Alfred Jodl

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Alfred Jodl (1890-1946) was Chief of the Operations Staff of the Nazi Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW), the military office through which Adolf Hitler exerted control. He had been a senior staff officer since approximately 1935, and was involved in the planning of the German operation to annex Czechoslovakia, as well as operations after the outbreak of overt war. He was hanged by order of the Trial of the Major War Criminals by the International Military Tribunal, although the verdict was somewhat controversial.

Jodl's basic defense at the Tribunal was that he was a loyal soldier following Hitler's orders, but the defense of obedience to superior orders, without mitigating circumstances, had been rejected in the trial Charter. [1]Nevertheless, Jodl did not abandon his professionalism, and would argue with Hitler, as opposed to his passive nominal supervisor, Wilhelm Keitel.

He told other officers, after Hitler became Chancellor, that Hitler had come to power through lawful means, so to defy him would be to defy President Paul von Hindenburg. After victories in Poland and France, he increasingly thought highly of Hitler's abilities, although his opinion changed, not totally, after the Battle of Stalingrad.

Beginning the staff role

As a colonel, Jodl was head of the Operations staff under Hit;er's one and only War Minister, Werner von Blomberg, beginning in 1935. [2]

Disputes with Hitler

Albert Speer said that while Jodl rarely contradicted Speer directly, he could, diplomatically, convince Hitler to modify or reverse a position. [3] Neave, however, describes a major confrontation in August 1942, when Hitler was critical of Field Marshal Walther List for failing to take Baku in the Caucasus. Hitler sent Jodl to investigate in person, and Jodl concluded the task was impossible. According to General Adolf Heusinger, Hitler told him " didn't send you, Jodl, to report on the difficulty. You were supposed to represent my views that paratroopers were to be landed in Tuapse." Jodl rose and said "If you want to lose your paratroopers, then drop them ont to Tuapse...In addition, I was not sent to carry out orders but to examine the situation. If it was only necessary to transmit an order I wasn't needed."

Hitler replied "You should have carried through my order against the resistance I so often encounter. That was your task, General Jodl. You haven't done it. Thank you very much." Jodl left the room without replying to Hitler, and Hitler told his adjutant he would no longer eat at the same table as Keitel or Jodl. Assuming Field Marshal Paulus would triumph at Stalingrad, Hitler planned to replace Jodl with him. Hitler considered but decided against a court-martial, but refused to shake hands with Jodl. [4]

The Tribunal

According to the prison psychologist, G.M. Gilbert, Jodl lost his composure and became red with rage, as generals testified against OKW and the General Staff.
Then those general who are squealing on us as witnesses to save their damn necks ought to see they are just as much criminals as we are and just as liable to hang! They needn't think they can buy themselves off by testifying against us and saying they were only little clerks! [5]

Speaking in his own defense, he said that while Hitler wanted him to issue the Commando Order, he told Hitler's adjutant, Rudolf Schmundt, that he refused to do so. Jodl later sent out a directive, without the knowledge of Hitler or Keitel, that such captured personnel should be treated as prisoners of war.[6] Neave wrote that Jodl, with the support of Keitel, argued against the Commando Order. He said "thirty-two years afterwards, I have some doubt about the execution of Jodl, though he was undoubtedly guilty of the gravest war crimes." He said Hitler sent out the Commando Order on his own. [7]

He swore he was unaware of the conditions in the concentration camps and had only minimal awareness of the overall programs of the Jews. Essentially, he regarded those activities as in Heinrich Himmler's domain. At lunch following his testimony, Karl Doenitz agreed "the SS police was a state within a state. It was a question who was more powerful at the end, Hitler or Himmler."[6]

Was this plausible? In the earlier parts of the war, both the Army High Command (OKH) and SS were fairly autonomous. OKW had a much smaller staff, and, according to Warlimont, there was much less communications. Planning for the Polish operation was led by General Johannes Blaskowitz of OKH. During the operation, Blaskowitz complained to OKH about SS atrocities and was relieved by Hitler, but it is unclear if OKW was involved.[8]

When he resumed his testimony, he said that while Germany could conquer Poland, it was completely unprepared for a world war with a combination of powers. He could not understand why the French Army, roughly 5 times the strength of the German Army, stayed at the Maginot Line rather than intervening under France's guarantee to Poland.[9]

While the Anschluss, he said, was improvised, and the Sudetenland was a "gift" of the Munich Pact, he expected neither the complete takeover of Czechoslovakia nor the invasion of Poland. In informal discussion, Keitel agreed that Hitler bypassed them, and Doenitz and Goering agreed with the principles that soldiers could only obey politicians. Hjalmar Schacht and Franz von Papen, however, were appalled.[10]


  1. Airey Neave (1978), On Trial at Nuremberg, Little, Brown, pp. 177-178
  2. Walter Warlimont (1962), Inside Hitler's Headquarters, 1939-45, Presidio, pp. 9-10
  3. Albert Speer (1970), Inside the Third Reich, Macmillan, pp. 244
  4. Neave, pp. 179-180
  5. G.M. Gilbert (1947), Nuremberg Diary, Farrar, Strauss, p. 104
  6. 6.0 6.1 Gilbert, p. 363
  7. Neave, p. 180
  8. Johannes Blaskowitz, Jewish Virtual Library
  9. Gilbert, p. 366
  10. Gilbert, pp. 366-367