Keitel, Wilhelm(vĭl`hĕlm kī`təl), 1882–1946, German general. A supporter of Hitler, he became (1938) chief of staff of the supreme command of the armed forces, a new post that marked the German army's subjection to Hitler. On May 8, 1945, Keitel ratified in Berlin the unconditional surrender of Germany. He was convicted at the Nuremberg war-crimes trial and hanged.
Born Sept. 22, 1882, in Helmscherode; died Oct. 16, 1946, in Nuremberg. Fascist German field marshal (1940).
Keitel entered the army in 1901, fought in World War I (1914–18), and later served in the Reichswehr. In 1934 he became closely associated with the fascists and advanced rapidly in military service. Keitel was chief of the military political department of the war ministry from 1935 to 1938 and chief of staff of the armed forces High Command from Feb. 4, 1938, to May 8, 1945. Keitel was directly involved in the development and implementation of the aggressive plans of fascist Germany. He signed a number of directives concerning the annihilation of prisoners of war and civilian population in occupied territory. After the June 1944 attempt on Hitler’s life by military conspirators, he became a member of the “court of honor.” On May 8, 1945, he signed the document on the unconditional surrender of fascist Germany. At the Nuremberg trial Keitel was sentenced to death as one of the chief war criminals and was hanged.