Scrapbookpages Blog

September 23, 2011

In the news today: dragging a man to death…Where have we heard this before?

Filed under: Germany, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:43 am

I read in the news here that white supremacist Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed on Wednesday evening, Sept. 21st, for the dragging death of James Byrd, Jr., a black man from East Texas.  According to the news story, “Byrd, 49, was chained to the back of a pickup truck and pulled whip-like to his death along a bumpy asphalt road in one of the most grisly hate crime murders in recent Texas history.”

There were three white supremacists involved in the crime; Brewer is the first of them to be executed.  When I read about this, I wondered where these three men had gotten the idea of dragging someone to their death behind a truck.  I think that the fact that they were white supremacists gives us a clue.  As white supremacists, they were undoubtedly familiar with crimes committed against the Germans during World War II.  There is a famous story of a German SS soldier being dragged behind a truck by members of the French Resistance during World War II.

Otto Weidinger, the last commander of SS Panzergrenadier Regiment 4, Das Reich Division, wrote about the dragging incident in a small 62-page booklet entitled “Tulle and Oradour, a Franco-German Tragedy,” which he published in German in 1985.  I read the booklet when I did some research about Oradour sur Glane. In the booklet, Weidinger claims that Das Reich Division SS soldiers were victimized by local French Resistance fighters who committed unbelievable atrocities against them in the town of Tulle. He justifies the reprisal done by SS soldiers at Oradour-sur-Glane by claiming that the massacre was a legal reprisal against the villagers for violations of the Hague Convention by the French Resistance. He compares the killing of SS soldiers at Tulle to the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre.   

In his booklet, Weidinger starts off by writing about “The Events in Tulle,” which he calls “The Dreadful Slaughter of German Soldiers,” before he even tells about the horror at Oradour-sur-Glane.  I previously blogged about Oradour-sur-Glane here.

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 armored 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.

A reader of this blog sent me a link to an article about the Tulle massacre:

The article is extremely biased, but it does mention that Aurel Kowatsch was acting under the authority given to him by divisional SS judge Detlef Okrent. I didn’t know that SS divisions had judges and neither did this reader of my blog before he read this article.  This is evidence that the Tulle massacre of SS soldiers was a war crime, for which a reprisal was legal, a ruling made by a judge.

In his booklet, Weidinger claims that the Maquisards (French Resistance fighters) did not qualify as belligerents nor as legal combatants because they never bore a certain mark of distinction which was required for legal combatants, nor did they observe the laws and customs of warfare in what they did. Instead, the French Resistance did “quite the contrary” according to Weidinger, who wrote that the French Resistance fighters “acted inhumanly (sic) in nearly everything they did. The German soldiers who fell into the hands of Maquisards were by no means treated as prisoners of war, instead they came to a terrible end.”

Weidinger claims that the Maquisards violated Article 23 of the Hague Convention with regard to the treatment of Sick and Wounded soldiers who were captured. He wrote that the Communist Maquisards were guilty of “the foul killing … of members of the enemy (German) nation or army.” This is a reference to “the burning of German wounded in an ambulance,” an incident that took place just outside the village of Oradour-sur-Glane shortly before the Waffen-SS troops arrived there.

On the way into the village, the commander of Der Führer regiment, Sturmbannführer Adolf Diekmann, had discovered the remains of a German medical squad and four wounded German soldiers who had apparently been burned alive in an ambulance. The driver and the man beside him had been chained to the steering wheel and had also been burned alive.

Other violations of the Hague Convention by the Maquisards, according to Weidinger, included “the murder of four military policemen, the murder of 64 German soldiers in Tulle and the murder of 62 German railway and medical personnel, and that alone in the billeting area of Das Reich Division.”

According to international law, which was in effect up until the Geneva Convention of 1949, it was legal to violate the laws of war by responding with a reprisal in order to stop guerrilla actions that were against international law, a point which Weidinger alludes to in his booklet but does not spell out.


  1. “This is evidence that the Tulle massacre of SS soldiers was a war crime, for which a reprisal was legal, a ruling made by a judge.” Oh, man, you have serious mental illness

    Comment by french connection — March 26, 2016 @ 9:31 am

    • You wrote: “Oh, man, you have serious mental illness.”

      What is the nature of my mental illness? Do you have a name for my particular type of mental illness?

      Are you disputing that reprisals were legal at that time?

      You didn’t put a period at the end of your comment. Is this an indication that you died before you could complete your comment?

      Comment by furtherglory — March 26, 2016 @ 9:51 am

  2. End of the last sentence:
    That was a political correctness issue in the former USSR, Romania, Hungary, Poland and other countries which wanted to conceal the facts, that their nationals were fighting in German Armed Forces.

    Comment by Gasan — September 24, 2011 @ 10:37 am

  3. Dear Herb, welcome back!
    What I did not like about that article is the baseless accusation and the frivolous expressions. Just want to give you a few examples:
    “Als letztere aufgerufen werden, sei Kowatsch in widerliches Gelächter ausgebrochen und habe gerufen: “Ja, ja die Angestellten der Beerdigungsinstitute, kommt, kommt, es gibt Arbeit.” (When the last ones were called, Kowatsch broke out with a repulsive laughter and called: “Oh yes, the burial companies workers, come over here, there is job for ya!).
    The key words in this sentence are: “sei” and “habe angerufen”. They both are in German “Konjuktiv”, or English “Subjunctive” form. Applying to this article it means, that the unknown author was using the words of unknown witness.
    This is a bad and cruel joke and I don’t believe even for a second that Aurel Kowatsch would allow himself such an unworthy of SS officer conduct in front of his subordinates, considering the gravity of the situation. This is like putting words into someone’s mouth without any proof.
    “Lammerdings Zivilklage war ein Eigentor!” Lammerding’s civil suit was his “own goal”. Is this a serious historical research, or description of a soccer game?
    The names of Aurel Kowatsch and Detlef Okrent were withdrawn from the public for the decades and this is why.
    Aurel Kowatsch had a Romanian given name, which derives from the word “Aur” (gold) and Hungarian last name Kowatsch-“Kovacs” (blacksmith, or just Smith), most common surname in the entire Europe in all it’s variants.
    Ober-Sturmbahnfuehrer’ Detlef Okrent’s last name is polish (Okręt with an “n” pronounced after ę letter) and it means a vessel, ship, etc.
    That was a political correctness issue in the former USSR, Romania, Hungary, Poland and other

    Comment by Gasan — September 23, 2011 @ 9:23 pm

    • Kovacs (spelled Covaci) is also fairly common as surname in Romanian. Probably Aurel Covaci has been Romanian.

      Comment by RoTraveler — September 25, 2011 @ 2:25 pm

  4. FG
    I did read the blog of your reader which is in German and find , it is written with objectivity by no means extremely biased as you stated. What you call Resistance fighters (a noble expression) were considered more as Bandits and received no mercy if caught or even suspected by any German Unit. Remember that no commander likes to loose any of his men, especially shot in the back by civilians, it does not matter who’s side you are on. When we, a small group of youngsters were operating (1945) in Czechoslovakia we pasted written warnings on window panes, that we would retaliate and shoot hostages guilty or innocent on a ratio 1:3 if any one of us would be killed. I was only 16 years old at that time and thinking back I do not think despite a cosmopolitan upbringing I would have hesitated to pull the trigger after loosing a comrade. How do American soldiers feel when their buddies are killed by terrorist in Afghanistan? You don’t have to tell me I have relations fighting there!

    Comment by Herbert Stolpmann — September 23, 2011 @ 5:55 pm

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