“The tombstone will be replaced. Even if it was a German officer, we must respect the dead,” La Cambe's mayor, Bernard Lenice, told AFP.
A German national from the area who preferred to remain anonymous identified the SS officer whose tombstone was stolen “a few days ago” as tank commander Michael Wittmann.
“It was a square tombstone bolted to the ground with his name engraved upon it, but without any other inscription,” the source said, saying nothing on the stone indicated Wittmann's role in the SS.
The German said the grave attracted numerous visitors — including Britons and Americans — drawn by Wittman's reputation as having been one of the most daunting tank commanders in the German army.
The northwestern French region of Normandy was the theatre of fierce World War II battles between occupying Nazi forces and Allied armies that advanced eastward following the D-Day invasion.
The remains of soldiers from various countries involved in the fighting lie in graveyards across the area. The bodies of around 21,000 German soldiers are buried in La Cambe alone.
The theft of Wittmann's stone has been reported to local police officials for investigation.