Keitel, Wilhelm, born on 22-09-1882 in Helmscherode, estate
the eldest son of the middle-class landowner Carl Keitel and his wife Apollonia Vissering. At the beginning he wanted to take over his family’s estates after completing his education at a gymnasium. This plan failed as his father didn’t want to retire. Instead, he embarked on a military career in 1901, becoming an officer cadet of the Prussian Army. As a commoner, he did not join the cavalry, but a field artillery regiment in Wolfenbüttel, serving as adjutant from 1908. On 18-04-1909, Keitel married Lisa Fontaine, a wealthy landowner’s daughter at Wülfel near Hanover. Keitel was 6 ft. 1 in. (1.85 m) tall, later described as a solidly built and square-jawed Prussian. He joined the German Army and in 1902 became a second leutnant in the 46th
Field Artillery Regiment. Keitel had reached the rank of Hauptmann by the outbreak of the First World War. In September 1914 Keitel was seriously wounded
by a shell splinter. After returning to duty he became a battery commander before being appointed to the General Staff in March 1915. He also served as an officer with XIX Reserve Corps and the 199th
Infantry Division before returning to the General Staff in Berlin in December 1917. After the war Keitel was a member of the right-wing terrorist Freikorps
group under Wolfgang Kapp,
Kapp died age 65 on 12-06-1922, in Leipzig, and served on the frontier with Poland in 1919. He remained in the army and spent three years as an instructor at the School of Cavalry at Hanover. This was followed by a spell with the 6th
Artillery Regiment. Assigned to the Troop Office he was promoted to Oberst in February 1929. Later that year he became head of the Organizations Department. In this role he was involved in secret preparations to triple the size of the German Army. In January 1933, Adolf Hitler (see Hitler parents
was appointed Minister of Defence. Soon afterwards Blomberg introduced him to Hitler. Keitel was impressed and became a devoted supporter of the new leader
In February 1938 Keitel became Commander-in-Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces OKW. He now arranged to have his friend, Walter von Brauchitsch
appointed as Commander-in-Chief of the Army. During the World War II, Wilhelm Keitel, Generaloberst der Wehrmacht, Alfred Jodl
and General der Infanterie, Chef des Wehrmachtführungsstabes OKW
, Walther Warlimont
were the most important figures in the OKW.
He was a very loyal supporter of Adolf Hitler’s
(did you know
) policies and after the invasion of Poland he issued orders to the S
taffel and the Gestapo to exterminate the country’s Jews. Keitel advised against the Western Offensive and Operation Barbarossa but quickly backed down when Hitler responded aggressively. Both times he tried to resign but Hitler refused him permission to go. In May 1941 Keitel signed the Commissar Order which instructed German field commanders to execute Communist Party officials immediately they were captured. In July 1941 he signed another order giving Heinrich Himmler
the power to implement his racial program in the Soviet Union. In September 1942 Keitel and Alfred Jodl defended Field Marshal Wilhelm List
against the criticisms of Adolf Hitler (see Alois Hitler
This resulted in Jodl being sacked and for many months afterwards Hitler refused to shake hands with Keitel. This was the last time that Keitel was to challenge Hitler’s military decisions. He was now referred to by other officers as “Lakeitel”, the nodding ass. On 18-04-1909, Keitel married Lisa Fontaine, a wealthy landowner’s daughter at Wülfel near Hanover. Together they had six children, one of whom died in infancy. Wilhelm’s brother was Generalleutnant der Infanterie, Kommandeur XX Heeresgruppe, Bodewin Keitel
and Wilhelm Keitel’s son Leutnant Hans Georg died age 22, on 15-07-1941 in a field hospital after being mortally wounded the day before by a Russian aircraft attack. Ernst-Wilhelm
was Wilhelm Keitel’s second son and he returned with the last transport of POW from Russia, 450 soldiers, on 15-10-1956.
For his family, his eldest son, Karl-Heinz Keitel
(1914-1968), went on to serve as a divisional commander (Obersturmbannführer (Oberstleutnant) in the Waffen-SS.
General Wilhelm Keitel’s eldest son Karl Heinz, born on the 02-02-1914, in Wolfenbüttel, was engaged with Dorethea von Blomberg the daughter of Fieldmarshal, Werner von Blomberg
in January 1938. They were married in May the same year. Together they had one son, Hans-Christof, born 23-07-1939 and three daughters, Sybilla, born 17-12-1940; Jutta, born 14-05-1942; and Stephanie, born 26-12-1943. At the time of the marriage, his father Wilhelm Keitel made no attempt to hide the fact that through the engagement of his son to Blomberg’s daughter, he was working towards an entente with his superior, Field-Marshal von Blomberg himself. Karl-Heinz served with the 22. SS-Freiwilligen-Kavallerie-Division “Maria Theresia”
. On the 12th
December Karl-Heinz was wounded in action while defending against Red Army probing attacks into Budapest for which he was awarded the wound badge
in black. The division arrived in early November 1944 and took up defensive positions for Operation Panzerfaust, near Budapest. There it was encircled along with the rest of the Axis troops in the Hungarian capital and destroyed. Only some 170 men made it out of the encirclement. Over the next two years Wilhelm Keitel issued orders for the execution of striking workers, the extermination of Jews and the killing of captured partisans. He also suggested that German civilians should be encouraged to lynch captured Allied airman. Keitel signed the surroundings papers for the Russians in Berlin.
After the war Keitel was arrested and tried at Nuremberg as a major war criminal.
Death and burial ground Keitel, Wilhelm Bodewin Johann Gustav.
Found guilty he was hanged on 16-10-1946, age 64, by the U.S. hangman John Chris Woods.
Jodl is cremated on the Ostfriedhof of Munich together with all condemned Nuremburg persons, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Wilhelm Keitel, Julius Streicher, Wilhelm Frick, Arthur Seyss Inquart, Alfred Rosenberg, Ernst Kaltenbrunner
and Hans Frank
SS Obergruppenführer, Fritz Sauckel
, and Hermann Goering
(did you know
), Goering committed suicide only hours before his hanging. The ashes were secretly, in the night of 16-10-1946, scattered in the river Isar, from a bridge in Munich, the Reichenbachbrücke. It’s the same story as with the ashes and graves of honor for Wilhelm Keitel, in Bad Gandersheim and on Ohlsdorf cemetery in Hamburg and Joachim von Ribbentrop, in Biebrich, Wiesbaden, the family grave of his wife Annelies von Ribbentrop-Henkell.
The ashes, secretly in the same night, scattered in the local river Isar from the Reichenbachbridge. Veterans say that the Keitel family bought the ashes from the Americans and buried it on the family cemetery of Bad Gandersheim, the Keitel’s country seat, although his brother, General der Infanterie, Kommandeur XX Heeresgruppe, Bodewin Keitel
and family members are buried there, we found only a “grave of honour” with the ashes details. On the cemetery of Ohlsdorf in Hamburg there is an older family grave of the Keitel family too and local people told me the same story and said that Keitel is buried in Hamburg?? This place is a Neo Nazi attraction they told me and most graves are damaged. Keitel’s last words, before hanged: I call upon the Almighty to have mercy on the German people. More than two million German soldiers went to their deaths for the fatherland before me. I now follow my sons. Everything for Germany!