34 Facts About Wilhelm Keitel


Wilhelm Bodewin Johann Gustav Keitel was a German field marshal and convicted war criminal who held office as chief of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, the high command of Nazi Germany's armed forces, for most of World War II.


In that capacity, Keitel was Germany's de facto war minister.


Wilhelm Keitel signed a number of criminal orders and directives that led to numerous war crimes.


Wilhelm Keitel's rise to the Wehrmacht high command began with his appointment as the head of the Armed Forces Office at the Reich Ministry of War in 1935.


Wilhelm Keitel was reviled among his military colleagues as Hitler's habitual "yes-man".


Wilhelm Keitel was found guilty on all counts of the indictment: crimes against humanity, crimes against peace, criminal conspiracy, and war crimes.


Wilhelm Keitel was sentenced to death and executed by hanging in 1946.

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Wilhelm Keitel was born in the village of Helmscherode near Gandersheim in the Duchy of Brunswick, Germany.


Wilhelm Keitel was the eldest son of Carl Keitel, a middle-class landowner, and his wife Apollonia Vissering.


On 18 April 1909, Wilhelm Keitel married Lisa Fontaine, a wealthy landowner's daughter at Wulfel near Hanover.


In 1924, Wilhelm Keitel was transferred to the Ministry of the Reichswehr in Berlin, serving with the Truppenamt, the post-Versailles disguised German General Staff.


Now a lieutenant-colonel, Wilhelm Keitel was again assigned to the war ministry in 1929 and was promoted to Head of the Organizational Department, a post he held until Adolf Hitler took power in 1933.


Shortly after his recovery, in October 1933, Wilhelm Keitel was appointed as deputy commander of the 3rd Infantry Division; in 1934, he was given command of the 22nd Infantry Division at Bremen.


In 1935, at the recommendation of General Werner von Fritsch, Wilhelm Keitel was promoted to the rank of major general and appointed chief of the Reich Ministry of War's Armed Forces Office, which oversaw the army, navy, and air force.


On 21 January 1938, Wilhelm Keitel received evidence revealing that the wife of his superior, War Minister Werner von Blomberg, was a former prostitute.


Wilhelm Keitel was promoted to Generaloberst in November 1938, and in April 1939 he was awarded the Golden Party Badge by Hitler.


Hermann Goring's description of Wilhelm Keitel as having "a sergeant's mind inside a field marshal's body" was a feeling often expressed by his peers.


Wilhelm Keitel had been promoted because of his willingness to function as Hitler's mouthpiece.


Wilhelm Keitel was predisposed to manipulation because of his limited intellect and nervous disposition; Hitler valued his diligence and obedience.


On one occasion, Burkhart Muller-Hillebrand asked who Wilhelm Keitel was: upon finding out he became horrified at his own failure to salute his superior.


On 30 August 1939, immediately prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, Wilhelm Keitel was appointed by Hitler to the six-person Council of Ministers for the Defense of the Reich which was set up to operate as a "war cabinet".


Wilhelm Keitel conducted the negotiations of the French armistice, and on 19 July 1940 was promoted to Generalfeldmarschall.


Wilhelm Keitel bluntly dismissed the problems, telling Thomas that Hitler would not want to see it.


Wilhelm Keitel played an important role after the failed 20 July plot in 1944.


Wilhelm Keitel sat on the army "court of honour" that handed over many officers who were involved, including Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben, to Roland Freisler's notorious People's Court.

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Joseph Stalin considered this an affront, so a second signing was arranged at the Berlin suburb of Karlshorst on 8 May There, Wilhelm Keitel signed the German Instrument of Surrender on 8 May 1945.


Wilhelm Keitel had full knowledge of the criminal nature of the planning and the subsequent invasion of Poland, agreeing to its aims in principle.


Wilhelm Keitel did not contest the regime's assault upon basic human rights or counter the role of the Einsatzgruppen in the murders.


Wilhelm Keitel continued to ignore the protests among the officer corps while they became morally numbed to the atrocities.


Wilhelm Keitel issued a series of criminal orders from April 1941.


In October 1942, Wilhelm Keitel signed the Commando Order that authorized the killing of enemy special operations troops even when captured in uniform.


In court, Wilhelm Keitel admitted that he knew many of Hitler's orders were illegal.


Wilhelm Keitel's defence relied almost entirely on the argument he was merely following orders in conformity to "the leader principle" and his personal oath of loyalty to Hitler.


Many of the executed Nazis fell from the gallows with insufficient force to snap their necks, resulting in convulsions that in Wilhelm Keitel's case lasted 24 minutes.