German field-marshal who served as supreme commander of Hitler's armed forces throughout World War II.
From a middle-class landowning family, Keitel served in the artillery and as a staff officer during World War I. After the war he found his true métier as a punctilious and conscientious administrator and in 1935 was appointed chief of staff to the war minister, Werner von Blomberg (1878–1946). When in 1938, Hitler replaced the war ministry with a high command of the armed forces – the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) – he appointed Keitel its head.
Keitel was one of the few Hitler appointees to retain his post throughout the war – an indication of his unquestioning loyalty to the Führer. But the armed service chiefs and even Hitler himself regarded Keitel with contempt and he was dubbed ‘Lakeitel’ – ‘lackey Keitel’. Indeed, military matters were largely delegated to his chief of staff, Alfred Jodl. Together, Keitel and Jodl contrived to supplant the existing army high command with Hitler's OKW. Promoted to field-marshal in July 1940, Keitel offered his resignation in August after Hitler had rejected a memorandum opposing the opening of an eastern front. His offer was sternly refused and thereafter Keitel stifled all criticism of the Führer's proposals. In the wake of the attempted assassination of Hitler on 20 July 1944, Keitel was one of those chosen to investigate fellow officers arrested on suspicion of complicity. After the war, he was convicted of crimes against humanity by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg and hanged.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).