Scrapbookpages Blog

May 31, 2010

World War II Massacre in the French village of Maillé

Today I came across an old news article, dated July 2008, which told about a German prosecutor, Ulrich Maass, who had reopened the case against German soldiers, who destroyed the French village of Maillé and killed 124 civilians, in a reprisal action during World War II on August 25, 1944, the same day that German troops surrendered to the Allies in Paris. You can read the full news article here.

The French village of Maille, September 1944

Reprisals were legal under the Geneva Convention of 1929; the purpose of a reprisal action was to stop the atrocities committed by illegal combatants during war time. During World War II, German troops resorted to reprisals several times in order to stop the illegal activity of the French Resistance; the most famous of these reprisals took place at Oradour-sur-Glane.

French civilians were fighting as illegal combatants, killing German soldiers in the most horrible ways, while the Germans were trying to stop them by using legal reprisals.  So who were the bad guys here?  According to the Germans of today, the German soldiers, who did a legal reprisal, were war criminals and the villagers, who acted as terrorists and illegally killed German soldiers, were innocent martyrs.

Nazi war crimes prosecutor Ulrich Maass, right, and Maillé's mayor Bernard Eliaume, third from right, at the start of a three-day visit in July 2008

On the day of the reprisal action against the village of  Maillé, around 80 German Wehrmacht soldiers entered the village and killed 124 residents, including 48 children under age 15 and 42 women. Some of the victims were shot; others were bayoneted, beaten to death or burned. The village was then destroyed with bombs. The soldiers left behind handwritten messages which read: “This is punishment for terrorists and their assistants.” The Germans used the word “Terrorists” to mean illegal combatants who were fighting in violation of the Geneva Convention of 1929.

According to Wikipedia, the reason for the massacre is still unknown, but on the previous day, a group of French resistance fighters had killed a group of German officers traveling in a car. In a separate incident, the French resistance had ambushed a column of  Waffen-SS soldiers. The villagers were also hiding a US Air Force pilot who had crash-landed in the area.

In 1952, a former German army lieutenant, Gustav Schlueter, was tried in absentia by a French court and found guilty of ordering the reprisal.  He was convicted even though reprisals were legal; he was never imprisoned, but continued to live out his days in Germany until he died in 1965.

France has a 30-year limit on the prosecution of war crimes, but Germany has no limit. The German people of today love to haul old soldiers into court, where they lie on stretchers, barely able to breathe, as a German court convicts them of alleged war crimes committed 65 years ago.

After the Maillé massacre story was featured in a German newspaper article in 2004, Ulrich Maas, who specializes in hunting down World War II German “war criminals,” started an investigation.  Maass visited  Maillé in July 2008 to collect more information, and laid a wreath at the village memorial.  I have not been able to find out the outcome of his investigation, so I assume that no one was ever put on trial.

I would love to know what the villagers of Maillé did to deserve a reprisal; I can just imagine how horrible it was.  Maybe they dragged German soldiers, face down, behind a vehicle, as was done in the village of Tulle.  Or maybe they burned wounded soldiers to death in an ambulance, as was done by the French Resistance near Ordour-sur-Glane.

In 1985, Otto Weidinger, the last commander of SS Panzergrenadier Regiment 4, Das Reich Division, published a small 62-page booklet entitled “Tulle and Oradour, a Franco-German Tragedy.”

With regard to the incident at Tulle, the following quote is from page 18 of Weidinger’s booklet:

“On 9 June 1944, when the town of Tulle was retaken by armoured reconnaissance battalion 2 Das Reich, the bodies of at least 40 German soldiers of III battalion/95th regiment were found in front of their billet, what had once been a school, horribly mutilated and terribly mauled. According to the eye-witness accounts of the inhabitants of the town, the German soldiers had surrendered to the Maquisards after the latter had set fire to the school building. They had laid down their weapons and come out with their hands raised. But then they had been shot down in front of the building.

[…]

…the final total was 73 German soldiers killed. Some corpses still wore gas-masks, which had supposedly been put on because of smoke in the building. Inhabitants of Tulle reported that the Maquisards, among whom there had been Poles, Red Spaniards and even four Russians in uniform, had driven over German soldiers who were still alive with their lorries. The bodies were in part mutilated beyond recognition. On one of the corpses it was discovered that a hole had been bored through both heels and a rope threaded through. Apparently the soldier had been dragged along by a lorry in this way until he was dead, because his face bore terrible injuries. The dead had several bullet holes in them, mostly in the back and the back of the head.

Women accompanying the Maquisards had, according to one female resident, thrown excrement over the bodies of the German soldiers. Some sort of gruesome orgy seemed to have been celebrated after the massacre, judging by the broken wine bottles, with the Maquisards playing football with the German helmets. The genitals of some of the dead had been cut off and stuffed into their mouths.”

You can read all about how the innocent villagers in Maillé  suffered during the reprisal in another 2008 news article here.  Of course, the survivors are not going to tell anyone about what atrocities their parents and grandparents committed to warrant a reprisal against their village.

16 Comments

  1. […] can read about another reprisal action in France, which I wrote about on this blog post.  French civilians fought throughout World War II as terrorists, aka illegal […]

    Pingback by World at War TV series misconstrues the Oradour-sur-Glane reprisal | Scrapbookpages Blog — July 28, 2013 @ 7:40 am

  2. Germany was responsible for all atrocities from whatever side.
    Would a resistance force have existed,had there been no need to resist?

    Comment by londondeep10 — December 18, 2012 @ 4:15 pm

  3. It’s wonderful to see, at last, that the truth is finally coming out about WWII and all of the various supposed “truths” that people are force-fed. The old cliche is true: victors write history. We all need to stand up and insist that the REAL truth be told. Perhaps one day, Germany will treat their vets, dead and alive, with the honor and respect they deserve.

    Comment by Anna — November 4, 2012 @ 9:56 pm

  4. As someone who lives near the town of Maille I found many of the comments regarding this blog entry of interest. I would like to make the following points:
    It is saddening to see so much time and effort being spent by individuals who wish to be apologists for Naziism and Fascism. These individuals who seek out discrepancies in historical memories in order to undermine the larger picture and the horrors of the extreme right. They appear to be only doing this in order to prepare the ground for a repetition of extreme right-wing despotism in Europe and the USA.
    There are numerous ways in which the population of France resisted the invader: non-compliance; insubordination; industrial sabotage; printing newspapers; sending information on troop movements; assisting those who feared persecution, arrest, deportation and death; assisting stranded soldiers and airmen; joining the Free French Army; and so the list goes on. They are an inspiration to those who are alive today. I suggest you close down your blog pages, take a close examination of yourself and get on the side of humanity.

    Comment by Jim McNeill — May 12, 2011 @ 9:10 am

    • You wrote: “There are numerous ways in which the population of France resisted the invader:” If the French wanted to “resist the invader,” they could have done it legally on the battlefield. Better yet, the French could have stayed out of the war by not declaring war on Germany in 1939. After France declared war on Germany, the Germans did not invade France for a long time. During this time, the French could have made peace with the Germans. But no! The French elected to fight and when they lost, they decided to “resist” by fighting as illegal combatants. They should have read the Geneva Convention and learned that reprisals were legal.

      Comment by furtherglory — May 12, 2011 @ 9:25 am

  5. It war, total war, things get out of hand bad shit happens and it happens on all sides. What was just or unjust is often determined by the winners. What happen here was tragic, but the cause and effect are well documented.

    Comment by JP — November 25, 2010 @ 3:57 am

  6. Neat how people fit things to their own purpose huh? The myth of the “noble” French Resistance fighters needs to be looked at.

    And notice how the modern Germans are so ready to throw their ancestors under the bus 😦 Sad, and disgusting. And now today, we have much the same troubles with terrorists in other parts of the world. Oh wait, they’re “noble moosleem freedom fighters,” I’m sorry.

    Dorks who won’t study history, but instead only watch dreck like American Idol, Survivor, etc. shouldn’t be allowed to comment. They need to just shut up.

    Comment by Marsh — November 25, 2010 @ 3:31 am

  7. It wasn’t a legal reprisal. The Geneva convention allowed reprisals against enemy troops for violations of the laws of war,not reprisals against civilians for partisan activity–activity which shouldn’t be illegal,in my opinion.

    Comment by Aaron Carine — November 1, 2010 @ 6:57 am

    • The Geneva Convention of the International Red Cross of 1929, which was in force during World War II, was only concerned with the rules regarding Prisoners of War. The Geneva Convention of 1949, which is in force now, includes rules regarding civilians during war time. Under the rules of the 1929 Geneva Convention, an Army had the right, during war time, to respond in kind when guerrilla fighters violated international law, and there was no other way to stop them from continuing their illegal activity except by a reprisal action.

      “reprisals against enemy troops” would be done on the battlefield. Reprisals against civilians for partisan activity were legal under the Geneva Convention of 1929.

      In November 1945, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg indicted Alfred Jodl and Wilhelm Keitel, the two top German generals of the Wehrmacht, on charges of participating in a common plan to commit war crimes by violating the Laws and Usages of War under the Hague Convention of 1907 and the Geneva Convention of 1929. Among the war crimes listed was the massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane, which was declared to be a violation of Articles 46 and 50 of the Hague Convention. There was no mention that the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre was a violation of the 1929 Geneva Convention because it wasn’t; it was a reprisal, which was legal under international law at that time.

      Article 46 of the Hague Convention states that the lives of persons and private property must be respected by the Military Authority over the Territory of the Hostile State, which in this case would have been the authority of the Germans over occupied France.

      Article 50 of the Hague Convention states that no general penalty shall be inflicted upon the population of an occupied country on account of the acts of individuals for which they cannot be regarded as jointly or severally responsible.

      A reprisal against partisans was legal under international law up until the Geneva Convention of 1949.

      Comment by furtherglory — November 1, 2010 @ 8:34 am

      • The 1929 Geneva Convention did not permit massacres of civilians. German reprisals were unlawful in both World Wars. And it takes a strange moral sense to side with the Germans against the resistance.

        Comment by Aaron Carine — May 1, 2011 @ 6:07 am

        • The 1929 Geneva Convention permitted REPRISALS. The 1929 Geneva convention did not permit ILLEGAL COMBATANTS which is the term for people who continue to fight after their country has signed an Armistice. The 1929 Geneva Convention permitted reprisals as a way of stopping illegal fighting by civilians. It also takes a strange moral sense to side with illegal combatants during a war.

          Comment by furtherglory — May 1, 2011 @ 7:53 am

          • The problem is, stupid people don’t actually understand “laws” they only have their feelings to go on. And after all, “weren’t these just “nazis” who did not deserve to be treated legally?” That’s how these chunderheads actually think.

            That the French did heinous crap to German soldiers, then thought they should get away w/ it as they were not soldiers is BS. When they took u arms and attacked the enemy, ESPECIALLY in a terroistic way, they gave up any rights they had as a “non-combatant.” They also doomed innocents caught in the middle of it all. Dumb people never think. Of course the chunderheads commenting here would be too cowardly to do anything if something like an invasion happened in their country, so it’s a moot point anyway. Simpletons, go back to watching American Idol…

            Comment by Marsh — May 1, 2011 @ 8:25 am

  8. One side of this incident is proven. The other side is an indefensible excuse for wanton barbarism.

    Comment by Mickmac — September 4, 2010 @ 2:16 pm

  9. I would do so if I were going for a PHD in history, but I am not. I’m just trying to find the newer information on the Holocaust pertinent to my little blog.

    Paul

    Comment by paolosilv — July 1, 2010 @ 2:57 am

  10. “Legal reprisals”? Legal to whom? I wonder what DeGaulle would say about this page. They helped a US pilot, for God’s sake, trying to free their ancient country, one long established, from a tyrant!

    Comment by Paul — May 31, 2010 @ 11:48 pm

    • I answered your comment in a new blog post which I put up this morning. You really need to read both sides of history, not just history that was written by the winners.

      Comment by furtherglory — June 1, 2010 @ 8:31 am


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