Alfred Jodl

02.05.2016 ( Last modified: 08.06.2016 )
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Alfred Jodl was born on 10 May 1890 in Bavaria into a family of army officers and embarked upon a military career. He served in the artillery during the First World War. Jodl was promoted in 1935 to the rank of Major General. Being a staunch supporter of the Nazi party, he was nominated, in 1939, to the position of Chief of Staff for war operations of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW). By virtue of this title and with Wilhelm Keitel at his side, he held a key role in the conduct of military operations. It is he who directed the most important operations of the Reich during the Second World War, with the exception of the attack against the Soviet Union.

Jodl was accused of having taken advantage of his position in the military hierarchy, of using his personal influence and his close contacts with the Fuhrer to promote the accession to power of the Nazi conspirators and their consolidation of power in Germany based on count 1 of the indictment. In addition Jodl participated in the military planning and in the preparation of the Nazi conspiracy aimed at waging wars of aggression according to counts 1 and 2 of the indictment. He authorised, directed and took part in acts constituting war crimes according to count 3, and in crimes against humanity, according to count 4 of the indictment.

In particular, Jodl kept up strong military pressure against Austria. It was he who signed the order given by Hitler to invade that country on the 11 March 1938. He also took an active part in the attack against Czechoslovakia. Together with Hitler, Keitel and Raeder, he made preparations for the invasion of Norway. He was also involved in the invasions of Denmark, the Netherlands and Greece.

In addition Jodl was accused of having given or signed a number of criminal orders. By way of example, in October 1944, he ordered the evacuation of all the inhabitants of northern Norway and the burning down of their houses.

On 7 May 1945, in Reims, Jodl signed the order for the unconditional surrender of the Wehrmacht. Shortly afterwards, he was arrested and indicted before the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal.


legal procedure

On 7 May 1945, in Reims, Jodl signed the order for the unconditional surrender of the Wehrmacht. Shortly afterwards, he was arrested and indicted before the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal.

Charged with counts I (common plan or conspiracy), II (crimes against peace), III (war crimes) and IV (crimes against humanity), he pleaded not guilty.

In his defence Jodl insisted on his military status and thus on the absolute duty wherever he was to carry out any orders received. He pointed out that whenever he gave out or signed orders, memorandums or letters, he did so in the name of Hitler and very often in place of Keitel. Furthermore he tried to demonstrate in his defence that even if, as a matter of principle, he had to carry out orders received, he frequently tried to resist the more evil measures ordered, notably by delaying their implementation.

The International Military Tribunal underlined that Jodl’s defence lay mainly in invoking the theory of superior orders, an approach which was not allowed by article 8 of the Tribunal’s Statute. No mitigating circumstances were therefore retained. According to the Tribunal, the participation in such crimes as those demonstrated had never been an injunction required of any soldier and Jodl could not therefore hide behind the “mythical” requirement of blind obedience of a soldier in order to escape his responsibility.

The Tribunal as a result, found Alfred Jodl guilty on all four counts and condemned him to death on 1 October 1946.

His appeal to the Control Council was rejected on 10 October 1946.

Alfred Jodl was executed by hanging on 16 October 1946.



After the Second World War numerous trials against war criminals and those responsible for Nazi crimes took place in Germany and other countries. It is not possible here to give an overview of all the trials. Below are the main facts concerning the major trials of war criminals at Nuremberg.


The German armed forces surrendered unconditionally on 7-8 May 1945. The Allies (USA, Soviet Union, Great Britain and France) took over all governmental functions in Germany, instituted the Allied Control Council and divided Germany into four zones of occupation.

After the adoption of the London Charter of 8 August 1945, the Allies set up the International Military Tribunal (IMT) in order to judge the major German war criminals. Annex III of the Agreement contains the Statute of the International Military Tribunal (IMT Statute [2]).


According to Articles 1-3 of the London Charter, war criminals with offenses having no particular geographical location were to be judged by the IMT. However in accordance with Articles 4 and 6 of the Convention, the principle of territoriality was to apply to the other German war criminals, with the courts of those states where crimes had been committed having the competence to try these criminals on the basis on their national laws.

Crimes within the jurisdiction of IMT:

– Crimes against peace;

– War crimes and

– Crimes against humanity (Article 6 of IMT Statute).

The IMT was composed of four judges and four substitutes who were appointed by the four Allied powers (Article 2 IMT Statute). In application of Article 13 of the IMT Statute, the Tribunal drew up its own Rules of Procedure

The IMT indicted 24 people in total. The trials took place from 14 November 1945 until 1 October 1946. Twelve defendants were sentenced to death, three were acquitted and seven others were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment. In one case, the procedure was suspended for health reasons and in another the defendant committed suicide before his trial.


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