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As a result of the German defeat in 1918 and the Treaty of Versailles, the size and activities of the German armed forces were severely restricted. The last few years have made it abundantly apparent that these restrictions did not destroy or even seriously undermine German militarism. The full flowering of German military strength came about through collaboration between the Nazis and the career leaders of the German Armed Forces—the professional soldiers, sailors, and airmen. When Hitler came to power in 1933, he did not find a vacuum in the field of military affairs; he found a small Reichswehr and a body of professional officers with a morale and outlook nourished by German military history.
The leaders of these professional officers constitute the group named in the Indictment—the General Staff and High Command of the German Armed Forces. This part of the case concerns that group of men. Needless to say, it is not the prosecution's position that it is a crime to be a soldier or sailor, or to serve one's country as a soldier or sailor in time of war. The profession of arms is an honorable one, and can be honorably practiced. But it is too clear for argument that a man who commits crimes cannot plead as a defense that he committed them in uniform.
It is not in the nature of things, and it is not the prosecution's position, that all members of this group were wicked men, or that they were all equally culpable. But this group not only collaborated with Hitler and supported many Nazi objectives. They furnished one thing which was essential and basic to the success of the Nazi program for Germany-skill and experience in the development and use of armed might.
Why did this group support Hitler and the Nazis? The answer is simple. The answer is that they agreed with the basic objectives of Naziism, and that Hitler gave the generals the opportunity to play a major part in achieving those objectives. The generals, like Hitler, wanted Germany to aggrandize at the expense of neighboring countries, and to do so if necessary by force or threat of force. Force-armed might—was the keystone of the arch, the thing without which nothing else would have been possible.
As they came to power and when they had attained power, the Nazis had two alternatives: to collaborate with and expand the Reichswehr, or to ignore the Reichswehr and build up a separate army of their own. The generals feared that the Nazis might do the latter. So they were the more ready to play along with the Nazis. Moreover, the Nazis offered the generals the chance of achieving much that the generals wished to achieve in the expan
sion of German armies and frontiers. And so the generals climbed onto the Nazi bandwagon. They saw it was going in their direction for the present. No doubt they hoped later to take over the direction themselves. In fact, it was ultimately they who were taken over by the Nazis. Hitler attracted the generals to him with the glitter of conquest and then succeeded in submerging them politically. As the war proceeded they became his tools.
But if the leaders of the Armed Forces became the tools of Naziism, it is not to be supposed that they were unwitting, or that they did not participate fully in many of the actions which are charged as criminal. The willingness, indeed eagerness, of German officers to become partners of the Nazis will be fully developed.
A. Composition and Functions of The General Staff and High Command Group.
During the first World War there was an organization in the German Armed Forces known as the Great General Staff. This name persists in the public mind, but the Grosse Generalstab no longer exists in fact. There has been no such single organization, no single German General Staff, since 1918. But there has of course been a group of men responsible for the policy and acts of the Armed Forces. The fact that these men have no collective name does not prevent us from collecting them together. Men cannot escape the consequences of their collective acts by combining informally instead of formally. The essence of a general staff or a high command lies not in name but in function. And the men comprised within this group do constitute a functional group, welded together by common responsibility, of those officers who had the principal authority and responsibility under Hitler, for the plans and operations of the German armed forces.
(1) Structure and Organization of the German Armed Forces. When the Nazis came to power in 1933 the German Armed Forces were controlled by a Reich Defense Minister, at that time Field Marshall von Blomberg. Subordinate to von Blomberg were the chiefs of the army staff (at that time von Fritsch), and of the naval staff, the defendant Raeder. Owing to the limitations imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles, the German Air Force at that time had no official existence whatsoever.
In May 1935, at the time that military conscription was introduced in Germany, there was a change in the titles of these offices but the structure remained basically the same. Field Marshall von Blomberg remained in supreme command of the armed forces, with the title of Reich Minister for War and Commander-in-Chief of
the Armed Forces. Von Fritsch became Commander-in-Chief of the Army, and Raeder Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. The army and naval staffs were renamed “High Commands”-Oberkommando des Heeres and Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, from which are derived the initials by which they are usually known (OKH and OKM).
The German Air Force came into official and open existence at about this same time, but it was not put under von Blomberg. It was an independent institution under the personal command of Goering, who had the double title of Air Minister and Commanderin-Chief of the Air Force.
In February 1938 a rather fundamental reorganization took place, both in terms of personnel and organizational structure. Although Raeder survived the reshuffle, von Blomberg and von Fritsch were both retired from their positions, and Blomberg's ministry, the War Ministry, was wound up. This ministry had contained a division or department called the Wehrmachtamt or "Armed Forces Department,” the function of which was to coordinate the plans and operations of the Army and Navy. From this Armed Forces Department was formed a new over-all Armed Forces authority, known as the High Command of the Armed Forces-Oberkommando der Wehrmacht-usually known by the initials OKW. As the Air Force as well as the Army and the Navy was subordinated to OKW, coordination of all Armed Forces matters was vested in the OKW, which was in effect Hitler's personal staff for these matters. It combined staff and ministerial functions. Keitel was appointed chief of the OKW. The most important department of OKW was the operations staff, of which Jodl became the chief. Jodl's immediate subordinate was Warlimont, with the title of Deputy Chief of The Armed Forces Operations Staff from 1941. (The genesis of this department is explained in L-79.)
This reorganization and establishment of OKW were embodied in a decree issued by Hitler on 4 February 1938 (1938 RGBI., Part I, page 111): “DECREE ON THE COMMAND OF THE ARMED
FORCES “Command authority over the entire Armed Forces is from now on exercised directly by me personally. “The Armed Forces Department in the Reich War Ministry with its functions becomes "The High Command of the Armed Forces' and comes directly under my command as my military staff. “The head of the Staff of the High Command of the Armed
Forces is the Chief of the former Armed Forces Department,
"The Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor
“(S) Adolf Hitler "The Reich Minister and Chief of the Reich Chancellery
“(S) Dr. Lammers “Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces
“(S) Keitel" Under OKW were the supreme commands of the three branches of the Armed Forces: OKH, OKM, and the Air Force, which did not receive the official designation of Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (OKL) until 1944. Raeder remained after 1938 as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, and von Fritsch was replaced by von Brauchitsch as Commander-in-Chief of the Army. Goering continued as Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force. In 1941 von Brauchitsch was replaced as Commander-in-Chief of the Army by Hitler himself, and Raeder was replaced as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy by Doenitz early in 1943. Goering continued as Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force until the last month of the war, when he was replaced by von Greim.
OKW, OKH, OKM and the Air Force each had its own staff. These four staffs did not have uniform designations; in the case of OKH, the staff was known as the Generalstab (General Staff); in the case of OKW, it was known as the Fuehrungstab (Operations Staff); but in all cases the functions were those of a General Staff in military parlance. It will be seen, therefore, that there was in this war no single German General Staff, but rather four, one for each branch of the service plus one for the OKW as the over-all interservice supreme command.
Under OKH, OKL, and OKM were the various fighting formations of the Army, Air Force and Navy respectively. The largest army field formation was known to the Germans, as it is among the nations generally, as an "army group". An Army group was a headquarters controlling two or more “armies." In some cases,
e.g. in the campaigns in Norway and Greece where only one army was used, “armies” were directly subordinated to OKH, rather than to an "army group." Under the armies come the lower field formations such as corps, divisions, regiments, etc.
In the case of the German Air Force (OKL), the largest formation was known as an "air fleet" (Luftflotte) and the lower units under the air fleet were called “corps" (Fliegerkorps or Jagdkorps) or "divisions" (Fliegerdivisionen or Jagddivisionen).
Under OKM were the various "naval group commands," which controlled all naval operations in a given area, with the exception of the operation of the high seas fleet and the submarines, which by their nature, were too mobile to be restricted to an area command. The Commanders of the fleet and submarines, and certain other specialized units, were directly subordinate to the German Admiralty.
(2) Composition of the Group Charged as Criminal. The group charged in the Indictment (Appendix B) as criminal comprises, first, German officers who held the top positions in the four supreme commands described above; and second, the officers who held the top field commands.
The holders of nine of the principal positions in the supreme commands are included in the group. Four of these are positions of supreme authority: the chief of the OKW, the Commander-inChief of the Army, the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, and the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force. Four other positions are those of the Chiefs of Staff to the four Commanders-in-Chief: the Chief of the Operations Staff of OKW, the Chief of the General Staff of the Army, the Chief of the General Staff of the Air Force, and the Chief of the Naval War Staff. The ninth position is that of Deputy Chief of the Operations Staff of OKW. The particular responsibility of the holder of this office was planning, and for this reason his office has been included in the group.
The group named in the Indictment comprises all individuals who held any of these nine staff positions between February 1938 and the end of the war in May 1945. February 1938 was selected as the opening date because it was in that month that the top organization of the German Armed Forces was reorganized and assumed substantially the form in which it persisted up to the end of the war. Twenty-two different individuals occupied these nine positions during that period, of whom eighteen are still living.
With regard to the officers who held the principal field commands, the Indictment includes as members of the group all Commanders-in-Chief in the field who had the status of Oberbefehls