FRANCE: Oradour, the disputed facts

Christopher Jones forwards this item, which has a reference to explosives stored in the Oradour church by the French resistance. Chris says: I post this with trepidation because I found this excerpt from Aspects of the Third Reich, ed. H.W. Koch (New York: St Martin's Press, 1985), pp. 386-89. at an unreliable site.  If somebody could check the book, it would be helpful and add to our discussions instead of playing endlessly "got'cha."  I was particularly intrigued by the reference to De Gaulle's embargo on the Oradour files for 100 years.  The article gives a good picture of the atmosphere of "terror" on both sides.  We should also not forget that there were two wings to French Resistance, a pro-Stalin communist one called the FTP and a Gaullist resistence movement.  I am not trying to re-write history or endorse revisionism, however, the article speaks for itself.

"France had been defeated and its head of state, Marshal Pétain, had been appointed by the French National Assembly and given virtually dictatorial powers. The armistice agreement contained an entire section under which the French were to refrain from taking up arms again, and any opposition to the occupying power carried draconian penalties. In this respect Churchill's policy to 'set Europe ablaze' was bound to have repercussions which would in the main be borne by the innocent. Two incidents shortly after D-Day to this day remain symbols of remorseless Waffen-SS brutality: those at Tulle and Oradour-sur-Glane.

"On 8 June 1944 Field Marshal von Rundstedt forwarded an OKW [i.e. High Command of the Armed Forces] directive according to which active members of the French Resistance were to be treated as guerrillas. At the same time all army and SS units were ordered to apply relentless rigour 'to remove the danger to the rear of our fighting troops'. The 2nd Waffen-SS Division Das Reich was ordered to come by road from southern France to Normandy. The vanguard of the division had already been under fire en route in the town of Tulle, which for a short time was in the hands of the French Resistance, where they found 62 mutilated bodies of German soldiers who had surrendered to the Resistance. In accordance with their orders, no hostages were taken, but, with the aid of the local prefect and the mayor, all male strangers in the town were identified and segregated, of whom 21 were released because of their youth and the remaining 99 were hanged. The dead bodies were not, as has often been maintained, thrown into the river but were handed over to the bishop of Tulle for burial. For this act of retribution the divisional commander Lammerding and the officer carrying out the execution were in 1951 sentenced to death in absentia.  

"On the same day, 9 June 1944, Lammerding was informed from the SD-office in Limoges that the Maquisards [i.e. the French Resistance] had a strong point in Oradour, further to the north. This was confirmed a few hours later by First Lieutenant Gerlach, who arrived tattered and torn at the divisional headquarters. He had been a member of the vanguard, was captured by armed civilians and taken through Oradour, which was full of Maquisards. He and his driver were going to be shot but the driver's resistance caused a temporary commotion in which he was killed but which allowed Gerlach to escape and make his way back. A few hours later news was received that the highly decorated and popular Lt Colonel Kämpfe had also fallen into the hands of the Resistance. His car was found, and his military identification card. During the course of the morning of 10 June Major Dickmann, a close friend of Kämpfe's, reported that two French civilians had announced that a high German officer had been taken prisoner and was to be publicly burned in Oradour. It could only have been Kämpfe since no other officer was missing.

"Two decisions were taken by the divisional headquarters. Firstly a captured Maquisard was released on condition that he got in touch with the headquarters of the Maquisards, offering 30 French Resistance fighters held captive in Limoges plus 40,000 francs in exchange for Kämpfe. However, the freed Resistance fighter reported back only once by telephone saying that as yet he had not established contact with the Maquisards. The second decision was to accede to the request made by Dickmann, that he might take a company to Oradour to free Kämpfe. He was given strict orders that if he could not find Kämpfe he was to take as many Maquisards as possible prisoner in order that an exchange could be arranged. Dickmann took one company of the regiment Der Führer to Oradour, a company consisting largely of Alsatian conscripts.  

"On entering Oradour the company found by the roadside a smouldering German army ambulance in which the driver and co-driver had been chained to the steering wheel and burnt alive together with their wounded passengers. Due to the geographic configuration Dickmann was out of radio contact with the division and made his own decisions. All male inhabitants were rounded up, and all women and children arrested and held in the church. Thereupon Dickmann ordered a house-to-house search for Kämpfe and for any weapons or ammunition. Houses in which arms were found were to be burnt down. As this was going on Dickmann was told to come to a local bakery, where the remnants of a corpse were still smouldering; upon closer examination of the remnants, a Knight's Cross was found which Dickmann identified as belonging to his friend Kämpfe.  

"What happened then is still shrouded in mystery but Dickmann appears to have lost his nerve. All male prisoners were shot, except for a few who managed to escape. Houses in which weapons were found were burnt and explosions occurred. According to one version the SS set fire to the church and the women and children were burned to death, except for two women and one child who managed to escape the inferno, assisted by two SS men. However, according to the testimony of these survivors the church burned down because fires raging in its immediate vicinity caused an explosion in the belfry, which had served as an arms and ammunition dump for the Maquisards. In any event, Dickmann had exceeded his orders; he submitted his report and court martial proceedings were initiated against him, but before it came to a hearing Dickmann was killed in Normandy.  

"The Oradour trial took place in Bordeaux in the early months of 1953. Lammerding, in spite of the death sentence pronounced against him in 1951, offered to go to France to give evidence. Both the German authorities in Bonn and the French authorities turned down the offer. The sentences given at the Oradour trial were extremely light, because most of the accused were Alsatians and there was considerable unrest in Alsace over the case. Furthermore many of the accused had in the meantime served with distinction in Indo-China. By the end of 1958 all those convicted over Tulle and Oradour had been freed. General de Gaulle put a 100-year embargo on all files relating to these cases, an embargo which is still in force. When in 1960 Lammerding tried to have the case reviewed, he was again turned down by Germans and French alike. In the days of the Franco-German rapprochement between de Gaulle and Adenauer it was apparently an embarrassing topic to both sides."  

I said: Oradour sur Glane is a village destroyed by the Germans after they had killed the inhabitants. The ruins are a shrine to the dead. Le Pen was reported as saying  that it was destroyed when explosives stored there by the Resistance blew up. The French are appalled by this, and Le Pen may face another lawsuit.  The consensus is that he is pretty repugnant-George Sassoon comments_ What utter nonsense!  We were there and there was no sign of any explosion.  Le Pen must be very stupid to think that such a transparent lie will do him any good.  Also there are still people alive who remember it.

Christopher Jones said Randy Black had omitted the end of statement by Le Pen: Alain de Benoist adds: Yes, there was an end to the quotation, but there is a slight possibility that Randy Black didn‚t see it because some letters or characters were a bit distorted by the electronic transmission. Anyway, Randy Black and I agree on what Le Pen said and didn‚t say. When one says that "in France at least, the German occupation was not so inhuman", it seems clear to me that this means that the German occupation was quite probably more inhuman elsewhere. In a press conference which followed this polemic, Le Pen actually gave the examples of Poland and the Netherlands. One can always speculate about what Le Pen thinks really, if he was sincere or not with this explanation. Frankly, that does not matter much to me.

Randy Black says: Like Alain de Benoist, I have also under my eyes the complete Le Pen interview and it does not coincide with that which Mr. Benoist’s claim: “Le Pen said also that the German occupation in France was not so inhumane, compared with what the occupation was in other countries, like for instance Poland or the Netherlands, which were at that time under direct control of a Gauleiter.”  The exact question and answer is is: : Que pensez-vous des commémorations de la fin de la Seconde Guerre mondiale avec la propagande qui va se déchaîner dès ce mois-ci et tout au long de l’année 2005 ? Le Pen:
: En France du moins, l’occupation allemande n’a pas été particulièrement inhumaine, même s’il y eut des bavures, inévitables dans un pays de 550 000 kilomètres carrés. Which translates: In France at least, the German occupation was not particularly inhuman, even if there were (idiomatic word, as in perhaps murders), inevitable in a country of 550 000 square kilometers.
As WAISers can see, there is no reference to Poland or the Netherlands.

Christopher Jones says: I checked the January 7, 2005 issue of Rivarol on their website, and Mr Le Pen stated, referring to Oradour-sur-Glane, "il y aurait beaucoup à dire." [there will be much to say]Later he said, "L'occupation allemande n'a pas été particulièrement inhumaine." [The German occupation was not particularly inhuman] I am including a link to the leftist Libération newspaper that confirms this.

The newspapers Le Monde and Libération, both extreme left, are clearly putting words in Jean-Marie Le Pen's mouth.  They try to link this statement with a revisionist theory about the massacre, when he simply never said it.  I cannot understand how you can have something called freedom of speech in a society where you are not allowed to mention even a theory.  But voilà, there it is.  One thing is certain: Le Pen never said "explosives stored there by the Resistance." Regarding Le Pen's statement about the German occupation, he has a point.  Marshal Pétain managed to establish the Vichy régime and avoided that all of France fall under the administration of a military governor, as was the case in Poland.  Comparisons may be odious, but compared to Poland . . .

RH: I would hesitate to accuse Le Monde and Libération of putting words in Le Pen's mouth.  Whatever their ideology, their standards of journalism are not that low.

Alain de Benoist says: I have under the eyes the interview given by Le Pen to the radical right weekly paper Rivarol. As I have written already, he said exactly : „About Oradour-sur-Glane, many things could be said‰. It didnt‚ say a word more (neither in Rivarol nor in any other paper). The „additional critical information‰ published in Le Figaro (or elsewhere) is speculation, interpretation or fantasy. By the way, the daily newspaper Le Figaro is more a middle-of-the-road conservative-liberal paper than a „right-wing paper‰.

Le Pen said also that the German occupation in France „was not so inhumane, compared with what the occupation was in other countries‰, like for instance Poland or the Netherlands, which were at that time under direct control of a Gauleiter. Such an assertion can of course be discussed, but omitting the last part of the sentence is not honest. The obvious meaning of this sentence is that German occupation was more inhumane in other countries than in France. I think that a man like Le Pen deserves criticism for what he says. It is useless to criticize him for what he didn‚t say.

RH: The passage quoted by Christopher Jones contained a reference to the charge that the resistance stored explosives in the church of Oradour-sur-Glane.  Did Le Pen repeat that charge, as another source said?

Randy Black says:Here is what Le Pen said, as published in the International Herald Tribune and other publications: (Le Pen)∑. suggested that the official version of the June 1944 massacre in Oradour-sur-Glane, the worst Nazi atrocity in France in World War II, was untrue. A German convoy rolled into the southern village, rounded up its residents and gunned them down before setting the buildings and the piles of bodies on fire; 642 people were killed.
"On the drama of Oradour-sur-Glane, there is a lot more to be said," Le Pen said, citing it in the context of examples in which he said the Gestapo actually tried to prevent civilian deaths. ∑ <>  Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of France's far-right National Front, has built his 50-year political career on a message of barely disguised racism and anti-Semitism. But his latest attempt to rewrite the history of World War II has provoked deep shock and loud demands for his punishment here.
He was quoted as telling a rightist weekly that the Nazi occupation of France was not "particularly inhumane," that "excesses" were inevitable and that France had to be delivered from "lies about its history." The timing of the remarks, so close to the 60th anniversary this month of the liberation of the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz in Poland, has added to the anger. ∑.Before an appearance in court on Thursday, where he was appealing a conviction last spring for "inciting racial hatred," Le Pen called it "astonishing and shocking that the justice minister has not accorded me the presumption of innocence."
About 76,000 Jews were deported to death camps during the German occupation of France from 1940 until 1944, with the help of the collaborationist Vichy government. Only about 2,500 of them survived. Thousands of French civilians were killed in attacks by the German Army. Le Pen, who in 1987 dismissed the Nazi gas chambers as a mere "detail" of World War II history, has been convicted of racism or anti-Semitism at least six times.
He has run for president four times and enjoys a strong following. In 2002, he came in second in the first round of presidential elections with 16.8 percent of the vote, crushing the Socialists and shaking the political establishment to the core. "In France, at least, the German occupation was not especially inhumane, even if there were a number of excesses, inevitable in a country of 550,000 square kilometers," he was quoted in the interview as saying. He questioned the veracity of the historical record of mass executions of civilians in France by the German Army. ∑.He also suggested that the official version of the June 1944 massacre in Oradour-sur-Glane, the worst Nazi atrocity in France in World War II, was untrue. A German convoy rolled into the southern village, rounded up its residents and gunned them down before setting the buildings and the piles of bodies on fire; 642 people were killed. "On the drama of Oradour-sur-Glane, there is a lot more to be said," Le Pen said, citing it in the context of examples in which he said the Gestapo actually tried to prevent civilian deaths.

RH:Let me repeat that an article quoted him as saying that the church at Oradour-sur-Glane  was caused by the explosion of explosives stored there by the resistance. Possibly he withdrew that statement, and it was forgotten.

Le Pen was reported as saying  that the church in Oradour-sur-Glane was destroyed when explosives stored there by the Resistance blew up. Alain de Benoist and Christopher Jones asked for the source of this information.  Carmen Negrin says: The original interview came out in Rivarol (a very right wing "torchon"), and the additional critical information came out in the Figaro (also right wing).

Christopher Jones says: T here is indeed more than one mystery surrounding the massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane.  I have heard, although I may be wrong, that 21 troopers of the SS Einsatzgruppe were tried after the war, in Bordeaux.  At the trial it was revealed that most of the troops were of French-Alsatian origin. All were convicted for the outrage and two were sentenced to death.  Yet, just two years later all were freed.  Why? How was this justified? RH: Can anyone confirm this and give details?

Alain de Benoist says: I do not know where «?Le Pen was reported as saying  that it [the church in Oradour-sur-Glane] was destroyed when explosives stored there by the Resistance blew up?». The only sure thing is that he never said that. In his recent interview, which could bring him to another lawsuit, Le Pen said exactly?: «?About Oradour-sur-Glane, many things could be said?». Not a word more. Of course, one can wonder what he meany by that. But he never said anything else. I have no sympathy for Mr Le Pen, and I wrote often against the views of his party, but once again I think it is better to stick to the facts, not to propagate untrue rumors.

RH: The statements attributed to Le Pen were given in an apparently correct report months ago, but I have lost the reference.

Ronald Hilton 2004


last updated: February 27, 2005