The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. The prosecution then contended that according to Document
2852 you were a member of the Council of Ministers for
Defence of the Reich. Did you become a minister through this
membership in the Reich Defence Council?

A. I might perhaps say a few words to begin with about the
Council of Ministers, insofar as the Reich Defence Law, the
Reich Defence Committee and the Reich Defence Council
disappeared as a result of the law regarding the Council of
Ministers for Defence of the Reich, that is, they were never
made public and never put into effect. The Council of
Ministers for Defence of the Reich was newly created on 1st
September, 1939, and this made all these preparations on
paper of the Reich Defence Council, Reich Defence Committee
and the law null and void, and put in its place a new thing,
an institution. This institution, the

                                                  [Page 324]

Council of Ministers for Defence of the Reich, was now the
small war cabinet, which, if I may say so, should previously
have been the Reich Defence Council with its limited number
of members. Thus, a new basis was established, and new
decrees which were necessary were put into effect by the
Council of Ministers for Defence of the Reich, after it had
been created and officially confirmed.

I was called into this Council of Ministers, or rather I
received a seat in this Council of Ministers. I prefer not
to give the reasons, because they were entirely private. It
was a compensation for opposition against these things ... I
never became active in this Council of Ministers for Defence
of the Reich, but I was a member, it was not necessary to be
active since in the purely military sphere that is, things
with which the Wehrmacht immediately was concerned, the
Fuehrer personally, without the Council of Ministers, issued
the necessary decrees over his own signature and the
circuitous route through the Council of Ministers in Berlin
was not necessary; and, in my opinion, I must deny that I
became a minister or took over the functions of a minister
through this appointment. The functions of a minister were
not bound up with it. I was only the representative of the
Wehrmacht in this Council of Ministers.

Q. However, your name is indisputably at the bottom of many
laws and decrees which were issued. How do you explain the
signature on these laws?

A. Yes, I did sign a series of decrees issued by the Council
of Ministers, because they were submitted to me by the
Secretariat, that is the Chief of the Reich Chancellery,
Minister Lammers, with a request for my signature. When I
questioned the necessity for doing this I received a formal
answer from Lammers - to the effect that other Reich
departments might see that the Wehrmacht was not excluded
from these decrees or laws. That is why my signature is
included. It means - that the Wehrmacht must also obey these
decrees and laws. That is why I had no misgivings in signing
my name.

Q. The prosecution further accuses you of being a political
general. Undoubtedly you appeared at various special
functions. Will you please answer this accusation and tell
us how it came about?

A. I can readily understand that the fact that functions of
a ministerial nature which necessarily brought me frequently
into contact with ministers of the Reich - in the course of
a war everything is tied up with the Wehrmacht in some way
or other - would seem to indicate that I had exercised a
political function in these matters. The same conclusion can
be reached by other processes of reasoning. That is, my
presence at State visits and similar functions, as indicated
by many documents, might suggest that I was exercising
political functions, or being drawn into such functions.
Neither is it true, either in regard to internal German
ministerial functions or in regard to foreign political
matters. There were, naturally, a great many things to be
settled with the ministries, the special ministries. The
Wehrmacht had to participate and have a voice in almost all
the decrees which were issued by the civilian ministries.
This work was naturally done in Berlin. The fact that I had
to remain with the Fuehrer at his headquarters kept me away;
and this meant that my offices - the office of the O.K.W. -
had to settle these questions diplomatically with the Reich
departments and their experts rather independently on the
whole. Thus it happened, naturally, that decrees of this
kind were drawn up requiring my comments and the Fuehrer's
consent, which was obtained through me, and that in this
connection I was the person who co-ordinated the various
wishes and views of the High Commanders of the Wehrmacht
branches and reduced them to a common denomination, so to
speak. Through these activities, I was naturally drawn into
the general scheme of this work, but I do not believe that
this would justify the application of the term "political
general" to the Fuehrer's Military Chief of Staff.

Q. What can you tell us with regard to foreign policy and
the meetings at which foreign policy was discussed?

A. Concerning the sphere of foreign policy, I would merely
like to emphasise

                                                  [Page 325]

what the former Reich Foreign Minister has already said
about collaboration with the leadership of the Wehrmacht. If
two commanders were to go their separate ways, then you
would have foreign politics on one side and the Wehrmacht on
the other, especially under the influence of the Fuehrer,
who did not desire collaboration or the mutual exchange of
ideas; and rejected it. He kept us in separate camps, and
wished to work with each one separately. I must emphasise
that most strongly. To conclude, this applies to all other
departments who came to headquarters, that is, everything
was discussed with them alone, and they also left the
headquarters alone.

The Foreign Office was contacted, as State Secretary von
Steengracht has stated, with regard to all questions of
International Law or questions affecting the prisoner-of-war
organisation, which was connected with that, questions of
communication with the protecting powers, and questions
which von Steengracht may have had in mind when he said
"With the Wehrmacht the whole field of an attache's work,"
since all reports sent by military attaches in neutral and
friendly countries to the Commanders-in-Chief of the
Wehrmacht branches went through Foreign Office channels.
They all arrived there and we received them from there. It
was quite natural that during the war any news of special
interest to us might call for special contacts, in that we
often had to complain that the Foreign Office reports did
not reach us in time, and that our Ministry wanted to have
them sent direct and not by a roundabout way. Otherwise,
however, I must emphasise that there was no collaboration in
any other field, or any - I might say - any community of
work, between the High Command and the Foreign Office.

Q. About ten days ago Document D-665 was submitted by the
prosecution. This document is headed "The Fuehrer's Ideas
regarding the Waffen S.S." dated 6th August, 1940. In this
document there is a passage by the O.K.W., which states the

  "The Chief of the O.K.W. has determined that the widest
  dissemination of the ideas of the Fuehrer on the Waffen
  S.S. is desirable."

Do you know this document?

A. Yes, I read this document at the time it was submitted,
and I remembered it. To explain the origin of this document
I must say briefly:

After the war in France Hitler planned to give an
independent status to the S.S. forces, Waffen S.S. forces,
in order to make them complete military units. He may have
carried this out. Until that time they had been branches of
infantry troops attached to different army formations. Now
these groups were to be made into independent and fully-
equipped units and would thus become independent formations.
This created extreme unrest in the army, and caused acute
dissatisfaction among the generals. It was said to denote
competition with the army, and the breaking of the promise
made to the army that "there is only one bearer of arms in
Germany - and that is the Wehrmacht." They asked: "Where
would this lead?"

At that time the Commander-in-Chief of the army asked
Hitler's Chief Adjutant for information about this outrage
and General Schmundt, with Hitler's approval, then wrote the
passage mentioned in this document.

I went to the Fuehrer personally about this question to tell
him plainly that the army considered it an insult. He
decided to handle the matter through his adjutant, as it had
nothing to do with the High Command of the Wehrmacht. This
announcement was then communicated to the army itself in
order to calm the feelings aroused. The information from
myself that there was no objection to the widest publicity
in this case either, was given to satisfy General
Brauchitsch, who expressly requested to be allowed to
distribute it to every unit in order to reassure the Army
that the troops in question were police troops who had to
have experience of active service, as otherwise the home
front would refuse to recognise them.

                                                  [Page 326]

That is how it began; and if I am asked my views on the
matter at present I would say briefly: I also thought at the
time that there ought to be a limit to these things; I
believe ten per cent. was the figure mentioned. With the
development of events in connection with the setting up of
new formations after 1942, these troops lost their original
character of an e1ite, selected on physical and racial
grounds. There was no mistaking the fact that considerable
pressure was exercised; and I myself was very much afraid
that some day this instrument of the Waffen S.S. which had
swelled to a force more than twenty divisions strong, would
grow into a new Army with a different ideology. We had very
grave misgivings in this respect, especially as what we now
saw before us was no longer an e1ite in any sense of the
term; and since we even saw commissioned and non-
commissioned officers and men transferred from these troops
to the Wehrmacht. It was no longer a question of selecting
volunteers. I do not think there is anything further to add.

Q. The prosecution has submitted document L-211 to me. It is
headed "War Operations as an Organisational Problem," and
contains the comments of the O.K.W. on the memorandum of the
Commander-in-Chief of the Army regarding the organisation of
the leadership of the Wehrmacht.

This document was submitted to prove that the O.K.W. and
you, as chief of the High Command of the Wehrmacht, held
views which favoured aggression and had expressed them in

I assume that you remember this memorandum. What have you to
say about the accusation which is based on this?

A. This document was submitted to me during my preliminary
interrogation and thus I was reminded of its existence. In
this connection I must also give a brief description of the
background. It is not an exaggeration to say that in the
early twenties, that is shortly after the end of the First
World War, there was a great deal of literature produced, I
believe in all countries which had taken part in the war, on
the best way of distributing and co-ordinating competencies
on the highest level in the armed forces
(Kriegsspitzengliederung). I myself wrote on the subject and
I know the opinions held in the United States, England and
France. At that time everybody was occupied with the
question of Kriegsspitzengliederung, and von Blomberg said
he was in favour of the eighth solution - seven had already
been discarded.

In this connection a struggle developed, led by the High
Command of the Army and the General Staff of the Army, who
constantly opposed the idea of a combined supreme
operational command of the armed forces, and demanded that
the supreme authority should be in the hands of the Army
General Staff, as it was before.

When the High Command was created and von Blomberg had gone,
the army thought the moment opportune to return with renewed
vigour to the attack. The result was a memorandum from the
Commander-in-Chief of the Army, written by General Beck, and
the answer to this is the memorandum mentioned here. As I
collaborated in the drafting of this answer, I can vouch
that two men were responsible for it, namely, General Jodl
and myself, and that we were the only two who worked on it.
I can state that at that time we were not motivated by any
acute problem or by any preliminary general staff work in
preparation for war, but only by the fact, as I might put
it, that of all the many memoranda and investigations into
the most expedient method, the one drawn up by us appeared
to be the most practical.

THE PRESIDENT: Does the document not speak for itself? He
says he collaborated in it, but that it was not concerned
with war, so that is all that needs to be said. The document
speaks for itself then.

DR. NELTE: But surely he may clarify some of the ideas
contained in this document. Moreover, Mr. President, in
regard to this question I took the liberty of submitting the
affidavit in document book 2: "High Command of the Wehrmacht

                                                  [Page 327]

and General Staff," which is signed by the defendant Keitel
as well as by Herr Jodl. It has been submitted to you as No.
2 of Document Book 2.

THE PRESIDENT: Is that the affidavit of 8th March?

DR. NELTE: 29th March, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: The first one in the book, or where is it?

DR. NELTE: No, in the second part.

THE PRESIDENT: But what page?

DR. NELTE: The pages have not been numbered consecutively,
it has a table of contents, and under that you will find it
as number two.

THE PRESIDENT: Are you quoting then from L-211 now? Are you
finished with that?

DR. NELTE: This affidavit belongs to L-211.

THE PRESIDENT: I thought the witness said he had
collaborated in the study, which is L-211, and that it was
not concerned with war. You might leave it at that.

DR. NELTE: I believe, Mr. President, in this trial we are
concerned with hearing what the defendants have to say to
those documents which accuse them. The explanation of
document L-211 which the defendant wishes to make is
contained in the affidavit which I submitted in document
book number 2.

THE PRESIDENT: If what he wishes to say was put down in the
affidavit then he should not have been asked about it; the
affidavit should have been read.

DR. NELTE: The difference between his verbal statement and
the contents of the affidavit is a difference in time of 1st
to 10th. He only gave a brief summary of the answer he
wished to make. The affidavit is longer, and therefore I
thought I could dispense with reading the affidavit if he
could give us a brief summary of the chief points with which
we are concerned.

THE PRESIDENT: You and I have a different idea of the word

DR. NELTE: May I continue, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, go on.


Q. I now come to the question of rearmament, and the various
cases of Austria, Czechoslovakia, etc. I would like to ask
you about the accusation of the prosecution, that you
participated in the planning and preparation of wars of
aggression. So that we can understand each other, and you
can give your answers correctly, we must be quite clear as
to what is meant by war of aggression. Will you tell us your
views on that subject?

A. As a soldier, I must say that the term war of aggression
as used here is meaningless as far as I am concerned; we
learned how to conduct aggressive warfare, defensive
actions, and actions of retreat. However, according to my
own personal feeling as a military man, the concept "war of
aggression" is a purely political concept and not a military
one. I mean that if the Wehrmacht and the soldier, are a
tool of the politicians, they are not qualified in my
opinion to decide or to judge whether these military
operations did or did not constitute a war of aggression. I
think I can summarise my views by saying that military
offices should not have authority to decide this question
and are not in a position to do so; and that these decisions
are not the task of the soldier, but solely that of the

Q. Then you mean to say - and this applies also to all
Commanders-in-Chief - and officers involved - that the
question of whether or not a war is a war of aggression, or
whether or not it would be conducted for the defence of a
country, in other words, whether a war is a just war or not,
was not in the field of your professional deliberations and

A. No; that is what I wish to express, since ...

Q. What you are giving is an explanation. But you are not
only a soldier, you are also an individual with a life of
your own. When facts brought to your notice in your
professional capacity revealed that a projected operation
was unjust, did you not have private and personal doubts?

                                                  [Page 328]

A. I believe I can truthfully say that, throughout the whole
of my military career I was brought up, so to speak, in the
old tradition, which never concerned itself in this
question. Naturally, one has one's own opinion and a life of
one's own, but in the exercise of professional functions as
a soldier and officer this life has been given away, yielded
up. Therefore I could not say either at that time or later,
that I gave thought to these purely political questions, for
I took the stand that a soldier should be able to have
confidence in his State leadership, and, accordingly, he is
obliged to do his duty and to obey.

Q. Now we will take up the questions individually.

Did you know Hitler's plans first in regard to rearmament,
and later, in regard to aggression, as the prosecution calls
it? I am thinking chiefly of the period from February 1933
to 1938.

A. It was clear to me that when Hitler became Chancellor, we
soldiers would undoubtedly have a different position in the
Reich under new leadership, and that the military factor
would certainly be viewed differently from what had been the
case before. Therefore, we quite frankly and openly welcomed
the fact, that at the head of the Reich Government there was
a man who was determined to bring about an era which would
lead us out of the deplorable conditions then obtaining.

So much I must confess, that I welcomed the plan and
intention to rearm as far as was possible at that time, as
well as the ideas which tended in that direction. In any
event, as early as 1933, in the late summer, I resigned from
my activities in the War Ministry. I spent two years on
active service and only returned at the time when the
Wehrhoheit (military sovereignty) had been re-established
and it was obvious that we were rearming. Therefore, during
my absence I did not follow these matters. At any rate, in
the period from 1935 to 1938, during which I was Chief under
Blomberg, I naturally saw and witnessed everything that took
place in connection with rearmament and everything that was
done in this field by the War Ministry to help the Wehrmacht

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