Wilhelm Keitel was born in Helmscherode, Duchy of Brunswick, German Empire on 22 September 1882, the son of a middle-class landowner. He became an officer cadet of the Prussian Army in 1901 and joined a mounted field artillery regiment, earning two Iron Crosses while serving on the Western Front of World War I as a battalion adjutant. After the war, he stayed in the Reichswehr of the Weimar Republic, and he was assigned to the Ministry of War in 1929 as a Lieutenant-Colonel. Keitel played a vital role in the rearmament of the German military under Nazi Germany, and Werner von Fritsch had him promoted to Major-General in 1935 and appointed him to the OKW. In 1937, he was promoted to Generaloberst and was given command of the OKW, and he was briefly Governor of the Sudetenland in 1938. During World War II, Keitel advised Adolf Hitler against invading France and invading the Soviet Union, and he offered his resignation after both invasions proceeded. Nevertheless, he was promoted to Field Marshal in 1940.
Keitel was responsible for numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity, signing the Barbarossa Decree, the Commissar Order, and the Night and Fog Decree, among others, and he handed over several 20 July plot conspirators over to Roland Freisler's "People's Court" for execution in 1944-1945. At the end of the war, he vainly called for counterattacks against Soviet forces during the Battle of Berlin, and he was forced to surrender to the Allies at Flensburg on 8 May 1945. In 1946, he was sentenced to death during the Nuremberg Trials, and he hit his head on the trap door while being hanged, inflicting facial injuries on Keitel before he was strangled to death for 24 minutes in a macabre death struggle.