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 II

Part I
Part III
Part IV
Part V

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 Indictment.

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 Indictment.

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 them.

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 elements."

   (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 principle.

"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 appear.

"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 war."

"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 remains secure.

"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 sabotage units;
"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 destruction.

" (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 IPart III

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

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