IMT judgment against Wilhelm Keitel

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IMT judgment against Wilhelm Keitel

Post by David Thompson » 13 Aug 2003 19:12

Keitel, Wilhelm Bodewin Johann (1882-16.10.1946) [Generalfeldmarschall] -- WWI service as artillery and General Staff officer; Free Corps (Freikorps) service 1919; Reichswehr service; head of the Army Organizational Department 1929; Infantry Leader I (Infanterieführer I) 1933-1934; Infantry Leader VI 1934-1935; commander, 22nd Division 1934-1935; head of the Armed Forces Office in the Reich War Ministry 1 Oct 1935; Chief of the German Armed Forces High Command (Chef Oberkommando der Wehrmacht - OKW) 4 Feb 1938-13 May 1945 [Knights Cross 1939]

The International Military Tribunal (IMT) at Nuernberg sentenced Keitel to death by hanging 2 Oct 1946. He was executed at Landsberg-am-Lech prison 16 Oct 1946.

The International military tribunal found Keitel guilty of conspiracy, crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Here is their judgment:

"He was Chief of Staff to the then Minister of War Von Blomberg from 1935 to 4 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 rumors, broadcasts, and troop maneuvers. 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 initialed.

On 21 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 30 May, containing Hitler's statement: "It is my unalterable decision to smash Czechoslovakia by military action in the near future." After Munich, Keitel initialed 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 23 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 1 May.

The invasion of Norway and Denmark he discussed on 12 December 1939 with Hitler, Jodl, and Raeder. By directive of 27 January 1940 the Norway plans were placed under Keitel's "direct and personal guidance." Hitler had said on 23 May 1939 he would ignore the neutrality of Belgium and the Netherlands, and Keitel signed orders for these attacks on 15 October, 20 November, and 28 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 18 March 1941 Keitel heard Hitler tell Raeder that complete occupation of Greece was a prerequisite to settlement, and also heard Hitler decree on 27 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 initialed "Case Barbarossa," signed by Hitler on 18 December 1940, and attended the OKW discussion with Hitler on 3 February 1941. Keitel's supplement of 13 March established the relationship between the military and political officers. He issued his timetable for the invasion on 6 June 1941 and was present at the briefing of 14 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 16 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 Humanity

On 4 August 1942 Keitel issued a directive that paratroopers were to be turned over to the SD. On 18 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.

When, on 8 September 1941, OKW issued its ruthless regulations for Soviet prisoners of war, Canaris wrote to Keitel that under international law the SD should have nothing to do with this. On this memorandum, in Keitel's handwriting, dated 23 September and initialed 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 12 September 1939, while aboard Hitler's headquarters train, that the Polish intelligentsia, nobility, and Jews were to be liquidated. On 20 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 labor 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 16 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 1 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 authorized, Keitel wrote on this memorandum in the margin: "Yes, that is the best."

On 12 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 13 May Keitel signed an order that civilians suspected of offenses against troops should be shot without trial, and that prosecution of German soldiers for offenses against civilians was unnecessary. On 27 July all copies of this directive were ordered destroyed without affecting its validity. Four days previously he had signed another order that legal punishment was inadequate and troops should use terrorism.

On 7 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 over to the Gestapo for transportation to Germany.

Keitel directed that Russian prisoners of war be used in German war industry. On 8 September 1942 he ordered French, Dutch, and Belgian citizens to work on the Atlantic Wall. He was present on 4 January 1944 when Hitler directed Sauckel to obtain 4 million new workers from occupied territories.

In the face of these documents Keitel does not deny his connection with these acts. Rather, his defense 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 defense.

There is nothing in mitigation. Superior orders, even to a soldier, cannot be considered in mitigation where crimes so shocking and extensive have been committed consciously, ruthlessly, and without military excuse or justification."

(The Avalon Project at the Yale Law School: Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Vol. 22 - Tuesday, 1 October 1946, pps. 532-5), available online at:
http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/imt/proc/10-01-46.htm).}
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Post by Mr Holmes » 01 Mar 2007 06:43

Hello Mr Thompson,

I recently added that Yale link to my bookmarks and decided to have a quick look-see into the indictment section, when I came across that of Keitel. I see that you had already posted this and would like to ask one question with regards to the aggression on Greece (Crimes Against Peace section):

On 18 March 1941 Keitel heard Hitler tell Raeder that complete occupation of Greece was a prerequisite to settlement...


What does this statement mean? (ie. settlement in the sense of rectifying the Italian debacle? Or something else?)

Thank you,

Nick

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Post by David Thompson » 01 Mar 2007 12:48

Sepp Dietrich -- I see the term "settlement" as being used here in the sense of settling a problem, namely the dangerously unstable situation (from the German point of view) in the Balkans at the end of 1940 and the beginning of 1941.

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Post by Mr Holmes » 01 Mar 2007 14:03

Thought as much. Really, the only other alternative I could think of was maybe some directive he may have produced concerning the resistance movement there and posssibly also the Italian withdrawal from Greece.

Thank you for taking the time out to reply to my query, Sir.

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