The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. By the decree of the 4th of February, 1938, a Secret
Cabinet Council was established. According to the contents
of that decree, you are supposed to have been a member of
that Cabinet Council. In order to save time, I merely wish
to ask you: Do you confirm from your own knowledge the
statement made by Reichs Marshal Goering, that the Secret
Cabinet Council was established only for appearances and
that a Secret Cabinet Council was never constituted and that
it never had a session?

A. I can only answer yes, never.

DR. NELTE: I come now to the question of the Reich Defence
Council (Reichsverteidigungsrat.) In the session of the 23rd
of November, the prosecution submitted in evidence, as proof
of the rearmament and the active participation of the
Wehrmacht in the planning of wars of aggression, among
others, Document EC-177, which was designated as "Meeting of
the Reich Defence Council of the 22nd of May, 1933." I must
say that I have taken the translation from the minutes and I
am not sure whether the expression "Reichsverteidigungsrat"
- Reich defence council - was translated correctly. In the
minutes it states that it is a meeting of the working
committee. For your information may I say that the
"Reichsverteidigungsrat" was supposed to be a sort of
ministerial body and that in addition, there was a working

A second document EC-405 was submitted, a meeting of the
same body on the 7th of March, 1934; and a third document
2261-PS dealing with the Reich Defence Law of 1935 and the
appointment of Dr. Schacht as Plenipotentiary General for
War Economy.


Q. Beyond doubt, you have been active in questions of
National Defence. These documents are also submitted as
evidence against you. I ask you, therefore, to state whether
these meetings in which you participated and which you
conducted were concerned with preparations for war and

                                                  [Page 320]

A. From the very beginning, as long as we were working on
these things and by means of a committee of experts from
which everything else evolved, I personally participated in
these matters, and I may call myself the founder of that
committee of ministerial experts which was set up to co-
operate with the War Ministry. As Chief of the Organisation
Department of the Army, in the winter of 1929 and 1930, that
is, three years before Hitler came to power, I formed and
personally assembled that committee after the Chancellor - I
believe it was Bruning and the Prussian and Reichsminister
of the Interior Severing had consented to it. I would like
to add that a representative of Minister Severing was always
present to make sure that nothing took place which would
have been in violation of the Treaty of Versailles. This
work was very difficult, because no Reichsminister and no
department head was officially obliged to carry out the
wishes of the National Ministry of Defence, it was purely
voluntary. Consequently, the work went along haltingly and
slowly. In this committee of experts which met perhaps two
or three times a year, we dealt with - if I may put it
briefly - what assistance the civilian department could
render in order to free the small army of one hundred
thousand soldiers for purely military tasks, naturally
limiting ourselves to the defence of our frontiers, as
stated in the Treaty of Versailles I could still repeat our
discussion from memory, since, with the exception of the
period from 1933 to 1935, I conducted every one of these
meetings myself, that is as leader of the discussion, not as
chairman. I can however refer you now to the Mobilisation
Handbook for civil authorities, which was the outcome of
this work and about which I shall speak later. We were
concerned only with questions of defence, such as the
protection of our frontiers, and, in order to make myself
clear, I should like to mention some of them. The Wehrmacht
was to be free to protect railway property, post office
property, reinforcement offices, radio stations, etc., and
to man the frontiers with security garrisons, for which the
Customs Services were to be responsible. Cable and sea
communications with East Prussia were also to be improved. I
will not bore you with all this. They were all defensive
measures with a view to freeing the few soldiers for purely
military functions, because for purposes of actual military
operations I need not tell you what we could have done with
an army of only 100,000 men. Any questions which went beyond
this were never dealt with in that committee. The manner in
which we worked was this: I asked the experts to submit the
wishes to their heads of departments or Secretaries of State
and then to try to persuade the heads of departments to take
over the tasks from us, so that we could say that was being
done by others and we need not bother about it. I can
guarantee that operational questions, strategic questions,
armament questions, questions of supply of war equipment
were never discussed in this committee. They were only
organisational questions of the taking over of functions
which generally should be performed by a soldier, but which
we wanted to transfer to the civil authorities.

Now, as to the meeting of 22nd May, 1933, which has been
discussed several times. It was already stated in the
heading of the minutes which we have before us: Competency,
hitherto the "Reichswehrminister," now the Reich Defence
Council. Hitherto Reichswehrminister, over the committee,
voluntary participation of the ministers of other
departments; now compulsory participation of the heads of
Departments, that is the Ministers, who received the title
of "Defence Councillors." I will express that even more
clearly, so that it cannot be misunderstood. Every member of
the committee represented a ministry. The minister to whom
the committee member was responsible, along with his
colleagues, formed the Reich Defence Council, as envisaged
by us then. They were the council and we were the committee.
Therefore, up to now "Reichswehrminister" - now, one could
say, as I have just expressed it, the other Ministers were
obliged to handle these matters.

In paragraph 3 the working plans were particularly
mentioned. These working plans, in a word, are the
forerunner of the Mobilisation. Book, which is the final

                                                  [Page 321]

stage; whereas the working plans of about 1933 were the
intermediary stage. Then, as regards the concluding words at
the meeting of 22nd May, 1933, which have been given special
prominence here by the prosecution, and which deal with the
need for secrecy - the passage where I said, according to
the minutes, that nothing which could lead to objections at
the Disarmament Conference should be left 1ying in the desks
of the ministries, that is correct. I did say that and I
have said it because the experts told me that, with the
exception of a small wooden box or a drawer in a desk which
could not be locked, they had no place in which to keep
anything and because von Blomberg, Reich War Minister at
that time, who had been in Geneva at the Disarmament
Conference for almost two years, gave me the definite order
before this meeting, to point out these things, because in
Geneva one was surrounded by an extremely large number of
agents who were only waiting to be able to present proof
that, in spite of the disarmament negotiations, there were
things going on which could be interpreted as violations of
the Versailles Treaty. That is what I have to say about the

Q. I have given to you now the Mobilisation Book for the
Civil Administration. It is document PS-1639. It has been
submitted in order to prove that aggressive wars were being
planned. Would you explain to us the purpose of this book?

A. I have already stated that at an earlier stage, that is
during the years 1932/33, the individual ministries had so-
called working plans which included what they were to do if
something happened which necessitated their participation in
defending the country. In the course of years, naturally, a
number of new tasks were added and that finally led to this
Mobilisation Book for the Civil Authorities and Civil
Administration, the study of which would certainly show
nothing which might have anything to do with strategic,
operational or other preparations for war. On the other
hand, I am not in a position to prove that everything
contained in this book could never have been useful in
military operations which could develop from an aggressive
war plan. Many, one could almost say most, measures in the
event of mobilisation would not indicate on the surface
whether it is a measure for defence or a measure which is
necessary for aggressive action, or if it is merely a
supposition. That cannot be determined. But I believe I can
say, because I, myself, have been engaged so personally in
this work, perhaps more than anyone else, that there was no
reason at all to burden the civilian experts - they were
high government counsellors - with strategic or operational
planning. I do not believe that it is necessary to prove
that such work is not within their scope. I have looked
through and studied this mobilisation book here. I do not
wish to bore you by citing points which are of a purely
defensive nature. I could name them: closing, reinforcement
of the frontier defences; demolitions, cutting of railroads
and similar things, all this is in the book. One of the most
important chapters, which, if I remember correctly, we
discussed during four or five of these sessions, was the
question of evacuation, that is, evacuating territories
close to the border of valuable war material and personnel,
so that, in case of war, they should not fall into the hands
of the enemy. This problem of evacuation was one of the most
difficult, because the extent to which one can evacuate,
that is, what things can be evacuated, is perhaps one of the
most difficult decisions to make.

Q. If I ...

A. I would like to say one more thing about the Reich
Defence Committee, supplementing the ideas which I expressed
before. Until the year 1938 no meeting or session of the
Reich Defence Council was ever held, that is, the ministers
who were the superiors of the committee members never met,
not even once. I would have known about it, although at the
cabinet meeting, I believe as early as March, 1933, we
passed a resolution to make these ministers responsible for
a Reich Defence Council which should deal with these tasks,
and to oblige them to take over these tasks as their
necessary contribution to the defence of the Reich, and, of
course, to finance them. That was the main purpose -
otherwise the Reich Defence Council never met.

                                                  [Page 322]

Q. Actually, the minutes which have been presented for the
period of 1933 to 1938 are of the meetings of working
committees. But you know that about eight days ago two
documents were submitted which appeared to be the minutes of
the meetings of the Reich Defence Council. One session or
assembly is supposed to have taken place in November, 1938,
and the second one in March, 1939. Unfortunately, I have not
received these documents, but I have looked at them and you
have also seen them. Can you explain to us how these
minutes, i.e. these meetings, came about and what they mean?

A. I merely wish to add a few supplementary words to the
statement which Reich Marshal Goering has already made. In
December, 1938, there was passed the Reich Defence Law,
which had been drawn up in 1935, a shelved law, i.e. a law
which had not been made public and one which required
modification, the reason being that the Reich Defence Law of
1935 was devised by the Reich War Minister, Commander in
Chief von Blomberg who no longer held office. I was with
Reich Marshall Goering at that time to discuss this with him
and to find a new basis for this law, which until then had
not been published. This law of the autumn of 1938 had a
number of supplementary clauses as compared to the old one,
and perhaps I will be able to give details later. Among
other things, according to this law also, Reich Marshal
Goering, who was formerly Reich War Minister, represented
the Fuehrer, a function which I could not exercise.

This conference in November, 1938, to recall it briefly, had
been convened by Reich Marshal Goering in order to present
this law which had not been published, and which was not to
be published, to a large circle of members of the
ministries. There were about seventy or more persons
present, to whom the Reich Marshal explained the purpose and
the essence of this law in the form of a speech. There was
no discussion apart from that speech and there was certainly
no question of a meeting of the Reich Defence Council at
that time.

You also recently showed me the second document of a meeting
of the Reich Defence Council as it is called and as also
appears in the heading of the minutes of the summer, 1939.

Q. No, March, 1939.

A. That has been mentioned here, and I believe it was the
second meeting of the Reich Defence Council, I can explain

I called a meeting of the committee and, of course,
furnished Reichsmarschall Goering with the agenda and the
names of the people who were to be present. Reichsmarschall
Goering informed me that he would come himself and that
since he wished to discuss other questions he would
accordingly enlarge the attendance. This conference,
therefore, had an agenda which I had planned for the
committee and concrete questions were also brought up for
debate. It is however remarkable that according to the list
of those present, that is according to the numbers, the
members of the Reich Defence Council were only represented
by a very small number, partly not at all, although there
were about forty or fifty people present. The Reich Defence
Council itself was a body of twelve people, and it needs no
further explanation that, from the form in which these two
conferences or sessions took place, one could not say that
this was a plenary session of the Reich Defence Council
based upon a clearly defined agenda but rather, that there
were two meetings, the motive and extent of which I have
described here.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Nelte, the Tribunal think that you might
get on a little more quickly with the defendant. The
Tribunal recall that you asked a few days ago that you might
submit an affidavit of the defendant's evidence, and there
is in your Document Book an affidavit. You have been over
all those matters in the affidavit at very much greater
length than you would have gone into them if you had read
the affidavit, and we hope that you will be able to deal
more shortly with the evidence in future.

                                                  [Page 323]

DR. NELTE: Mr. President, I made every effort to be as brief
and concise as possible in my questions, but testimony is,
of course, always subjective. The defendant is unfortunately
the one who is mentioned most frequently in this trial and
naturally he is interested in clarifying those matters which
he considers essential in order to present his case clearly.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, Dr. Nelte, I do not think it is
necessary to discuss the matter further; but the Tribunal
have expressed their wish.

DR. NELTE: As far as I am able, I shall comply with your
request, Mr. President.

(The defendant Keitel resumed the stand and testified
further as follows.)

BY DR. NELTE (Continued):

Q. Feldmarschall Keitel, you have just given us an
explanation of the Reich Defence Council, and the Reich
Defence Committee. You probably realise that we are not and
should not be so much concerned with whether decisions are
made by a Reich Defence Council or a Reich Defence
Committee. We are interested in what actually took place and
whether or not these things justify the imputations of the
prosecution. In this respect I ask you to tell me if those
things which you discussed and planned on the Reich Defence
Committee justify the suspicion that you were considering
aggressive war?

A. I realise fully that we are not concerned with the
formality of whether it was the Council or the Committee,
since the Council was a board of ministers, while the
Committee was a board of minor experts. We are concerned
with what actually did take place and what was done. With
the exception that in the year 1934 and until the autumn of
1935 I was not present at these discussions, and therefore
cannot vouch for every word which was spoken at that time, I
must state that nothing about the planning of wars, the
preparing for wars, the operational, strategical or armed
preparedness for war was ever discussed.

Q. The prosecution has labelled you as a member of the Three-
Man Council, from which they have deduced that you had
special powers to act within the German Reich Government. I
am submitting to you Document 2194-PS. In this document in
the Reich Defence Law of 1938, paragraph 5, sub-section 4,
you will find the source of this term which, in itself, is
not official.

A. The Reich Defence Law of 1938 provided for a general
plenipotentiary for administration in order to restrict the
size of the body. The Reich Minister of the Interior was to
have this office and further, according to paragraph 5,
subsection 4, the Supreme Command of the Army was to have
priority influence in regard to the State Railways and the
State Postal Services, for in the event of mobilisation,
transport must run and the services for the transmission of
news must be available, as is the case in all countries. The
Three-Man Council is an idea which I have never heard of
until just now. It probably refers to the Plenipotentiary
General for Administration, the Plenipotentiary General for
Economy and the Chief of the O.K.W. It referred to three.
There is no doubt about it, because, in line with the Reich
Defence Law, they were already supposed to have a number of
decrees which were to be published when this law was made
public, and each one of the three had to make the necessary
preparations in his own sphere. Thus the idea of a Three-man
Council originated.

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