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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
2nd July to 15th July 1946

One Hundred and Seventy-Third Day: Monday, 8th July, 1946
(Part 7 of 12)

[Page 180]

DR. HORN, Continued:

If one considers the horrible consequences and monstrous deeds which - without raising here the question of guilt - undoubtedly were committed by German people, and which can indisputably be traced back to orders and directives with which Keitel came into contact in some form, then one has a feeling of guilt without considering whether this is guilt in the legal sense, or the tragic feeling of being linked by fate with the causes and, thereby, also with the consequences.

The prosecution has maintained that:

"At one time all the defendants had banded together with the Nazi Party in a plan which they well knew could be realised only by the outbreak of a war in Europe."
With regard to the defendant Keitel, it is said that from 1933 on he took active part in this conspiracy.

To prove its thesis, the prosecution stated:

(a) that the National Socialist programme in itself, i.e., according to its wording and meaning, could be realised only by using force;

(b) that the defendant Keitel recognized or should have recognized it;

(c) that with this knowledge, he, together with the others, especially with the co-defendants, planned and prepared aggressive wars.

As regards these statements, I would like to call the Tribunal's attention, first of all, to the general part of Mr. Justice Jackson's opening statement in which he deals with the programme of the Party. He mentions there a number of points in the programme about which he says:
"All of these, of course, were legitimate objectives if they were to be attained without resort to aggressive warfare."
At a different point he says:
"I do not criticise this policy. Indeed, I wish it were universal. I merely wish to point out that in a time of peace, war was a preoccupation of the Party, and it started the work of making war less offensive to the masses of the people. With this it combined a programme of physical training and sports for youth that became, as we shall see, the cloak for a secret programme of military training."
According to that, the prosecution itself does not assume that the wording and meaning of the Party programme were such that normal persons would recognize that these party- political aims could be realised by use of force only.

I do not wish to repeat what in this connection was said by the individual defendants at their hearings in court. Especially convincing appeared to me what Dr. Schacht stated on this subject. He concludes his critical examination of the important points of the Party programme with these words

[Page 181]

"That is, in ,essence, the content of the National Socialist Party's programme, and I cannot see anything criminal in it."
I quote this statement especially because it shows how this programme and its recognizable objectives affected a person who may be characterised as intelligent, realistically thinking, free from emotional impulses in politics, possessing economic far-sightedness and ability to judge.

If that person did not recognize that the Party aims were to be realised by use of force, how was the soldier Keitel to come to such a realization?

Keitel was an active officer. As such, he could not be a member of the Party. The officers were prohibited from any political and party-political activity. The Wehrmacht command was intent on keeping the influence of Party politics away from the Wehrmacht. This was true both for the time before 1933 and afterwards. Hitler himself confirmed this principle because he clearly recognized that the time was not yet ripe for giving the corps of officers, let alone the higher officers, a political character. According to tradition and the conception of their profession, those high officers had a "national attitude", as one used to say, and they welcomed the national points of the programme which were put into the foreground by Hitler, were glad about the co-operation of the Wehrmacht, and without hesitation placed themselves behind the Government led by Hitler when it proclaimed the fight against the Treaty of Versailles, especially against its military-political clauses.

An agreement going beyond these aims or possibly a union with a political object in view did not exist. The generals, among them also Keitel, thought no differently from millions of Germans who were not Party members or who were opponents, but who regarded the national aims as a matter of course.

Now, one cannot fail to see that it is somewhat different if millions of Germans, who had no influence, supported that part of the programme relating to the national aims, or if the high officers who led the Wehrmacht supported it. Furthermore, it cannot be overlooked that the materialisation of these national aims carried with it the danger of a war. But the state of things seems to me to be such that the generals did not see the danger of war in the fact that Hitler wanted to realize these national aims by an aggressive war, but rather the danger that the execution of these aims would entail sanctions by the former enemy powers. The idea of an aggressive, warlike preparation was far from the generals' minds for the absolutely compelling reason of military impotency. I shall later deal more in detail with this problem which is closely connected with the rearmament. Here it is only important that the circles to which Keitel belonged - and I should like to add, between 1933 and 1938 -

(1) had no contact with the Party programme;

(2) had no relationship with Party circles;

(3) sympathised with a part of the Party programme because it corresponded to their national attitude;

(4) did not think of realising these national objectives by an aggressive war,, because it would have been hopeless from the military point of view.

Now one could argue that although the generals themselves did not think of waging an aggressive war, they certainly recognized or should have recognized that Hitler had the intention, in the near future, of waging an aggressive war.

The prosecution believes it can presume that the defendant Keitel had this knowledge from 1933 on. The argument of the prosecution that this knowledge is the same as the knowledge of the National Socialist programme has been refuted; the same holds true of the knowledge of the book Mein Kampf, even if one assumes he possessed the book.

Therefore, the question is only whether Keitel had knowledge of Hitler's aggressive intentions for other reasons. For the period up to 1938 Keitel could not have obtained this knowledge from Hitler himself, because Keitel spoke with him late in January, 1938, for the first time.

The speeches which Hitler made before that time, just as those of the other Party leaders, were unambiguously aimed at preserving peace. Looking back,

[Page 182]

one may call it propagandistic camouflage of the opposite intentions. If that were the case, then this camouflage successfully deceived not only many millions of Germans, but also the foreign countries which were partly critical and partly hostile toward National Socialism.

Keitel believed the protestations of peaceful intentions, saw their honesty confirmed also by official proposals of disarmament and treaties with England and Poland. He believed them all the more because, as has already been said, an aggressive war appeared to him an impossibility.

The co-defendant von Neurath, too, declared frequently here that all his information and knowledge of Hitler's policy up to 5th November, 1937, justified his firm conviction that Hitler did not want to realize his political aims by force or aggressive wars. It was only by the speech of 5th November, 1937, that this conviction of von Neurath's was shaken.

In the arguments by Dr. Schacht's defence to which I referred, those facts were presented which show a contradiction between the former conduct of the victorious powers and the thesis which the prosecution upholds on this question.

Through their official relations and beyond that, the victorious powers showed that, despite the knowledge of all the circumstances of which the defendants are now being accused, they (the victorious powers) did not believe in Hitler's intentions, or did not recognize his intentions, of realising his aims by aggressive war.

The prosecution now accuses the defendant that he knew, or ought to have known, such intentions of Hitler. This is not convincing and I can leave it to the Tribunal to judge who - if all contingencies are taken into consideration - had better possibilities of obtaining information on Hitler's true intentions.

I believe the defendant Keitel may claim for himself in good faith an ignorance of such intentions - unless a knowledge of such intentions and a subsequent participation results from other circumstances.

Such circumstances during the years 1933 through 1938 may have been: Keitel's activity in connection with the rearmament, and in the Reich Defence Committee (Reichsverteidigungsausschuss).

The charge of illegal rearmament includes two facts which have been summed up by the prosecution:

(1) Secret rearmament by circumventing the Treaty of Versailles;

(2) Rearmament with the purpose of planning wars of aggression.

For a judicial consideration, however, these facts must be kept strictly apart; for, they are different with respect to cause and effect, and they must also be legally assessed from different points of view.

The time between 1933 and 1938 is the fateful period, a period of development and conversion. The forces of the hitherto existing order are struggling against the new powers which have not yet taken a definite shape. Everything is in fermentation. The aims remain obscure. They are camouflaged by the adoption of existing nationalistic tendencies. By clever propagandistic utilization of these tendencies, the psychological basis for the aims pursued by the new rulers is being created without being noticed by those whom it concerns.

Here lies the problem of the armed forces leadership and of the defendant Keitel during this period, with which I am going to deal now.

This problem cannot be solved without duly taking into consideration Germany's military position. In judging the then Colonel Keitel another consideration enters the picture: how the special sphere to which he belonged was affected by this situation. Keitel considered the Treaty of Versailles, and especially the military clauses, as a humiliation for Germany. He considered it a duty towards his country to collaborate in putting an end to this situation. He was convinced that the Treaty of Versailles, because of its impossible military and territorial stipulations, would have to be revised some day. Such a revision appeared to him imperative in the interest of justice, as well as reason, if a lasting world peace was to be preserved. On the basis of this conviction, he believed that as a German and a soldier he was entitled in the official capacities in which he acted during this

[Page 183]

period, to interpret the military stipulations of the Versailles Treaty literally, even if this was in contradiction with the purpose of a stipulation. His justification for this was that the stipulations limited the possibilities of development in an unbearable manner, that is, in a manner completely insufficient for an effective defence. Though he did not participate personally, he did not consider it wrong for Germany, under the given circumstances, to construct submarines in Finland, not for aggression, but for the purpose of gathering experience and training specialists; or to maintain construction and designing offices in Amsterdam in order to observe the progress achieved in the field of aeronautics and to make use of it without actually building planes. Symptomatic of the way democratic Germany of that time thought - irrespective of position and party - was Dr. Bruening's statement, which on 15th February, 1932, was broadcast over all U.S.A. radio stations on the occasion of the meeting of the disarmament conference. I am going to quote some passages from that speech:
"The inner-political fights in Germany are very sharp in their outward forms to be sure; but this must not lead one to overlook the fact that despite many tendencies there exist indisputably many things in common also. On the two decisive foreign-political questions of today, the questions of disarmament and reparations, uniform opinions prevail among the German people. The demand for equal rights and equal security is shared by the entire German people. Every German government will have to uphold these demands. That the fight of the parties as to the roads which our politics must take is, perhaps, sharper in Germany today than in some other countries is a result of the deep misery which presses heavily on Germany and is deeply upsetting the people's equanimity."
In connection with this point I also refer to the testimony which the co-defendant von Neurath gave on 22nd June, 1946. These words which Bruning spoke prove that there was a demand which was upheld by the entire people irrespective of the difference in parties: The demand for equal rights and equal security. The objection to that is: A demand even if upheld by the entire people does not in itself create the right to violate or circumvent opposing settled regulations. In principle, one can accept that. However, things were not as simple as that. I do not wish to harp upon a fundamental law of all countries giving a nation the right to create for itself a certain state of defence. But even if one does not want to recognize such a "fundamental law" one will, perhaps, understand the state of emergency which actually exists if a country is so limited in its military potential that it is not only liable to military attack by any neighbour, but also politically condemned to impotency.

In the course of the hearing of evidence the Tribunal has had occasion to recognize that this was true with regard to the situation in which Germany found herself in the year 1933.

I want to call your attention to the following passages of the Marshall report which was submitted to the Tribunal. The following passages written by this outstanding soldier summarize as follows the experience of a patriotic and military life as regards the point discussed here under the heading "Rearmament":

"Nature is inclined to pass over weak people. The law that only the strong survive is generally recognized ...."
I quote further:
"The world does not take seriously the wishes of the weak. Weakness is too great a temptation for the strong."
And finally I quote:
"Above all, it seems to me, we must correct the tragic misunderstanding that a policy directed at security is a war policy."
The best witness with regard to this question, which is so important for the defendant Keitel, is the book by the English Major-General A. C. Temperley (Publishers, Collins, 1938) The Whispering Gallery of Europe for which the English

[Page 184]

Foreign Secretary of the Second World War, Anthony Eden, wrote a very friendly, concurring preface.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Nelte, would it not be possible for you to pass over the reading of these passages which come from the book of Major-General Temperley? The Tribunal will take notice of them. There are quite a number of long speeches from the book.

DR. NELTE: I intended to ask the Tribunal whether it would kindly take judicial notice of these passages if I submit them .... Perhaps one certain passage might be of interest on Page 38 under:

(4) "I also name the general staffs because there is no greater illusion than that they (the general staffs), taken as a whole, are in favour of war. I know the general staffs of many countries very well and have never known any general staff which would have glorified war or would have wished for war. They knew too much about it. If they advocated strength, it was because they believed in the idea that armed strength can prevent war."
And I shall continue; on Page 40, paragraph 3. I shall also refer to the statements by Paul Boncour, Henderson, Briand, Cecil and Viscount Rothermere which have been submitted by the defence counsel of Dr. Schacht but which I have not quoted.

In examining and deciding whether the defendant Keitel guiltily violated the military clauses of the Treaty of Versailles in the meaning of the Indictment, the Tribunal will have to consider the facts which have been presented. Any individual charges against him on this point have not been made.

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