Archive/File: imt/nca/nca-02/nca-02-15-criminality-07-01 Last-Modified: 1996/10/16 Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression, Volume II, Chapter XV [Page 316] 7. THE GENERAL STAFF AND HIGH COMMAND OF THE ARMED FORCES In one respect the General Staff and High Command of the German Armed Forces is to be distinguished from the other groups and organizations against which the prosecution seeks declaration of criminality. The Leadership Corps of the NSDAP, for example, was the instrument by which Hitlerism rose to full power in Germany. The SA and the SS were branches -- large branches to be sure -- of the Nazi Party. The German police had certain roots and antecedents which antedated Hitlerism, but was almost entirely a creature of the party and the SS. The Reichs Cabinet was, in essence, merely a committee or set of committees of Reichs Ministers, and when the Nazis came to power these ministerial positions were filled for the most part by Nazis. All those groups and organizations, accordingly, either owe their origin and development to Naziism, or automatically became nazified when Hitler came to full power. That is not true of this group, the General Staff and High Command of the German Armed Forces. It is common knowledge that German armed might and the German military tradition antedate Hitlerism by many decades. The war of 1914-18, the Kaiser, and the "scrap of paper" are modern witnesses to this fact. [Page 317] As a result of the German defeat in 1918 and the Treaty of Versailles the size and activities of the German armed forces were severely restricted. The last few years have made it abundantly apparent that these restrictions did not destroy or even seriously undermine German militarism. The full flowering of German military strength came about through collaboration between the Nazis and the career leaders of the German Armed Forces -- the professional soldiers, sailors, and airmen. When Hitler came to power in 1933, he did not find a vacuum in the field of military affairs; he found a small Reichswehr and a body of professional officers with a morale and outlook nourished by German military history. The leaders of these professional officers constitute the group named in the Indictment -- the General Staff and High Command of the German Armed Forces. This part of the case concerns that group of men. Needless to say, it is not the prosecution's position that it is a crime to be a soldier or sailor, or to serve one's country as a soldier or sailor in time of war. The profession of arms is an honorable one, and can be honorably practiced. But it is too clear for argument that a man who commits crimes cannot plead as a defense that he committed them in uniform. It is not in the nature of things, and it is not the prosecution's position, that all members of this group were wicked men, or that they were all equally culpable. But this group not only collaborated with Hitler and supported many Nazi objectives. They furnished one thing which was essential and basic to the success of the Nazi program for Germany -- skill and experience in the development and use of armed might. Why did this group support Hitler and the Nazis ? The answer is simple. The answer is that they agreed with the basic objectives of Naziism, and that Hitler gave the generals the opportunity to play a major part in achieving those objectives. The generals, like Hitler, wanted Germany to aggrandize at the expense of neighboring countries, and to do so if necessary by force or threat of force. Force -- armed might -- was the keystone of the arch, the thing without which nothing else would have been possible. As they came to power and when they had attained power, the Nazis had two alternatives: to collaborate with and expand the Reichswehr, or to ignore the Reichswehr and build up a separate army of their own. The generals feared that the Nazis might do the latter. So they were the more ready to play along with the Nazis. Moreover, the Nazis offered the generals the chance of achieving much that the generals wished to achieve in the expan- [Page 318] sion of German armies and frontiers. And so the generals climbed onto the Nazi bandwagon. They saw it was going in their direction for the present. No doubt they hoped later to take over the direction themselves. In fact, it was ultimately they who were taken over by the Nazis. Hitler attracted the generals to him with the glitter of conquest and then succeeded in submerging them politically. As the war proceeded they became his tools. But if the leaders of the Armed Forces became the tools of Naziism, it is not to be supposed that they were unwitting, or that they did not participate fully in many of the actions which are charged as criminal. The willingness, indeed eagerness, of German officers to become partners of the Nazis will be fully developed.
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