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 Command
of the Armed Forces

The Nuremberg Charges

Part I

Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V

Composition and Functions of The General Staff and High Command Group

Structure and Orgnizations of the German Armed Forces
Composition of the Group Charged as Criminal

Functioning of the General Staff and High Command [Omitted]

In one respect the General Staff and High Command of the German Armed Forces is to be distinguished from the other groups and organizations against which the prosecution seeks declaration of criminality. The Leadership Corps of the NSDAP, for example, was the instrument by which Hitlerism rose to full power in Germany. The SA and the SS were branches-large branches to be sure-of the Nazi Party. The German police had certain roots and antecedents which antedated Hitlerism, but was almost entirely a creature of the party and the SS. The Reichs Cabinet was, in essence, merely a committee or set of committees of Reichs Ministers, and when the Nazis came to power these ministerial positions were filled for the most part by Nazis. All those groups and organizations, accordingly, either owe their origin and development to Naziism, or automatically became nazified when Hitler came to full power.

That is not true of this group, the General Staff and High Command of the German Armed Forces. It is common knowledge that German armed might and the German military tradition antedate Hitlerism by many decades. The war of 1914-18, the Kaiser, and the "scrap of paper" are modern witnesses to this fact.

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 expansion 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 1913. 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 Commander-in- 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 overall 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 RGBl., Part I, page 111) :


"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, with the title of Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces. His status is equal to that of Reich Minister.
"The High Command of the Armed Forces also takes over the affairs of the Reich War Ministry. The Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces as my representative exercises the functions hitherto exercised by the Reich War Minister.
"The High Command of the Armed Forces is responsible in peace time for the unified preparation of the defense of the Reich in all areas according to my directives.

"Berlin, 4 February 1938.

"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-in-Chief 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 Oberbefehlshaber in the Army, Navy, or Air Force. The term Oberbefehlshaber defies literal translation into English : literally the components of the word mean "over-command-holder," and it is perhaps best translated as Commander-in-Chief. In the case of the Army, commanders of army groups and armies always had the status and title of Oberbefehlshaber. In the Air Force, the Commander-in-Chief of air fleets always had the status of Oberbefehlshaber, although they were not formally so designated until 1944. In the Navy, officers holding the senior regional commands, and therefore in control of all naval operations (other than of the high seas fleet itself) in a given sector, had the status of Oberbefehlshaber. Roughly 110 individual officers had the status of Oberbefehlshaber in the Army, Navy, or Air Force during the period in question, and all but approximately a dozen of them are still alive.

The entire General Staff and High Command group as defined in the Indictment comprises about 130 officers, of whom 114 are believed still to be living. These figures are the cumulative total of all officers who at any time belonged to the group during the seven years and three months from February 1938 to May 1945. The number of active members of the group at any one time is, of course, much smaller; it rose from about 20 at the outbreak of the war to 50 in 1944 and 1945.

The structure and functioning of the German General Staff and High Command group have been described in a series of affidavits by some of the principal German field marshalls and generals. A brief description of how these statements were obtained may be helpful. In the first place two American officers, selected for ability and experience in interrogating high-ranking German prisoners of war, were briefed by an Intelligence officer and a trial counsel on the particular problems presented by this part of the case. These interrogators were already well versed in military intelligence and were able to converse fluently in German. The officer who briefed these interrogators emphasized that their function was objectively to inquire into and to establish facts on which the prosecution wishes to be accurately and surely informed; the interrogators were not to regard themselves as cross-examiners. The German officers to be interrogated were selected on the basis of the special knowledge which they could be presumed to possess by reason of positions held by them during the past generation. After each interview the interrogator prepared a report. From this report such facts as appeared relevant to the issues now before the Tribunal were extracted and a statement embodying these facts was prepared. This statement was then presented to the officer at a later interview. It was presented in the form of a draft and the officer was asked whether it truly reproduced what he said at the previous interview. He was also invited to alter it in any way he thought fit. This careful and laborious, but necessary, process had as its object the procuring of the best possible testimony in the form of carefully considered statements.

These affidavits fully support the prosecution's description of the group, and conclusively establish that this group of officers was in fact the group which had the major responsibility for planning and directing the operations of the German Armed Forces.

The first of these affidavits is that of Franz Halder (3702-PS); who held the rank of Generaloberst (Colonel General), the equivalent of a four-star general in the American Army. Halder was chief of the General Staff of OKH from September 1938 to September 1942 and is, accordingly, a member of the group. His statement reads:

"Ultimate authority and responsibility for military affairs in Germany was vested in the Head of State who prior to 2 August 1934 was Field Marshall von Hindenburg and thereafter until 1945 was Adolf Hitler.

"Specialized military matters were the responsibility of the three branches of the Armed Forces subordinate to the Commander- in-chief of the Armed Forces (at the same time Head of State), that is to say the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. In practice, supervision within this field was exercised by a relatively small group of high-ranking officers. These officers exercised such supervision in their official capacity and by virtue of their training, their positions and their mutual contacts. Plans for military operations of the German Armed Forces were prepared by members of this group according to the instructions of the OKW in the name of their respective Commanding Officers and were presented by them to the Commander- in-chief of the Armed Forces (at the same time Head of State).

"The members of this group were charged with the responsibility of preparing for military operations within their competent fields and they actually did prepare for any such operations as were to be undertaken by troops in the field.

"Prior to any operation, members of this group were assembled and given appropriate directions by the Head of State. Examples of such meetings are the speech by Hitler to the Commanders-in-Chief on 22 August 1939 prior to the Polish campaign and the consultation at the Reich Chancellery on 14 June 1941 prior to the first Russian campaign. The composition of this group and the relationship of its members to each other were as shown in the attached chart. This was in effect the General Staff and High Command of the German Armed Forces."

" (S ) Halder" (3702-PS)

A substantially identical statement (3703-PS) was made by von Brauchitsch, who held the rank of Field Marshall, and who was Commander-in-Chief of the Army from 1938 to 1941. Von Brauchitsch was also, therefore, a member of the group. The only difference between the two statements is worth noting occurs in the last sentence of each. Halder states that the group described in the Indictment "was in effect the General Staff and High Command of the German Armed Formes," (3702- PS), whereas von Brauchitsch puts it a little differently, saying "in the hands of those who filled the positions shown in the chart lay the actual direction of the Armed Forces." (3703-PS)

Both von Brauchitsch and Halder have stated under oath that the General Staff chart (Chart Number 7) accurately portrays the top organization of the German Armed Forces. The statements by von Brauchitsch and Halder also fully support the prosecution's statement that the holders of the positions shown on this chart constitute the group in whom lay the major responsibility for the planning and execution of all Armed Forces matters.

Another affidavit by Halder (3707-PS) sets forth certain less important matters of detail:

"The most important department in the OKW was the Operations Staff-in much the same way as the General Staff was in the Army and Air Force and the Naval War Staff in the Navy. Under Keitel there were a number of departmental chiefs who were equal in status with Jodl, but in the planning and conduct of military affairs they and their departments were less important and less influential than Jodl and Jodl's staff.

"The OKW Operations Staff was also divided into sections. Of these the most important was the section of which Warlimont was chief. It was called the 'National Defense' Section and was primarily concerned with the development of strategic questions. From 1941 onwards Warlimont, though charged with the same duties, was known as Deputy Chief of the OKW Operations Staff.

"There was during World War II no unified General Staff such as the Great General Staff which operated in World War I.

"Operational matters for the Army and Air Force were worked out by the group of high-ranking officers described in my Statement of 7 November (in the Army : 'General Staff of the Army'; in the Air Force 'General Staff of the Air Force').

"Operational matters in the Navy were even in World War I not worked out by the 'Great General Staff' but by the Naval Staff ."

" (Signed) Franz Halder" (3707-PS)

This affidavit is primarily concerned with the functions of the General Staffs of the four Commanders of OKW, OKL, OKM, and OKH and fully supports the inclusion of the Chiefs of Staff of the four services in the indicted group, as well as the inclusion of Warlimont as Deputy Chief of the OKW Operations Staff, with his strategic planning responsibilities.

An affidavit (3708-PS) by the son of Field Marshal von Brauchitsch, who had the rank of Oberst (Colonel) in the German Air Force, and who was personal aide to Goering as Commander-in-Chief of the German Air Force, furnishes a few details on the Luftwaffe:

"Luftflottenchefs have the same status as the Oberbefehlshaber of an army. During the war they had no territorial authority and accordingly exercised no territorial jurisdiction.

"They were the highest troop commanders of the air force units subordinate to them and were directly under the command of the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force.

"Until the summer of 1944 they bore the designation 'Befehlshaber' and from then on that of 'Oberbefehlshaber.' This change of designation carried with it no change in the functions and responsibilities which they previously had."

" (Signed) Brauchitsch" (3708-PS)

General Staff and High Command Nuremberg Charges, Part II

Document compiled by Dr S D Stein
Last update 18/01/99
ęS D Stein

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