Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Memoirs of Field Marshal Keitel

Source: The Memoirs of Field Marshal Keitel, edited by Walter Gorlitz, 1965.

Comment: Might have interest in Brauchitsch, resistance networks and other sundry matters.

Page 87 [Speech of August 22 1939 at Berghof]
All the more remarkable was his Berghof speech delivered on 22nd August to the generals of the eastern armies ranged against Poland, a speech delivered with the finest sense of psychological timing and application.  Hitler was an extraordinarily gifted orator, with a masterly capability of moulding his words and phrases to suit his audience.  I would even go so far to say that he had learned his lesson from the ill-conceived meeting with the chiefs of staff, and had realised that trying to set them at odds with their commanders-in-chief had been a psychological error.  Other versions of this particular speech have been subjectively distorted, as the minute taken by Admiral Boehm, who must be regarded as absolutely impartial, clearly shows.
On 24th August, Hitler arrived in Berlin and on the 26th the invasion of Poland was due to begin.  The events in the Reich Chancellery during the days prior to 3rd September are of such world-wide and lasting historical importance that it will be better for me to leave their logical analysis and exact interpretation to professional historians; I myself can contribute but little from my own experience, and unfortunately I dispose over no notes or memoranda upon which to base my own recollections.

Page 101-102 [1939. Brauchitsch presents his complaints]
The conference with Brauchitsch took place in my presence [It was on 5th November, 1939.]  Von Brauchitsch and I silently listened to Hitler's very extensive discourse on the War Office's point of view as far as it was known.  Brauchitsch followed him, giving two reasons why he could not agree:
1. During the Polish campaign the infantry had been shown to be over-cautious and insufficiently attack-minded; it also lacked training, it showed little command of the tactics of attack and its NCOs lacked proficiency.
2. Discipline had unfortunately become very lax and there were at present conditions reminiscent of those in 1917 - there had been drunken orgies and bad behaviour in troop trains and on railway stations.  He had been sent reports on all this by the stationmasters, and there was a series of affidavits on hand which had led to reprimands for bad breaches of discipline.
He concluded that the Army needed intensive training before there was any possibility of unleashing it on a rested and well-prepared enemy in the west.
After the Commander-in-Chief had finished speaking, the Fuehrer jumped up in a rage and shouted that it was quite incomprehensible to him that just because of a little lack of discipline a Commander-in-Chief should condemn his own Army and run it down.  None of his commanders had said anything to him about any lack of verve in the infantry when he had been at the front, but he had to listen to such criticisms now after the Army had won a unique victory in Poland.  As Supreme commander he, personally, would have to reject out of hand such charges against his Army.  He concluded by demanding to see all the legal papers concerned so that he could read them for himself.  Then he left the room, slamming the door behind him, leaving all of us just standing there.   ....Every day I was asked for the legal papers he had demanded; I only ever saw one that Hitler threw onto my desk. [November 18 Blaskowitz?????]

Page 132-133 [Canaris and Gibraltar]
From the beginning of December 1940 we had energetically thrown ourselves into the planning of a combined land and air attack on the Rock of Gibralter, from the Spanish hinterland.  The Spaniards, and especially the Spanish General Vigon - a close friend of Field Marshal von Richthofen and of Admiral Canaris - and a general who enjoyed both Franco's confidence and the actual authority of a field-marshal, had not only given us permission to carry out a tactical reconnaissance of the Rock from the Spanish side of the frontier, but had in fact accorded us the greatest assistance in doing so.  The plan of attack was elaborated with all the frills and close detail by a general of our moutain warfare troops and outline to Hitler in my presence early in December.
On my own suggestion, Admiral Canaris was despatched to see his friend Vigon early in December, to negotiate Franco's agreement for the execution of the operation; General France had up to then turned a blind ey on the various General Staff and Intelligence.  We naturally agreed that once we had succeeded in seizing Gibralter we would return the Rock to Spain just as soon as the war no longer required us to bar the Straits of Gibralter to British naval traffic, a military responsibility which we would naturally take care of ourselves.
Some days later Canaris returned to report to the Fuehrer, who had personally entrusted him with and briefed him for the mission: Franco had refused to co-operate, pointing out that such a grave breach of neutrality might result in Britain's declaring war on Spain.  The Fuehrer listened calmly and then announced that in that case he would drop the idea, as he was not attracted by the alternative of transporting his troops through Spain by force, with Franco then suitably publicising his wrath about it.  He feared that that might lead to a new theatre of operations, because Britain might then with equal justification land troops in Spain, perhasp through Lisbon, just as in the case of Norway.
Whether Canaris was the right man for that mission, I would now be inclined to question, in view of the treachery he now seems to have condoned for several years.  I now assume that he did not make a serious effort to win Spain over for the operation, but in fact advised his Spanish friends against it.

Page 177-178 [1942 and Red Orchestra]
There is not much time left to me, so I will refrain from depicting the progress of the Hitler offensive as it ground to a halt in the Caucasus and at Stalingrad - the prelude to the turn of the tide against us the east.  I would like to restrict my narrative to some particular episodes and personal experiences of that period.
The first, and completely inexplicable, event was the publication in the newspapers of the Western Powers of certain copies of our plan of attack.  They reproduced at least one sentence of the Fuehrer's 'basic directive' so accurately that there could be no doubt but that there had been treachery somewhere along the line.  The Fuehrer's mistrust of the staffs entrusted with the preliminary study found new sustenance: he renewed his charges against the General Staff, who, he said, could be the only source of this betrayal.
In fact, as was discovered during the following winter, the guilty party was a renegade officer on the Air Force operations staff, who had been employed in their Intelligence section and who had established contacts with the enemy's espionage network.  During  a big trial before the Reich Military Tribunal in December 1942, a number of sentences were passed, because a major organisation of traitors and spies had been uncovered in Berlin.  Even though they were largely civilians involved, both men and women, the most important of the enemy's sources of military intelligence had been this Air Force officer, a Lieutenant-Colonel Schulze-Boysen, and his wife.  But until this had been established, Hitler continued to heap abuse on the Army's completely innocent General Staff.
The second misfortune was when a divisional staff officer's aircraft crashed in no-man's land on the eastern front; he had been carrying upon his person the order issued to General Stumme's Army Corps for its attack during the big offensive due to begin very few days later.  The hapless officer had lost his way in the plane, and, together with the documents, fell into Russian hands; he himself was shot out of hand on the spot.

Page 183 [General Thomas]
But quite apart from all this, every situation only hardened in us a tacit realisation that the enormous quantities of men and material we were pouring in with no hope of replacement bore no comparison to the meagre expenditure it had forced upon the Russians hitherto.  Almost every day Halder was waiting with new statistics on the enemy's tanks and spares outputs (date provided by General Thomas) and on the capacity of the enemy's armaents industry in the Urals (Thomas again) and so on; again and again the Fuehrer was provoked to refute the statistics.
I was forbidden to circulate General Thomas' 'defeatist' reports any longer: they were pure fantasy, he refused to stand it, and so on.

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