SS-TK Crimes - Aubigny-en-Artois in France 22 May 1940.

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Hardin
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SS-TK Crimes - Aubigny-en-Artois in France 22 May 1940.

Post by Hardin » 27 Mar 2011 06:44

Hello,

I am looking for information regarding SS-Totenkopf Division war crimes, specifically actions in and around Aubigny-en-Artois in France on 22 May 1940. The main Axishistory site lists SS-Totenkopf as committing a war crime here on this date. However, I haven't found anything else stating this. Does anyone have any information regarding this?
Soldiers from SS-Totenkopf-Infanterie-Regiment 1 killed 92 civilians in Aubigny-en-Artois in France 22 May 1940.
Also it says,
Soldiers from SS-Totenkopf-Infanterie-Regiment 1 and SS-Pionier-Bataillon Totenkopf killed 48 civilians in Beuvry 24 May 1940.
According to the information I have, SS-Totenkopf-Infanterie-Regiment 1 was in heavy combat on the day of May 24, 1940. According to what info I have, the regiment actually crossed the Le Blassee Canal on this day under heavy fire, and this was the day Hitler issued his famous "stop order" and the regiment had to retreat back across the canal. Could it be possible it was a different regiment in SS-Totenkopf, or does anyone have any specific information regarding any Kompanies that might not have been involved in the assault?
45 civilians in Vandelicourt / Berles-Montchel were killed by soldiers from SS-Totenkopf-Infanterie-Regiment 2 22 May 1940.
Does anyone have any information on this? I don't have any information on SS-Totenkopf-Infanterie-Regiment 2's action during this period.
Soldiers from Totenkopf were involved in the killings of black French colonial POWs at Lyon during the invasion of France 1940.
In Charles Trang's book "Soldiers of Destruction", he talks about the killings of the black French Morracans.
Generalmajor Otto Lancelle, commander of 121. Infanterie-Division, on 5 July 1941 made an official complaint to LVI Panzerkorps about soldiers of SS-Totenkopf-Infanterie-Regiment 1 looting the town of Kraslau (Krāslava) after it was captured by the German forces.
I am also looking for information on this incident as well. According to my documents, the division was in the town of Rosenov, and then began their assault on the Stalin Line two days later. However, I do also have some papers stating that SS-TK-I.R.1 did take the town of Kraslau on 2.7.1941, but that same paper also says the regiment moved on to then take the town of Dagda, withdrawling from the town the next day. However, I have never read anything on their looting of the village, and I do remember reading somewhere that the units accused were actually many miles away on this occasion. Anyone have any info here?

In addition to me not finding information on the incident in Aubigny-en-Artois in France on 22 May 1940, I also have not found information on the other war crimes I have quoted above. I would be very appreciative if anyone had any information on these incidents as well.

Thank you in advance,
Zach Hardin

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Marcus
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Re: SS-TK Crimes - Aubigny-en-Artois in France 22 May 1940.

Post by Marcus » 27 Mar 2011 16:05

For information on the war crimes against the black French soldiers, see the excellent "Hitler's African victims: The German army massacres of black French soldiers in 1940" by Raffael Scheck.

For the other war crimes David Lehmann gave the source "La campagne de 1940" by Christine Levisse-Touzé.

/Marcus

Charles Trang
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Re: SS-TK Crimes - Aubigny-en-Artois in France 22 May 1940.

Post by Charles Trang » 28 Mar 2011 00:53

Most of the documents concerning SS-Totenkopf-Division's crimes in the North of France in May 1940 are written in French only. For the French version of my book on the division ("Totenkopf" and not "Soldiers of Destruction" which was written by Charles Sydnor Jr.), I asked every mayor of each village which the division's units crossed the permission to have a look at their city hall documents of that period. I could also get the testimony of a few people who had seen the SS soldiers in their villages or towns. Some of them had written a few notes on these dark moments. An association called "Le Souvenir Français" which mission is to care of graveyards also detain a number of very detailed archives. The documents give a complete listing of the victims, with their name and age. The way the killings happened is also given in detail. I gathered these testimonies and documents during the late nineties. Now most of the people who helped me are dead as they were already very old twelve years ago. Concerning the Aubigny killings, it seemed that the Totenkopf soldiers had in mind that a German pilot whose plane had been shot down not far from there had been struck to death by French civilians. Moreover, when they entered the small town, they found a lot of clothes which had belonged to English soldiers, a fact which made them think that the latter had seeked shelter in the town's houses and were now wearing civilian clothes. The SS soldiers became really angry when an old man rushed out from his home with a shotgun. He was killed on the spot but now the SS soldiers began to gather about 70 men and mowed them down with MG fire in an open quarry. More people were killed elsewhere, in particular in a farm where the men were shot in front of their wives. Concerning the fighting near Lyon, more precisely in L'Arbresle and Lentilly, the Totenkopf soldiers did not killed Moroccan soldiers but Senegalese riflemen. The exact number of victims is not known as casualties were also reported during the fighting for these two small towns. But people living there remember till now how a few coloured soldiers where shot by the SS after their surrender. For more details, you can try to get those books or articles :

Kléber Deberges : 1940, la terrible année. Editions Auchel, 1980
L'abeille de la Ternoise (a local newspaper) : Les atrocités SS à Aubigny-en-Artois
Jean-Luc Leleu : La division SS "Totenkopf" face à la population civile du nord de la France en mai 1940 (in 39/45 Magazine, Number 177, March 2001)

The battle near Lyon is also related in a report by SS-Hstuf. Kurz (Chef 1.Kp./SS-T.IR 1) in which he states that 44 "negroes" were killed and 10 white soldiers were made prisoners. Of course, this is not a proof that all the African soldiers had been killed on the spot after their capture but the death ratio between the white and the coloured soldiers is very odd to say the least ...

Charles Trang
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Re: SS-TK Crimes - Aubigny-en-Artois in France 22 May 1940.

Post by Charles Trang » 28 Mar 2011 07:54

In fact, it was 4 German pilots who were stoned to death in Vimy three days earlier (and not only one). The unit which was involved in the killings in Aubigny was the I./SS-T.IR 1 (Hellmuth Becker). It has to be noted that the murder of civilians occurred only during the first days of the battle, the last one being reported on 24th May when 10 hostages were executed in Beuvry (because a German motorcyclist had been shot by a British sniper). In his article, Jean-Luc Leleu supposed that Totenkopf reacted as an inexperienced unit in front of the strain of the battle and the facing of its high losses. The fact that the division had many (about 6,000) former concentration guards in its ranks was another important factor. When most of them were released from active duty during the summer of 1940, the division became different and did not seem to have been involved in such crimes on the Eastern Front.

TH Albright
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Re: SS-TK Crimes - Aubigny-en-Artois in France 22 May 1940.

Post by TH Albright » 28 Mar 2011 15:20

Charles...very interesting details on this very "under publicised" SS-TK war crime at Aubigny..why were no post war prosecutions brought to bear by the French..also what specific company/platoon carried out the massace and who was the commander that may have ordered it? The SS-TV connection is relevant but in the case of La Paradis, the one single officer responsible for that masscre, Fritz Knochlein, had not served in the camp system but rather the pre-war SS-VT although he was assigned to SS-TK Oberbayern as a compnay commander during the murderous "security" operations of the Polish campaign. The atmosphere of National Socialist fanaticism and hardness fostered within the division by Theodor Eicke and two of his chief proteges from the pre-war SS-TV, Max Simon and Hellmut Becker, may have been the key enabler for such excesses. Also any details on the Vandelicourt / Berles-Montchel masscre by SS-Totenkopf-Infanterie-Regiment 2 on 22 May 1940?

thanks
Tom

Charles Trang
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Re: SS-TK Crimes - Aubigny-en-Artois in France 22 May 1940.

Post by Charles Trang » 28 Mar 2011 22:16

You know, I am not an "atrocity writer". I am more interested by the military aspects of the war. When I made my researches in the North of France towns and villages where the divisions units were located in May 1940, it was to gather testimonies and stories about the fighting that took place. But I met only with limited success as people were more inclined to talk about the SS crimes than to relate the battles. In fact, I found a very good account of the l'Arbresle battle (near Lyon) by a man who was only seven years old in 1940. He related this fight to me through a young boy's eye, with its blurred impressions mixed with very detailed recollections. All these words are to say that I am not a specialist of the atrocities committed by a few men of a division which was 18,000 soldiers strong. Concerning the Aubigny massacre, I could not find which company was responsible for the killings. SS-Stubaf. Bellwidt's I./SS-T.IR 3 also crossed the town a few hours before the Becker's men. Theodor Eicke too had been in Aubigny, but not for long as it seemed. The lack of a detailed account of the day from the German point of view is certainly the reason why no prosecution was brought by the French justice as no other prosecution was brought for the other crimes committed by the division against the French population. Concerning Berles-Monchel, and more precisely the small hamlet of Vandelicourt, I only know that it was a unit belonging to SS-T.IR 2 which was involved in the killings. One of the survivors, Mrs Sternicki, said that the SS soldiers jumped down from their lorries and asked the civilians who were there (mostly refugees) in a brutal manner if there were any English soldiers around. Suddenly, a few men threw grenades among the civilians. A number of the latter, who had seeked shelter in a barn, were gathered out and the males were shot one after the other. The killings were stopped when an Alsacian woman, whose son had been executed, talked to the officer commanding the small SS troop. Nobody knows what she could have said but the result was beyond any expectation. In all, 45 civilians had been killed.
Concerning the Paradis case, I am not 100% convinced that Fritz Knöchlein was the man who gave the order to kill the British soldiers. Of course, he was charged by Emil Stürzbecher but some details which could have cleared him were not retained by the court : the woman living in the farm where the killings took place said that the SS officer was wearing a peaked cap and had a twitch on his face. During that battle, Fritz Knöchlein was wearing a helmet and a camouflaged jacket which made difficult for a civilian to identify him as an officer. Moreover, Knöchlein never had any twitch on his face. The woman also told that the officer had a sharp nose which is not Knöchlein's case. Moreover, the British soldiers were mowed down by heavy MGs and there were none in Knöchlein's 3rd company. Instead, those MGs probably belonged to SS-Hstuf. Schrödel's 4th company. Schrödel was killed later on the Eastern Front. But a culprit had to be found and Knöchlein, who was not liked by his subordinates, was the ideal one.

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Re: SS-TK Crimes - Aubigny-en-Artois in France 22 May 1940.

Post by ZB37(t) » 22 Apr 2016 19:22

Regarding the question of Knoechlein's guilt concerning the Paradis massacre, please see my posts in "Le Paradis Massacre" especially the statement made by Theodor Emke at the London Cage in October, 1946, in which he stated categorically that Knoechlein gave the order to fire. Emke was the commander of the section of 2 Heavy MG's which carried out the shooting. Knoechlein called forward the 2 MG's of No. 4 Coy. to the Creton Farm from a position where they were resting approximately 400 yards from the farm. Emke: "Knoechlein was conspicuous by his especially domineering behaviour and orders".

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