Wilhelm Bodewin Johann Gustav Keitel (born September 22, 1882 in Helmscherode , † October 16, 1946 in Nuremberg ) was a German army officer ( Field Marshal General from 1940 ) and from 1938 to 1945 chief of the Wehrmacht High Command . He was among the 24 in the Nuremberg Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal accused persons, was discussed on 1 October 1946 in all four counts guilty to death by the strand convicted and nine other condemned on 16 October 1946 in Nuremberg executed .
Empire and First World War
Wilhelm Keitel was the eldest son of the landowner Carl Keitel (1854–1934) from Helmscherode am Harz and his wife Apollonia Vissering (1857–1889), daughter of the farmer and Reichstag member Friedrich Vissering (1826–1885). He spent his childhood on the family estate . The mother died of puerperal fever in 1889 after the birth of her younger brother Bodewin , who later became a general of the infantry . Keitel initially received home tuition and later attended the Humanist Gymnasium in Göttingen , today's Max Planck Gymnasium . His academic achievements were among the class average. Just like his father, Keitel wanted to become a farmer , but this was not possible because the father wanted to continue to cultivate the estate himself. Therefore, after graduating from high school in 1901, he joined the Prussian army , as was customary with landowners' sons. For reasons of class and cost, Keitel decided against the cavalry and for service with the mounted field artillery .
Some historians go into the influence of Keitel's origins. Samuel W. Mitcham and Gene Mueller count his loyal and obedient behavior towards the authorities to the experiences of his youth. The description as “typically Prussian Junker ”, which was widespread in older research, is rejected because he came from a Hanoverian family who were rather critical of the Prussian uniform.
On April 18, 1909, Keitel married Lisa Fontaine, daughter of Anna and Armand Fontaine, who owned the Wülfel manor and the Wülfel brewery in Hanover . The marriage had six children, one of whom died early. In some biographical accounts Lisa Keitel is portrayed as superior to her husband. She had a decisive influence on the course of her husband's career, because until the First World War and later, Keitel did not give up his dream of becoming a farmer on the family estate. After the death of his father on May 10, 1934, he submitted a resignation to the head of the army command, General Werner Freiherr von Fritsch . His decision to remain in the military was not only influenced by a promised promotion, but also by his wife's desire to be the wife of an officer rather than a farmer.
Keitel began his career in the German Empire as a flag junior in the Lower Saxony Field Artillery Regiment No. 46 in Wolfenbüttel. A year later he was appointed lieutenant on a rotating basis . From 1908 he was employed as a regimental adjutant and promoted to first lieutenant in 1910 . At the beginning of the First World War he was wounded by a shrapnel on his right forearm. After his recovery he returned to his regiment as a captain and battery leader. In 1914 he met Major Werner von Blomberg , who had a strong influence on his later professional career. In the spring of 1915 he switched to the General Staff without the usual training . In 1916 he was appointed First General Staff Officer (Ia) in the 19th Reserve Division , and in 1918 as Ia in the Flanders Marine Corps . He was used in the battles of Namur , on the Marne , in the Vosges , temporarily on the Eastern Front , then again at Verdun and finally in Flanders . He was awarded a total of twelve times during the war, including the Knight's Cross of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords.
Even after the end of the war, Keitel remained in the military and was accepted into the Reichswehr . In the Weimar Republic he was initially employed as a tactics teacher at the cavalry school in Hanover. Three years later he was transferred to the staff of the 6th (Prussian) Artillery Regiment . In 1923 he was appointed major . From 1925 to 1927 he was group leader in the Army Organization Department (T 2) in the Troop Office ; In 1927 he was appointed commander of the 2nd Division of the 6th (Prussian) Artillery Regiment and in 1929 promoted to lieutenant colonel. From October 1929 to October 1933 he was again employed in the Reichswehr Ministry, this time as department head "T 2". He participated in the illegal expansion of the Reichswehr , with which in the event of a national emergency there was the possibility of increasing the Reichswehr from 10 to 30 divisions . In 1931 Keitel traveled at least once to the Soviet Union to inspect secret training camps of the Reichswehr.
Mueller describes Keitel as a conscientious and hardworking staff worker, which was also at the expense of his health and led to illness and leave of absence in 1933. During his stay in a Czechoslovak sanatorium in the High Tatras , the so-called " seizure of power " by Adolf Hitler in Germany took place.
time of the nationalsocialism
Pre-war period and promotion to head of the OKW
In October 1933, Keitel returned to military service as Artillery Leader III and deputy commander of the 3rd Division . Although Keitel was supposed to be politically neutral as an officer in the outwardly apolitical Reichswehr, he sympathized with Hitler and National Socialist ideas . Keitel was very impressed by his first meeting with Hitler in July 1933 and his speech on the Tempelhofer Feld in Berlin. In April 1939 he received the Golden Party Badge of the NSDAP , upon acceptance of which he automatically became a member of the party .
On March 1, 1934, Keitel was appointed major general and in October 1934, as Infantry Leader VI and Commander of Bremen, he was charged with setting up the 22nd Infantry Division . On October 1, 1935, he was finally appointed head of the Wehrmacht Office in the Reich Ministry of War . This happened at the instigation of the Chief of the General Staff of the Army, General Ludwig Beck , who was able to assert himself against Reichswehr Minister Blomberg. In the new office, Keitel tried to improve coordination between the army , navy and air force through a joint command staff. But this plan failed because of the resistance of the generals. On January 1, 1936, Keitel was promoted to Lieutenant General and on August 1, 1937 to General of the Artillery .
After the Blomberg-Fritsch crisis and the associated change in the command structure of the Wehrmacht, as the Reichswehr was officially called since 1935, he was appointed Chief of the Wehrmacht High Command (OKW). This office was newly established in the same year and replaced the office of Reich Minister of War, which Hitler personally took over pro forma. The reorganization of the military leadership had been worked out for months by Keitel himself together with the then Colonel Alfred Jodl , with whom he would continue to work closely in the future. As head of the OKW, Keitel was directly subordinate to Hitler. While the operational tasks of warfare were carried out by the Wehrmacht command staff under Alfred Jodl, Keitel's responsibility was the provision of soldiers and military equipment, espionage , the care of prisoners of war and wounded as well as the administration of the Wehrmacht and the army area in which it was active. It was his job to pass on Hitler's orders; after the outbreak of war he also had the task of maintaining contact between Hitler and his generals. Keitel played this mediating role until the end of the Second World War.
Second World War
During the Second World War , as head of the OKW, Keitel was involved in all central military decision-making processes, but mainly acted as Hitler's vicarious agent: he did not initiate any strategy changes . Hitler said after the quick victory in the west ( western campaign in May / June 1940) and after the armistice of France to Keitel: "Now we have shown what we are capable. Believe me, Keitel, a campaign against Russia would be a sandpit game. ”On July 19, 1940, Hitler appointed Keitel - and eleven other generals at the same time - as field marshal . From then on, Keitel only saw it as his job to unconditionally support Hitler's decisions or to assist him, for example with the so-called Commissioner's order of June 6, 1941.
Research emphasizes his diligence and compliance with Hitler. After the conquest of the Benelux countries and France, Keitel coined the term "Greatest General of All Time" for Hitler, who was faked as Gröfaz after Stalingrad . (Original quote: "My Führer, you are the greatest general of all time", pronounced on June 17, 1940, after the French request for an armistice had arrived at Hitler's headquarters.) Keitel was called a "yes-man" by his comrades, and according to Mueller it had fatal consequences for other generals if they were of a dissenting opinion. In the officer corps , Keitel therefore enjoyed little respect and was nicknamed " Lakaitel ".
In the summer of 1942 the second campaign against the Soviet Union also got stuck ( blue case ). This time the Wehrmacht tried to conquer the oil fields in the Caucasus . The German prospects of victory dwindled considerably. At the headquarters in Vinnytsia , Ukraine , there was a discussion with Hitler on September 18, 1942, who let his anger and disappointment run free. Keitel feared that he would be held responsible for the failure and be dismissed. In order to save his position, he tried to shift the blame on Jodl and pursued his replacement. So he accused him of disloyalty to Hitler:
"My Fuehrer , I should like to add that, above all, he was not authorized to reverse an order from you in such a way that he reports to me: The order will not be carried out. I was there. "
War Crimes Responsibility
He supported the instructions to exterminate the Polish elite without protest and defended them against critics. On September 12, 1939, he declared to Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, who was horrified by the mass shootings :
"The matter [was] already decided by the Fiihrer ... who had made it clear to the Ob.dH that if the Wehrmacht didn't want to have anything to do with this, they would have to accept the SS and Gestapo appearing next to them." Therefore, in every military district, civil commanders would also be deployed in addition to the military, and the latter would be responsible for the 'national extermination'. "
After the attack by the Wehrmacht on the Soviet Union , on July 27, 1941, Keitel ordered the area still to be conquered to be subordinate to the Reichsführer SS . That was the prerequisite for the mass shooting of hundreds of thousands of Jews , which the Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police and SD carried out in the rear of the army from the summer of 1941 .
"As atonement for a German soldier's life, the death penalty for 50 to 100 communists must generally be considered appropriate in these cases."
"The troops are therefore entitled and obliged to use every means in this struggle without restriction against women and children, if only it leads to success."
Keitel was not involved in the decision-making processes that led to the criminal orders in preparation for Operation Barbarossa . However, he signed several orders that ordered or approved mass murder . These include the Commissar's Order of June 6, 1941 and the Night and Fog Decree of December 7, 1941. On September 12, 1941, he instructed the troops in a secret order:
In addition, he passed Hitler's orders to hold out during and after the Battle of Stalingrad without hesitation and unconditionally committed himself to the idea of restoring the fighting morale of the troops by educating them to believe in the “genius of the Führer”.
Final phase of the war and surrender of the Wehrmacht
In the assassination attempt on July 20, 1944 in Wolfschanze , Keitel was present during the meeting in the barracks. He then helped Hitler, who was only slightly injured, out of the ruins of the barracks. He then issued telephone orders to pursue the conspirators. He then became a member of the so-called court of honor of the Wehrmacht , which decided on the expulsion of officers involved in the assassination plan from the Wehrmacht so that they could be tried by the People's Court .
Only in the last weeks of the war did the OKW also take on the operational management tasks, which were no longer of great importance for the course of events. On the night of May 8th to 9th 1945, Keitel signed the unconditional surrender of the Wehrmacht together with Admiral General Hans-Georg von Friedeburg and Colonel General Hans-Jürgen Stumpff at the Soviet headquarters in Berlin-Karlshorst .
Arrest and trial
On May 13, 1945, Keitel was arrested by the Allies in Flensburg and together with other high-ranking members of the Wehrmacht and members of the NSDAP hierarchy, he was sent to POW camp No. 32 ( Camp Ashcan ) in Bad Mondorf , Luxembourg . In August 1945 he was transferred to Nuremberg . While in custody, Keitel wrote memoirs that were published in 1998 under the title My Life - Duty to Doom . They are considered unreliable and exculpatory.
Along with 23 others, he was charged in the process . On all four counts he was found guilty of individually contributing to the following offenses:
- Conspiracy to plan a war of aggression ,
- Crimes against peace by attacking other countries
- War crimes such as the command order, the commissioner order , the night and fog orders , the atonement order of September 16, 1941, the murder of prisoners of war, forced labor of prisoners of war and civilians, looting of public and private property ( red folder ), the murder of the Polish elite and others. a.
- Crimes against humanity .
According to the indictment, he was particularly responsible for the involvement of the Wehrmacht as an institution in the criminal actions of the Nazi regime.
On October 1, 1946, he was sentenced to death by hanging and executed with nine other convicts on October 16, 1946 in the Nuremberg judicial prison. The body was cremated a day later in the municipal crematorium in Munich's Ostfriedhof and the ashes were scattered in the Wenzbach , a tributary of the Isar .
Military career (overview)
|October 14, 1901||Ensign|
|August 18, 1902||lieutenant|
|August 18, 1910||First lieutenant|
|October 8, 1914||Captain|
|June 1, 1923||major|
|February 1, 1929||Lieutenant colonel|
|October 1, 1931||Colonel|
|April 1, 1934||Major general|
|January 1, 1936||Lieutenant General|
|August 1, 1937||General of the artillery|
|November 1, 1938||Colonel General|
|July 19, 1940||Field Marshal General|
An archive can be found for example,
- in the Federal Archives an extensive estate from the property of the Keitel family under the signature BArch N 54 / Keitel, Wilhelm
- Field Marshal General Keitel - Criminal or Officer? Memories, letters, documents from the chief OKW . Ed .: Walter Görlitz . Muster-Schmidt, Göttingen / West Berlin / Frankfurt am Main 1961, DNB 573493642 (posthumous).
- My life - fulfillment of duty until the end. Hitler's General Field Marshal and Chief of the High Command of the Wehrmacht in personal testimonies . Ed .: Werner Maser . Edition q, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-86124-353-9 (posthumous).
- Keitel in Nuremberg. Statement by the General Field Marshal and Chief of the High Command of the Wehrmacht on various charges in the Nuremberg trial . Ed .: Hans-Joachim Keitel. Verlag Bublies, Beltheim 2002, ISBN 3-926584-90-4 (posthumous).
- Michael Bertram: The image of Nazi rule in the memoirs of leading generals of the Third Reich - a critical investigation. Ibidem-Verlag, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 978-3-8382-0034-7 .
- The trial of the major war criminals before the International Military Tribunal. Nuremberg November 14, 1945 - October 1, 1946. Nuremberg International Military Court [official text in German]. Delphin, Munich / Zurich 1948, ISBN 3-7735-2511-7 (reprint 1984).
- Karl-Heinz Janßen, Fritz Tobias: The fall of the generals. CH Beck. Munich 1994. ISBN 3-406-38109-X .
- Guido Knopp , Christian Dick: The Assistant. In: Guido Knopp: Hitler's warriors. C. Bertelsmann, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-570-00265-9 . Pp. 93-156.
- Samuel W. Mitcham Jr. : Field Marshal General Wilhelm Keitel. In: Gerd R. Ueberschär (ed.): Hitler's military elite. Volume 1. Primus, Darmstadt 1998, ISBN 3-89678-083-2 , pp. 112-120.
- Gene Mueller: Wilhelm Keitel. The obedient soldier. In: Ronald Smelser , Enrico Syring (ed.): The military elite of the Third Reich. 27 biographical sketches. Ullstein, Berlin / Frankfurt am Main 1995, ISBN 3-550-07080-2 , pp. 251-269.
- Kirstin A. Schäfer: Werner von Blomberg. Hitler's first field marshal. Schöningh, Paderborn 2006, ISBN 3-506-71391-4 .
- Gerd R. Ueberschär , Winfried Vogel: Serve and earn. Hitler's gifts to his elites. Fischer-TB 14966, Frankfurt am Main 2000, ISBN 3-596-14966-5 .
- Thilo Vogelsang: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 11, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1977, ISBN 3-428-00192-3 , p. 412 f. ( ). In:
- Robert S. Wistrich : Who was who in the Third Reich. A biographical lexicon. Supporters, followers, opponents from politics, business, military, art and science. (Original title: Who's Who in Nazi Germany. Translated by Joachim Rehork, revised and expanded by Hermann Weiß). Harnack, Munich 1983, ISBN 3-88966-004-5 , p. 53 f.
- Literature by and about Wilhelm Keitel in the catalog of the German National Library
- Newspaper article about Wilhelm Keitel in the 20th century press kit of the ZBW - Leibniz Information Center for Economics .
- Wilhelm Keitel. Tabular curriculum vitae in the LeMO ( DHM and HdG )
- Hubert Beckers: Wilhelm Keitel (1882–1946) on Zukunft-bendet-erinnerung.de .
- Wilhelm Keitel: My life. Fulfillment of duty until the end. Hitler's General Field Marshal and Chief of the High Command of the Wehrmacht in testimonials , ed. by Werner Maser , Berlin 1998, pp. 31-34; Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr .: Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel. In: Gerd R. Ueberschär (ed.): Hitler's military elite. Volume 1, Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1998, p. 112 f.
- See e.g. B. Walter Görlitz : Keitel, Jodl, and Warlimont. In: Correlli Barnett (Ed.): Hitler's Generals. Grove Weidenfeld, New York 1989, p. 139.
- Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr .: Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel. In: Gerd R. Ueberschär (ed.): Hitler's military elite. Volume 1, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1998, pp. 251-269; Gene Mueller: Wilhelm Keitel. The obedient soldier. In: Ronald Smelser, Enrico Syring (ed.): The military elite of the Third Reich. 27 biographical sketches. Berlin 1995, p. 251.
- Walter Görlitz: Field Marshal General Keitel. Criminal or officer? Memories, letters, documents from the chief OKW. Berlin u. a. 1961, pp. 17-26; Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr .: Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel. In: Gerd R. Ueberschär (ed.): Hitler's military elite. Volume 1, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1998, pp. 112–114.
- Ranking list of the German Imperial Army . Ed .: Reichswehr Ministry . Mittler & Sohn Verlag, Berlin 1930, p. 115.
- Gene Mueller: Wilhelm Keitel. The obedient soldier. In: Ronald Smelser, Enrico Syring (ed.): The military elite of the Third Reich. 27 biographical sketches. Berlin 1995, p. 254.
- Wilhelm Keitel: My life. Fulfillment of duty until the end. Hitler's General Field Marshal and Chief of the High Command of the Wehrmacht in testimonials , ed. by Werner Maser , Berlin 1998, pp. 171f.
- Robert S. Wistrich : Who was who in the Third Reich. Supporters, followers, opponents from politics, business, military, art and science . Harnack-Verlag, Munich 1983, ISBN 3-88966-004-5 , p. 154.
- Wilhelm Deist, Manfred Messerschmidt, Hans-Erich Volkmann and Wolfram Wette: The German Empire and the Second World War . Volume 1: Causes and Requirements of German War Policy. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt , Stuttgart 1979, p. 507.
- Wilhelm Deist, Manfred Messerschmidt, Hans-Erich Volkmann, Wolfram Wette: The German Reich and the Second World War. Volume 1: Causes and Requirements of German War Policy. Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1979, p. 508 f.
- Quotation from Guido Knopp : The Wehrmacht. A balance sheet. Munich, 3rd edition 2007, p. 76.
- See Ian Kershaw: Hitler. 1936-1945 . DVA, Stuttgart 2000, p. 474 f.
- Hubert Beckers: Wilhelm Keitel (1882–1946) on Zukunft-bendet-erinnerung.de .
- ... absolutely unworthy . In: Die Zeit , No. 14/1997.
- Gerd R. Ueberschär , Winfried Vogel : Serving and earning. Hitler's gifts to his elites. Frankfurt 1999. ISBN 3-10-086002-0 .
- Johannes Hürter and Matthias Uhl : Hitler in Vinnica. A new document on the crisis in September 1942 . In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 63, issue 4 (2016), pp. 581–639, the quotation p. 613.
- Martin Broszat : National Socialist Poland Policy 1939–1945. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1965, p. 20.
- Nuremberg Trial, morning session, July 27, 1946, official German version, zeno.org
- Judgment of Keitel at the Nuremberg Trial of the Major War Criminals in the official German translation
- Hostage Case Nuremberg, Judgment 1948, pdf, English
- Helmut Krausnick, Hans-Heinrich Wilhelm: The troop of the Weltanschauung war. The Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police and SD 1938–1942. Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1981, p. 513.
- To this Jürgen Förster: Criminal orders . In: Wolfram Wette, Gerd Ueberschär (Ed.), War Crimes in the 20th Century . Darmstadt 2001, pp. 137–151.
- Quote from Ernst Klee : The dictionary of persons on the Third Reich. Who was what before and after 1945. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Second updated edition, Frankfurt am Main 2005, ISBN 3-596-16048-0 , p. 303.
- Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr .: Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel. In: Gerd R. Ueberschär (ed.): Hitler's military elite. Volume 1, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1998, pp. 116–118; Gene Mueller: Wilhelm Keitel. The obedient soldier. In: Ronald Smelser, Enrico Syring (ed.): The military elite of the Third Reich. 27 biographical sketches. Berlin 1995, pp. 261-263; Robert Wistrich: Who was who in the Third Reich. Supporters, followers, opponents from politics, business, military, art and science. Harnack, Munich 1983, p. 154.
- Johannes Hürter and Matthias Uhl: Hitler in Vinnica. A new document on the crisis in September 1942 . In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 63, Heft 4 (2016), pp. 581–639, here p. 597.
- The Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg , Zeno.org, accessed on May 26, 2015.
- Thomas Darnstädt : A stroke of luck in history . In: Der Spiegel . No. 14 , 2005, pp. 128 ( online ).
- Federal Archives Freiburg: Estate Wilhelm Keitel / Introduction ( Memento from June 3, 2016)
|ALTERNATIVE NAMES||Keitel, Wilhelm Bodewin Johann Gustav (full name)|
|BRIEF DESCRIPTION||German Field Marshal General in the Third Reich|
|DATE OF BIRTH||September 22, 1882|
|PLACE OF BIRTH||Helmscherode near Bad Gandersheim|
|DATE OF DEATH||October 16, 1946|
|Place of death||Nuremberg|