The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. What was the motive of Hitler's speech to the Commanders-
in-Chief on 23rd November, 1939, in the Reich Chancellery?

A. I can say that this was very closely connected with the
crisis between Hitler and the generals which I have just
discussed. He called a meeting of the generals on that
occasion to present and substantiate his views, and we knew
it was his intention to bring about a change in their
attitude. In the notes on this speech, we see that
individual persons were more than once directly and sharply
rebuked. Those who had spoken against this attack in the
West repeated their reasons for so doing.

Moreover, he wanted to state his irrevocable intention to
carry out this aggressive action in the West that very
winter, because this - in his view - was the only strategic
solution, as every moment's delay was to the enemy's
advantage. In other words, at that time, he no longer
counted on any other solution than resort to force of arms.

Q. When, then, was the decision made to advance through
Belgium and Holland?

A. The preparations for such a march through and attack on
Belgium and Holland had already been made, but Hitler
delayed his decision actually to carry out such a big attack
or to violate the neutrality of these countries, and
remained undecided until the spring of 1940. This delay was,
obviously, caused by all

                                                   [Page 10]

sorts of political reasons, and perhaps also because he
thought that the problem might be solved automatically if
the enemy invaded Belgium or if the mobile French troops
crossed the frontier. I can only state that the decision for
the carrying out of this plan was withheld until the very
last moment and the order was given only just before it was
to be executed. I believe that there was also one other
factor in this, a factor which I have already mentioned,
namely the relationship between the royal houses of Italy
and Belgium. Hitler always surrounded his decisions with
secrecy, for he was obviously afraid that they might become
known through this relationship.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Nelte, the Tribunal will be glad if, when
you refer to Czechoslovakia or any other State you will
refer to it by its proper name - you and the defendants and
other witnesses.

DR. NELTE: Mr. President, the defendant Keitel wishes to
make a slight correction in the statement which he made
earlier in answer to my question regarding the occupation in
the West during the Polish campaign.


WITNESS: I said earlier that in the West during the war
against Poland, there were five divisions. I must rectify
that statement. I had mixed that up with the year 1938. In
1939 there were approximately twenty divisions, including
the reserves in the Rhineland and in the West districts
behind the lines. Therefore, the statement I made was made
inadvertently and was a mistake.

Q. Now we come to the Balkans wars. The prosecution, with
reference to the war against Greece and Yugoslavia, has
accused you of having co-operated in the preparation,
planning and above all in the carrying out of those wars.
What is your attitude to this?

A. We were rushed into the war against Greece and against
Yugoslavia in the spring of 1941 to our complete surprise
and without having made any plans. This applies especially
to Greece. I accompanied Hitler during his journey through
France for the meetings with Marshal Petain and with Franco
on the Spanish border, and during that journey we had our
first news regarding the intention of Italy to attack
Greece. The journey to Florence was immediately decided
upon, and upon arrival in Florence, we received Mussolini's
statement, which has already been mentioned by Reich Marshal
Goering; namely, that the attack against Greece had already

I can say from my own personal knowledge that Hitler was
extremely disgusted with this development and the dragging
of the Balkans into the war, and that only the fact that
Italy was an ally prevented a break with Mussolini. I never
knew of any intentions to wage war against Greece.

Q. Was there any necessity for Germany to enter into that
war or how did that come about?

A. At first, the necessity did not exist, but during the
early months - October-November - of that campaign, it soon
became clear that the Italian position in this war had
become extremely precarious. Therefore, as early as November
or December, there were calls on the part of Mussolini for
help, calls to assist him in some form or other.

Apart from that, seen from the military point of view, it
was clear, of course, that for the entire military position
in the war, the defeat of Italy in the Balkans would have
had considerable and very serious consequences. Therefore,
assistance of some sort had to be improvised. I think a
mountain division was to be brought in, but that was
technically impossible, since there were no unloading
facilities. Then another solution was attempted by means of
air transport.

Q. At the time, however, when improvisations ceased, we come
to the operation presented by the prosecution, and called
"Marita." When was that operation conceived?

                                                   [Page 11]

A. The war in Greece and Albania had begun to reach a state
of stagnation because of winter conditions. During that
time, plans were conceived to avoid a catastrophe for Italy,
by bringing in against Greece certain forces from the North
for an attack to relieve the pressure, for such I must call
it. That would, of course, and did, take several months.

May I just explain that at that time the idea of a march
through Yugoslavia, or even the suggestion that forces
should be brought in through that country was definitely
turned down by Hitler, although the Army particularly had
proposed that possibility as the most suitable way of
bringing in troops.

Regarding the operation "Marita," perhaps not much more can
be said than to mention the march through Bulgaria, which
had been prepared and discussed diplomatically with that

Q. I would like to ask just one more question on that
subject. The prosecution has stated that even before the
fall of the Yugoslav Government - that is to say, at the end
of March, 1941 - negotiations were conducted with Hungary as
to the possibility of an attack on Yugoslavia. Were you or
the O.K.W. informed of this, or did you participate?

A. No. I have no recollection at all of any military
discussion on the part of the O.K.W. with Hungary regarding
military action in the case of Yugoslavia. That is
completely unknown to me. On the contrary, everything that
happened later on - I shall have to say a few words about
Yugoslavia later - was merely improvised. Nothing had been
prepared, at any rate, not with the knowledge of the O.K.W.

Q. But it is known to you, is it not, that military
discussions with Hungary had taken place during that period?
I assume that you merely want to say that they did not refer
to Yugoslavia.

A. Of course, it was known to me that several discussions
had taken place with the Hungarian General Staff.

Q. You said you wanted to say something else about the case
of Yugoslavia. Reich Marshal Goering has here made
statements upon that subject. Can you add anything new?
Otherwise, I have no further questions with regard to that

A. I should merely like to confirm once more that the
decision to attack Yugoslavia meant completely upsetting all
military movements and arrangements made up to that time.
"Marita" had to be completely readjusted. Also new forces
had to be brought through Hungary from the North. All that
was completely improvised.

Q. We come now to the plan "Barbarossa." The Soviet
Prosecution, particularly, have revealed that the Supreme
Command of the Armed Forces and you as Chief of Staff, as
early as the summer of 1940, had occupied themselves with a
plan of attack against the Soviet Union. When did Hitler for
the first time talk to you about the possibility of a
conflict, of an armed conflict with the Soviet Union?

A. As far as I recollect, that was at the beginning of
August, 1940, on the occasion of a discussion of the
situation at Berchtesgaden, or rather at his house, the
Berghof. That was the first time that the possibility of an
armed conflict with the Soviet Union was discussed.

Q. What reasons did Hitler give at that time for thinking
that a war with the Soviet Union was possible?

A. I think I can refer to what Reich Marshal Goering has
said on this subject.

According to our conception, there were considerable troop
concentrations in Bessarabia and Bukowina. The Foreign
Minister, too, had mentioned figures, which I can't recall -
and there was the anxiety which had been repeatedly voiced
by Hitler at that time that something further might arise in
the Roumanian theatre which would endanger our source of
petroleum, the fuel supply for the conduct of the war, which
for the most part came from that country. Apart from that, I
think he talked about strong and obvious troop
concentrations in the Baltic provinces.

                                                   [Page 12]

Q. Were any directives given by you at that time or by those
branches off the Armed Forces which were affected?

A. No. As far as I can recollect this was confined firstly
to increased activities of the intelligence or espionage
service against Russia and, secondly, to certain
investigations regarding the possibility of transferring
troops from the West, from France, as quickly as possible to
the South-east areas or to East Prussia. Certain return
transports of troops from the Eastern army corps districts
had already taken place at the end of July. Apart from that
no instructions were given at that time.

Q. How was the line of demarcation occupied?

A. There had been continual reports from that demarcation
line, of frontier incidents, of firing, and particularly of
frequent crossings of that line by aircraft of the Soviet
Union. This led to the exchange of notes. There were small
but fierce frontier actions, particularly in the South, and
we received information through our frontier troops that
from time to time new Russian troop units appeared opposite
them, I think that was all.

Q. Do you know how many divisions of the German Wehrmacht
were stationed there at the time?

A. During the Western campaign there were - I do not think I
am wrong this time - seven divisions; seven divisions from
East Prussia to the Carpathians, two of which, during the
Western campaign, had even been transported to the West but
were later on transported back again.

Q. The prosecution stated that at the end of July, 1940,
Colonel General Jodl had given general instructions in a
conference to certain officers of the Armed Forces
Operations Staff to occupy themselves with the Russian
problem, and particularly to examine railway transport
conditions. Since you said a little earlier that not until
August did you hear for the first time from Hitler what the
situation was, I am now asking you whether you were informed
about these conferences of Colonel General Jodl.

A. No. I did not hear that such a conference took place in
Berchtesgaden at the end of July or beginning of August
until I came here. This was due to the fact that I was
absent from Berchtesgaden. I did not know of this
conference, and I think General Jodl probably forgot to tell
me about it at the time.

Q. What were your personal views at that time regarding the
problem which arose out of the conference with Hitler?

A. When I realised that the matter had been given really
serious thought I was most surprised, and I felt it most
unfortunate. I seriously considered what could be done by
using military arguments to influence Hitler. At that time,
as has been briefly mentioned here by the Foreign Minister,
I wrote a memorandum, giving my personal views on the
matter, quite independently of the views of the experts on
the General Staff and the Armed Forces Operations Staff. I
intended to present this memorandum to Hitler, because, as a
rule, one could never get beyond the second sentence of a
discussion with him. He took the words out of one's mouth
and after-wards one never was able to say what one wanted
to. In this connection I should like to say that I had the
idea - it was the first and only time - of visiting the
Foreign Minister personally, in order to ask him to support
me from the political angle regarding that question. Hence
the visit to Fuschl, which has already been discussed here
and which the Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop confirmed
during his examination the other day.

Q. Then you confirm what Herr von Ribbentrop has said, so
that there is no need for me to repeat it?

A. I confirm that I went to Fuschl. I had the memorandum
with me. It had been written by hand, since I did not want
anybody else to see it, and I left Fuschl convinced that he
wanted to try to exercise influence on Hitler to the same
end. He promised me he would do so.

Q. Did you give that memorandum to Hitler?

                                                   [Page 13]

A. Yes. Some time later at the Berghof, after a report of
the situation had been given, I handed him that memorandum
when we were alone. I think he told me at the time that he
was going to study it. He took it without giving me a chance
to make any explanations.

Q. Considering its importance did you later on find an
opportunity to refer to it again?

A. Yes. At first nothing at all happened. Later, therefore,
I reminded him of it and asked him to discuss the problem
with me. This he did, and the matter was dealt with very
briefly by his saying that the military and strategic
considerations put forward by me were in no way convincing.
He, Hitler, considered these ideas erroneous, and turned
them down. In that connection I can perhaps mention very
briefly that I was again very much upset and there was
another crisis when I asked to be relieved of my post, and
that another man be put in my office and that I be sent to
the front. That once more led to a sharp controversy as has
already been described by the Reich Marshal, when he said
that Hitler took the attitude that he would not tolerate
that a general, whose views he did not agree with, should
ask to be relieved of his post because of his disagreement.
I think he said that he had every right to turn down such
suggestions and ideas if he considered them wrong, and that
I had not the right to make any inferences from that.

Q. Did he return that memorandum to you?

A. No, I do not think I got it back. I have always assumed
that it was found among the captured Schmundt files, but
apparently such is not the case. I did not get it back; he
kept it.

Q. I do not wish to occupy the time of the Tribunal in this
connection any further. I will leave it to you as to whether
you wish to disclose the contents of that memorandum. I am
not so much concerned with the military presentation, one
can imagine what that was, but the question is: did you
refer to the Non-Aggression Pact of 1939 in that memorandum?

A. Yes, but I must say that the main part was devoted to
military considerations; the balance of forces, the
requirements of the forces, and the extent to which they
were dispersed - with troops in France and Norway, and the
air force in Italy, so that we were tied down in the West.
In that memorandum I most certainly referred to the fact
that that Non-Aggression Pact existed. But the memorandum
was mainly concerned with military considerations.

Q. Were any military orders given at that time?

A. No orders were given at that time except for the
improvement of lines of communications from the West to the
East for speeding up troop transports, particularly to the
South-eastern sector; in other words, north of the
Carpathians and in the East Prussian sector. Apart from that
no orders of any kind were given.

Q. Had the discussion with Foreign Minister Molotov already
taken place?

A. No. On the contrary, the idea of a discussion with the
Russians was still pending in October. Hitler also told me
at the time, and he always emphasised this, that until such
a discussion had taken place he would not give any orders,
since it had been proved to him by General Jodl that in any
case it was technically impossible to transfer strong troop
units into the threatened sectors, which I have mentioned,
in the East. Accordingly, nothing was done. The visit or
discussion with the Russian delegation was arranged, in
which connection I would like to say that I made the
suggestion at that time that Hitler should talk personally
with Stalin. That was the only thing I did in the matter.

Q. During that conference were military matters discussed?

A. I didn't take any part in the discussions with M.
Molotov, although in this instance also I was present at the
reception and certain official functions, and on two
occasions sat next to him at the table. I didn't hear any
political discussion nor did I have any with, M. Molotov.

Q. What did Hitler say after these discussions had come to
an end?

                                                   [Page 14]

A. He really said very little. He more or less said that he
was disappointed in the discussions. I think he mentioned
briefly that problems regarding the Baltic Sea and the Black
Sea areas had been discussed in a general way and that he
had not been able to get any positive reaction. He didn't go
into details. I asked him about military matters which had a
certain significance at the time - the strong forces, for
instance, in the Bessarabian sector. I think Hitler evaded
the question and said that was obviously connected with all
these matters and that he had not gone into it too deeply,
or something similar. I can't remember exactly. At any rate,
there was nothing new in it for us and nothing final.

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