The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants
William Keitel
(Part 2 of 5)

[Page 532]

Keitel also took an active part in collaborating with and in instigating the Japanese to enter the war. Nazi policy with regard to Japan was expressed in an order signed by Keitel on 5 March 1941. This order was distributed to the OKH, OKM, and OKL, and also to Jodl. It stated that Japan must be drawn actively into the war, and that the taking of Singapore would mean a decisive success for the three powers. ( C-75)

At about the time this order was issued, a meeting was held with Hitler, in which Raeder urged that Japan be induced to attack Singapore. Keitel and Jodl were both present at this meeting. (C-152)

Keitel may have known of a report from the Military Attache in Tokyo that preparations were continuing for a sudden attack on Singapore and Manila. (1538-PS)


(See "F" 1 through 7, infra, where the joint responsibility of Keitel and Jodl for these activities is discussed.)

[Page 533]


(1) Murder and ill treatment of civilian populations in occupied territory and on the high seas. Keitel committed many crimes of this nature, by ordering such criminal activities.

On 13 May 1941 Keitel, as Chief of OKW, signed an order from the Fuehrer's Headquarters providing that Russian civilians suspected of offenses against German troops should be shot or ruthlessly punished without a military trial, and that prosecution of German soldiers for offenses against Russian civilians was not required (C-50). On 27 July 1941 he ordered that all copies of this decree should be destroyed, but without affecting its validity. (C-51)

On 23 July 1941 Keitel signed an order concerning the administration of occupied Russia. This order provided that legal punishments were inadequate in so great an area, and that troops should use terrorism in crushing the population's will to resist. (C-52)

Keitel signed one of the so-called Nacht und Nebel decrees .on 7 December 1941. It provided that in occupied territories of the west civilians would be tried for offenses against the German state only if the death sentence was likely to be carried out within a few days of arrest. Otherwise the accused would be taken to Germany, and no information would be given about them in reply to any inquiries. (666-PS)

By a first ordinance of 7 December 1941 Keitel made the provisions of the foregoing directive applicable to the following offenses; attacks against life or bodily health, espionage, sabotage, communistic conspiracy, offenses likely to create disturbances, assistance to the enemy, and illicit possession of arms. His ordinance also provided that the offenses mentioned were to be tried in the occupied countries only if it were likely that the death sentence would be pronounced, and if it were possible to complete trial and execution within a very short time, as a rule within a week after arrest. In case of trial in Germany, it was provided that alien witnesses could be heard only with the consent of the High Command of the Armed Forces and that the public would not be admitted to the proceedings. (L-90)

In a communication issued by him in his capacity as Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces Keitel on 12 December 1941 stated with respect to the aforementioned directive and ordinance:

"Efficient and enduring terrorization can be achieved only

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either by capital punishment or by measures to keep the relatives of the criminal and the population in the dark as to the fate of the criminal. This aim is achieved by transferring the criminal to Germany." (L- 90)

In pursuance of Keitel's Nacht und Nebel decree, Admiral Canaris on 2 February 1942 issued instructions to the Abwehr to punish crimes against the Wehrmacht accordingly. At first the order was to apply only to Norway, Holland, Belgium, and France. (833-PS)

The Chief of the SIPO and SD reported to OKW on 24 June 1942 that a Frenchman had died while awaiting trial in Germany, and that, in order to create anxiety in accordance with the decree, his family had not been notified. Keitel's OKW approved of this procedure, which had been established for such cases by an OKW order of 16 April 1942. (668-PS)

When, on 20 April 1941 Hitler appointed Rosenberg "Deputy for a Centralized Treatment of Problems concerning the Eastern Territories," Keitel was asked to designate a representative of OKW to sit with Rosenberg. Keitel designated Jodl as his representative and Warlimont as deputy. (865-PS)

Thus Keitel and Jodl share the responsibility for crimes committed by Rosenberg's administration. In this connection reference is made to section 7 of this chapter on Rosenberg.

Among the decrees issued by the Council of Ministers, of which Keitel was a member, are two which connect him with harsh treatment of inhabitants of the Occupied Eastern Territories. (2746-PS,

(2) Deportation of civilian populations in occupied territories for slave labor and other purposes. Keitel's connection with the forced labor program began at a meeting with Hitler on 23 May 1939, when it was announced that Poland would be invaded, and also that non-German populations would be available as a source of labor. (L-79)

Keitel directed the execution of Hitler's order to use Russian prisoners of war in German war industries, and stated that OKW (AWA) would furnish to the Secretary of Labor information on the use of such labor, and provide the labor force. (EC-194)

Sauckel was appointed Plenipotentiary General for Manpower by a decree of 21 March 1942, signed by Hitler, Lammers, and Keitel. (1666-PS)

On 8 September 1942 Keitel initialled a Hitler order requiring citizens of France, Holland, and Belgium to work on the "Atlantic Wall" The order was to be enforced by the withdrawal of food

[Page 535]

and clothing ration cards (556-2-PS). Keitel was informed of the quotas of foreign laborers which Sauckel and his agents were to fill. Sauckel requested the assistance of the Army, and asked that pressure be used to obtain the quotas, if necessary. (3012-PS)

At a conference with Hitler on 4 January 1944, at which Keitel was present, it was determined that Sauckel should obtain 4,000,000 new workers from occupied territories. (1292-PS)

(3) Murder and ill treatment of prisoners of war, and of other members of the armed forces of the countries with which Germany was at war, and of person on the high seas. On 18 October 1942 Hitler ordered that commando troops, even if in uniform, should be killed, not only in battle, but in flight or while attempting to surrender (498-PS). An order regulating the treatment of paratroopers had been issued by Keitel about a month earlier. It provided that captured paratroopers were to be turned over to the SD. (553-PS)

A supplementary explanation of the commando order, signed by Hitler, was distributed to commanding officers only, with a covering memorandum dated 19 October 1942, signed by Jodl (503-PS). Several cases are known in which the order was carried out (508-PS; 509-PS). Three specific instances were mentioned by the G-3 of the C-in-C, Norway, where captured members of sabotage units were executed after interrogations which resulted in valuable intelligence. These occurred at Glomfjord, Drontheim, and Stavanger. (512-PS)

On 23 June 1944 the Supreme Command West requested instructions redefining the scope of the commando order. In view of the extensive landings in Normandy, it had become difficult to decide which paratroops should be considered sabotage troops under the terms of the order, and which should be considered as engaged in normal combat operations. The question was answered by an order of 25 June 1944, one copy of which was signed by Keitel, reaffirming the full force of the original order (531-PS; 551-PS). Keitel extended the application of the commando order to members of Anglo-American and Russian "military missions" taken in the fighting against the partisans in the southeast and southwest. (537-PS)

When allied fliers were forced to land in Germany, they were sometimes killed by the civilian population. The police had orders not to protect the fliers, nor to punish civilians for lynching them. A proposal was considered to order the shooting without court-martial of enemy airmen who had been forced down

[Page 536]

after engaging in specified "acts of terror" Whether or not the order was ever issued is immaterial, for it is certain that Keitel and Jodl knew of the lynchings, did nothing to prevent them, d in fact considered giving them official

(See also "F" 8, infra, in which the joint responsibility of Keitel and Jodl for the lynching of Allied airmen is discussed.)

Keitel's criminal activities against Soviet prisoners of war are shown by the following. On 8 September 1941 Keitel's OKW issued a regulation for the treatment of Soviet prisoners of war. It stated that Russian soldiers would fight by any methods for the idea of Bolshevism and that consequently they had lost any claim to treatment in accordance with the Geneva Convention. Stern measures were to be employed against them, including the free use of weapons. The politically undesirable prisoners were to be segregated from the others and turned over to "special purpose units" of the Security Police and the Security Service. There was to be the closest cooperation between the military commanders and these police units. (1519-PS)

Admiral Canaris of the Abwehr considered this order in such direct violation of the general principles of International Law that he addressed a memorandum of protest to Keitel on 15 September 1941. He pointed out that, while the Geneva Convention was not binding between Germany and the USSR, the usual rules of International Law should be observed; that such instructions, particularly those concerning the use of weapons, would result in arbitrary killings; and that the disposition of politically undesirable prisoners would be decided by the SIPO and the SD according to principles of which the Wehrmacht was ignorant. (As to this argument, Keitel wrote in the margin "Very efficient" and "Not at all." Keitel received and considered this memorandum, for on its first page there is the following comment in his handwriting, dated 23 September and initialled "K"

"The objections arise from the military concept of chivalrous warfare. This is the destruction of an ideology. Therefore I approve and back the measures." (EC-338)

The regulations which Canaris had protested were restated on 24 March 1942, but their essential provisions were unchanged. (695-PS)

An order of Keitel's OKW dated 29 January 1943, signed by Reinecke, contains a broad interpretation of the guards' right of self-defense against prisoners. For example, self- defense includes not only the guard's person, but h-is honor and property, and third parties, such as the State. (656-PS)

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