Oradour-Sur-Glane

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John W
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Post by John W » 14 Jan 2004 10:59

michael mills wrote:An interesting element in the whole affair is that many of the men who participated in the massacre were Alsatians, drafted into the Waffen-SS, the so-called "malgre-nous". It was that element that made the issue so contentious in France.
Hi

Hate to butt into an interesting debate but I'd like clarification from Mr. Mills:

Drafter or volunteered for service Mr. Mills?

Or does it make a difference?

Also Rob: Well, let's assume that DR didn't spend enough time on anti-partisan duty, burning down villages and shooting at will. They did figth and conquer towns and villages, didn't they? THAT said, and given the most brutal nature of the Vernichtungskrieg that followed on the Ostfront, couldn't it be possible that they reacted in the same manner they would / could have reacted as they had reacted all along (i.e. encountering resistence from a village?)

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Post by TH Albright » 14 Jan 2004 13:19

C.G., great stuff as usual about "RFSS" division. Was Galler a member of the prewar SS-TV...the SS officer database has him in a SS Police Regiment 1 (of the SS-Polizei Division) as of 1942; no pre-war info, and he is not in MacLean's "The Camp men". Also could you share some other bio on some of the other lower-level officers involved in the Italian massacres of RFSS?

Thanks

Tom

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Post by David Thompson » 14 Jan 2004 16:22

For interested readers -- The USHMM finding guide to its microfilms of the Czech Military Historical Archive (Historický ústav Cecoslovenské armády) materials in Prague can be found at:

Nazi war crimes records in Czech Republic
viewtopic.php?t=16078

walterkaschner
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Post by walterkaschner » 14 Jan 2004 23:51

John W wrote:
michael mills wrote:An interesting element in the whole affair is that many of the men who participated in the massacre were Alsatians, drafted into the Waffen-SS, the so-called "malgre-nous". It was that element that made the issue so contentious in France.
Hi

Hate to butt into an interesting debate but I'd like clarification from Mr. Mills:

Drafter or volunteered for service Mr. Mills?

Or does it make a difference?



I can not, of course, speak for Mr. Mills, but I feel compelled to but in a bit myself.

Most of the Alsatians at issue were drafted into the Waffen-SS - hence the appelation "malgré-nous", which means "despite ourselves" or "against our will". In the French war crimes trial held in Bordeaux in 1953 for the atrocities at Oradour sur Glane, of the 14 Alsatian Waffen-SS defendants, only one was a volunteer - the other 13 were conscripted, many of the latter being under 18 at the time of the Oradour massacre.

To my mind - and certainly to the Alsatians as a whole, it definitely made a difference. The Bordeaux trial resulted in a death verdict for the one Alsatian volunteer and sentences of up to 8 years for the 13 malgré-nous. The sentence created a huge uproar in France. Massive demonstrations were held in Alsace in opposition to the verdicts, on the grounds they were too harsh and that the malgré-nous should have been acquitted, as they had participated against their will. Demonstrations and protests were also held in the Limousin, on the grounds that the sentences were far too lenient. Opinion in France was widely divided, but the French Assemblée Nationale, at the urging of the De Gaulle government, promptly granted amnesty to the malgré-nous by a vote of 319 to 211, with 83 abstentions. This action appeased the Alsatians but infuriated the Limousin, whose representatives returned the Croix de Guerre and other awards granted the village of Oradour sur Glane for its suffering.

Only in very recent years has the bitterness between the two regions of France been healed, primarily due to a pilgrimage of Alsation youths, led by an Alsation priest, to the village of Oradour to pay homage.

Regards, Kaschner

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Post by walterkaschner » 15 Jan 2004 01:12

As to the newly discovered documentation purporting to show that the massacre and destruction at Oradour was carried out by clear and unambiguous superior orders, I previously wrote:

I'm in a wait-and-see mode on this one - it has the faint smell of fish about it.


In response, Rob-WSSOB asked:

Then are you already biased against the possibility of the new evidence to be genuine?


I do have probably more than my fair share of biases, one of them being against placing a great deal of reliance on newspaper reports, particularly of the sensationalist variety. I've seen too many which, purporting to deal with a situation I was familiar with, misrepresented or omitted facts crucial to a complete understanding of the subject of their report. Perhaps I am too cynical in my belief that, despite protestations of the Fourth Estate to the contrary, with very few exceptions the basic purpose of the media is to sell its product.

But that bias aside, I think (hope) that I have no bias against the genuiness of evidence just because it is newly discovered, although I must confess that with the passage of time (in this case some 60 years) the discovery of conclusive new evidence does seem to me to become progressively less likely, although certainly not impossible. Obviously, for example, the opening up of some of the Soviet archives has unearthed new evidence which renders some of the previous conclusions of professional historians highly questionable, or even demonstrably in error.

When the new evidence on the Oradour atrocity becomes available I think (hope) I can view it with an open mind. But right now I'm not prepared to accept a newspaper or third hand report as gospel.

Regards, Kaschner

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Post by michael mills » 15 Jan 2004 03:11

Mr kaschner,

Thank you for your information on the Alsatian Waffen-SS men tried for their participation in the Oradour massacre.

It confirmed my rather dim memory of the circumstances, which I had read some years ago in the book which Rob-WSSOB finds so dubious, "Aspects of the Third Reich", which does contain some details on Oradour.

I also understand that the controversy between the Alsatians and the Limousins was to some extent affected by the political situation in the immediate post-war period. From my information, the Limousin was a leftist area, supporting the Socialist and Communist Parties, while Alsace was a conservative area, supporting the Gaullists. The people of Oradour suspected that the pardoning of the Alsatian SS-men was a payoff to Alsace by the Gaullist Government for its political support.

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Post by John W » 15 Jan 2004 06:25

Thank you Mr. Kaschner and Mr. Mills.

So it it did make a difference.

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Post by c.g. » 15 Jan 2004 11:31

Hello Tom,
since the discussion is getting centered again on Oradour, it looks like my reply to your message will get off-topic. Maybe we should consider a new thread.
This is anyway some of what I have dug out on the 16th SS-Panzergrenadier-Division:

At least three Coy COs of SS-Panzer-Aufklärungs-Abteilung 16 (massacres of Valla, Vinca and Marzabotto) had to some extent experience in Totenkopf units like Willfried Segebrecht, Friedrich Schmidtkonz, Walter Biermann and foremost Max Saalfrank who was with Walter Reder in Dachau and with TKSt Oberbayern. Reders medical officer, Fritz Schildbach, served as a doctor in Dachau and Gusen. Schmidtkonz was a former police officer.
Also many other COs had a Totenkopf background: Max Dallinger (Dachau and Sachsenhausen), Fritz Knöchlein, Hellmuth Becker, Kurt Mayr, Pius Hohenester, Albert Knobelspies (all Dachau) and Karl Manfred Schmidt of the Panzer-Abteilung (Sachsenhausen and Mauthausen). The list is quite longer if you take into consideration all of the Truppenteile of the division.
Karl Gesele CO of SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 35 (Sant’Anna di Stazzema) had been the Ia of the SS-Kavallerie-Brigade from September 1941 to September 1942.
Anton Galler was from 1939-1941 with the Reserve-Polizei-Bataillon 83 in the Kattowitz area. In his CV he stated that his Coy was engaged in „cleansing of the oriental territories of Upper Silesia from Banden and criminal elements“ as well as in the „resettlement of Poles and Jews“. In 1942 he was with the Police Division.
Martin Jannssen, an SS-Oscha acting CO of 5th Coy SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment 35 (Sant’Anna di Stazzema), was in Sachsenhausen for a longer period and later with 5th SS-IR mot (SS-Kav.Brigade) and Waffen-SS Btl. zbV before being sent to 16. RF-SS.
Among the ranks and files I found a few men coming from the SS-Totenkopf-Sturmbannn Buchenwald, Neuengamme, Oranienburg, Dachau, Ravensbrück, Lublin, Groß Rosen and Auschwitz.
Johannes Kaul, SS-Oscha., had been 8 years with the TK personnel of Dachau and Sachsenhausen.
Eduard F., an SS-Uscha. who played an important role in stting up the monks of the Farneta cloister next to Lucca, was in Summer of 1941 with the Einsatzkommando 9 in Bielorussia.
A more general profile of the division will show that the NCOs and the ordinary ranks, besides the 17-18 years old recruits (who were born 1926-27 and mostly in the second half of 1926) was composed of the follwing age groups:
SS-Strm. and SS-Rottf. in the age group 18-21 (born 1923-26),
SS-Uscha. 20-24 (years 1920-24),
SS-Oscha. 24-27 (1917-1920).
With the officers it looks like this: COy COs were mostly born between 1911 and 1922, Zugführer between 1916 and 1924. You also have to take into consideration that among them were quite a few older Reserve-Führer.
The units they came from is a mix of SS-VT, Police and TK divisions, with a clear predominance of the latter, but I could also find NCOs from SS-Kav.Brigade, SS-Infanterie-Brigade 1 and 2 (quite a few from SS-IR 8) and, of course, Begleit-Bataillon RFSS. A few, however, came from Luftwaffen units.
Quite many soldiers had dogtags from the various Ersatz units „Ost“: SS-Ersatz-Btl. Ost, SS-Pz.Gr.E.Btl. Ost, SS-Inf.E.Btl. Ost, SS-Gren.Ers.Btl. Ost mot, E.SS „Ost“.
Various Totenkopf-Infanterie-Ersatz units, various Police units, SS-Gb.Jäg.Ausb.u.Ers.Btl. 7 and 6, SS-Pz.Gren.A.u.E.Btl. 9, 12, 13, SS-Btl. Debica, Rekrutendepot Debica, SS-Ausbildungsregiment Prag, SS-Standarte Deutschland, Der Führer, Germania, Ersatz-Kp. d. Waffen-SS Zeesen.
The Volksdeutsche component run up to 20%, most from Banat and Rumania, Alsatia, a few from Russia and the Generalgouvernement, Bessarabia, Slovakia and Croatia. There were some Italians as drivers and medical personnel, some foreigners Denmark and the Netherlands, a few were Germans born in the USA.

Best
C.G.

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Post by c.g. » 15 Jan 2004 11:33

Sorry, I don't know how the silly smiley got there. It is SS-Infanterie-Regiment 8.
Best
C.G.

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Post by David Thompson » 15 Jan 2004 16:07

c.g. -- After you compose your post, but before you hit the "submit" button, check the "Disable smilies in this post" box. That way you can keep the numbers and lose the "smilies."

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Post by c.g. » 15 Jan 2004 23:06

Kocjo, a notable contributor to the forum, has submitted in the thread regarding the "Bandenkampfabzeichen" a very interesting document that sheds some light on how experience of antipartisan warfare in the East was channeled even to front line duty Waffen-SS units like Das Reich.
The document refers to SS-Ostf. Helmut Prasch, SiPo Pola, in 1941 a member of SS-Pz.Aufklärungsabteilung "DAS REICH". In 1943 the recce unit took actions against partisans as a "Sonderbeschäftigung", a "special activity" given to have something to do between time gaps in front line combat.
For nearer details please check Kocjo's original message.
Regards
C.G.

michael mills
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Post by michael mills » 16 Jan 2004 00:49

The appearance of numbers of former Totenkopf personnel in a variety of froiontline Waffen-SS formations is not at all surprising, and indeed only to be expected.

At the very beginning of the war, all the fit men of the Totenkopfverbände, a party militia that provided the guards for the concentration camps, were formed into the Totenkopf Division and sent to the front under Wehrmacht command.

The reason why that was done was to give military status to the men of the Totenkopfverbände, who in a legal sense were civilians and not part of a State armed force, and thereby protect them from being conscripted by the Wehrmacht and scattered over a number of different units. The Wehrmacht in fact was pursuing a policy of trying to break up the Party armed militias by conscripting their members.

The above process did not affect the members of the actual camp administrations, ie those who directly supervised the prisoners within the camp and at their places of work.

The guard function at the camps was taken over by members of the Allgemeine SS who were drafted to full-time duty in the Totenkopfwachsturmbanne. These units, although stationed at the concentration camps,were incorporated into the Waffen-SS so that their members would have military status and thus not be liable for conscription into the Wehrmacht.

Although all the mobilised men of the former Totenkopfverbände were in a single unit, the Totenkopf Division, it is apparent that over time some of them were transferred to other Waffen-SS units such as "Das Reich".

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Post by walterkaschner » 16 Jan 2004 03:09

Michael Mills wrote:

I also understand that the controversy between the Alsatians and the Limousins was to some extent affected by the political situation in the immediate post-war period. From my information, the Limousin was a leftist area, supporting the Socialist and Communist Parties, while Alsace was a conservative area, supporting the Gaullists. The people of Oradour suspected that the pardoning of the Alsatian SS-men was a payoff to Alsace by the Gaullist Government for its political support.


I believe that is accurate, particularly when colored by the phrase "to some extent". The Limousin was indeed primarily leftist and Alsace relatively Gaullist and conservative. And, if I recall correctly (my notes unfortunately don't show the breakdown of the vote in the Assemblée Nationale) the support for the bill to pardon the malgré-nous came primarily from the Gaullists and center and moderate right wing parties, and the opposition primarily from the left (as well as from a few of the deputés who although very far right were also traditionally anti-German). But I don't believe, particularly in view of the unusually large number of abstentions, that the division was clear cut on a Left-Right basis.

Moreover, although I spoke in my earlier post of a De Gaulle Government, that was not technically correct, and I apologize for oversimplifying. De Gaulle himself had, of course, resigned in a huff in early 1946 and had formed the RPF (Rassemblement du Peuple Français) in 1947 to be the official Gaullist party. In early 1953 the Gaullists held 118 seats and were the largest party in the Assemblée Nationale, but the Government itself was a coalition headed by René Mayer. Mayer had rallied to De Gaulle in June 1940, but had subsequently formed his own party (Rassemblement des Gauches Républicaines-RGR) which was closely allied to, but not part of, the RPF, although many of his Ministers were members of the RPF. (Alas, the confusion and complications of French politics, and the musical chairs played in the French cabinets in those days!!!) Mayer had been instrumental in adopting the legislation passed in 1951 in amnestying and reconciling members of the former collaborationist Vichy Government and thereby attempting to solidify all Frenchmen toward the concept of a unified French nation, entitled to take its appropriately high place in the affairs of the world. But this was also the Gaullist dream as well.

But to the issue directly at hand. IMHO it is almost always hard to generalize in French politics on a simple right versus left basis. Although the notion that "all politics is local" probably has less force in France than in the US, in my opinion it had a great deal of force in the reaction to the verdict in the 1953 Bordeaux trial.

On the one hand, Alsace had been tragically torn by its history post the Franco-Prussian War. It was bitterly opposed to being annexed by Germany, although that opposition had been significantly diluted (but not by any means overcome) after over 40 years as a part of the German Reich. During World War I Alsatians fought on both sides. And after the German occupation of Alsace in 1940, the same was true. One of the most poignant experiences I had in France was to visit the military cemeteries, both French and German, in some of the small towns in the heights of the Voges mountains of Alsace, where many of the family names, obviously Alsatian, were identical in both cemeteries. And often the war memorials in the village squares carried the names of native sons who had fallen fighting for either side.

So immediately after WWII there was, I think, an inbred and long standing acute sensitivity and sorrow in Alsace about the fact that so many of her sons had been forced to fight and and even die for Germany, a country that many not only did not love, but heartily disliked or even despised. This IMHO was the dominant factor which led to the almost universal condemnation in Alsace of the outcome of the Bordeaux trial, which transcended the political leanings of the region. There was even a serious movement among the Alsatians to separate the region from France as a result of the Bordeaux judgement, which was about as anti-Gaullist a sentiment as one could imagine.

On the other hand, although the Limousin was indeed heavily leftist (the Resistance there having been virtually dominated by Communists), the region had suffered more than most any other from atrocities committed by the SS - particularly the Das Reich Division - and was accordingly extremely bitter and clamboring for retribution, and not just along political party lines. I don't have any facts to confirm it, but my hunch is that the French Government's support for the amnesty granted the malgré-nous significantly increased the leftist tilt in the Limousin.

It can of course be argued that the Government's support for the amnesty was based on purely political considerations - ie. to maintain the support of the Alsace region for the Government coalition, and tilted toward De Gaulle, administration. But I personally think that is by far too cynical a view. By 1953 I sincerely believe that the Gaullist, and certainly René Mayer's, major ambition was to restore a France unified as a nation, placing the multifold divisions created by its defeat in WWII and the resulting Vichy government behind it, and capable of taking its rightful place as a major power in Europe and indeed the world.

So here I am again, quibbling, and at frightful length, about a detail of probable of little, if any, interest if even to a few, but, as the scorpion said "It's in my nature."

Regards, Kaschner

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Post by michael mills » 16 Jan 2004 10:30

Mr Kaschner,

Thanks for the detailed information. I think you know more than any of the rest of us about the recent history of France in all its complexity.

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Post by TH Albright » 16 Jan 2004 13:50

michael mills wrote:Although all the mobilised men of the former Totenkopfverbände were in a single unit, the Totenkopf Division, it is apparent that over time some of them were transferred to other Waffen-SS units such as "Das Reich".


Michael is correct, but with some qualification..in my database (still a work in progress) of non-medical SS officers who served in the camps (as guard unit fuhrer or camp administration), of the 362 officers currently on file, 56% did not serve in the Totenkopfdivision as their initial front-line WSS service. Not surprisingly, 25% of these guys first served in the SS-Infanterie Regiments or SS Division "Nord". The second highest WSS unit in this category was "Das Reich" with 10%. Most of the rest were scattered amongst the WSS OB, with many starting out in the Training and Replacement units. Obviously the SS-TV was seen not just as a source of personnel for the SSTK Division, but as an integral part of the WSS mobilization/reserve system in 1939-40. The creation of the independent reinforced SS-Totenkopfstandarten, which morphed into the SS-Infanterie Regiments, was designed by Himmler to create a large reserve of "qualified" SS troops to be used for the further expansion of the WSS in 1941. So indeed, the pre-war KL guard units were an essential element of that expansion, not just for the SS-TK division.

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