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One must remember the observation before this Tribunal of SS Obergruppenfuehrer Bach-Zelewsky, who pointed out that:110
“when for years, for decades, the doctrines are preached that the Slavic race is an inferior race and Jews not even human, then such an explosion is inevitable."
The defense of these chargès is the same as in the case of the commando order. A mass of affidavits have been submitted by individual commanders-in-chief and subordinate officers in which they express their abhorrence of these orders and profess that they did not execute them. Again we hear of tacit understandings, even in the face of evidence as to the slaughter which the orders caused. It makes one gasp that such a defense can be put forward, apparently without shame.
Again I say that the responsibility lies squarely on the group specified in the Indictment. Keitel, Jodl, Brauchitsch, Goering, and their colleagues at the center of affairs circulated these malignant orders, the base criminality of which a child could see. Kleist, Kluge, Rundstedt, Reichenau, Schobert, Manstein and the other field commanders-in-chief distributed them to their subordinate officers. No secret agreements could forestall the terrible results which followed inevitably.
Is it really too much to ask that the commanders-in-chief should have refused to distribute these orders? As soldiers they were bound to obey their supreme commander, but their own law and code says that it is the duty of every soldier to refuse to obey orders that he knows to be criminal. This is hard for the ordinary soldier, acting under pistol-point orders from his lieutenant. It is far less difficult for the commander-in-chief. He is expected to be mature, educated, accustomed to responsibility, and disciplined to be steady and unflinching when put to a test. Under their own law and under the traditions they are so shameless as still to vaunt, the leaders were in duty bound to reject the orders. Their failure caused suffering and death to hundreds of thousands; their failure resulted directly in countless murders and other brutal crimes; and they, far more than the soldiers whom these orders led into crime, are the real criminals.
Hitler needed the commanders-in-chief; he needed them desperately and would have been helpless without them.111 They could have held securely and firmly to the standards which every soldier and, indeed every man, is expected to meet. And it was not, in most cases, fear of Hitler that caused them to betray these standards. They were ready enough to disagree with Hitler on other matters which they regarded as more important. They did not want to risk a breach with Hitler over what they callously regarded as a minor matter. They were intent on "larger" thingsthe conquest of Europe on which they and Hitler were in agreement.
Some of the military leaders, we cannot tell how many, were willing to go much farther and to stand sponsor for Nazi ideology. Reichenau 112 and Manstein113 lent their names and prestige shamelessly in order to advance these vile doctrines. We cannot capture all the orders; we cannot tell how many German commanders-inchief there are who, like Manstein, unctuously protesting their disapproval of Nazi doctrine, could be confronted with their own nauseating manifestos.114
We may assume, for the sake of argument, that many German commanders-in-chief disliked the pattern of orders and doctrines which the evidence here has unfolded. He who touches filth is not excused because he holds his nose. For reasons which appeared to them sufficient, the German military leaders helped to weave this pattern. It is just this calculated indifference to crime which makes their conduct so unspeakable. These individual commanders-in-chief, if any, who can show clean hands may come forth and clear themselves. But the military leaders as a group, I submit, are proved beyond doubt to have participated directly, effectively, and knowingly in numerous and wide-spread war crimes and crimes against humanity.
III. Conclusion Under Articles 9 and 10 of the London Agreement for the trial of major war criminals, Keitel and Raeder and the other military defendants are on trial not only as individuals but as representatives of the German military leadership. The military defendants committed their crimes as military leaders and hand-in-hand with others. It is in their representative capacity that the military leaders in the dock are truly important.
The evidence against this group is so complete and compelling that their attempts at defense must be desperately and inconsistently contrived. When called to account as a group for their crimes, the famous German General Staff disintegrates, like a child's puzzle thrown on the floor, into 130 separate pieces. We are told that there was nothing there. Called upon to state their views on Hitler, aggressive war, or any other unpleasant subject, the pieces reassemble themselves into pattern instantly and magically. With true German discipline, the same words come from every mouth.
When the question is the participation of the Wehrmacht in killing Jews, they indignantly deny that their soldiers would do such things.115 When the question is the enforcement of law and discipline within the Wehrmacht, we are met by affidavits saying that German soldiers who killed Jews were court martialed and shot.110 Charged with responsibility as a group, they plead immunity on the ground that they could not resign and that their status was therefore involuntary. Seeking to establish that they disapproved the policies of Hitler, they boast that many of their number who expressed their opposition were allowed or requested to resign. The inconsistency of their appeal to the soldier's oath of obedience is particularly shameless. Charged with launching aggressive wars against neighboring countries, they plead the oath in their defense. Accused of crimes committed during the war, they take credit to themselves for refusing to obey criminal orders. And so it is represented that the soldier who in time of peace was completely bound by his oath to give unquestioning obedience, regardless of consequences, to a perjured head of state, could nevertheless, when his country was at war and obedience supposedly far more necessary, dabble in secret disobedience and thereby shift the blame and responsibility for the murder of commandos and commissars onto other shoulders.
Let us look once more at these military leaders whose actions we have just examined. They are a group in more ways than one. They are more than a group; they are a class, almost a caste. They are a course of thought and a way of life. They have distinctive qualities of mind, which have been noted and commented upon by the rest of the world for many decades, and have their roots in centuries. They have been a historical force, and are still to be reckoned with. They are proud of it.
To escape the consequences of their actions, these men now deny all this. But in their very denial, the truth is apparent. Their group spirit and unity of outlook and purpose is so deep that it drops from their lips willy-nilly. Read their testimony; always they refer to themselves as "we" or "we old soldiers," and they are forever stating “our” attitude on this or that subject. Rundstedt's testimony is full of such expressions of the attitude of the German military leaders as a group on a great variety of questions.117 Manstein told us that "we soldiers mistrusted all parties"; "we all considered ourselves the trustees of the unity of Germany''; and "The National Socialist aim of unification was according to our attitude, but not the National Socialist methods.118
What are the characteristics of the German military leaders ? They have been familiar to students of history for a long time; books have been written by them and about them. They are manifest in the documents and testimony before the Tribunal.
They are careful observers of Germany's internal politics, but their traditional and policy is not to identify themselves with parties or internal political movements. This is the only true note in the refrain, sung so often at this trial, that "we were soldiers and not politicians.” They regard themselves as above politics and politicians. They are concerned only with what they con
sider to be the deeper, unchanging interests of Germany as a nation. As Manstein put it:119
“We soldiers mistrusted all parties because every party in Germany placed its own interests above the interest of Germany. We all considered ourselves the trustees of the Unity of Germany in this respect *
The German military leaders are deeply interested in foreign politics and diplomacy. Any intelligent professional officer must be. Training is conducted, equipment is built, and plans are evolved in the light of what is known about the military potential and intentions of other countries. No officers in the world were more aware of this than the Germans; none studied the international scene as closely or with such cold calculation.120 their mentor, Clausewitz, who described war as an instrument of politics.
The German military leaders want Germany to be free from political fluctuations, and a government which will mobilize German resources behind the Wehrmacht and inculcate in the German public the spirit and purposes of militarism. This is what Rundstedt meant when he said that: “The National Socialist ideas which were good were usually ideas which were carried over from old Prussian times and we had known already without the National Socialists." This is what Manstein meant by the "unity" of Germany. 122
The German military leaders believe in war. They regard it as part of a normal, well-rounded life. Manstein told us from the witness box123 that they "naturally considered the glory of war as something great." The "considered opinion" of OKW in 1938 re
. cited that:124
"Despite all attempts to outlaw it, war is still a law of nature which may be challenged but not eliminated. It serves the survival of the race and state or the assurance of its historical future.
"This high moral purpose gives war its total character and its ethical justification.”
These characteristics of the German military leaders are deep and permanent. They have been bad for the world, and bad for Germany too. Their philosophy is so perverse that they regard a lost war, and a defeated and prostrate Germany, as a glorious opportunity to start again on the same terrible cycle. Their attitude of mind is nowhere better set forth than in a speech delivered by General Beck before the German War Academy in 1935.126 The audience of young officers was told that “the hour of death of our old magnificent army" in 1919 "led to the new life of the young Reichswehr,” and that the German Army returned from the first world war "crowned with the laurels of immortality." Later on they were told that if the military leaders have displayed intelligence and courage, then losing a war "is ennobled by the pride of a glorious fall.” In conclusion, they are reminded that Germany is a "military-minded nation” and are exhorted to remember "the duty which they owe to the man who re-created and made strong again the German Wehrmacht."
In 1935, that man was Hitler. In previous years it was other men. The German militarist will join forces with any man or government that offers fair prospect of effective support for military exploits. Men who believe in war as a way of life learn nothing from the experience of losing one.
I have painted this picture of the German military leaders not because it is an unfamiliar one, but because it is so familar that it may be in danger of being overlooked. We must not become preoccupied with the niceties of a chart or details of military organization at the expense of far more important things which are matters of common knowledge. The whole world has long known about and suffered at the hands of the German military leadership. Its qualities and conduct are open and notorious. Is the world now to be told that there is no such group? Is it to hear that the German war-lords cannot be judged because they were a bunch of conscripts? We have had to deal seriously with such arguments only because there are no others.
That the case against the German militarists is clear does not make it the less important. We are at grips here with something big and evil and durable; something that was not born in 1933 or even 1921; something much older than anyone here; something far more important than any individual in the dock; something that is not yet dead and that cannot be killed by a rifle or a hangman's noose.
For nine months this court room has been a world of gas chambers, mountains of corpses,' human-skin lampshades, shrunken skulls, freezing experiments, and bank vaults filled with gold teeth. It is vital to the conscience of the world that all the participants in these enormities shall be brought to justice. But these exhibits, gruesome as they are, do not lie at the heart of this case. Little will be accomplished by shaking the poisoned fruit from the tree. It is much harder to dig the tree up by the roots, but only this will, in the long run, do much good.
The tree. which bore this fruit is German militarism. Militarism was as much the core of the Nazi party as of the Wehrmacht itself. Militarism is not the profession of arms. Militarism is embodied in the military-minded nation" whose leaders preach and practice conquest by force of arms, and relish war as something desirable in itself. Militarism inevitably leads to cyn