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-Fourth Day: Tuesday, 9th July, 1946
(Part 3 of 11)

[Page 214]

DR. NELTE, Continued:

What Keitel denies, however, is that he knew - or that prior to the Nuremberg trial he knew - that on arrival in the Reich the persons involved were imprisoned by the police and then transferred to concentration camps. This was contrary to the meaning and purpose of the decree. The defendant Keitel could not know of this because, in cases which did not involve proceedings by a military court, the competency of the Wehrmacht only extended to turning over the persons concerned to the police, to be transferred to Germany and there dealt with by the Administration of Justice. The defendant Keitel is unable to say from his own knowledge why so many persons were brought into concentration camps and there subjected to the treatment known as "Nacht and Nebel" and described by witnesses who have appeared here. The evidence presented to this Tribunal must lead to the conclusion that all political suspects who, as a result of political measures, were removed from the occupied territories to Germany for detention in concentration camps were, without the knowledge of the military authorities, designated "Nacht and Nebel" prisoners by the police, for, according to the testimonies we have heard, the majority of persons in these camps had not been formally sentenced by military courts in occupied territories to transfer to Germany.

It is evident therefore that police authorities in the occupied territories made use of this decree as a universal and unrestricted carte blanche for deportations, and totally disregarded the exclusive rights exercised by the military authorities and the rules of procedure imposed upon them.

The existence of such a situation in the occupied territories without the knowledge of the Wehrmacht authorities can only be explained by the fact that as a result of the appointment of senior SS and police leaders the military authorities

[Page 215]

no longer had executive powers in police affairs and that these higher SS and police leaders received their orders from the Reichsfuehrer SS.

The Reichsfuehrer SS and the higher SS and police leaders were never authorized by OKW to apply this decree, which was intended as a police executive measure to be used only by the Wehrmacht. The decree affected only those offices of the Wehrmacht exercising judicial authority; and it is clear from the wording that it was restricted to these and drafted to suit them.

The German Armistice Commission's letter of 10th August, 1944 (Document 843-PS) proves that OKW really had no knowledge of this improper application of the decree of 7th December, 1941. It says therein:

" ... that the basis for arrests seems to have undergone a change, since in the early stages they were made in the case of isolated incidents and attacks on the Reich or members of the occupation forces. In other words, those elements were apprehended who had played an active part in certain cases (and who were liable to punishment under those articles of the Hague Convention which refer to land warfare); whereas at present numerous persons are also deported to Germany who, on account of their anti- German sentiments, are being removed from France as a precautionary measure."
Paragraph 4 of that letter contains the following passage:
"The above-mentioned decree is based on the condition that the persons arrested will be made the subject of judicial proceedings. There is reason to believe that on account of the number of cases - especially those coming within the scope of precautionary measures - such proceedings are now frequently dispensed with and prisoners are no longer confined in prisons or penitentiaries of the German legal authorities, but in concentration camps."
OKW's reply of 2nd September, 1944, which is signed by Dr. Lehmann, refers expressly to the directives of the Fuehrer decree of 7th December, 1941, the so-called "Nacht and Nebel" decree. It contains no statement to the effect that the original conditions for deportation to Germany were changed.

This reply, however, was sent from Berlin without the knowledge of the defendant Keitel; and the Armistice Commission's letter was obviously also sent to Berlin, where the legal department of the armed forces was situated. Keitel himself was at the Fuehrer's Headquarters and did not know of the correspondence.

It must be admitted that failure to reply immediately to the German Armistice Commission's letter of 10th August, 1944, pointing out that this was an abuse of the decree of 7th December, 1941, and the directives issued in connection with it, was a grave omission. An investigation should have been initiated at once, in order to find and punish those responsible for this abuse. In so far as the Tribunal should regard Hitler's military staff as guilty, the defendant Keitel accepts responsibility within the scope of his general responsibility as chief of the OKW.

THE PRESIDENT: Perhaps this will be a convenient time to take a recess.

(A recess was taken.)

Mr. President, the prosecution has charged the defendant Keitel with participating in the deportations for the purpose of obtaining forced labour. In this connection, Keitel declares that his competency did not cover the procurement, recruiting and conscription of people in the occupied territories, nor did it cover allocation of the labour forces procured in this way for the armament industry. The co-defendant Sauckel confirmed this in his testimony of 29th May, 1946.

Mr. President, I should like judicial notice to be taken of the following statements, without my reading them. My colleague, Dr. Servatius, according to our agreement, will explain the connection between the Wehrmacht replacement and the procurement of manpower through the General Plenipotentiary for the Employment of Labour (G.B.A.). However, I have to refer to some documents which the French prosecution has submitted against the OKW and Keitel on account of active participation in deportation. These are Documents 1293-PS, 3819-PS, 814-PS and 824-PS.

[Page 216]

The first is a marginal note by the chief of the Reich Chancellery Dr. Lammers on a conference with Hitler, at which the question of procuring labour for 1944 was discussed. The defendant Keitel took part in this discussion. Annexed to this report is a copy of a letter from the defendant Sauckel dated 5th January, 1944, to which Sauckel sums up the results of the conference of 4th January and proposes a Fuehrer decree. I quote the following passages:
"The Fuehrer pointed out that all the German offices in occupied territories and countries within the Tripartite Agreement would have to be convinced of the necessity of taking in foreign labour, in order to be able to give uniform support to the General Plenipotentiary for labour commitment in carrying out the required organization, propaganda and police measures."
The penultimate paragraph:
"In my opinion the decree should in the first place be sent to the following offices ...

The Chief of the OKW, General Field-Marshal Keitel, for the information of the Military Commanders in France and Belgium, the Military Commander South-East, the General accredited to the Fascist Republican Government of Italy, the chiefs of the Army Groups East."

The document therefore proves:

(a) that Field-Marshal Keitel took part in a conference, without, however, stating his point of view on the problem of labour procurement.

(b) that Field-Marshal Keitel was to be informed of the Fuehrer decree so that the military commanders might be instructed. This confirms what the defendant Keitel stated in the passages which I have not read, as to how he came to be concerned with this question. The 2nd and 3rd documents refer to a conference in the Reich Chancellery on 11th July, 1944, in which Field-Marshal Keitel did not take part.

Now the French Prosecutor has made the statement that the teletype is an order issued by Field-Marshal Keitel to the military commanders to carry out the decisions of the conference of 11th July. M. Herzog has said in this connection that Keitel's order was dated 15th July, 1944. A brief examination of the document - a photostat - shows it to be a teletype dated 9th July and containing an invitation from the chief of the Reich Chancellery, Dr. Lammers, to a conference on 11th July, which invitation Keitel transmitted to the military commanders.

This was, therefore, an error. The conclusions based by the prosecution on this document are therefore also invalid, but the document is interesting from another point of view as well. It contains the following statement:

"The following directives are for the instruction of military commanders or their representatives:

I refer to my directives for the collaboration of the Wehrmacht in the procurement of labour from France (OKW/West/Ku (Verw. 1 u. 2 West) Nr. 05210/44 geh.)."

The defendant Keitel requested me to call the attention of the Tribunal to this method of expression for the following reasons. Numerous documents bearing the signature "Keitel" have been submitted here. In accordance with his position, which has already been described and which excluded all powers of command, Keitel never used the first person in communications or transmissions of orders. Apart from this document, only one other teletype was submitted by the prosecution in which the first person is used. In consideration of the many documents which bear out Keitel's statement, his claim that he was transmitting an order from the Fuehrer must be believed; and, indeed, the whole style of wording is that of a Fuehrer order.

General Warlimont (Document 3819-PS) also expressly refers during the conference of 11th July to a "recently issued Fuehrer order", the contents of which,

[Page 217]

as reproduced by him, are exactly as contained in the teletype directive with the signature "Keitel".

The newly submitted Document 824-PS - Exhibit RF 1515 - is also significant and confirms the evidence given by the defendant Keitel. This is a letter written on 25th July, 1944, by the Commander-in-Chief West (von Rundstedt) who in the meantime had become the Chief of the Military Commanders in France and Belgium. It states that "by order of the Fuehrer the demands of the G.B.A. and of Speer are to be fulfilled"; further that in the event of evacuation of the battle area, measures must be taken to secure refugees, etc., for labour, and finally that reports on the measures taken must be sent to the OKW.

This reference to the Fuehrer's order shortly after 11th July, 1944, shows, as does Warlimont's statement, that no directives from Keitel or the OKW existed. It can be therefore considered as proved that neither Keitel himself nor the OKW had any part in measures for the recruitment or conscription of labour. The OKW was the office responsible for transmitting the orders which Hitler as Sauckel's superior wished to forward to the military commanders; it had no competence and no legal responsibility.

This complex differs from the spheres within the administrative scope of the OKW, as here at least there existed a specialized function which included the possibility of voicing objections.

The spheres of labour procurement and commitment coincide with Sauckel's activities at the following points:

(a) Keitel was co-signer of the Fuehrer decree of 21st March, 1942, concerning the appointment of the G.B.A.

(b) He transmitted Hitler's orders to support the activities of the G.B.A. by special instructions to the local military authorities of the occupied territories.

Now, the French prosecution, at the session of 2nd February, 1946, made the following statement, in regard to the deportation of the Jews within the scope of the defendant Keitel's responsibility:

"I shall speak later on of the order concerning the deportation of the Jews; and I shall show that this order was the result of a common action of the military administration, and the security police in. the case of France. It follows that in the first place the Chief of the High Command, in the second place the Minister of Foreign Affairs and in the third place the Chief of the Security Police and the Reich Security Service (RSHA) - were all necessarily informed and necessarily approved this action, for it is clear that their offices did not keep them in ignorance of such plans concerning important affairs, and that, moreover, decisions were agreed upon on the same level in the three different administrations. These three persons are therefore responsible and guilty."
If you examine the very detailed treatment of this point of the indictment you will find that the OKW is not mentioned and that no document is produced which originates either with the OKW or with the defendant Keitel. It appears from the Keitel affidavit, Document Book 2, that the Military Commander for France, who is mentioned several times, was not subordinated to the OKW. In handling this question the prosecution has attempted to prove that the "Army", as M. Faure says, co-operated with the Foreign Office and the police, and thus to transfer this co-operation to the highest authorities, that is, in the case of the Army, to the OKW, and therefore to Keitel. This deduction is erroneous. In order to make that clear, I must point out that there was a military commander in France. This military commander was invested with civil as well as military authority, so that in addition to military tasks he had police and political functions. The military commanders were appointed by the OKH and received their orders from the latter. It follows that on this question they had no direct relations with the OKW. Since the defendant Keitel as chief of the OKW was not placed above the OKH, there is likewise no direct relation either of subordination or seniority.

[Page 218]

M. Faure's statement in this connection is unfortunately true. In France there were a large number of authorities working along different lines, contradicting each other and frequently intruding into each other's spheres of competency.

The OKW and the defendant Keitel had actually nothing to do with the Jewish question in France and with the deportations to Auschwitz and other camps; they had no powers of command or control and therefore no responsibility.

The fact that the letter K in the telegram of 13th May, 1942 (Document 1215-F), was interpreted to mean Keitel is characteristic of the attitude adopted by the Prosecutors, all of whom assumed that the defendant Keitel was implicated. The French Prosecutor has fortunately cleared up the error.


The fate of prisoners of war has always aroused considerable feeling.

All civilised nations have tried to alleviate the fate of soldiers who fall into the hands of the enemy as far as possible without prejudicing the conduct of the war. The reaching of an agreement even when the nations were engaged in a life-and-death struggle has been considered as one of the most important advances of civilisation. The torturing uncertainty with regard to the fate of these soldiers seemed to be ended; their humane treatment guaranteed; the dignity of the disarmed opponent assured.

Our belief in this achievement of human society has begun to waver, as in the case of so many others. Although this belief is still formally upheld - as it has been once and for all by the solid resistance of the general officers - we must nevertheless admit that a brutal policy, oblivious of the nation's own sons and of anything but its own striving after power has in many cases disregarded the sanctity of the Red Cross and the unwritten laws of humanity.

The treatment of the responsibility of the defendant Keitel in the general complex of the prisoner-of-war system comprises the following separate problems:

1. The general organization of the treatment of prisoners of war, i.e., the German legislation on the prisoner-of-war question;

2. The power of command over prisoner-of-war camps, which are classified under Oflag, Stalag and Dulag;

3. The supervision and control of this legislation and its application.

4. The individual cases which have been brought before the Tribunal in the course of the Indictment.

As the organization of the prisoner-of-war system has been set forth as part of the presentation of evidence, I can restrict myself to stating that the OKW (Keitel) was, by order of Hitler, within the scope of his assignments as War Minister, in accordance with the decree of 4th February, 1938, competent and to that extent responsible:

(a) for the material right to issue ordinances within the entire local and pertinent sphere, restricted in part by co-operation and co-responsibility regarding the utilization of prisoner-of-war labour;

(b) for the general allocation of prisoners of war arriving in Germany proper to the Corps Area Commanders but without powers of command over prisoner-of-war camps and prisoners of war themselves;

(c) for the general supervision of the camps in the OKW (with the exception of those within the zone of operations, the L. of C. area, the area of the military commanders, the Navy and Luftwaffe prisoner of war camps).

The competent office in the OKW was the "Chief of the Prisoner-of-War Department," which was several times made personally responsible by the prosecution. The defendant Keitel attaches importance to the fact that the Chief of the Prisoner-of-War Department was his subordinate. Hence the responsibility of the defendant Keitel in this domain is self-evident, even in those cases in which he did not personally sign orders and decrees.

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