SHARE
COPY LINK

WAR

German raids on France Nazi massacre suspects

German authorities said Monday they had raided the homes of six men suspected of taking part in a Nazi massacre of 642 mainly women and children in a French village in 1944.

German raids on France Nazi massacre suspects
Denis Nilsson

The raids, carried out in recent weeks in cities across Germany, were part of a murder probe into the men, believed to have been part of a Waffen-SS unit called “Der Führer”.

The men, aged 18 and 19 at the time, have “either denied their participation in the massacre or were not fit for questioning, according to the investigators’ first impressions,” prosecutors said.

Authorities had hoped the raids would unearth documents like diaries that would link the men to the massacre that took place in the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane on June 10th, 1944.

However, prosecutors in the western city of Düsseldorf acknowledged that “until now, no substantial evidence had been uncovered during the raids.”

Four days after the Normandy landings that marked the start of the liberation of France and Europe from Nazi occupation, Oradour was destroyed by a detachment of SS troops for reasons that have never been made clear.

They ordered the town’s 642 inhabitants, including some 200 children, to assemble in the village square.

Women and children were then herded into the church which was pumped full of toxic gas and set on fire. The men were machine-gunned and burned alive in a barn. The entire village was then torched, never to be rebuilt.

In France, the slaughter has come to symbolise the worst of Nazi barbarity and the village has been left as it was as a memorial.

One of the last survivors of the massacre said on Monday he was “pleasantly surprised” by the news of the raids.

“I am surprised, pleasantly surprised, that searches are still going on, that they are still looking for the criminals,” said Robert Hebras, today 86.

“It would surprise me if these people were the ones who gave the orders — at the time they were about my age, barely 19,” he said from his home in the village of Saint-Junien, not far from the site of the massacre.

Around 60 soldiers were brought to trial in France over the massacre in the 1950s, and 20 of them convicted, but all were released within a few years.  

Since the Nuremberg trials after the war, where several top Nazi henchmen were sentenced to death, German authorities have examined more than 25,000 cases but the vast majority never came to court.

Recently, with many of the suspected war criminals in or approaching their 90s, there has been a minor flurry of arrests and court cases in Germany dealing with war-time atrocities.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

WAR

French forces tortured and murdered Algerian freedom fighter in 1950s, admits Macron

French forces "tortured and murdered" Algerian freedom fighter Ali Boumendjel during his country's war for independence, President Emmanuel Macron admitted on Tuesday, officially reappraising a death that was covered up as a suicide.

French forces tortured and murdered Algerian freedom fighter in 1950s, admits Macron
Malika, the widow of Ali Boumendjel, pictured in 2001. Photo: Stefan Fferberg/AFP

Macron made the admission “in the name of France” during a meeting with Boumendjel’s grandchildren.

The move comes after Macron in January refused to issue an official apology for abuses committed during the occupation of Algeria – instead, he agreed to form a “truth commission” as recommended by a report commissioned by the government to shed light on France’s colonial past.

Atrocities committed by both sides during the 1954-1962 Algerian war of independence continue to strain relations between the countries.

Boumendjel, a nationalist and lawyer, was arrested during the battle of Algiers by the French army, “placed incommunicado, tortured, and then killed on 23 March 1957,” the Elysee Palace said in a statement.

“Ali Boumendjel did not commit suicide. He was tortured and then killed,” Macron told Boumendjel’s grandchildren, according to the statement.

It is not the first time the real cause of death was acknowledged.

In 2000, the former head of French intelligence in Algiers Paul Aussaresses confessed to ordering Boumendjel’s death and disguising the murder as a suicide, according to the statement.

It added that Macron on Tuesday had also reiterated his desire to give families the opportunity to find out the truth about this chapter of history.

Last month, Boumendjel’s niece Fadela Boumendjel-Chitour denounced what she called the “devastating” lie the French state had told about her uncle.

French historian Benjamin Stora, who wrote the government-commissioned report, has said there is a “never-ending memory war” between the two countries.

The report has been described by the Algerian government as “not objective” and falling “below expectations.”

During his 2017 election campaign, Macron – the first president born after the colonial period – declared that the occupation of Algeria was a “crime against humanity”.

He has since said there was “no question of showing repentance” or of “presenting an apology” for abuses committed in the North African country.

SHOW COMMENTS