The death sentence of the Nuremberg Court against the main war criminals was carried out on 16 October 1946. Immediately after German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop, Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of Staff of the High Command of the Wehrmacht, climbed the scaffold. When the noose was already tightening its neck, he managed to shout out the words: “Germany is above all!”.
Where do field marshals come from
Apollonia Keitel - the wife of a large landowner Karl Keitel, September 22, 1882, made her husband happy by the birth of his first child, who was named Wilhelm. Their magnificent wedding, held a year before, was a notable event in the life of the Duchy of Brunswick, as Karl was the son of the district royal adviser, which set him apart from the local burghers and made a very enviable bridegroom.
Despite? that the estate of Helmsherol, which was owned by the newlyweds, was very extensive and distinguished by exquisite luxury, they themselves were constrained in money because they had to pay the loan taken to buy it. However, this did not prevent them from inviting the most expensive teachers to give their son an excellent home education.
Mediocre student of the Gottingen gymnasium
When William was six years old, his mother passed away from fever, giving life to his second son, Bodevin, following the example of his elder brother, who also became a major military leader. This tradition was subsequently continued by the three sons of Wilhelm 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 which many German political and public figures came out. According to the recollections of his classmates, young Wilhelm Keitel was not very successful and always remained among the most diligent, but very mediocre students. The exceptions were fencing and drill, which were also included in the course and were his favorite disciplines.
The beginning of the future career of field marshal
After graduation and the traditional ball, held in 1900, began the military career of William. The dream of a young man was to serve in the cavalry. He was attracted by the romance, 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 took 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 same age, called up for active military service in those days. In particular, the period of compulsory stay in the army was limited to a year instead of the prescribed three. In addition, he had the right to choose the type of troops and duty station. But in return, each volunteer had to live on his own material support, which was far from affordable for everyone.
The situation was complicated by the fact that by this time Wilhelm's father was again married, in conjunction with marriage to Anna Gregoire, the home teacher of his second son, Bodevin. Creating a new family caused a lot of extraordinary costs, which greatly limited the young man in funds.
Service in the artillery regiment
His first step to the epaulets of General Field Marshal was an officer's school in Gottingen, after graduating from which Wilhelm Keitel was enrolled in an artillery regiment stationed not far from Helmsherode. It should be noted that one of the batteries of this regiment in those years was commanded by another future major commander, field marshal of the German army Günther von Kluge. In his letters, he called Keitel a complete zero. He, however, did not remain in debt and described his colleague as a person with a large number of negative qualities.
Years of the First World
World War I met Keitel with the rank of chief lieutenant. 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 major 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 massacre, unheard of until then, the career of a young officer went up steeply. Starting from the post of regimental adjutant, he graduated as captain, head of the operations department of the General Staff. At that time, Keitel's chest was decorated with Iron Crosses of both degrees, as well as ten German orders and one Austrian.
Between 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 significant reforms. Captain Keitel and in this newly created structure has managed to take its rightful place. But the decisive rise of his career contributed to the advent of Hitler to power, which occurred in 1933.
As a result, during the period between the two largest wars in the history of mankind, Wilhelm Keitel went from being the captain who led the regiment quartermaster service to the colonel-general, head of the Wehrmacht high command. In August 1931, as part of the German delegation, he visited Moscow.
“A nodding donkey”
Wilhelm Keitel, whose nickname was Lakatel, which means “nodding ass,” as history shows, in reality, he was not a foolish person, and, all the more, unwilling to grovel before his superiors. Suffice it to recall that he was among the few who, soberly weighing the balance of world forces, dissuaded Hitler from attacking France and from the war with the Soviet Union.
Desperate to keep the Fuhrer from this disastrous step, he resigned twice, and his request was rejected twice. He found the courage to openly stand up for Field Marshal Liszt, who suffered a crushing defeat on the Eastern Front.
Izuver in marshal's uniform
However, along with the manifestations of qualities undoubtedly worthy of respect, extreme cruelty and inhumanity coexisted in it, reducing it to the level of a medieval izuvera.
In 1944, when the outcome of the war became obvious, a conspiracy was drawn up among the German generals, the purpose of which was to overthrow Hitler. During the meeting, which took place on June 20 in the main rate of the Fuhrer, which bore the very appropriate name for it “Wolfschants”, which means “wolf lair”, an explosion thundered. Hitler then got off with only a minor injury, and the conspirators after a detailed trial of the case were executed.
Wilhelm Keitel, who was present at the meeting on that day, according to eyewitness accounts, despite the received contusion, was the first to rush to help the wounded Fuhrer and helped him to get out of the destroyed room. Later, he proved himself to be an active participant in the suppression of insurrection and the bringing to trial of all its participants.
The signing of the surrender of Germany
After serving until the end of the war and occupying the post of chief of staff of the Wehrmacht High Command, on May 8, 1945, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel signed the act of the 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 that immediately after the signing of the historical document Wilhelm Keitel said to Zhukov. And in vain, they put a lot in their places.
As is clear from eyewitness memories, Zhukov was the first to sign the document, then Wilhelm Keitel. “Did they beat us too?” Asked the German with bitter irony, nodding towards the representatives of England and the United States who were present here. He did not answer.
High ranking defendant
Shortly after the capitulation was signed, Keitel, like a number of top leaders of the Reich, was arrested, after which he appeared before the Nuremberg Tribunal. He was charged with crimes against humanity, as well as a conspiracy against peace, expressed in the preparation and unleashing of war. The acquittal of the accused, which boiled down to the fact that they were only the executors of the orders of the Fuhrer, was declared untenable, and as a result, the overwhelming majority of them were convicted. Among those sentenced to death was Wilhelm Keitel.
The execution took place on October 16, 1946. As already mentioned, he rose to the scaffold after Ribbentrop and ended his life with a pathetic exclamation taken from the Nazi hymn. After spending a year and a half behind the prison bars, he had plenty of time to think about his life and fate that had befallen Germany. Many of his thoughts became the property of historians and biographers.
Thoughts Awaiting Death
What is the conclusion reached by Wilhelm Keitel? Reflections before execution, he expressed in the words spoken on the scaffold. In a few sentences, the condemned man asked for God's mercy towards Germany and the two million German soldiers who died in the last war. Amazingly, the field marshal did not feel any personal guilt in their death and in the tragedy that the war brought to Germany, although he made efforts to unleash it.
In addition to the words already quoted, which Wilhelm Keitel Zhukov said after signing the capitulation, his other statements are widely replicated. They became especially popular with supporters of neo-fascism originated in the West. As a rule, in them Keitel tries to reduce his role in the incident to the blind execution of orders, which is the duty of every disciplined soldier. Wilhelm Keitel, whose quotations are akin to the statements of most Nazi leaders, among other things, regrets that fate did not send him the death of a more worthy soldier than the rope loop.