Keitel is indicted on all four counts. He was Chief of Staff to the then Minister
of War von Blomberg from 1935 to 4th February, 1938; on that
day Hitler took command
of the armed forces, making Keitel Chief of the High Command of the
Armed Forces. Keitel did not have command authority over the three Wehrmacht
branches which enjoyed direct access to the Supreme Commander. OKW was
in effect Hitler's military staff.
Crimes against Peace
Keitel attended the Schuschnigg conference in February,
1938 with two other generals. Their presence, he admitted, was a "
military demonstration," but since he had been appointed OKW Chief
just one week before he had not known why he had been summoned. Hitler and Keitel then continued to put pressure on Austria with false rumours, broadcasts and troop manoueuvres. Keitel made the
military and other arrangements and Jodl's diary noted “the effect
is quick and strong.” When Schuschnigg called his plebiscite,
Keitel that night briefed Hitler and his generals, and Hitler issued “Case Otto” which Keitel initialled.
On 21st April, 1938, Hitler and Keitel considered making use of a possible “incident,”
such as the assassination of the German Minister at Prague, to preface
the attack on Czechoslovakia, Keitel signed many directives and memoranda
on “Fall Gruen,” including the directive of 30th May, containing
Hitler's statement: “It is my unalterable decision to smash Czechoslovakia
by military action in the near future.” After Munich, Keitel initialled
Hitler's directive for the attack on Czechoslovakia, and issued two
supplements. The second supplement said the attack should appear to
the outside world as " merely an act of pacification ,and not a
warlike undertaking." The OKW Chief attended Hitler's negotiations
with Hacha when the latter surrendered.
Keitel was present on 23rd May, 1939,
when Hitler announced his decision " to attack Poland at the first
suitable opportunity." Already he had signed the directive requiring
the Wehrmacht to submit its “Fall Weiss” timetable to OKW
by 1st May.
The invasion of Norway and Denmark he discussed
on 12th December 1939, with Hitler, Jodl and Raeder.
By directive of 27th January, 1940,
the Norway plans were placed under Keitel's “direct and personal
guidance.” Hitler had said on 23rd May, 1939, he would ignore the neutrality of Belgium and the Netherlands, and Keitel
signed orders for these attacks on 15th October, 20th November, and
28th November, 1939. Orders postponing this attack 17 times until Spring,
1940, all were signed by Keitel or Jodl.
Formal planning for attacking Greece and Yugoslavia had begun in November, 1940. On 18th March, 1941, Keitel
heard Hitler tell Raeder complete occupation of Greece was a prerequisite
to settlement, and also heard Hitler decree on 27th March that the destruction
of Yugoslavia should take place with " unmerciful harshness."
Keitel testified that he opposed the invasion of the
Soviet Union for military reasons, and also because it would constitute
a violation of the non-aggression Pact. Nevertheless he initialled "
Case Barbarossa," signed by Hitler on 18th December, 1940, and attended the OKW discussion with Hitler
on 3rd February, 1941.
Keitel's supplement of 13th March established the relationship between
the military and political officers. He issued his timetable for the
invasion on 6th June, 1941, and was present at the briefing of 14th
June when the generals gave their final reports before attack. He appointed
Jodl and Warlimont as OKW representatives to Rosenberg on matters concerning
the Eastern Territories. On 16th June he directed all army units to
carry out the economic directives issued by Goering in the so-called
" Green Folder," for the exploitation of Russian territory,
food and raw materials.
War Crimes and Crimes against
On 4th August, 1942, Keitel issued a directive that
paratroopers were to be turned over to the SD. On 18th October Hitler issued the Commando Order which was carried out in several instances.
After the landing in Normandy, Keitel reaffirmed the order, and later
extended it to Allied missions fighting with partisans. He admits he
did not believe the order was legal but claims he could not stop Hitler
from decreeing it.
When, on 8th September, 1941, OKW issued its ruthless
regulations for the treatment of Soviet POW's, Canaris wrote to Keitel that under international law the SD should have nothing
to do with this matter. On this memorandum in Keitel's handwriting,
dated 23rd September and initialled by him, is the statement: “The
objections arise from the military concept of chivalrous warfare. This
is the destruction of an ideology. Therefore I approve and back the
measures.” Keitel testified that he really agreed with Canaris
and argued with Hitler, but lost. The OKW Chief directed the military
authorities to cooperate with the Einsatzstab Rosenberg in looting cultural
property in occupied territories.
Lahousen testified that Keitel told him on 12th September,
1939, while aboard Hitler's headquarters train, that the Polish intelligentsia,
nobility and Jews were to be liquidated. On 20th October, Hitler told
Keitel the intelligentsia would be prevented from forming a ruling class,
the standard of living would remain low, and Poland would be used only
for labour forces. Keitel does not remember the Lahousen conversation,
but admits there was such a policy and that he had protested without
effect to Hitler about it.
On 16th September, 1941, Keitel ordered that attacks
on soldiers in the East should be met by putting to death 50 to 100
Communists for one German soldier, with the comment that human life
was less than nothing in the East. On 1st October he ordered military
commanders always to have hostages to execute when German soldiers were
attacked. When Terboven, the Reich Commissioner in Norway, wrote Hitler
that Keitel's suggestion that workmen's relatives be held responsible
for sabotage, could work only if firing squads were authorised, Keitel
wrote on this memorandum in the margin: “Yes, that is the best.”
On 12th May, 1941, five weeks before the invasion of
the Soviet Union the OKW urged upon Hitler a directive of the OKH that
political commissars be liquidated by the Army. Keitel admitted the
directive was passed on to field commanders. And on 13th May Keitel
signed an order that civilians suspected of offences against troops
should be shot without trial, and that prosecution of German soldiers
for offences against civilians was unnecessary. On 27th July all copies
of this directive were ordered destroyed without affecting its validity.
Four days previously he signed another order that legal punishment was
inadequate and troops should use terrorism.
On 7th December, 1941, as already discussed in this
opinion, the so-called “Nacht
und Nebel” decree, over Keitel's signature, provided that
in occupied territories civilians who had been accused of crimes of
resistance against the army of occupation would be tried only if a death
sentence was likely; otherwise they would be handed to the Gestapo for transportation to Germany.
Keitel directed that Russian POW's be used in German
war industry. On 8th September, 1942,
he ordered French, Dutch and Belgian citizens to work on the construction
of the Atlantic Wall. He was present on 4th January, 1944, when Hitler directed Sauckel to obtain
four million new workers from occupied territories.
In the face of these documents Keitel does not deny
his connection with these acts. Rather, his defence relies on the fact
that he is a soldier, and on the doctrine of “superior orders,”
prohibited by Article 8 of the Charter as a defence.
There is nothing in mitigation. Superior orders, even
to a soldier, cannot be considered in mitigation where crimes as shocking
and extensive have been committed consciously, ruthlessly and without
military excuse or justification
The Tribunal finds Keitel guilty on all four counts.
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