The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
21st January to 1st February, 1946

Forty-Seventh Day: Thursday, 31st January, 1946
(Part 8 of 8)

[Page 330]

We now come to the statement of the events of Tulle in which 120 Frenchmen were killed, Page 169, paragraph 2. I am now quoting:
"On 7 June an important group of franc-tireurs attacked the French Forces for the maintenance of order and succeeded in seizing the greater part of the town of Tulle after a straggle which lasted until dawn."
On Page 170, first paragraph:
"The same day at about 2000 hours, important German armoured forces came to the assistance of the garrison and penetrated into the city from which the terrorists withdrew in haste."
Next to the last paragraph:
"These troops decided to exercise reprisals. The French Forces of the Interior that had taken the town had withdrawn. The Germans had

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taken no prisoners. The reprisals were exercised upon civilians. Without discrimination they were arrested." And I am now reading the next to last paragraph of Page 170.

"The victims were selected without any inquiry, without even any questioning, haphazardly; workmen, students, professors, industrialists. There were even among them some militia sympathisers and candidates for the Waffen SS. The 120 corpses which were hanged from the balconies and lamp-posts of the avenue of the station, along a distance of 500 metres, were a horrible spectacle and will remain in the memory of the unfortunate population of Tulle for a long time."

And the crowning event in these German atrocities - we now come to it will be the destruction of Orandour sur Glane, in the month of June 1944. The Tribunal will accept, we hope, the presentation of Document F-236, which now becomes Exhibit RF 438. This is a book, an official book, edited by the French Government, which gives a full description of the events. I shall give you a brief analysis of the report of the "de facto " government of the time, sent to the German general who was Commander-in-Chief for the Regions of the West.
"On Saturday, 10 June, beginning in the afternoon, a detachment of SS, belonging very likely to the "Das Reich " Division which was present in the area, burst into the village after having surrounded it entirely, and ordered the population to gather in the central square. It was then announced that a denunciation had indicated that explosives had been hidden in the village and that searches and verifications of identity were about to take place. The men were invited to group together in four or five units, each of which was locked into a barn. The women and children were led into and locked in the church. It was about 1400 hours. A little later machine-gunning began and the whole village was set on fire, as well as the surrounding farms. The houses were set on fire one by one. The operation lasted undoubtedly several hours, in view of the extent of the locality and the town.

In the meantime the women and the children were in anguish as they heard the echoes of the fire and of the shootings. At 1700 hours, German soldiers penetrated into the church and placed upon the communion table an asphyxiating apparatus which comprised a sort of box from which lighted fuses emerged: A little time shortly thereafter the atmosphere became unbreathable. Someone was able to break the door which brought the women and children back to consciousness. The German soldiers then started to shoot through the windows of the church, and they came in to finish off the survivors with machine guns. Then they spread upon the soil inflammable material. One woman was able to escape; she reached the window when the cries of a mother who tried to give her child to her, drew the attention of one of the guards, who fired on the would-be fugitive and wounded her seriously. She saved her life by simulating death and she was later cared for in a hospital of Limoges.

At about 1800 hours the German soldiers stopped the Departmental train which was passing in the vicinity. They told the passengers going to Oradour to get off, and, having machine-gunned them, threw their bodies in the furnace. At the end of the evening as well as the following Sunday morning, the inhabitants of the surrounding hamlets, alarmed by the fire and anguished because of the absence of their children who had been going to school at Oradour, attempted to approach, but they were either machine-gunned or driven away by force by German guards who were guarding the exits of the village. However, on the afternoon of Sunday some were able to come into the ruins, and they stated that the

[Page 332]

church was filled with the remains of women and children, all shrivelled up and calcinated.

An absolutely reliable witness was able to see the body of a woman holding her child in her arms at the entrance of the church and in front of the alter the body of a little child kneeling, and near the confessional the bodies of two children arm-in-arm.

During the night from Sunday to Monday the German troops returned and attempted to remove the traces by proceeding with the summary burial of the women and children outside the church.

The news of this tragedy spread through Limoges during the day of Sunday, 11 June.

The general commanding the Verbindungsstab refused to grant any passes which were personally requested by the regional prefect, so that he himself and a delegate of the prefect could move about in the area. Only the sub- prefect of Rochechouart was able to go to Oradour and report to his chief on the following day that the village, which comprised 85 houses, was only a mass of ruins and that the greater part of the population, women and children included, had perished.

On Tuesday, 13 June, the regional prefect finally obtained authorisation to go there, and was able to proceed to the town, accompanied by the delegate prefect and the Bishop of Limoges. In the church, which was partly in ruins, there were still calcinated remains of children. Bones were mixed with the ashes of the woodwork. The ground was strewn with shells having the 'S.T.K.A.M.' brand upon them and there were numerous traces of bullets at a man's height.

Outside the church the soil was freshly disturbed, children's garments were piled up, half burned. Where the barns had stood could be seen completely calcinated human skeletons, heaped one on the other, partially covered with various clothes. They constituted a horrible sight."

The paragraph before the last :
"Although it is impossible to give the exact number of these victims, one can state that there were 800 to 1000 dead, among them many children who had been evacuated from regions threatened by bombardment. There do not seem to be more than ten survivors among the persons who were present in the village at the beginning of the afternoon of 10 June."
Such are the facts:
"I have the honour, General, of asking you," - General Bridoux speaking to his enemy - "to be good enough to communicate these facts to the German High Command in France. I strongly hope that he will bring them to the knowledge of the Government of the Reich, because of the political importance which they will have from their repercussion on the mind of the French population."
Since that time an inquiry was conducted, and you will find it in the book which has been placed before you. This inquiry has shown that no member of the French Forces of the Interior was in the village. There was none within several kilometres. It is even proved that the causes of the massacre of Oradour sur Glane were distant and remote. The unit which perpetrated this crime apparently did so as an act of vengeance, because of an attempt against it about 50 kilometres further away.

The German Army ordered a judicial inquiry. The Document F- 673, Page 175 and 176, so indicates. This document is dated 4 January, 1945. There were no Germans in France at that time, at least not in Oradour sur Glane. The version given by the German authority is that:

"The reprisals appear to be absolutely justified for military reasons.

[Page 333]

The German military commander who was responsible for it fell in combat in Normandy."
These are the last four lines of paragraph 1 of Page 176: We recall the phrase "The reprisals appear to be justified for military reasons." Therefore, in the eyes of the German Army, the crime of Oradour sur Glane which I have described to you plainly, is a crime which is fully justified.

The guilt of Keitel in all these matters is certain.

In Document F-673, and this will be the end of my explanations, is a strange document which is signed by him. It was drafted on 5 March 1945. It concerns alleged executions, without trial, of French citizens. You will find it on Page 177. It will show the Tribunal the manner in which these criminal inquiries were conducted, on orders by the German Army, following incidents as grave as that of Oradour Sur Glane which had to be justified at any price. In this document, Page 177, which I should cite in its entirety, I wish only to look at the next to the last paragraph. It was in the interest of the Germans to answer these condemnations as promptly as possible.

THE PRESIDENT: This is not a document of which we can take judicial notice and therefore if you want to put the whole document in you must read it in.

M. DUBOST: You have already accepted it. This is F-673. It was placed before you as Exhibit RF 392,and this is the whole bundle of documents of the German Armistice Commission.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, but is it a public document? It is not a public document, is it?

M. DUBOST: Am I to understand that the Tribunal wants me to read it in its entirety?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, F-673, seems to be a very large bundle of documents. That is right, is it not?

M. DUBOST: Yes, Sir.

THE PRESIDENT: This particular part of it, this document signed by Keitel, is a private document.

M. DUBOST: It is a document which comes from the German Armistice Commission in Wiesbaden, which was presented several hours ago and you did accept its being deposited before you.

THE PRESIDENT: I know we accepted its being deposited, but that does not mean that the whole of the document is in evidence. I mean, we have ruled over and over again that documents of which we do not take judicial notice must be read so that they will go through the interpreting system and will be interpreted into German to the German Counsel.

M. DUBOST: I am therefore going to give you the reading of the whole document.


M. DUBOST: " The High Command of the Wehrmacht, Headquarters of the Fuehrer, 5 March 1945, No. 01487/45-g; by Captain Cartellieri.

Subject: Alleged executions without trial of French citizens.

1. German Armistice Commission.

2. High Command West.

In August 1944, the French Commission attached to the German Armistice Commission addressed a note to the latter, giving an exact statement of incidents concerning alleged arbitrary executions of Frenchmen from 9 to 20 January 1944.
The information given in the French note was for the most part so detailed that verification from the German side was undoubtedly possible.

On 26-9-1944, the High Command of the Wehrmacht entrusted the German Armistice Commission with the study of this affair. The said

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commission later requested High Command West for an inquiry on the incidents and an opinion on the facts submitted in the French note.

On 12 February 1945, the German Armistice Commission received from the Army Group B (from the President of the Military Tribunal of Army Group B) a note stating that the documents referring to this affair were, since November 1944, with the Army Judge of Pz, AOK 6, and that Pz, AOK 6 and the Second SS Panzer Division "Das Reich" had in the meanwhile been detached from Army Group B.

The manner in which this affair was inquired into causes the following remarks to be made:

The French, and specifically the Vichy Government Delegation, have addressed to the German Wehrmacht the grave reproach of having carried out executions, unjustified by the laws of war, and therefore, murders, against citizens of France. It was in the interest of Germany to reply as promptly as possible to such charges. In the long period which has elapsed since the French note was prepared it should have been possible, even considering the evolution of military events and the movement of troops in relation to such events, to take at least part of these charges and to refute them by examination of the facts. If merely one fraction of the condemnation had been refuted," - this sentence is important - " if merely one fraction of these condemnations had been refuted, it would have been possible to show the French that all of their claims rested upon doubtful data. By the fact that in this matter nothing was done as far as the Germans were concerned, the enemy must have the impression that we are not in a position to answer these condemnations.

The study of this matter shows that very frequently there exists an utter lack of awareness of the importance of refuting all reproaches against the Wehrmacht and of acting against enemy propaganda and refuting alleged atrocities immediately.

The German Armistice Commission is hereby entrusted to continue the study of this matter with all energy. We ask that every assistance be given, especially at this time with respect to expediting this work within one's own jurisdiction. The fact that Pz. AOK 6 is no longer under High Command West is not an obstacle to obtaining the necessary information for the explanation and the refutation of the French charges."

THE PRESIDENT: M. Dubost, you stated, I think, that this document implicated Keitel.

M. DUBOST: It is signed by Keitel, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Signed by him, yes, but how does it implicate him in the affair of Oradour?

M. DUBOST: Mr. President, the French Commission, together with the Vichy Government, frequently brought to the attention of the German Government not only the atrocities of Oradour but numerous other atrocities. Orders were given so that these facts, which constitute absolute reality, not merely in the eyes of the French, but in the eyes of all those who have objectively inquired into the problem, should be examined for the purpose of refuting part of the reproaches. This letter refers to the protest lodged earlier by the French, and we read part of it before you in the course of this examination of the problem, to be exact, the facts noted in the letter of General Bridoux which mentions the assassinations of Frenchmen at Marsoulas in the department of Haute-Garonne, among them fourteen children.

THE PRESIDENT: I think you said that that was the last document you were going to refer to?

M. DUBOST: It is the last document.

[Page 335]

THE PRESIDENT: Ten minutes past five. Shall we adjourn? M. Dubost, could you let us know what subject is to be gone into tomorrow?

M. DUBOST: Crimes Against Humanity, by my colleague M. Faure. If you will allow me to present my conclusion this evening - I will not take long. Our work has been delayed somewhat this afternoon.

THE PRESIDENT: How long do you think you will take, M. Dubost, to make your concluding statement?

M. DUBOST: I think by five-thirty I shall be through.

THE PRESIDENT: I think perhaps, if it is as convenient to you, we had better hear you in the morning. Is it equally convenient to you?

M. DUBOST: I am at the orders of the Tribunal.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 1000 hours, 1st February 1946)

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