From The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer: The German generals, upright Christians that they considered themselves to be, found the situation embarrassing. On September 12 (1939) there was a meeting on the Führer's railroad car between Keitel and Admiral Canaris at which the latter protested against the atrocities in Poland. The lackey Chief of OKW curtly replied that 'the Führer has already decided on this matter.' If the Army wanted 'no part in these occurrences it would have to accept SS commissars in each military unit 'to carry out exterminations.' Canaris wrote in his Diary: 'I pointed out to General Keitel that I knew that extensive executions were planned in Poland and that particularly the nobility and the clergy were to be exterminated. Eventually the world would hold the Wehrmacht responsible for these deeds.September 3, 1939: Australia, Britain, France and New Zealand declare war on Germany; World War Two begins.
From Jodl's testimony before the IMT: I met the Führer in the so-called command car, in the chartroom, where Field Marshal Keitel, Canaris, and Lahousen were; and then Canaris made a brief report on the information he had received from the West and expressed the opinion that a French attack in the Saarbrucken sector was imminent. The Führer contradicted this, and so did I. Apart from that nothing else was discussed.September 12, 1939: Keitel, Canaris, Lahousen, Jodl and Ribbentrop (it's possible that Ribbentrop was not at the meeting this particular day as I cannot locate corroborating evidence of his presence; there is some ambiguity concerning dates in the testimony) meet in the Führer's train.
From the IMT testimony of Abwehr General Erwin Lahousen: First of all, Canaris had a short tale with Ribbentrop, in which the latter explained the general political aims with regard to Poland and in connection with the Ukrainian question. The Chief of the OKW took up the Ukrainian question in subsequent discussions which took place in his private carriage. These are recorded in the files which I immediately prepared on Canaris' order. While we were still in the carriage of the Chief of the OKW, Canaris expressed his serious misgivings regarding the proposed bombardment of Warsaw, of which he knew. Canaris stressed the devastating repercussions which this bombardment would have in the foreign political field. The Chief of the OKW, Keitel, replied that these measures had been agreed upon directly by the Führer and Göring, and that he, Keitel, had had no influence on these decisions. I quote Keitel's own words here—naturally only after re-reading my notes.
Keitel said: "The Führer and Göring are in frequent telephone communication; sometimes I also hear something of what was said, but not always." Secondly, Canaris very urgently warned against the measures which had come to his knowledge, namely the proposed shootings and extermination measures directed particularly against the Polish intelligentsia, the nobility, the clergy, and in fact all elements which could be regarded as leaders of a national resistance. Canaris said at that time—I am quoting his approximate words: "One day the world will also hold the Wehrmacht, under whose eyes these events occurred, responsible for such methods."
The Chief of the OKW replied—and this is also based on my notes, which I re-read a few days ago—that these things had been decided upon by the Führer, and that the Führer, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, had let it be known that, should the Armed Forces be unwilling to carry through these measures, or should they not agree with then, they would have to accept the presence at their side of the SS, the SIPO and similar units who would carry them through. A civilian official would then be appointed to function with each military commander. This, in outlines, was our discussion on the proposed shooting and extermination measures in Poland.
The Chief of the OKW used an expression which was certainly derived from Hitler and which characterized these measures as 'political housecleaning.' I recall this expression very clearly, even without the aid of my notes. ...According to the Chief of the OKW, the bombardment of Warsaw and the shooting of the categories of people which I mentioned before had been agreed upon already—mainly the Polish intelligentsia, the nobility, the clergy, and, of course, the Jews. ...
Canaris was ordered by the Chief of the OKW, who stated that he was transmitting a directive which he had apparently received from Ribbentrop since he spoke of it in connection with the political plans of the Foreign Minister, to instigate in the Galician Ukraine an uprising aimed at the extermination of Jews and Poles. ...Hitler and Jodl entered either after the discussions I have just described or towards the conclusion of the whole discussion of this subject, when Canaris had already begun his report on the situation in the West; that is, on the news which had meanwhile come in on the reaction of the French Army at the West Wall. ...
After this discussion in the private carriage of the Chief of the OKW, Canaris left the coach and had another short talk with Ribbentrop, who, returning to the subject of the Ukraine, told him once more that the uprising should be so staged that all farms and dwellings of the Poles should go up in flames, and all Jews be killed... The Foreign Minister of that time, Ribbentrop, said that to Canaris. I was standing next to him. ...I have not the slightest doubt about that. I remember with particular clarity the somewhat new phrasing that 'all farms and dwellings should go up in flames.' Previously there had only been talk of 'liquidation' and 'elimination.' ...
On the subject of France a discussion took place in the carriage of the Chief of the OKW, in which Canaris described the situation in the West on the basis of Abwehr reports, and said that in his opinion a great attack was being prepared by the French in the sector of Saarbrucken. (Note: Lahousen and Jodl—whose remarks on this are contained in the previous item, Sep 9, obviously disagree on the exact date but not the substance. Lahousen seems to have to have lumped this entire series of meetings together.) Hitler, who had entered the room in the meantime, intervened, took charge of the discussion, rejected in a lively manner the opinion which Canaris had just expressed, and put forward arguments which, looking back now, I must recognize as factually correct.
From Keitel's IMT testimony: I have been interrogated here about this point, but I did not recall this visit at all. But from Lahousen's testimony it appeared—he said, as I remember—that I had repeated what Hitler had said and had passed on these orders, as he put it. I know that the Commander-in-Chief of the Army who then directed the military operations in Poland had at the daily conferences already complained about interference by the police in occupied Polish territory. I can only say that I apparently repeated what had been said about these things in my presence between Hitler and Brauchitsch. I can make no statements regarding details. I might add that to my recollection the Commander-in-Chief of the Army at that time complained several times that as long as he had the executive power in the occupied territories he would under no circumstances tolerate other agencies in this area and that at his request he was relieved of his responsibility for Poland in October. I therefore believe that the statements the witness made from memory or on the strength of notes are not quite correct.September 17, 1939: The USSR invades Poland from the east.
From Keitel's IMT testimony: I think the first deliberations took place already in October 1939; on the other hand, the first directives were issued only in January, that is to say, several months later. In connection with the discussions before this Tribunal and with the information given by Reich Marshal Göring in his statements, I also remember that one day I was ordered to call Grand Admiral Raeder to the Führer. He wanted to discuss with him questions regarding sea warfare in the Bay of Helgoland and in the Atlantic Ocean and the dangers we would encounter in waging war in this area. Then Hitler ordered me to call together a special staff which was to study all these problems from the viewpoint of sea, air, and land warfare. I remembered this also upon seeing the documents produced here. This special staff dispensed with my personal assistance. Hitler said at the time that he himself would furnish tasks for this staff. These were, I believe, the military considerations in the months from 1939 to the beginning of 1940.October 6, 1939 Hitler addresses the Reichstag:
From Keitel's SBS interview:
Q: After the campaign in Poland had been finished, what was the plan of action against France and England?
Keitel: I have gained the personal opinion from the Reichstag Speech at the time that the Führer hoped that the Polish campaign would not lead to another war. One was of the opinion that another war could be avoided. That was also my opinion when I left the Reichstag after the speech.
From Keitel's IMT testimony: When I remember the situation as it was then, I did at that time believe, when I learned of these things, that there was no intention of bringing any other state into the war. At any rate, I had no reason, no justification, to assume the opposite, namely that this was intended as a deception. ...My view was strengthened by the Reichstag speech after the Polish war, in which allusions were made which convinced me that political discussions about this question were going on, above all, with England, and because Hitler had told me time and again, whenever these questions were brought up, "The West is actually not interested in these Eastern problems of Germany." This was the phrase he always used to calm people, namely that the Western Powers were not interested in these problems.
Furthermore, seen from a purely military point of view, it must be added that we soldiers had, of course, always expected an attack by the Western Powers, that is to say, by France, during the Polish campaign, and were very surprised that in the West, apart from some skirmishes between the Maginot Line and the West Wall, nothing had actually happened, though we had—this I know for certain—along the whole Western Front from the Dutch border to Basel only five divisions, apart from the small forces manning the fortifications of the West Wall.
Thus, from a purely military operative point of view, a French attack during the Polish campaign would have encountered only a German military screen not a real defense. Since nothing of this sort happened, we soldiers thought of course that the Western Powers had no serious intentions, because they did not take advantage of the extremely favorable situation for military operations and did not undertake anything, at least not anything serious, against us during the 3 to 4 weeks when all the German fighting formations were employed in the East. This also strengthened our views as to what the attitude of the Western Powers would probably be in the future.
From Keitel's IMT testimony: Not in the beginning (was Luxembourg, Belgium, and Holland considered as targets), but first, if we can express it from the military point of view, the deployment in the West was to be a protective measure, that is, a thorough strengthening of the frontiers, of course preferably to take place where there was nothing except border posts. Accordingly, already at the end of September and the beginning of October, a transportation of the army from the East to the West did take place, as a security measure without, however, any fixed center of gravity. ...
This naturally changed several times in the course of the winter. At that time, in the autumn of 1939—I can speak only for myself, and there may be other opinions on this matter—I was convinced that Belgium wanted to remain out of the war under any circumstances and would do anything she could to preserve her neutrality. On the other hand, we received, through the close connections between the Belgian and Italian royal houses, a number of reports that sounded very threatening. I had no way of finding out whether they were true, but we learned of them, and they indicated that, strong pressure was exerted on Belgium to give up her neutrality. As for Holland, we knew at that time only that there were General Staff relations between her and England. But then of course, in the months from October 1939 to May 1940 the situation changed considerably and the tension varied greatly. From the purely military point of view, we knew one thing: That all the French swift units, that is motorized units, were concentrated on the Belgian-French border, and from a military point of view, we interpreted this measure as meaning that at least preparations were being made for crossing through Belgium at any time with the swift units and advancing up to the borders of the Ruhr district. I believe I should omit details here, because they are not important for the further developments, they are of a purely operative and strategic nature. ...
I said earlier that in the West during the war against Poland, there were five divisions. I must rectify that statement. I had confused that with the year 1938. In 1939 there were approximately 20 divisions, including the reserves in the Rhineland and in the West district behind the lines. Therefore, the statement I made was made inadvertently and was a mistake. ...at that time, in October the idea of a discussion with the Russians was still pending. Hitler also told me that at the time, and he always emphasized in that connection that until such a discussion had taken place he would not give any orders, since it had been proved to him by General Jodl that in any case it was technically impossible to transfer strong troop units into the threatened sectors in the East which I have mentioned. Accordingly, nothing was done. The visit or rather discussion with the Russian delegation was prepared, in which connection I would like to say that I made the suggestion at that time that Hitler should talk personally with M. Stalin. That was the only thing I did in the matter.
From the interview of Field Marshal Albert Kesselring by the US SBS (United States Strategic Bombing Survey):
Kesselring: The most opportune time (to invade Britain) would have been immediately following Dunkirk, but the preparations were not ready at that time. I personally regretted very much that this attack was called off. The preparations were ordered but later on recalled because the September-October period were the limits of the possibility from the preparation point of view and from the weather point of view.
Q: What did the Luftwaffe do in preparation for this invasion?
Kesselring: The preparations were very simple because I and my air fleet were located opposite the target and it was only mental preparation on our part and maybe bringing up additional operational groups and finding air fields for them, and then conferences on the cooperation with the Army and Navy immediately before, during and after the invasion.
Q: Did the Luftwaffe think it could be accomplished?
Kesselring: I recommended the invasion very strongly to the Reichsmarschall (Göring) and since a leader can not lead unless he has faith, I believed in it, too.
Q: Why was the invasion called off?
Kesselring: I am convinced that the preparation as far as procurement of sea-going craft was not sufficient. I must assume this. This is the only thing that could have stopped it.
Q: Is it correct that the Navy played the decisive part?
Kesselring: I should assume so because there was no hesitation on the part of any other branch of the Armed Forces. It must have hinged on the fact that they did not have the necessary tonnage for the ferrying of the Army.
From Göring's US SBS interview: Göring: To quite an extent (we were suffering from fuel shortages) already in June 1944, when we finally managed to get the 'bugs' out of the HE 177, which gave us a little trouble. This aircraft was put in operation on the Russian front after it had been used against England. I had to ground that aircraft because it consumed too much gasoline and we just didn't have enough for it." (SBS)
From Keitel's SBS interview: Keitel: I am of the opinion that we were not able to compete with the Anglo-Americans as far as the fighter and bomber aircraft were concerned. We had dropped back in technical achievements. We had not preserved our technical superiority. We did not have a fighter with sufficient radius. As you know, we were on the way to make up for this deficiency through new types, which did not make their appearance in time. I feel sure that the force as such, especially its personnel, officers, non-commissioned officers, and enlisted men, were not as courageous and as anxious to fight as at the beginning of the war. I refuse to say that the Luftwaffe has deteriorated. I only feel that our means of fighting have not technically remained on top.November 20, 1939: From Directive Number 8 regarding the conduct of war: Localities, especially large open cities, and industries are not to be attacked without a compelling military reason, neither in the Dutch nor in the Belgian-Luxembourg areas.-Signed Keitel.
From Jodl's IMT testimony: I drafted that order...I studied international law very carefully in its bearing on my orders. I do not wish to detain the Court with the knowledge I gathered from these regulations, for it is only incomplete, but I should like to conclude by saying that owing to the fact that there were no regulations governing air warfare, deplorable confusion in definition arose for instance between rebellion and legal war force; between franc tireur, bandit, and scout; between spy and scout; demolition crews and saboteurs. Any time with the help of aircraft a rebellion might be converted into a legal war; and a legal war, on the other hand, might become a state of rebellion. That is the effect that parachute troops and the furnishing of supplies by air have had on international law.
From Keitel's IMT testimony: I believe I must say that this at that time was one of the most serious crises in the whole war, namely, the opinions held by a number of generals, including the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, Brauchitsch, and his Chief of General Staff, and I also personally belong to that group, which wanted at all costs to attempt to prevent an attack in the West which Hitler intended for that winter. There were various reasons for this: The difficulty of transporting the Eastern Army to the West; then the point of view—and this I must state—the fact that we believed at that time, perhaps more from the political point of view, that if we did not attack, the possibility of a peaceful solution might still exist and might still be realizable. Thus we considered it possible that between then and the spring many political changes could take place. Secondly, as soldiers, we were decidedly against the waging of a winter war, in view of the short days and long nights, which are always a great hindrance to all military operations.
To Hitler's objection that the French swift forces might march through Belgium at any time and then stand before the Ruhr district, we answered that we were superior in such a situation in a war of movement, we were a match for it; that was our view. I may add that this situation led to a very serious crisis between Hitler and the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and also me, because I had this trend of thought which Hitler vigorously rejected because it was, as he declared, strategically wrong. In our talks he accused me in the sharpest manner of conspiring against him with the generals of the Army and strengthening them in their opposition to his views. I must state here that I then asked to be relieved immediately of my post and given another, because I felt that under these circumstances the confidence between Hitler and myself had been completely destroyed, and I was greatly offended. I may add that relations with the Commander-in-Chief of the Army also suffered greatly from this. But the idea of my discharge or employment elsewhere was sharply rejected, I would not be entitled to it. It has already been discussed here; I need not go into it any further. But this breach of confidence was not to be mended, not even in the future. In the case of Norway, there had already been a similar conflict because I had left the house. General Jodl's diary refers to it as a "serious crisis." I shall not go into this in detail.
From Keitel's IMT testimony: I can say that this (speech by Hitler) was very closely connected with the crisis between Hitler and the generals. He called a meeting of the generals at that time to present and substantiate his views, and we knew it was his intention to bring about a change of attitude on the part of the generals. In the notes on this speech, we see that individual persons were more than once directly and sharply rebuked. The reasons given by those who had spoken against this attack in the West were repeated. Moreover, he now wanted to make an irrevocable statement of his will to carry out this attack in the West that very winter, because this, in his view, was the only strategic solution, as every delay was to the enemy's advantage. In other words, at that time, he no longer counted on any other solution than resort to force of arms.November 30, 1939: The USSR attacks Finland.
From Jodl's IMT testimony: I was present when Canaris came to the Reich Chancellery with this report to Field Marshal Keitel, and submitted to him the draft of the White Book of the Foreign Office. Field Marshal Keitel then looked through this book and listened carefully to the essential remarks which Canaris made, at the wish of the Foreign Office, to the effect that the intelligence needed perhaps some improvement, that he was to confirm that military action against Holland and Belgium was absolutely necessary, and that, as it says here, a final really flagrant violation of neutrality was still lacking. Before Canaris had said another word, Field Marshal Keitel threw the book on the table, and said, "I will not stand for that. How could I assume responsibility for a political decision? In this White Book are, word for word, the reports which you yourself—Canaris—gave me."
Whereupon Canaris said, "I am of exactly the same opinion. In my opinion, it is completely superfluous to have this document signed by the Wehrmacht, and the reports which we have here, as a whole, are quite sufficient to substantiate the breaches of neutrality which have taken place in Holland and in Belgium." And he advised Field Marshal Keitel against signing it. That is what took place. The Field Marshal took the book with him, and I do not know what happened after that. But one thing is certain, that the imaginary reports of this Herr Gisevius turn everything upside down. All these reports about the violations of neutrality came from these people who now assert that we had signed them falsely. This is one of the most despicable incidents of world history.
From Keitel's IMT testimony: The preparations for such a march through and attack on Belgium and Holland had already been made, but Hitler withheld the decision as to whether such a big attack or violation of the neutrality of these countries was actually to be carried out, and kept it open until the spring of 1940, obviously for all sorts of political reasons, and perhaps also with the idea that the problem would automatically be solved if the enemy invaded Belgium or if the mobile French troops entered, or something like that. I can only state that the decision for the carrying out of this plan was withheld until the very last moment and the order was given only immediately before it was to be executed. I believe that there was also one other factor in this, which I have already mentioned, namely the relationship between the royal houses of Italy and Belgium. Hitler always surrounded his decisions with secrecy for he was obviously afraid that they might become known through this relationship.April 9, 1940: Nazi forces invade Norway and Denmark.
From Keitel's IMT testimony: In this connection, I must say we were already at war. There was a state of war with England and France. It would not be right for me to say that I interfered in the least with these matters, but I regarded them rather as political matters, and, as a soldier, I held the opinion that preparations for military actions against Norway and Denmark did not yet mean their outbreak and that these preparations would very obviously take months if such an action was executed at all and that in the meantime the situation could change. It was this train of thought which caused me not to take any steps in regard to the impossibility to consider and to prepare strategically this intervention in Norway and Denmark; therefore, I left these things, I must say, to those who were concerned with political matters. I cannot put it any other way... ...
I saw Quisling neither before nor after the Norway campaign; I saw him for the first time approximately one or two years later. We had no contact, not even any kind of transmission of information. I already stated in a preliminary interrogation that by order of Hitler I sent an officer, I believe it was Colonel Pieckenbrock, to Copenhagen for conferences with Norwegians. I did not know Quisling.
From Kesselring's US SBS interview:
Q: What about Rotterdam?
Kesselring: First, Rotterdam was being defended in the parts which were later on attacked. Secondly, in this case one could notice that a firm attitude had to be taken. This one attack brought immediate peace to Holland. It was asked for by Model and was approved by the OKW. It was a very small part in the heart of Rotterdam. I would like to add in this connection that Model asked for a second attack. I had my reconnaissance planes fly over the area in question and they reported that they did not think a second attack was necessary. Thereupon, the planes which had already left were recalled.
Q: Did you learn any special lessons as to air power in the Battle of Britain?
Kesselring: The war against England taught a very important lesson. First of all that it was necessary to have an airplane which could have a long range and carry a large load of bombs and also have self-protection. Second, that the radius of our fighters was not sufficient and also that our fighters weren’t sufficiently armed against the enemy.
From Keitel's SBS interview: Keitel: The aim of this campaign was, of course, to destroy the French Army and at the same time to eliminate the British Expeditionary Force. The opinion was to the very last that the English were not successful in their Dunkirk evacuation, inasmuch as they only saved lives, but lost all their equipment.June 22, 1940: France signs an armistice with Germany. Under its terms, the French army is to be disbanded and two thirds of France is to be occupied by the Germans.
From Keitel's IMT testimony: Among the documents of the French Armistice Delegation there ought to be a large number of documents asking for all sorts of concessions in connection with North Africa and more especially Central and West Africa, owing to the fact that during the winter of 1940-41 riots had taken place in French Central Africa against which the French Government wanted to take measures. I believe that in the spring of 1941 a conference lasting several days took place in Paris with the French General Staff, in order to prepare measures in which the German Wehrmacht, which already had troops stationed in Tripoli in the Italian area, would participate.July, 1940: Keitel is promoted to Field Marshal. Keitel, in a meeting with Hitler, learns of his Führer's intention to exploit occupied Russian territory and make it part of the Reich.
From Keitel's IMT testimony: During the war—it must have been in the winter of 1939-1940—I received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. I did not receive any other German war decorations.July 12, 1940: The OKW under Jodl sets up a special group for the planning of Operation Felix, a proposed German march through Spain and the seizure of Gibraltar and the Spanish possessions in North Africa. Franco, however, will ultimately refuse to cooperate and the plan will never be implemented. (Brown)
From Jodl's IMT testimony: As Chief of Staff, I would have been Field Marshal Keitel's assistant, concerned with all of his duties. I was, however, only the chief of one of the many departments subordinate to Field Marshal Keitel. Beginning with the year 1941 it became the practice for me and my operational branch to report to the Führer direct on all matters concerned with strategies, while Field Marshal Keitel, using my quartermaster department as a sort of personal working staff, took over all other tasks... I was subordinate to Field Marshal Keitel, and even Keitel himself was not a commander but only the chief of a staff. But in the course of this war I naturally decided many operational details myself and signed them myself. There was no disagreement of any sort in these matters with the commanders-in-chief for I had their confidence, and I worked on the best possible terms with them.July 29, 1940: General Halder, Chief of Staff of the German Army, records in his diary remarks that were made by Hitler during a military conference: "Russia is the factor by which England sets the greatest store...If Russia is beaten, England's last hope is gone .. .Decision: As a result ... Russia must be dealt with. Spring 1941." (Baldwin)
From Keitel's IMT testimony: There were continual reports from that border or demarcation line (between the Germans and Russians in Poland) on frontier incidents, shootings, and particularly about frequent crossings of that line by aircraft of the Soviet Union, which led to the due exchange of notes. But at any rate there were continual small frontier fights and shootings, particularly in the South, and we received information through our frontier troops that continual or at certain times new Russian troop units appeared opposite them. I think that was all ...
During the Western campaign there were—I do not think I am wrong this time—seven divisions, seven divisions from East Prussia to the Carpathians, two of which, during the Western campaign, had even been transported to the West but later on were transported back again. ...I did not hear until I came here, that such a conference took place in Berchtesgaden at the end of July or beginning of August. This was due to the fact that I was absent from Berchtesgaden. I did not know of this conference, and I think General Jodl probably forgot to tell me about it at the time. I did not know about it.
From Professor William Messerschmitt's US SBS interview: Professor Messerschmitt was not aware that Britain's fighters out-classsed German fighters during the Battle of Britain. The plan for the Battle of Britain was first to knock out the RAF and then to make a landing. (SBS, Read)
From Kesselring's US SBS interview:
Q: Was the Battle of Britain—the air battle—conducted as preparation for the invasion?
Kesselring: Yes, at any rate, the air attacks as such can be regarded as an introduction to the invasion. I can not recall the exact date at which time we were notified that the invasion was called off.
Q: Why were the air battles called off?
Kesselring: Because our losses were too high. Because we did not have enough fighter escort for the bombers.
Q: Was this because of the comparatively short range of the ME 109 and 110?
Kesselring: Yes, partly. It took a long time and a lot of practice to send over proper fighter cover. As for the ME 109, they were able to provide fighter escort all the way back to the French Coast. This was done by increasing their range through the use of the belly tank and a system of relays of escort. We also used ME 110's in places where we did not expect very heavy fighter opposition and by pushing our land bases nearer the English Coast.
Q: Was it the loss of fighters or bombers that was disturbing, or both?
Kesselring: The losses were much larger in the beginning in bombers, of course, and the Spitfires were not so efficient, at first, but as the English improved the Spitfire, we were outsmarted and the English could dive through our bomber formations and shoot them down from the formation.
Q: What were the strategic objectives of the attack?
Kesselring: In the first place, the enemy air force. Secondly, seaports, thirdly, the enemy war production, and in fourth place, the attacks on London, which had hostile vital installations as targets. We had strict orders from Hitler and Göring not to bomb cities under any circumstances—only the industrial production. Hitler had ordered that we should not start the bombing of civilian population, but he did, however, order the bombing of political targets.
Q: What is a political target?
Kesselring: The government district—the leadership center.
Q: Do you think that you carried out strictly Hitler's orders?
Kesselring: As a flyer I have to say the following. The order was given and carried out, if possible. That there are times when a bomb has to be released by accident, is well known to every aviator.
Q: Were strict orders given to the crews not to let the bombs fall in the city?
Kesselring: Until such time as the terror attacks were started by the Allies, this order was never countermanded. The first attacks on London were limited to military objectives. However, the English started very early with their attacks against German cities. That this kind of attack called for counter-measures, become a firm conviction of the Führer. He made a speech to the world on this which everyone knows.
From Keitel's SBS interview:
Q: After the defeat of France, what was your plan to win against England?
Keitel: Well, the armed forces more or less thought that the war had come to an end, but I remember that a directive was issued that nobody was to be demobilized and that the training had to be carried on with the greatest vigor. The Führer said in his Reichstag speech on 22 July that he did not want to conquer any British territory, that we left the French the entire fleet. We also allowed the French to keep their colonies with the only exception of those that were formerly German, and we let them have their own government and we hoped that discussions for peace would result. On the other hand, we realized that the English continued to mobilize and we didn't forget for a moment that the United States bolstered the morale of England, to say the least. Then again, we knew of the efforts of Cripps in Russia. We tried to extend the Axis Pact by getting Yugoslavia into our sphere of influence. However, there was a certain feeling of uncertainty because one was sure that the massing of Soviet troops on the border meant something and we finally realized that the mutual distrust was increasing. Finally, in the late summer, the question arose 'Will there be any war with Russia?'
Q: In the meantime, what was the plan of the armed forces to beat England?
Keitel: England could only be attacked by crossing the Channel or by increasing the U-boat warfare as was done in 1914 to 1918—the blockade. England, as is known, depends in more or less everything on imports from overseas.
Q: Was anything done to put the plan of invasion into effect?
Keitel: Yes. After we had become masters on the coasts, we immediately considered that we could perhaps bring the war to a speedy conclusion by crossing the Channel and attacking England. Three points have to be taken into consideration. First of all, the British Navy which would play an important role in such an enterprise. Secondly, was the necessary shipping space available not only for the troops, but also for supplies. Thirdly, was the Luftwaffe strong enough to put an umbrella over this enterprise inasmuch as we had to figure on strong English counter-action. Shipping space as such was not available in the required quantity. At least, not immediately. It was attempted to find this shipping space in the French canals, in the French harbors, and in the German harbors. However, this would have taken considerable time due to the damages inflicted on the German waterways. No day could be set and besides it depended upon the capability of the German Navy and how long we could cross the Channel on calm seas. This was only possible until August or the beginning of September inasmuch as gales start in September and nothing could be done thereafter.
Q: Had Hitler himself accepted this plan?
Keitel: Yes, he did. He was very much urged to follow this plan because the general opinion was that the time was very favorable. Then came the question as to who should assume the responsibility for this stroke. The Navy had to be listened to, and the Air Force, of course, as well; because it could have been clearly assumed that during this stroke the English Navy had to be regarded as an important factor. The Navy had certain doubts and the Air Force added a few to that. Therefore, the decision could have been taken only by an office that was above the three armed forces. All preparations and necessary measures were taken. The invasion itself could then not be carried out. That was the beginning of September, 1940. The next order said that the invasion was to be postponed until a different time of the year, but that all orders and directives were to continue in their validity.
Q: Do you know why Hitler ordered that?
Keitel: That is difficult to answer. There were not only political but also realistic reasons. We had dominated the air, but we could not have known at what time we could expect a more favorable ratio between the two Navies. We had started for instance, the expedition in the Atlantic, and the cruiser warfare. Later, during the Bismarck trip, the whole English fleet had gone into action. The first thing that was stopping us was the respect for the English fleet, because we had to count on the English throwing in their whole fleet, with the destroyers, cruisers, battleships, as well as their carriers—we did not have a single carrier and we had to understand clearly that against such a formidable fleet there must be sufficient protection from the air, and secondly that those ships are very difficult to hit with a bomb dropped from 4 - 5,000 meters, and therefore, the situation, in general, was very problematic. There was, therefore, a possibility that the English fleet might be lured away some place.
Q: What was your personal attitude towards this decision?
Keitel: On the one hand, I believed that with the invasion of England, the whole war could have come to an end probably in a few weeks under certain circumstances. On the other hand, although I was considered an optimist by nature, I was very much worried. I fully realized that we would have to undertake this invasion with small boats which were not seaworthy. Therefore, at that time I had fully agreed with the decision of the Führer. You could even feel quite obviously that each one of the three armed forces was trying to pass the responsibility on to the other one. The Army people told me: 'It doesn't depend on us; we are ready, but can the Navy go through with it? The Navy passed the responsibility on to the Air Force, and in the end, one must realize that one cannot after all sail to England with what are practically un-seaworthy rowboats.
Q: Of what opinion was the Air Force?
Keitel: They were very positive, until they were pinned down to answer the question, 'Can you guarantee that the English fleet will be kept away?' On this they said: 'Well, of course, we cannot guarantee that.' Then the Navy would say: 'In that case, we can't, of course, cross the Channel.' In the Army, they would say: 'Well, if something goes wrong, it is hard for us to disembark along the way.'
Q: How could you avoid making the decision yourself?
Keitel: The Führer always made the important decisions himself. He asked me, and he had talked with the different Supreme Commanders, both individually and jointly. He also asked General Jodl, and then he would make the decision himself, quite independently. He would often say, 'I want to think this over for 24 hours,' and then he would come out with a decision that was final. I said then that under these circumstances, and considering the English fleet and the fact that we did not have a sufficient bomber force. I personally would not undertake it. In these circumstances, Hitler always made the final decisions himself. It was all the same to him whether Goering shared his opinion or whether Brauchitsch or Raeder were of the same opinion. He took their viewpoints or sometimes he even asked them to give him the arguments in writing, but then there was no more discussion. Discussions took place only when he asked for them. When he decided the Generals concerned were called and none of them knew what the results would be. Neither did I. Then he would appear and say: 'I have come to this decision and no more discussion will follow.'
From Keitel's testimony before the IMT: As far as I recollect... (Hitler's first talk of the possibility of an armed conflict with the Soviet Union) was at the beginning of August 1940, on the occasion of a discussion of the situation at Berchtesgaden, or rather at his house, the Berghof. That was the first time that the possibility of an armed conflict with the Soviet Union was discussed. ...I think I can refer to what Reich Marshal Göring has said on this subject. According to our notions, there were considerable troop concentrations in Bessarabia and Bukovina. The Foreign Minister, too, had mentioned figures which I cannot recall, and there was the anxiety which had been repeatedly voiced by Hitler at that time that developments might result in the Romanian theater which would endanger our source of petroleum, the fuel supply for the conduct of the war, which for the most part came from Romania. Apart from that, I think he talked about strong or manifest troop concentrations in the Baltic provinces.
As far as I can recollect this was confined firstly to increased activities of the intelligence or espionage service against Russia and, secondly, to certain investigations regarding the possibility of transferring troops from the West, from France, as quickly as possible to the Southeast areas or to East Prussia. Certain return transports of troops from the Eastern military districts had already taken place at the end of July. Apart from that no instructions were given at that time.
From Kesselring's US SBS interview:
Kesselring: I spent three and one-half years in Italy and believe I know the Italian soldier well. Apart from excellent individual achievements, I have seen failures in all fields of the Italian armed forces which were simply unbelievable. Then you have to add a Southern stubbornness which does not like to accept advice. It would have been best if the Italians had remained neutral. If, however, we wanted to hold the Mediterranean we would have to make it a main theater of operations, knowing how important the Mediterranean was for the British. Here again, the peculiar traits of character of the Italians showed up in that they would not accept any help and thought that they could tackle the job themselves. They did ask for help now and then but when a division arrived, they said 'No, one division is not enough.'
Q: What was the aim of the Germans in the Mediterranean?
Kesselring: As far as I can see there was no aim for us there. But if Italy was to be in the war, Malta should have been eliminated.
Q: Would you personally have abandoned Italy as a theater of war?
Kesselring: No. The German aim, in the first place, was to get the Italians going. German interests were not at stake... ...But I have to be fair to the Italians. Their equipment was so miserable that, in all fairness, you could not expect anything better from such an army.
From the summary of Professor Messerschmitt's US SBS interview: No attempt was made after the battle of Britain to increase the number or effectiveness of German aircraft. This was a great mistake as the Luftwaffe had been a decisive weapon in all other campaigns. Professor Messerschmitt could not understand the reason why no such action had been taken. He always claimed that the war would be won by the nation which could control the air over its own territory and over the battlefield.
From the US SBS interview summary of Dr. Tank (President of the Focke-Wulf Aircraft Company): It would be natural to have expected that the failure of the Luftwaffe in 1940 in the Battle of Britain would have resulted in an immediate program for the production of new and superior types of German aircraft, and for greatly increased numbers of such aircraft. The heavy losses of flying personnel would also have indicated the necessity for an immediate increase in pilot training. Strangely enough, nothing of the sort occurred. As late as May of 1941, aircraft production had been relegated to seventh priority after tanks, artillery, locomotives, V-weapons and munitions (explosives).
From Keitel's SBS interview:
Q: What was the relation between the invasion plan and the heavy bombardment attacks on England?
Keitel: I believe that the bomber warfare did not begin until later, and that the beginning of the heavy bombardment was actually marked by the indisputable fact that it was not us who started bombing the cities but the English. We had seen the first attacks on Berlin, and at that time nobody thought of an attack on London. There is a certain connection between the invasion and the bombardment insofar as we were not able to carry out the invasion and the war had to be continued by warfare against the English armament industry and especially against the English harbors. A great quantity of motor vehicles and equipment came from America and so the war was continued through attacks on these harbors. Furthermore, in the harbors you not only knocked out the cargo, but you also destroyed by the sinking of a ship, so many tons of carrying capacity. The harbor installations were also hit and through that, the war potential of England was hit heaviest. The large warehouses and docks were also severely damaged.
Q: At that time, did you personally agree to the bombing of England?
Keitel: I had considered it militarily correct, but I had to criticize it insofar as we had not remained consistent enough as far as the fight against the harbors was concerned. Every command pilot should have been obliged to report why he attacked any other target except the harbor. But the OKW did not exclusive a command function over the Air Force, but issued only general directives. In a large number of the harbors, there was a considerable amount of construction going on and the completion of these vessels would have been made impossible. Finally, there was the possibility of preventing or making it very difficult to enter these harbors through the laying of mines either from the air or from the water. I was of the personal opinion that the fight against the harbors with mine and bomb was the strongest means of warfare after the invasion did not come off.
Q: You said that there were two plans? Invasion or blockade. Was this bomber offensive part of this blockade?
Keitel: Yes. It was a considerable part of the blockade.
Q: What were the other steps taken?
Keitel: Submarine warfare and cruiser warfare. One must consider these three. The submarine warfare, the blockade and the cruiser warfare (both with real and auxiliary cruisers), the mines from the sea and from the air and the aerial warfare against harbors and sea strong-points.
Q: Do you mean attacks against English ships?
Keitel: Yes, but on the whole, these were with limited success. We believed the pilots when they said that they dad sunk this or that cruiser. We thought this or that battleship was sunk by us and after a certain time, that battleship would appear on the sea after an overhaul in an American harbor. That was not a falsified claim, but that happens in a fast-moving airplane. I, personally, as a non-flyer, believed that the level of bombing against battleships is to say the least very problematic.
Q: What measures were taken in foreign countries to carry out the blockade through economic warfare?
Keitel: I believe that the success of our economic warfare was very limited. The only thing that we could do was that we could, for instance, buy all the sardines in one country and pay for them with guns, and therefore prevent them from going to England. We could try to buy goods in Spain in exchange for war equipment. We could buy mercury and lead in Spain. In such manner we have tried to buy up things that looked also very valuable to us. Outside of that, we had no means and we had never used any pressure.
Anyway, decisions in these questions were up to the Foreign Ministry and the execution up to the Minister of Economics and it was only the delivery of arms in payment, which was the job of the Wehrmacht. I did have an Admiral in the OKW who dealt with it, and continually followed the questions of economic warfare. This was Admiral Gross. Gross was very active when it came to the blockade runners. We had a limited traffic through blockade runners with Japan. We had exchanged arms for quinine and rubber. That stopped in the spring of 1943.
From Keitel's IMT testimony: We were drawn into the war against Greece and against Yugoslavia in the spring of 1941 to our complete surprise and without having made any plans. Let me take Greece first: I accompanied Hitler during his journey through France for the meetings with Marshal Petain and with Franco on the Spanish border, and during that journey we received our first news regarding the intention of Italy to attack Greece. The journey to Florence was immediately decided upon, and upon arrival in Florence, we received Mussolini's communication, which has already been mentioned by Reich Marshal Goering, namely, that the attack against Greece had already begun. I can only say from my own personal knowledge that Hitler was extremely angry about this development and the dragging of the Balkans into the war and that only the fact that Italy was an ally prevented a break with Mussolini. I never knew of any intentions to wage war against Greece.November 4-13, 1940: In the 'Battle of Pindus,' a successful Greek counter-attack ends in a complete Greek victory.
From Keitel's IMT testimony: At first the necessity (to help the Italian's) did not exist, but during the first months, October-November, of that campaign of the Italians, it already became clear that the Italian position in this war had become extremely precarious. Therefore, as early as November or December, there were calls on the part of Mussolini for help, calls to assist him in some form or other. Moreover, seen from the military point of view, it was clear of course that for the entire military position in the war, a defeat of Italy in the Balkans would have had considerable and very serious consequences. Therefore, by improvised means, assistance was rendered. I think a mountain division was to be brought in, but it was technically impossible, since there were no transportation facilities. Then another solution was attempted by means of air transport and the like.November 12-14, 1940: Soviet Foreign Commissar Vyacheslav Molotov travels to Berlin to meet with German Chancellor Adolf Hitler.
From Keitel's IMT testimony: I did not take any part in the discussions with M. Molotov, although in this instance too I was present at the reception and at certain social meetings. I remember that on two occasions I sat next to Molotov at the table. I did not hear any political discussion, nor did I have any political discussions with my table companion. ...After the departure of Molotov he (Hitler) really said very little. He more or less said that he was disappointed in the discussion. I think he mentioned briefly that problems regarding the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea areas had been discussed in a general way and that he had not been able to take any positive or desired stand. He said he did not go into details. I asked him about military things which had a certain significance at the time—the strong forces, for instance, in the Bessarabian sector. I think Hitler evaded the answer and said that this was obviously connected with all these matters and that he had not gone into it too deeply, or something similar, I cannot remember exactly. At any rate, there was nothing new in it for us and nothing final. ...Hitler told us at the time that he wished to wait for the reaction to these discussions in the Eastern area after the delegation had returned to Russia. Certain orders had been given to the ambassador, too, in that respect, however not directly after the Molotov visit.December 13, 1940: From Direction Number 20 - Operation Marita:
From Keitel's IMT testimony: The war in Greece and Albania had begun to reach a certain standstill because of winter conditions. During that time, plans were conceived in order to avoid a catastrophe for Italy, to bring in against Greece certain forces from the North for an attack to relieve pressure, for such I must call it. That would, and did of course, take several months. May I just explain that at that time the idea of a march through Yugoslavia, or even the suggestion that forces should be brought in through Yugoslavia was definitely turned down by Hitler, although the Army particularly had proposed that possibility as the most suitable way of bringing in troops. Regarding the "Operation Marita," perhaps not much more can be said than to mention the march through Bulgaria, which had been prepared and discussed diplomatically with Bulgaria.December 18, 1940: Hitler gives orders—from Führer Headquarters—for the military preparations against the USSR. From Directive No. 21:
From the summary of Professor Messerschmitt's US SBS interview: Professor Messerschmitt believed that the reason that no attempt was made to invade England was that Germany was afraid that Russia would seize the opportunity to stab her in the back. In this connection, he stated that he had...been told once in 1941 by Dr. Todt that Germany had information that Russia had intended to attack her and that it was therefore necessary for Germany to attack first to obtain the advantage of surprise. He reported having heard that Russia had notified Germany that she demanded the following territory: Finland, The Baltic States, One-half of Poland, Rumania, Bulgaria, European Turkey, The Dardanelles. 4. German intelligence was unaware of the degree of Russian armament. Russia had better tanks and artillery.
From Keitel's IMT testimony: I believe it must have been during the first half of December that the orders were issued, the well known order Barbarossa. To be precise, these orders were given at the beginning of December, namely, the orders to work out the strategic plan. ...I knew nothing about the conference in Zossen, and I think General Buschenhagen was also there, according to the statements he has made here. I did not know anything about the Finnish General Heinrichs' presence in Zossen and have heard about it for the first time here. The only way I can explain this is that the General Staff of the Army wanted to get information or other things and that for that purpose they discussed that with the persons concerned. I did not meet General Heinrichs until May 1941. At that time I had a conference with him and General Jodl at Salzburg. Before that I had never seen him and I had never talked to him. ...
Yes, there was considerable significance attached to that (that Hitler would order the actual deployment of the troops 8 weeks before the operational plan would become effective). I have been interrogated about that by the Soviet Delegation here. The reason was that according to the calculations of the Army, it would take about eight weeks to get these troops, which were to be transported by rail, into position; that is to say, if troops from Reich territory were to be placed in position on an operative starting line. Hitler emphasized when the repeated revisions of the plan were made that he wanted to have complete control of such deployment. In other words, troop movements without his approval were not to be made. That was the purpose of this instruction.
From Abwehr General Erwin Lahousen's IMT testimony: The order to liquidate, that is, to be explicit, to murder Weygand and Giraud, was given to me by Canaris, who received it from Keitel. This order and this intention regarding the matter Weygand, were furthermore transmitted to me through direct speech with Keitel. Keitel asked me after Canaris had read to him a report in my presence, on December 23, 1940, according to my notes, about the progress in the case Weygand. As regards the second case, that is the case Giraud, I had it from Canaris himself that the order was sent to him by Keitel—as did also the other chiefs who were present. I further heard of it a second time during a report from Canaris to Keitel, in my presence, in July 1942, when this order was communicated to me in a manner similar to that of the case Weygand, and, finally, I received it in a direct manner from Keitel through telephone conversation which I described here, and transmitted as urgent intelligence.January 21, 1941: From the diary of Count Ciano concerning a meeting between Mussolini and Ribbentrop:
From Ribbentrop's IMT testimony: The Defendant Keitel was with me at the time at Fuschl, and on that occasion he told me that the Führer had certain misgivings regarding Russia and could not leave the possibility of an armed conflict out of his calculations. He said that, for his part, he had prepared a memorandum which he proposed to discuss with the Führer. He had doubts as to the wisdom of any conflict of that kind in the East, and he asked me at the time if I would also use my influence with the Führer in that direction. I agreed to do so. But an attack or plans for an attack were not discussed; I might say that all this was a discussion more from a General Staff point of view. He made no mention to me of anything more concrete.
From Keitel's IMT testimony: When I became conscious of the fact that the matter (of an attack on Russia) had been given really serious thought I was very surprised, and I considered it most unfortunate. I seriously considered what could be done to influence Hitler by using military considerations. At that time, as has been briefly discussed here by the Foreign Minister, I wrote a personal memorandum containing my thoughts on the subject, I should like to say, independently of the experts working in the General Staff and the Wehrmacht Operations Staff and wanted to present this memorandum to Hitler. I decided on that method because, as a rule, one could never get beyond the second sentence of a discussion with Hitler. He took the word out of one's mouth and afterwards one never was able to say what one wanted to say. And in this connection I should like to say right now that I had the idea—it was the first and only time—of visiting the Foreign Minister personally, in order to ask him to support me from the political angle regarding that question. That is the visit to Fuschl, which has already been discussed here and which the Foreign Minister Von Ribbentrop confirmed during his examination the other day. ...
I confirm that I went to Fuschl. I had the memorandum with me. It had been written by hand, since I did not want anybody else to get hold of it. And I left Fuschl conscious of the fact that he wanted to try to exercise influence on Hitler to the same end. He promised me that. ...Some time later at the Berghof, after a report of the situation had been given, I handed him (Hitler) that memorandum when we were alone. I think he told me at the time that he was going to study it. He took it, and did not give me a chance to make any explanations. ...
At first nothing at all happened, so that after some time I reminded him of it and asked him to discuss the problem with me. This he did, and the matter was dealt with very briefly by his saying that the military and strategic considerations put forward by me were in no way convincing. He, Hitler, considered these ideas erroneous, and turned them down. In that connection I can perhaps mention very briefly that I was again very much upset and there was another crisis when I asked to be relieved of my post, and that another man be put in my office and that I be sent to the front. That once more led to a sharp controversy as has already been described by the Reich Marshal when he said that Hitler took the attitude that he would not tolerate that a general whose views he did not agree with should ask to be relieved of his post because of this disagreement. I think he said that he had every right to turn down such suggestions and ideas if he considered them wrong. I had not the right to take any action. ...
I do not think I got it back. I have always assumed that it was found among the captured Schmundt files, which apparently is not the case. I did not get it back; he kept it. ...I must say that the main part of my memorandum was devoted to military studies, military studies regarding the amount of forces, the requirements of effectives, and the dispersal of forces in France and Norway at the time, and the Luftwaffe in Italy, and our being tied down in the West. In that memorandum I most certainly pointed to the fact that this Non-Aggression Pact existed. But all the rest were military considerations. ...
No orders were given at that time except, I think, for the improvement of lines of communications from the West to the East to permit speeding up troop transports, particularly to the Southeastern sector, in other words, north of the Carpathians and in the East Prussian sector. Apart from that no orders of any kind were given at that time. ...As early as the winter of 1940-1941, whenever there were discussions regarding the strength of the Russian forces on the demarcation line, that is, in December-January, I asked Hitler to send a note to the Soviet Union so as to bring about a cleaning-up of the situation, if I may express it so. I can add now that the first time he said nothing at all, and the second time he refused, maintaining that it was useless, since he would only receive the answer that this was an internal affair and that it was none of our business, or something like that. At any rate, he refused. I tried again, at a later stage, that is to say I voiced the request that an ultimatum should be presented before we entered upon an action, so that in some form the basis would be created for a preventive war, as we called it, for an attack.
From Keitel's IMT testimony: As far as I can recollect, it was at the beginning of March (that Hitler made it clear that he was was determined to attack the Soviet Union). The idea was that the attack might be made approximately in the middle of May. Therefore the decision regarding the transport of troops by rail had to be made in the middle of March. For that reason, during the first half of March a meeting of generals was called, that is to say, a briefing of the generals at Hitler's headquarters and the explanations given by him at that time had clearly the purpose of telling the generals that he was determined to carry out the deployment although an order had not yet been given. He gave a whole series of ideas and issued certain instructions on things which are contained in these directives here for the special parts of Fall Barbarossa. This is Document 447-PS, and these are the directives which were eventually also signed by me. He then gave us the directive for these guiding principles and ideas, so that the generals were already informed about the contents, which in turn caused me to confirm it in writing in this form, for there was nothing new in it for any one who had taken part in the discussions.March 9, 1941: The Italians launch a full-scale counterattack across the entire front in Greece. It fails.
From Keitel's IMT testimony: Views were expressed there regarding the administration and economic exploitation of the territories to be conquered or occupied. There was the completely new idea of setting up Reich commissioners and civilian administrations. There was the definite decision to charge the Delegate for the Four Year Plan with the supreme direction in the economic field; and what was for me the most important point, and what affected me most was the fact that besides the right of the military commander to exercise the executive power of the occupation force, a policy was to be followed here in which it was clearly expressed that Reichsführer SS Himmler was to be given extensive plenipotentiary powers concerning all police actions in these territories which later on became known. I firmly opposed that, since to me it seemed impossible that there should be two authorities placed side by side. In the directives here it says: "The authority of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army is not affected by this."
That was a complete illusion and self-deception. Quite the opposite happened. As long as it was compatible with my functions, I fought against this. I think I ought to say that I have no witness to that other than General Jodl, who shared these experiences with me. Eventually, however, Hitler worked out those directives himself, more or less, and gave them the meaning he wanted. That is how these directives came about. That I had no power to order the things which are contained in these directives is clear from the fact that it says that the Reich Marshal receives this task ... the Reichsführer SS receives that task, et cetera. I had no authority whatever to give orders to them. ...
After short reports regarding the operational orders to the individual commanders, there followed a recapitulation, which I must describe as a purely political speech. The main theme was that this was the decisive battle between two ideologies, and that this fact made it impossible—that the leadership in this war, the practices which we knew as soldiers, and which we considered to be the only correct ones under international law, had to be measured by completely different standards. The war could not be carried on by these means. This was an entirely new kind of war, based on completely different arguments and principles. With these explanations, the various orders were then given to do away with the legal system in territories which were not pacified, to combat resistance with brutal means, to consider every local resistance movement as the expression of the deep rift between the two ideologies. These were decidedly quite new and very impressive ideas, but also thoughts which affected us deeply. ...I personally made no remonstrance's, apart from those which I had already advanced and the objections I had already expressed before. However, I have never known which generals, if any of the generals, addressed the Führer. At any rate, they did not do so after that discussion.
From Keitel's IMT testimony: I should merely like to confirm once more that the decision to proceed against Yugoslavia with military means meant completely upsetting an military advances and arrangements made up to that time. Marita had to be completely readjusted. Also new forces had to be brought through Hungary from the North. All that was completely improvised.April 13, 1941: German troops enter Belgrade Yugoslavia.
From Keitel's IMT testimony: I have no recollection at all of any military discussion on the part of the OKW with Hungary regarding the eventuality of a military action in the case of Yugoslavia. That is completely unknown to me. On the contrary, everything that happened later on...was completely improvised. Nothing had been prepared, at any rate not with the knowledge of the OKW. ...Of course, it was known to me that several discussions had taken place with the Hungarian General Staff.April 21, 1941: From a letter from Dr. Lammers to Keitel:
From Keitel's IMT testimony: The Operational Staff for Military Economy East, attached to the Four Year Plan as Barbarossa-Oldenburg, was responsible for the entire economic direction of the whole of the Eastern area. It was responsible for the technical instructions of the State Secretaries in the Operational Staff for Military Economy, for the organization of Thomas' Economic Armament Office, and for applying all measures to be taken by the Operational Staff for Military Economy East under the direction and command of the Reich Marshal. ...I described very briefly the small group of experts attached to the High Command quartermaster departments in the West. Later on, as I have already stated, at the beginning of June, the entire economic direction was transferred to the Four Year Plan and the plenipotentiaries for the Four Year Plan, as far as anything passed beyond current supplies intended to cover daily requirements, fuel, et cetera. This was done by a special decree, which has already been mentioned by the Reichsmarschall and which had been issued by the Führer.Spring 1941: The Waffen SS now consists of the equivalent of six divisions Das Reich, Totenkopf, Polizei, Wiking and SS Division Nord and the Leibstandarte, 1 SS Infantry, 2 SS Infantry and the SS Cavalry Brigades. The Waffen SS will see action throughout the war and ultimately grow to a force of over 38 divisions. Will be condemned as a criminal organization at Nuremberg.
From Lahousen's IMT testimony: In this discussion Canaris (in the winter of 1940, either in November or December) revealed to us that already for some considerable time Keitel had put pressure on him to arrange for the elimination of the French Marshal, Weygand; and that naturally I—that is my division—would be charged with the execution of this task. ...In this discussion Canaris revealed to us that already for some considerable time Keitel had put pressure on him to arrange for the elimination of the French Marshal, Weygand; and that naturally I—that is my division—would be charged with the execution of this task. ...
The reason given (for attempting to kill Weygand) was the fear that Weygand together with the unconquered part of the French Army might form a center of resistance in North Africa. That, in the main, was the reason, as far as I remember today; it may be that there were other contributing factors. ...This request which was first put to the military Abwehr so openly and in such an undisguised form by a representative of the Armed Forces, was decidedly and indignantly rejected by all those present. I, myself, as the person most involved, since my division was expected to carry out this task, indicated flatly before all present that I had not the slightest intention of executing this order. My division and my officers are prepared to fight but they are neither a murderers' organization nor murderers. ...
Canaris said: "Calm down. We'll have a word together later," or something to that effect. ...When the other gentlemen had left the room, I spoke with Canaris alone and he told me immediately: 'It is quite obvious that this order will not only not be carried out, but it will not even be communicated to anybody else," and that, in fact, happened. ...
On one occasion when Canaris was reporting to Keitel, and I was present, Keitel mentioned the subject to me, and asked me what had happened or what had been done in this matter up to now. The date of this incident was recorded in my notes, on Canaris' suggestion and with his knowledge. ...I cannot, of course, recall my precise words (in reply to Keitel), but one thing is certain; I did not answer that I had no intention of carrying out this order. That I could not tell him, and did not tell him; otherwise, I would not be sitting here today. Probably, as in many similar cases, I replied that it was very difficult but everything possible would be done, or something of that sort. Naturally, I cannot recall my precise words.
From Keitel's IMT testimony: ...there were reports at the time that General Weygand was traveling in North Africa, visiting the troops, and inspecting the colonial troops. I consider it quite natural that I told Canaris, who was the Chief of Counterintelligence, that it should be possible to determine the object of General Weygand's journey, the places at which he stopped in North Africa, and whether any military significance could be attached to this visit, as regards putting colonial troops into action or the introduction of other measures concerning them in North Africa. He is sure to have received instructions to try to get information through his Intelligence Department as to what was taking place. ...
We had no reason to think that General Weygand might be, shall we say, inconvenient. In view of the connection with Marshal Petain, which was started about the end of September and the beginning of October of that year, and the well-known collaboration policy which reached its height in the winter of 1940-41, it was absurd even to think of doing away with the Marshal's Chief of Staff. An action of this kind would not have fitted into the general policy followed in dealing with the situation in North Africa. We released a large number of officers in the regular French Colonial Army from French prisoner-of-war camps in the winter of 1940-1941 for service with the colonial forces. There were generals among them; I remember General Juin in particular who, as we knew at the time, had been Chief of the General Staff in North Africa for many years. At my suggestion he was put at the disposal of the Marshal by Hitler, obviously with the aim of utilizing him in the colonial service. There had not been the slightest motive for wishing General Weygand ill or to think of anything of the sort. ...
I said at a later meeting, "What about Weygand?" That was the phrase Lahousen used; and he might have drawn the conclusion that, perhaps, in that sense of the word, as he represented it, he kept on saying "in that sense of the word," and when asked what that meant, he said "To kill him." It is due only to that, it can be due only to that I must say that Canaris was frequently alone with me. Often he brought the chiefs of his departments along. When we discussed matters by ourselves, I thought he was always perfectly frank with me. If he had misunderstood me, there would certainly have been discussions about it, but he never said anything like that. ...
In the collaboration of the Führer Adolf Hitler and Marshal Petain an act of that kind (putting Weygand out of the way) would have had the greatest imaginable political significance. ...Although it was at a much later date that General Weygand was taken to Germany, on the occupation of the hitherto unoccupied zone of Southern France, I was told by the Fuehrer himself that he had given orders only for the general to be interned in his own home, without being inconvenienced by guards—an honorable arrest and not the treatment accorded to an ordinary prisoner of war. Of course, that was in 1942.
From Lahousen's IMT testimony: Certainly, many members of the Wehrmacht knew of the essential contents of this order, for the reaction of the Wehrmacht against this order was tremendous. Apart from official discussions which I have reported here, these orders were discussed a great deal in casino clubs and elsewhere, because all these matters became manifest in the most undesirable form and had a most undesirable effect on the troops. As a matter of fact, officers, and high-ranking officers at the front, either did not transmit these orders or sought to evade them in some way and this was discussed a great deal. I have named some of these officers; some are listed in the notes, diary, et cetera. It was not an everyday occurrence, and it was then the topic of the day. ...They (the orders) must have been known to them (leaders of the SA and SD), for the ordinary soldiers who watched all these proceedings knew and spoke about them. To a certain extent they were even known to the civilian populace; civilians learned far more details about these matters from wounded soldiers returning from the front than I could tell here.June 12, 1941 Declaration of St James's Palace: The representatives of Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Union of South Africa and of the exiled governments of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Yugoslavia and of General de Gaulle of France, met at the ancient St. James’s Palace and sign a declaration: "The only true basis of enduring peace is the willing cooperation of free peoples in a world in which, relieved of the menace of aggression, all may enjoy economic and social security; It is our intention to work together, and with other free peoples, both in war and peace, to this end."
From Keitel's SBS interview:
Q: You must have had a certain plan in mind when you started the campaign against Russia? How long did you expect this campaign to last?
Keitel: The opinions on this question vary. My personal idea was that if we succeeded to beat Russia in a short campaign, say by the winter of 1941, we would have been to see clearly. Later on we realized that this was to be a long war. When we attacked Moscow we could still maintain that the balance was in our favor. Later on, however, it was realized that unless we could finish the war by winter, a new military power would arise in Russia and would oppose us.
Q: When were the first discussions held in the OKW with regard to the campaign in Russia?
Keitel: I have thought this question over several times. The first thought of a impending campaign against Russia arose in November 1940 on the occasion of Molotoff's(sic) visit to Berlin. At that time, very lengthy and far-reaching political discussions took place with regard to demands by Russia on the Führer. They concerned the Baltic, Finland, Rumania, the Bucovina and similar questions. In connection with this, there was employment of many Russian divisions on our eastern border and the Führer told us then 'I believe that it will come to blows with Russia because I cannot give into their demands.' I was not present at these discussions, but I was informed of these discussions later on.
Q: Did the Yugoslav campaign disarrange your time schedule?
Keitel: This campaign came as a complete surprise. We had invited Yugoslavia to join the Axis Pact, but the attitude of Stalin, who had told them that they shouldn't worry about anything and should not give in to our demands, killed all that. But you see all these things in a historical light today and, therefore, slightly tinted.
Q: Was the Führer aware of the fact that the war might last a long time?
Keitel: After the decisive battles at Bryansk, which was a terrific beating for the Russians, or perhaps, after the siege of Moscow and Leningrad, or after the battles on the Donetz Basin, one had to realize that it would come to a long war. I don't know when the Führer became aware of this. The Führer always kept to himself. I believe, however, that already in the winter of 1941-1942, the Führer was well aware that this war could not be brought to a rapid conclusion.
Q: Was it contemplated to bring it to a decision then?
Keitel: Yes, in the year 1942. The winter of 1941 brought for us as well as for the German Eastern Army's crisis and then a counter-attack out of the territory of Moscow, which, however, was paralyzed in the snow and ice. If the German Army had then started a retreat, it could very well have become a catastrophe. To elaborate on the above question, the preparations for the Russian campaign were under way prior to the Yugoslav campaign. The exact time was not determined. It was only in the Führer's mind. However, the strategic and operational plans had been prepared by the General Staff. It is our firm and decided conviction that the Russians started this war by putting division after division at our Eastern border. The Fuehrer had set a day, but it was not made known to us until March or April. At that time, the first concrete orders were given, with respect to the fact that we had to figure on a Russian attack. The construction by the Russians of airdromes from Lithuania to Romania of a size which was completely unknown to us pointed this out the stronger. These airdromes had two runways made of concrete whereas our airdromes were made of meadows. In addition, we had to deliver weapons to Russia in exchange for oil and other goods. We delivered naval guns which we could hardy spare, such as the 20.3 cm. naval gun, which, although we couldn't admit it, was hard for us to manufacture.
Q: You had a non-aggression pact and somebody must have broken it?
Keitel: I can't tell you that. This is purely political. It was one of the most remarkable traits of the Führer that he drew a line between political and military affairs. He told his soldiers: 'Don't discuss politics, this isn't what you are here for, but do what I tell you.' In other words, don't put your fingers into every pie. Nobody was supposed to know more of any matter than was absolutely necessary for the task. This was one of our sacred things and there were posters in every barracks stating this. We only had five divisions at the Russian front during the French campaign and when the Russians massed their troops at the Eastern border, the all-around opinion was that something was bound to happen. In addition, there was a demarcation line between Poland and Russia, but the Russians sent reconnaissance units across the line and there were prisoners taken and soldiers killed. There was a permanent guerilla warfare at this line.
[Next: Part Three, Click Here.]
[Part Four, 1/4/1944-10/20/12946.] [Part Three, 6/22/1941-12/29/1944.] [Part Two, 9/1/1939-6/21/1941.] [Part One, 9/22/1892-9/1/1939.] Twitter: @3rdReichStudies E-MAIL
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be punishable by death.
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