Wilhelm Keitel

Johann Gustav Wilhelm Keitel Bodewin ( Bad Gandersheim , Germany , 22 of September of 1882 – Nuremberg , 16 of October of 1946 ) was a Field Marshal German and outstanding leader Nazi one during World War II . Between 1937 and 1945 he was commander of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW), which made him the commander of the General Staff who coordinated the German Armed Forces ( Heer , Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe ).



Wilhelm Keitel was born in 1882 Helmscherode , a district of the town of Bad Gandersheim , son of landowner Carl Keitel and his wife Apollonia Vissering . After studying in Göttingen , he entered the army with the rank of Fahnenjunker (‘cadet officer’) in 1901 in the 6th Field artillery regiment of Lower Saxony . In 1909 he married Lisa Fontaine , the daughter of landowners. From his marriage would be born five children.

World War I

At the outbreak of the war, Keitel was already a captain . It served on the western front , in the 46th Artillery Regiment . In September 1914 he was seriously injured by shrapnel in Flanders . After recovering he passed to the German General Staff in early 1915. At the end of the race, he remained in the newly created Reichswehr as an officer and instructor of the Hannover Cavalry School . He also played an important role as organizer of units of the Freikorps in charge of monitoring the border with Poland .

Interwar period

In 1924 he passed to the Reich Ministry of Defense , serving as an officer of the Troop Office ( Truppenamt ), the “Staff” after the Treaty of Versailles . Soon he ascended to head of the department of organization, since maintained even after the arrival of the Nazis to the power. In 1935, and on the recommendation of Werner von Fritsch , he became Chief of Staff of the newly created Armed Forces Office ( Wehrmacht ).

World War II

He ascended to General in 1937 and in 1938, after the Blomberg-Fritsch scandal and the replacement of the Reichswehrministerium by the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW, or High Command of the Armed Forces) was named Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, ascending Marshal of Field in 1940 . It was next to Martin Bormann , Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler one of the closest to Hitler.

During the war he was considered a weak adviser, totally servile before Hitler , and who always looked for excuses to validate all the ideas of the Fiihrer , however absurd they were in practice. Due to this trait other high military chiefs nicknamed him Lakeitel (word that siginifca “footman” in German, playing with his last name) or Der general Jawohl (“The general Yes Lord!”).

With the permission of Hitler Heinrich Himmler he used to Keitel as figurehead to cover many morally questionable or directly illegal orders according to the Geneva Convention (as the order of commands , the Order of Commissioners or decree Redbeard ), and unquestionably gave carte blanche To Himmler for his racial checks ( Einsatzgruppen ) in the USSR . He also signed the order for all captured French pilots forming part of the Normandie-Niemen fighter squadron to be executed instead of being treated as prisoners of war.

Keitel was well aware of the Final Solution on the Jewish question, and had at the time received the recriminations of the furious Wilhelm Canaris , head of the Abwehr , when the bloodthirsty Einsatzgruppen acted in conjunction with the Brandenburg brigades against the population Jewish of the conquered territories of Poland and Ukraine , executing in mass, first, with executions; Later, with closed trucks to which the smoke of the exhaust was incorporated to the interior.

Keitel had many performances, including being the first to declare Hitler alive after the July 20, 1944, attack by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg , destabilizing the plan of the conspirators ( Operation Valkyrie ) and sending the To Admiral Wilhelm Canaris and involved, such as the Reverend Dietrich Bonhoeffer , General Hans Oster and the jurist Hans von Dohnanyi among others.

It was Keitel who signed the official surrender of Nazi Germany before Russian Marshal Georg Zhukov of the Red Army .

Judgment of Nuremberg

Keitel signed the capitulation of the Wehrmacht against the Red Army on 9 of maypole of 1945 and was arrested in Flensburg by the British Army on 13.

Heinz Guderian testified that Keitel was an honest soldier and was overwhelmed by Hitler – because he (Keitel) thought that the fulfillment of the orders of his superior was his most supreme duty. 2 3

Sitting on the dock during the Nuremberg Trials , he was charged with war crimes , crimes against peace and crimes against humanity .

Despite alleging that he had only served orders, he was convicted on 1 October 1946 and executed by hanging on 16 October of that year (he was denied a last will to be shot).

His last words were:

Alles f Deutschland. Deutschland über alles (‘ Everything for Germany, Germany above all’).

His autobiography, Serving the Reich , was published a year after his death.


  1. Back to top↑ Grove, Edward (1989). The survivor . Editorial Dunken. P. 59. ISBN  9789875188679 .
  2. Back to top↑ [Interrogatories of Nüremberg-Richard Overy, 2009]
  3. Back to top↑ Arguments presented by the defense