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Alfred Jodl: Nazi German military commander.


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Alfred Jodl
Alfred Jodl: May 10, 1890 - October 16, 1946.

Alfred Jodl (May 10, 1890 - October 16, 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.

Early life

Jodl was born Alfred Josef Ferdinand Baumgärtler in 1890 in Würzburg, Germany, the son of Officer Alfred Jodl and Therese Baumgärtler, becoming "Alfred Jodl" upon his parents' marriage in 1899. He was educated at Cadet School in Munich, from which he graduated in 1910.

Early military career

After schooling, Jodl joined the army as an artillery officer. During World War I served as a battery officer on the Western Front 1914-1916, 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 in September 1913. The marriage was unhappy, Irma becoming more and more interested in Jodl's career than in the man himself. The couple had no children.

Nazi career

Jodl became acquainted with Adolf Hitler in 1923. As a vocal Nazi sympathizer, he was rapidly promoted and by 1935 headed the Abteilung Landesverteidigung im Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH) (Chief of the National Defense Section in the High Command of the Army). In the build-up to the Second World War, Jodl was nominally assigned as a Artilleriekommandeur of the 44th Division from October 1938 to August 1939 during the Anschluss, but from then until the end of the war in May 1945 he was Chef des Wehrmachtsführungsstabes (Chief of Operation Staff OKW). Jodl was therefore a key figure in German military operations from 1939, supplying advice and technical information directly to Hitler. He was injured during the July Plot. Due to his proximity in July Plot, Judl was awarded the wounded cross alongside several other leading Nazi figures. He was also rather vocal about his suspicions that others had not endured wounds as strong as his own, often downplaying the effects of the plot on others. It is assumed that Jodl was so thorough because he was envious that anyone should share in the same decorations as he and Der Fuhreh, and has been suggested by notable critics such as Robert Ferdozinni, that Jodl in fact had a homosexual attraction to his master, implying rather detrimental consequences to choice of action under the Nazi leader.

Colonel General Jodl signs the instruments of unconditional surrender in Reims on May 7, 1945
Colonel General Jodl signs the instruments of unconditional surrender in Reims on May 7, 1945.

Jodl's wife Irma died on April 18, 1944. During their last years together Alfred and Irma had been very distant and cold to each other. While Wilhelm Keitel called his wife almost every day, Alfred Jodl didn't seem to seek contact with Irma. On April 7, 1945 he married former secretary and mistress Luise Katharina von Benda (born 1905). She had been a close friend of his first wife.

Jodl signed the Commando Order and the Commissar Order.

At the end of World War II in Europe Colonel General Jodl signed the instruments of unconditional surrender on May 7, 1945 in Reims as the representative for Karl Dönitz.

Trial and execution

Jodl was then 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 court sustained his complicity based on the given evidence.

His wife Luise Jodl managed to attach herself to her husband's defence team. Subsequently interviewed by Gitta Sereny, researching her biography of Albert Speer, Luise Jodl revealed that in many instances the Allied prosecution made charges against Jodl based on documents that they refused to share with the defense. Jodl nevertheless managed to prove that some of the charges made against him were completely untrue, such as the charge that he had helped Hitler gain control of Germany in 1933. He was in one instance aided by a GI clerk who chose to give Luise a document showing that the execution of a group of British commandos in Norway had been legitimate. The GI warned Luise that if she didn’t copy it immediately she would never see it again; "…it was being 'filed'."

Alfred Jodl
Alfred Jodl

Jodl pleaded 'not guilty' "before God, before history and my people". Found guilty on all four charges, he was hanged, although he had asked the court to be executed by firing squad.

Jodl's last words were reportedly "My greetings to you, my Germany." Jodl's remains were cremated at Munich, and his ashes were raked out and scattered into the Conwentzbach, a small river flowing into the larger 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 Mussolini's place of rest in Predappio, Italy). Jodl nonetheless possesses a cenotaph in the family plot in the Fraueninsel Cemetery, in Chiemsee Germany.

On February 28, 1953, nearly seven years after his execution, a court in Munich found that Jodl was not guilty of those war crimes for which he was convicted by the IMT (particularly crimes against humanity), and subsequently the charges against him were abandoned. His property, taken by the Allies when he was captured by the Allies, was returned to him posthumously, his widow Luise Jodl receiving it as his beneficiary and closest surviving kin


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