Quick navigation

Monday, September 20, 2004

Eden submitted a Cabinet paper WP(44)423 (?) with lists of war criminals to be dealt with in Germany and Italy. The War Office summarized its content for the minister as follows

(PRO file WO.258/59)

THE Foreign Secretary [left, Anthony Eden] has now prepared lists of major German and Italian war criminals. The lists are confined to individuals whose position or reputation is such that public opinion will not object to their guilt being taken for granted without being established by any form of legal proceedings. The assumption is that they will be punished by some form of "summary action" based solely on their identification: this is understood to mean summary execution by the first allied authority into whose hands they fall. The likelihood is that the task will fall to some military authority. The individuals in the lists have not been chosen solely because they hold high posts of a certain character, but because they personify the worst and most extreme features of Nazism and Fascism.

The lists contain the name of only one professional soldier, namely Field-Marshal Keitel. He ranks as a Reich minister and holds what in this country would be a Cabinet appointment. Other high ranking Service officers are excluded, because in their case it would be practically impossible to distinguish between general political responsibility and the responsibility of professionals who are merely carrying out the regime's orders. This is no doubt a sound principle, because it would be an entirely new doctrine that a soldier carrying out the orders of his Government was ipso facto guilty in the same sort of sense as his political masters. The lesser service authorities will, of course, remain liable to be tried for particular war crimes and will where possible be left to be dealt with by the individual country concerned on the basis of the general war criminals procedure envisaged in the Moscow Declaration. As regards Field-Marshal Keitel, [far left, with Göring, Dönitz, Himmler and Bormann] it would presumably be made clear in advance that he has forfeited any right to be treated as a prisoner of war, which would otherwise be his status.

'To take the case of Germany alone, in addition to Field-Marshal Keitel on the one hand, and the probably small number of professional Service men chargeable with particular war crimes, there be a large body of Service men against whom there appear to be no proposed sanctions for good behaviour at all. In the case of those who do not see fit to commit suicide, the officers of high rank and ability will either stay in their own country and become leaders of para-military activity; or else they will go abroad and probably hire their services to foreign Governments as military advisers. Presumably the first of these two classes will have to be kept under "Commission control"; the second class might possibly be eliminated by making it an "unfriendly act" for the Government of any country to employ the services of a German military adviser in any capacity. The Foreign Secretary (in para. 8 (b)) refers to "our express aim to extirpate Prussian militarism". If the matter is left simply to legal process, there will be very wide opportunities for Prussian militarism to keep itself alive, and to preserve its professional and technical ability. (Sanctions such as that suggested against German military advisers fall outside the scope of this paper, but the subject does not appear to be under separate consideration.)

22nd June, 1944.


See: "Draft of a suggested telegram to be sent by the President and the Prime Minister to Marshal Stalin," September 17, 1944. FDR Library.

Website note: The above text may contain characteristic OCR errors. We will correct these if notified. [notify].

The above material has been researched by David Irving for the third volume of his Churchill biography, "Churchill's War", vol. iii: "The Sundered Dream."

Stalin's conversations with Allied leaders Oct 11-15, 1944
Free download: David irving, "Nuremberg, the Last Battle"

© Focal Point 2004 F Irving write to David Irving