Alfred Josef Ferdinand Jodl ([ˈjoːdl̩]; listen (help·info)) (10 May 1890 – 16 October 1946) was a German Generaloberst who served as the Chief of the Operations Staff of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, the German Armed Forces High Command, throughout World War II.
After the war, Jodl was indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit crimes against peace; planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression; war crimes; and crimes against humanity at the Allied-organised Nuremberg trials. The principal charges against him related to his signature of the criminal Commando and Commissar Orders. Found guilty on all charges, he was sentenced to death and executed in Nuremberg in 1946.
Early life and career
Alfred Jodl (second from right) as a captain of the Reichswehr, 1926
Alfred Jodl was educated at a military cadet school in Munich, from which he graduated in 1910. Ferdinand Jodl, who would also become an army general, was his younger brother. The philosopher and psychologist Friedrich Jodl at the University of Vienna was his uncle. Jodl was raised Roman Catholic but rejected the faith later in life.
From 1914 to 1916 he served with a battery unit on the Western Front, being awarded the Iron Cross 2nd class for gallantry in November 1914, and being wounded in action. In 1917 he served briefly on the Eastern Front before returning to the West as a staff officer. In 1918 he won the Iron Cross 1st class for gallantry in action. After the defeat of the German Empire in 1918, he continued his career as a professional soldier with the much-reduced German Army (Reichswehr). Jodl married twice: in 1913, and (after becoming a widower) in 1944.
World War II
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Jodl's appointment as a major in the operations branch of the Truppenamt in the Army High Command in the last years of the Weimar Republic put him under command of General Ludwig Beck. In September 1939 Jodl first met Adolf Hitler. In the build-up to the Second World War, Jodl was nominally assigned as a commander of the 44th Division from October 1938 to August 1939 after the Anschluss.
Jodl was chosen by Hitler to be Chief of Operation Staff of the newly formed Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) on 23 August 1939, just prior to the German invasion of Poland. Jodl acted as a Chief of Staff during the invasion of Denmark and Norway. Following the Fall of France, Jodl was optimistic of Germany's success over Britain, writing on 30 June 1940 that "The final German victory over England is now only a question of time."
Jodl signed the Commissar Order of 6 June 1941 (in which Soviet political commissars were to be shot) and the Commando Order of 28 October 1942 (in which Allied commandos, including properly uniformed soldiers as well as combatants wearing civilian clothes, such as Maquis and partisans, were to be executed immediately without trial if captured behind German lines).
Jodl spent most of the war at the Wolf's Lair, Hitler's forward command post in East Prussia. On 1 February 1944, he was promoted to the rank of Generaloberst (Colonel General). Jodl was among those slightly injured during the 20 July plot of 1944 against Hitler where he suffered a concussion from the explosion. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross by Großadmiral Karl Dönitz, Hitler's successor, on 6 May 1945.
At the end of World War II in Europe, Jodl signed the German Instrument of Surrender on 7 May 1945 in Reims as the representative of Dönitz. On 13 May, on the arrest of Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel, Jodl succeeded him as Chief of OKW.
Trial and conviction
Jodl being arrested by British troops on 23 May 1945, near Flensburg
Jodl was arrested, along with the rest of the Flensburg government of Dönitz, by British troops on 23 May 1945 and transferred to Camp Ashcan POW camp and later put before the International Military Tribunal at the Nuremberg trials. Jodl was accused of conspiracy to commit crimes against peace; planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression; war crimes; and crimes against humanity. The principal charges against him related to his signature of the Commando Order and the Commissar Order, both of which ordered that certain classes of prisoners of war were to be summarily executed upon capture. When confronted with the 1941 mass shootings of Soviet POWs, Jodl claimed the only prisoners shot were "not those that could not, but those that did not want to walk."
Additional charges at his trial included unlawful deportation and abetting execution. Presented as evidence was his signature on an order that transferred Danish citizens, including Jews, to Nazi concentration camps. Although he denied his role in this activity of the regime, the court sustained his complicity based on the evidence it had examined, with the French judge, Henri Donnedieu de Vabres, dissenting.
His wife Luise attached herself to her husband's defence team. Subsequently, interviewed by Gitta Sereny, researching her biography of Albert Speer, Luise alleged that in many instances the Allied prosecution made charges against Jodl based on documents that they refused to share with the defence. Jodl nevertheless proved that some of the charges made against him were untrue, such as the charge that he had helped Hitler gain control of Germany in 1933.
Jodl pleaded not guilty "before God, before history and my people". Found guilty on all four charges, he was hanged at Nuremberg Prison on 16 October 1946. Jodl's last words were reportedly "Ich grüße Dich, mein ewiges Deutschland"—"I salute you, my eternal Germany."
The body of Jodl, 16 October 1946
His remains, like those of the other nine executed men and Hermann Göring (who had taken his own life prior to his scheduled execution), were cremated at Ostfriedhof and the ashes were scattered in the Wenzbach, a small tributary of the River Isar to prevent the establishment of a permanent burial site which might be enshrined by nationalist groups. A cross commemorating Alfred Jodl was later added to the family grave on the Frauenchiemsee in Bavaria. Although in 2018 the local council ordered the cross to be removed, in March 2019 a Munich Court upheld Jodl's relatives right to maintain the family grave, while noting the family's willingness to remove Alfred Jodl's name.
Posthumous legal action
On 28 February 1953, a West German denazification court, after his widow Luisa sued to reclaim her pension and his estate, declared the now-deceased Jodl not guilty of breaking international law, based on Henri Donnedieu de Vabres's 1949 disapproval of Jodl's conviction.
This not guilty declaration was revoked by the Minister of Political Liberation for Bavaria on 3 September 1953, following objections from the United States; the consequences of this acquittal on Jodl's estate were, however, maintained.
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