The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/12/22

Q. When this decree was issued you were installed as holder
of a new office with the title of "Chief of the O.K.W." Will
you please clarify whether this term "Chief of the O.K.W."
is correct; that is, whether it meant what the title

A. I must add that I realise now for the first time that
this term in its abbreviated form does not quite apply. To
be exact one should have said, "Chief of Staff of the High
Command of the Wehrmacht," and not the abbreviation, "Chief
of the O.K.W." From the case presented by the prosecution I
gathered that the "Chief" was interpreted as if that were a
commander, chief of an office, with authority to issue
orders. And that, of course, is an incorrect conclusion. It
was neither a position of a chief in the sense of being able
to issue orders nor, as might have been assumed or has been
assumed, was it a position as chief of a general staff.
That, too, is incorrect. I was never Chief of the General
Staff of the Wehrmacht. It was Hitler's unmistakable wish to
concentrate in his own person all the authority, all the
power of command. That is not merely my retrospective
statement. He clearly expressed this desire to me on several
occasions, partly in connection with the fact that he told
me repeatedly he could never put these ideas through with

Q. I have here in my possession a statement made by Field
Marshal von Brauchitsch and submitted by the prosecution.

A. Perhaps I might add something further. I was discussing
the fact that the position of Chief of the General Staff did
not exist, since it was Hitler's basic view that the
commanders-in-chief of the Wehrmacht branches each had his
own general staff, or operational staff, and that he did not
want the High Command of the Wehrmacht, by including the
Wehrmacht Operational Staff, to take over the functions of a
general staff. Therefore, in practice the work was done by
the general staff of the Wehrmacht branches, while the
Wehrmacht Operational Staff of the

                                                  [Page 311]

O.K.W. - which was purposely kept small - was a working
staff for Hitler, a staff for strategic plans and for
special missions.

Q. Then Field Marshal von Brauchitsch's statement in his
affidavit - of which I have already spoken - is correct?

It says here: " When Hitler decided to support the obtaining
of his political aims through military pressure or through
the use of military power, the Commander-in-Chief of the
Army, if he participated, received his instructions first
orally, as a rule, or by a corresponding order. Thereupon
the O.K.W. worked out the operation and deployment plans.
When they had been submitted to Hitler, and were approved by
him, a written order from the O.K.W. to the branches of the
Wehrmacht followed." Is that correct?

A. Yes. In principle it is correct, insofar as the final
formulation of the mission with which the commanders-in-
chief of the Army were charged, took the form of a
directive, as we called it; that is on the basis of the
plans which had already been submitted and approved. This
work was done by the Wehrmachtfuehrungsstab (Wehrmacht
Operational Staff), thus the Wehrmacht Operational Staff was
not an office which became independently active and did not
handle matters concerning the issuing of orders
independently; rather the Wehrmacht Operational Staff and I
took part in the basic determination or approval of these
proposals and formulated them in the manner in which they
were then carried out by Hitler as Commander-in-Chief. To
speak technically, we then transmitted these orders.

Q. Then I have an affidavit by Colonel General Halder which
deals with the same subject. You know this affidavit No. 1,
I believe I can dispense with the reading of it and as
evidence need only refer to Halder's affidavit No. 1, which
has been submitted by the prosecution.

In addition, the prosecution submitted another document
without a special number. The title of it is: "Basis for the
Organisation of the German Wehrmacht."

THE PRESIDENT: Is this the document which you say the
prosecution offered in evidence but did not give a number

DR. NELTE: Mr. President, this document was given to us by
the prosecution, I believe by the American prosecution, on
the 26th of November, 1945. I do not know -

THE PRESIDENT: You mean it never was deposited in evidence
by the prosecution?

DR. NELTE: I do not believe I can decide that. I assume that
a document which has been submitted to the defence counsel
was submitted to the High Tribunal at the same time, if not
as evidence then at least for official notice.

THE PRESIDENT: What is the document? Is it an affidavit or

DR. NELTE: It is not an affidavit; it is really a statement
by the American prosecution. And, I assume, it is a basis
for the prosecution against the organisation O.K.W., and so

THE PRESIDENT: Have you got it in your document book or not?

DR. NELTE: No, I do not have it in the document book,
because I assumed that this was also at the disposal of the
High Tribunal. On the whole, Mr. President, it is a short

THE PRESIDENT: Perhaps, Mr. Dodd can tell us what it is.

MR. DODD: If I could see it I might be able to be helpful. I
am not familiar with it. It is probably one of the documents
which we submitted to the defence, but which we did not
actually introduce in evidence, and that happened more than
once, I think, in the early days of the trial.

DR. NELTE: I only refer to a single paragraph ...


DR. NELTE: I refer to a short paragraph of this statement
which I would like to read. Perhaps we can thus obviate
submitting the document.

THE PRESIDENT: Are you offering in evidence the whole of the
affidavit? I do not mean at this moment, but are you
proposing to offer it?

(Dr. Nelte nodded).

                                                  [Page 312]

You are?

DR. NELTE: I assume that the prosecution has already
submitted it. I am only referring to it.

THE PRESIDENT: The whole affidavit? What is the number of it
if it has been submitted?

DR. NELTE: This affidavit also does pot have a number. The
prosecution -

THE PRESIDENT: It has not been submitted if it has not a
number on it, then. It is suggested to me that possibly the
Halder affidavit was offered and then rejected.

DR. NELTE: No. At that time a series of affidavits were
submitted: by von Brauchitsch, Halder, von Neusinger, and
many other generals who are in Nuremberg. None of these
affidavits had an exhibit number.

MR. DODD: This affidavit was put in by the United States as
an Exhibit. I do not have the number handy, but I think it
was submitted at the time Colonel Telford Taylor submitted
the case on behalf of the prosecution against the High
Command and the O.K.W. This Halder "affidavit," the first
document which Doctor Nelte referred to, is not an
affidavit. It was a paper submitted to the Tribunal and to
the defence by Colonel Taylor. It set out some of the basic
principles of the Organisation of the High Command and the
O.K.W. wholly, before he presented his part of the case. It
is really just the work of our own staff here in Nuremberg.

THE PRESIDENT: Doctor Nelte, as the document you are
referring to, not the Halder affidavit, appears to be a mere
compilation, the Tribunal thinks it should not go in as an
Exhibit, but you can put a question to the witness upon it.


Q. In the document which you have before you, the
prosecution asserted the following: After 1938 there were
four divisions, that is, the O.K.W., High Command of the
Wehrmacht; the O.K.H., High Command of the Army; the O.K.L.,
High Command of the Air Force; the O.K.M., High Command of
the Navy; and each had its own general staff. What can you
tell us about that?

A. I can say only that this is not correct, and contradicts
the explanation which I have already given concerning the
functions of the High Command of the Wehrmacht Office. Four
such departments did not exist. There were only three, the
High Command of the Army, the High Command of the Navy, and
the High Command of the Air Force.

As I have just stated, the High Command of the Wehrmacht as
a personal, direct working staff, was in no way an
independent office in that sense. The commanders-in-chief of
the Wehrmacht branches were commanders, had the authority to
issue orders and exercised this power over troops which were
subordinate to them. The O.K.W. had neither the power to
issue orders, nor the subordinate troops to which orders
could have been issued. It is also not correct, if I recall
the speeches of the prosecution, to use the expression
"Keitel was commander-in-chief of the Wehrmacht." I am
mentioning it only to emphasise this point.

Further, I would like, briefly, to call attention to the
diagram on the document which has been shown to me, the last
page of the document which has been submitted to me.

DR. NELTE: This sketch is the diagram which is called "The
Wehrmacht." It is an exposition, a diagrammatic exposition
of the entire Wehrmacht and its branches.

THE WITNESS: I believe I should refer briefly to this
diagram. It is this diagram which was the basis for the
erroneous conception, because in it the High Command of the
Wehrmacht is designated as a special office, or office of
Command, and that is incorrect.

Q. What tasks had you in this military sector as the Chief
of the O.K.W.?

A. First of all, it was an essential task to secure for the
Fuehrer, with and through the Wehrmacht Operational Staff,
all the documents and all the information and

                                                  [Page 313]

reports which he desired. I dare say that the Wehrmacht
Operational Staff had in this connection, a function which
one might say - arranged and established direct and close
relations between Hitler and the general staffs of the
branches of the Wehrmacht. In addition to securing a great
number of such documents, which were demanded daily, there
was a second function, which, as a rule, required my
presence at all conferences in which the commanders-in-chief
of the Wehrmacht branches and the chiefs of their staffs
participated, as well as the Chief of the Wehrmacht
Operational Staff. On those occasions as soon as a series of
oral orders was given, these orders, according to military
principles, naturally had later to be confirmed in writing.
Only in this way could we prevent mistakes or
misunderstandings from arising - that is, by confirming
these orders to those who had already received them orally,
the orders were expressed clearly. That is the aim and
meaning of the order.

Q. How did you sign the orders and documents which you drew

A. It is correct that this form of orders and directives was
almost exclusively signed by me. They were actually orders
which had already been given and which had already been
transmitted along military channels. As can be seen from
most of the documents on hand, this gave rise to the form
which I made a habit of using. I always wrote at the
beginning or after a few preliminary words, "The Fuehrer has
therefore ordered:".

In the large majority of cases this order was no longer a
surprise to the office which received it. It was nothing
new, but it was only a confirmation. In a similar way I had
the organisational and other directives and orders, even
those in the Operational Field which were not purely
operative, worked out under my supervision and transmitted.
In this respect I should like to point out particularly that
in no case did I send out orders without having shown them
again to my commander-in-chief in making the daily reports,
in order to be certain that I had not misunderstood him in
any form or manner or that I was not issuing anything which,
and this I would like to emphasise, did not have his
approval to the letter.

Q. There was another category of orders and directives -

A. May I perhaps add a few words?

Q. Please do.

A. In order to clarify this: among the documents which are
at issue here are those which Hitler personally signed and
released under the heading "The Fuehrer and the Commander-in-
Chief of the Wehrmacht." There are some exceptions in which
such directives were signed by me "by order of," I would
like to explain this matter also.

In this case, it is also true that, if in urgent
circumstances these directives, which for the most part had
been corrected several times by Hitler personally, had to be
issued and the Fuehrer was prevented from signing himself,
it was necessary for me to let the signature go out in this
form, but never as "deputy," but always as "by order of"
Otherwise, orders were issued as I have already stated in
the form of directives which were signed by me.

At the same time I should like to mention that, even if we
have a series of documents here headed
"Chief of the O.K.W." or - some of them are different -
"Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht," if they are signed "by
order of Jodl," I can say that it can be proved almost
automatically that I did not happen to be there at the time:
otherwise, I would have signed it myself, knowing that I was
Chief of Staff who, in accordance with military regulations,
had to sign such documents.

Q. The memorandum which you have before you contains the
following sentence: "The O.K.W. combined in itself the
activity of a staff and of a ministry, as regards those
matters previously taken care of by the Reich War Ministry,
which have probably been taken over by the O.K.W."

Please clarify the ministerial function of the O.K.W.

A. Yes, this formulation as set down in this document is not
exactly incorrect, but, essentially at least, is open to
misunderstanding; for it was not at all true that

                                                  [Page 314]

all functions which had been previously carried out by the
War Minister were taken over by the O.K.W. There were many
functions which the War Minister, in his capacity as
minister - and thus the person responsible for them - could
and did decide even for the branches of the Wehrmacht and
their commanders, which were never referred to the chief of
the O.K.W., that is, to me.

The following things happened at that time: everything in
this connection involving authority to issue orders or
exercise supreme authority, and which the Fuehrer did not
wish to take over personally, was transferred to the
commanders-in-chief of the branches of the Wehrmacht, as far
as supreme authority and authority to make decisions were
concerned. To touch on the subject briefly I would like to
mention a few essential facts which I remember. For example,
the officers' personal records, decisions on complaints,
documentary material on budget and domestic questions, court
jurisdiction and court authority, which formerly belonged to
the Minister of War, were transferred to the supreme
commander - all questions concerning officials, all
questions of the rights of officials - I could mention still
more, but I merely wished to point out that even in cases
where decisions had to be made, as for example removing an
official or dismissing an employee, the chief of the O.K.W.
did not decide, these powers were delegated to the
Commanders-in-Chief, in addition to the powers they held
previously and which were derived from the War Minister's
field of authority. There were only certain reservations
which the Fuehrer made for himself. Similarly some of the
other fields of the O.K.W. were limited in their assignments
in the course of the following years through the dissolution
of the Economy and Armament Department. The position of
Armament Minister was created because with the dissolution
of the Foreign Defence Office, that is, Intelligence
Service, only the defence of the Wehrmacht troops was left
to them. Everything else was transferred, etc. My authority
included the following: It was my duty in all cases to get
Hitler's decision on all basic questions with which this
ministerial section was concerned. I was only free from the
necessity of doing this in current matters or if there was
complete agreement between the people involved in a
ministerial or administrative question and the branches of
the Wehrmacht in my department.

In such a case a decision by Hitler was not necessary. I
must emphasise again, in summary, that the O.K.W. had no
authority of its own, and that one can only say that Hitler
actually functioned as Commander-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht,
just as the functions of the War Minister, were combined in
his person, so that, to repeat, an intermediary official was
to be eliminated at all costs. That is, there was to be no
intermediary between him and the commanders-in-chief of the
Wehrmacht branches.

THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn now until two o'clock.

(A recess was taken.)

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