question. The 2nd and 3rd documents
refer to a conference in the Reich Chancellery on 11th July,
1944, in which Field-Marshal Keitel did not take part.

Now the French Prosecutor has made the statement that the
teletype is an order issued by Field-Marshal Keitel to the
military commanders to carry out the decisions of the
conference of 11th July. M. Herzog has said in this
connection that Keitel's order was dated 15th July, 1944. A
brief examination of the document - a photostat - shows it
to be a teletype dated 9th July and containing an invitation
from the chief of the Reich Chancellery, Dr. Lammers, to a
conference on 11th July, which invitation Keitel transmitted
to the military commanders.

This was, therefore, an error. The conclusions based by the
prosecution on this document are therefore also invalid, but
the document is interesting from another point of view as
well. It contains the following statement:

  "The following directives are for the instruction of
  military commanders or their representatives:
  I refer to my directives for the collaboration of the
  Wehrmacht in the procurement of labour from France
  (OKW/West/Ku (Verw. 1 u. 2 West) Nr. 05210/44 geh.)."

The defendant Keitel requested me to call the attention of
the Tribunal to this method of expression for the following
reasons. Numerous documents bearing the signature "Keitel"
have been submitted here. In accordance with his position,
which has already been described and which excluded all
powers of command, Keitel never used the first person in
communications or transmissions of orders. Apart from this
document, only one other teletype was submitted by the
prosecution in which the first person is used. In
consideration of the many documents which bear out Keitel's
statement, his claim that he was transmitting an order from
the Fuehrer must be believed; and, indeed, the whole style
of wording is that of a Fuehrer order.

General Warlimont (Document 3819-PS) also expressly refers
during the conference of 11th July to a "recently issued
Fuehrer order", the contents of which,

                                                  [Page 217]

as reproduced by him, are exactly as contained in the
teletype directive with the signature "Keitel".

The newly submitted Document 824-PS - Exhibit RF 1515 - is
also significant and confirms the evidence given by the
defendant Keitel. This is a letter written on 25th July,
1944, by the Commander-in-Chief West (von Rundstedt) who in
the meantime had become the Chief of the Military Commanders
in France and Belgium. It states that "by order of the
Fuehrer the demands of the G.B.A. and of Speer are to be
fulfilled"; further that in the event of evacuation of the
battle area, measures must be taken to secure refugees,
etc., for labour, and finally that reports on the measures
taken must be sent to the OKW.

This reference to the Fuehrer's order shortly after 11th
July, 1944, shows, as does Warlimont's statement, that no
directives from Keitel or the OKW existed. It can be
therefore considered as proved that neither Keitel himself
nor the OKW had any part in measures for the recruitment or
conscription of labour. The OKW was the office responsible
for transmitting the orders which Hitler as Sauckel's
superior wished to forward to the military commanders; it
had no competence and no legal responsibility.

This complex differs from the spheres within the
administrative scope of the OKW, as here at least there
existed a specialized function which included the
possibility of voicing objections.

The spheres of labour procurement and commitment coincide
with Sauckel's activities at the following points:

(a) Keitel was co-signer of the Fuehrer decree of 21st
March, 1942, concerning the appointment of the G.B.A.

(b) He transmitted Hitler's orders to support the activities
of the G.B.A. by special instructions to the local military
authorities of the occupied territories.

Now, the French prosecution, at the session of 2nd February,
1946, made the following statement, in regard to the
deportation of the Jews within the scope of the defendant
Keitel's responsibility:

  "I shall speak later on of the order concerning the
  deportation of the Jews; and I shall show that this order
  was the result of a common action of the military
  administration, and the security police in. the case of
  France. It follows that in the first place the Chief of
  the High Command, in the second place the Minister of
  Foreign Affairs and in the third place the Chief of the
  Security Police and the Reich Security Service (RSHA) -
  were all necessarily informed and necessarily approved
  this action, for it is clear that their offices did not
  keep them in ignorance of such plans concerning important
  affairs, and that, moreover, decisions were agreed upon
  on the same level in the three different administrations.
  These three persons are therefore responsible and

If you examine the very detailed treatment of this point of
the indictment you will find that the OKW is not mentioned
and that no document is produced which originates either
with the OKW or with the defendant Keitel. It appears from
the Keitel affidavit, Document Book 2, that the Military
Commander for France, who is mentioned several times, was
not subordinated to the OKW. In handling this question the
prosecution has attempted to prove that the "Army", as M.
Faure says, co-operated with the Foreign Office and the
police, and thus to transfer this co-operation to the
highest authorities, that is, in the case of the Army, to
the OKW, and therefore to Keitel. This deduction is
erroneous. In order to make that clear, I must point out
that there was a military commander in France. This military
commander was invested with civil as well as military
authority, so that in addition to military tasks he had
police and political functions. The military commanders were
appointed by the OKH and received their orders from the
latter. It follows that on this question they had no direct
relations with the OKW. Since the defendant Keitel as chief
of the OKW was not placed above the OKH, there is likewise
no direct relation either of subordination or seniority.

                                                  [Page 218]

M. Faure's statement in this connection is unfortunately
true. In France there were a large number of authorities
working along different lines, contradicting each other and
frequently intruding into each other's spheres of

The OKW and the defendant Keitel had actually nothing to do
with the Jewish question in France and with the deportations
to Auschwitz and other camps; they had no powers of command
or control and therefore no responsibility.

The fact that the letter K in the telegram of 13th May, 1942
(Document 1215-F), was interpreted to mean Keitel is
characteristic of the attitude adopted by the Prosecutors,
all of whom assumed that the defendant Keitel was
implicated. The French Prosecutor has fortunately cleared up
the error.


The fate of prisoners of war has always aroused considerable

All civilised nations have tried to alleviate the fate of
soldiers who fall into the hands of the enemy as far as
possible without prejudicing the conduct of the war. The
reaching of an agreement even when the nations were engaged
in a life-and-death struggle has been considered as one of
the most important advances of civilisation. The torturing
uncertainty with regard to the fate of these soldiers seemed
to be ended; their humane treatment guaranteed; the dignity
of the disarmed opponent assured.

Our belief in this achievement of human society has begun to
waver, as in the case of so many others. Although this
belief is still formally upheld - as it has been once and
for all by the solid resistance of the general officers - we
must nevertheless admit that a brutal policy, oblivious of
the nation's own sons and of anything but its own striving
after power has in many cases disregarded the sanctity of
the Red Cross and the unwritten laws of humanity.

The treatment of the responsibility of the defendant Keitel
in the general complex of the prisoner-of-war system
comprises the following separate problems:

1. The general organization of the treatment of prisoners of
war, i.e., the German legislation on the prisoner-of-war

2. The power of command over prisoner-of-war camps, which
are classified under Oflag, Stalag and Dulag;

3. The supervision and control of this legislation and its

4. The individual cases which have been brought before the
Tribunal in the course of the Indictment.

As the organization of the prisoner-of-war system has been
set forth as part of the presentation of evidence, I can
restrict myself to stating that the OKW (Keitel) was, by
order of Hitler, within the scope of his assignments as War
Minister, in accordance with the decree of 4th February,
1938, competent and to that extent responsible:

(a) for the material right to issue ordinances within the
entire local and pertinent   sphere, restricted in part by
co-operation and co-responsibility regarding the utilization
of prisoner-of-war labour;

(b) for the general allocation of prisoners of war arriving
in Germany proper to the Corps Area Commanders but without
powers of command over prisoner-of-war camps and prisoners
of war themselves;

(c) for the general supervision of the camps in the OKW
(with the exception of those within the zone of operations,
the L. of C. area, the area of the military commanders, the
Navy and Luftwaffe prisoner of war camps).

The competent office in the OKW was the "Chief of the
Prisoner-of-War Department," which was several times made
personally responsible by the prosecution. The defendant
Keitel attaches importance to the fact that the Chief of
the Prisoner-of-War Department was his subordinate. Hence
the responsibility of the defendant Keitel in this domain is
self-evident, even in those cases in which he did not
personally sign orders and decrees.

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