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 6 of 9)


The Court will note on this map that Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and the Baltic coast up to the Gulf of Finland are all included within the borders of the Reich. The Court will also note, at Page 2 of the document itself - that is L-43 - that the author envisaged the future peacetime organisation of the German Air Force as comprising seven group commands, four of which lie within the borders of Germany proper at Berlin, Braunschschweig, Munich and Koenigsberg, but the three others are proposed to be at Vienna, Budapest and Warsaw.

Before turning to particular acts of aggression by the German Armed Forces, I want to stress once more the basic agreement and harmony between the Nazis and the German military leaders. Without this agreement on objectives there might never have been a war. In this connection I want to direct the Tribunal's attention to an affidavit - No. 3, which will be Exhibit USA 536 - by von Blomberg, formerly Field Marshal, Reich War Minister, and Commander-in-Chief of the German Armed Forces until February, 1938. I will read the affidavit into the transcript:

"From 1919, and particularly from 1924, three critical territorial questions occupied attention in Germany. These were the questions of the Polish Corridor, the Ruhr and Memel.

I myself, as well as the whole group of German staff officers, believed that these three questions, outstanding among which was the question

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by force of arms. About go per cent. of the German people were of the same mind as the officers, on the Polish question. A war to wipe. out the desecration involved in the creation of the Polish Corridor and to lessen the threat to separated East Prussia, surrounded by Poland and Lithuania, was regarded as a sacred duty, though a sad necessity. This was one of the chief reasons behind the partially secret rearmament which began about ten years before Hitler came to power and was accentuated under Nazi Rule.

Before 1938-1939 the German generals were not opposed to Hitler. There was no reason to oppose Hitler, since he produced the results which they desired. After this time some generals began to condemn his methods, and lost confidence in the power of his judgment. However, they failed as a group to take any definite stand against him, although a few of them tried to do so and as a result had to pay for this with their lives or their positions.

Shortly before my removal from the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, in January, 1938, Hitler asked me to recommend a successor. I suggested Goering, who was the senior ranking officer, but Hitler objected because of his lack of patience and diligence. I was replaced as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces by no officer, but Hitler personally took over my function as Commander. Keitel was recommended by me as a Chef de Bureau. As far as I know, he was never named Commander of the Armed Forces but was always merely a 'Chief of Staff' under Hitler and, in effect, conducted the administrative functions of the Ministry of War.

At my time Keitel was not opposed to Hitler and therefore was qualified to bring about a good understanding between Hitler and the Armed Forces, a thing which I myself desired and had furthered as Reichswehrminister and Reichskriegsminister. To do the opposite would have led to a civil war, for at that time the mass of the German people supported Hitler. Many are no longer willing to admit this. But it is the truth.

As I heard, Keitel did not oppose any of Hitler's measures. He became a willing tool in Hitler's hands for every one of his decisions.

He did not measure up to what might have been expected of him."

The statement by von Blomberg which I have just read is paralleled closely in some respects by an affidavit by Colonel General Blaskowitz. That is Affidavit No. 5 in Document Book 1 and will be Exhibit USA 537. Blaskowitz commanded an army in the campaign against Poland and the campaign against France. He subsequently took command of Army Group G in Southern France and held command of Army Group H, which retreated beyond the Rhine at the end of the war. The first three paragraphs of his affidavit are substantially identical with the first three paragraphs of von Blomberg's, and since they are available in all languages, for expedition I will start reading with paragraph 4, where the affidavitjs on a different subject:
"After the annexation of Czechoslovakia we hoped that the Polish question would be settled in a Peaceful fashion through diplomatic means, since we believed that this time France and England would come to the assistance of their ally. As a matter of fact, we felt that if

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political negotiations came to nothing the Polish question would unavoidably lead to war, that is, not only with Poland herself but also with the Western Powers.

When in the middle of June I received an order from the O.K.H. to prepare myself for an attack on Poland, I knew that this war came even closer to the realm of possibility. This conclusion was only strengthened by the Fuehrer's speech on 22nd August, 1939, at the Obersalzberg when it clearly seemed to be an actuality. Between the middle of June, 1939, and 1st September, 1939, the members of my staff who were engaged in preparations, participated in various dis cussions which went on between the O.K.H. and the army group. During these discussions such matters of a tactical, strategical and general nature were discussed as had to do with my future position as Commander-in-Chief of the Eighth Army during the planned Polish campaign.

During the Polish campaign, particularly during the Kutno operations, I was repeatedly in communication with the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, and he, as well as the Fuehrer, visited my headquarters. In fact, it was common practice for commanders-in-chief of army groups and of armies to be asked from time to time for estimates of the situation, and for their recommendations by telephone, teletype or wireless, as well as by personal calls. These front line commanders-in-chief thus actually became advisers to the O.K.H. in their own field, so that the positions shown in the attached chart embrace that group which was the actual advisory council of the High Command of the German Armed Forces."

The Tribunal will note that the latter part of this affidavit, like those of Halder and Brauchitsch, vouches for the accuracy of the structure and organisation of the General Staff and High Command group as described by the prosecution. The Tribunal will also note that the von Blomberg affidavit and the first part of the Blaskowitz affidavit make it clear beyond question that the military leaders of Germany knew of, approved, supported, and executed plans for the expansion of the Armed Forces beyond the limits set by treaties. The objectives they had in mind are obvious from the affidavits and documents to which reference has been made. In these documents and affidavits we see the Nazis and the Generals in agreement upon the basic objective of aggrandising Germany by force or threat of force and collaborating to build up the armed might of Germany, in order to make possible the subsequent acts of aggression. We turn to an examination of those particular acts of aggression which have already been described to the Tribunal in general, with the particular purpose of noting participation in these criminal acts by the General Staff and High Command group.

I may say, your Lordship, that in going over this matter, I propose, in order to save time, to read from very few of the large numbers of documents. Accordingly, when I cite them I think there is probably no need for the Tribunal to try to find them in the documents before it. Most of them are in evidence and I propose to cite them for purposes of recapitulation, without reading very much.

The Tribunal will recall that Mr. Alderman read into the transcript portions of a document, 386-PS, Exhibit USA 25, consisting of notes by

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Colonel Hoszbach on a conference which was held in the German Chancellery in Berlin on 5th November, 1937. Hitler presided at this conference, which was a small and highly secret one, and the only other participants were the four principal military leaders and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the defendant Neurath. The four chief leaders of the Armed Forces - Blomberg, who was then Reich Minister of war, and the Commander-in-Chief of the three branches of the Armed Forces, von Fritsch for the Army, Raeder for the Navy, and Goering for the Air Force - were present. Hitler embarked on a general discussion of Germany's diplomatic and military policy and stated that the conquest of Austria and Czechoslovakia was an essential preliminary "for the improvement of our military position" and "in order to remove any threat from the flanks."

The military and political advantages envisaged included the acquisition of a new source of food, shorter and better frontiers, the release of troops for other tasks, and the possibility of forming new divisions from the population of the conquered territories. Blomberg and von Fritsch joined in the discussion and von Fritsch stated "that he was making a study to investigate the possibilities of carrying out operations against Czechoslovakia with special consideration of the conquest of the Czechoslovakian system of fortifications."

The following spring, in March, 1938, the German plans with respect to Austria came to fruition. Mr. Alderman has already read into the record portions of the diary kept by the defendant Jodl. The portion here in question, Document 1780-PS, Exhibit USA 72, of this diary shows the participation of the German military leaders in the absorption of Austria. As is shown by Jodl's diary entry for 11th February, 1938, the defendant Keitel and other generals were present at the Obersalzberg meeting between von Schuschnigg and Hitler, and the purpose is shown clearly by the entry which recites that "in the evening and on 12th February General Keitel with General von Reichenau and Sperrle at the Obersalzberg. Schuschnigg together with G. Schmidt are again being put under heaviest political and military pressure. At 2300, hours Schuschnigg signs protocol." The General von Reichenau referred to was at that time the head commander of Wehrkreis 7, one of the military districts into which Germany was divided. He subsequently commanded the Tenth Army in Poland and the Sixth Army in France and was a member of the group as defined in the Indictment. Sperrle who was in Spain during the Civil War and then commanded Luftflotte 3, the Third German Air Fleet, practically throughout the war, was also a member of the group. Two days later Keitel and other military leaders were preparing proposals to be submitted to Hitler which would give the Austrian Government the impression that Germany would resort to force unless the Schuschnigg agreement was ratified in Vienna.

These proposals are embodied in Document 1775-PS, dated 14th February, 1938, Exhibit USA 73, and signed by Keitel. Portions of Keitel's proposals to the Fuehrer are as follows:

"To take no real preparatory measures in the Army or Luftwaffe. No troop movements or redeployments. Spread false but quite credible news which may lead to the conclusion of military preparations against Austria, (a) through V-men" - that means agents - "in Austria; (b) through our customs personnel at the frontier; (c) through travelling agents."

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Going down the document to 4, Keitel proposed:
"Order a very active make-believe wireless exchange in Wehrkreis VII and between Berlin and Munich; (5) real manoeuvres, training flights and winter manoeuvres of the Mountain Troops near the frontier; (6) Admiral Canaris has to be ready, beginning on 14th February in the Service Command Headquarters, in order to carry out measures given by order of the Chief of the O.K.W."
As Jodl's diary shows under the entry for 14th February, these deceptive manceuvres were very effective and created in Austria the impression that these threats of force might be expected to create. About a month later armed intervention was precipitated by von Schuschnigg's decision to hold a plebiscite in Austria. Hitler ordered mobilisation in accordance with the pre-existing plans for the invasion of Austria, these plans being known as "Case Otto," in order to absorb Austria and stop the plebiscite. Jodl's diary under the entry for ioth March, 1938, tells us as follows on Page 2:
"By surprise and without consulting his ministers Schuschnigg ordered a plebiscite for Sunday, 13th March, which should bring a strong majority for the Legitimists in the absence of plan or preparation.

Fuehrer is determined not to tolerate it. The same night, 9th to 10th March, he calls for Goering. General von Reichenau is called back from Cairo Olympic Committee, General von Schobert is ordered to come as well as Minister Glaise-Horstenau, who is with Gauleiter Burckel in the Palatinate."

The General von Schobert referred to succeeded General von Reichenau as Commander of Wehrkreis 7 and later was Commander of the Eleventh Army in Russia and was a member of the group as defined in the Indictment.

The invasion of Austria differs from the other German acts of aggression in that the invasion was not closely scheduled and timed in advance. This is the case simply because the invasion was precipitated by an outside event - von Schuschnigg's order for the plebiscite. But, although for this reason the element of deliberately timed planning was lacking, the foregoing documents make clear the participation of the military leaders at all stages.

At the small policy meeting of November, 1937, when Hitler's general programme for Austria and Czechoslovakia was outlined, the only others present were the four principal military leaders and the Foreign Secretary. In February, Keitel, Reichenau and Sperrle were present to help subject von Schuschnigg to the heaviest military pressure. Keitel and others immediately thereafter worked out and executed a programme of military threat and deception to frighten the Austrian Government into acceptance of the Schuschnigg protocol. When the actual invasion took place, it was, of course, directed by the military leaders and executed by the Armed Forces, and we are indebted to the defendant Jodl for a clear statement of why the German military leaders were only too delighted to join with the Nazis in bringing about the end of Austrian independence.

In his lecture in November, 1943, to the Gauleiters, which appears in Document L-172, which is Exhibit USA 34, Jodl explained:

"The Austrian Anschluss in its turn, not only brought with it fulfilment of an old national aim, but also had the effect both of reinforcing our fighting strength and of materially improving our strategic position. Whereas up till then the territory of Czechoslovakia had projected in a most menacing way right into Germany (a wasp waist in

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Russia), Czechoslovakia herself was now enclosed by pincers. Her own strategic position had now become so unfavourable that she was bound to fall a victim to any attack pressed home with vigour before effective aid from the West could be expected to arrive."
The foregoing extract from Jodl's speech makes a good transition to the case of Czechoslovakia - "Case Green," or "Fall Gruen," which I propose to treat very briefly, as Mr. Alderman has covered the general story of German aggression against Czechoslovakia very fully, and the documents he read from are full of evidence showing the knowing participation in this venture by Keitel, Jodl, and other members of the group.

Once again the Hoszbach minutes of the conference between Hitler and the four principal military leaders, Document 386-PS, Exhibit USA 25 may be called to mind. Austria and Czechoslovakia were listed as the nearest victims of German aggression. After the absorption of Austria, Hitler, as head of the State, and Keitel, as Chief of all the Armed Forces, lost no time in turning their attention to Czechoslovakia. From this point on nearly the whole story is contained in the Schmundt file (Document 388-PS, Exhibit USA 26) and Jodl's diary, both of which have been read from extensively. These two sources of information go far, I think, to demolish what is urged in defence of the military defendants and the General Staff and High Command Group. They seek to create the impression that the German generals were pure military technicians, that they were not interested in, or not informed about political and diplomatic considerations, that they prepared plans for military attack or defence on a purely hypothetical basis. They say all this in order to suggest that they did not share and could not estimate Hitler's aggressive intentions, that they carried out politically-conceived orders like military automatons, with no idea whether the wars they launched were aggressive or not.

When these arguments are made, your Honour, may I respectfully suggest that you read the Schumndt file and General Jodl's diary. They make it abundantly clear that aggressive designs were conceived jointly between the Nazis and the generals, that the military leaders were fully posted on the aggressive intentions, and informed on the political and diplomatic developments. Indeed, German generals had a strange habit of turning up at diplomatic foregatherings, and, surely, if the documents did not show these things, a moment's thought must show them to be true.

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