From Jodl's IMT testimony: I was born in 1890 on 10 May. A great-grandfather of mine was an officer; my father was an officer; an uncle was an officer; my brother became an officer; my father-in-law was an officer—I can well say that the military profession was in my blood. As an officer, all party politics were entirely remote to me, and especially the offshoots of the post-war period. If I look at the background from which I come, the attitude of my parents, I must say that I would have been closest to the National Liberal Party and its ideas. In any event, my parents never voted anything but National Liberal.
Note: As always, these excerpts from trial testimony should not necessarily be mistaken for fact. It should be kept in mind that they are the sometimes-desperate statements of hard-pressed defendants seeking to avoid culpability and shift responsibility from charges that, should they be proved, could possibly be punishable by death.
The source for all items, unless otherwise noted, is the evidence presented to the International Military Tribunal (IMT) at the first Nuremberg Trial, between November 21, 1945 and October 1, 1946.
From Jodl's IMT testimony: True to my oath, I served the Weimar Republic honestly and without reserve. If I could not have done that, I would have resigned. Moreover, a democratic system and a democratic constitution was not at all a foreign idea to us southern Germans, for our monarchy was also democratic.1920-1922: Jodl receives 'leadership training' at a camouflaged staff school.
From Jodl's IMT testimony: The National Socialist Party I hardly knew and hardly noticed before the Munich Putsch. It was this Putsch which dragged the Reichswehr into this internal political development. At that time, with few exceptions, it met this test of obedience. But after this Putsch there was a certain cleavage in the views of the officers' corps. Opinions varied as to Hitler's worth or worthlessness. I was still extremely skeptical and unconvinced. I was not impressed until Hitler, during the Leipzig trial, gave the assurance that he was opposed to any undermining of the Reichswehr.May 12, 1925: Paul von Hindenburg is elected the second President of Germany.
From Jodl's IMT testimony: I knew Hindenburg. I was assigned to him after his first election to the Reich Presidency when he spent his first vacation in Dietramszell. Then I spent a day with the Hindenburg family at their Neudeck estate together with Field Marshal von Manstein. I can only say that I admired him; and when he was elected Reich President for the first time, I considered that the first symptom of the German people's return to self-respect.1932: Jodl is transferred to the Operations Department of the Reichswehr in Berlin.
From Jodl's IMT testimony: I certainly knew that [the Reich Government in the year 1932 counted on the possibility of attempts to overthrow it and sought to save itself in this direction]. For when I came to Berlin at that time, I did not find in the later operational division any preparations for war; but I found preparations for the use of the Reichswehr in the interior of the country, against the extreme leftists as well as the extreme rightists. There were plans for maneuvers of some sort in that connection in which I myself participated.January 30, 1933 Machtergreifung: Hitler is appointed Chancellor of Germany by President Hindenburg.
From Jodl's IMT testimony: The appointment of Hitler as Reich Chancellor was a complete surprise to me. That evening when I was returning home with a comrade, through the excited crowds, I said to him, "This is more than a change of government; it is a revolution. Just how far it will lead us we do not know." But the name of Hindenburg, who had legalized this revolution, and the names of such men as von Papen, von Neurath, [and] Schwerin-Krosigk exerted a reassuring influence on me and gave me a certain guarantee that there would be no revolutionary excesses.[For a full, documented telling of Hitler’s Rise To Power, Click Here!]
From Jodl's IMT testimony: I was not anti-Semitic. I am of the opinion that no party, no state, no people, and no race—not even cannibals—are good or bad in themselves, but only the single individual. Of course I knew that Jewry, after the war and in the moral disintegration that appeared after the First World War, came to the fore in Germany in a most provocative fashion. That was not anti-Semitic propaganda; those were facts, which were regretted very much by Jews themselves. Nevertheless, I was most sharply opposed to any outlawing by the state, any generalization, and any excesses . . . . As far as I am concerned, that assertion [that we all of us cried, "Germany awake; death to the Jew"] is wrong. At every period of my life I associated with individual Jews. I have been a guest of Jews, and certain Jews have visited my home. But those were Jews who recognized their fatherland. They were Jews whose human worth was undisputed.March 23 1933: Hitler addresses the Reichstag:
From Jodl's IMT testimony: These semi-military organizations sprang up like mushrooms after the seizure of power; but only the SA under Röhm tried to seize complete power. The witness Gisevius said here that there was no Röhm Putsch. That is correct, but it was just about to happen. At that time in the Reich War Ministry we were armed to the teeth, and Röhm was a real revolutionary, not a frock coat insurgent. When the Führer intervened in June 1934, from that moment there were no more conflicts between the Wehrmacht and the SA. The Wehrmacht became all the more suspicious of the units of the SS, which from that moment multiplied in an extraordinary fashion. The Army, one can very well say, was never reconciled to this dualism of two armed organizations within the country . . . .
In talking about the Führer, I very often said that I looked on him as a charlatan; but I had no cause or reason to consider him a criminal. I often used the expression "criminal"; but not in connection with Hitler, whom I did not even know at the time. I applied it to Röhm. I repeatedly spoke of him as a criminal. I knew Röhm, but I did not know Adolf Hitler. I became convinced—at least during the years from 1933 to 1938—that he was not a charlatan but a man of gigantic personality who, however, in the end assumed infernal power. But at that time he definitely was an outstanding personality.
From Jodl's IMT testimony: The union of the two offices in one person gave me much concern. When we lost Hindenburg, we lost the Field Marshal loved by the Wehrmacht, and by the whole German people. What we should get with Hitler, we did not know. It is true [that] the result of the plebiscite was so overwhelming that one could say that a higher law than this popular will could not possibly exist. Thus we soldiers were quite justified in taking the oath to Adolf Hitler.November 8, 1934: From a speech by Hitler:
From Article 43 of the Versailles Treaty. In the area defined above [Article 42 defines the area, the left bank of the Rhine and the right bank to the west of a line drawn 50 kilometers to the east] the maintenance and the assembly of armed forces, either permanently or temporarily, and military maneuvers of any kind; as well as the upkeep of all permanent works for mobilization, are in the same way forbidden.
From Jodl's IMT testimony: On 1 or 2 March 1935 [I first heard of the plans to occupy the Rhineland]; that is to say about 6 days before the actual occupation. I could not have heard of them any earlier because, before that, the Führer had not yet made the decision himself. I must confess that we [Hitler's generals] had the uneasy feeling of a gambler whose entire fortune is at stake. I was neither an expert on international law nor a politician. Politically speaking it had been stated that the agreement between Czechoslovakia, Russia, and France had made the Locarno Pact void, which I accepted as a fact at the time. We occupied the Rhineland with approximately one division, but only three battalions of that went into the territory west of the Rhine; one battalion went to Aachen, one to Trier, and one to Saarbrucken ... they acted only symbolically . . . .
There were serious reports [of a possible military conflict because of the occupation] that came from our military attaches in Paris and London at the time. I could not fail to be impressed by them. We suggested to Field Marshal von Blomberg then that, perhaps he ought to discuss withdrawing these three battalions west of the Rhine, on condition that the French would withdraw four to five times as many men from their borders. [This suggestion] was made to the Führer, but he turned it down. He rejected very bluntly General Beck's suggestion that we should declare that we would not fortify the area west of the Rhine. That was a suggestion of General Beck's, which the Führer turned down very bluntly ... there could not be any question of aggressive intentions. I can only say that, considering the situation we were in, the French covering army alone could have blown us to pieces ... nobody had aggressive intentions; but it is of course possible that in the brain of the Führer there was already an idea that the occupation was a prerequisite for actions to be taken later in the East. That is possible; but I do not know, because I could not see into the Führer's brain.
From Jodl's IMT testimony: If you will permit me to make quite a brief explanation, then the Tribunal will be saved a [great deal] of time. I am not here as a clairvoyant; I do not know the document; I have never read it; at this time I was not in the Armed Forces Department—that has entirely different signatures—I was in the operations section of the Army. I neither saw nor ever heard of this paper. If you look at the date, 2 May 1935, it is proven there in writing, for I entered the Armed Forces Department only in the middle of June 1935. Thus, only on the basis of my general staff training can I give you some assumptions; but the Court [does] not want assumptions. It was before my time. I was not with von Blomberg then . . . . I heard the word Schulung (training), for the first time here in the Court; and then I wondered what that could have been.June 26, 1935: From the minutes of the working committee of the Reich Defense Council:
From Jodl's IMT testimony: I was [a member of the Reich Defense Committee] automatically from the moment I took over the direction of the National Defense Department. At the tenth session of this meeting of experts, on 26 June 1935, General von Reichenau designated me as his deputy . . . .
In a few words: With this committee a unified mobilization, not of the Army, but the mobilization of the State and people, corresponding to military mobilization, was prepared. These plans were laid down in the mobilization books giving final figures and various stages of tension . . . .
We had learned about this from France and had adopted it. The French had a system by which mobilization was carried out in five stages according to the degree of tension existing. The purpose was to have some means at our disposal—as was customary all over Europe at that time—that would achieve an intensified readiness for war before the public order for mobilization was issued. It did not concern itself with armament at all. It had nothing to do in any way with political problems. It was concerned only with mobilization. Mobilization is a necessity for every possible war. The preparations in the demilitarized zones were connected solely with evacuation, that is the [surrender] of the areas west of the Rhine, in case of a French occupation . . . .
Keeping measures of this kind secret is taken for granted all over the world. For us in Germany, it was especially important, as for years the civil authorities had no longer been accustomed to concern themselves with military matters, and it seemed to me of particular importance that, in foreign countries no misunderstanding should arise by, let us say, the capture of an order of this nature—a very characteristic misunderstanding such as occurred in these proceedings in connection with the Freimachung (clearance) of the Rhine. At that time we were even weaker than during the period when we had an army of only 100,000 men. This army of 100,000 men had been broken up into hundreds of small groups. It was the time of our very greatest impotence, and at that period we had to be extremely careful to avoid any and all tension with foreign countries ... there were the combat directives for the Grenzschutz fist (border protection). I had also worked out instructions for the commander in East Prussia, in case he were cut off from the Reich [by means of] a sudden attack by Poland . . . .
There was no thought or talk of [any German intentions of attack at that time] whatsoever. I personally had nothing at all to do with armament in the real sense. That was a matter for the various branches of the Wehrmacht—the Army, the Navy, [and] the Air Force—and it was dealt with and handled by their organizational staffs. The Commanders-in-Chief discussed these matters with the Führer directly. But I hope, and I will not deny, that my work in the General Staff contributed to the reconstruction of the German Wehrmacht. At that time I was of the same opinion as my superiors, and it was characteristic that on the day before the statement was made that 36 divisions were to be formed, Blomberg as well as Fritsch suggested to the Führer that only 24 divisions should be formed. They feared a thinning down of the entire army. Perhaps they also feared too stormy a foreign policy, based on forces existing only on paper. Various stages were provided for. The first deadline set was 1942-43. Most of the West Wall was to be completed by 1945. The Navy's plan of construction ran on to 1944-45. Since it was not possible to achieve general disarmament, the objective was to establish military parity between Germany and the neighboring countries . . . .
In 1935, when we set up 36 divisions, France, Poland, and Czechoslovakia possessed 90 divisions for times of peace, and 190 divisions for war. We had hardly any heavy artillery, and tank construction was in its earliest stages. The conception of defensive and offensive armament has been discussed here on various occasions. It would lead us too far afield to go into that in detail. But I should like to say only that as far as Germany was concerned, with her geographical position, this conception did not apply. The disarmament conference too, after months of discussion, failed because a proper definition for this conception could not be formed . . . .
They were weapons and items of equipment of the Landespolizei, the Order Police, and the Gendarmerie. There were no troops there. Consequently, there were no weapons there for them. I have already testified to the reasons for keeping all these measures secret in detail during my direct examination, and I confirm that in all these preparations it was a question—in case of an occupation of the western Rhenish territory by France—of setting up a blockade along the line with the aid of the Police, the Gendarmerie, and the reinforced border guards. That was the intention at that time, only for this eventuality. I have already testified under oath that I learned about the occupation of the Rhineland only 6 or 8 days beforehand . . . .
I only repeat the answer that was given to the French Chargé d'Affaires. I believe that that was essentially true: No mobilization tasks, such as disposition, equipment, and arming of formations for the event of war. There was no thought of war; no one mentioned it with even one word.
From Jodl's IMT testimony: I believe this [assertion that I should have known that such a tremendous rearmament as the German rearmament could serve only for an aggressive war] can only be explained as an expression of military ignorance. Up to the year 1939 we were, of course, in a position to destroy Poland alone. But we were never, either in 1938 or 1939, actually in a position to withstand a concentrated attack by these states together. And if we did not collapse already in the year 1939, that was due only to the fact that, during the Polish campaign, the approximately 110 French and British divisions in the West were held completely inactive against the 23 German divisions . . . .
Real rearmament was only begun after the war had already started. We entered into this world war with some 75 divisions. Sixty percent of our total able-bodied population had not been trained. The peacetime army amounted to perhaps 400,000 men, as against 800,000 men in 1914. Our supplies of ammunition and bombs ... were ridiculously low.
From Jodl's IMT testimony: It [Case Otto] was one of those typical standard preparations for war, for every conceivable eventuality. Such directives had come out every year in Germany ever since there was a General Staff and general conscription. These theoretical military studies made a distinction between two cases, namely cases of war which because of their nature were politically probable or might be probable, and cases which were improbable. As far as the former were concerned, a. plan of operations was to be drafted by the Army and the Air Force. For the latter, appropriate suggestions only were to be brought forward. If the Tribunal would turn to Page 21 of the document, there appears at the end of the page, Part 3, a sentence as follows: "The following 'special cases' are to be considered by the High Command in general without participation by regional authorities..." and among such cases, on Page 22, is the special "Case Otto." . . . . I did not participate in any discussions.September 6-13, 1937: The Nazi Party's 9th Party Congress is held in Nuremberg.<
From Jodl's IMT testimony: In the year 1937, in my official capacity, I participated the last 3 days in Nuremberg, when the Labor Service, the SA, and the Wehrmacht were reviewed . . . . [I did not participate in the commemorations at Munich that occurred every year on 9 November]. I really did not belong there.November 5, 1937 Hossbach-Konferenz: Hitler addresses Göring, Raeder, Neurath, and other political and military leaders at the so-called Hossbach Conference.
From Jodl's IMT testimony: The first time I heard it [the Hossbach Memorandum] read was here in Court. Field Marshal von Blomberg informed Keitel, and Keitel informed me [at the time] that there had been a discussion with the Führer. When I asked for the minutes I was told that no minutes had been taken. I refer to my diary [February 2, 1938] as proof of this. What I was told was not at all sensational and hardly different in any way from anything contained in general directives for the preparation of a war. I can only assume that Field Marshal von Blomberg at that time kept these things to himself because he may not have believed that they would ever be carried out . . . . There was no operational plan against Austria. I state that most emphatically . . . .
I was not present at this conference. I do recall the things that were read here. I have already stated with regard to that, that the report that I received was in no way sensational. The directives for the preparations after this time are available to the Court in writing; what we prepared and worked out at the time is proved thereby. We have the orders of 20 May and of 14 June; they are available. The report about the more active preparations for the march against Czechoslovakia was, I believe, contained in these statements. But I can only say that the details that I received from Field Marshal Keitel are not in my recollection at present. I recall only one thing, that it was no surprise or sensation for me, and only small corrections of the directives which had been given out up to that point were necessary.
From Jodl's IMT testimony: "Intention of L," that means the intention of the Department of National Defense (Landesverteidigung) to have these thoughts put down on paper and transmitted to the branches of the Wehrmacht.December 21, 1937: Chief of the Defense Staff Colonel Alfred Jodl devises a "significant alteration" of the mobilization plan for Czechoslovakia. From this new directive: Once Germany has attained its full war preparedness in all spheres, the military basis will have been created to conduct an offensive war [Angriffskrieg] against Czechoslovakia and thereby also to carry the German space problem to a triumphant conclusion, even if one or other great power intervenes against us. (Kershaw)
From Jodl's IMT testimony: General von Reichenau was known as a truly political general, and I was afraid that he might perhaps have no scruples in sacrificing all the good old tradition of the Army to the new regime. There was no doubt that the senior generals, such as Rundstedt, Bock, Adam, List, Halder, and so on, would never have subordinated themselves to von Reichenau.February 11, 1938 Jodl's Diary: In the evening and on 12 February General K [Keitel] with General von Reichenau and Sperrle at Obersalzberg. Schuschnigg, together with G. Schmidt are being put under the heaviest political and military pressure. At 2300 hours Schuschnigg signs protocol.
From Jodl's IMT testimony: This entry I made personally, because Keitel told me that, during lunch, Reichenau and Sperrle had carried on warlike conversations; that they had talked about the new rearmament of Germany.February 13, 1938 Jodl's Diary:
From Jodl's IMT testimony: It [the above] is merely a note on a brief account given to me by General Keitel about that day, probably related a bit colorfully. I did not suggest any deceptive maneuvers. The Führer ordered them; and I do not think that they are illegal, because I believe that in the gambling of world history, in politics and in war, false cards have always been played. But the Führer ordered it and that is stated in the entry in my diary. I supplied military information and documents to Canaris as to where our garrisons were situated, what maneuvers were taking place. Canaris elaborated them and then released them in Munich. I had been told that the purpose was to exert a certain amount of pressure, so that Schuschnigg, when he had returned home, would adhere to the agreement made at Obersalzberg. On 10 March in the morning, just before 11 o'clock, I heard of it [the intention to enter Austria] for the first time. It was when General Keitel, and General Viehbahn—who was then temporarily Chief of Armed Forces Operations Staff—were suddenly ordered to the Reich Chancellery, that I heard of the intention for the first time . . . .
The Führer surprised them by stating that the question involved was the Austrian problem; and then they remembered, that there was a General Staff plan called "Otto." They sent for me and for the directive, and learned from me that such a directive actually did exist, but that in practice nothing at all had been prepared. As it had only been a theoretical plan and drafted solely in the event of an Austrian restoration, and as such a restoration was not expected for the moment, the High Command of the Army had virtually done nothing about it . . . .
It appeared to me to be a family squabble, which Austria herself would solve through her domestic politics in a very short time. My own extensive knowledge of Austria [made me think that]. Through relatives and acquaintances, through the German-Austrian Alpine Club to which I belonged, as one who knew the Austrian mountains. I had been in closer contact with Austria than with northern Germany, and I knew that, in that country, there had been a government against the will of the people for a long time. The peasant uprising in Styria was a characteristic example ... it [the march into Austria] was completely improvised within a few hours with the corresponding result. Seventy percent of all the armored vehicles and lorries were stranded on the road from Salzburg and Passau to Vienna, because the drivers had been taken from their recruitment training to be given this task . . . .
The Führer had informed General Keitel and General Viehbahn about that [the problem of Austria] on 10 March, in the morning. He did not talk to me, and until that day I had not talked to the Führer either ... it is a fact that only peacetime units which were intended for the parade in Vienna actually marched in. All units which might have been necessary for a military conflict, say, with Czechoslovakia or Italy, were stopped at the last moment and did not cross the border ... everything remained behind . . . .
The evening before the march into Austria, at about 2 o'clock in the morning, I was with Field Marshal von Brauchitsch. I found him in a dejected mood. I saw no reason for it; but apparently he was convinced that this march into Austria might possibly lead to a military conflict either with Italy or with Czechoslovakia. Or perhaps from a political point of view he was not quite pleased about this impending increase of the south German element in the Reich. I do not know. But at any rate he was most dejected . . . .
[Hitler, when he heard that Schuschnigg was going to obtain the opinion of the people by plebiscite, decided to invade at once]. I was told, when he heard that there was to be a grotesque violation of public opinion through the trick of a plebiscite, he said that he would certainly not tolerate this under any circumstances. This is what I was told ... he would not tolerate public opinion being abused through this trick. That is how it was told to me.
From Jodl's IMT testimony: On 11 March, in the afternoon, I had news from the Reich Chancellery that the Wehrmacht was not to move in, but that the Police would pass through the Wehrmacht and move in alone. In the evening, however, on 11 March, at 2030 hours, the final decision reached me, which was that the Wehrmacht was to move in after all. I was unable to find out the reason for that hesitation . . . .
[It was not really an invasion by force], it was a purely peaceful occupation. It was characterized by my suggestion to the chief of the operations department of the Army that he should have bands marching at the head of the columns and that all drivers should be sure to wear goggles, otherwise they might be blinded by the flowers thrown at them . . . .
It came off exactly as expected. There was jubilation and a triumphal march, such as the world probably has seldom seen--even though no one likes to acknowledge it today. The population came to meet us during the night already; the custom barriers were removed, and all the German troops called that march just a battle of flowers.
From Jodl's IMT testimony: I was told that the Führer had decided: "I do not want a martyr [made of Schuschnigg], under any circumstances, but I cannot liberate him; I must put him in honorary custody." That was the impression I had during the entire war.March 16, 1938: From a telegram sent from the German Legation in Prague on to the Foreign Office in Berlin:
From an affidavit of Fritz Wiedemann, who at that time was Hitler's adjutant: I recall that on the afternoon of 28 May 1938, Hitler called a conference in the winter garden of the Reich Chancellery of all the people who were important, from the Foreign Office, the Army, and the Command Staffs. Those present at this conference, as I recall, included Göring, Ribbentrop, von Neurath, General Beck, Admiral Raeder, General Keitel, and General von Brauchitsch. On this occasion, Hitler made the following statement: "It is my unshakable will that Czechoslovakia shall be wiped off the map." Hitler then revealed the outlines of the plan to attack Czechoslovakia. Hitler addressed himself to the Generals, saying: "So, we will first tackle the situation in the East. Then I will give you three to four years' time, and then we will settle the situation in the West." The situation in the West was meant to be the war against England and France. I was considerably shaken by these statements and on leaving the Reich Chancellery I said to Herr von Neurath: "Well, what do you say to these revelations?" Neurath thought that the situation was not so serious as it appeared, and that nothing would happen before the spring of 1939.May 30, 1938: Hitler issues a revised military directive for Case Green:
From Jodl's IMT testimony: I did not participate in any of these conferences [but I did do General Staff work for Case Green—the Czechoslovakia operation]. In that general directive [May 30, 1938] for the unified preparation for war, two important cases were dealt with, or were to be dealt with: A defensive deployment against France if she opened hostilities—Case Red—and an offensive deployment—Case Green—against Czechoslovakia. That would have been worked out in just the same way. Even if we had not had an acute conflict with Czechoslovakia, because a war on two fronts, which was the problem we always faced, could never be conducted or won in any other way than by means of an attack against the weaker. This directive, as far as the Case Green is concerned, had to be drawn up afresh the very moment that Austria automatically became a new assembly zone. Thus, on 20 May 1938, a new draft was made by me for Case Green which began with the customary words: "I do not intend to attack Czechoslovakia by military action in the near future without provocation..." . . . .
On the 21st, the day after, a monstrous incident occurred. Czechoslovakia not only mobilized but even marched up to our borders. The Czechoslovakian Chief of General Staff explained this to Toussaint by saying that 12 German divisions had been assembled in Saxony. I can only state—and my diary entries prove it—that not a single German soldier had been moved. Nothing, absolutely nothing had happened . . . .
That was the information that I received, partly through General Keitel and partly through the then Major Schmundt, regarding the impression made on the Führer. The result was that he personally changed my draft of 20 May and put at the beginning the following words: "It is my unalterable decision that Czechoslovakia must be destroyed within a reasonable period of time by military action. To decide upon the militarily and politically opportune moment is a matter for the political leadership."
In that order of 30 May, three possibilities were mentioned by the Führer as to how a conflict with Czechoslovakia might arise: 1) Without particular cause—politically impossible and out of the question; 2) after a prolonged period of tension—most undesirable, because of the lack of the element of surprise; 3) the best solution, after an incident, such as were happening nearly daily at that time, and which would justify us morally before the world if we decided to intervene.
Furthermore, there was the command that, on the first day, the Army should break through the fortifications, in order to clear the way for the free operation of the mobile forces, the armored divisions, so that after 4 days such a situation would be created that the military position of Czechoslovakia would become untenable . . . .
The entire directive ... was thoroughly revised in June. This was done because on 1 October a new mobilization year began, and because this directive ... was in any case planned to be valid only until 30 September 1938. The old directive was, of course, still in force until 1 October, but became invalid on 1 October through that directive which had been drafted by me on 24 June, or 18 June. In that directive, Case Green was mentioned in the sense of the Fuehrer's intention, namely that it was the immediate aim of his policy that from 1 October 1938—not on, but from 1 October 1938—every favorable opportunity was to be utilized to solve the problem of Czechoslovakia, but only if France did not interfere or march, or Great Britain either.
I confirm that no date existed in any of the orders for the starting of a war against Czechoslovakia. In the directive of 30 May the date was left open altogether; and the new instructions ... of 18 June stated only from 1 October, on the first favorable occasion:
From Jodl's IMT testimony: I never understood the idea of such a group [an accusation by the Prosecution, that the military leaders are supposed to have formed a group with the aim of unleashing wars of aggression and, in the course of these wars, committing crimes against military law and the laws of humanity], and I never shall understand it. It is just as if the passengers of a passenger ship were to meet on an ocean liner, and there form a unit—or be obliged to form a unit—under the authority of the captain. This so-called group of high-ranking officers might possibly have existed in imperial times as an absolute entity, but not entirely even then. But here, after the National Socialist revolution, these groups broke up completely in all spheres of life, politically, philosophically, and ideologically. The goal that united them was the military profession and the necessary obedience . . . .
During that conference [August 10], the Führer spoke to General Staff officers only, and gave them a talk that lasted for about two and a half hours on the whole military and political situation. In particular, he dealt with the Sudeten-German problem, and said that it would have to be solved, no matter what happened. He described the various possibilities and, in particular, made it clear that he intended to solve the question without interference from France and England and was confident he would succeed ... that in the main was the subject . . . .
I know the reason [that the Commanders-in-Chief of the three branches of the Armed Forces and their chiefs were not there] because the Chief Adjutant, Major Schmundt, informed me of it before the conference. He told me that it was the Fuehrer's intention to speak directly to the senior General Staff officers, at a time when they would not be under the influence of their too-critical Commanders-in-Chief, and thus not inclined to balk or criticize . . . .
I could not say that there was criticism [from the General Staff officers]; but one of the generals believed that he could or should draw the Führer's attention to the possibility that France and England might interfere after all, if he did something against Czechoslovakia. That was General von Wietersheim . . . .
The Führer did [exclude the highest military leaders from such conferences] quite often. I would say that he did it on principle. For instance, after our unsuccessful attack on the bridgehead at Nettuno, southwest of Rome, he ordered the junior officers, who were taking part in these battles, from the regimental commanders down to the company commanders, to come to the Führer's headquarters. For days he personally interrogated each one of them alone without their superiors being present. He did the same thing very, very often with Air Force officers, whom he interrogated without the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force present . . . .
As long as, during these orientation conferences on the situation only, things that had already happened were discussed, the Führer was very generous about who took part in them. But as soon as something was discussed which dealt with future operations—for instance, the attack on Russia in 1942—commanding generals of an army group from the Western Front could not take part. Nor was it possible the other way round, so that so far as his intentions were concerned, he would only initiate such officers as had to be informed for official reasons . . . . And so it was that the chief adjutant would announce, on behalf of the Führer, that a discussion among the smallest circle would now take place, in which only such and such officers could take part . . . .
I can say that, not a single conference took place without the old traditional conceptions, if I may call them so, regarding operations coming into conflict with the revolutionary conceptions of the Führer. Therefore, apart perhaps from single operations during the first part of the war, I can state that, whenever a commanding general of an army group made such a report, there was a clash of opinions. I could mention the names of all the commanding generals of army groups who ever held a post. I know of none to whom this would not apply.
[Part Two, Click Here.] Twitter: @3rdReichStudies E-MAIL
Caution: As always, excerpts from
trial testimony should not necessarily be mistaken for fact. It should be
kept in mind that they are the sometimes-desperate statements of
hard-pressed defendants seeking to avoid culpability and shift
responsibility from charges that, should they be found guilty, can possibly
be punishable by death.
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