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 9 of 9)

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

[Page 65]

Q. Do you know that before the beginning of the war against the Soviet Union the defendant Goering issued a so-called "Green Folder" containing directives on the control of economic matters in the territories of the U.S.S.R. intended for occupation?

A. Yes, that is known to me.

Q. Do you admit that in your directive of 16th June, 1941, you instructed all the German Armed Forces to obey these directives implicitly?

A. Yes, there is a directive which makes known to all units of the Army the organisations which are assigned for important tasks and what their responsibilities are, and that all the military commands of the Army must act in compliance therewith. That I passed on; it was not my order. I passed it on.

[Page 66]

Q. Was it your own decree or were you merely obeying the Fuehrer's instructions?

A. I merely passed on the orders received from the Fuehrer, and I could not give any orders at all to Reich Marshal Goering in that respect.

Q. You did not issue an order to Field Marshal Goering, but addressed your order to the Armed Forces?

A. I could not give them any orders either; I could only pass on the intentions of the Fuehrer to the Commander-in- Chief of the Army, and he had to pass them on to his army groups and armies.

Q. You did not disagree with these intentions of the Fuehrer?

A. I did not raise any objection, since this did not concern the sphere of the O.K.W. I followed out the order and passed it on.

Q. Do you admit that this order of yours contained instructions for the immediate and complete economic exploitation of the occupied regions of the Soviet Union in the interest of German war economy?

A. I did not issue such an order giving the aims and tasks which were to be carried out by the organisation "Economic Staff Oldenburg" (Wirtschaftsstab Oldenburg), since I had received no order to that effect. I only passed on the contents of the "Green Folder" to the High Command of the Army, for appropriate action.

Q. Do you admit that the directives contained in Goering's "Green Folder" were aimed at the plunder of the material wealth of the Soviet Union and all its citizens?

A. No. In my opinion nothing was said of destruction. Instead of destruction one ought to say exploitation of surplus, especially in the field of the food supply, and the utilisation of raw materials for the entire war economy of Germany, but not the destruction of them.

Q. Please repeat what you have just said.

A. I said that in the "Green Folder" were the principles for the utilisation of present and future reserves which were considered surplus, but never for their destruction. To cause the Soviet population to starve by such destruction, that was not the intention. I have seen these things on the spot and am therefore qualified to speak about them.

Q. You do not consider that plunder?

A. The conflict over words, whether booty, or exploitation of reserves found during the war, or looting, or the like, is a matter of concepts which I believe need not be defined here. Everyone uses his own expressions in this respect.

Q. Very well, do not let us argue about it. I have one last question to ask you with regard to the attack on the Soviet Union: Do you agree that the methods of warfare adopted by the German Army in the East differed radically from the general concept of military necessity?

A. No, I cannot admit that in this form; I would rather say, the fact that the brutalising - I have used this term before - that the brutalising of the war against the Soviet Union and in the East occurred, is not to be attributed to instigation by the German Army but to those conditions which I have stated in an affidavit submitted by my counsel to the Tribunal. I would furthermore like to ask the Russian Prosecutor to read it so that he can see my opinion about it.

Q. Very well. To conclude the question of aggression and to pass to the question of atrocities, I have to ask you the following question, and I trust you will give the Tribunal the information you possess in your capacity as Hitler's closest adviser in the matter of military plans.

My question is the following: What tasks did the Supreme Military Command entrust to the German Armed Forces in the event of Germany concluding a victorious war against the Soviet Union?

A. I do not know what you mean by that. What were the directives to the military leaders in the event of a victory over the Soviet Union? May I ask you to put this question differently. I did not understand it.

[Page 67]

Q. I refer to the problems for the further conduct of the war after a successful conclusion of the Eastern campaign.

A. Then that could occur which actually did occur later, that is, the landing of the British and American forces in France, in Denmark or in Germany, etc. There were various possibilities of warfare which might occur and which could not be anticipated at all.

Q. I am not asking this question in general. You are evidently acquainted with the document entitled "A Manual of Naval Warfare" which had already been drafted on 8th August, 1941, and contained plans for the subsequent conduct of the war after the conclusion of the Eastern campaign. I refer here to the drafting of plans for the invasion of Iraq, Syria and Egypt. Do you know this document?

A. It has not been submitted to me so far. It is a surprise at the moment, and I cannot recall it.

Q. You do not know this document? (To the Tribunal): This document, your Honours, is Document S-57; it was submitted to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 336. I will show it to you in a minute. (The document was handed to the defendant.)

A. I see this document for the first time, at any rate here during the proceedings. It begins with the sentence:

"A draft of directives concerning further plans after the end of the Eastern campaign was submitted to the Naval Operations Command."
This order or directive of the Navy I have never seen nor could I have seen it. It is a draft of directives which could only come from the High Command of the Armed Forces. In the Armed Forces Operations Staff there were officers from the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, and it is quite possible that ideas which took shape of drafts of directives were made known at the time to these officers. I cannot remember any such draft of directives of the Armed Forces Operations Staff but maybe General Jodl is in a position to give information about that. I cannot remember it.

Q. You do not remember it? I shall not examine you about it closely but you did see that the document planned the seizure of Gibraltar with the active participation of Spain, it planned an attack on Syria, Palestine, in the direction of Egypt, etc. You say that you have no idea what this document was about?

A. I shall be glad to give information about that. An attack to seize Gibraltar, which is the gateway to the Mediterranean, had already been planned for the preceding winter but had not been carried out, that is, during the winter of 1939-40. It was nothing new and the other topics which have been mentioned were those which developed ideas based on the situation existing north of the Caucasus as a result of the operations. I do not mean to say that these ideas were not given any thought, but I do not remember it and I did not read every document or paper of the Armed Forces Operations Staff when it was in the drafting stage.

Q. If you consider as mere scraps of paper documents concerning the seizure of entire countries, then what did your people consider as very important documents?

A. I can only state the following, which is true and sincere. In war time one makes many a plan and considers various possibilities which are not and cannot be carried out in the face of the hard facts of reality. Therefore it is not permissible to regard such papers afterwards as entirely representative of the will and intention of the operational and strategic war leadership.

Q. I agree with you that - from a historical point of view - this document is at present of no importance whatsoever. But taken in conjunction with the plan of the German General Staff, at a time when this Staff thought it was going to defeat the Soviet Union, then the document does acquire an entirely different meaning. However, I shall not, for the time being, examine you any further about this document.

I now pass on to the subject of atrocities and of your attitude towards these

[Page 68]

crimes. Your counsel, Dr. Nelte, has already handed you the principal documents of the prosecution on the subject of atrocities. I do not therefore intend either to submit them again or to enter into any detailed argument on the subject. I shall merely examine you on the basic principles of these documents, which were presented by your counsel during your interrogation.

I shall first of all refer to Document TS-50, dated 13th May, 1941, entitled "Directive on the application of Martial Law in region 'Barbarossa' and on the adoption of special measures by the Armies." Do you remember that document? It was drawn up on 13 May, 1941, more than a month before the outbreak of war against the Soviet Union. Do you remember that in that document, drawn up before the war, instructions were given that all suspect elements should immediately be brought before an officer and that he would decide if they were to be shot? Do you remember that condition? You signed the document.

A. Yes, I have never denied that. But I have given the necessary explanations as to how the document came into being and who was its originator.

Q. Although you declare that you have already elucidated the matter to your counsel, I am, nevertheless, obliged to put this question to you in a slightly different form:

Did you consider that an officer had no right to shoot people on the spot without trial or investigation?

A. In the German Army there have always been regimental courts-martial for our own soldiers as well as for our enemies, which could always be set up, consisting of one officer and one or two soldiers, all the three of whom would act as judges. That is what we call a regimental court- martial (Standesgericht); the only requisite is always that an officer must preside at this court. But as a matter of principle I have to repeat the statement which I made yesterday....

Q. One moment. Please reply to this question. Did not this document do away with judicial proceedings in the case of so- called suspects, at the same time leaving the right to shoot them to the officer of the German Army? Is that correct?

A. In the case of German soldiers it was correct and was permitted. There is a court-martial with judicial officers and there is a court-martial which consists 0f soldiers. These have the right to execute an appropriate sentence against any soldier of the German Army in regimental court- martial proceedings.

THE PRESIDENT: You are not answering the question. The question is what right does this document give, not what the orders in the German Army are.


Q. Can you reply to the following question? Did this document do away with judicial proceedings and did it give the German officer the right to shoot suspects, as stated herein?

A. That was an order which was given to me by Hitler. He had given me that order and I put my name under it. What that means I explained in detail yesterday.

Q. You, Field Marshal, signed that decree. You considered that the decree was irregular, you understood what the consequences of that decree were likely to be. Then why did you sign it?

A. I cannot say any more than that I put my name to it and I thereby personally assumed in my position a degree of responsibility.

Q. And one more question. This decree was dated 13th May, 1941, almost a month before the outbreak of war. So you had planned the murder of human beings beforehand?

A. That I do not understand. It is correct that this order was issued about four weeks before the beginning of the campaign "Barbarossa," and four weeks before that it had been communicated to the generals in a statement by Hitler. They knew that weeks before.

Q. Do you know how this decree was actually applied?

A. I have already told the interrogating General of the Soviet Army in the preliminary interrogations my opinion. Whether generals discussed this order

[Page 69]

with me has not been mentioned, but I wish to point out that it says specifically here that the higher commanders have the right to suspend this order concerning court jurisdiction as soon as their area is pacified. I have given the same answer to every general who has asked me about the reasons for and the effect of this order. I said that it provided that they were allowed to suspend this order as soon as they considered their area to be pacified. That was an individual subjective question for the discretion of the commanders.

Q. And now for the final question in connection with this order or directive. This order actually assured German soldiers and officers complete impunity for arbitrary actions and actions of lawlessness?

A. Within certain limits, the limit was strictly defined in the verbal order to the generals, namely application of severest disciplinary measures among their own troops.

Q. I think, defendant Keitel, that you have seen these "definite limits" in the documents submitted to the Tribunal and in the documentary films.

I shall now ask you the following question: On 12th May, 1941, the question of the treatment of captured Soviet political commissars and military prisoners was under consideration. Do you remember that document?

A. At the moment I cannot recall which one you mean. It is not clear to me what you are referring to at the moment.

Q. I refer to the document dated 12th May, 1941, which established that the political leaders of the Red Army should not be recognised as prisoners of war but annihilated.

A. I have only seen notes on it. I do not recall the document at present but I know the facts. I cannot recall the document at the moment. May I see it please?

Q. If you please.

THE PRESIDENT: What number is it?

GENERAL RUDENKO: 780-PS. It is a document dated 12th May, 1941, and it established that the political leaders of the Red Army were not to be considered as prisoners of war but that they should be annihilated.

A. It is not an order but a memorandum on a report by the Department of National Defence, with the remark that decisions by the Fuehrer are still required. The memorandum probably refers to a suggested order - I remember this now; I saw it at the time and the result of the report is not mentioned but merely the suggestion which was put down for its regulation yet to come. As far as I know, the ruling was then communicated to the High Command of the Army as having been approved by the Fuehrer or having been attended to or discussed or agreed upon directly between the Fuehrer and the Commander-in-Chief of the Army.

Q. What do you mean when you speak of "regulation"? We have learned so many expressions from German Army terminology, such as "regulation," "special regime," "execution," but they all - translated into vulgar parlance, mean one thing, and one thing only - murder.

A. I did not at all say "regulation." I do not know which word was understood to mean that. I said that, in the sense of that memorandum, according to my recollection, directives bad been issued by Hitler to the Army at that time; that is, an approval to the suggestion which has been made in the memorandum.

Q. In that case you do not deny that as far back as May, more than a month before the outbreak of war, the document had already been drafted which provided for the annihilation of Russian political commissars and military personnel. You do not deny this?

A. No, that I do not deny. That was the result of the directives which had been communicated and which had been worked out here in writing by the generals.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn now.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 6th April, 1946, at 10.00 hours.)

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