The death sentence of the Nuremberg court, pronounced against the main war criminals, was carried out on October 16, 1946. Immediately after German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop, the Chief of Staff of the High Command of the Wehrmacht, Wilhelm Keitel, ascended the scaffold. When the noose was already tightening his neck, he managed to shout out the words: "Germany is above all!"
Where do the field marshals
Apollonius Keitel was the wife of a large landowner, Carl Keitel, on September 22, 1882, made her husband happy by the birth of the first child, who was named Wilhelm. Their magnificent wedding, held the year before, was a notable event in the life of the Duchy of Braunschweig, since Charles was the son of a district royal adviser, which distinguished him among the local burghers and made him quite an enviable fiancé.
Despite? that the Helmscherole estate, owned by the newlyweds, was very extensive and distinguished by exquisite luxury, they themselves were constrained by the funds, as they had to pay the loan taken for its purchase. However, this did not stop them, inviting the most expensive teachers, to give their son a wonderful home education.
Mediocre pupil of the Göttingen Gymnasium
When Wilhelm was six years old, his mother died of a maternity fever, giving life to his second son Bodevin, following the example of his elder brother, who also became a major military commander. This tradition was subsequently continued and the three sons of William himself, who at various times became officers of the German army.
When the boy was ten years old, his father placed him in the Göttingen Royal Gymnasium - a privileged educational institution, from the walls of which many political and public figures of Germany came. According to the recollections of his classmates, the young Wilhelm Keitel was not very successful, and he always remained among the most diligent but mediocre students. The exception was fencing and drill training, also included in the curriculum and were his favorite disciplines.
The beginning of the military career of the future Field Marshal
After the release and the traditional ball, held in 1900, Wilhelm's military career began. The young man's dream was to serve in the cavalry. He was attracted by the romanticism, undoubtedly inherent in these troops, but the trouble is that the maintenance of the horse required significant funds that his family did not have. As a result, he made his first steps in the new field as a volunteer artillery regiment stationed in Lower Saxony.
This situation gave him a number of significant advantages over the odnodok, called in those days for active military service. In particular, the period of compulsory stay in the army was limited to one year instead of three. In addition, he had the right to choose the kind of troops and duty stations. But in return, every volunteer had to live on his own material support, which was far from everyone can afford.
The situation was complicated by the fact that by this time, Wilhelm's father was married again, combining marriage with Anna Gregoire - home teacher of her second son Bodevin. The creation of a new family caused a lot of extraordinary expenses, which quite limited the young man in the means.
Service in the artillery regiment
His first step to the epaulettes of the Field Marshal General was the officer school in Göttingen, after which Wilhelm Keitel was enrolled in an artillery regiment stationed not far from Helmherrode. It should be noted that one of the batteries of this regiment in those years was commanded by another future major military commander, Field Marshal of the German Army Guenter von Kluge. In his letters, he called Keitel complete zero. He, however, did not remain in debt and described his colleague as a man with a large number of negative qualities.
Years of the First World
The first world war Keitel met in the rank of Lieutenant-General. The news of the murder in Sarajevo of the Archduke Ferdinand caught him on his way from Switzerland, where Wilhelm rested with his young wife, the daughter of a large Hanover industrialist and landowner Lisa Fontaine. The marriage was concluded shortly before the outbreak of the war, and subsequently this couple had six children: three girls and three boys.
In the years of the world carnage unprecedented until then, the career of the young officer went up steeply. Starting from the post of regimental adjutant, he finished it with the captain, the chief of the operational department of the General Staff. By that time Keitel's breasts were decorated with Iron Crosses of both degrees, as well as ten German orders and one Austrian.
Between the two wars
After the defeat of Germany in the First World War and the creation of the Weimar Republic, the armed forces of the country underwent considerable reform. Captain Keitel managed to occupy a proper place in this newly created structure. But the decisive rise of his career was promoted by Hitler's coming to power, which occurred in 1933.
As a result, during the period between the two largest wars in the history of mankind, Wilhelm Keitel traveled from the captain, who headed the regimental commissariat service, to the colonel-general, the head of the High Command of the Wehrmacht. In August 1931, as part of the German delegation, he visited Moscow.
"The nodding ass"
Wilhelm Keitel, whose nickname was Lacetel, which in translation means "nodding ass", as history shows, was in reality a man who was by no means stupid and, moreover, inclined to grovel before the authorities. Suffice it to recall that he was among those few who, soberly weighing the balance of world forces, discouraged Hitler from attacking France and from the war with the Soviet Union.
Desperate to deter the Fuhrer from this disastrous step, he twice resigned, and twice his request was rejected. He found in himself the courage and openly stand up for Field Marshal List, who suffered a crushing defeat on the Eastern Front.
A frosty in a marshal's uniform
However, along with the manifestations of qualities, unquestionably worthy of respect, extreme cruelty and inhumanity prevailed in it, reducing it to the level of a medieval fanatical.
A failed conspiracy
In 1944, when the outcome of the war became evident, a conspiracy was drawn up among the German generals, whose goal was the overthrow of Hitler. During the meeting, which took place on June 20 at the main rate of the Fuhrer, which wore a very suitable name for it, "Wolfschantz", which means "wolf's lair," there was an explosion. Hitler then got off with only a mild wound, and the conspirators after the detailed trial of the case were executed.
Wilhelm Keitel, who was present at the meeting that day, according to eyewitnesses, despite the concussion received, was the first to rush to help the wounded Fuhrer and help him get out of the destroyed building. In the future he showed himself as an active participant in suppressing the insurrection and bringing to trial all its participants.
Signing the surrender of Germany
Having served until the end of the war and holding the post of Chief of Staff of the High Command of the Wehrmacht, on May 8, 1945 Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel signed an act of unconditional surrender of Germany. On the Soviet side, the signature was put by Marshal Zhukov. Nowadays, when discussing the role of each of the states of the anti-Hitler coalition, Western politicians deliberately omit the words, which immediately after the signing of the historical document, Wilhelm Keitel, told Zhukov. But in vain, they put things in their places.
As evidenced from eyewitnesses' reminiscences, Zhukov first signed the document, then Wilhelm Keitel. "Did they also defeat us?" - asked the German with bitter irony, nodding toward the representatives of England and the USA present here. They did not answer.
Shortly after the signing of the capitulation, Keitel, like a number of senior leaders of the Reich, was arrested, and then appeared before the Nuremberg Tribunal. He was charged with crimes against humanity, as well as conspiracy against peace, which was expressed in the preparation and unleashing of war. The justifications of the accused, which amounted to being merely executors of the orders of the Führer, were declared invalid, and as a result, the vast majority of them were convicted. Among those sentenced to death was William Keitel.
The execution took place on October 16, 1946. As already mentioned, on the scaffold he rose after Ribbentrop and ended his life with a pathetic exclamation taken from the Nazi anthem. After spending a year and a half behind the prison bars, he had enough time to think about his life and the fate that befell Germany. Many of his thoughts became the property of historians and biographers.
Thoughts awaiting death
To what conclusion did Wilhelm Keitel come? Reflections before execution he expressed in words already spoken on the scaffold. In several sentences the sentenced asked God's mercy towards Germany and the two million German soldiers who died in the last war. It's amazing, but no personal guilt in their deaths and in the tragedy that the war brought Germany, the field-marshal did not feel, although he made efforts to unleash it.
In addition to the already quoted words that Wilhelm Keitel told Zhukov after the signing of the surrender, his other statements were widely replicated. Especially popular they became among the supporters of the neo-fascism that was born in the West. As a rule, in them Keitel tries to reduce his role in what happened to the blind execution of orders, which is the duty of every disciplined soldier. Wilhelm Keitel, whose quotations are akin to the statements of the majority of Nazi leaders, among other things, regrets that fate did not send him death more worthy of a soldier than a rope loop.