The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants
William Keitel
(Part 4 of 5)

[Page 541]

The general political background against which the Armed Forces were to work having thus been set down, the later paragraphs outlined the tasks and operational objectives of the three branches of the Armed Forces. It was also decreed that a "camouflaged or open ('general' added in ink) mobilization will not be ordered before D-Day 1 at the latest possible moment" and further that the "preparations for the opening of operations are to be made in such a way that -- without waiting for the planned assembly of mobilized units -- positions can be taken up immediately by the first available troops." (C-120)

On 10 May an order signed by Hitler promulgated his instructions for the seizure of economic installations in Poland and directed the commanders-in-chief of the three branches of the armed forces to report by 1 August 1939 on the measures taken in consequence of these instructions. (C- 120)

On 23 May 1939 Hitler called a meeting of his military leaders at the Reich Chancellery. Keitel was at the meeting; Jodl was not, but Warlimont (also from the Planning Department of OKW) was. Hitler announced the necessity of a war against Poland, not over Danzig, but in order to acquire living space in the East. He recognized the possibility that this would provoke a war against France and England, but the Wehrmacht was instructed to prepare detailed plans.

A directive dated 22 June 1939, signed by Keitel as Chief of the OKW, indicates an advanced stage of preparation. On the basis of particulars already available from the Navy, Army, and Air Force, he stated, he had submitted to Hitler a "preliminary timetable" for "Fall Weiss." The Fuehrer was reported to be in substantial agreement with the intentions submitted by the three branches; he had also made suggestions with regard to the need to camouflage the scheduled maneuvers "in order not to disquiet the population," and had commented on the disposition of an SS Artillery Regiment. (C-16)

Two days later, Keitel issued instructions for further study

[Page 542]

on two specific problems: the capture, in undamaged condition, of bridges over the Vistula; and the possible adverse effect of Navy mining in Danzig Bay on the element of surprise in the Army's attack against the bridge at Dirschau, southeast of Danzig. (C-120)

On 22 August 1939, Hitler called together at Obersalzberg the Supreme Commanders of the three branches of the armed forces, as well as the lower ranking Commanding Generals (Oberbefehlshaber), and announced his decision to attack Poland near dawn on 26 August. Keitel was at this meeting. (L-; 798-PS; 1014-PS)

Three documents reporting this meeting have been uncovered: the text of one, overlaps the contents of the other two, 798- PS and 1014-PS; the latter two appear to be complementary, 798-PS being a record of a morning speech, and 1014-PS of an afternoon speech. Violent and abusive language appears in both L-3 and 798-PS. That Hitler made, at a minimum, the following points, appears from all of them:

1. The decision to attack Poland was made last spring. (1798- PS)

2. The aim of the war in Poland is to destroy the Polish armed forces, rather than to reach a fixed line. (L-3; 1014- PS)

3. The attack will start early Saturday morning, 26 August (L-3; 1014-PS)

4. A spurious cause for starting the war will be devised by German propaganda. It is a matter of indifference whether it is plausible or not. The world will not question the victor (L-3; 1014-PS). The text in L-3 further describes the pretext to be used to start the war: "I'll let a couple of companies, dressed in Polish uniforms, make an assault in Upper Silesia or in the Protectorate."

A handwritten entry in the diary of Jodl, at that time Chief of the Operations Department of the OKW, confirms that the time for the attack on Poland had been fixed for 0430 on 26 August 1939. (1780-PS)

(4) Aggression against Norway and Denmark. On or about 12 September 1939 Hitler ordered the OKW to start preparations for the occupation of Norwegian bases early in 1940. (1546- PS)

The possibility of using Quisling was discussed with Hitler on 12 December 1939, in a conference at which Raeder, Keitel, and Jodl were present. Hitler agreed with Raeder's suggestion that, if he was favorably impressed with Quisling, the OKW should

[Page 543]

be authorized to prepare for the occupation either with Quisling's assistance, or by force. (C-64)

In January of 1940 the Navy was ordered to concentrate barges for the invasion, and further preparations were to be conducted under the code name "Weserubung" (C-6). The general directive for the invasion was issued by Hitler on 1 March 1940. (C-174; 1809-PS)

(5) Aggression against Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. At a conference with Hitler on 23 May 1939 it was determined that the occupation of the Low Countries was necessary to the successful conduct of the war against England. A small planning staff was formed at OKW with responsibility for further planning of the invasion, and complete secrecy was invoked. Keitel was at this meeting. (L- 79)

On 9 October 1939 it was stated in a general directive for the conduct of the war in the West that the invasion should be started soon, in order to protect the Ruhr and to provide air bases for use against England. A copy of this directive was distributed to OKW. (L-52)

In October and November of 1939 a number of military orders was issued concerning the invasion of the Low Countries "Fall Gelb" Questions of how far the troops should advance under the plan were clarified (C-62; 440-PS). Instructions were issued concerning the deployment of troops, communications systems, crossing of the borders, and the administration and pacification of the countries to be taken (2329-PS). Provisions were made for special operations by the 7th Flieger Division near the Belgian-French border. (C- 10)

Between 7 November 1939 and 9 May 1940 seventeen orders were issued setting and postponing the day for starting operations. These delays were caused by the weather. One of the orders, dated 11 January 1940, shows that all the others were concerned with the action against the Low Countries, and that the 7th Flieger Division (see C-10) was involved. All these orders were signed either by Keitel or Jodl. (C- 72)

The development of the plans, and the various questions which came up for consideration are shown in the entries in Jodl's diary. At one point the Foreign Office did not regard the prepared justification for the attack as satisfactory, but Jodl thought it was sufficient. His diary shows the existence of the plan against the Low Countries and the steps taken to put it into execution. (1809-PS)

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