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1944: Massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane

June 10th, 2013 Meaghan

(cc) image from fintbo.

(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.)

On this date in 1944, four days after the Allied invasion of Normandy, an SS battalion from the 2nd SS Panzer Division massacred almost the entire village of Oradour-sur-Glane in west central France, slaughtering in all 642 people.

You can read all about this hecatomb and its aftermath on this very thorough and impressive website dedicated to the atrocity, from which much of the information in this account is drawn.

The tiny village, which you could walk through in all of ten minutes, had been the victim of mistaken identity.

Twenty miles away was a somewhat larger town with a similar name, Oradour-sur-Vayres, which was known for its Resistance activity. Adolf Diekmann, commander of the SS battalion, had been informed that the French Resistance had captured an SS officer (possibly the kidnapped Waffen-SS Sturmbahnfuhrer Helmut Kampfe, who had been executed by the Resistance earlier that same day) in Oradour-sur-Vayres and decided reprisals were needed, but he got the two villages mixed up and went to Oradour-sur-Glane instead.

When the SS arrived in the village at lunchtime, they ordered all the inhabitants to assemble in the fairground to have their papers checked. Everyone had to come, including children and the sick. Six people who were not residents but happened to be in the village at the time were also sent to the fairground.

Twenty villagers who had some compelling reason to avoid the Nazis, or merely had a bad feeling about the whole thing, hid or left the village as soon as the SS division showed up. These twenty survived. One seven-year-old boy, Roger Godfrin, was spotted and shot at, but survived by playing dead. He was the only survivor in his family, and the youngest survivor from the town.

The women and children were locked in the village church, and the men were lead to barns and sheds where the machine guns were set up. They were shot in their lower bodies and legs, in order to prolong their deaths. One of the men, who’d lost a leg in World War I, supposedly cried out, “Those bastards! They have cut my other leg off!”

After the shooting, as the men of Oradour-sur-Glane lay helpless, the SS men locked the sheds and set them on fire.

Only six men were able to escape. They hid in some rabbit hutches for several hours before attempting to escape the village. Five of them made it, but Pierre-Henri Poutaraud was spotted later that day and shot dead. The SS man who shot him then tethered a horse to Poutaraud’s outstretched hand.

In all, 190 men were killed.

The SS division then went back to the church, set off a smoke bomb inside it, and set the building on fire. Anyone who tried to get out of the church was machine-gunned. One woman cried out that she was German, not French, and begged to be released, but the SS shoved her back into the flames.

47-year-old Marguerite Rouffanche was able to slip out the back window, and another woman followed her with her seven-month-old baby, but all three of them were shot and only Marguerite survived, hiding in a garden for more than 24 hours until help arrived. Her two daughters were killed. (Marguerite refused to leave Oradour after the massacre. She remained there for the rest of her ninety-one years and is now buried in the village cemetery.)

The church fire and shootings claimed the lives of 247 children and 205 women.

Children from the village’s girl’s school, in the 1942-1943 school year. All of these girls were killed in the massacre.

Unbeknownst to the Nazis, there were several Jews living in the village, among them five children between the ages of eight and fifteen. Twelve of them were killed. In the case of a Jewish family called Pinede, the parents decided to present themselves for inspection but told their three children to hide. The children survived; their parents did not. One of those three Jewish survivors was still alive as of 2004.

Several days passed for the 26 survivors were permitted to bury their dead. Only 52 of the bodies could be identified; the other ones were burned too badly to be recognizable.

Collective punishment in reprisal for the actions of others was par for the course in Nazi-occupied Europe, and Adolf Diekmann had directed his unit to commit a number of mass shootings. Even so, he didn’t have authorization for the bloody events at Oradour-sur-Glane and his commanding officer requested for a court-martial, saying, “I cannot allow the regiment to be charged with something like this.” Field Marshal Erwin Rommel supposedly volunteered to preside over the court-martial himself.

But before that could happen, the war took care of Diekmann: he was killed on the Normandy front on June 19, hit in the head with shrapnel, a mere nine days after his last atrocity. The front, in fact, took care of most of his unit: only 65 of the 200 members survived the war.

In 1953 in Bordeaux, a military tribunal convened to hear the case against the surviving members of the 2nd Panzer Division. Only 22 of them were present in the courtroom; the others were in East Germany, which refused to extradite them. All but one said they’d been conscripted into the SS; one of them admitted he’d joined voluntarily to fight Communism.

To further complicate matters, 15 of the defendants present were actually French nationals of German descent, from Alsace-Moselle, and 14 of them claimed they’d been drafted against their wishes.

(After they conquered France, Germany declared inhabitants of Alsace to be German citizens whether they wanted to be or not, and drafted the region’s men. The conscripts were known in France as Malgre-nous, meaning literally “despite ourselves.”)

In addition, eight of the French defendants had been under the age of 18 when they were drafted into the SS, making them minors under French law. Many French people, including some of the survivors of Oradour-sur-Glane, viewed the Alsatian conscripts as fellow-victims of Nazi Germany and didn’t believe they should be held responsible for their actions.

Most of the defendants were cagey.

They implicated each other, but not themselves, admitting to some specific offenses but denying other, far more serious ones. One man, for example, said he’d been part of an execution squad that shot 20 men, but insisted he’d only helped load the machine guns and hadn’t personally shot anyone. Another said he hadn’t been in Oradour-sur-Glane at all, but was stationed as a sentry outside the village to prevent escapes. Only one of the defendants had admitted to killing anyone at all prior to the trial.

Twelve members of the victims’ families came to watch the trial proceedings, including an eight-year-old girl whose father and grandfather had been killed. Marguerite Rouffanche was ill at the time of the trial and very weak, but she showed up anyway and testify about her experience. Roger Godfrin, the little boy who played dead, also testified.

The tribunal’s judge demanded the defendants view photographs of the charred corpses of the victims, saying, “Let them look at the glorious work of the valiant Third Company of Der Führer Regiment.”

When the prosecutor summed up the case, he referred to the defendants’ evasive statements and said, “You might as well say despite the heaps of ashes and ruins, that the massacre never took place. But the people of Oradour are dead.”

The tribunal deliberated for thirty-two hours before returning its verdicts. One of the defendants was able to prove he hadn’t been in Oradour-sur-Glane the day of the killings, and was acquitted. The rest were convicted.

The 46 members of the SS unit who hadn’t shown up for trial were sentenced to death in absentia, as was one of the German nationals and one of the French. The others got various prison sentences, mostly between five and eight years, none exceeding twelve years. The Germans tended to get longer prison terms than the French. In addition, the Germans were prohibited from residing in France for at least twenty years.

Survivors of the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre.

No one in France was happy with the tribunal’s ruling: some said the sentences were too harsh, others, too lenient. In the face of widespread protests from the Alsace area and threats to secede from France, the French National Assembly passed a bill granting amnesty to all Malgre-nous (at a vote of 319 to 211, with a whopping 83 abstentions) and 13 of the 14 Frenchmen were released only eight days after the verdict was rendered. (One of them, the one who had volunteered for the SS, got no sympathy from anyone and no such leniency.)

Germany was upset, saying it was unfair to pardon the French SS but not the Germans. But within five years, everyone had been freed. No one was actually executed.

In 1981, East German authorities tracked down Heinz Barth, a second lieutenant in the 2nd Panzer Division, and put him on trial in their country for his role in the Oradour-sur-Glane Massacre.

He never tried to deny his participation in the attack, and used the old “just following orders” defense, saying, “In war one acts harshly and with the means available.” Barth admitted he helped round up the village men and personally shot fifteen times into the crowd. He also acknowledged responsibility for the deaths of nearly 100 people in Czechoslovakia.

Barth was convicted in 1983 and sentenced to life in prison. In 1991, still behind bars, he was awarded a pension as a “war victim” because he’d been wounded in Normandy in August 1944 and lost a leg. The resulting howls of protest led the government of a newly reunited Germany to pass a law stripping convicted war criminals of their pensions.

Barth was released from prison in 1997, and managed to finagle his war pension back somehow. He died of cancer ten years later, at the age of 86.

Marguerite Rouffanche died in 1988. Her fellow-survivor Roger Godfrin died in 2004.

The survivors of Oradour-sur-Glane created a new village after the war, but the burned-out ruins of the old village remain, with rusted cars, sewing machines, bicycles and other personal items lying in plain sight on the street, a grim testimony to what happened there nearly seventy years ago.

The ruins of the village of Oradour-sur-Glane today. (cc) image from Olivier Lepicier.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Borderline "Executions",Burned,Children,Execution,France,Germany,Guest Writers,History,Innocent Bystanders,Mass Executions,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Other Voices,Shot,Wartime Executions,Women

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29 thoughts on “1944: Massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane”

  1. David Shaw says:

    I visited Ouradour in 2017. The Church with its melted bell where so many women and children died with its flowers on its altar. That sowing machine slowly rusting away in a front room, the rusting car abandoned together with the rest of the little reminders of life under a ruthless regime. If you are ever near Limoges put half a day aside to visit Oradour sur Glane. A vision of Horror as the front page of the guide book says.

  2. Meaghan says:

    Yesterday I read a short (36 page) memoir called “Oradour-Sur-Glane : the tragedy, hour by hour” by Robert Hebras, one of the survivors who hid in the rabbit hutches. Curiously, although he wrote his account years after the tragedy, after the trials were over, after the death of Heinz Barth, he said he STILL did not know why the Germans attacked the town in the first place.

    Hebras also implies that, rather than being an ordinary casualty of war, Diekmann may have been deliberately assassinated.

  3. Meaghan says:

    There was a documentary about the massacre on National Geographic Channel last week. Very good.

  4. Ryan diekmann says:

    I apologize for not catching my misspells,as autocorrect is a pain in my ass,on my smart phone. My grandfather was tgst Paul f diekmann,not (that) word and so on god bless you all,and live with love in your hearts,please,it’s the only way,we can honor the lost, and fallen people.:)

  5. Ryan diekmann says:

    I have read,and heard stories in my family of Adolf Otto diekmann,as I am a distant relation to this coward,and incompetent disgusting man aswell as the rest of this unit (all of them,there or not!!!!!!) My grandfather is my family hero,that Paul f diekmann,us army…. I have had issues with this for a few yrs,feeling like there is a part of myself,as the same blood runs through my viens.my father also us army,has told me,”son,you can pick your friends,but you can not pick your family? Reading about this horrific murder,women,babies,husbands,mothers,and just beautiful people who only wanted to live in piece,and live to love there families,I think about this often,I fall into a depression that my Charmane is connected to such an evilness,and disgusting action of orders.my heart crys,and my eyes bleed with clear blood when I seen the actual photo of so many beautiful people. “lord please,give them piece for eternity,although they left this planet,our world in such a demon,hellish way.org I could die over and over again for my brothers,and sisters,and each child in this village,I would do it in a min. Germans,I have found,(especially in myself) have an evil,temper,knocking bone,that is to only be controlled by breaking a chain of sychotics,and selfishly tempers,followed with irrational way of thinking,unless relized,understood,and controlled!!!!! I am 35,I was born in Jun of 1978,10 says before this coward Adolf,commited his eternal sin,only after so many more he had ordered. I have 3 beautiful baby boys, and a beautiful,Scottish,Dutch descendant wife. I love you,that Paul f diekmann of the united states army air force,CIA!!!!!! Burn in the fiery pits of hell for eternity forever Adolf oto diekmann!!!!!!!!! I am truly sorry dear lord for this horrible action,family blood or not!!!!! God bless our American veterans of all foreign wars,thank you!!! Ryan diekmann,born,Jun 2ND,1978,fort ord CA, Silas b Hayes military hospital where my father was stationed

  6. sk says:

    The problem with a death penalty is not just the principle,its the practice. Historically and even in the present day it has been applied unevenly an unethically to get rid of communities and individuals conveniently whereas those in power who committed similar or worse atrocities such as the Nithari killings in India in this decade or the African Americans in 1960’s Georgia.

  7. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    I agree that any jury must be exceedingly careful in passing a sentence of death; or any conviction for that matter. Thank God the law has that “without a reasonable doubt” clause, etc. I would never vote the death penalty without a substantial amount of evidence against the person. Much better in those cases to convict (with enough evidence) and place in prison.

    Many, many murders come to the courts with substantial evidence connecting the perpetrator to the crime. Just to obtain an indictment for murder the investigators must demonstrate cause for said indictment. So there is that.

    Yes, it sounds like sis was doing a “kill them all and let God sort them out”, LOL! Truth be told, however, she may have just been spouting off a bit.

  8. Meaghan says:

    That is an interesting question, Kevin. It’s very hard for me to get past the whole “people might be innocent” thing — especially after my own sister told me, flatly, that “if they’re on death row they’re guilty of something” and she didn’t care if they hadn’t committed the murder they were convicted of, just execute them anyway. I actually asked her to repeat it, checking to make sure she really knew what she’d said. She repeated it. So I paraphrased it back to her, and asked, did she really mean that? Yes, she said, flatly, as if she couldn’t understand why I was asking such a stupid question. Terrifying. If there are a lot of people like her out there serving on juries, we’re done for.

    There are definitely people out there who deserve to die for their actions — the Oradour-Sur-Glane Nazis among them. (BTW, I didn’t notice till after this entry was posted that the massacre took place on the anniversary of the infamous day the Nazis annihilated the whole village of Lidice in Czechoslovakia.) And I think there are some people you pretty much can’t punish; that is, punishment has no affect on them, they don’t even really seem to care what you do to them, and certainly punishment or the fear of it won’t change their behavior. With people like that, it’s all the criminal justice system can do to just remove them from society to prevent them from harming any (more) people.

    So, I suppose that, in the “worst of the worst” cases — I don’t believe all people who commit murder deserve to die, but in the case of a person like, say, Bundy — where they definitely have the right person, beyond the shadow of a doubt, I wouldn’t be opposed to the death penalty.

  9. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    BTW: You might have a valid point with Hitler, LOL!

  10. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    I hear you, Meaghan, but in almost all dp cases, they have the right person. And when society does in fact have the right person or persons, and the trial presents all the evidence, and the person is convicted, and the convictions are upheld by the lower courts all the way up to the Supreme court, then justice has been served. And, at that point, if the person is not executed –like what happened by our previous idiot governor who, with the stroke of a pen nullified it for personal reasons– then justice has not been served.

    Now, since we are both being honest here, let me ask you a question: Isn’t it true that even if the courts always tried all the right people in DP cases (the guilty), and every other criteria for justice were aptly met , you’d still be against the DP? in other words, is it possible that you’re against the death penalty because (in your view) it’s wrong to kill? For if that’s true, then nothing the courts do-right or wrong- can alter that view.

    I’m not being contentious asking you, but with all debates in life, we must get down to the real central issues.

  11. Meaghan says:

    Whoops, should be “given” him what he wanted. LOL

  12. Meaghan says:

    You’ve shared the Hitler anecdote before. I’ll tell you what I said before: a far more fitting punishment for him would be to keep him alive, locked up in a windowless cell, till the end of his days, and provide regular updates on the founding of Israel and all the other post-WW2 events that would have had him apoplectic with rage.

    Hitler himself demonstrated that he would rather be dead than witness the collapse of everything he’d dreamed of and worked for. Why should we have gen him what he wanted?

    I’m against the DP, but not because of the “every life is precious” argument. I’m against it because the state, frankly, does a terrible job at determining who deserves it. Putting aside all the cases where there were mitigating circumstances or whatever, think of all the people on death row who have been outright exonerated. And think of the innocent people who have been executed and will be in the future. Life without parole is good enough for me.

  13. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    As I said above: Justice is not revenge. The killing of those murdering Germans should have taken place. That would have been justice, plain and simple. That some possess this very odd view that humans, no matter what they do must not be killed, and those who believe they should die for their crimes are seeking revenge, shows an extreme lack of clarity of thinking.

    The anti death penalty crowd would keep folks alive no matter how evil they are and no matter how many innocent people they kill. They really are that strange. I remember once being on a radio program where the host was anti death penalty, and when I said to her: “Oh,so you’re saying that if we had captured Adolf Hitler alive, you would have let him live out his life…” She responded “I don’t want to talk about this.” Can you imagine her saying this?!!!!! The reason that the host said that is because she looked at that moment incredibly stupid and she knew it. I must say, it was a fine moment for all the clear thinkers out in the audience.

  14. JCF says:

    My prayers for ALL victims of violence—not excluding those harmed in the name of revenge (or revenge masquerading as “justice”).

    MERCY is true strength.

  15. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Yes, your boyfriend would have gotten into trouble if he’d shot the guy after the fact. As he attacked, or during the attack is fine. But after the fact would have presented problems. That said, it might be difficult finding 12 who would convict him, if in fact the one he shot was indeed the perp.

    And I’m very glad you’re a contributor to this site, and that you run the Charleyproject!

  16. Meaghan says:

    In his book, Rosenbaum argues that, properly applied, revenge and justice are the same thing.

    As for the man who attacked me…I appreciate your sentiments. At the time it happened, I was on vacation staying with a friend who owns several guns. On account of the attack I was several hours late getting back to my friend’s apartment, and not answering my cell, and he was worried, and to make himself feel better he kept loading and unloading one of his handguns. Then I came in and told him what happened, and my friend went bolting out the door and I went chasing after him. He ran outside, me following, circled the parking lot, checked the street, then ran back inside. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my friend was packing heat and if he had seen the rapist he would have shot him and we would have had a great deal of explaining to do.

    He told all this to the police and the police told him, “We’re really glad we don’t have to arrest you.” They took his gun away and unloaded it and I heard them say on their radios, “We have secured the firearm.”

    But I believe very few things, and maybe nothing, in this world is so bad that nothing good comes out of it. A lot of good things happened to me as a result of what happened. Among other things, the assault directly lead to my becoming the regular Executed Today contributor that I am today. On the first anniversary of what happened, they still had not identified my attacker (I got the call a few days later) and I was feel really, really bad and frantically surfing the internet to distract myself, and stumbled across the Executed Today blog. I wrote the Headsman about some people he could put on the blog, and he wrote back suggesting I write about them myself. Writing about executed people turned out to be a very good distraction and I churned out several posts within a few days. And the rest is history…

  17. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Correction for post # 10:

    Das Riech should read Das Reich!

    I’m playing editor now, LOL!

  18. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    I understand the question (and perhaps problem) of revenge. First, revenge is a very negative emotion, and if held onto forever, will be detrimental to those “living” in that state. However, there are times in war, when one army or navy is beaten badly in battle, and yet in the next round of combat, thrash the enemy soundly. After such an encounter, there is always a great deal of satisfaction. And that satisfaction is the result of revenge being satisfied. Now, in such cases, “revenge” or whatever one wants to call it, has, in my view, its place. But when breaking it down to the individual, it can get a bit murkier. That said, what I’m talking about is not revenge at all. It is justice, pure and simple.

    Take Theodore Bundy for example. That the guy was worthy of death is without question. He murdered in cold blood over 36 innocent women. Even so, some believe the guy was worthy of life! Sometimes folks think just because one is human, they can commit evil, destroy families, and consider other peoples lives as nothing, and that no matter what they do, they should not be killed.

    This, to me, is abject foolishness. It’s not even clear thinking. Folks who commit murder forever lose their right to a body in the earth. When they do this, they have cast away their right to live, and they do need to go the way of their victims. Such thinking has nothing to do with revenge. It has to do with the proper response to those who decide to murder the innocent around them. And as far as I’m concerned, those who want to “save” such people, have no understanding whatsoever about the true meaning of justice. They will be quick to pat themselves on the back for their self righteous stand. But folks like me fully understand how clueless they are.

    It’s all about justice, and nothing about revenge.

    BTW: So sorry that happened to you. Had I been there I would have killed him for you, as I am never without a handgun. And that’s no joke.

  19. Meaghan says:

    There’s a book I’m reading now, Kevin, that you might like: “Payback: The Case For Revenge” by Thane Rosenbaum. The author argues that the desire for revenge is a normal, healthy and in fact instinctive emotion and that revenge, provided it is proportionate to the wrongdoing, has its place in society, and that the West and Americans in particular mess around with words like “justice” when they really mean “revenge.” I’m about halfway through and it’s very good, bringing up points from a wide range of fields such as neuroscience, history, religion, psychology, etc.

    I’ve been thinking about revenge a lot lately, and not just because of the book. A stranger, a serial offender with at least two other victims besides me, beat me and raped me several times and threatened to kill me if I went to the police (which I did anyway). It’s kind of a long story. In a few days is the fourth anniversary of when it happened. He is in prison but I can’t say I feel satisfied, and he’ll be getting out soon.

    I know what my revenge would be. I think it would be proportionate to the crime. I wouldn’t kill him. I’m still alive, after all. But I want to mark him. I want to slash his face open with a razor blade. I’ve thought about it many times, fantasized about it. It wouldn’t hurt him that bad, of course — they could sew it up. But he would carry that scar for the rest of his life, and everyone could see it. And more importantly, HE could see it, every time he looked in the mirror, and know who gave it to him, and why.

    I am an incredibly non-violent, passive individual and this is the only person in my life that I’ve ever wanted to hurt like that. Sometimes I wonder whether I would really do it if I had a chance. And whether it would really make me feel any better if I did.

  20. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Yes, the sentry (a member of the Das Riech division) had at least some humanity in him, and that’s great. That said, society must (in my view) answer such atrocities with the full weight of the law. These men participated in the murders of many, many people; women and children alike. This is a war crime of extreme magnitude, and so worthy of the deaths of the men who perpetrated it. I don’t care if they’re sorry; I don’t care if they say there were just following orders. They did the deed and only their execution would have resulted in justice being served.

    And just so the readers of this blog won’t think I have it out for the Germans, I think all of the American troops who so viciously murdered those at My Lai in Vietnam in 1968 should all have been put to death. Indeed, an American chopper crew who rescued some folks threatened to open up with the door gunner’s M-60 machine gun if they didn’t stop. Well, I’ll bet a few bursts from that, accompanied by half a dozen rampaging American soldiers falling to the ground, would have put a dent in them.

    Murderers, no matter who they are, need to meet the same fate as that of the murdered. And anything less is weakness, and neither is it justice.

  21. Meaghan says:

    Yeah, I looked up Peiper after you mentioned him in your previous comment.

    In spite of all my World War II studies I hadn’t even heard of Oradour-Sur-Glane till earlier this year. I was reading a book about Righteous Gentiles in Europe and it mentioned the Jewish survivors from the town, the three kids whose parents told them to hide — although one was actually a young adult at the time, 22. When they were running out of the burning village they literally ran smack into an SS man. He was alone, a sentry, I think. The oldest one couldn’t think of anything to try and just asked the sentry, “What should we do?” And the Nazi just let them go and gestured for them to run. (The girl testified to this at the French tribunal.) Anyway, after reading the mention of this in the book, I looked up the town and realized it would make great copy.

    When they were by themselves, the members of that division were capable of acts of humanity. In groups they became savage. This is pretty typical of human behavior generally, I’m told.

  22. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Forgive the typos. Grandchild on lap and typing one handed lol!

  23. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    So true. Others, as I recall, were sentenced to death, but the weakness of the West would prevail, resulting for no sentence of justice for the American dead.

    Now, as to Peiper, he wasn’t present at the Malmady, so I’m surprised he was sentenced to death in the first place. But the men who pulled the triggers of their weapons, those are the individuals who needed the neck tie party.

    BTW: Why on earth was Peiper living in France anyway. When I first visited France in the summer of 1972, I was made acutely aware of how badly the French hate the Germans. One former French commando told me: “When we see a German of your age (I was 17 at the time) we don’t hold the wars against you. But when we meet a man your father’s age, well, we’re polite and correct, but that is all.”

    now, there’s no way Peiper didn’t know this, so why would he have a villa in France? Strange.

  24. KYGB says:

    Joachim Peiper was sentenced to death after the war for the Malmady slaughter and other crimes against prisoners, etc.

    That sentence was changed, due to pre-trial bungling by US investigators. After his release from prison in the mid-fifties, Peiper lived a prosperous life (at times) working for Porsche, VW, & various automotive magazines. That raised the ire of many veterans. In July of 1976, he was killed in his villa in France.

    No one was ever charged in the slaying and many different stories have been floated as to the perpetrators of that mission. Some say French resistance, French communists, but no one knows for sure.

  25. KYGB says:

    Joachim Peiper was sentenced to death after the war for the Malmady slaughter and other crimes against prisoners, etc.

    That sentence was changed, due to pre-trial bungling by US investigators. Peiper lived a prosperous life (at times) working for Porsche, VW, & various automotive magazines. That raised the ire of many veterans. In July of 1976, he was killed in his villa in France.

    No one was ever charged in the slaying and many different stories have been floated as to the perpetrators of that mission. Some say French resistance, French communists, but no one knows for sure.

  26. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Make that “mind you” not mid you! LOL!

  27. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    You’re right: The Russian way of retribution is not a good thing. When nearly 100,000 regular German troops (6th Army) were captured at Stalingrad, only 6000 returned, and that was in 1958. This was egregious treatment of POW’s. These men were regular army, did not participate in war crimes such as the SS, and did not deserve this treatment. That said, they came down hard on actual war criminals and that was good.

    How about the US? Well, we didn’t have it in us to put to death the SS troopers under the command of Joachim Peiper at the Malmady massacre where many US troops were murdered (these same Germans also shot down American soldiers at a fuel depot in Buligan -spelling probably incorrect- in the same week, as I remember). We had these men in our hands after the war, and like the French, became weak and gave them mild prison sentences instead of a death sentence. Too bad the West did not to the right thing with these men. Not all of these Germans should have been put to death, mid you (Pieper wasn’t even present), and some troops were near to the scene but did not do the actual killing. But those who did murder needed to be killed, and the dead of the massacres did not receive justice.

  28. Meaghan says:

    Such weaknesses were, alas, typical of how the West dealt with what few Nazi war-criminals did come before their courts. I mostly disapprove of the brutal tactics employed by the Soviet Union during the war, but at least they made sure to punish any and all Nazis severely. They got the firing squad or were shipped to the gulag which was, if anything, worse.

  29. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    I drove through that village in the summer of 1972. Very sobering.

    Before even getting to the section where it told of the causality rate of the 2nd SS in Normandy, I knew many of these men were killed in the fighting in the days and weeks following these murders. So at least some justice was served in that the perpetrators were soon dispatched from the earth. But what a disgrace that the French court dealt so weakly with those who fell into their hands. Such weakness is absurd in light of what happened at Oradour-sur-Glane.

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Execution Playing Cards

Exclusively available on this site: our one-of-a-kind custom playing card deck.

Every card features a historical execution from England, France, Germany, or Russia!