The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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   Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression, Volume II, Chapter XV

                                                  [Page 398]

C. Conclusion.

The world must bear in mind that the German High Command is
not an evanescent thing, the creature of a decade of unrest,
or a school of thought or tradition which is shattered or
utterly discredited. The German High Command and military
tradition have in the past achieved victory and survived
defeat. They have met with triumph and disaster, and have
survived through a singular durability not unmixed with
stupidity. An eminent American statesman and diplomat, Mr.
Sumner Welles, has written ("The Time for Decision", 1944,
pp. 261-262) that:

     "*** the authority to which the German people have so
     often and so disastrously responded was not in reality
     the German Emperor of yesterday, or the Hitler of to-
     day, but the German General Staff.
     "It will be said that this insistence that the German
     General Staff has been the driving force in German
     policy is a dangerous oversimplification. I am not
     disposed to minimize the importance of other factors in
     German history. They all have their place. But I am
     convinced that each of them has played its part only in
     so far as it was permitted to do so by the real master
     of the German race, namely, German militarism,
     personified in, and channelled through, the German
     General Staff."
     "Whether their ostensible ruler is the Kaiser, or
     Hindenburg, or Adolf Hitler, the continuing loyalty of
     the bulk of the population is given to that military
     force controlled and guided by the German General
     Staff. To the German people, the army to-day, as in the
     past, is the instrument by which German domination will
     be brought about. Generations of Germans may pass. The
     nation may undergo defeat after defeat. But if the rest
     of the world permits it, the German General Staff will
     continue making its plans for the future."

The German General Staff and High Command is indicted not
now at the bar of history, but on specific charges of crimes
against International Law and the dictates of the conscience
of mankind as embodied in the Charter. The picture that
emerges from the evidence is that of a group of men with
great powers for good

                                                  [Page 399]
or ill who chose the latter; who deliberately set out to arm
Germany to the point where the German will could be imposed
on the rest of the world; and who gladly joined with the
most evil forces at work in Germany. "Hitler produced the
results which all of us warmly desired", Blomberg and
Blaskowitz say, and that is obviously the truth. The
converse is no less clear; the military leaders furnished
Hitler with the means and might which were necessary to his
mere survival, to say nothing of the accomplishment of those
purposes which seem to the world so ludicrously impossible
in 1932 and so fearfully imminent in 1942.

It was said above that the German militarists were inept as
well as persistent. Helpless as Hitler would have been
without them, he succeeded in mastering them. The generals
and the Nazis were allies in 1933. But it was not enough for
the Nazis that the generals should be voluntary allies;
Hitler wanted them permanently and completely under his
control. Devoid of political skill or principle, the
generals lacked the mentality or morality to resist. On the
day of the death of President Hindenburg in August 1934, the
German officers swore a new oath. Their previous oath had
been to the Fatherland; now it was to a man, Adolf Hitler.
It was not until 18 days later that the law requiring this
change was passed. A year later the Nazi emblem became part
of their uniform and the Nazi flag their standard. By a
clever process of infiltration into key positions, Hitler
seized control of the entire military machine.

No doubt these generals will ask what they could have done
about it. It will be said that they were helpless, and that
to protect their jobs and families and their own lives they
had to follow Hitler's decisions. No doubt this became true.
But the generals were a key factor in Hitler's rise to
complete power and a partner in his criminal aggressive
designs. It is always difficult and dangerous to withdraw
from a criminal conspiracy. Never has it been suggested that
a conspirator may claim mercy on the ground that his fellow-
conspirators threatened him with harm should he withdraw
from the plot.

In many respects the spectacle which the German General
Staff and High Command group presents today is the most
degrading of all the groups and organizations charged in the
Indictment. The bearers of a tradition not devoid of valour
and honor, they emerge from this war stained both by
criminality and ineptitude. Attracted by the militaristic
and aggressive Nazi policies, the German generals found
themselves drawn into adventures of a scope they had not
foreseen. From crimes in which almost all of them
participated willingly and approvingly were born others in

                                                  [Page 400]

they participated because they were too ineffective to alter
the governing Nazi policies, and because they had to
continue collaboration to save their own skins

Having joined the partnership, the General Staff and High
Command group planned and carried through manifold acts of
aggression which turned Europe into a charnel-house, and
caused the Armed Forces to be used for foul practices foully
executed of terror, pillage, murder and wholesale slaughter.
Let no one be heard to say that the military uniform shall
be their cloak, or that they may find sanctuary by pleading
membership in the profession to which they are an eternal

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