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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
9th August to 21st August 1946

One Hundred and Ninety-Ninth Day: Friday, 9th August, 1946
(Part 6 of 11)

[Page 23]


Q. Will you state your full name, please? Can you hear now?

A. Walter von Brauchitsch.

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me:

I swear by God, the Almighty and Omniscient, that I will speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.



Q. Field-Marshal, what was the last position which you held?

A. Supreme Commander of the Army.

Q. During what period were you Supreme Commander of the Army?

A. 1938 to 1941.

Q. On 4th February, 1938, you succeeded Colonel-General von Fritsch as Supreme Commander of the Army. When you took over this position, did Fritsch inform you of the intentions which Hitler made known in the conference of 5th November, 1937?

A. No.

Q. Did, by any chance, Hitler himself inform you of these intentions?

A. No.

Q. Or did Colonel-General Beck, who was then Chief of the General Staff of the Army, inform you of them?

A. No, he did not either.

Q. Since such plans were in existence, would it have been necessary to inform you of them on your taking over the post of Supreme Commander of the Army?

A. In my view, certainly.

Q. When did you learn what was discussed at that conference of 5th November, 1937?

A. Only here in Nuremberg.

Q. Were you, as Supreme Commander of the Army, consulted by Hitler before the occupation of Austria?

A. No.

Q. Did a plan exist for military action against Austria?

A. No; at least I do not know of one.

Q. Did that action come as a surprise to you?

A. It came as a complete surprise to me. I was not, as the witness Gisevius said, called away from the session of the Court. I was not in Berlin at all, but

[Page 24]

away on a duty journey. I heard of the orders which were given only after my return.

Q. Did not doubts arise in your mind at that time?

A. I feared fraternal strife and I feared also that this action would result in further conflict.

Q. Did not Papen meet you in the Reich Chancellery on 11th March, 1938, and congratulate you after the order for the march into Austria had been withdrawn again in the course of that day?

A. I heartily welcomed the withdrawal of the order to march in. I was in the Reich Chancellery, and it is quite possible that Papen congratulated me on that occasion.

Q. Were you consulted on the political questions before the occupation of the Sudetenland?

A. No, never.

Q. Did a plan for military action exist in this case?

A. For Austria?

Q. No, for the occupation of the Sudenteland.

A. No, no plan existed in this case either.

Q. Did you not, before the end of the Sudeten occupation, request Field-marshal Keitel to use his whole influence to ensure that the demarcation lines agreed on should under no circumstances be overstepped.

A. That is correct.

Q. The witness Gisevius testified here that after May, 1938, Colonel-General Beck no longer handled the affairs of the Chief of the General Staff. Is that correct?

A. That is an error. Colonel-General Beck handled the affairs of the Chief of the General Staff in their entirety until the 1st September, 1938.

Q. Colonel-General Beck had written a memorandum which has already been dealt with here, and which therefore I shall not again bring up in detail. In that memorandum he opposed the occupation of the Sudetenland, and warned against a war on two fronts. What did you do with that memorandum?

A. I had very serious doubts about a policy supported by military measures. Colonel-General Beck had composed a memorandum in which he reached the conclusion, from a military point of view, that a war in the heart of Europe would lead to a world conflict. Since I believed these considerations to be absolutely fundamental, I took the opportunity of presenting them to the Commanding Generals, whom, for a different reason - for the discussion of internal Army affairs - I had ordered to a conference in Berlin. I asked everyone present for his opinion, and we approved unanimously the ideas contained in the memorandum. This memorandum was then sent to Hitler. The result was a heated argument about it, in the course of which he told me, among other things, that - this was the essence of it - he alone knew quite well what he had to do.

Q. When, approximately, was that?

A. That was at the end of July, the second half of July, 1938.

Q. In what connection was Colonel-General Adam relieved of his command?

A. A conference of officers of the General Staff with the Fuehrer, who had convened it, had taken place in August. During that conference General Adam's chief of staff - General Adam was Group Commander in Wiesbaden at that time - had expressed ideas similar to those contained in the memorandum, and in doing so had cited the authority of his commanding officer. That was the first incident leading to his release which, however, did not take place until October, 1938, after a personal report by General Adam. The issue concerned an inspection tour of the West Wall, during which General Adam had expressed his views.

Q. What military preparations did you order before the occupation of Czechoslovakia?

[Page 25]

A. I issued no orders at all. Hitler had ordered at that time that the troops in the near-by army district be kept in an increased state of alert.

Q. Did a military plan exist for the occupation of Czechoslovakia?

A. A plan did not exist. Only Hitler's orders were executed.

Q. Then things gradually came to a head. Did you, during 1939, warn Hitler against a war?

A. Yes, on account of the instructions given in connection with the Polish problem. I had very grave anxiety about Hitler and feared that, against the will of the nation, we might slide into a war. For that reason I again spoke of this memorandum in July, 1939, during a talk with Hitler alone. I also said that he would be risking all the gains acquired by peaceful means. Hitler would not allow any argument, as was his habit, and merely replied that it was a matter for the political leaders, and one that had nothing to do with me.

Q. Did you not, at that time, have a discussion with Lutze, who was then the Chief of Staff of the SA?

A. I talked to the Chief of Staff of the SA, and mentioned to him the fears of which I have just spoken. Lutze shared my views. I discussed these matters with him in the hope that he would find an occasion to express these views to Hitler.

Q. Field-Marshal, were you in touch with the Foreign Office during this period of tension?

A. No, I was not, because the Foreign Office was not allowed to send any information to the Supreme Command of the Army.

Q. Were you in touch with other leading political organs?

A. No.

Q. The conference on 23rd May, 1939, is of particularly great importance. Did you at that time, gain the impression that war had been decided upon?

A. No. There are a number of circumstances and facts which gave me the clear impression that there was no intention of war. May I point out that since the autumn of 1938 negotiations with Poland had been m progress to clear up the pending questions? Hitler had spoken in the Reichstag about this problem. He had said that this was the only question which still required a solution. In previous speeches he had said that the rebuilding of the Wehrmacht was being carried out only to protect the homeland. At the end of December, 1938, or during the first days of January, 1939, the High Command of the Army received from the High Command of the Wehrmacht the order that the Army should carry out the proposed and planned construction programme by the year 1945, and that all preparations for any military action or any other operation were prohibited. At the meeting of 23rd May, 1939, Hitler said: "I should be an idiot if on account of Poland I were to slide into a war, like those incapable people of 1914." He [sic] order that rearmament should continue during the period for which it had been planned, that is, up to the years 1942 and 1943; and that order was directly connected with the one which I had received at the beginning of the year. Finally, he ordered that commissions were to be appointed to investigate all the other problems which had been touched upon. For me, all these facts were the clearest proof that, in the case of Poland, too, it was merely a policy supported by military measures.

Q. Did you bring up objections of any kind during that conference of 23rd May, of which you have just spoken?

A. It was not a conference. It was an address of the Fuehrer to his subordinates. There was no discussion about it.

Q- Field-Marshal, I think you misunderstood me.

A. No.

Q. I was asking you whether during the conference of 23rd May you voiced objections of any kind?

A. Well, I gave my answer to that.

[Page 26]

Q. Was a plan of attack against Poland ever worked out before that time, before May, 1939?

A. No, never.

Q. Did you, on 22nd August, 1939, still hope that war would be avoided?

A. The reasons for that hope, which I have already mentioned, remained unchanged. An additional reason was that the trade agreement signed with the Soviet Union would, in my view, convince Poland that to settle differences by negotiations was the best way. Moreover, it was my opinion that the isolation, of which Hitler had spoken, would also result in Poland's readiness to negotiate. The decisive point was that Hitler expressly said the negotiations with Poland were continuing.

Q. What was the purpose of that speech, that speech of 22nd August, as you saw it?

Q. In my view, that conference was first of all the consequence of the objections which I had made to Hitler. Secondly it was, in my view, Hitler's intention to increase the confidence of the leaders under him in the policy which he was pursuing, and to convince them completely of the logic of his intentions.

THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn.

(The Court recessed until 1400 hours.)

THE MARSHAL: May it please the Tribunal, the defendant Hess is absent.



BY DR. LATERNSER (counsel for the OKW and the General Staff):

Q. Field-Marshal, this morning we had reached the period of tension just before the outbreak of the war.

THE PRESIDENT: Apparently the translation is not coming through - is it all right now?


Q. On 25th August, 1938, the first order for marching in was rescinded. During those days, did Hitler let you know that negotiations would continue?

A. He personally gave me the order for the withdrawal of the order to march in, and on that occasion he told me that negotiations with Poland were still in progress.

Q. In contrast to the previous occupation of foreign areas, all preparations before the Polish campaign had been drawn up for the actual event? Did this lead you to believe that actually there would be a war then?

A. No, for the following reason: After the Sudeten crisis Hitler had heard from the various military leaders that military preparations had not been taken seriously by them, for the preparations in their scope were not commensurate with the seriousness of the task at hand. Of course, it is self-evident that if in political negotiations you wish to threaten with military might there must be the absolute impression of seriousness so far as the other party to the negotiations, as well as your own people, are concerned.

For this very reason, in the case of Poland, Hitler, with all emphasis, had pressed for preparations with the idea that they were to be taken seriously.

A second point, however, was to be added. On Hitler's order, a time schedule had been set up in

[Page 27]

A. No, I had no idea of that at all.

Q. After the conclusion of the hostile action you had provided for military administration in Poland. Why was this not effected?

A. The High Command of the Army had made preparations and directions to the effect that the appeasement of the occupied areas was to be brought about as soon as possible. At the beginning of October I learned about excesses against the Poles, carried out by personalities who were not under the jurisdiction of the Army. I reported these matters to the OKW and took the next occasion to see Hitler personally and report about them. I asked him to see to it that matters like these be prevented once and for all. Hitler did not take any notice of this report of mine.

Frank originally was to have been a civil commissioner under the Military Commander-in-Chief of Poland. In the second half of October he was charged with the entire administration. The Army relinquished its authority.

Q. After the campaign against Poland, did not tension arise between the OKW and Hitler, and, if so, what were the reasons?

A. There were constant conflicts with the leadership of the Party, and they arose from the most varied points. It would take me too far afield to enumerate all of them, but I should like to stress just three.

Point 1 applied to the influence of the chaplains which I wanted to have retained in the Army under all circumstances; the second point applied to the influence which the leadership of the Party demanded in the settlement of complaints; and the third point was the decree of Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler, concerning the problem of marriage and women, which matter I answered in the form of a decree given to the Army.

Q. Now I should like to put a few questions relating to the time before the Western offensive.

In connection with the Polish campaign, did the OKH provide for an offensive against the Western Powers?

A. In no way had an offensive been planned. On the basis of the order which I just mentioned previously, all preparations had been prohibited and thereupon, as far as defensive measures were concerned, no special measures had been taken in advance. All directives and all directions which were issued after the Polish campaign to the troops that were being sent to the West were purely of a defensive nature.

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