Scrapbookpages Blog

January 30, 2014

Today’s Germany — no country for old men

Filed under: Germany — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 7:48 am

In a news article in The Daily Beast, which you can read in full here, Michael Moynihan wrote that “There Should Be No Statute of Limitations on Prosecuting War Crimes.”

He means German war crimes, of course.  No Allied soldier, who served in World War II, was ever put on trial for war crimes, and none ever will be put on trial.  Only the losers are war criminals. Only the winners are allowed to make up new laws, after a war is over.

At the end of World War II, the Allies made up ex-post-facto laws, under which the Germans were put on trial by the Allies in the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal and the American Military Tribunal held at Dachau, Germany.  One of these ex-post-facto laws was called “common design” or “common plan.” Under the new common design law, anyone who was anywhere near the place where a war crime, or a Crime Against Humanity, had been committed, was guilty simply because he was there.

Under the new laws made up by the Allies after the war, the Waffen-SS was declared to be a criminal organization, as was the National Socialist political party, known to Americans today as the Nazis.

If Germany had won the war, the Germans might have designated the US Marines as a criminal organization, along with the Democratic political party.  Anyone who belonged to either of these organizations would have automatically been a war criminal, under the new laws.

The ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane

My photo of the ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane

Moyniham’s article includes a great photo of the ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane, a village in France, where a German soldier named Werner C. was present when the Germans did a reprisal action against the village for the kidnapping and murder of German soldiers, including Major Helmut Kämpfe, a beloved German officer, who was believed to have been killed at Oradour-sur-Glane.

This quote, regarding the Oradour-sur-Glane reprisal, is from Wikipedia:

A few days later, survivors were allowed to bury the dead. 642 inhabitants of Oradour-sur-Glane had been murdered in a matter of hours. Adolf Diekmann claimed that the episode was a just retaliation for partisan activity in nearby Tulle and the kidnapping of Helmut Kämpfe.

Under the Geneva Convention of 1929, a reprisal was legal.  Under the Geneva Convention of 1949, which is currently in effect, reprisals are no longer legal.

This quote is from the article written by Michael Moynihan:

…. German prosecutors, mining information from East German secret police files, have assembled a case against former Waffen-SS soldier Werner C. (German privacy laws protect the accused’s identity), an 88 year old from Cologne who acknowledges being present in Oradour-sur-Glane on that grim day [June 10, 1944] but claims to not have participated in the orgiastic violence.

But they are right to haul—or wheel—a geriatric SS man present at a notorious, if largely forgotten, massacre into the courtroom. Countries who don’t reckon with the past, shunting memories of political and institutional violence to the side in favor of “moving forward,” risk banalizing totalitarianism. For instance, a recent Gallup poll found that “residents in seven out of 11 countries that were part of the [Soviet Union] are more likely to believe its collapse harmed their countries than benefited them.” And Germany saw a recent wave of nostalgia for East German dictatorship (bloodlessly called “Ostalgie”), because there was no commensurate Nuremberg Trial, no nie wieder, no truth and reconciliation at the collapse of Soviet communism.

It’s unclear what role Werner C. played in the massacre, though years of rigorous academic research of Nazi crimes both inside and outside Germany have punctured the myth of soldiers merely “following orders,” lest the poor conscript too became a victim of fascism. If Werner C. pulled a trigger or pulled the pin from a grenade, or pushed children into a locked church in Oradour, he should breathe his last breath inside a prison. A small measure of justice, 70 years later, and reassurance that not all the perpetrators have “escaped the penalty of their crime.”

If Werner C. is put on trial in Germany, it will not be because he “pulled a trigger or pulled the pin from a grenade, or pushed children into a  locked church in Oradour.”  He will be put on trial and will be automatically convicted because he was there when a reprisal was conducted against the villagers in Oradour-sur-Glane. If he was there, he is guilty under the ex-post-facto law, known as “common design.”

John Demjanjuk was recently convicted, in Germany, under the “common design” law, which set a precedent for new charges to be brought against any former German soldier, who is still alive.

What really happened in Oradour-sur-Glane, that caused the German soldiers to do a reprisal?  Ever heard of “the tragic well” in Oradour-sur-glane? The photo below shows the tragic well.

The tragic well where bodies of German soldiers were found in Oradour-sur-Glane

The tragic well where bodies of German soldiers were found in Oradour-sur-Glane

You can read about the bakery, where burned bodies were found by the German soldiers when they entered the village of Oradour-sur-Glane, on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Oradour-sur-Glane/Tour/Ruins/Bakery.html

You can read the SS version of what happened at Oradour-sur-Glane on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Oradour-sur-Glane/Story/Synopsis02.html

My photo of an old car in the ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane

My photo of an old car in the ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane

You can read the notes that I wrote, after my visit to the ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane, on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Oradour-sur-Glane/Story/TripNotes2.html

June 9, 2013

June 10th, the anniversary of the Oradour-sur-Glane tragedy

Filed under: Germany, World War II — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 9:35 pm
The Center of Memory at Oradour sur Glane with the ruined village in the background

The Center of Memory at Oradour-sur-Glane with the ruined village in the background

June 10th is the anniversary of the tragedy in the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane in 1944. I previously blogged about Oradour-sur-Glane at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/04/03/oradour-sur-glane-shown-in-the-tv-series-the-world-at-war/

There are two sides to the Oradour-sur-Glane story: the official version and the German side of the story.

The official story of the massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane is told in a 190-page book entitled Oradour-sur-Glane, a Vision of Horror. This is the Official Publication of the Remembrance Committee and the National Association of the Families of the Martyrs of Oradour-sur-Glane, written by Guy Pauchou, sub-prefect of Rochechouart, which is a nearby town, and Dr. Pierre Masfrand, the curator of the ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane.

The book tells the official story of the destruction of the peaceful village of Oradour-sur-Glane on June 10, 1944 when 642 innocent men, women and children were brutally murdered for no reason at all and the whole town was destroyed by Waffen-SS soldiers in Hitler’s elite army.

Read more at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Oradour-sur-Glane/Story/OfficialStory.html

Ruins of the church in Oradour-sur-Glane

Ruins of the church in Oradour-sur-Glane

One of the first sights that can be seen on the entrance road into the ruined village is the “Tragic Well,” where dead bodies that had been thrown into the well were found.  The photo below was taken from inside the enclosure of an old farmstead; it shows the old well with a wooden cross placed beside it.

The "Tragic Well" at Oradour-sur-Glane

The “Tragic Well” at Oradour-sur-Glane

According to Philip Beck, who wrote a book about Oradour-sur-Glane, entitled Oradour, Village of the Dead, the names of the victims whose bodies were found in the well are unknown. Out of the 642 people murdered in the village by the SS soldiers, the bodies of only 52 were ever identified. But according to defense testimony at the Nuremberg IMT, the SS claimed to have found a number of bodies of German soldiers in the well.

Old car at the ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane

Old car at the ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane

Here is the German version of the Oradour-sur-Glane story:

On 10 June 1944, two platoons of soldiers in the 3rd company of Der Führer regiment of Das Reich division in the Waffen-SS army, under the command of Captain Otto Kahn and accompanied by Battalion Commander Adolf Diekmann, went to the village of Oradour-sur-Glane for the express purpose of searching for another battalion commander, Major Helmut Kämpfe, a beloved officer and a close personal friend of Diekmann, who was missing. It was known that Kämpfe’s car had been ambushed and that he had been kidnapped by members of the Maquis, who were part of the FTP, a French Communist resistance organization, commanded by Georges Guingouin. It was believed that the Maquis was planning to ceremoniously execute Kämpfe that very day.

Diekmann had received information that morning from two collaborators in the French Milice (secret police), who told him that Kämpfe was being held prisoner in Oradour-sur-Glane and that the Maquisards, as the resistance fighters were called, were planning to burn Kämpfe alive. This information was confirmed by German intelligence reports.

Another SS officer, named Karl Gerlach, had been kidnapped the day before by the Maquis and taken to Oradour-sur-Glane, after he had offered to give information to their leader in exchange for his life. In the village, Gerlach saw members of the Maquis, including women who were dressed in leather jackets and wearing steel helmets, the clothing of Resistance fighters. He escaped, wearing nothing but his underwear, just as they were preparing to execute him. He gave this information to Diekmann and showed him the location of Oradour-sur-Glane on a map.

Read more at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Oradour-sur-Glane/Story/Synopsis02.html

Body parts of victims in church, still wearing unburned clothing

Body parts of victims found in the Oradour church, still wearing unburned clothing

The photo above shows unburned body parts, found with clothing still intact, in the ruins of the Church in Oradour-sur-Glane.

The photo below shows the burned corpse of Dr. Jean Desourteaux, the mayor of the town. His body was one of only 52 victims that could be positively identified.

Burned body of Desourteaux, the mayor of Oradour-sur-Glane

Burned body of Mr. Desourteaux, the mayor of Oradour-sur-Glane

In spite of the fact that the evidence shows that the church in Oradour-sur-Glane was destroyed by bombs stored in the church by the resistance fighters in the town, the official story, that you must believe if you don’t want to go to prison, is that the German soldiers set fire to the church.

Vincent Reynouard was imprisoned because he contradicted the official story of Oradour-sur-Glane.

In 1953, a trial was conducted by a French tribunal in Bordeaux.  You can read about the trial at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Oradour-sur-Glane/Story/BordeauxTrial.html