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German charged over infamous French WWII massacre

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-01-08

An 88-year-old German former soldier was charged Wednesday for his part in the infamous 1944 Oradour-sur-Glane massacre - one of the worst Nazi atrocities to take place on French soil during the Second World War.

The former member of a Nazi armored division was charged with 25 counts of murder for his role in the slaughter, in which 642 men, women and children were killed in reprisal for the French Resistance's kidnapping of a German soldier.

Cologne’s state court said that Werner C, whose last name was not given in accordance with German privacy laws, was also charged with hundreds of counts of accessory to murder in connection with the massacre.

The suspect is believed to have belonged to a unit that attacked the tiny village in western France, around 25 kilometres (15 miles) northwest of Limoges, on June 10, 1944.

"The prosecutor's office in Dortmund has charged an 88-year-old pensioner from Cologne in connection with the murder of 25 people committed by a group, and with aiding and abetting the murder of several hundred people," a court statement said.

The Oradour massacre, as it is known, left a deep scar in France that lasted long after the war had finished.

Virtually the entire population of the village was wiped out in the atrocity, which began when close to 200 German soldiers of the SS “Das Reich” division encircled the town and rounded up its population in what residents thought was a routine identity check.

Church and barn set ablaze

First the men were separated and moved to barns, while the women and children were forced inside the town’s church.

German soldiers then set the church ablaze and used machine guns to mow down anyone that tried to escape.

At the same time, the SS fired their machine guns at the men crowded in the barns, deliberately firing at their legs so that they were wounded but not dead. The soldiers then doused the barns with petrol and set them on fire.

Of the 642 people killed, 246 were women and 207 children. Only six survived.

The village has been a ghost town ever since the atrocity, deliberately preserved in that state as a memorial to those who died on one of the darkest days for France during World War II.

The presidents of Germany and France travelled to the village last September and joined hands with a survivor in a moment of reconciliation.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

Date created : 2014-01-08

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