Goering: Keitel

1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: On day 83, defendant Hermann Goering is cross-examined by various defense counsel.

Dr Nelte (Counsel for Wilhelm Keitel): The Prosecution, in their presentation, have frequently mentioned the Defendant Keitel in connection with orders, directives, and so forth. They were always quoted as Keitel orders, Keitel decrees, and upon this, the Prosecution have based, among other things, their indictment of the Defendant Keitel. I am anxious to clear up through questioning you what the position of Field Marshal Keitel was, what powers and what responsibility he had as Chief of the OKW or in other official functions. Are you familiar with the decree of 4 February 1938 by which the High Command of the Armed Forces, the OKW, was created and Field Marshal Keitel appointed Chief of the OKW?

Goering: Of course, I am familiar with that decree because I assisted in the making of the decree in that the Fuehrer discussed with me the entire reshuffling of 8 February, and the resulting consequences and organizational changes of his entire staff.

Dr Nelte: Can you remember the diagram that was submitted by the Prosecution concerning the organization of the German Armed Forces?

Goering: Yes, I remember that it was here on the board.

Dr Nelte: I shall have it shown to you. Do you think the OKW is placed correctly on this diagram?

Goering: No, it is not correct. It says on top, "Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces," then there is a line, and below it says "Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces." From there, indicating a subordination, lines lead directly to the Commanders-in-Chief of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force. That is wrong. The High Command of the Armed Forces, and also the Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces, should not be placed in that manner, but set separately to one side, that is to say, the three Commanders-in-Chief of the three branches of the Armed Forces were immediately subordinate to the Fuehrer, as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and in no subordination whatsoever to the High Command of the Armed Forces, or to the Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces.

The Fuehrer at that time, in February, reorganized his entire staff, for he had in his capacity as head of State the State Chancellery. He made Meissner, who was then State Secretary, State Minister, and established the State Chancellery as his administrative office. Thus he, in collaboration with the records department of the Foreign Office, was in charge of matters that concerned only the head of State. In his capacity as Reich Chancellor and chief of the Government, he ruled that his administrative organism should be the Reich Chancellery, and the State Secretary of the Reich Chancellery became on the same day Reich Minister and Chief of the Reich Chancellery. It was the function of this office to maintain liaison with the ministries and the entire machinery of the government of the Reich. The function of this minister as an organ of the Fuehrer, was not the issuing, but the execution of the Fuehrer's orders and decrees.

Thirdly, the Fuehrer, as leader of the Party, had the Party Chancellery of which the Deputy of the Fuehrer, Rudolf Hess, was in charge at that time and occupied a high position within that organization. After his leaving, Bormann did not become Deputy of the Fuehrer but Chief of the Party Chancellery. Fourthly, there was the Private Chancellery of the Fuehrer, with a Reichsleiter as Chief. For military matters, as his military cabinet or military staff--or as it used to be known in former years, the "Maison Militaire"--the High Command of the Armed Forces was formed. This reorganization was necessary, because after the retirement of Blomberg as Minister of War, no new Minister of War had been appointed, and the Fuehrer, since as head of State he was in any case Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, was now determined not only formally to be this Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, but to execute that function in fact. In consequence, he now needed a staff organization. This was to be the High Command of the Armed Forces, and Keitel became Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces.

In Germany the word "chief" in the military sense has a different meaning from "commander-in-chief." The responsibility and right to issue orders rest with the commander or the commander-in-chief. The assistant in staff administration, in the working out, administering, and transmitting of orders, and in maintaining liaison, is the actual chief of the respective staff. Thus, the former Colonel General Keitel, or General Keitel, was Chief of Staff of the military staff of the Commander-in-Chief, called the High Command of the Armed Forces. On the one hand, he had charge of the entire machinery of the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, as far as military organizational and technical matters, and military direction, that is to say, strategy, were concerned, to the extent that the Fuehrer wanted to have his strategic orders administered from a central point. For this there was established in the High Command as a purely general staff, strategic department, the Supreme General Staff.

Dr Nelte: If I understand you correctly, OKW is translated as High Command of the Armed Forces, but this apparently has been used in different ways, at one time as the Staff of the High Command of the Armed Forces--as, for example, when Keitel was called the Chief of the OKW--and at another time, as the OKW Office of the High Command of the Armed Forces, in other words, Hitler. Is that right?

Goering: That is correct as such, but not very clear. The High Command of the Armed Forces is the staff of the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, in the same way that I, as Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force had my General Staff on one hand, and my chief adjutant's office on the other--these formed the staff with which I worked. The High Command constituted for the Fuehrer, as Supreme Commander a similar organization. The chief of my General Staff likewise could give no direct orders to the commanders of the air fleets, commanding generals of air corps or divisions. The orders could only be issued "By command of the Commander-in-Chief," signed "I.A.," that is to say, "Im Auftrag (by order)." The chief of a staff, therefore, even the Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces, had no command function except to the members of his immediate office and the few administrative organizations connected with that staff. An order, command, or directive from the High Command of the Armed Forces, for instance, to me as Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, was only possible when the instruction began in the following form: "The Fuehrer has ordered..." or, "By command of the Fuehrer, I hereby inform you ..."

May I express myself quite emphatically: At one time I told Colonel General Keitel, "I am bound only by orders of the Fuehrer. Only orders in the original and signed by Adolf Hitler are presented to me personally. Instructions, directives or orders which start 'By command of the Fuehrer,' or 'By order of the Fuehrer' go to my chief of staff who gives me an oral report indicating the most important points. Whether then--to put it bluntly--they are signed, 'By command of the Fuehrer: Keitel, Colonel General,' or 'Meier, Stabsgefreiter', makes no difference to me.. But if they constitute a direct command from you, an order, which you want to give me, then save yourself time and paper because both are meaningless to me. I am Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, and immediately, and exclusively subordinate to the Fuehrer."

Dr Nelte: Do you know whether Hitler, on the one hand, and the commanders-in-chief of the branches of the Armed Forces, on the other, observed these command functions described by you, or whether in other branches of the Armed Forces the actual procedure was, perhaps, different?

Goering: Whether my two colleagues made it as clear to the Chief of the High Command as I did, I cannot say; but that the two other commanders-in-chief did not permit any interference with their rights and prerogatives is obvious.

Dr Nelte: Does the same apply to Himmler as Chief of the SS?

Goering: The SS was never subordinate to the High Command of the Armed Forces. Within the Armed Forces there was, from the beginning of the war, the Waffen-SS, divided into divisions and corps. That was purely a combat unit. Tactically and strategically it was subordinate to those units of the Army to which it was assigned; in the matter of personnel and development, it was subordinate to Himmler; and he had nothing to do with the OKW. Here it might happen that the Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces, in questions of armament and organization of the Waffen-SS, transmitted orders or decrees of the Fuehrer.

On this occasion I should like to correct an error which was made during Justice Jackson's examination of Field Marshal Kesselring. Field Marshal Kesselring spoke of the Waffen-SS, as "Garde Truppe." Then he was asked, "Whom did it have to guard?" In applying the word "Garde" we do not employ it as it has been translated, as "guard," meaning sentries, but, as Field Marshal Kesselring intended, a "picked troop"; just as in the Russian military language there is a "Garde Korps," and in the old Imperial Army there was a "Garde Korps," and also formerly in other armies. The Waffen-SS during the first years of the war was not to be regarded as a guard unit, but as a "picked unit" as far as personnel, et cetera, was concerned.

Dr Nelte: I would like to ask you to say something about the official relationship between Adolf Hitler and Field Marshal Keitel; that is to say, what official relations had Adolf Hitler in mind when he established the office of the OKW? I mean, I should like to know what Keitel was supposed to be and what, subsequently, his official functions actually were after 1938?

Goering: I think that is just what I have been explaining.

Dr Nelte: I wanted to ask you, for instance, was he Hitler's adviser?

Goering: Adviser is a debatable expression. I can let somebody advise me as to whether or not he thinks it will rain during the coming 3 hours, when I am riding; but I can also have someone advise me in very important and decisive questions. That depends on the temperament and the attitude of the person who wants to be advised, and the one who wishes to advise. With the dynamic personality of the Fuehrer, unsolicited advice was not in order, and one had to be on very good terms with him. That is to say, one had to have great influence, as I had--and I ask you to understand me correctly--as I had beyond doubt for many years, in order to come to him unsolicited, not only with advice, but also with suggestions or even persistent contradictions. On the other hand, if one were not on these terms with the Fuehrer, suggestions and advice were curtly brushed aside whenever he had once made his decisions, or if he would not allow the would-be adviser to attain that influence or that influential position.

Here I wish to say that the Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces, in important and decisive questions certainly was no adviser. In current, everyday affairs, he was an adviser insofar as he may have suggested to the Fuehrer here and there that this or that should be said to the commanders, or that in regard to the movement of troops this or that should be pointed out. After all, advice from the chief of a general staff is still more important than advice from the chief of an organization or a state office.

It was this way: In the sphere of important strategic and tactical decisions the chief responsibility lay with the adviser on the General Staff, the commanders-in-chief, the Chief of Staff, and the Fuehrer; in matters of pure strategy and tactics, more with the chief of the Armed Forces Operations Staff; organizational questions or current developments of the day, with the Chief of the High Command. Because the Fuehrer himself, as I said before, held several of the highest offices, he had to limit his signatures. It often took weeks until one could obtain the necessary signature from the Fuehrer, especially during the war when he had a tremendous amount of work, so that the secretaries of the respective state offices were authorized to sign "by order." This explains why there was hardly any decree or order issued by the Fuehrer, that went out signed "By order of" or "By command of the Fuehrer," which was not signed by Keitel, who was very industrious.

Dr Nelte: Wasn't it a very thankless task that Field Marshal Keitel had, I mean, thankless insofar as he frequently was in the position of having to mediate between the various offices which were subordinated to the Supreme Commander, namely Hitler; to submit their grievances to him, and to exert himself on behalf of the two parties, helping here and restraining there?

Goering: That again depended very much on the personalities. It goes without saying that if it came to a clash between the Fuehrer and myself, or other determined commanders-in-chief, the Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces was, I may say, trodden on by both sides. He came between the millstones of stronger personalities; the one protested that in speaking to the Fuehrer he had not exerted enough pressure; the Fuehrer, when Keitel made presentations, turned a deaf ear and said he would settle matters himself. The task was certainly a very thankless one and a difficult one.

I remember that once Field Marshal Keitel approached me and asked me whether I could not arrange for him to be given a frontline command; that he would be satisfied, though a Field Marshal, with one division if he could only get away, because he was getting more kicks than ha'pence. Whether the task was thankless or appreciated was all the same, I answered him; he had to do his duty where the Fuehrer ordered it.

Dr Nelte: Are you aware that in this connection Field Marshal Keitel was reproached with not being able to assert himself, as they say, with the Fuehrer?

Goering: This reproach was made against him by quite a number of commanders-in-chief of armies and army groups. It was easy for them to make that reproach because they were out of range of Adolf Hitler, and did not have to submit any proposals themselves. I know that, especially after the collapse, quite a number of generals adopted the point of view that Keitel had been a typical "yes-man." I can only say I personally should be interested if I could see those who today consider themselves "no-men."

Dr Nelte: Was there ever, as far as Hitler was concerned, any possibility of Field Marshal Keitel getting a release from his office?

The President: Dr. Nelte, the Tribunal does not think--at least we should like to ask you--what relevance does the gossip of the General Staff or any reproaches which may have been raised against him by it have to the charges against Keitel? What has that to do with the charges against Keitel?

Dr Nelte: If one wants to do justice to the Defendant Keitel, that is to say, if one wants to try to establish what role he has played in this terrible tragedy, then that is only possible if one establishes clearly what his function was, and thereby what his legal responsibility was; and then, if one takes the tactical conditions into consideration ...

The President: I know that perfectly well and we have spent three-quarters of an hour in hearing the Defendant Goering describe what his relationship was and what Keitel's function was. What I asked you was what this had to do with the case, the criticisms or gossip of the General Staff about Keitel? I say we have spent three-quarters of an hour in hearing what the Defendant Goering says his function was, and what his relationships with the Fuehrer were, and nothing else.

Dr Nelte: I began with the organization of the OKW. I wanted to determine the chain of command between the OKW and the Chief of the OKW, on the one hand, and the branches of the Armed Forces, on the other; and then I have tried to clarify the responsibilities which, as Chief of the OKW, he was to have, according to Hitler's wishes, and how he carried these out. The gossip, Mr. President, was only, I believe, a subject for a few minutes during the examination of the witness.

The President: My interruption was made because you asked the defendant a question about somebody being reproached for something or other by the members of the General Staff, and that seems to me to be totally irrelevant.

Dr Nelte: The last question which I put was whether there had been any possibility of Field Marshal Keitel's obtaining a release from his position. May I assume, Mr. President, that this question is relevant?

The President: You may certainly ask that question as to whether he asked to be relieved of his command. As a matter of fact, Dr. Nelte, that question was asked before, the question at which I interrupted you; and I have the answer written down, that Keitel asked for a command, even if only of a division.

Dr Nelte: That was the question that he put to Reich Marshal Goering. He came to him, Goering, and put the question to him. Now I want to ask whether there existed any possibility of Keitel's obtaining a release from his position from Hitler?

Goering: The question whether a general could ask for and obtain his release from the Fuehrer has played an important role in these proceedings generally. Actually, one has to make a distinction between two phases, peace and war. In times of peace a general could ask for his release. Unless he was in a prominent and definitely important position, and very well known to the Fuehrer, such a request for release was granted without question. If he was in an especially important position and well known to the Fuehrer, then, using all his persuasive powers, with all the means at his disposal the Fuehrer appealed to him to remain at his post. If, however, a general had asked the Fuehrer for his release and had given as a reason that in principle he was of a different political opinion, either domestic or foreign, then without doubt he was retired, even if not on that very day. But at the same time it would have given rise to an extraordinary suspicion on the part of the Fuehrer concerning the person.

During the war, the matter was entirely different. The general, like every soldier, was obliged to do his duty, to obey orders. The Fuehrer had issued the statement that he wanted no requests for release, neither from generals nor any other important state personalities. He himself would decide if a person were to resign or not. He himself could not resign if things became unpleasant now, he considered that desertion. If, in spite of this, a general submitted a request for release in wartime and this was refused, he certainly could not insist upon it. If he resigned notwithstanding, he violated the law and from that moment was guilty of desertion. Field Marshal Keitel might have asked the Fuehrer, "Have me transferred to a different office." But the Fuehrer disliked exceedingly to make any changes in his immediate circle; and during the war--that I know from his own words--he would not have agreed to a change, particularly with regard to Field Marshal Keitel with whom he was used to working, unless the Field Marshal had become ill and thereby really unable to continue his duties.

Dr Nelte: Were these considerations of which you have just spoken likewise the determining factor in the retirement of Field Marshal von Brauchitsch?

Goering: The case of Field Marshal von Brauchitsch's [above] retirement is very well known to me, because the Fuehrer had discussed it at length with me beforehand; for at first he was not decided whether he or someone else should take over the command of the Army. Thus we discussed who should succeed, and so forth. At that moment the Fuehrer was not satisfied with the direction of the Army by the commander-in-chief of the Eastern Front. The commander-in-chief was Brauchitsch; the chief of the Army General Staff was Halder. I suggested to the Fuehrer that he change the chief of the Army General Staff, because I thought he was by far the less capable. The Fuehrer wanted to do that.

Then the next morning he had made up his mind and told me that he, the Fuehrer, would himself assume this command to bring about order on the Eastern Front, and that therefore it was more important for him to retire the Commander-in-Chief, although he agreed with me that the Chief of Staff was the weaker one. Then I suggested that both be dismissed. The Fuehrer called Brauchitsch, talked with him for 2 hours and requested him in a clear way, that is in a way that could not be misunderstood, to resign. Thus, in this case, a clear decision was made by the Fuehrer to dismiss the Commander-in-Chief of the Army in order to assume personally the command of the Army. From that time on, the Fuehrer was not only Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces but also de facto Commander-in-Chief of the Army.

Dr Nelte: The Prosecution has stated and has produced evidence that Field Marshal Keitel was a member of the Reich Defense Council. You spoke of this question yesterday. And I can now state that you said that Field Marshal Keitel was a member of the Reich Defense Council according to the Reich Defense Law, but that this Reich Defense Council was never constituted. You ought to know that because you were, according to that law, chairman of that Reich Defense Council. Is that correct?

Goering: I have stated clearly that I never attended a meeting, or called a meeting.

The President: You know, do you not, that the Tribunal is directed to hold an expeditious trial and for that reason they are not going to hear cumulative evidence? The defendant has already given us an answer to the question you have just put to him. The Tribunal do not wish to hear the same answer again.

Dr Nelte: I have not seen yesterday's transcript yet, and it is of great importance for the Defendant Keitel ...

The President: You were in court and you can take it from me that the answer was given.

Dr Nelte: The questions and the answers are not always as clear as they may seem on reading the transcript. (Turning to the witness.) Can you tell me whether Field Marshal Keitel ever was a minister?

Goering: He was not a minister. He had only the assimilated rank of a minister.

Dr Nelte: Was he entitled to participate in Cabinet meetings?

Goering: Not by virtue of his positions; but, concerning questions of interest to him which pertained to his work, he could be invited by the Fuehrer to attend Cabinet meetings.

Dr Nelte: Keitel was a member of the Ministerial Council for the Defense of the Reich. Did that make him a minister?

Goering: No, he remained the same. He had only the rank of a minister. Field Marshal Keitel could not attend Cabinet meetings of the Reich Cabinet because he became Chief of the High Command only in 1938, and from that time on no Cabinet meetings took place.

Dr Nelte: The Prosecution have also asserted that there was a triumvirate, consisting of the Plenipotentiary General for Economy, the Plenipotentiary General for Administration, and the Chief of the OKW. Can you tell us something about that?

Goering: I know nothing about that.

Dr Nelte: The Prosecution have accused Field Marshal Keitel of having been a political general. Do you know anything about that?

Goering: The generals in the Third Reich had no right whatsoever to participate in any political activity. The only exception in this respect was myself--and that was due to the peculiar nature of my position, for I was at the same time a soldier, a general, and on the other hand, in politics, a politician. The other generals, as the Fuehrer always very clearly pointed out, had nothing to do with politics. The general who always most interested himself in politics was the late Field Marshal von Reichenau. That was the reason the Fuehrer, in spite of his personal sympathies and the strongly positive attitude of Reichenau toward the Nazi Party, refused to make him Commander-in-Chief of the Army after the resignation of Fritsch; the Fuehrer did not want any political generals.

Dr Nelte: But it cannot be denied that in the so-called decrees often the political objective was made known, and that such decrees and orders were signed by Keitel.

Goering: Decrees were principally Fuehrer decrees, because they contained broad directives. The preamble of an important decree very commonly was the political premise which explained why the Fuehrer had decided on this or that military measure. But that has nothing to do with a general being political.

Dr Nelte: The Prosecution have frequently mentioned that the Defendant Keitel was present at state receptions, such as that accorded Hacha, and at other ministerial receptions; from that they have tried to deduce that he was a political general.

Goering: When the Fuehrer, as head of State, received foreign missions, heads of states, or chiefs of governments, it was customary for the chiefs of his most important offices to be present; the Chief of the State Chancellery, frequently of the Reich Chancellery, depending on who came; and the Chief of the High Command, since, in the conferences, questions might come up for which the Fuehrer would need military information of some kind. And then, of course, there was also a certain amount of ceremony involved. Whenever I had important visitors, my military staff, or a representative of the staff, were also with me.

Dr Nelte: May I say then that Field Marshal Keitel was present at, but did not participate in, the conferences?

Goering: If he participated, it was not at any rate of any consequence.

Dr Nelte: The Prosecution stated that, on the occasion of the visit of President Hacha, the Defendant Keitel exerted pressure on President Hacha by threatening to bomb Prague.

Goering: I said yesterday that I made that statement.

Dr Nelte: I just wanted to establish it. Now I should like further to question you concerning the terror-fliers. Do you remember that about the middle of June 1944, when negotiations on this question took place among the various departments, you were waiting at the Platterhof with Field Marshal Keitel for Hitler, and discussed this question there?

Goering: I cannot say whether that was at the Platterhof. At any rate, I talked with the Field Marshal many times on the subject.

Dr Nelte: It is important in this connection to establish whether the Defendant Keitel approached you on this question and stated to you that he was against the idea of lynch law, which was advocated by the Party.

Goering: He said that several times. We were in agreement on this.

Dr Nelte: Did the Defendant Keitel at that time also state to you that he was in favor of an official warning or a note to the Allied Governments--in respect to the well-known Dieppe case--rather than separate court-martial proceedings without legal evidence?

Goering: I think we had frequent discussions on this point. I advocated that in the case of pure terror-fliers--that is to say, those who violated the orders of their own superiors--there should be legal proceedings. Keitel said it would be hard to differentiate, and to carry this out. It would be more practical to send a note to the Allies to the effect that if it were not stopped, measures would have to be taken. The view that this course should be adopted was also advocated in other quarters.
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