In November 2003 I returned from a trip to France, which included a
visit to Oradour-sur-Glane, where I had a face-to-face meeting with one
of the staff there at the Centre de la Mémoire. She told me that
documents had been found in Germany from the Das Reich archives that
showed a clear and unambiguous order to destroy Oradour. The unknown
factor still remaining being why was Oradour singled out for
destruction? This new data was to be incorporated into a television
documentary, timed for release to coincide with the 60th anniversary of
the massacre on 10th June 2004. My informant told me that she had not
personally seen the papers, but she had been informed of their content.
She was adamant that the kidnapping of Kämpfe had nothing to do with the
One effect of such revelations concerning a clear written order to attack Oradour, would be of course to prove Otto Weidinger a bare-faced liar, as he has repeatedly denied in his various books that any such order was ever given. It would have also destroyed the reputation of Sylvester Stadler who has also denied throughout his life that any such order was given. Stadler in particular has enjoyed something of a "good guy" image, post war and his reputation would be particularly tarnished by these revelations if shown to be true.
The program mentioned above and titled, Oradour, Retour sur un Massacre was eventually broadcast at 23:00 (not a peak viewing time) on 29th May 2004 by the television channel, France 3, see Bibliography for details. Unfortunately I was not able to personally view it at the time of transmission, but was given a good outline of its content by two people who did (separately) see it. More recently I was able to purchase a DVD copy of the program and an annotated transcript of the original French subtitles appears below in English (using my own translation). More recently this DVD has become available from the Centre de la Mémoire with both French and English sub-titles, but what is shown below is still my own translation of the original.
The program makes the case that there is documentary evidence of meetings at a senior level within Das Reich to discuss the deteriorating security situation in France in the days following the D-Day landings on the 6th of June. This is undoubtedly true and can easily be imagined. There had also been a whole series of directives from the German High Command in the West at various times, detailing the measures to be taken concerning resistance activity. See for example the Sperrle orders and The means of execution on this website.
According to the program, the attack was planned and ordered by the senior officers of Das Reich, but, and this is crucial, the evidence produced takes the form of a statement dictated by Otto Kahn in 1962, in which he says that Adolf Diekmann told him that he (Diekmann) had received orders "from the regiment" to destroy the village. The page of the document shown in the DVD is of the right appearance to be genuine, but not all of it is visible, only a small fragment. I now have a full copy and it appears on this website in English translation.
The fragment of the Kahn statement that is shown in the DVD is rather odd in that a) it refers to him by title rather than rank (as Battalion Commander rather than Sturmbannführer), b) it does not state who gave Diekmann the order, c) it does not explain why Kahn is making the statement and e) Kahn is quoted as querying Diekmann and asking him to clarify the order with HQ, something very unusual indeed within the Waffen-SS. All of the statement that is visible in the video is shown below in translation.
"I myself went with my company to a hotel and reserved a big room there. (in St. Junien)
I wanted to lay down to sleep when a messenger ordered me to the battalion-commander Dieckmann. (notice the misspelling of Diekmann's name)
Dieckmann revealed to me that a command for the burning-down and annihilation of the village of Oradour had been received and that I would have to execute it.
Upon my amazed questioning for the reason, Dieckmann repeated the command without any further explanation.
Since the affair seemed to me most strange, I raised the objection that Dieckmann should first clarify with the regiment once again, why this command had been issued." (this is really odd, an SS-Hauptsturmführer asking his direct commander, who was an SS-Sturmbannführer, to check the validity of his orders).
If the above is literally true then indeed the only outstanding mystery is why Oradour was chosen for the attack. It also would prove Otto Weidinger to be a liar and that Sylvester Stadler must have given the order (or at least passed it on) to Diekmann. It would also mean that Sylvester Stadler, Otto Weidinger and Heinrich Lammerding then used Adolf Diekmann as a scapegoat; a most unworthy thing for the Waffen-SS to do. Bearing in mind that many other high-ranking members of Das Reich must have been aware of such an order, they would also be guilty of the crime of silence; in fact of forming a conspiracy against the memory of Diekmann.
Of course it is entirely possible that either:
1) Kahn was simply attempting to pass all blame from himself to his superiors and indeed attempting to show himself in a virtuous light: "Upon my amazed questioning for the reason"
2) Kahn was defending Diekmann, by insisting that his superiors had compelled him to act the way that he did: "I raised the objection that Dieckmann should first clarify with the regiment once again, why this command had been issued."
In fact, as a full reading of Kahn's statement shows, the program makers have been very selective in which part of his statement they have used. Later on, in his full statement, Kahn specifically states that the name of Lammerding (the commanding general of Das Reich) was never mentioned by Diekmann, nor in fact was any name quoted by him for the origin of the order. The only thing that Diekmann told Kahn was that he had received the order, "from the regiment".
Read the full transcript of Kahn's statement and then read the transcript of, Oradour, retour sur un massacre, below, in order to get a better feeling for the accuracy and relevance of both accounts.
Comment on the program
According to the program makers, Oradour was
not a reprisal for a specific action, such as the kidnapping of Kämpfe
(who was never mentioned by name in the program), but an act of terror,
designed to instil fear into the French population and to blood the
young recruits of the division. The theory being that this would leave
them in no doubt as to what was expected of them in future battles with
both the resistance and the allies.
One point to consider about the supposed blooding of the recruits, is that in June 1944, Das Reich had a compliment of about 19,200 men in total, but only about 120 - 150 went to Oradour. How were the other 19,080 men to be 'blooded'? Given that 120 soldiers killed 643 French people, then on a similar scale the whole Division would need to kill 102,720 to reach the same level of experience; clearly this is a ridiculous premise. The idea of 'blooding' an entire Division by the actions of a small group of one of its Regiments is not really viable and indeed there is no evidence that other members of Das Reich felt themselves to be involved (or in any way responsible) for the events at Oradour.
Another point to consider about the 'blooding' theory and that is, why were other Divisions of the German army not 'blooded' in the same way? Why were not other massacres carried out throughout France and the other occupied territories on a similar scale? What was so special about Das Reich Division (actually just a small part of the Der Führer Regiment) that required them to be 'blooded' in this manner?
The program also stated that the intelligence that directed the attack came from French collaborators working closely with the Germans; in effect stating that Oradour was implicated by Frenchmen. This is easy to believe and is in fact basically what Otto Weidinger has claimed all along in his various writings.
For the documentary makers not to mention the case of the kidnapping of Kämpfe is an astonishing omission for such a program, especially in the light of the quite open admission by the SS that they specifically went to Oradour in order to rescue him. At the very least one could expect the program to deny that Kämpfe was involved, if that is what the authors really believed.
The overwhelming impression that I am left with is that this program is yet another attempt to deflect criticism away from the French Resistance and to show that their actions did not contribute to, or cause, the massacre. The 'evidence' produced, particularly the statement given by Kahn at Dortmund in 1962, has been very selectively quoted from and cannot be taken at face value.
The program makers are actually guilty of both bias and misleading the viewers, by only quoting those parts of Kahn's evidence that suit their point of view and of ignoring his assertions, that on his own subsequent investigations, there was no evidence of an order to destroy Oradour originating, "from the regiment".
Back to top of page
(with annotations in italics)
by Michael Williams
of the French sub-titles on the DVD for:
Oradour, retour sur un massacre.
Produced by Sunset Presse for France 3 in 2003 &
released on DVD in 2005
I do not think now that I will attempt to further improve on the following rather rough translation of the sub-titles
because the DVD is now (from 2009) available to purchase with both English and French sub-titles from the Centre de la Mémoire.
After an opening sequence showing news clips from the war years, the video proper starts with some pensive and rather sad piano music (title unknown) and shows various still, black and white images of life in Oradour-sur-Glane before June 1944. The narration then begins, initially voiced by Robert Hébras, one of the survivors of the Laudy barn (see Chapter 2 of In a Ruined State for more detail of the massacre itself and further explanation of events mentioned below). Note that the French sub-titles on the original DVD consistently misspell Diekmann's name as "Dieckmann" and also in the Centre de la Mémoire itself, it is also misspelled, in this case as, "Dickmann"
We knew that there was the war, Spoken by Robert Hébras
.. but it was a very quiet life.
I was 19 years old.
We were young, we thought about Sunday..
.. more than anything else.
We spoke of soccer.
We played soccer, we spoke of the match that we would have..
.. the following day.
We didn't have a goalkeeper, Spoken by Jean-Marcel Darthout, another of the Laudy barn survivors.
.. He had broken his leg
15 days before.
He was in plaster.
"It is up to you", etc.
And we spoke Jean-Marcel Darthout's narration fades out ...
it is here that the video title, "Oradour retour sur un massacre" appears.
Of what does one speak this Saturday Spoken by the video narrator (Jean-Baptiste Marcenac)
the 10th June 1944 in Oradour-sur-Glane?
Of the soccer match on the following day,
.. of the allied landing,
.. for others,
to join the Maquis, The "Maquis" was the name commonly given to any group of active resistance fighters
.. or because the village
suffers little from the occupation....
of the scores of refugees:
.. from Lorrain, Alsace, Spain,
.. French Polish,
Hungarian, German Jews.
We never saw Germans, and
yet at 14:00, the 3rd company..
.. of the 1st battalion
of the "Der Führer" regiment,
.. a unit of the 2nd SS Panzer "Panzer" means "Armoured"
Division "Das Reich", "Das Reich" translates from German into English as, "The Empire"
into this village of the Haute-Vienne.
We didn't know that the "Das Reich" Spoken by Robert Hébras
was in the south of France. In fact Das Reich had been re-fitting and re-training near Montauban since December 1943
I didn't know about the SS.
Suddenly there were
We didn't know all that, Spoken by Jean-Marcel Darthout
we only learned it later.
- Some hours later, Spoken by the video narrator
.. more than 600 men, women,
and children have been killed and burnt.
in several buildings, There were 6 main sites of the killings: see village plan
.. women and children,
in the church.
A sudden and atrocious slaughter,
.. of an unequalled extent
in western Europe.
The martyr village remains surrounded
by mysteries, by zones of shadow.
The massacre in the summer
the fruit of chance,
.. the mistake of a unit
on its way toward Normandy?
What did assassins search for?
Why this village?
The "Oradour file"
is not closed. A new chapter now starts titled, "Past History" narrated by Jean-Jacques Fouché (former director of the Centre de la Mémoire).
The SS Division "Das Reich"
is a formation that,
.. when it arrived in France..
.. during February 44..
.. had just known
6 months of retreat..
.. since the summer of 43
since it began..
.. since the defensive battles
And then, there was a long march
behind this unit,
.. which is more than decimated
when it arrived in France.
It was missing
two-thirds of its officers,
.. half of its non-commissioned officers,
and it was there that it was going to receive..
..new men, and new
blood, of new recruits,
.. who were gathered
not only from Germany,
.. within the boundaries of the Nazi Reich,
.. but also in territories
annexed around the Reich.
There were Frenchmen therefore
from Alsace incorporated by force. Conscripts, of which there were a total of over 130,000 & known as: "Malgres Nous" ("Against Our Will")
- to the school of the Waffen SS where, Spoken by the video narrator
they learned the Nazi ideology,
.. and they learned of the violence,
a violence without limits.
Records of war crimes committed..
.. in the Southwest
reappear little by little.
Arrayed in a series of murders
with the signature: "Das Reich". In French "Das Reich" is pronounced, "Das R-eye-sh"
- It is a massacre, how to say Spoken by Jean-Jacques Fouché and a colleague (both historical researchers)
in relation to people..
.. committed or non-committed
to the conflict. Meaning the resistance activity against the Germans
To slaughter children,
.. to slaughter
the non-committed beings.
It is what will be done
at Oradour on a bigger scale.
We see for example Showing a photograph of dead children
this little one, killed..
.. in the cradle.
- It is that which is..
and the strongest is always there.
It is not the quantity
which makes strength: the sense.
is the fact that, immediately,
one is going to kill civilians,
.. when one is not able to
to reach the Resistant. Meaning that civilians are going to get hurt as a result of resistance activity
- It is so, nearly all the time,
one killed that way, three over there,
One has the impression to follow
step-by-step, to the mark,
.. a bloody column.
Even though the order was not written,
.. what one expected of them
when one asked them..
.. to do patrols
in such or such a place.
-Das Reich: Spoken by the video narrator
.. a killer on the road that,
under cover of a military objective,
.. manufactured itself a motive
for terror missions.
These documents show orders, The camera pans over documents written in French
.. that the SS were told
And they display a classic
of organized crime:
.. violence and the law of silence.
Edifying testimonies of those that
were interrogated about these crimes.
- "Farms were fired, Various voices representing soldiers and accusers speak these parts
".. a whole family
perished in flames.
"Do you know of these crimes?"
- "I don't know anything of it."
- " I didn't see anything,
I didn't hear anything."
- "These crimes were committed
by your battalion".
"Do you know of them?"
- "I didn't hear, or ever speak
of these executions."
- There have been a number of examples Spoken by Guillaume Agullo (historian & director of the museum of Resistance & Deportation at Toulouse)
which should not to be ignored..
.. because there were to be
less deaths. Less deaths than at Oradour
Frayssinet - Le - Gélat,
.. women and children
are gathered in the church.
Oradour, it is not by chance.
- Disturbing photo. Spoken by the video narrator and referring to a photo of Frayssinet-le-Gélat
Frayssinet - Le - Gélat, in the Lot. The Lot is a department in southern France
The same unit that went to Oradour.
3rd company, 1st battalion,
of the regiment "Der Führer".
Resemblance of scenes:
main street, church in the background.
3 women hanged, an execution,
11 men executed,
.. depredations, fires,
21 May, 1944.
8 June, a part of the,
division arrives in the Limousin. The area of France around Limoges is called the Limousin
The 9th June, the first massacre in reprisals
for the attack on a garrison.
Tulle, 100 km to the south of Limoges:
.. hanging of 99 men,
.. looting and deportation
of hundreds of people.
In this region
the Maquis was very active,
.. for the Waffen-SS,
the enemy is everywhere.
All are enemies.
9 June, an order arrives. According to the SS the initial order to 'come to march readiness was on the 6th of June
It is necessary to join
the front at Normandy. D-Day was 6th June 1944 and the allies were ashore in Normandy in great force
But for the division "Das Reich",
there remains a mission to accomplish:
.. to strike even harder.
Troops stationed Spoken by Ahlrich Meyer (a German historian & professor of political science at Oldenburg)
in the southwest of France..
.. received a command from the centre i.e. from the Wehrmacht headquarters
that I quote from memory.
"In these infested regions,
".. the population must stop
supporting the Maquis.
"Brutal strength must be
used in all operations..
".. to teach to inhabitants..
".. that they must not help
to sustain the Maquis"
There are orders therefore
from the Wehrmacht..
.. which allow the division
to commit such massacres.
Carte Blanche for "Das Reich" Spoken by the video narrator
To stay and find the place. To hold a demonstration of strength
Martial Machefer, shoemaker,
is unaware that his village..
.. doesn't have more
than a few hours to live,
.. that he is going to escape the full extent
to the tragedy,
.. that he is going to lose his wife and his
2 infants, a boy and a girl,
.. that Sarah Jacubowicz,
a teenage Jewess that he shelters,
.. is going to die in his house.
These are the faces that urge Hervé
his son born some years after,
.. to question the past:
.. how and why this village?
The quest of this former
We are in front of the building A new chapter now starts titled, "Premeditation" spoken by Hervé Machefer, the "former police inspector".
occupied by the militia in 1944 By militia he means, The Milice, Joseph Darnand's ultra right-wing collaborators.
It is in this building that there was
held a meeting of militiamen..
.. June 9, 1944 at 9 pm...
A meeting presided by Filliol,
.. Head of
the Milice of Limoges.
Filliol announces then
.. which will have tragic consequences
Filliol says this:
"A German division
has just arrived in the region Das Reich
".. and is going to carry out an operation."
- Jean Filliol, terrorist and killer Spoken by the video narrator
of the extreme right before the war..
.. became a die-hard
of the collaboration..
.. and specialist of the intelligence.
He will disappear after the war
into Franco's Spain.
We know.. Spoken by Hervé Machefer
.. the announcement of this decision
from one of participants..
.. at this meeting,
Davoine, a militiaman,
.. inspector of the Jewish question,
.. who fought in 1940
under Darnand's command. i.e. against the Germans
He is therefore present.
- A 2nd meeting Spoken by the video narrator
is held on the Saturday morning..
.. at the seat of the headquarters
of the regiment "Der Führer". This would be in Limoges
The name of Oradour is then there
But the role of French collaborators
in this business..
..has never been made the object..
.. of an advanced judicial investigation.
It does seem. Spoken by Hervé Machefer
.. that these meetings took place, it
appears that they had..
.. a reason to be
for those that held them.
When Filliol announces that a
German division has just arrived, Das Reich, the 2nd SS-Panzer Division
.. it is therefore a good thing
that it is going to have an operation there.
When the following day..
.. he sends militiamen,
among whom is Davoine, to the seat..
.. of the headquarters
of the meeting with "Der Führer", One of the Regiments within Das Reich Division
.. it is to take decisions.
Same thing when
they meet at St-Junien.
They don't meet merely for nothing.
But we don't know anything
of the content of their decisions.
A third meeting takes place, Spoken by the video narrator
Saturday, in the middle of the morning,
..at the Station Hotel in, St-Junien,
.. about 10 km This is not correct, as in fact St. Junien is about 28 km to the west of Limoges
to the west of Limoges,
.. where is based
the battalion headquarters ..
.. charged with the massacre.
At its head, the SS-Major, He was in fact a Sturmbannführer, which is the equivalent rank to Major
Adolf Dieckmann. Note that the spelling of the name as, "Dieckmann" is incorrect (see photograph)
Those that are present
are officers of the "Das Reich"..
.. and an officer
of the Limoges Gestapo. This is believed to be Kleist
Here is the proof that
the name of Oradour has been mentioned. The SS have never denied this, in fact they have quoted it themselves
Only one document, in France,
attests that the target was chosen:
.. the cross-examination of a collaborator,
an ex - interpreter for the Gestapo.
- "Limoges, September 10, 1944." Limoges was liberated from the German occupation on 21st August 1944 by members of the Maquis
- "I didn't tell you all Two voices read from old records (written in French)
the truth at the time of my depositions.
"I was afraid.
"After our arrival at St-Junien,
Lieutenant Kleist, of the Gestapo,
".. went to take
instructions to the PC of the SS. PC = Poste de Commandement, or in English: Command Post, or Headquarters, or HQ
"On his return he added
that the commander of the SS.. This is somewhat ambiguous, but presumably means Sylvester Stadler, commander of Der Führer on 10th June
".. had the intention to obtain
40 hostages from Oradour sur Glane."
Doubts are not permitted anymore. The SS have always stated that they went to Oradour to rescue Kämpfe and if he were not there, to take hostages
Thus on 10 June, the Waffen-SS went Spoken by the video narrator
to Oradour to take hostages.
Interrogated after war,
.. that the operation
was launched for this reason, Stadler did indeed order Diekmann to seize hostages from Oradour if Kämpfe was not to be found there
.. or to recover one of theirs
captured by the Maquis, This is the only reference to the kidnapped Sturmbannführer Kämpfe in the entire program and it is not even by name, or rank!
.. or because of German soldiers
who had been killed there. This explanation has been offered by Otto Weidinger as a supporting justification for the killings
- It is false. Spoken by Hervé Machefer
There was never an SS man
hanged in Oradour. Quite true
.. or a lieutenant
who ran away. Presumably a reference to Karl Gerlach who escaped from his Maquis captors on the 9th June and claimed
to have been taken through Oradour: see Gerlach's statement for more details.
That means that, since
that moment, the SS treat themselves tactfully..
.. not an explanation
or an excuse, but something..
.. that could explain why
they should have gone to Oradour.
And one can think
that before even leaving..
.. something appears..
.. which will re-appear
later without a pause..
.. of justified reprisals.
It is astonishing, on behalf of people
who leave behind them..
.. a trail of blood.
They nevertheless had a need to say:
"We had a reason to do that. i.e. that the SS had a justification for the attack
"We would not have done it
if there had not been that before." i.e. if they had not been provoked
They needed to invent a
story to justify their actions. To justify their actions at Oradour
The scene changes to old footage of German troops manoeuvring during the war
A new chapter starts titled, "Murder"
All of a sudden, 2 Germans. Spoken by Jean-Marcel Darthout
.. came in by the rear door
of the house.
With their rifles,
they shouted: "Raus, Raus," "Raus, Raus" in German means: "Out, Out!"
One took our papers,
.. and there, one met
all the neighbours, who were there.
"What is it? What do they want?"
"Do you know something?"
They assembled us all
and drove us toward the fairground,
.. the place of gathering.
No one panicked.
my mother and my wife..
.. who greeted people who
were from the other end of the borough,
.. that one didn't often see.
They themselves greeted,
"hello, how are you?", etc.
Myself, I left
my mother and my wife..
.. to meet
And we recalled
our goalkeeper's story. He had broken his leg 15 days earlier
I heard the confectioner Spoken by Robert Hébras
ask a sentry..
.. to be allowed to see his cakes
that he had put to the oven.
He said: "Can I
go to see my cakes?
"Otherwise they are going to burn."
in French, with an accent, This soldier could have been from Alsace
"Don't worry about that,
we will see to it."
They are not there Spoken by the video narrator
only for men and women.
The Waffen SS go in the schools
and order children..
.. and teachers to join
the remainder of the population.
I see them again, Spoken by Robert Hébras
those youngsters, brought in ranks..
.. by their teachers,
in ranks, nicely.
They set women and children..
.. on one hand, us, men,
they put us on the other.
And then women...
One gave them the order to leave
I am unaware of how.
I saw the women leave
with children toward the church.
I didn't know
if they went into the church,
.. I didn't even put the question to myself.
The women and children
left, that is all.
- We were alone Spoken by Jean-Marcel Darthout
on the square. The fairground, the village green
A silence of death.
- They were unaware that Nazis, Spoken by the video narrator. A scene from the war years showing German troops rounding up civilians
and separating men from women and children in distressing circumstances
.. when they prepared
the execution of a population,
.. always practiced
in the same way,
.. a lesson learned
thousands of times in the East,
.. and immortalized
on this propaganda movie.
Gathering of the population,
first, then a 2nd time,
.. men separated
from women and children.
Then the final question Spoken by Robert Hébras
to put everybody in confidence.
One told us:
"In the village there is
a deposit of weapons and munitions.
"We are going to search.
"At the end the search,
".. those that are not concerned
will be released"
- "Since it is like that, Spoken by Jean-Marcel Darthout
we are going to put you in barns.
"We will watch you.
"During this time, we are going to search
Oradour and to find weapons."
Everybody looked at each other.
We walked, as kids.
"Look, you will find nothing. "
Men are shut in Spoken by the video narrator
by groups in several places.
Robert, Marcel and others..
in the same barn.
We looked at them. Spoken by Jean-Marcel Darthout
One of them found a broom..
.. and swept the floor
to put his machine gun.
.. he lay down and looked
to position it well.
We looked at it
whilst saying: "Ho, what's that?,"
We joked again.
Joseph, at one moment, Joseph Bergmann, who had been born in Kokern, Germany: see Chapter 2 of In a Ruined State
tells us: "They are going to kill us.
"They are going to kill us."
"Ho, Joseph, that's not so, no? "
"Yes, I heard yes,
they are going to kill us."
you tell foolishness."
- They come to kill. Spoken by the video narrator against a background of a photograph supposedly showing Otto Kahn
and Heinz Barth sitting on a settee (Barth holding a cat on his knee and Kahn a cigarette).
Everybody. Without exception
Two officers who were present attest to it.
- "Dortmund, Another voice reading from a genuine looking German language document dated 13. 12. 1962
13 December 1962, deposition..
".. of the ex - SS-Captain Otto Kahn, Kahn's SS rank was Hauptsturmführer, which is the equivalent to Captain
chief of the 3rd company. "
- "I was ordered to attend
by Commandant Dieckmann. In French "Commandant" is equivalent to Major, which is the equivalent of Sturmbannführer in the SS
"He told me that he had
received the order to annihilate Oradour." Kahn does not say who gave the order or why, but the document does indeed read this way and
it also says that Kahn was so surprised that he asked Diekmann to query the order with
Regimental Headquarters, but that he just repeated that it was an order and must be obeyed.
- "Berlin - East, Another voice reading from a genuine looking German language document dated 12.1.1982
January 12, 1982, deposition..
".. of the ex -SS-2nd Lieutenant Barth was an SS-Untersturmführer, the equivalent rank to a 2nd Lieutenant
- "The order was to execute
"I considered this order
"For me it was
an order as any other."
-1/4 of hour later, Spoken by Jean-Marcel Darthout
or a 1/2 hour, I don't know,
.. we heard,
outside, an explosion.
And an order... in the barn.
An order... A yell, rather.
And they shot.
All were ready to spit
There was a yelling.
I thought, after.
Well what could I say?
What could be my reaction,
at that moment?
Why did I scream, me also?
I probably said,
" They are mad, "
- They were not mad, Spoken by the video narrator
.. they accomplish their mission.
The inhabitants were unaware..
.. that the SS had done
the same thing in Czechoslovakia. 1942 cine photography of Lidice shown
.. 10th June.
The village is called Lidice.
An operation of reprisals,
.. of the population.
.. the killers..
.. film their work, Film of the destruction of the village and church in Lidice
.. which ends
with the destruction of the church.
And all of a sudden, silence. Spoken by Jean-Marcel Darthout
Who gave the order,
I don't remember, someone.
But that of which I am sure,
.. is that they
spoke between themselves,
.. all quietly.
We heard them
I heard their steps.
And to within one meter of me,
..1½ meter, I don't know,
.. I heard the
characteristic noise of the breech,
.. when one loads, "clac clac",
to push the bullet in the gun.
And immediately, a shooting, loud,
.. to one meter of me, very loud.
And that continued,
"clac clac", and they shot.
They gave the coup de grâce.
The noise of the breech,
I thought that it was for me.
No, it was for my friend Joseph, Joseph Bergmann, the German speaker who earlier said that they were going to be killed.
the barber, that died on me.
I had found a hand,
which I had squeezed,
.. and I was held, we
didn't move, we didn't say anything.
Me, I tell myself: " I am not
all alone, there is another here."
- I didn't think about dying. Spoken by Robert Hébras
I didn't think
that I could die...
At that moment.
- The buddy that was by me Spoken by Jean-Marcel Darthout
said: "Their back!".
Indeed, they came back.
They came back to set fire.
- And then fire reached me. Spoken by Robert Hébras
I tried harder again
to protect myself under the others.
I try to get
again further under the others,
.. but in a moment, there,
.. I think that I am going to die.
I didn't have any more hair, Spoken by Jean-Marcel Darthout
I had a burnt face,
.. and I had been
very burnt on the shoulder.
That, is very, very painful.
More bad than bullets.
one doesn't move, one doesn't feel.
But burnt..... Horrible.
I extracted myself from underneath..
.. and I lay nearby.
We met there, five of us,
.. and I watched
this heap of cadavers burn.
Near 200 men had already died Spoken by the video narrator
in the barn and other places..
.. of torment.
and the other survivors..
.. hide in an attic.
A temporary hiding place:
the SS burn all houses.
Then with M. Darthout, Spoken by Robert Hébras
we didn't have a choice anymore.
That flames were on our heads,
it was necessary that we leave,
.. and so, to cross the square.
The problem was that we did not know Video shots of the village today intercut with black & white photographs of women and children
what there was on the other side.
I spoke for a long time.
And after, Spoken by Jean-Marcel Darthout
..Robert tells me:
"Marcel, I am leaving also,
And you? "
I tell him: " Don't you worry,
I am going to manage.
" I will go on elbows,
don't be afraid, I can do it."
Robert left me and,
I did what I had said. He crawled on his elbows
- Robert succeeds Spoken by the video narrator
fleeing the village.
Marcel, severely wounded to the
legs, hide in a bush.
They thought that in spite of everything
that the women and children were safe. Black and white photos of women and children shown
For Robert, his mother,
and 2 of his sisters.
For Marcel, his mother and his wife.
But, after the men,
the SS persist..
.. with the 400 women and children
shut in the church..
.. for several hours:
For the Waffen SS, Black & white photographs of various (unidentified) soldiers
.. it is the school of war
for the young recruits,
.. of which about twenty Alsatians..
.. that number amongst the company.
At least one among them Spoken by Jean-Jacques Fouché
said that he understood.
He said in a hearing..
.. with a police commissioner,
.. that it was his baptism of fire,
.. that there had not been before
a baptism of fire for him,
.. and that on that day, he was
intoxicated, but had not drunk.
And I think that that drunkenness,
.. it is the drunkenness
which is induced..
.. by the noise and the fury.
Blood, the odour of blood,
.. shrieking of people,
And I believe that there,
these boys of 17 or 18 years..
.. saw that which their eyes
had not to see..
.. and heard that which their ears
should not have heard.
- "I discerned shrieking Unknown speaker, probably quoting Jean-Pierre Elsässer (an Alsatian) from what
presumably was his testimony at Bordeaux in 1953, see Chapter 2 of In a Ruined State for more detail
of women and children.
"I was facing the church
to attend its destruction.
"We were ordered to
stand to attention.
" Fire has been started. The
" We remained
until the roof fell down.
"I asked a German SS
if, in the church,
".. there had not been
"An Alsatian had come,
who had wanted to speak Probably this was Mme. Odile Neumeyer from Strasbourg: see Chapter 2 of In a Ruined State for more detail.
".. to captain Kahn,
which was refused.
" He said that no one
had to survive,
".. and that he didn't want
there to be any witnesses. "
In the church, Spoken by the video narrator
the slaughter reaches its paroxysm:
.. machine guns, grenades,
.. asphyxiating gas, fire.
There will be only one survivor,
who succeeds in fleeing through a stained glass window:
..Marguerite Rouffanche, (see picture of Madame Rouffanche)
died in 1988.
Germans brought Testimony of Marguerite Rouffanche (spoken by unknown person)
a case, enormous enough,
.. they lit cords,
like a sort of electric cord.
Thereafter, that liberated
a smoke that asphyxiated us,
.. we could not see anymore
in the church,
.. there were screaming on all
sides because the Germans fired.
Seeing flames arriving,
I left through the vestry..
.. to hide
behind the main - altar.
There, I found a stool,
I climbed up, over..
.. and I threw myself through the window.
that nothing was broken.
as far as the rectory garden.
By then, I had been wounded
by five submachine-gun bullets
I remained there
until the Sunday evening,
.. when men came They were Alphonse Lévignac and Hubert Desourteaux, see Chapter 2 of In a Ruined State
to look for me and took me in a wheelbarrow.
A handful of hours Spoken by the video narrator
was sufficient to kill, to rob..
.. and to fire Oradour.
A handful of hours
to eradicate history,
.. to ruin the present,
to demolish the future.
In the evening,
the company leaves for Nieul,
.. to the northeast of Oradour.
The unit is confined
in a school..
.. requisitioned by the Waffen SS.
.. some months after the massacre,
people of Nieul remember...
- "Some soldiers saying themselves that Spoken by unknown persons, quoting from French language documents shown on screen
the Alsatians seemed very touched..
".. by the cruelties perpetrated
by their formation.
were for them most painful.
" They said that superiors
had forced them to participate..
".. to such acts of barbarism. "
- "Two young ones were held
aside from the other Germans. Some of the soldiers were under 18 at the time of the attack
flowed on their cheeks.
" I did not know
the reason for their grief."
- The Waffen SS Spoken by Jean-Jacques Fouché
organized at Oradour..
.. an incorporation by a ritual,
.. of blood is
at the centre of the ritual..
.. for the young recruits
of 17 and 18 years old.
This pact of blood is going to integrate them.
This is not a provocation,
.. but I prefer to use
the word of incorporation.
That is going to incorporate them in
this community of the Waffen SS..
.. which is based
on 2 fundamental elements:
.. blood and violence.
Without forgetting the lie, Spoken by Ahlrich Meyer
another, elaborate just after.
- It is the beginning of the legend.
I will read to you ....
"The commander of the battalion gathered
the chief of Kahn's company..
".. and all chiefs of the sections..
".. at the end of the operation
and gave them the official version of events..
".. in order to conceal
the reality of the operation."
Here is the lie: Camera pans over a German language document in close-up, but not much
can be seen due to a combination of speed of motion and the field of view being limited
the instruction itself ...
"The company was attacked
by the resistance..
".. and in fighting,
inhabitants were killed." i.e. all the deaths at Oradour were due to fighting between the soldiers and the resistance
- Had a lie already been, Spoken by the video narrator
worked-out before going to Oradour?.
Officers manufacture another
the same evening,
.. whereas for Oradour
the nightmare continues.
A section remained there.
Sentries are posted,
no one must enter.
- I heard Spoken by Jean-Marcel Darthout
all noises of Oradour,
.. the noise of the fire,
.. terrifying, horrible,
which fell while smashing,
.. which clattered
like shots of a submachine-gun.
I also remember...
"Boom", it was
beams that fell.
I heard cows. They
didn't have orders to kill them.
children and men.
In the evening,
.. I heard a
A shriek, I remember.
Then nothing more.
I didn't hear
the rifle shot that killed her,
.. but I know she had been killed like that.
She had just
arrived in Oradour.
She wanted to have
news of her youngsters,
.. she came to look for her children.
They let her enter, and when
she was within 50 or 60 meters...
They killed her.
- The unit is relieved the following day Spoken by the video narrator
by another section..
.. who buries bodies
to prevent all identification.
To prolong the pain,
to mutilate the mourning of families:
.. a question of method.
The SS leaves the scene on
the Monday morning.
Communicates to the division
the following day, news of the murder:
- " The village Spoken by unknown person reading from official Das Reich report on the day's happenings.
has been searched and burnt.
"Balance: 548 dead enemies."
Enemies of the "Das Reich" Spoken by the video narrator and showing scenes
from the clear-up operation run by the French in the weeks following the massacre
Some weeks after, the
French authorities take state..
.. of 642 deaths, all the region
is in state of shock.
As testifies this rare movie of it,
.. first pictures of the aftermath.
In September 1944,
.. the population
gives homage to one of the victims,
Her parents, pursued by the militia,
.. had placed her
with the Machefer family. Hervé Machefer's parents
Sarah's dad mourns his girl,
.. as do the hundreds of parents..
.. who lost theirs.
These families must try
to continue to live with that.
" Why did they not take us?
Why did they take our child René
" Why here? "
and a feeling..
.. of dizziness of that loss
of generation to generation.
In spite of what one can think some, Spoken by Hervé Machefer
.. even though one doesn't want it,
.. they make part
of our memory and the scenery.
it is difficult to accept,
.. but they make a part of it.
And that makes crap, that makes some
left. But that made a part of it.
They are part of me.
That, it is something
who killed Oradour that day,
.. are a part
of what I am.
It is through them that I am there.
Without them my father's life would have
continued, with woman and children.
Me, I would not be here.
That was necessary for him to
remarry, with a war widow.
I depend on the executioner.
It is very hard to endure. Hervé Machefer means that he would not have been born if his father's first wife had not been killed
- impossible to forget the bastards Spoken by the video narrator
who ordered the massacre,
.. the SS-General Lammerding,
chief of the division "Das Reich",
.. and one of his deputies,
the SS-Colonel Stadler,
.. chief of the regiment "Der Führer",
.. those that will never pay
for their crimes. Both men are now dead, Lammerding in 1971 and Stadler in 1995
The West German justice system Spoken by Ahlrich Meyer
didn't strive itself ..
.. to clear-up
the legal origins,
.. so historic,
of this massacre.
.. of authors of the massacre
and exonerated them.
A 2nd judicial aberration. Spoken by the video narrator
To cover themselves post-war,
.. old habits, they lie,
evoke the fact that they knew,
.. about the "Oradour operation",
but speak again of a mistake..
.. and don't name
the one alone responsible:
.. the one that supervised
the "Oradour operation ",
..Adolf Dieckmann, Showing this photograph of Adolf Diekmann (notice that the spelling is wrong) who was killed
who has the good taste to be killed.. On 29 June 1944: see photograph of Diekmann's grave
.. some time after the massacre
in Normandy, an ideal death...
They are going to have Spoken by Jean-Jacques Fouché
this monstrous cheek..
.. to lay all blame on the only one
among them that has disappeared.
.. the commander Dieckmann.
They are going to blame him,
.. the dead,
.. for the responsibility
of the operation at Oradour.
The dead goes at least to serve that.
The dead probably carried away Spoken by the video narrator and showing this photograph of Adolf Diekmann
with him the answer.
Is Oradour targeted? Yes.
The order is
to annihilate the village? Yes.
But why to come here?
No one can answer. i.e. there is no answer as to why Oradour was chosen for attack
Were the SS informed
by the French collaborators..
.. of the presence of refugees, what is amazing is that no mention at all is made of the kidnapping of
Helmut Kämpfe, especially as the SS themselves said that they specifically went to Oradour to rescue him.
notably Jewish and Communist?
We are unaware of it. There were Jewish refugees in Oradour, but no attempt was made to single them out,
for example the Pinède family, three children of whom survived and Sarah Jacubowicz, who died.
Is this because Oradour
is between St-Junien,
.. where the unit is based
this 10th June in the morning,
.. and Nieul, where it must
regroup in the evening? Maybe.
We indicate that the village is
easy to surround and to invest?
The only certainty,
it is that we do not know.
Some objective reasons Spoken by Hervé Machefer
can answer the question..
.. of that
which undergoes such a horror.
If this reason is satisfactory
on the intellectual plane,
.. it still won't solve the mystery
of: "Why did that happen? "
On the paper,
I am going to take notes,
.. I am going to consider
some elements, satisfactory.
The division "Das Reich"
wants to make an example,
.. in function
for the troops which it manages.
It makes it with a blow,
because it leaves,
.. and it is necessary to hit hard
If it had had a little time,
there would not have been Oradour. Personally I think that this is probably true, if Das Reich were not under march to the invasion front at
Normandy then more time could have led to a less drastic action, as they would have been more willing to spend time negotiating
with the Maquis over the kidnapped Kämpfe
There would have been there
one of the less important actions. i.e. a minor reprisal action
There, one doesn't have the time anymore,
it is necessary to leave.
they were not in transit.
They didn't go directly to Normandy,
it is afterwards they are going to go there.
It is true that on the plan
.. they only remain one day,
and this last day,
.. it is necessary that they make a bold statement
.. and that can be sufficient
to be the explanation. Again saying that due to a lack of time Das Reich had to act harshly to have a major impact on the resistance
But are you going to tell that to a woman..
.. who doesn't have a husband any more,
.. who only has a girl,
.. which is her
only reason to live,
.. she won't understand.
We cannot tell someone
which is the only reason to live...
We cannot tell a mother
which is the only reason to live,
.. it is her girl of 11 years age,
that is the reason..
.. who cut him off of life,
she won't understand it.
She will keep her pain..
.. who rests
on the incomprehensible.
Not to know, and to live Spoken by the video narrator
with a feeling of injustice.
Military courthouse A new chapter starts titled, "Injustice"
at Bordeaux, 1953.
In a room..
.. a tiny and unworthy t-square,
.. the trial of the massacre,
Nine years after.
In the dock of the accused,
not even one SS-Officer.
7 Germans and 14 Alsatians,
of which 13 were incorporated by force, This means that 13 were conscripted into the SS and only one, Georg René Boos volunteered
see Chapter 5 of In a Ruined State for more detail and photograph of the accused
.. who deny having had..
.. any criminal behaviour.
- They didn't understand.
Don't tell me that it is Spoken by Jean-Marcel Darthout
a normal attitude, all that.
No. One had prepared them well.
One had told to them: "You be quiet".
"You don't remember,
you act the idiot."
And they did well.
It is the impression that I have.
- "My client is not an executioner". Spoken by someone playing the part of one of the accused's lawyers at their trial
'He was truly at Oradour,
but this is not a killer."
So pleads the collective team
of Alsatian lawyers..
.. defending those
incorporated by force. This means those who were conscripted into the SS
What pushed me to defend.. Spoken in 2003 by Richard Lux, one of the accused's lawyers at their trial
.. one or two of the charged,
I am going to tell it to you...
that the Alsatians had been..
.. incorporated by force
into the division "Das Reich",
.. who were the originators
of the Oradour crime.
We calculated that the Alsatians..
.. could be implicated, therefore....
I allowed myself, at the time,
.. to tell
.. that such a lawsuit
was a lawsuit of high risk,
.. concerning the national unity,
the national solidarity,
.. the situation of Alsace
in the French state.
- Alsace is at boiling point. Spoken by the video narrator
A lawsuit slap for a region..
.. which feels humiliated, erecting..
.. a system of defence for the drama
of the incorporation by force.
All families of Alsace Spoken in 2003 by Louis Oster, one of the accused's lawyers at their trial
Chance pleased that
only 13 went to Oradour.
The incorporation by force
is a drama for all families.
Everyone knows someone very well
who is invalided because of the war,
.. either that or someone that died.
We cannot say that
this was not a local problem.
And therefore, if we have
compassion, for the pain,
.. we shout of the scandal when
one speak of Oradour, it is true.
It is necessary to say that we are
a little pained to see..
.. that our drama of the 130,000, These were the men conscripted into the German army from Alsace, the "Malgres Nous"
.. fades away
before the martyrs of Oradour. This is the common complaint in Alsace, that their past suffering is ignored
- Feelings of incomprehension, therefore. Spoken by the video narrator
For victims of Oradour,
other feelings of incomprehension.
- It is a military lawsuit, Spoken by Robert Hébras
it is like that.
But when you are the victim,
you have lost..
.. your family, your friends,
.. all people
of your village...
And then you don't have the right..
.. to say that you are unhappy,
.. because it is a little like that.
It is nevertheless
a little hard to digest.
- Sad lawsuit, very mediocre result. Spoken by the video narrator
After the proceedings on a background
of political confrontations,
.. are condemned,
..those incorporated by force
are immediately amnestied. The conscripted Alsatians; most of the German defendants were released soon after and everyone was free by 1958
For me, there is something.. Spoken by Richard Lux
in the professional plan,
.. something that hasn't yet
found its outcome,
.. something that we put,
with all my colleagues,
.. the maximum of ourselves,
.. with the feeling
not to have succeeded. Not to have succeeded in putting the case for the Alsatians as well as it should be put
I have myself,
.. since I was again
until very recently..
.. in professional activity,
.. I have the feeling that
I didn't finish my mission.
We could have avoided a lot Spoken by Louis Oster
of things with this lawsuit, if first it,
.. had taken place in Paris,
there would have been another ambiance.
The 2nd problem, was
that the trial at Bordeaux..
.. had to make itself
essentially against Germany,
.. and not against the whitewashers,
who was the body defending.
Therefore with Paris
and a separate lawsuit,
.. we would have been able to
to clarify the situation.
But all has been mixed up, and
its not the Alsatians fault.
This shared injustice feeling Spoken by the video narrator
by two regions unleashes a bitter taste. Alsace and the Haut-Vienne
Alsace feels like the accused,
.. the Limousin In the Haut-Vienne
feels abandoned, ridiculed.
These 2 regions are condemned..
.. to a Franco-French quarrel The row briefly threatened French national unity
which still remains.
The perverse effect..
.. of the Nazi crime had to
to make them smile across the Rhine.
Over there, it would be necessary
to come back with impunity..
.. of those really responsible, Showing a short video of a Das Reich reunion in the 1970's
shot in the 1970's,
.. at the time of a meeting
of former members of "Das Reich".
I would like to say a word Spoken by an unidentified ex-member of Das Reich at the reunion
about the reproaches..
.. that one makes to us
in the press and in the street.
It is about the words
"Oradour " and "Tulle ".
Oradour and Tulle were..
.. reactions to actions
of the French Resistance.
- End of repentance.. Spoken by the video narrator
.. those with a dress - tie.
They are not embarrassed by France
in spite of her demands for extradition,
.. nor by Germany
and its interminable..
.. judicial procedures.
There is something else
which permits us to understand.. Showing a close-up of the Dusseldorf telephone directory with
Heinrich Lammerding's number and address "424307 Lammerding H. B. & Co Dipl. Ing.
Estriche Utb Falkenweg 1" The complaint being that his whereabouts were well known, but he was not brought to trial.
.. how an assassin
can turn the page.
The old chief of the "Das Reich",
.. became an entrepreneur, mentioned
at the time of a cross-examination in 1962..
.. that he had once broken the speed limit
and reveals another fact:
.. in the full cold war,
.. are useful to one or the other
of the occupying powers.
- " My lawyer negotiated Read from Heinrich Lammerding's statement
with the Americans.
" They were
against my extradition.
" I came back with
the approval of the Americans..
".. to Dusseldorf at the end of 1954.
" On the English side,
no one showed any interest..
".. for what I did."
In the Soviet zone, Spoken by Jean-Jacques Fouché
.. which later became East Germany,
.. the officer, SS-Lieutenant Barth..
.. was going to go home to Gransee..
.. and he was going to become Showing some video footage of Barth's 1983 trial
a good citizen.
- Berlin, 1983, Spoken by the video narrator
trial of Barth Heinz,
.. became a model Communist citizen,
.. the only SS-Officer to have fallen.
One took us Spoken by Jean-Marcel Darthout
for kids, manipulated.
We made part
I felt it since the beginning.
At the time,
.. it was the cold war.
their rockets, over there,
.. pointed toward Germany,
.. and Americans wanted
to come to put their rockets.
the uproar that that made.
Russians said: "We are
friendly, we do not want to do harm.
" It is to sit oneself down on,
that dogs urinate around, Darthout was being derogatory and comparing the missile system with a fence for dogs to urinate on
".. we do not want
to hurt anyone.
" The proof, it is that we found
a boy who was at Oradour..
".. and we are going to judge him. "
Us, we were over there.
I never saw myself..
.. the object of so much ...
Prostitute, received by the ambassador.. Darthout is speaking self-depreciatingly of his role in the Oradour story
.. who took us everywhere, etc.
I said: "Ho, does that go?"
We have been manipulated. Spoken by a narrator for the trial of Heinz Barth in 1983
A 1/2 hour, maybe.
-Eine Stunde halbe, vielleicht. German for, "an half an hour possibly"
And Heinz Barth?
-Heinz Barth, Spoken by Jean-Marcel Darthout
.. the fritz,
.. the German officer,
the little officer, poor type...
The question that I asked him...
I asked him
if he could have slept..
.. at nights alone,
since that time.
He smiled and didn't answer.
"I was shocked a little to know Spoken by Heinz Barth (from video shown of Barth's trial)
.. that there were survivors
of this village.
left from the principle that,
.. as far as we could judge
there were not any survivors".
- Have you thought "Thank God, Spoken by the narrator
did someone survive"?
"No, honestly, Spoken by Barth
I didn't think about that.
In any case, not at the time,
If it is necessary to be very honest".
-Oradour, martyr village, Spoken by the video narrator
symbol of the Nazi barbarism,
Why not a symbol also
of a total absence of justice,
.. of the impotence
and of State cynicism?
There is the sad lesson of history
that we are obliged to tell,
..60 years after,
of the two Oradour-sur-Glanes,
.. the dead and the living.
The old tells tirelessly
the same history,
.. the new listened to village.
Numerous families, here, have
lost one or several of theirs.
To live with the memory
of a certain Saturday 10 June 1944,
.. around 14:00.
That day gets to me. Spoken by Robert Hébras
It spoiled my life.
The most important Spoken by an interviewer
is it not to have remained alive?
- Maybe. I am not sure. Spoken by Robert Hébras
The Saturday 10 June, Spoken by the interviewer
until 14 hours,
.. you are Robert Hébras.
Yes. Spoken by Robert Hébras
And all the remains of your life Spoken by the interviewer
until today you are...
The survivor. Spoken by Robert Hébras
It is far from giving me pleasure,
when someone calls me..
.. "the survivor!".
Often, I meet people
at the supermarket..
.. who believe it gives me pleasure
when they say "Hello, survivor!"
If they knew it affects me
badly, they would not say hello.
I would prefer they were silent
But you remain quiet? Spoken by the interviewer
- It is maybe Spoken by Robert Hébras
a too obvious calmness.
- What, today, what is left? Spoken by the interviewer
All memories. The memory. Spoken by Robert Hébras
The memory that won't go away
for people such as me.
What one experienced,
one won't take away
Even though at times
one seems to tell us that...
That it is necessary to stop all that, that the
war is finished for a long time.
We won't erase our memory from ourselves.
Back to top of page
Back to Appendices
Back to Home Page
© Michael Williams: November 2005, revised July 2012