As with most countries under German occupation during the Second World War there were many war crimes against civilians and in the case of France, two of the best documented are the massacre of civilians at Tulle (9 June 1944) and the village of Oradour-sur-Glane (10 June 1944) which are around 72 miles apart.
The 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich arrived at Tulle on 8 June, three days after the allies landed at Normandy, and started rounding up men between the ages of sixteen and sixty and some were accused of being members of the Maquis (French Resistance) because they had not shaven or polished their shoes. After the SS made their selection 99 men were hung to death from lamp posts and balconies and 149 were transported to Dachau concentration camp where 101 were executed before the camp was liberated.
The commander who ordered the war crimes at Tulle and Oradour-sur-Glane was SS Gruppenfûhrer Heinz Lammerding.
SS Gruppenfûhrer Heinz Lammerding
After the war Lammerding was condemned to death in his absence by a French court but West Germany refused his extradition and was free to live his life without fear of prosecution despite the overwhelming evidence against him and after his death in 1971 his funeral became a reunion for over 200 former members of the SS.
Oradour-sur-Glane 9 June 1944
The senior officer present during the massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane was SS Sturmbannfûhrer Otto Diekmann, whose name is sometimes misspelt on some documents as Otto Dickmann, who commanded the SS 1 Battalion, 4th Panzer Grenadier Regiment Der Fûhrer.
Diekmann ordered his men to roundup the entire civilian population and take them to the market square where they were separated into age and gender. After being separated 197 men were taken away and locked in a barn and the remainder of the villagers consisting of 204 women and 205 children were forced into the village church. The barn was then set on fire and anyone attempting to escape the flames were killed with machine guns. After the men were burnt alive hand grenades were thrown into the church and anyone who survived was shot.
Among those masssacred at Oradour-sur-Glane
After almost the entiire population of 642 civilans were killed, only six are thought to have siurvived, the SS looted their homes and began biurning the remainder of the village and one survivor described Diekmann, who was later killed in action in Normandy, as being blood thirsty.
Although there is a discrepancy in the following figures because six are said to have survived which would mean the village had a population of 648, according to some accounts, in the church 245 women and 207 childfren were killed and 190 men were burnt to death in the barn.
Photograph of Roger Godfrin taken in 1945 who was the only child to survive the killings at Oradour-sur-Glane
One thought on “SS Panzer Division Das Reich and Der Fûhrer: War Crimes in France after the Normandy Landings”
My Uncle served with the 6th Armored Division in the US Third Army during the Battle of the Bulge. He told me that after the massacres at Malmedy and other places, all captured SS were separated from other German prisoners and sent away under guard into a wood or down a dead end street. Only the Americans returned. The SS were never seen again.