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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
4th April to 15th April, 1946

Ninety-Ninth Day: Thursday, 4th April, 1946
(Part 5 of 7)

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

[Page 18]

DR. NELTE: I shall begin where it says: "In summing up." Those are the last three pages of this document.
"In summing up it must be established that:

1. In addition to the Armed Forces as the 1egal protector of the Reich internally and externally (as in every State), a peculiar, completely independent power-factor - I interpolate, the S.S. organisation - arose and was legalised. Politically, biologically, and in both police and administration matters, this organisation actually drew the powers of the State to itself.

2. Even at the beginning of military complications and conflicts the S.S. came to be the actual forerunner and standard-bearer of a policy of conquest and power.

3. After military actions had begun the Reichs-leader S.S. devised methods which always appeared appropriate, were mostly concealed, or if not, were hardly apparent from the outside, and which enabled him in reality to build up his power under the guise of protecting the annexed or occupied territories from political opponents.

4. From the occupation of the Sudeten territory, beginning with the organisation of political unrest, that is, of the so-called freedom movements and 'incidents,' the road leads straight through Poland and the Western areas in a steep curve into Russian territory.

5. With the directives for the 'Barbarossa' plan for the administration and utilisation of the conquered Eastern territories, the Armed Forces were, against their intention and without knowledge of the conditions, drawn further and further into the subsequent developments and activities.

6. I (Keitel) and my colleagues had no deeper insight into the extent of Himmler's full powers, and had no idea of the possible effect of these powers.

I assume without further discussion that the same holds true for the O.K.H.,

[Page 19]

which according to the order of the Fuehrer had made the agreements with Himmler's officials and had given orders to the subordinate army commanders.

7. In reality, it was not the Commander-in-Chief of the Army who had the executive power assigned to him and the power to decree law and maintain law in the occupied territories, but it was Himmler and Heydrich who decided on their own authority the fate of the people and prisoners, including prisoners of war, in whose camps they represented the executive power.

8. The traditional training and concept of duty of the German officers, which taught unquestioning obedience to superiors who bore, the responsibility, led to an attitude, regrettable in retrospect, which caused them to shrink from rebelling against these orders and these methods even when they recognised their illegality, and inwardly refuted them.

9. The Fuehrer abused his authority and his fundamental No. 1 Order in an irresponsible way with respect to us. This No. 1 Order read, more or less:

1. No one shall know about secret matters which do not belong to his own range of assignments.

2. No one shall learn more than he needs to fulfil the tasks assigned to him.

3. No one shall receive information earlier than is necessary for the performance of the duties assigned to him.

4. No one shall transmit orders which are to be kept secret to subordinate offices to any greater extent or any earlier than is unavoidable for the achievement of the purpose.

10. If what would be the consequence of granting Himmler authority in the East had been known beforehand, the leading generals would have been the first to raise an unequivocal protest. That is my conviction.

As these atrocities developed one out of the other, step by step and without any foreknowledge of the consequences, destiny took its tragic course, with fateful results."

Witness, defendant Keitel, did you, yourself, write this statement, that is, dictate it as I have just read it? Are you perfectly familiar with its contents and have you sworn to it?


DR. NELTE: I shall submit the document in the original.


Q. We had stopped at Document C-50 which mentioned the abolition of military jurisdiction in the "Barbarossa" area. I do not know whether you still want to express your opinion on it or whether that is now superfluous after what has just been read.

A. I should only like to say to this, that these documents C- 50 and 884-PS are the record of the directives that were given in that general staff meeting on the 24th June. In line with military regulations and customs they have been given the form of orders in writing and then sent to the subordinate officers.

Q. I have a few more short questions regarding the war against America. The prosecution asserts that Japan was influenced by Germany to wage war against America and has, in the course of its presentation, accused you of participation and co-operation in this plan. Would you like to make some statement regarding this?

A. Document C-75 is a directive by the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces which deals with co-operation with Japan. Of course, I participated in the drawing-up of this order and signed it.

The other Document, 1881-PS, regarding a conference between the Fuehrer

[Page 20]

and Matsuoka I know nothing of, nor did I know anything of it at the time. I can only say the following for us soldiers:

During the whole of this period, until the Japanese entry into the war against America, there were two points of view that were the general directions or principles which Hitler emphasised to us:

One was to prevent America from entering the war under any circumstances; i.e. to avoid any naval operations in waters where American naval forces were present. Secondly, the hope that Japan would enter the war against Russia, and I recall that around November and the beginning of December, 1941, when the advance of the German armies west of Moscow was halted, and I visited the front with Hitler, I was asked several times by the generals: "When is Japan going to enter the war?" The reason for that question was that Russian Far- Eastern divisions were being continuously thrown into the fight around Moscow. These were fresh troops coming from the Far East, to the number of about 18 to 20 divisions, though I could not give exact figures.

I was present at Matsuoka's visit in Berlin and I met him socially too, but I did not have any conversation with him. All the combinations that can be associated with Directive 24, C-75, and which I have gathered from the preliminary examination during my interrogation, are without any foundation for us soldiers and there is no justification for anyone's believing that we were guided by thoughts of bringing about a war between Japan and America, or of undertaking anything to that end.

In conclusion I can only say that this directive was necessary because the branches of the Armed Forces offered resistance to giving Japan information about certain things (military secrets) in armament production unless she were in the war.

[DR. NELTE] Q. There was also a letter submitted by the prosecution, a letter from Major von Falkenstein to the Air Staff. Reich Marshal Goering testified to this in his interrogation. I only wanted to ask you if you know of this letter or if you have anything to add to Reich Marshal Goering's testimony?

A. I have nothing to add, for I never saw this letter from von Falkenstein, until I saw it here for the first time on being interrogated.

Q. We come now to the individual facts with which you and the O.K.W are charged by the prosecution. Because of their great number I can naturally only choose individual groups and those with the most onerous charges, in order to elucidate whether and to what extent you were involved and what your attitude was to the ensuing results. In most cases it is a question of orders of Hitler, but in your statement on the actual happenings you have admitted to a certain participation and knowledge of these things. Therefore we must discuss these points.

One of the most important of these questions is the question of hostages. I want to show you Document C-128 with regard to this question. These are orders for operations in the West. Let me ask you though, first of all, what is the reason for the taking of hostages as it was usually carried out by the Wehrmacht?

A. These are the Printed Regulations, "Secret G-2 H.Dv. G-2" and headed, according to the order: "Instructions for Army Units."

DR. NELTE: I ask you, Mr. President, to turn to Document Book 1, K on Page 65 of my document book.


Q. I ask you to establish whether this is a copy from the aforementioned Army Regulations, Section 9, which deals with the question of hostages. This is Document K-7 and it reads as follows:

"Hostages may be taken only by order of a Regimental Commander, an independent Battalion Commander or a Commander of equal rank. With regard to accommodation and feeding, it is to be noted that, though they should be kept under strictest guard, they are not convicts. Furthermore, only senior officers holding the position of at least a Divisional Commander can decide on the fate of hostages."

[Page 21]

That is, if you want to call it so, the Hostage Law of the German Wehrmacht.

A. I might say in this connection that in Document C-128, which is the preparatory operational order of the Army for the battle in the West, it is mentioned specially under the heading:

"3A, Security measures against the population of occupied territory. (A) Hostages."
THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Nelte, are you offering that as K-7?

DR. NELTE: I ask to have these printed Army Instructions put in evidence as K-7.

THE PRESIDENT: Would you kindly say what you are putting it in as each time, because if you simply say "seven" it will lead to confusion.



Q. Was Document C-128 the orders of the High Command of the Army on the occasion of the march into France?

A. Yes.

Q. Now I have here another document, 1585-PS, which contains one point of view taken by the O.K.W. It is a letter to the Reich Minister for Air and Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe; and in this letter, I assume, are contained the convictions held by the office of which you were head.

A. Yes.

Q. What do you say today in connection with this letter?

A. I can only say that it is precisely the same standpoint that I represent today, because, with reference to the above- mentioned order, appears the following paragraph, beginning with the words: "Security against any misuse." and so on. Then the order is quoted.

Q. This is in reference to the order GB-2 and further, regarding the decision as to the fate of hostages -

A. It says: "According to which the decision on the fate of hostages can only be made by someone of at least as high a rank as a divisional commander."

Q. Is it correct when I say that this letter was drawn up by the Legal Department of the O.K.W. after examination of the situation as regards International Law and its implications.

A. Yes, it is to be seen from the document itself that this point of view was taken into consideration.

Q. Did you issue any general orders on this question of hostages in your capacity as Chief of the O.K.W., apart from those we have had up to now?

A. No, the O.K.W. participated only in helping to draw up this order. No other basic orders or directions were issued on this question.

Q. Did you nevertheless in individual cases have anything to do with them on this question of hostages? You and the O.K.W. are charged by the prosecution of having expressed yourselves in some way or of having taken some kind of attitude when inquiries were made by Stuelpnagel and Falkenhausen.

I show you Document 1594-PS.

A. This document is a communication from von Falkenhausen, the Military Commander of Belgium, and is directed to the O.K.H., General Staff, Quartermaster General, and further to the Commander-in-Chief of the Western Front, and Supreme Commander in the West and for the attention of the Netherlands and Luftgau Belgium.

I do not know this document nor could I know it, for it is directed to the Army. The assumption expressed by the French Prosecutor that I received a letter from Falkenhausen is not true. I do not know this letter and it was not sent to me. Official communication between the military commanders in France and Belgium took place only between the O.K.H. and the two military commanders subordinate to him. These commanders were not subordinate either to the O.K.W. or to me.

Q. The French Prosecution has submitted Document UK-25 and has asserted that

[Page 22]

this document was the basis for the hostage legislation in France; that there is, in other words, a basic connection between the order you signed on 16th September, 1941, and the treatment of hostages in France. I will show you these documents, 1587-PS and 1588-PS in addition to UK-25, and request you to comment on them.

A. I must first answer the question as to whether I had any discussion on individual matters with military commanders regarding the question of hostages. Did you not ask me that?

Q. With regard to Stuelpnagel and Falkenhausen?

A. Yes, with regard to Stuelpnagel and Falkenhausen. It is possible, and I do recall one such case: Stuelpnagel called me up from Paris because he had received an order from the Army to shoot a certain number of hostages for an attack on members of the German Armed Forces. He wanted to have this order certified by me. That was done and I believe it is confirmed by a telegram, which has been shown to me here. It is also confirmed that at that time I had a meeting with Stuelpnagel in Berlin. Moreover, these two commanders got into touch with me only in exceptional circumstances. When they thought that I might assist them to carry out some difficult task which they did not feel able to deal with unaided; for example, in such questions as labour recruitment - that is, workers from Belgium or France destined for Germany - or even, in one case, conflicts between the military commanders and the police. In these cases I was called up directly in order to mediate.

Permit me, please, to look at the documents now.

Q. You must begin with UK-25, 16th September, 1941.

A. Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: It is impossible for the Tribunal to carry all these documents in their heads by reference to their numbers and we haven't the documents before us. We do not know what documents you are dealing with here. It is quite impossible for us.

DR. NELTE: Mr. President, for this reason, I took the liberty of submitting to the Tribunal before the beginning of the sessions a list of documents. I am sorry if that was not done. I could not submit the documents themselves. You will always find a number to the left of this list.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I see that, but all that I see here is 1587-PS, which is not the one that you are referring to, apparently, and it is described as a report to the Supreme Command of the Army. That does not give us much indication of what it is about. The next one is 1594-PS, a letter to O.K.H. That again does not give us much indication of what it is about, except that it has something to do with the hostage question.

DR. NELTE: It is concerned with the question which the defendant Keitel is about to answer. Have you not also the Order bearing No. C-128?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I have that. That is "Directions for the Operation in the West."

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