|Source: Nazi Conspiracy and Aggresion. Vol. II. USGPO,
Washington, 1946, pp.316-400
[Note: The characters in brackets, eg, (2233-N-PS)
refer to the official document numbers included in the series Nazi Conspiracy and
Aggression. A list of legal references and documents relating to the General Staff
and High Command appears on pages 400-415. For information on the referencing of
Internet sources see Chapter 4 of S D Stein Learning, Teaching and Researching on the
Internet. Addison Wesley Longman 1999-published Nov.1998]
Error Submission Form
The General Staff and High
of the Armed Forces
The Nuremberg Charges
Criminal Activities of the General Staff and
High Command Group
Planning and Launching of Wars of Aggression [Omitted]
War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity
Murder of Commandos, Paratroopers and Members
of Military Missions (part i)
B. Criminal Activities of the General Staff
and High Command Group.
The General Staff and High Command group is well represented among the individual
defendants in this case. It must be kept in mind that this group may be declared criminal
in connection with any act of which an individual defendant who is a member of the group
may be convicted (Charter, Article 9). Five of the individual defendants, or one-quarter
of the total number accused, are members of this group.
In the order of listing in the indictments, the first is Goering. Goering is a defendant in
this case in numerous capacities. He is a member of the General Staff and High Command
group by reason of having been the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force from the time when
the Air Force first came into the open, and was officially established, until about a
month prior to the end of the war. During the last month of the war he was replaced in
this capacity by von Greim, who committed suicide shortly after his capture at the end of
the war. Goering is charged with crimes under all counts of the Indictment.
The next listed defendant who is a member of the group is Keitel. He and the remaining three defendants
who are members of the group are all four in this case primarily or solely in their
military capacities, and all four of them were professional soldiers or sailors. Keitel
was made the chief of the High Command of the German Armed Forces (OKW) when the OKW was
first set up in 1938, and remained in that capacity throughout the period in question. He
held the rank of Field Marshall throughout most of this period, and in addition to being
the Chief of OKW, he was a member of the Secret Cabinet Council and of the Council of
Ministers for the Defense of the Reich. Keitel is charged with crimes under all four
counts of the Indictment.
The defendant Jodl was a career
soldier; he was an Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel) when the Nazis came to
power, and ultimately attained the rank of Generaloberst (Colonel General). He
became the Chief of the Operations Staff of the Wehrmacht, and continued in that
capacity throughout the war. He also is charged with crimes under all four counts of the
The defendant Raeder is in a
sense the senior member of the entire group, having been Commander-in-Chief of the German
Navy as early as 1928. He attained the highest rank in the German Navy, Grossadmiral, and
in addition to being Commander-in-Chief of the Navy he was a member of the Secret Cabinet
Council. He retired from Supreme Command of the Navy in January 1943, and was replaced by Doenitz. Raeder is charged with crimes
under counts 1,2, and 3 of the Indictment.
The last of these five defendants, Doenitz, was a relatively junior officer when the
Nazis came to power. During the early years of the Nazi regime he specialized in submarine
activities and was in command of the U-boat arm when the war broke out. He rose steadily
in the Navy and was chosen to succeed Raeder when the latter retired in 1943. Doenitz then
became Commander-in-Chief of the Navy and attained the rank of Grossadmiral. When
the German Armed Forces collapsed near the end of the war, Doenitz succeeded Hitler as
head of the German government. He is charged with crimes under counts 1, 2, and 3 of the
Four of these five defendants are reasonably typical of the group as a whole. Goering
is an exception: he is primarily a Nazi party politician nourishing a hobby for aviation
as a result of his career in 1914-18. But the others made soldiering or sailoring their
life work. They collaborated with and joined in the most important adventures of the
Nazis, but they were not among the early party members. They differ in no essential
respect from the other 125 odd members of the group. They are, no doubt, abler men in
certain respects than some of the other members, as they rose to the highest positions in
the German Armed Forces, and all but Jodl attained the highest rank. But they are
generally representative of the group, and their expressed ideas and actions are fairly
characteristic of those of the other group members.
It is not, of course, the prosecution's position, and it is not essential to its case,
that all 130 members of this group, (or all the members of any other organization or group
named in the Indictment) , actually committed crimes, under Article 6 of the Charter.
It is the prosecution's position that the leadership of the group and the purposes to
which the group was committed by the leaders were criminal under Article 6. The individual
defendants were among the leaders of the General Staff and High Command group, and, acting
in the official capacities which made them members of the group, they performed and
participated in acts which are criminal under Article 6 of the Charter. Other members of
the group performed such acts. The German Armed Forces were so completely under the
group's control as to make the group responsible for their activities under the last
sentence of Article 6 of the Charter.
(2) War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.
It is proposed to show that members of the General Staff and High Command Group,
including the five defendants who are members of the Group, ordered and directed the
commission of War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity, as defined in the Indictment. It is
also proposed to show, in certain instances, the actual commission of war crimes by
members of the German Armed Forces, as a result of these orders, or as a result of other
orders or arrangements made by members of the General Staff and High Command Group, which
controlled the German Armed Forces and bears responsibility for war crimes committed by
It is not proposed, however, to make a full showing of war crimes committed by the
German Armed Forces. The full presentation of this evidence is to be made, pursuant to
agreement among the Chief Prosecutors, by the French and Soviet delegations.
It will be shown that the General Staff and High Command became wedded to a policy of
terror. In some cases, where the evidence of this policy is in documentary form, the
activating papers which were signed by, initialed by, and circulated among the members of
the Group will be presented. In other instances, where the actual crimes were committed by
others than members of the German Armed Forces (where, for example prisoners of war or
civilians were handed over to and mistreated or murdered by the SS or SD), it will be
shown that members of the Group were well aware that they were assisting in the commission
of war crimes. It will be shown that many crimes committed by the
SS or SD were committed
with the knowledge and necessary support of the General Staff and High Command, and that
frequently members of the German Armed Forces acted in conjunction with the SS and SD in
carrying out tasks then known by such respectable-sounding terms as
"pacification," "cleansing," and "elimination of insecure
(a) Murder of Commandos, Paratroopers, and
Members of Military Missions.
This story starts with an order issued by Hitler on 18 October 1942 (498-PS). The order began with a recital that
allied commandos were using methods of warfare alleged to be outside the scope of the
Geneva Conventions, and thereafter proceeded to specify the methods of warfare which
German troops should use against allied commandos, and the disposition which should be
made of captured commandos. This order reads as follows:
"1. For some time our enemies. have been using in their warfare methods which are
outside the international Geneva Conventions. Especially brutal and treacherous is the
behavior of the so-called commandos, who, as is established, are partially recruited
even from freed criminals in enemy countries. From captured orders it is divulged that
they are directed not only to shackle prisoners, but also to kill defenseless prisoners on
the spot at the moment in which they believe that the latter as prisoners represent a
burden in the further pursuit of their purposes or could otherwise be a hindrance.
Finally, orders have been found in which the killing of prisoners has been demanded in
"2. For this reason it was already announced in an addendum to the Armed Forces
report of 7 October 1942, that in the future, Germany, in the face of these sabotage
troops of the British and their accomplices, will resort to the same procedure, i. e.,
that they will be ruthlessly mowed down by the German troops in combat, wherever they may
"3. I therefore order:
From now on all enemies on so-called Commando missions in Europe or Africa challenged by
German troops, even if they are to all appearances soldiers in uniform or demolition
troops, whether armed or unarmed, in battle or in flight, are to be slaughtered to the
last man. It does not make any difference whether they are landed from ships and
aeroplanes for their actions, or whether they are dropped by parachute. Even if these
individuals, when found, should apparently be prepared to give themselves up, no pardon is
to be granted them on principle. In each individual case full information is to be sent to
the OKW, for publication in the Report of the Military, Forces.
"4. If individual members of such commandos, such as agents, saboteurs, etc. fall
into the hands of the military forces by some other means, through the police in occupied
territories for instance, they are to be handed over immediately to the SD. Any
imprisonment under military guard, in PW Stockades for instance, etc., is strictly
prohibited, even if this is only intended for a short time.
"5. This order does not apply to the treatment of any enemy soldiers who in
the course of normal hostilities (large-scale offensive actions, landing operations and
airborne operations) are captured in open battle or give themselves up. Nor does this
order apply to enemy soldiers falling into our hands after battles at sea, or enemy
soldiers trying to save their lives by parachute after battles.
"6.I will hold responsible under Military Law, for failing to carry out this
order, all commanders and officers who either have neglected their duty of instructing the
troops about this order, or acted against this order where it was to be executed.
"( S) Adolf Hitler" (498-PS).
This order was issued by the OKW in twelve copies, and the distribution included the
three supreme commands and the principal field commands. (498-PS)
On the same day Hitler issued a supplementary order (503-PS)
for the purpose of explaining the reasons for the issuance of the basic order. In this
explanation, Hitler pointed out that allied commando operations had been extraordinarily
successful in the destruction of rear communications, intimidation of laborers, and
destruction of important war plants in occupied areas. Among other things Hitler stated in
this explanation :
"Added to the decree concerning the destruction of terror and sabotage troops (OKW/
WFst No. 003830/ 42 Top Secret of 18 October 1942) a supplementary order of the
Fuehrer is enclosed.
"This order is intended for commanders only and must not under any circumstances
fall into enemy hands.
"The' further distribution is to be limited accordingly by the receiving bureaus.
"The bureaus named in the distribution list are held responsible, for the return and
destruction of all distributed pieces of the order and copies made thereof.
"The Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces
"By order of
"I have been compelled to issue strict orders for the destruction of enemy
sabotage troops and to declare noncompliance with these orders severely punishable. I deem
it necessary to announce to the competent commanding officers and commanders the reasons
for this decree.
"As in no previous war, a method of destruction of communications behind the
front, intimidation of the populace working for Germany, as well as the destruction of
war-important industrial plants in territories occupied by us has been developed in this
"The consequences of these activities are of extraordinary weight. I do not know
whether each commander and officer is cognizant of the fact that the destruction of
one single electric power plant, for instance, can deprive the Luftwaffe of many
thousand tons of aluminum, thereby eliminating the construction of countless aircraft that
will be missed in the fight at the front and so contribute to serious damage of the
Homeland as well as bloody losses of the fighting soldiers.
"Yet this form of war is completely without danger for the adversary. Since he
lands his sabotage troops in uniform but at the same time supplies them with civilian
clothes, they can, according to need, appear as soldiers or civilians. While they
themselves have orders to ruthlessly remove any German soldiers or even natives who get in
their way, they run no danger of suffering really serious losses in their operations,
since at the worst, if they are caught, they can immediately surrender and thus believe
that they will theoretically fall under the provisions of the Geneva Convention. There is
no doubt, however, that this is a misuse in the worst form of the Geneva agreements,
especially since part of these elements are even criminals, liberated from prisons, who
can rehabili-tate themselves through these activities.
"England and America will therefore always be able to find volunteers for this
kind of warfare as long as they can truthfully assure them that there is no danger of loss
of life for them. At worse, all they have to do is to successfully commit their attack on
people, traffic installations, or other installations, and upon being encountered by the
enemy, to capitulate. "If the German conduct of war is not to suffer grievous damage
through these incidents, it must be made clear to the adversary that all sabotage troops
will be exterminated, without exception, to the last man.
"This means that their chance of escaping with their lives is nil. Under no
circumstances can it be permitted, therefore, that a dynamite, sabotage, or terrorist unit
simply al-lows itself to be captured, expecting to be treated according to rules of the
Geneva Convention. It must under all circumstances be ruthlessly exterminated.
"The report on this subject appearing in the Armed Forces communique will briefly
and laconically state that a sabotage; terror, or destruction unit has been encountered
and exterminated to the last man.
"I therefore expect the commanding officers of armies subordinated to them as well
as individual commanders not only to realize the necessity of taking such measures, but to
carry out this order with all energy. Officers and noncommissioned officers who fail
through some weakness are to be reported without fail, or under circumstances when, there
is danger in delay to be at once made strictly accountable. The Homeland as well as the
fighting soldier at the front has the right to expect that behind their back the
essentials of nourishment as well as the supply of war-important weapons and ammuni-tion
"These are the reasons for the issuance of this decree.
"If it should become necessary, for reasons of interrogation, to initially spare
one man or two, then they are to be shot immediately after interrogation.
" (signed) A. Hitler" (503-PS).
Ten days later, on 28 October 1942, while Raeder was Commander-in-chief of the Germany
Navy, the Naval War Staff in Berlin transmitted its copy of the basic order of 18 October
to the lower Naval commands. The copy distributed by the Navy and the covering memorandum
from the Naval War Staff (C-179) shows clearly the secrecy which surrounded the
dissemination of this order:
"Enclosed pleased find a Fuehrer Order regarding annihilation of terror and
"This order must .not be distributed in writing by Flotilla leaders, Section
Commanders or officers of this rank.
"After verbal distribution to subordinate sections the above authorities must hand
this order over to the next highest section which is responsible for its confiscation and
" (s) Wagner" (C-1 79).
"Note for Distribution:
"These instructions are not to be distributed over and above the battalions and
corresponding staffs of the other services. After notification, those copies distributed
over and above the Regimental and corresponding staffs of the other services must be
withdrawn and destroyed." (C-l 79)
On 11 February 1943, just twelve days after Doenitz had become Commander-in-Chief of
the German Navy, the Naval War Staff promulgated a further memorandum on this subject in
order to clear up certain misunderstandings as to the scope of the basic order of 18
October 1942 (C-178). It was stated in this subsequent memorandum that all commanders and
officers who neglected their duty in failing to instruct their units concerning the order
would run the risk of serious court martial penalties :
"From the notice given by 3/ SKL [Naval War Staff] on February 1st 43, it has been
discovered that the competent departments of the General Staff of the Army, as well as
those of the Air Force Operations Staff have a wrong conception regarding the treatment of
saboteurs. A telephone inquiry at 3/ SKL proved that this Naval authority was not
correctly informed either. In view of this situation, reference is made to figure 6) of
the Fuehrer order of October 18,42 (Appendix to Volume No. 1 SKI, I Ops 26 367/ 42 Top
Secret of October 28, 42) according to which all commanders and officers, who have
neglected their duty in instructing their units about the order referring to treatment of
saboteurs, are threatened with punishment by court martial.
"The first Fuehrer order concerning this matter of October 18, 42 (Appendix to
Volume No. 1 SKL 1 Ops 2108/ 42 Top Secret of October 27, 42) was given the protection of
Top Secret merely because it is stated therein :
"1. That, according to the Fuehrer's views the spreading of military sabotage
organizations in the East and West may have portentous consequences for our whole conduct
of the war and
"2. That the shooting of uniformed prisoners acting on military orders must be
carried out even after they have surrendered voluntarily and asked for pardon.
"On the other hand, the annihilation of sabotage units in battle is not at all to
be kept secret but on the contrary to be currently published in the OKW (Supreme Command
of the Armed Forces) reports. The purpose of these measures to act as a deterrent, will
not be achieved, if those taking part in enemy 'Commando Operations' would not learn that
certain death and not safe imprisonment awaits them. As the saboteurs are to be
annihilated immediately, unless their statements are first needed for military reasons, it
is necessary that not only all members of the Armed Forces must receive instructions that
these types of saboteurs, even if they are in uniform, are to be annihilated, but also all
departments of the home staff, dealing with this kind of question, must be informed of the
course of action which has been ordered." (C-l 78)
The Hitler order of October. 1942 was actually carried out in a number of instances.
During the night of the 19-20 November 1942, a British freight glider crashed near
Egersund in Norway. The glider carried a British commando unit of 17 men, of whom 3 were
apparently killed in the crash. All were in English uniform. The 14 survivors were
executed in accordance with the Hitler order in the evening of 20 November 1942. The proof
is contained in the following document (508-PS:
"1. Following supplementary report is made about landing of a British freight
glider at Hegers and in the night of November 20:
"a. No firing on the part of German defense.
"b. The towing plane (Wellington) has crashed the ground. 7 man crew dead. The
attached freight glider also crashed, of the 17-man crew 14 alive. Indisputably a sabotage
force. Fuehrer order has been carried out."
* * * * * * *
"On November 20, 1942 at 5: 50 an enemy plane was found 15 Km NE of Egersund. It
is a British aircraft (towed glider) made of wood without engine. Of the 17 member crew 3
are dead, 6 are severely, the others slightly wounded.
"All wore English khaki uniforms without sleeve-insignia. Furthermore following
items were found : 8 knapsacks, tents, skis and radio sender, exact number is unknown. The
glider carried rifles, light machine guns and machine pistols, number unknown. At present
the prisoners are with the Bn. in Egersund."
* * * * * * *
"Beside the 17 member crew extensive sabotage material and work equipment were
found. Therefore the sabotage purpose was absolutely proved. The 280th Inf. Div. (J. D.)
ordered the execution of the action according to the Fuehrer's order. The execution was
carried out toward the evening of Nov. 20. Some of the prisoners wore blue ski-suits under
their khaki uniforms which had no insignia on the sleeves. During a short interrogation
the survivors have revealed nothing but their names, ranks and serial numbers."
* * * * * * *
"In connection with the shooting of the 17 members of the crew, the Armed Forces
Commander of Norway (WBN) has issued an order to the district commanders, according to
which the interrogation by G-2 (Ic) and by BDS are im-portant before the execution of the
Fuehrer order; in case of No. 4 of the Fuehrer order the prisoners are to be handed over
to the BDS." (508-PS)
In three specific instances the Hitler order was carried out in Norway (512-PS). The
procedure was to take individual commandos prisoner and interrogate them to extract
military intelligence before executing them. This procedure was in accordance with the
last sentence of Hitler's supplementary order (503-PS), and is obviously in flat
contradiction of the requirements of the Hague and Geneva Conventions. The reason for this
procedure is explained as follows :
"TOP SECRET-According to the last sentence of the Fuehrer order of 18th
October (CHEFS), individual saboteurs can be spared for the time being in order to
keep them for interrogation. The importance of this measure was proven in the cases of
Glomfjord, Twoman torpedo Drontheim, and glider plane Stavanger, where interrogations
resulted in valuable knowledge of enemy intentions. Since in the case of Egersund the
saboteur was liquidated immediately and no clues were won; therefore, Armed Forces
Commander (WB) referred to above mentioned (OA) last sentence of the Fuehrer order
(Liquidation only after short interrogation)." (512-PS)
Another instance from the Norwegian theater of war (526-PS) : On 30 March 1943, 10
Norwegian navy personnel were taken prisoner from a Norwegian cutter at Toftefjord. The 10
prisoners were executed by the SD in accordance with the Hitler order, but the published
report announced only that the unit was destroyed :
"On the 30.3 1943 in Toftefjord (70" Lat.) an enemy cutter was sighted,
cutter was blown up by the enemy. Crew: 2 dead men, 10 prisoners.
"Cutter was sent from Scalloway (Shetland Is.) by the Norwegian Navy."
* * * * * * *
"Purpose: Construction of an organization for sabotaging of strong-points,
battery positions, staff and troop billets and bridges.
"Assigner of Mission in London: Norwegian, Maj. Munthe.
"Fuehrer order executed by S. D. (security service).
"Wehrmacht Report of 6.4 announces the following about it:
"In Northern Norway an enemy sabotage unit was engaged and destroyed on approaching
the coast." (526-PS)
General Staff and High Command Nurember Charges, Part I, Part III