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 8 of 12)

[Page 184]

DR. NELTE, Continued:

It is unquestionable that, from 1933 on, rearmament took place in the Reich. The defendant Keitel has admitted that and he stated that in the official positions he held up to 30th September, 1934, and from 1st October, 1935, on he participated in this rearmament in accordance with the functions incumbent on him. Like everything the Germans do, the rearmament, too, was well thought out and organized. The prosecution collected data for that; especially Document No. 2353-PS ,and the transcripts of the sessions of the Reich Defence Committee (Reichsverteidigungsausschuss).

During the hearing of evidence the total picture of this period from 1935 to 1938 was not clearly defined. The prosecution arranged its presentation of evidence retrospectively and drew a conclusion from the results of the war as to the motive for the rearmament, but at the same time it deduced from the fact, which cannot be denied and has not been denied, that this rearmament could not be planned and carried out by any one man, that it (the rearmament) constituted a joint plot for the purpose of aggressive war.

Now, where is the decisive criterion: in military armament or in preparations of a different kind for the case of a war from which the conclusion may be drawn that these measures have an aggressive character, i.e., that they aim at an aggressive war?

In principle, from the armament itself, nothing can be deduced for the alleged intentions; armament may, in fact it must, look just the same if carried out for security and defence as it does in case of aggressive war.

Therefore, if the intention of rearmament for the purpose of a plot is to be determined, distinction must be made between:

(a) Armament and preventive measures which must be taken in case a mobilization should become necessary for defence at any time,

(b) Rearmament and enacting of measures which exceed in quantity or quality the volume under (a) to such an extent that the intention of the political leadership to begin a war will be recognized by whoever it concerns, in which case the political question of whether an aggressive, defensive or preventive war is intended may be disregarded.

Therefore, in the end, the decisive question will be whether in connection with these measures the intention of planning an aggressive war was expressed or had

[Page 185]

become otherwise noticeable or whether the measures, because of their nature and volume, demand the conclusive deduction that an aggressive war was being prepared.

In retrospect, the events are presented as the logical chain of developments according to plan. In reality, not only were Hitler's far-reaching intentions and his planning subject to an actual course of events in which, objectively viewed, a certain causality seems to be inherent, but also the knowledge and approving support of co-operating circles were imputed to it. There can be no dispute over the statement that the economic capacity of a country, which in its totality must be regarded as armament for the case of war, will eventually get to a point which must be considered of decisive importance for solving the question of when the rearmament, i.e., the status of the entire industry essential for war, exceeds the capacity of armament for defence.

While considering this, it must be taken into account especially for the defendant Keitel, as a soldier, that until he took over the office of Chief of OKW on 4th February, 1938, he had not held a decisive position.

Now, what part did the defendant Keitel play at that date?

(a) In the field of rearmament with regard to material and personnel.

(b) In the field of administrative and - as charged by the prosecution - military-political rearmament which was dealt with under the heading of "Reichsverteidigungsrat" (Reich Defence Council).

Now I shall omit Pages 43 to 46, since they contain the historical development of the organisational principles, and I beg the Tribunal, if it can make use of this information, to consider it in reaching a verdict. I shall continue on Page 47:

The prerequisite of modern warfare is not so much the exploitation and organization of the manpower of a country into military formations, but it is essentially a problem of industrial capacity and of its appropriate utilization for the production of all necessary raw materials.

This process must of necessity precede any rearmament and requires expenditure of money and even more of time. (Establishment of industrial machine pools.)

When Germany proclaimed equal rights as regards defence - that is, military sovereignty - it did not possess the necessary resources for a material rearmament as they had been taken away in the execution and recognition of the disarmament plan. It has been confirmed here during the trial by various sources that first ten, then seven to eight years were estimated for providing material equipment in the form of hitherto prohibited modern weapons and supplies, especially munitions also for the peace-time Wehrmacht which had been announced to the world with the proclamation of liberty for national defence in 1935. This becomes comprehensible if one considers that even the U.S.A. with its unlimited means, which were not impaired by the effects of war, required four to five years for the necessary conversion and rearmament in this war. Thus we see that rearmament, if it is intended to exceed the limits of defensive armament, is only to be achieved gradually in the case of nations which - like Germany in 1934 - had no armaments.

1st stage: Procuring of essentials (capacities) with regard to industries and raw materials for the production of war supplies.

2nd stage: Issuing orders to the armament industry for the first equipment of the peace-time strength of the Wehrmacht and execution of those orders within the framework of the means provided by the annual budgets.

3rd stage: Procurement of the ammunition and weapon supplies to be stored for the equipment of a mobile Wehrmacht, which is to be developed in the case of war from the permanent peace-time strength in accordance with the efficiency of the manpower of a nation. Those supplies are to include the necessary replacements during the war.

If one considers that in 1934 Germany had no modern weapons, no submarines and no military aircraft at its disposal, it can well be believed that any soldier of experience had to assume that under the given circumstances there could be no thought of a war, let alone a war of aggression.

[Page 186]

Accordingly, the tasks which the defendant Keitel assumed in his official capacity of chief of staff of the Wehrmacht office, must be considered as purely preparatory and organisational. Keitel, of course, bears the responsibility for General Thomas, chief of the defence economy staff. The technical details and the extent of his activity can be seen from Document 2353-PS, which is correct in essence despite the fact that Thomas, in the declaration prefixed to this historical document, now wants it to look as if he had presented his original notes in an exaggerated way and given them a more favourable turn to please Hitler, this in case of the arrest he feared. This does not correspond to the facts. What Thomas wrote proves, according to defendant Keitel's opinion, that a "war armament" with mobilization of the industrial capacity and its conversion to war economy began only at the beginning of October, 1939. It further proves that the statements of the defendants which were examined here, as far as they were connected with this rearmament, and especially Dr. Schacht until 1937, are in complete agreement on the following point: that at this period, wars of aggression were not avowedly desired, and according to the state of actual armament then, they must have appeared impossible.

But the rearmament in manpower also shows the same picture during this period. The evidence has shown that until spring, 1938, only twenty-seven peace-time divisions were scantily equipped and that ten to twelve reserve divisions were in preparation; at that time the Wehrmacht had no other supplies or armaments at its disposal.

If, despite this fact, and without general mobilization, it succeeded by the autumn of 1938 in preparing an army of almost forty divisions for the aggression against Czechoslovakia, at a time when it had the poorest protection on its western front, one can see what the maximum war potential was in those days.

Under such circumstances and with knowledge of the armament situation and war potentials of neighbouring countries, which were mutually united by alliances and assistance pacts, none of the generals of the old school could ever think of bringing about a war. The fact that already one year later, in 1939, the state of German armaments was substantially improved, must primarily be traced back to the occupation of Czechoslovakia.

Finally it must be pointed out that during this period there was no strategic plan for any aggression whatsoever. General Jodl has declared on the witness stand that when in 1935 he came to the Wehrmacht office, no plan nor anything similar was in existence, except what was provided for in the case of internal unrest.

The occupation of the demilitarised Rhineland zone was not planned, but was improvised by Hitler.

The "Initial Assembly and Combat Directives of June, 1937" is a general instruction for eventual and possible military conflicts.

For the sake of completeness I must also call attention to Document 194-EC. This is an order issued by the Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht, von Blomberg, on the subject of air reconnaissance and the observation of submarine movements during the occupation of the Rhine. Keitel signed and forwarded this order. It is the only document of that period which is on hand.

The Reichswehr had a permanent force of 100,000 men, as had been laid down by the Treaty of Versailles. It is indisputable that in view of the size of the Reich, its unprotected frontiers and the way East Prussia was cut off, this figure was absolutely inadequate for creating a feeling of internal security and the possibility of defence in the face of an attack from without, such as may be considered an elementary right for any country and nation. This state of inadequacy, which had been created by the military clauses of the Treaty of Versailles, was the subject of reflection even before 1933, with a view to improving it without actually making use of soldiers for the purpose. An examination was made and it was found that in case of mobilization a series of tasks could be taken over by the civil ministries;

[Page 187]

here tasks of a purely defensive nature were concerned which cannot be considered aggressive. They were tasks of national defence, and principally the following.

I enumerated them in my manuscript, and without reading them, I should like the High Tribunal to take judicial notice of these points. As is quite clear, these are matters only for the defence.

The advisory body for these tasks and their execution was, up to 1933, the committee of experts (Referentenausschuss). It consisted of experts coming from the different civil ministries, who after being accepted by the Minister of the Interior (Severing, up to the end of 1933) met for conferences at the Reich Ministry. The Reichswehr Minister charged the then Colonel Keitel to preside over these meetings. At these meetings the experts received and discussed the desires of the Reich Defence Ministry as regards the aforementioned tasks which the individual ministers could take over in case of a mobilization.

During Minister Severing's time this co-operation worked without friction with the idea of satisfying as far as possible the wishes of the Reichswehr Minister, and it went on in the same way after 30th January, 1933. The scope of the tasks and the composition remained the same. When on 4th April, 1933, a Reich Defence Council was established through a resolution of Hitler's new Reich Government, the committee was maintained; only its name was changed; the committee of experts became the Reich Defence Committee. However, it did not change its field of action and was not given any new competency. It only grew in size as it went on developing, especially after the introduction of general military service. Now as before, the Reich Defence Committee was a body which had to give advice about those tasks of national defence concerning the civilian sector, which had to be prepared and also partly taken over by the civil ministries. For this count of the Indictment it must be made quite clear that, after 4th April, 1933, Keitel's position did not change either, and especially that he was not a member of the Reich Defence Council.

The Reich Defence Council, which has taken up much space in the statements of the prosecution, may be considered as factually non-existent according to the result of the evidence produced - later on I will come back to the time after 1938. In any case, the prosecution could not prove that there was any session of the Reich Defence Council during this period. The protocols submitted dealt without exception with the session of the Reich Defence Committee and the members of this committee reported to their competent ministries, which in turn had the opportunity to give, in the framework of the Cabinet, the necessary concrete form to the suggestions and proposals discussed in the Reich Defence Committee. For this reason there were never any sessions of the formal legally existing Reich Defence Council, so that witnesses could rightly say that the Reich Defence Council existed only on paper.

Keitel, up to 30th September, 1933, as colonel and section chief in the War Ministry, and later, from October, 1935, as major-general (Chief in the Wehrmacht Office of the Reich War Ministry), was a member of the Reich Defence Committee.

Therefore, from 30th September, 1933, to 30th September, 1935, he was not in the War Ministry, and thus had no function connected with this count of the Indictment. During this time also he did not participate in sessions of the Reich Defence Committee, the protocols of which have been presented by the prosecution as having a specially probative value. The session of 22nd May, 1933, denoted as the second session of the working committee of experts, was the last session in which Keitel participated before being transferred to duty with the troops. The first session after his transfer to the Reich War Ministry was held on 6th September. It is put down as the 11th session of the Reich Defence Committee. Although, therefore, in the examination of Keitel's responsibility, one has to exclude the above protocols ... that is, the work done by the Reich Defence Committee during the two years of Sessions three to ten, I will nevertheless make them the subject of my statements, as it is from these very protocols that one can see what the Reich Defence Committee was doing.

[Page 188]

Only the knowledge of these protocols makes it clear why an institution, which exists in this or some other form in every country, and which serves the purpose of national defence deemed legitimate by every country, has now been presented as an important argument in the giving of evidence on plans and preparations for aggression.

The protocols of the sessions of the Reich Defence Committee in 1933, 1934, and 1935, reveal the character of the work as that of preparations for the event of war. But it is likewise evident that it is a question of preparations which were intended to bring about a more perfect degree of readiness in national defence in case of mobilization.

If the "political situation" is mentioned twice, these allusions indicate the fear of military sanctions from neighbouring States. (Reference is made to the case of Abyssinia, which led to sanctions against Italy.)

Everything is rooted in the thought of overcoming that state of military impotency, which made it impossible to make secure the open frontiers of the Reich.

The recurring idea of obligation to secrecy can only be attributed to fear arising from the situation at the time that the publishing of measures, though of a defensive nature, would produce preventive measures on the part of the victorious powers.

That these suspicions were well founded is shown by the intransigent attitude of certain States after the complete disarmament of Germany, and this question is important for Keitel's attitude, for he affirms that the conclusion drawn from the regulation for secrecy is erroneous, that secrecy is a proof of a bad conscience, and bad conscience is a proof of knowledge of illegality.

The Committee of the Reich Defence never passed resolutions; it was an advisory body in matters of national defence in so far as the civilian sector was concerned with a mobilization. At no time did it ever indulge in deliberations concerning rearmament as regards manpower or material or concerning plans of aggression.

The prosecution has tried in one instance to prove that the Reich Defence Committee was mixed up with plans for aggression.

I do not wish to read the next few sentences. Here we deal with the well-known event of the freeing of the River Rhine for traffic, a question which was designated as the technical liberation of the Rhine River. This came up in Goering's testimony.

I shall continue on Page 56, paragraph 3:

The true nature of the Reich Defence Committee's activities is set out quite simply and clearly in the Book of Mobilization for the Civilian Administration. (Documents 1639-PS and 1639a-PS.)

It refers to the result of discussions between all the experts of the Reich Defence Committee and is an appendix to the mobilization plan of the Wehrmacht as well as to that of armaments.

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