“I believed, I erred” – the belated regret by Hitler’s field marshal Keitel before the Nuremberg Tribunal stood out as a lone exception in facing the atrocities of the German military.
Most of the high-ranking officers who aided the dictator in his war of aggression pleaded that they were obeying orders and denied any personal guilt. In post-war Germany, where there was an atmosphere of repression rather than inquiry, they contrived the myth of a “clean” military which supposedly was neither involved in the mass murders of the regime nor was aware of them.
In fact, many aristocrats in the military regarded the Nazi-Ideology with reserve, but their resistance, also in clear sight of the horrendous crimes carried out by the regime, was confined to a small circle. No active field marshal rose to support the men of the failed assassination attempt of July 20, 1944. Erich von Manstein, for instance, categorically declined the recruiting efforts of the conspirators with the words: “German field marshals do not mutiny”. A fatal delay. Only the high military could still have had the power to bring about the downfall of the Hitler regime from within.
Subsequent to the successful documentary series “Hitler’s Henchmen”, Guido Knopp and his team continue this significant television analysis of the Nazi period with a new series on the six most important German generals. Profiling these men, the series continues the pose the question as to why it all happened. Rommel, Keitel, Paulus, Udet, Canaris and Manstein – six careers caught in the tangle between obedience and crime. What led all these officers to put their military talents at the service of a murderous dictator? To what depth was their involvement in Hitler´s crimes? To what limits did their obedience lead them?
Episode 1: Keitel – The Lackey
Episode 2: Rommel – The Desert Fox
Episode 3: Canaris – The Master Spy
Episode 4: Manstein – The Strategist
Episode 5: Paulus – The Defector
Episode 6: Udet – The Devil´s General