The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
5th April to 15th April, 1946

One Hundredth Day: Friday, 5th April, 1946
(Part 3 of 9)

[DR. NELTE continues his direct examination of Wilhelm Bodewin Johann Gustav Keitel]

[Page 41]

Q. Then you mean the O.K.W. had no jurisdiction over these affairs?

A. No, they had not.

Q. It was a question of merely transmitting letters to the military establishments to make known Hitler's wishes to assist Rosenberg in his task?

A. That is correct.

Q. I should like to put a personal question to you in this connection. Have you ever appropriated to yourself any of the art treasures from public or private ownership in the occupied countries, or did any official establishment hand over to you any work of art?

A. No, I never had anything to do with these things.

Q. We now come to the so-called economic exploitation of occupied territories. You are accused of participating in your official position as Chief of the O.K.W. in the economic exploitation of the Eastern occupied countries and the Western occupied countries. This question has already been dealt with in Reich Marshal Goering's testimony and cross-examination, so I can treat it relatively briefly. It is, however, necessary for you to clarify the extent to which the O.K.W., and yourself in particular, were connected with these matters, for both the O.K.W. and you yourself are mentioned in this connection, as well as the Wirtschaftsrustungsamt (economic armament office), which was a branch of the O.K.W. General Thomas of that office prepared a compilation which was produced by the prosecution. What can you say about this question, if I have Document 1157-PS and Exhibit USSR 80 shown to you?

A. 1157-PS deals with Plan Barbarossa Oldenburg. I would like to say this:

The Wehrmachtsamt, which even then was no longer known as the Wirtschaftsrustungsamt, carried out under its chief, General Thomas, certain preparations, first for the campaign in the West and, later, for campaign Barbarossa in the East. They were based on the military economic organisation at home, in the Reich, which had an establishment attached to all Wehrkreiskommandos. As a result, advisers and some personnel, with experience in problems of war economy supplies, and a few small detachments called Feldwirtschaftskommandos (army economic detachments) were assigned to the high command posts, the A.O.Ks.

The personnel attached to the quartermaster staffs at the A.O.K. were responsible

[Page 42]

for securing or causing to be secured supplies, fuel, and food stuffs found in occupied or conquered territories, as well as other articles suitable for the immediate requirements of the troops. They then co-operated with the Chief of the Supply Service, in charge of army supplies, and the intendant in charge of the transport of supplies, in making them available for the fighting troops. Information obtained regarding war economy in the areas of France and Belgium - as far as such information could be obtained - was kept for later use. The East, as I believe Reich Marshal Goering has already explained at length, was organised on quite a different basis, with a view not only to supplying the troops, but also to exploiting the conquered territories. An organisation for this purpose, called Wirtschafts Organisation Ost Oldenburg (economic organisation East-Oldenburg), was established. Its connection with the O.K.W. lay in the fact that the necessary preparations for organising and developing panels of experts and technical branch offices had to be discussed with the Ministry of Economics, the authorities responsible for the Four-Year Plan and the Ministry of Food. That was Wirtschafts Organisation Ost Oldenburg. The O.K.W. and its Chief - in this case myself - had no power to give orders or instructions affecting its activities. The organisation was created and placed at the disposal of those responsible for putting it in action, giving it instructions and working with it. If General Thomas wrote in his book, which was produced here as a document -

Q. Document 2535-PS, Page 386. Perhaps you will just read that, so that you can give us a summary.

A. Yes. This is an excerpt from General Thomas's book, where he describes in detail his own functions and those of the organisation which he directed in the O.K.W., from its establishment up to a later stage in the war. He says here: "The functions exercised by the Economic Armaments Branch (Wirtschaftsrustungsamt) while the Eastern campaign was going on consisted merely in directing the organisation of the machinery set in motion, keeping it running and acting in an advisory capacity to the Operations Staff for War Economy."

Q. You need read only paragraph 4 for your summary.

A. The Operations Staff for War Economy, included under the Four-Year Plan as Barbarossa-Oldenburg, was responsible for the entire economic direction of the whole of the Eastern area. It was also responsible for the technical instructions of the State Secretaries in the Operations Staff for War Economy, for the organisation of Thomas's Armaments Economic Staff and for applying all measures to be taken by the Operations Staff for War Economy Ost under the direction and command of the Reich Marshal.

Q. How were conditions in the West?

A. I described very briefly the small group of experts attached to the A.O.K. Quartermaster Corps in the West. Later on, as I have already stated, at the beginning of June, the entire economic direction was transferred to the Four-Year Plan and the Plenipotentiaries for the Four-Year Plan, as far as anything beyond current supplies intended to cover daily requirements, fuel, etc. This was done by a special decree, which has already been mentioned by the Reich Marshal.

Q. That was laid down by General Thomas on Page 304 in Document 2535-PS, which we have already mentioned. There is no need for me to read this; and I request the Tribunal to allow me to present the accused's affidavit in Document Book No. 2 for the Military Economic Armaments Branch of the O.K.W., so that no further questions on the subject may be necessary. I assume that the prosecution will agree to this procedure.

THE PRESIDENT: What number is it in Book 2?

DR. NELTE: No. 4 in this Document Book No. 2. It is Page 27 and following. The document is dated 29th March, 1946.

THE PRESIDENT: What date did you say it is?

DR. NELTE: The 29th March, 1946. I do not think there is any date in the document book. I will present the original, which I have here.

[Page 43]

THE PRESIDENT: How is it described in the document itself? We have a document dated 4th March, 1946, "The Economic Armament Office of the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht." Is that right?

DR. NELTE: The document was written on 4th March, 1946, but the affidavit was added on 29th March, 1946.

THE PRESIDENT: But that appears to have been the 8th March? Is it that document?

DR. NELTE: The Wirtschaftsrustungsamt in the O.K.W. It is possible.

THE PRESIDENT: That is here.

DR. NELTE: In any case, there is no doubt about the identity of the document.


Q. Now I come to a topic which is presented again and again before the High Tribunal, and which is very difficult because the reason for these questions is not properly understood.

The charge has been made against you that in your capacity as a member of the government, as the prosecution contends, you knew, or must have known, of the existence of the concentration camps. I am compelled to ask you what you know about the existence of the concentration camps, how much you knew and what you had to do with them. Did you know of their existence? Did you know that concentration camps existed?

A. Yes, I knew even before the war that concentration camps existed. At that time I knew only two of them by name, but I supposed and assumed that there were other concentration camps besides these. I had no further particulars about their existence. As far as internees in such camps were concerned, I knew that they included habitual criminals and political opponents. As Reich Marshal Goering has said, that was the basis of their institution.

Q. Did you hear anything about the treatment of internees?

A. No, I heard nothing about it. I assumed that there was a severe form of detention, or that this was so in certain cases, but I knew nothing about the actual conditions, especially ill-treatment or torture of internees, etc.

I tried in two cases to free individuals who were in concentration camps. One was Pastor Niemoeller, in co- operation with Admiral Raeder. With the help of Canaris, and at the request of Admiral Raeder, I tried to get Pastor Niemoeller out of the concentration camp. The attempt was unsuccessful. In another case - at the request of a family in my home village - a farmer was in a concentration camp for political reasons. In this case I was successful, and the person concerned was set free. That was in the autumn of 1940. I had a talk with this man, and when I asked him what things were like there he gave me a non-committal reply to the effect that he had been all right. He gave me no details. I know of no other cases.

Q. When you talked to this man did you get the impression that nothing had happened to him?

A. Undoubtedly. I did not see him directly after his release, but later, when I was at home. The reason that I talked to him was because he came to thank me. He said nothing about being badly treated or anything like that at all.

Q. It has been stated here that now and again these concentration camps were visited by members of the services, the leading high-ranking officers. How do you explain that?

A. I am convinced that these visits took place on Himmler's invitation. I myself once received A personal invitation from him at Munich to pay a visit to the Dachau camp. He said he would like to show it to me. I know also that large and small groups of officers were shown through the camps. I think I need scarcely say how these visits were handled as regards the things that were shown to them. To supplement my statement I would like to say it was not impossible to hear such remarks as "You will end up in a concentration camp!" or "All sorts of things go on there." I do know, however, that whenever anyone came to me

[Page 44]

with these rumours and stories and I asked what exactly they knew, and where the information came from, the reply was always: "I really do not know; I just heard it." So that whatever one might think, one never got at the facts and never could get at them.

Q. You heard that medical experiments were made on these internees, and that this was done by agreement with higher quarters. I ask you whether you had knowledge of that, either personally or from the High Command.

A. No, I never heard anything about the medical experiments on internees, which have been described here in detail, either officially or otherwise.

Q. I turn now to the complicated question relating to the prosecution's assertion that you intended to have General Weygand and General Giraud assassinated, or, at least, were participating in plans to that end.

You know that Witness Lahousen, on 30th November, 1945, made the following statement:

"Admiral Canaris has been pressed by you for some time - November-December, 1940 - to do away with the Chief of the French General Staff, General Weygand."
Lahousen added that Canaris told his departmental heads that after a talk with you.

Did you discuss the case of General Weygand with Canaris?

A. That is probably correct, for there were intelligence reports at the time that General Weygand was travelling in North Africa, and inspecting the colonial troops. I consider it quite natural that I should have told Canaris, who was the Chief of Counter Intelligence, that it should be possible to determine the object of his journey, the places at which he stopped in North Africa, and whether any military significance would be attached to this visit, as regards putting colonial troops into action or the introduction of other measures in North Africa. He would have received instructions, to try to get information through his intelligence department as to what was taking place.

Q. I assume - also to keep an eye on him?

A. Yes.

Q. Could the Counter Intelligence Department send members of its staff to North Africa?

A. I believe that certain channels of information existed via Spanish Morocco; and I know that Canaris maintained intelligence links with Morocco by way of Spain.

Q. My question was meant to find out whether it was officially possible to visit North Africa after the agreement with France.

A. Of course it was possible. After the armistice, there were Disarmament Commissions in North Africa, as well as in France. We had several army departments there in connection with checking up the armaments of the North African troops.

Q. What was the point - or was there any point - in wishing General Weygand ill? Was he a declared opponent of the policy Germany wished to carry through? What was the reason?

A. We had no reason to think that General Weygand might be - shall we say - inconvenient. In view of the connection with Marshal Petain, which was started about the end of September and the beginning of October of that year, and the well- known collaboration policy which reached its height in the winter of 1940-1, it was absurd even to think of doing away with Marshal Petain's Chief of Staff. An action of this kind would not have fitted into the general policy followed in dealing with the situation in North Africa. We released a large number of officers in the regular French Colonial Army from French prisoner-of-war camps in the winter of 1940-1 for service with the colonial forces. There were generals among them; I remember General Juin in particular who, as we knew at the time,

[Page 45]

had been Chief of the General Staff in North Africa for many years. At my suggestion he was put at the disposal of the Marshal by Hitler, obviously with the aim of utilising his services in connection with colonial troops. There was not the slightest motive for wishing General Weygand ill or to think of anything of the sort.

Q. Is it correct that conferences even took place with the French General Staff and Laval about co-operating in operations in Africa and the strengthening of West Africa?

A. Yes. Among the documents of the French Armistice Delegation there must be a large number of documents asking for all sorts of concessions in connection with North Africa and more especially Central and West Africa, owing to the fact that during the winter of 1940-1 riots had taken place in French Central Africa and the French Government wanted to take measures against these.

I believe that in the spring of 1941 a conference lasting several days took place in Paris with the French General Staff in order to prepare measures in which the German Wehrmacht, which already had troops stationed in Tripoli in the Italian area, would participate.

Q. So there was no apparent point?

A. No.

Q. Something must have been said, however, in this conversation with Canaris, which led to this misunderstanding. Can you suggest anything which might have caused this misunderstanding?

A. It can only be because, according to the very comprehensive details given by Lahousen in his testimony, I said at a later meeting, "What about Weygand?" That was the phrase Lahousen used; and he might have drawn the conclusion that, perhaps, in that sense of the word, as he represented it - he kept on saying "in that sense of the word," and when asked what that meant, he said, "To kill him." It is only due to that - it can only be due to that. I must say that Canaris was frequently alone with me. Sometimes he brought the chiefs of his departments along. When we discussed matters by ourselves, I thought he was always perfectly frank with me. If he had misunderstood me, it would certainly have been apparent in the discussion, but he never said anything like that.

Q. Is it clear to you that if there had been any idea of putting Weygand out of the way, it would have constituted an act of high political significance?

A. Yes, of course. In the collaboration of Hitler and Petain an act of that kind would have had the greatest possible political significance imaginable.

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