The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: imt/tgmwc/judgment/j-defendants-keitel

Archive/File: imt/ tgmwc/judgment/j-defendants-keitel
Last-Modified: 1997/09/05

                           of the
               International Military Tribunal
                           For The
             Trial of German Major War Criminals

               His Majesty's Stationery Office
                                                   [Page 90]

M. De Vabres:
Keitel is indicted on all four Counts. He was Chief of Staff
to the then Minister of War Von Blomberg from 1935 to 4th
February, 1938; on that day Hitler took command of the Armed
Forces, making Keitel Chief of the High Command of the Armed
Forces. Keitel did not have command authority over the three
Wehrmacht branches which enjoyed direct access to the
Supreme Commander. OKW was in effect Hitler's military

Crimes against Peace

Keitel attended the Schuschnigg conference in February, 1938
with two other generals. Their presence, he admitted, was a
"military demonstration," but since he had been appointed
OKW Chief just one week before he had not known why he had
been summoned. Hitler and Keitel then continued to put
pressure on Austria with false rumors, broadcasts, and troop
maneuvers. Keitel made the military and other arrangements,
and Jodl's diary noted "the effect is quick and strong."
When Schuschnigg called his plebiscite, Keitel that night
briefed Hitler and his generals, and Hitler issued "Case
Otto" which Keitel initialed.

On 21st April, 1938, Hitler and Keitel considered making use
of a possible ' incident," such as the assassination of the
German Minister at Prague, to preface the attack on
Czechoslovakia. Keitel signed many directives and memoranda
on "Fall Gruen", including the directive of 30th May,
containing Hitler's statement: "It is my unalterable
decision to smash Czechoslovakia by military action in the
near future." After Munich, Keitel initialed Hitler's
directive for the attack on Czechoslovakia, and issued two
supplements. The second supplement said the attack should
appear to the outside world as "merely an act of
pacification and not a warlike undertaking." The OKW Chief
attended Hitler's negotiations with Hacha when the latter

                                                   [Page 91]
Keitel was present on 23rd May, 1939, when Hitler announced
his decision "to attack Poland at the first suitable
opportunity". Already he had signed the directive requiring
the Wehrmacht to submit its "Fall Weiss" timetable to OKW by
1st  May.

The invasion of Norway and Denmark he discussed on
12/12/1939 with Hitler, Jodl, and Raeder. By directive of
1/27/1940 the Norway plans were placed under Keitel's
"direct and personal guidance." Hitler had said on 5/23/1939
he would ignore the neutrality of Belgium and the
Netherlands, and Keitel signed orders for these attacks on
10/15/1939, 11/20/1938, and 11/28/1939. Orders postponing
this attack 17 times until spring all were signed by Keitel
or Jodl.

Formal planning for attacking Greece and Yugoslavia had
begun in November, 1940. On 18th March, 1941, Keitel heard
Hitler tell Raeder complete occupation of Greece was a
prerequisite to settlement, and also heard Hitler decree on
27th March that the destruction of Yugoslavia should take
place with "unmerciful harshness."

Keitel testified that he opposed the invasion of the Soviet
Union for military reasons, and also because it would
constitute a violation of the Non-aggression Pact.
Nevertheless he initialed "Case Barbarossa " signed by
Hitler on 18th December, 1940, and attended the OKW
discussion with Hitler on 3rd February, 1941. Keitel's
supplement of 13th March established the relationship
between the military and political officers. He issued his
timetable for the invasion on 6th June, 1941, and was
present at the briefing of 14th June when the generals gave
their final reports before attack. He appointed Jodl and
Warlimont as OKW representatives to Rosenberg on matters
concerning the Eastern Territories. On 16 June he directed
all army units to carry out the economic directives issued
by Goering in the so-called "Green Folder," for the
exploitation of Russian territory, food, and raw materials.

War crimes and Crimes against humanity

On 4th August, 1942, Keitel issued a directive that
paratroopers were to be turned over to the SD. On 18th
October Hitler issued the Commando Order which was carried
out in several instances. After the landing in Normandy,
Keitel reaffirmed the order, and later extended it to Allied
missions fighting with partisans. He admits he did not
believe the order was legal but claims he could not stop
Hitler from decreeing it.

When, on 8th September, 1941, OKW issued its ruthless
regulations for the treatment of Soviet POWs, Canaris wrote
to Keitel that under international law the SD should have
nothing to do with this matter. On this memorandum in
Keitel's handwriting, dated 23rd September and initialed by
him, is the statement: "The objections arise from the
military concept of chivalrous warfare. This is the
destruction of an ideology. Therefore I approve and back the
measures."  Keitel testified that he really agreed with
Canaris and argued with Hitler, but lost. The OKW Chief
directed the military authorities to cooperate with the
Einsatzstab Rosenberg in looting cultural property in
occupied territories.

Lahousen testified that Keitel told him on 12th September,
1939, while aboard Hitler's headquarters train, that the
Polish intelligentsia, nobility, and Jews were to be
liquidated. On 20th October, Hitler told Keitel the
intelligentsia would be prevented from forming a ruling
class, the standard of living would remain low, and Poland
would be used only for labor forces. Keitel does not
remember the Lahousen conversation, but admits there was
such a policy and that he had protested without effect to
Hitler about it.

                                                   [Page 92]
On 16th September, 1941, Keitel ordered that attacks on
soldiers in the East should be met by putting to death 50 to
100 Communists for one German soldier, with the comment that
human life was less than nothing in the East. On 1st October
he ordered military commanders always to have hostages to
execute when soldiers were attacked. When Terboven, the
Reich Commissioner in Norway, wrote Hitler that Keitel's
suggestion that workmen's relatives be held responsible for
sabotage, could work only if firing squads were authorised,
Keitel wrote on this memorandum: "Yes, that is the best."

On 12th May, 1941, five weeks before the invasion of the
Soviet Union, OKW urged upon Hitler a directive of OKH that
political commissars be liquidated by the Army. Keitel
admitted the directive was passed on to field commanders.
And on 13th May Keitel signed an order that civilians
suspected of offenses against troops should be shot without
trial, and that prosecution of German soldiers for offenses
against civilians was unnecessary. On 27th July all copies
of this directive were ordered destroyed without affecting
its validity. Four days previously he had signed another
order that legal punishment was inadequate and troops should
use terrorism.

On 7th December, 1941, as already discussed in this opinion,
the so-called "Nacht und Nebel" Decree, over Keitel's
signature, provided that in occupied territories civilians
who had been accused of crimes of resistance against the
army of occupation would be tried only if a death sentence
was likely; otherwise they would be handed to the Gestapo
for transportation to Germany.

Keitel directed that Russian POW's be used in German war
industry. On 8th September, 1942, he ordered French, Dutch,
and Belgian citizens to work on the construction of the
Atlantic Wall. He was present on 4th January, 1944, when
Hitler directed Sauckel to obtain four million new workers
from occupied territories.

In the face of these documents Keitel does not deny his
connection with these acts. Rather, his defense relies on
the fact that he is a soldier, and on the doctrine of
"superior orders", prohibited by Article 8 of the Charter as
a defense.

There is nothing in mitigation. Superior orders, even to a
soldier, cannot be considered in mitigation where crimes as
shocking and extensive have been committed consciously,
ruthlessly, and without military excuse or justification.

Conclusion: The Tribunal finds Keitel guilty on all four

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.