Alfred Josef Ferdinand Jodl (10 May 1890 – 16 October 1946) was a German military commander, attaining the position of Chief of the Operations Staff of the Armed Forces High Command (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, or OKW) during World War II, acting as deputy to Wilhelm Keitel, and signed the unconditional surrender of Germany as a representative for German president Karl Dönitz. At Nuremberg he was tried, sentenced to death and hanged as a war criminal. Jodl was exonerated by a German denazification court in 1953. After pressure from the US military, the exoneration was subsequently revoked by a Bavarian politician, though the revocation had no legal effect.
Alfred Jodl was born out of wedlock as Alfred Josef Ferdinand Baumgärtler in Würzburg, Germany, the son of Officer Alfred Jodl and Therese Baumgärtler, assuming the surname Jodl upon his parents' marriage in 1899. He was educated at Cadet School in Munich, from which he graduated in 1910. General Ferdinand Jodl was his younger brother. The philosopher and psychologist Friedrich Jodl at the University of Vienna was his uncle.
After schooling, Jodl joined the army as an artillery officer. During World War I he served as a battery officer on the Western Front from 1914–16, twice being wounded. In 1917 Jodl served briefly on the Eastern Front before returning to the west as a staff officer. After the war Jodl remained in the armed forces and joined the Versailles-limited Reichswehr.
Jodl had married Irma Gräfin von Bullion, a woman five years his senior from an aristocratic Swabian family, in September 1913. She died in Königsberg in the spring of 1944 from pneumonia, contracted after major spinal surgery. In November 1944, Jodl married Luise von Benda, a family friend.
World War II
Jodl's appointment as a major in the operations branch of the Truppenamt in the Army High Command in the last days of the Weimar Republic put him under command of General Ludwig Beck, who recognised Jodl as "a man with a future". On September 1939 Jodl first met Adolf Hitler. In the build-up to World War II, Jodl was nominally assigned as a Artilleriekommandeur of the 44th Division from October 1938 to August 1939 during the Anschluss. Jodl was chosen by Hitler to be Chef des Wehrmachtsführungsstabes (Chief of Operation Staff of the newly formed OKW). Jodl acted as a Chief of Staff during the swift occupation of Denmark and Norway. During the campaign, Hitler interfered only when the German destroyer flotilla was demolished outside Narvik and wanted the German forces there to retreat into Sweden. Jodl successfully thwarted Hitler's orders. Jodl disagreed with Hitler for the second time during the summer offensive of 1942. Hitler dispatched Jodl to the Caucasus to visit Field-Marshal Wilhelm List to find out why the oil fields had not been captured. Jodl returned only to corroborate List's reports that the troops were at their last gasp.
During the Battle of Britain Jodl was optimistic of Germany's success over Britain, on 30 June 1940 writing "The final German victory over England is now only a question of time."
At the Nuremberg Trials, when confronted with mass shootings of Soviet POWs in 1941, Jodl explained that only prisoners shot were "... not those that could not, but those that did not want to walk."
Jodl signed 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) and the Commissar Order of 6 June 1941 (in which Soviet Political Commissioners were to be shot).
He was injured during the 20 July plot of 1944 against Hitler. Because of this, Jodl was awarded the special wounded badge alongside several other leading Nazi figures. He was also rather vocal about his suspicions that others had not endured wounds as severe as his own, often downplaying the effects of the plot on others.
At the end of World War II in Europe, Jodl signed the instruments of unconditional surrender on 7 May 1945 in Reims as the representative of Karl Dönitz.
Trial and execution
Jodl was arrested and transferred to Flensburg 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 prisoners were to be summarily executed. 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 and other civilians, to concentration camps. Although he denied his role in the crime, the (disunited) court sustained his complicity based on the given evidence. The French judge, Henri Donnedieu de Vabres didn't agree in the case of Jodl.
His wife Luise attached herself to her husband's defense 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 defense. 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 (with Keitel, on 16 October 1946) although he had asked the court, according to military traditions, to be executed by firing squad.
Jodl's last words were reportedly "Ich grüße Dich, mein ewiges Deutschland"—"I greet you, my eternal Germany." He was declared dead 18 minutes later.
Donald E. Wilkes, Jr., a professor of law at the University of Georgia Law School, noted that many of the executed Nazis fell from the gallows with insufficient force to snap their necks, resulting in a macabre, suffocating death struggle that in some cases lasted many, many minutes.
His remains were cremated at Munich, and his ashes scattered into the Isar River (effectively an attempt to prevent the establishment of a permanent burial site to those nationalist groups who might seek to congregate there—an example of this being Benito Mussolini's grave in Predappio, Italy). A cenotaph in the family plot in the Fraueninsel Cemetery, in Chiemsee, Germany is dedicated to him.Post mortem rehabilitation
On 28 February 1953, the München Hauptspruchkammer (main denazification court) declared Jodl not guilty of the main charges brought against him at Nuremberg. In doing so the court cited the French co-President of the Tribunal, Henri Donnedieu de Vabres, who had in 1949 called the verdict against Jodl a mistake. His property, which had been confiscated in 1946, was returned to his widow.
This not guilty declaration was revoked on 3 September 1953 by the Minister of Political Liberation for Bavaria, after pressure from American officers. This decision had no legal impact, and Jodl's wife could keep his property.
- Iron Cross (1914)
- 2nd Class (20 November 1914)
- 1st Class (3 May 1918)
- Wound Badge
- in Black
- Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918 in 1934
- Anschluss Medal
- Sudetenland Medal
- Iron Cross
- 2nd Class (30 September 1939)
- 1st Class (23 December 1939)
- Wound Badge of 20 July 1944
- in Black
- Golden Party Badge (30 January 1943)
- Order of Michael the Brave
- 3rd Class (23 December 1943)
- 2nd Class (23 December 1943)
- Order of the Cross of Liberty 1st Class with Swords (25 March 1942)
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Knight's Cross on 6 May 1945 as Generaloberst and Chef des Wehrmachtfuhrungsstabes im OKW
- 865th Oak Leaves on 10 May 1945 as Generaloberst and Chef des Wehrmachtfuhrungsstabes im OKW und stellv. Chef OKW
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