The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
December 17, 1945 to January 4, 1946

Twenty-Seventh Day: Friday, 4th January, 1946
(Part 3 of 9)

[Page 301]

COLONEL STOREY : If the Tribunal please, the next and final subject of the criminal organisations is the General Staff and High Command, to be presented by Colonel Taylor.

[Page 302]

COLONEL TELFORD TAYLOR: Your Lordship and members of the Tribunal: The Indictment seeks a declaration of criminality under Articles 9 to i i of the Charter against six groups or organisations, and the last one listed in the Indictment is a group described as the General Staff and High Command of the German Armed Forces.

At first sight these six groups and organisations seem to differ rather widely one from another, both in their composition and in their functions. But all of them are related and we believe that they are logically indicted together before the Tribunal because they are the primary agencies and the chief tools by means of which the Nazi conspirators sought to achieve their aims. All six of them were either established by, controlled by, or became allied with the Nazis, and they were essential to the success of the Nazis. They were at once the principal and indispensable instruments : the Party, the Government, the Police and the Armed Forces. It is my task to present the case in chief against the General Staff and High Command group.

Now, in one respect this group is to be sharply distinguished from the other groups and organisations against which we have sought this declaration. For example, the Leadership Corps of the Nazi Party, of the N.S.D.A.P., is the Leadership Corps of the Party itself, the Party which was the embodiment of Nazism, and was the instrument primarily through which Hitlerism rode to full power and tyranny in Germany. The S.A. and the S.S. were branches - to be sure, large branches - of the Nazi Party. The German Police did indeed have certain roots and antecedents which antedated Hitlerism, but it became 99 per cent. a creature of the Nazi Party and the S.S. The Reich Cabinet was in essence merely a committee or series of committees of Reich Ministers, and when the Nazis came to power, quite naturally these ministerial positions were filled for the most part by Nazis. All these groups and organisations, accordingly, either owe their origin and development to Nazism or automatically became Nazified when Hitler came to power.

Now, that is not true of the group with which we are now concerned. I need not remind the Tribunal that German armed might and the German military tradition antedate Hitlerism by many decades. One need not be a greybeard to have very vivid personal recollections of the war of 1914 to 1918, of the Kaiser and of the scrap of paper. For these reasons I want to sketch very briefly, before going into the evidence, the nature of our case against this group, which is unique in the particulars I have mentioned.

As a result of the German defeat in 1918 and the Treaty of Versailles. the size and permissible scope of activities of the German Armed Forces were severely restricted. That these restrictions did not destroy or even seriously undermine German militarism, the last few years have made abundantly apparent. The full flowering of German military strength came about through collaboration, collaboration between the Nazis on the one hand and the career leaders of the German Armed Forces, the professional soldiers, sailors, and airmen on the other.

When Hitler came to power, he did not find a vacuum in the field of military affairs. He found a small Reichswehr and a body of professional officers with a morale and outlook nourished by German military history. The leaders of these professional officers constitute the group named in the indictment, the General Staff and High Command of the German Armed Forces. This part of the case concerns that group of men.

[Page 303]

Now, needless to say, the prosecution does not take the stand that it is a crime to be a soldier or a sailor or to serve one's country as a soldier or sailor in time of war. The profession of arms is an honourable one and can be honourably practised. But it is too clear for argument that a man who commits crimes cannot plead in his defence that he committed them in uniform.

It is not in the nature of things and the prosecution does not take the stand that every member of this group was a wicked man or that they were all equally culpable. But we will show that this group not only collaborated with Hitler and supported the essential Nazi objectives but we will show that they also furnished the one thing which was essential and basic to the success of the Nazi programme for Germany, and that thing was skill and experience in the development and use of armed might.

Why did this group support Hitler and the Nazis? I think your Honours will see, as the proof is given, that the answer is very simple. The answer is that they agreed with the truly basic objectives of Hitlerism and Nazism and that Hitler gave the generals the opportunity to play a major part in achieving these objectives. The generals, like Hitler, wanted to aggrandise Germany at the expense of neighbouring countries and were prepared to do so by force or threat of force. Force, armed might, was the keystone of the arch, the thing without which nothing else would have been possible.

As they came to power and when they had attained power, the Nazis had two alternatives, either to collaborate with and expand the small German army known as the Reichswehr, or to ignore the Reichswehr and build up a separate army of their own. The generals feared that the Nazis might do the latter and accordingly were the more inclined to collaborate. Moreover, the Nazis offered the generals the chance of achieving much that they wished to achieve by way of expanding German armies and German frontiers, and so, as we will show, the generals climbed on to the Nazi bandwagon. They saw it was going in their direction at the time. No doubt they hoped later to take over the direction themselves. In fact, as the proof will show, ultimately it was the generals who were taken for a ride by the Nazis.

Hitler, in short, attracted the generals to him with the glitter of conquest, and then succeeded in submerging them politically and, as the war proceeded, they became his tools. But if these military leaders became the tools of Nazism, it is not to be supposed that they were unwitting, or that they did not participate fully in many of the crimes which we will bring to the notice of the Tribunal. The willingness and, indeed, the eagerness of the German professional officer corps to become partners of the Nazis, will be fully developed.

Your Lordship, there will be three principal parts to this presentation. There will be first a description of the composition and functioning of the General Staff and High Command group as defined in the Indictment; next, the evidence in support of the charges of criminality under Counts 1 and 2 of the Indictment; finally, the evidence in support of the charges under Counts 3 and 4.

The members of the Tribunal should have before them three document books which have been given the designation CC. The first of these books is a series of sworn statements or affidavits which are available to the Tribunal in English, in Russian and in French, and which have been available to the

[Page 304]

document books, separated merely for convenience of handling. The second book contains documents in the C and L series, and the third book, in the PS and R series. For the convenience of the Tribunal we have had handed up a list of these documents in the order in which they will be referred to.

The Tribunal should also have one other document, and that is a short mimeographed statement entitled "Basic Information on the Organisation of the German Armed Forces" That has also been handed up in English, Russian and French and has been made available to the defendants' Information Centre in German.

So I turn first to the description of the group as defined in the Indictment.

During the First World War there was an organisation in the German Armed Forces known as the Great General Staff. This name, the German General Staff or Great General Staff, persists in the public mind, but the "Grosse Generalstab " no longer exists in fact. There has been no such single organisation, no single German General Staff, since 1918, but there has, of course, been a group of men responsible for the policy and the acts of the German Armed Forces, and the fact that these men have no single collective name does not prevent us from collecting them together. They cannot escape the consequences of their collective acts by combining informally instead of formally. The essence of a general staff or a high command lies not in the name you give it, but in the functions it performs and the men comprised within the group as we have defined it in the Indictment, constituted a functional group, welded together by common responsibility, of those officers who had the principal authority and responsibility under Hitler for the plans and operations of the German Armed Forces.

Let us examine first the general structure and organisation of the German Armed Forces and then look at the composition of the group as specified in the Indictment. As I just mentioned, we have prepared a very short written exposition of the organisation of the German Armed Forces, which we have handed up to the Tribunal. That document contains a short sketch setting forth the basic history and development of the Supreme Command of the German Armed Forces since 1933, and the structure as it emerged after its reorganisation in 1938. It also contains a simple chart, which in a few moments will be displayed at the front of the Courtroom. It also contains a short glossary of German military expressions and a comparative table of ranks in the German Army and in the S.S., showing the equivalent ranks in the American Army and the equivalent ranks for the German Navy and the British Navy. I may say that although military and naval ranks differ slightly among the principal nations, by and large they follow the same general pattern and terminology.

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, the German Armed Forces were controlled by a Reich Defence Minister, who at that time was Field Marshal Werner von Blomberg. Under von Blomberg were the chief of the Army Staff, who at that time was von Fritsch, and of the Naval Staff, the defendant Raeder. Owing to the limitations imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles, the German Air Force at that time had no official existence whatever. The Army and Navy Staffs were renamed "High Command" - 0berkornmando der Heeres and Oberkornmando der Kriegs Marine -

[Page 305]

from which are derived the initials by which they are generally known - O.K.H. and O.K.M. In May, 1935, at the time that military conscription was introduced in Germany, there was a change in the titles of these officers but the structure remained basically the same. Field Marshal von Blomberg remained in supreme command of the Armed Forces, with the title of Reich Minister for War and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Von Fritsch assumed the title Commander-in-Chief of the Army, and Raeder, Commander- in-Chief of the Navy.

The German Air Force came into official and open existence at about this same time, but it was not put under von Blomberg. It was an independent institution under the personal command of the defendant Goering, who had the double title of Air Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force.

I will now ask that the chart be displayed.

This chart, your Honour, has been certified and sworn to by three principal German generals, and the affidavits with reference to it will be introduced in a few moments. It shows the organisation, the top organisation, of the Armed Forces as it emerged in 1938 after the reorganisation which I will now describe.

In February, 1938, von Blomberg and von Fritsch were both retired from their positions, and Blomberg's ministry, the War Ministry, was wound up. The War Ministry had contained a division or department called the Wehrmacht Amt, meaning the Armed Forces Department, and the function of that department had been to co-ordinate the plans and operations of the Army and Navy. From this Armed Forces Department was formed a new overall Armed Forces authority known as the High Command of the German Armed Forces-that is the box in the centre, right under Hitler-known in German as Oberkommando der Wehrinacht, and usually known by the initials O.K.W.

Since the Air Force as well as the Army was subordinated to O.K.W., co- ordination of all Armed Forces matters was vested in the O.K.W., which was really Hitler's personal staff for these matters. The defendant Keitel was appointed Chief of the O.K.W. The most important division of the O.K.W., shown just to the right, was the Operations Staff, of which the defendant Jodl became the chief. Now, this reorganisation and the establishment of O.K.W. was embodied in a decree issued by Hitler on 4th February, 1938. This decree appeared in the Reichsgcsetzblatt, and I invite the Court's attention to it by way of judicial notice. Copies are available, and I would like to read the decree, which is very short, into the transcript. I quote:

"Command authority over the entire Armed Forces is from now on exercised directly by me personally."
THE PRESIDENT: Where do we find it? COLONEL TAYLOR: That is not a document, your Honour, because it is a decree from the Reichsgesetzblatt and subject to judicial notice, but copies are available here if the Tribunal cares to look at it.

I will continue with the second paragraph of this decree :

"The Armed Forces Department in the Reich War Ministry with its functions becomes the High Command of the Armed Forces and comes directly under my command as my military staff.

[Page 306]

The head of the Staff of the High Command of the Armed Forces is the Chief of the former Armed Forces Department, with the title of Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces. His status is equal to that of a Reich Minister.

The High Command of the Armed Forces also takes over the affairs of the Reich War Ministry. The Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces, as my representative, exercises the functions hitherto exercised by the Reich War Minister. The High Command of the Armed Forces is responsible in peace-time for the unified preparation of the defence of the Reich in all areas according to my directives."

Dated at Berlin, 4th February, 1938. Signed by Hitler, by Lammers, and by Keitel.

Underneath the O.K.W. come the three supreme commands of the three branches of the Armed Forces: O.K.H., O.K.M., and the Air Force. The Air Force did not receive the official designation O.K.L. until 1944. The defendant Raeder remained after 1938 as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, but von Fritsch, as well as Blomberg, passed out of the picture, von Fritsch being replaced by von Brauchitsch as Commander-in-Chief of the Army, while Goering continued as Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force. In 1941 von Brauchitsch was replaced as Commander-in-Chief of the Army - that is the first box in the left column - by Hitler himself, and in 1943 Raeder was replaced as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy by the defendant Doernitz, but the defendant Goering continued as Commander-in- Chief of the Air Force until the last month of the war.

O.K.W., O.K.H., O.K.M. and O.K.L. each had its own staff. These four staffs did not have uniform designations. The three staffs of the Army, Navy and Air Force are the three boxes in a horizontal line next to the bottom. The staff of the O.K.W. is the little box to the right at the top, bearing the names of Jodl and Warlimont.

In the case of O.K.H. - that is the Army - the staff was known as the Generalstab or the General Staff. In the case of O.K.W., it was known as the Fuehrungsstab or Operations Staff, but in all cases the functions were those of a general staff in military parlance.

It will be seen, therefore, that in this war there was no single German General Staff but, rather, that there were four, one for each branch of the Service and one for the O.K.W. as the overall inter-Service Supreme Command.

So we come to the bottom line on the chart. Down to the bottom line we have been concerned with the central staff organisation at the centre of affairs. Now we pass to the field. Under O.K.H., O.K.M. and O.K.L. come the various fighting formations of the Army, Air Force and Navy, respectively.

In the Army the largest Army field formation was known to the Germans, as indeed it is among the nations generally, as an Army Group, or in German "Heeresgruppe." These are shown in the box in the lower left-hand corner. An army group or Heeresgruppe controls two or more armies - in German, Armeen. Underneath the armies come the lower field formations, such as corps, divisions and regiments, which are not shown on the chart.

In the case of the German Air Force, the largest formation was known as an air fleet or Luftflotte, and the lower units under the air fleet were called

[Page 307]

corps, Fliegerkorps or Jagdkorps, or divisions, Fliegerdivisionen or Jagddivisionen. These lower formations again we have not shown on the chart.

Under the O.K.M. were the various naval group commands, which controlled all naval operations in a given area, with the exception of the high seas fleet itself and submarines. The commanders of the fleet and the submarines were directly under the German Admiralty.

So we may now examine the group as defined in the Indictment, the group against which the prosecution seeks the declaration of criminality. It is defined in Appendix B of the Indictment. The group comprises firstly, German officers who held the top positions in the four supreme commands which I have just described and, secondly, the officers who held the top field commands.

Turning first to the officers who held the principal positions in the supreme commands, we find that the holders of nine such positions are included in the group. Four of these are positions of supreme authority: the Chief of the O.K.W., Keitel; the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, von Brauchitsch, later Hitler; Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, Raeder, and later, Doenitz ; Commander-in- Chief of the Air Force, Goering, and later, von Greim.

Four other positions are those of the chiefs of the staffs to those four commanders-in-chief : the Chief of the Operations Staff of the O.K.W., Jodl; the Chief of the General Staff of the Army, Halder, and later others ; the Chief of the General Staff of the Air Force, Jeschannek, and later others; and the Chief of the Naval War Staff.

The ninth position is that of Deputy Chief of the Operations Staff of O.K.W. Throughout most of the war that was General Warlimont, whose name is shown under Jodl's on the chart. The particular responsibility of Jodl's deputy was planning, strategic planning, and for that reason, his office has been included in the group as defined in the Indictment.

The group named in the Indictment includes all individuals who held any of those nine staff positions between February, 1938, and the end of the war in May, 1945. February, 1938, was selected as the opening date because it was in that month that the top organisation of the German Armed Forces was reorganised, and assumed substantially the form in which you see it there and in which it persisted until the end of the war.

Twenty-two different individuals occupied those nine positions during that period, and of those twenty-two, eighteen are still living. Turning next to the officers who held the principal field commands, the Indictment includes, as members of the group, all commanders-in-chief in the field who had the status of OberbefehIshaber in the Army, Navy or Air Force. The term "OberbefehIshaber " rather defies literal translation into English. Literally, the components of the word mean "Over-command-holder," and we can perhaps best translate it as "Commander-in-Chief."

In the case of the Army, commanders of the army groups and armies always had the status and title of "OberbefehIshaber." In the Air Force the commanders-in-chief of air fleets (Luftwaffe) always had the status of "OberbefehIshaber," although they were not formally so designated until 1944. In the Navy the officers holding the senior regional commands and,

[Page 308]

therefore, in control of all naval operations in a given sector, had the status of "Oberbefehlshaber."

Roughly one hundred and ten individual officers had the status of "OberbefeWshaber " in the Army, Navy or Air Force during the period in question. All but approximately a dozen of them are still alive. The entire General Staff and High Command group, as defined in the Indictment, comprises about one hundred and thirty officers, of whom one hundred and fourteen are believed to be still living. These figures, of course, are the cumulative total of all officers who at any time belonged to the group during the seven years and three months, from February, 1938, to May, 1945.

The number of active members of the group at any moment is, of course, much smaller. It was about twenty at the outbreak of the war and it rose to about fifty in 1944 and 1945. That is to say, that at any one moment of time in 1944, the group, the active group, would have consisted of the nine individuals occupying the nine staff positions and about forty- one Naval, Air Force or Army Commanders-in-Chief.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.