The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants
William Keitel
(Part 1 of 5)

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Chief of the Armed Forces Department in the Reichs Ministry of War (Wehrmachtsamt in Reichskriegsministerum), 1 October 1935 to 4 February 1938. 3019-PS)

Chief of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces (Chief of OKW), equal in rank to a Reichs Minister. (1915-PS)

Member of the Secret Cabinet Council, 4 February 1938 to 194 (2031-PS)

Member of Ministerial Council for the defense of the Reich, 30 August 1939 to 194. (2018-PS)

Member of Reichs Defense Council, 4 September 1938 to 1945. (2194-PS)

Field Marshal, July 1940 to 1945. (3020-PS)


As Chief of the Wehrmachtamt in the Ministry of War, Keitel was Chief of Staff for von Blomberg, who was both Minister of War and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

On 4 February 1938 Hitler abolished the Ministry of War, assumed direct command of the Armed Forces himself, and created the OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht). The OKW advised Hitler on the most important military questions, and prepared and transmitted directives to the Armed Forces. Thus it exercised great influence on the formation of the German military policy and the conduct of military affairs.

Keitel was made Chief of the OKW, with rank equal to that of Reichsminister. He was also given authorities of the former Minister of War, and continued to perform the administrative duties of that position. (1915-PS; 1954-PS; 3704-PS)

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In addition to its ministerial functions, the OKW was Hitler's military staff. Its most important duty was the development of strategic and operational plans. Such plans were worked out by the OKW Operation Staff in broad outline, and then in more detail by the commanders and chiefs of staff of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. After Hitler had approved the plans they were transmitted by the OKW to the respective military authorities. (3705-PS; 3702-PS; 3707- PS).


Keitel's conspiratorial activities started immediately after the Nazis came to power. As early as in May 1933, when Germany was still a member of the League of Nations, Keitel gave directives for deceiving "Geneva" in rearmament matters.

At the second meeting of the Working Committee of the Councillors for Reich Defense on 22 May 1933, Colonel Keitel emphasized that the supreme-consideration guiding the work of the committee was to be secrecy. "No document" he said, "ought to be lost, since otherwise it may fall into the hands of the enemy's intelligence service. Orally transmitted matters are not provable; they can be denied by us in Geneva." He requested that written documents not be sent through the mails, or, if it was absolutely necessary to do so, that they be addressed, not to a government agency or office (where they might be opened by the mail clerks) but to the recipient personally.

The fact that Keitel was a member of the Nazi conspiracy in good standing is apparent from his statement that he held the Golden Party Badge, and that consequently the Party considered him a member as from the autumn of 1944, when the law against military personnel being members of the Party was changed (1944 RGBl. I, 317). His political convictions were those of National Socialism, and he was a loyal follower of Hitler. (1954-PS)

At the second meeting of the Working Committee of the Councillors for Reich Defense held on 26 April 1933, the chairman Colonel Keitel, pointed out the necessity and desirability for the creation of the Reich Defense Council which had been determined on by a cabinet decision of 4 April 1933. He said that a general program for the creation of a war economy had already been completed, but that it would take a long time to carry out the Program He explained that it was the purpose and objective of the Working Committee of the new Defense Council to overcome these difficulties. (EC-177)

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On 6 December 1935 General Major Keitel, chairman of the eleventh meeting of the Reich Defense Council, pointed out that the mobilization year was to begin on 1 April and to end on 31 March of the following year. For the first time, a "Mobilization Book for Civilian Agencies" was to be issued on 1 April 1936. Keitel said that this day, to the extent possible, should find the nation ready and prepared. He declared that, according to the will of the Fuehrer, the economic management of the country should put the enhancement of military capacity above all other national tasks. Keitel emphasized that it was the function of all members of the Reich Defense Council to use all available resources economically and to ask for only such funds and raw materials as were absolutely and exclusively needed for the defense of the Reich.

In the presence of Keitel, Colonel Jodl said that the "Mobilization Book for the Civilian Agencies" constituted the unified basis for the carrying out of mobilization outside of the Army. (EC-406)

The twelfth meeting of the Working Committee of the Reich Defense Council, held on 14 May 1936, was opened by Field Marshal von Blomberg, War Minister and Supreme Army Commander. He stressed the necessity for a total mobilization, including the drafting of the necessary laws, preparations in the re-militarized Rhineland zone, financing and rearmament. Lt. General Keitel, in his capacity as chairman of the Working Committee of the Reich Defense Council, again stressed the necessity for secrecy. Ministerial Director Wohlthat pointed out that, in order to guarantee rearmament and an adequate food supply, an increase in production and utmost economy were necessary, a postulate that had led to the special mandate given by the Fuehrer to Minister President Goering. (EC-407)

Keitel participated also in the activities of the conspirators to re-militarize the Rhineland. At that time he was Chief of the Wehrmachtsamt under von Blomberg and signed, on the latter's behalf, the order for naval participation in the operation. (C-194)

Keitel also took part in the war-planning activities of the Reich Cabinet, of which he was a member. The cabinet consulted by meetings, and by the circulation of decrees among its members for their approval or disapproval. (See generally Section 3 of Chapter XV on the Reich Cabinet.) Keitel was a member of the Secret Cabinet Council, which has been described as "a select committee" of the cabinet for deliberation on foreign affairs. (1774-PS)

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A Reich Defense Council was established by the ordinary cabinet in 1933. It was a war-planning group, and Keitel took part in the meetings of its working committee. (EC-177; EC-406; EC-407)

On 4 December 1938 a Secret Defense Law was passed, which defined the duties of the Reich Defense Council. As Chief of OKW, Keitel was a member of the council, and he also presided over the Council's Working Committee (Reichsverteidigungsausschuss). (2194-PS)

The Secret Defense Law of 1938 provided for a Plenipotentiary for Economy, whose task was to "put all economic forces into the service of the Reich defense, and to safeguard economically the life of the German nation" and for a Plenipotentiary for Administration, whose duties were to take over "the uniform leadership of the non- military administration with exception of the economic administration" upon the declaration of a "state of defense" Certain ministries were, in peace-time, bound by the directives of the plenipotentiaries. The latter were bound, in turn, under certain conditions, together with the ministries subordinate to them, to take directions from the Chief of OKW. Keitel could also, in a state of defense, issue orders to the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Posts. In addition, he presided over the Council's Working Committee, which prepared the Council's decisions, saw that they were executed, and obtained collaboration between the armed forces, the chief Reich offices, and the Party. Keitel regulated the activities of this committee and issued directions to the plenipotentiaries and certain Reich ministries to assure uniform execution of the council's decisions. (2194-PS)

The two plenipotentiaries and the OKW formed what was known as a "Three Man College" (2608-PS). This system of three man college functioned as follows, from a legislative point of view: The Plenipotentiary for Economy was empowered by paragraph 4 of the Secret Defense Law of 4 September 1938 to issue laws within his sphere, with the consent of the OKW and the Plenipotentiary for Administration, which differed from existing laws. Similarly, the Plenipotentiary for Administration was empowered by paragraph 3 of the same law to issue laws within his sphere, with the concept of the OKW and the Plenipotentiary for Economy, which differed from existing laws.

In the spheres of the Reich Minister of Posts, the Reich Minister of Transport and of the General Inspector for German roads (Generalinspektor fuer die Strassenwesen), the Chief of the OKW had the right, under paragraph 5 of the same law, to issue laws,

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in agreement with the Plenipotentiaries for Administration and Economy, which differed from existing laws. (2194-PS)

The legislative function of the three man college, prior to 9 September 1939 was one of drafting decrees to be used in time of war.

The Council of Ministers for the Defense of the Reich was established by a decree of Hitler on 30 August 1939. It was formed out of the Reich Defense Council, and included among its members the two plenipotentiaries of the council and the Chief of OKW.

The Council-had the power to pass decrees with the force of law, and to legislate for the occupied Eastern Territories 1939 RGBI, I, 2077). Decrees of the council were circulated, before enactment, among all the members by written communication from Dr. Lammers, who was also on the Council. (2231-PS)

Frick has referred to the Council of Ministers as "the highest permanent organ of the Reich with comprehensive jurisdiction, responsible only to the Fuehrer" "The composition of the Ministerial Council for the Defense of the Reich" he added, "shows the real concentration of power in it" He said also that Keitel was liaison between the council and the armed forces, it being primarily his duty to coordinate the measures for civilian defense in the area of administration and economy with the genuine military measures for the defense of the Reich. (2608-PS)

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