The Story of Oradour-sur-Glane
Otto Weidinger's justification for the
Warning: Otto Weidinger's book is banned
In 1985, Otto Weidinger, the last commander
of SS Panzergrenadier Regiment 4, Das Reich Division, published
a small 62-page booklet entitled "Tulle and Oradour, a Franco-German
Tragedy." The booklet was translated from German to English
by Colin B. Newberry. Weidinger had previously written the history
of this regiment under the title, "Kameraden bis zum Ende"
in 1962. He had also written a six-volume history entitled "Division
Das Reich," between 1967 and 1982.
When World War II ended, Weidinger was
imprisoned by the American military in the former Nazi concentration
camp at Dachau, along with thousands of other SS men who were
automatically considered to be war criminals by virtue of having
served in the Waffen-SS, which was designated as a criminal organization
by the Allies. In August 1947, he was transferred to French custody,
where he remained a prisoner until June 1951. After 6 and 1/2
years in prison, he was finally put on trial as a war criminal,
along with 50 other SS soldiers. All were charged with a war
crime simply for being volunteers in the Waffen-SS, Hitler's
elite army. He was acquitted, along with all of his comrades,
by a military court in Bordeaux on 19 June 1951 and released
on 23 June 1951. At the trial of the perpetrators of the massacre
at Oradour-sur-Glane in Bordeaux in January 1953, Obersturmbannführer
Weidinger was a witness for the defense.
In this booklet, Weidinger tries to gain
sympathy for the SS by claiming that Das Reich Division soldiers
had been victimized by local Resistance fighters who committed
unbelievable atrocities against them in the town of Tulle. He
then attempts to justify the actions of the SS soldiers at Oradour-sur-Glane
by characterizing the massacre as a legitimate reprisal against
the villagers for violations of the Hague Convention by the French
By combining the names of two locations
in France in the title of his book, Weidinger trivializes the
massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane. He attempts to make the killing
of SS soldiers at Tulle the moral equivalent of the Oradour-sur-Glane
massacre. In fact, he starts off by writing about "The Events
in Tulle," which he calls "The Dreadful Slaughter of
German Soldiers," before he even tells about the horror
at Oradour-sur-Glane. The mere mention of German suffering in
World War II is regarded by many people, including some Germans,
as implicit Holocaust denial, or in this case, war crimes denial.
With regard to the incident at Tulle,
the following quote is from page 18 of Weidinger's booklet:
"On 9 June 1944, when the town
of Tulle was retaken by armoured reconnaissance battalion 2 Das
Reich, the bodies of at least 40 German soldiers of III battalion/95th
regiment were found in front of their billet, what had once been
a school, horribly mutilated and terribly mauled. According to
the eye-witness accounts of the inhabitants of the town, the
German soldiers had surrendered to the Maquisards after the latter
had set fire to the school building. They had laid down their
weapons and come out with their hands raised. But then they had
been shot down in front of the building.
...the final total was 73 German soldiers
killed. Some corpses still wore gas-masks, which had supposedly
been put on because of smoke in the building. Inhabitants of
Tulle reported that the Maquisards, among whom there had been
Poles, Red Spaniards and even four Russians in uniform, had driven
over German soldiers who were still alive with their lorries.
The bodies were in part mutilated beyond recognition. On one
of the corpses it was discovered that a hole had been bored through
both heels and a rope threaded through. Apparently the soldier
had been dragged along by a lorry in this way until he was dead,
because his face bore terrible injuries. The dead had several
bullet holes in them, mostly in the back and the back of the
Women accompanying the Maquisards
had, according to one female resident, thrown excrement over
the bodies of the German soldiers. Some sort of gruesome orgy
seemed to have been celebrated after the massacre, judging by
the broken wine bottles, with the Maquisards playing football
with the German helmets. The genitals of some of the dead had
been cut off and stuffed into their mouths."
World War II is known as "the Good
War" because it was a war fought by the good Allies against
the evil Nazis. In the opinion of most people, the Germans deserved
everything that happened to them because they were the "evil-doers,"
although that term had not yet been coined in 1944. After starting
two World Wars, and murdering at least 11 million people in the
concentration camps, the Germans have forfeited their right to
complain about any atrocities against SS soldiers committed by
Communist partisans who were fighting for the liberation of Europe
and the fate of the civilized world.
After an investigation, 120 men, who
were suspected of being involved in this incident at Tulle, were
condemned to be hanged. However, several were spared by the SS
after an Alsatian soldier named Sadi Schneid pleaded for mercy
on their behalf. According to Weidinger, 98 suspects were eventually
executed. Other accounts say that 99 men were hanged that day
in Tulle. Weidinger justifies the hanging by pointing out that
the Maquisards "had butchered with bestial cruelty, tortured,
mutilated and ignominiously treated an opponent who was protected
by the Geneva Convention and international law, as well as by
the Franco-German armistice of 1940, and who furthermore had
surrendered. Thus they placed themselves beyond the bounds of
the laws of warfare and of humanity." Weidinger mentions
that "the terrorists were given the services of a priest
before their execution" and a Christian burial.
Throughout his booklet, Weidinger seems
to be obsessed with pointing out how the Germans acted in a correct
manner, according to international law and the rules of warfare,
while at the same time besmirching the reputation of the Communist
Resistance heroes by accusing them of the most heinous war crimes.
The world will never know whether Weidinger's accusations are
true because no French Resistance fighters have ever been put
on trial to answer for their alleged atrocities.
In the Forward of his booklet, Weidinger
makes the point that the fighting between the French Resistance
and the Waffen-SS troops was "forced upon the German troops,"
and that the Resistance "was conducted in flagrant contravention
of the Franco-German armistice of 1940, the Hague Convention
respecting the laws and customs of war on land and the International
Geneva Convention." In view of this, Weidinger wrote that
"counteractions and reprisals on the part of the Germans
could be expected."
In support of his argument that the SS
always acted correctly, Weidinger includes the text of the Armistice
Agreement between Germany and France of 22 June 1940. In September
1939, France had declared war on Germany, not the other way around.
The French were defeated and their country was occupied because
the war was still going on between the Germans and the British
who had also declared war on Germany, not the other way around.
Weidinger seems to think that the French should have stopped
fighting after they capitulated instead of continuing to fight
as illegal combatants.
Article 1. and Article 10. of the Armistice
are quoted in Weidinger's book as follows:
"1) The French government shall
call a halt to all fighting against the German Reich in France,
in French possessions, colonies, protectorates and mandates as
well as at sea. It shall order an immediate laying down of arms
by French units already enclosed by German troops.
10) The French government binds itself
not to undertake any hostile actions against the German Reich
with any part of the armed forces that are left to it or in any
French nationals that contravene
these regulations shall be treated by the German forces as guerrillas."
The last sentence in the quotation above
is in bold face in Weidinger's booklet. The designation as "guerrillas"
was important to the SS because guerrilla fighters were not recognized
as "belligerents" under the Laws and Customs of War
on Land, dated 18 October 1907, known as the Hague Convention,
part of which Weidinger also quotes in his book. However, he
did not quote Articles 46 and 50 of the Hague Convention, which
the Allies claimed that the SS had violated by their reprisal
against Oradour-sur-Glane. The destruction of the village was
included among the War Crimes that the accused were charged with
at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal under the concept
of participating in a Common Plan to violate the Hague and Geneva
According to Weidinger, the German Supreme
Command never regarded the Maquisards (French resistance fighters)
as "belligerents" but instead, according to the armistice
agreement, they were treated as "guerrillas."
On 8 June 1944, after the Normandy invasion,
General Dwight Eisenhower informed the Germans that the French
resistance groups were "part of the internal French forces"
and were to be regarded as combatants under the Geneva Convention.
Weidinger wrote that "this was without substance under international
law because the declaration was entirely unilateral and never
recognized by Germany."
According to the Hague Convention, as
quoted by Weidinger, Article 1. states the following:
The laws, the rights and the responsibilities
of war apply not only to the army but also to the militia and
volunteer corps if the following conditions are fulfilled:
1) if they are led by a person who
is responsible for those under him,
2) if they bear a certain mark of
distinction that is distinguishable from a distance,
3) they bear their weapons openly,
4) if they observe the laws and customs
of warfare in what they do."
Weidinger claims that the Maquisards
did not qualify as belligerents nor as legal combatants under
this definition because they never bore a certain mark of distinction,
nor did they observe the laws and customs of warfare in what
they did. Instead, the French Resistance did "quite the
contrary" according to Weidinger, who wrote that "they
acted inhumanly (sic) in nearly everything they did. The German
soldiers who fell into the hands of Maquisards were by no means
treated as prisoners of war, instead they came to a terrible
Weidinger claims that the Maquisards
violated Article 23 of the Hague Convention with regard to the
treatment of Sick and Wounded soldiers who were captured. He
wrote that the Communist Maquisards were guilty of "the
foul killing ... of members of the enemy (German) nation or army."
This is a reference to "the burning of German wounded in
an ambulance," an incident that took place just outside
the village of Oradour-sur-Glane shortly before the Waffen-SS
troops arrived there.
On the way into the village, the commander
of Der Führer regiment, Sturmbannführer Adolf Diekmann,
had discovered the remains of a German medical squad and four
wounded German soldiers who had apparently been burned alive
in an ambulance. The driver and the man beside him had been chained
to the steering wheel and had also been burned alive.
Other violations of the Hague Convention
by the Maquisards, according to Weidinger, included "the
murder of four military policemen, the murder of 64 German soldiers
in Tulle and the murder of 62 German railway and medical personnel,
and that alone in the billeting area of Das Reich Division."
According to international law, which
was in effect up until the Geneva Convention of 1949, it was
legal to violate the laws of war by responding with a reprisal
in order to stop guerrilla actions that were against international
law, a point which Weidinger alludes to in his booklet but does
not spell out.
Almost halfway through the booklet, Weidinger
finally gets to the story of the massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane.
He begins by mentioning that Adolf Diekmann reported to regimental
headquarters on June 10th, the day of the massacre, that two
French civilians had come to him in St. Junien, where the regiment
was billeted, and reported heavy Resistance activity in Oradour-sur-Glane.
According to Weidinger, the two civilians
had reported that "a high-ranking German officer was being
held captive by the Maquisards in Oradour-sur-Glane. This officer
was to be ceremoniously executed and burnt during the evening
of that same day. The entire population of Oradour-sur-Glane
was collaborating with the Maquisards. And in the village there
were high-level Maquis staff."
If Otto Weidinger were alive today, he
would surely be arrested and put on trial for writing the above
statement, which appears on page 25 of his booklet.
Weidinger's statement that "The
entire population of Oradour-sur-Glane was collaborating with
the Maquisards" is a very serious contradiction of the official
story of Oradour-sur-Glane which unequivocally maintains that
the inhabitants were innocent victims of the German barbarians,
who committed this terrible atrocity for no reason at all.
The high-ranking officer who was allegedly
going to be killed in Oradour-sur-Glane was probably Sturmbannführer
Helmut Kämpfe, a good friend of Diekmann. He had disappeared
without a trace the day before and was presumed to be in the
hands of the Maquisards.
The Sicherheitsdienst in Limoges had
also learned through its intelligence agents that Kämpfe
was being held by the Maquisards in Oradour-sur-Glane and they
had already reported this to the regiment shortly before.
According to Weidinger, Sturmbannführer
Diekmann asked permission of his commanding officer, Standartenführer
Sylvester Stadler, to drive to Oradour-sur-Glane with a company
of soldiers to free Kämpfe. At this point, Diekmann learned
from Stadler that another SS officer, Obersturmführer Karl
Gerlach, had been captured by the Maquisards and had been taken
to Oradour-sur-Glane after he offered to give information to
their leader in exchange for sparing his life.
Gerlach told the following story, as
related by Weidinger, about what happened after he and his driver
were taken to Oradour-sur-Glane:
"We had to get out and were surrounded
by Maquis and a lot of curious onlookers. I noticed a lot of
people in uniform, even women with yellow leather jackets and
steel helmets. The atmosphere became more threatening from minute
to minute and one of the uniformed men therefore had us brought
back to the lorry."
Gerlach managed to escape after he and
his driver were taken to the nearby woods to be shot. He had
been stripped of his uniform and when he arrived back at regimental
headquarters, he was wearing only his underwear. Diekmann asked
Gerlach to show him on the map where he had been captured and
the way to the place where he had escaped while his driver was
being shot. Then, according to Weidinger, Diekmann took off in
the direction of Oradour-sur-Glane with the 3rd company, under
the command of Hauptmann Kahn.
Diekmann's commanding officer had given
his approval for the mission to Oradour-sur-Glane to find Kämpfe,
but "he stipulated that Diekmann should try, under all circumstances,
to negotiate the release of Kämpfe and only occupy the village
and free Kämpfe by force if negotiations failed. Should
Kämpfe not be found, a large number of prisoners were to
be taken - leaders of the Maquis if possible - so that another
attempt at negotiating an exchange could be made afterwards."
It was later learned that Kämpfe
had been taken to the local Maquis headquarters at Cheissoux,
but on the night of June 9th, he was moved to Breuilaufa, just
north of Oradour-sur-Glane, by way of Limoges. The next day Kämpfe's
personal papers were found on the street in Limoges. The place
and date of Kämpfe's death was either at Cheissoux or Breuilaufa,
probably on 10 June 1944.
At the trial of the perpetrators of the
Oradour massacre before a military court in Bordeaux in 1953,
Weidinger wrote that he testified as a witness for the defense
that "neither by regimental commander Stadler, nor by division
commander Lammerding, nor by any other German army or police
post was an order ever issued to stage mass executions in Oradour-sur-Glane
and put the village to the torch, as is constantly mentioned
in French publications."
In a chapter entitled "The Events
in Oradour-sur-Glane," Weidinger gives the following information:
Diekmann returned to regimental headquarters
in the late afternoon of June 10, 1944 after the massacre in
Oradour-sur-Glane. In his first report to Stadler, he did not
mention the deaths of the women and children in the church. He
reported that when he arrived in Oradour with the 3rd Company,
the soldiers met with resistance from the population. After the
village was taken, a search was made for Kämpfe. He was
not found, but a number of murdered German soldiers had been
found in the village.
In his book "Comrades to the End,"
Weidinger states that Diekmann made the following report at regimental
headquarters in Limoges:
"The Company had encountered resistance in Oradour, the
bodies of executed German soldiers were found. It then occupied
the village and immediately conducted an intensive search of
the houses. Unfortunately this failed to turn up Kämpfe,
however large quantities of weapons and ammunition were found.
Therefore all the men of the village were shot, who were surely
The women and children were locked up in the church while all
this was going on. Then the village was set on fire, as a result
of which the ammunition that was stored in almost every house
went up. The burning of the village resulted in fire spreading
to the church, where ammunition had also been hidden in the roof.
The church burned down very rapidly and the women and children
lost their lives."
According to Weidinger, Stadler was shocked
by this report; he submitted a charge sheet to the divisional
disciplinary office. As soon as Brigadeführer Lammerding
arrived, Stadler asked that Diekmann be court-martialled. Statler
was angry that Diekmann had not followed orders and had not brought
back any captured Maquisards as hostages to trade for Kämpfe
who was still missing.
In his booklet, Weidinger theorizes that
Diekmann must have made a decision to do a reprisal action after
he realized that Kämpfe was already dead and hostages would
therefore not be of any use.
Weidinger includes the text of the Orders
for Combatting Guerrillas, which had been in force since 3 February
1944. Article 2. of this order, known as the Sperrle order, states:
If troops are attacked in any manner...their commander is obligated
to take his own countermeasure immediately."
Weidinger also quotes an order from the
Supreme Command West on 8 June 1944 as follows:
"The operations staff of the
Wehrmacht expect undertakings against the guerrilla units in
southern France to proceed with extreme severity and without
any leniency. This constant trouble-spot must be finally eradicated.
The outcome of these undertakings is of great significance for
further developments in the west. Partial successes are of no
use. For the restoration of law and order the most rigorous measures
are to be taken, to deter the inhabitants of these infested regions,
who must be discouraged from harbouring the resistance groups
and being ruled by them, and as a warning to the entire population.
Ruthlessness and rigour at this critical time are indispensable
if we are to eliminate the danger that lurks behind the backs
of the fighting troops and prevent even greater bloodshed among
the troops and civilian population in the future."
In answer to General Dwight D. Eisenhower's
unilateral announcement on 8 June 1944 that the French Resistance
fighters were to be regarded as legal combatants, the Supreme
Command of the Wehrmacht announced that "members of the
French resistance movement are to be treated as guerrillas."
orders prove quite clearly that Das Reich Division acted solely
within the terms of what was ordered by its superior army command
instances and did not march through France like the 'murdering
and pillaging monsters' often described in post-war literature
concerning the Resistance."
After Das Reich division arrived in Normandy,
an inquest was held to determine the facts of the Oradour-sur-Glane
massacre. Diekmann testified, along with the company commander,
Kahn, the regimental adjutant, Hauptsturmführer Werner,
and several other soldiers. Diekmann told about finding the corpses
of executed German soldiers in Oradour-sur-Glane. Sturmbannführer
Stücker also testified to this before the Nuremberg military
tribunal in 1949. The military inquest was never concluded because
Diekmann was killed in action on June 29, 1944 at Normandy.