The man in the photo above is Adolf Otto Diekmann, the battalion commander who was the highest ranking officer present at Oradour-sur-Glane on June 10, 1944 the day that 642 men, women and children were murdered and the whole town was destroyed by fire. In most books, his name is given as Otto Dickmann; SS records show that his name was Adolf Otto Diekmann. It was common for German men at that time to use their middle name.
After the massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane Diekmann made a report at 5:30 p.m. that day to his commanding officer at the Regimental Headquarters in Limoges.
The following quote from Diekmann’s Report was included in Otto Weidinger’s book, “Comrades to the End”:
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.
The “executed German soldiers” mentioned in the report was a reference to wounded German soldiers in an ambulance who had been burned alive. The driver and another soldier sitting in the passenger seat had been chained to the steering wheel before the vehicle was set on fire. There were also bodies of German soldiers found in an old well in Oradour-sur-Glane.
Diekmann was court-martialled but the charges were dropped after he was killed in action on June 29, 1944 at Normandy.
Robert Hebras, one of the 5 survivors of the Laudy barn, wrote a book called “Oradour-sur-Glane, the Tragedy Hour by Hour,” in which he described Diekmann as a “blood-thirsty man” and said that “Major Dickmann was a man whose callousness had earned him the reputation of a cold, cruel butcher, and a drunkard besides.”
Diekmann lies buried in the huge La Cambre Cemetery at Normandy where the bodies of 21,115 German soldiers were laid to rest. During the 60th anniversary ceremonies at Normandy, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder took part, but he made it a point not to visit La Cambre to pay his respects to the German soldiers who gave their lives for their country.