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 8 of 9)

[GENERAL RUDENKO continues his cross examination of Wilhelm Bodewin Johann Gustav Keitel]

[Page 61]

Q. Who and for what reason issued the order to occupy Ostrau in Moravia and Witkowitz by German troops, on 14th March, 1939, in the afternoon, while President Hacha was still on the way to Berlin for negotiations with Hitler?

A. The order was eventually decided by the Fuehrer. There had been preparations to occupy by a coup de main that area where the famous modern steel works were, near Maehrisch Ostrau - I cannot remember the name now - before the

[Page 62]

date of the march into Czechoslovakia as originally set. As a justification for that decision, Hitler had told me that it was done in order to prevent the Poles from making a surprise attack from the North, and thereby perhaps taking possession of the most modern rolling mill in the world. He gave this as the reason, and the operation, i.e. the occupation, actually took place in the late hours of 14th March.

Q. Yes, but during the same time President Hacha was en route to Berlin to negotiate with Hitler?

A. Yes, that is correct.

Q. That was treachery.

A. I do not believe that I need to add my judgement to the facts. It is true that the occupation was carried out on that evening. I have given the reasons, and President Hacha got to know it only after he arrived in Berlin.

Now I remember the name. The rolling mill was Witkowitz.

Q. I have a few more questions to ask you in connection with the aggression against the Soviet Union. You testified to the Tribunal yesterday on the subject. You explained your position in regard to the attack on the Soviet Union. But you informed the Tribunal that the decree for preparing "Case Barbarossa" followed at the beginning of December, 1940.

A. Yes.

Q. Do you definitely remember and confirm this?

A. I do not know of, or do not remember, any specific order by the High Command of the Armed Forces which called for the drawing up of this plan, called Barbarossa, any earlier than that. I explained yesterday, however, that some order had been issued, probably in September, concerning transport and railway facilities and similar matters. I cannot recall whether I signed that order, but I did mention such a preparatory order to improve transport conditions from the West to the East.

Q. In September?

A. It may have been in September or October, but I cannot commit myself as to the exact time.

Q. I wish to know the exact time.

A. More accurate information may probably be obtained at a later stage from General Jodl, who would probably remember it more clearly.

Q. Of course we shall ask him about it during the course of his interrogation. I should like you to recall the following facts briefly: did you first learn of Hitler's schemes to attack the Soviet Union in the summer of 1940?

A. No. I believe you are referring to a conversation in the summer of 1940, mentioned in Jodl's diary. I was not present at this briefing conversation. My recollections concerning that period make me feel certain that I was not present, because I was on the move almost every day by aeroplane and was not present at the discussions of the situation at that time.

Q. And when did your conversation with Ribbentrop take place?

A. That may have been during the last days of August, or perhaps in the beginning of September, but I could not state the exact date now. I can reconstruct the date because I know that I did not return to Berchtesgaden until 10th August, and that I wrote the memorandum which I mentioned yesterday at a later date.

Q. And so you assure the Tribunal that you first heard about Hitler's schemes to attack the Soviet Union from conversations with Ribbentrop?

A. No, no. After having been absent from Berchtesgaden for about two weeks - partly on leave and partly on duty in Berlin - I returned to Headquarters at Berchtesgaden, and then on one of the subsequent days, probably during the middle of August, I heard for the first time ideas of that kind from Hitler. That was the basis for my deliberation and my memorandum.

Q. In that case, my suggestion that you first learned of Hitler's schemes in the summer of 1940 was correct?

A. Yes. The middle of August, after all, is still summer.

Q. Further, I should like to remind you of the evidence of the witness Paulus,

[Page 63]

which he gave here before the Tribunal, on 11th February of this year. Paulus, as you will remember, informed the Tribunal that when he entered the O.K.H., on 3rd September, 1940, he found, among other plans, an unfinished preliminary operational draft of a plan for attacking the Soviet Union, known under the name of "Barbarossa." Do you remember that part of Paulus's testimony?

A. I only remember it in so far as he stated that it was a draft for a manoeuvre, and that he found a document on the occasion of his transfer to the O.K.H., the General Staff of the Army. This is not known to me, and it could not be known to me because the documents, files and other reports of the General Staff of the Army were never at my disposal, and I never had an opportunity to look at them.

Q. I therefore wish to establish one fact. Do you deny that the O.K.W., in September, 1940, was elaborating plans in connection with Case "Barbarossa"?

A. If we go by the testimony of Field Marshal Paulus, then I could not say that it is not true since I cannot know whether it actually was true. I can neither deny nor affirm it.

Q. You informed the Tribunal that you were opposed to the war with the Soviet Union.

A. Yes.

Q. You also stated that you went to Hitler with the suggestion that he should change his plans with regard to the Soviet Union. Is that correct?

A. Yes. Not only that he should change them, but should cancel them and conduct no war against the Soviet Union. That was the content of my memorandum.

Q. That is precisely what I asked you. I would now like to ask you about a conference, evidently known to you, which was held three weeks after Germany had attacked the Soviet Union, the conference of 16th July, 1941. Do you remember that conference, which dealt with the plans for the conduct of the war against the Soviet Union?

A. No, at the moment I do not know what you mean.

Q. I do not intend to submit that document to you at this particular moment. You may remember that I submitted it to defendant Goering, when the question of the dismemberment of the Soviet Union arose, of the annexation of some of its territories. Do you remember?

A. I do know that document. I believe it is marked at the top "BO-FU,' and during my interrogation here I have identified it as a memorandum from Reichsleiter Bormann.

Q. That is correct.

A. I did so identify it. At that time I also testified that I was called in only during the second part of the conference, and that I had not been present during the first part. I also testified that it was not the official minutes, but a free summary made by Reichsleiter Bormann, dictated by him.

Q. But you do remember that even then, on 16th July, the question was already being put forward, concerning the annexation by Germany of the Crimea, the Baltic States, the districts of the Volga, the Ukraine, Byelorussia and other territories?

A. No, I believe that was discussed at the first part of the conference. My recollection of the conference is from the stage at which questions of personnel were discussed, that is certain persons who were to be appointed. That I remember. I have seen the document here for the first time and did not know of it before; and I did not attend the first half of the conference.

Q. In that case may I put the question differently: What were the final objective pursued by Hitler and his entourage at that time against the Soviet Union?

A. According to the explanations which Hitler had given me, I saw a more subtle reason for this war in the fact that he was convinced that a war would break out some way or other in years to come between the Greater Slav Empire of

[Page 64]

Communism and the German Reich of National Socialism. The reasons which were given to me were something like this: Once it was believed to be certain that such a conflict between these two nations was inevitable, then it would be better at once than later. But I do not remember - at least not at the moment - the questions which are in that Document BO-FU about the dismemberment of several areas. Perhaps they were figments of the imagination.

Q. And you tell the Tribunal under oath that you did not know of the Hitlerite plans to seize and colonise the territories of the Soviet Union?

A. No. That is not what I said. It is true that I believed that the Baltic provinces should be made dependent on the Reich, and that the Ukraine should come into a closer relationship, as regards food supplies and economy, but concrete plans for conquest were unknown to me and if they were ever mentioned I never considered them to be serious problems. That is the way I looked at it at that time. I am not allowed to explain how I see it today, but only how I saw it at that time.

Q. Did you know that at this conference of the 16th July Hitler announced the necessity of blotting the city of Leningrad from the face of the earth?

A. I do not believe that, during that conference ... I have read that document again here. Whether it is contained in the document I cannot remember now. But I have had this document here in my hands; I have read it in the presence of the American Prosecutor; and if it is stated therein then the question of whether or not I have heard it depends entirely on the moment at which I was called to that conference.

Q. I do not intend to hand you the document at once, because it has already been submitted several times. But in the extracts previously quoted to the defendant Goering, who read them himself, it is said: "The Leningrad region is claimed by the Finns. The Fuehrer wants to raze Leningrad to the ground in order to give it to the Finns after destroying it."

A. I can only say that it is necessary to establish from what moment on I attended that conference. Whatever was said before that moment I did not hear, and I can only make that point clear if I am given the document or if one reads the record of my preliminary interrogation. That is what I told the interrogating officer at that time.

Q. Very well. We shall give you the minutes of the conference of 16th July in a moment. While they are looking for the passages required, I shall ask you a few more questions, and by that time the passages will have been found.

With regard to the destruction of Leningrad, did you not know about it from other documents?

A. I have been asked about that by the Russian Delegation and the General who is present here in this Court. He has called my attention to a document.

Q. That was during the preliminary investigation, is that correct?

A. I also know the document which came from the Navy, from an admiral, and I also know a second document which at that time contained a short directive - I believe on the order of Jodl - concerning Leningrad. I have been interrogated regarding both documents. As to that I can only state that neither through artillery operations during the siege, nor by operations of the Air Force could the extent of destruction be compared with that of other places we know of. It did not materialise, we did not carry it out. It never came to a systematic shelling of Leningrad, as far as I know. Consequently, I can only repeat what I said then under oath to the member of the Soviet Delegation.

Q. According to your knowledge was Leningrad never shelled?

A. Certainly artillery was used in the Leningrad area, as elsewhere, but it never went so far as to constitute shelling for the sole purposes of destruction.

Q. Look at this document and I shall then ask you a few supplementary questions.

A. It is very simple. My entry is exactly after the moment when this remark had been made. I told the American interrogator at the time that I just heard

[Page 65]

the discussion about the appointment of Gauleiter Lohse as I entered the room. The preceding remark I did not hear.

Q. Have you acquainted yourself with those minutes of the report on the conference of 16th July that deal with Leningrad?

A. Yes.

Q. You saw that there was such an entry in the minutes of the meeting. You arrived at the conference just as they had finished talking about Leningrad?

A. Yes. I entered the room when they were talking about the qualifications of Gauleiter Lohse - whether or not he was suitable as an administrative official. These were the first words which I heard. A debate was going on about that subject just when I entered.

Q. It states here quite clearly: "Blot the city of Leningrad from the face of the earth."

A. Yes, I have read that here.

Q. The same is stated in the decree, is it not?

A. Yes; but that has no connection with me. Do you mean the order by the Navy - the order which was found with the fleet?

Q. You know that there were two decrees, one issued by the naval command and the other by the O.K.W. - signed by Jodl. You know that, don't you?

A. Yes, I have seen both these decrees here. They were submitted by the Russian Delegation.

Q. And you know of a decree signed by the defendant Jodl which also refers to the destruction of the city of Moscow.

A. That I do not remember exactly since only Leningrad was referred to at the time when I looked at it briefly. But if it is stated there, I will not doubt it at all.

Q. I am asking you. Did the O.K.W. issue decrees for the purpose of having them obeyed?

A. The order or communication of the Navy is first of all not an O.K.W. order, and how it originated is not known to me. The short order, signed "By order of Jodl," of the O.K.W., was not drafted in my presence, as I have. already stated yesterday. I should have signed it, but I was absent and therefore do not know what reasons or discussions lay behind this order.

Q. You have not replied to my question. Were directives issued by the O.K.W. so that they should be obeyed? Can you reply to me briefly?

A. This is a directive but not an order, because an order can only be given by the office of the local command of the Army. It was therefore a directive, an aim, an intention.

Q. And were directives from the O.K.W. not meant to be carried out?

A. Certainly they were meant to be carried out.

Q. As to your statement that no one shelled Leningrad, it does not even call for further denial, since the destruction of Leningrad is a well-known fact. I continue, do you know ...

A. May I at least say that I did not issue that order, That is why I do not know anything about it.

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