The Story of Oradour-sur-Glane

Otto Weidinger's justification for the Massacre

Warning: Otto Weidinger's book is banned in France.

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 resistance.

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 head.

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 other manner.


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 Conventions.

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:

"Article 1

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 end."

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 Maquisards.
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:

"2) 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."

Weidinger wrote:

"These 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.

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