Did Jodl know Hitler? [70 Years after Nuremberg]

Nuremberg Palace

Alfred Jodl, Chief of the Operations Staff of the Armed Forces High Command, began his defense on June 3, 1946.   Indicted on the charges of conspiracy to commit crimes against peace; planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression; war crimes and crimes against humanity, Jodl’s defense began with testimony outlining issues that distanced him from the inner circle of the Nazi Party.

[from transcript of testimony, 3 June 1946]

DR. EXNER: During the entire period of the war you were with Hitler and therefore you must really know him best. So I should like to ask you in detail about the personality of the Fuehrer, but the Court is not very fond of repetition. Therefore tell us quite briefly what particularly influenced you in Hitler’s behavior, what impressed you particularly? What were the things you disliked?

Jodl addressing the Tribunal

JODL: Hitler was a leader to an exceptional degree. His knowledge and his intellect, his rhetoric, and his will power triumphed in the end in every spiritual conflict over everyone. He combined to an unusual extent logic and clarity of thought, skepticism and excess of imagination, which very frequently foresaw what would happen, but also very often went astray. I really marveled at him when in the winter of 1941-42, by his faith and his energy, he established the wavering Eastern Front; for at that time, as in 1812, a catastrophe was imminent. His life in the Fuehrer headquarters was nothing but duty and work. The modesty in his mode of life was impressive. There was not one day during This war…

THE PRESIDENT: One moment. As you said, Dr. Exner, the Tribunal has had to listen to This sort of thing over and over again already. We are not interested in that.

DR. EXNER: Perhaps you can tell the Tribunal something which they have heard less frequently, namely what you disliked in the personality of Hitler.

THE PRESIDENT: I do not think that, put in that general way, it is of any interest to the Tribunal, what he disliked in Hitler. I mean, can he not get on with his own case?

DR. EXNER: Did you feel that you were close to the Fuehrer personally?

JODL: No; in no way at all.

DR. EXNER: All your relations were essentially official?

JODL: Yes, purely official. I did not belong to his private circle, and he did not know any more about me than that my name was Jodl, and that therefore, presumably, I came from Bavaria.

DR. EXNER: Who belonged to the private circle?

JODL: Chiefly all the old guard from the time when the Party was in its developing stage: Bormann first of all, the original women secretaries, his personal physician, and the political or SS adjutants.

DR. EXNER: Your Gauleiter speech was used by the Prosecution to prove that you were an unconditional follower of the Fuehrer and his enthusiastic adherent. Tell us, how did you come to make that speech?

JODL: Bormann proposed this speech to the Fuehrer, and the Fuehrer ordered it, though I undertook this speech very reluctantly, chiefly because of lack of time. But it was generally the wish in this period of crisis…

DR. EXNER: When was this speech?

JODL: In November 1943. The Italian defection had preceded it. It was the time of the heavy air attacks. At that moment it was naturally necessary to give the political leaders at home a completely unembroidered picture of the whole military situation, but at the same time to fill them with a certain amount of confidence in the supreme leadership. This speech, which had the title, “The strategic situation of Germany at the beginning of the fifth year of the war,” could obviously not be made by a Blockleiter, it could only be made by an officer of the Armed Forces Operations Staff, and so I came to deliver this speech.

DR. EXNER: What were the contents of this speech?

JODL: The contents, as I have already said, were an over-all picture of the strategic situation. Here, before the Tribunal naturally only the introduction was read. This introduction painted a picture of what lay behind us, but not from the political point of view, rather from the strategic angle. I described the operational necessity for all the operations of the so-called wars of aggression. In no way did I identify myself with the National Socialist Party, but, as is only natural for a General Staff officer, with my Supreme Commander; for at that time it was no longer a question of National Socialism or democracy. The question was the “to be or not to be” of the German people. And there were patriots in Germany too, not only in the neighboring states; and I shall count myself among these patriots while I have breath. Moreover, it is not important to whom one speaks, but it is important what one says and what one speaks about. Besides, I may also state that I delivered that same speech to the military-district commanders and to the senior officers of the reserve army.

Cross-examination of Jodl: index of topics

DR. EXNER: The beginning and the end of the speech contain a eulogy of the Party and the Fuehrer that is incontestable. Why did you include that in a purely objective military speech?

JODL: It was impossible for me to begin a speech of that kind with a critical controversy about the Party or about my Supreme Commander. It was necessary to create confidence between the officer and the Party leader; for this confidence was not only necessary in order that the speech would serve its purpose; this confidence was the prerequisite for victory. Moreover, I should like to make an important point; that which the Prosecution submitted as Document Number L-172…

DR. EXNER: Is that the Gauleiter speech?

JODL: That is not the Gauleiter speech at all; it is not the speech which I delivered. That is nothing else but the “wastepaper basket” version of this speech. It is the first rough draft which was completely revised and altered because it contained many things which were not important. The entire nucleus of the speech, namely the section about the situation at the time, the part dealing with the enemy and the means at his disposal and his intentions, all that is missing. The things contained in this document are many hundreds of notes for the speech which were’ sent to me by my staff. I compiled my speech from these notes, and then I returned all this material to my staff.[http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/06-03-46.asp#jodl, accessed 6/7/2016]

Despite the extensive defense that continued through 7 June 1946, it merits only a passing remark in Tom’s letter to Grace dated 5 June, “The last two days have been regular trial days. We finished Sauckel and started Jodl.” [p. 317, 6/5/1946] The end is in sight, and Tom Dodd is starting to think about what path he will follow when he returns to Connecticut.


–Owen Doremus and Betsy Pittman

[Owen Doremus, a junior at Edwin O. Smith High School, is supporting this blog series with research and writing as part of an independent study.]

The majority of the letters from Tom Dodd to his wife Grace have been published and can be found in Letters from Nuremberg, My father’s narrative of a quest for justice. Senator Christopher J. Dodd with Lary Bloom. New York: Crown Publishing, 2007.

Images available in Thomas J. Dodd Papers.

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