ϟϟ-Panzergrenadier-Regiment „Der Führer“ and the Tulle and Oradour-sur-Glane Massacres

Das Reich Officers: Kämpfe, Krag, Stückler and Lammerding
The Waffen-SS is reproached with particular emphasis for two massacres in France: Tulle and Oradour-sur-Glane: At the beginning of 1944, after suffering heavy losses on the Eastern Front, the 2.SS-Panzer-Division Das Reich, under the command of SS-Gruppenführer Heinz Lammerding regrouped in Valence-d'Agen. The Das Reich was to march from the South of France to the Invasion Front, after the landing in Normandy. The activity of the French partisans had increased considerably with the commencement of the allied invasion. The rear of the German Front was threatened quite seriously by this activity. The Das Reich was delayed by two weeks through a concerted program of sabotage organized by the Maquis Resistance Movement. The town of Tulle had been taken by the Maquisards. The Reconnaissance unit of Das Reich, which found its way to the front blocked by the occupied town, was able to recapture it after heavy fighting. When the spearhead units of Das Reich reached the center of the city on June 9 1944, they found 52 dead German soldiers from the regular Army (Wehrmacht). The bodies of ten more German soldiers were found elsewhere. According to the eye-witness accounts of the inhabitants of the town, the Maquisards had driven over German soldiers who were still alive with their lorries. On one of the corpses it was discovered that a hole had been bored through both heels and a rope threaded through. Apparently the soldier had been dragged along by a lorry in this way until he died from his injuries. The bodies were in part mutilated beyond recognition and it was evident that many had not been killed by shooting but rather by other means. According to the facts which could be determined then and there, it was established that the soldiers had surrendered to the Maquisards and had then been murdered. On June 8 1944, the Commander in the West, Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt, had announced to the Armed Forces that members of the French Resistance movement were to be treated as terrorists. As a result of the situation encountered in Tulle the Staff Officer of 2.SS-Panzer-Division Das Reich ordered reprisal measures to be carried out. All non-inhabitants of the town who were suspected of being partisans were sought out from the population. After 21 one of them were set free, 99 men were hanged. A frightful event, but what had preceded it and what brought it about was just as frightful. Anyone who claims that Tulle was a war crime committed by Das Reich should be fair enough to report what brought the whole business about. The Wehrmacht considered the killing of members of its armed forces by partisans unlawful in accordance with the rules of war, and according to the facts, murder. Image: 2.SS-Panzerdivision Das Reich officers: SS-Sturmbannführer Helmut Kämpfe, SS-Sturmbannführer Ernst August Krag, SS-Obersturmbannführer Albert Stückler and SS-Brigadeführer Heinz Lammerding. Commons: Bundesarchiv.

SS-Sturmbannführer Helmut Kämpfe  
The case of Oradour-sur-Glane also occurred in the midst of the conflict subsequent to the allied invasion on June 10 1944. It, too, can be described as a reaction to an attack carried out by the French Communist Resistance (FTP). In this case, however, SS-Sturmbannführer Adolf Otto Diekmann, commander of 1.Battalion, 4.SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment Der Führer committed an excess which obliges one to share in the grief and sympathy for the victims. Nonetheless, it should be remembered that Oradour involved one company, whereas the 2.SS-Panzer-Division Das Reich contained about 70 companies altogether. Moving ahead of his forces to Normandy in an armored personnel carrier, SS-Sturmbannführer Helmut Kämpfe drove into an ambush conducted by the Communist FTP on June 9 1944 and was taken prisoner by a group led by Sergeant Jean Canou after an intense firefight. Normally, the FTP, well armed and supported with materiel from the Western Allies, took no prisoners. But the highly decorated officer seemed like the perfect hostage. Kämpfe was the highest ranking officer ever to be captured by the resistance. Kämpfe was turned over to the Communist leader Georges Guingouin. An unfortunate chain of events followed. A French informant informed SS-Panzergrenadier-Regiment Der Führer that the FTP in Oradour-sur-Vayres were planning to execute Helmut Kämpfe by ceremoniously burning him alive that day. The Austrian SS-Standartenführer Silvester Stadler instructed SS-Sturmbannführer Adolf Otto Diekmann, a friend of Kämpfe´s, to search the village with a Kampfgruppe from the 3.Kompanie. But the day ended in a horrific manner. Diekmann's Kampfgruppe went mistakenly to nearby Oradour-sur-Glane were they had discovered a burned-out Deutsches Rotes Kreuz (German Red Cross) convoy near the southern entrance to the village. Several wounded Das Reich Panzergrenadiers had been killed by French partisans only hours before and the ambulance drivers had been burned alive, tied to the steering wheels with wires. Oradour-sur-Glane was completely destroyed and most of its inhabitants, 642 men, woman and children were intentionally executed in retaliation. The anger and the hate was deeply etched into both sides. SS-Sturmbannführer Helmut Kämpfe, the East Front veteran and holder of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, the Close Combat Clasp in Gold and the Wound Badge in Silver was murdered in the vicinity of Limoges on June 10 1944. Some sources say he was burned alive in front of an audience. It was not until after World War II that a former Communist FTP member confirmed this and led officials to the grave of Kämpfe. The father of three, who was posthumously promoted SS-Obersturmbannführer, was interred in 1982 at a military cemetery. It is also worth mentioning that SS-Standartenführer Stadler, the regimental commander, immediately initiated court-martial proceedings against SS-Sturmbannführer Diekmann, who had acted on his own initiative. Stadler demanded the strictest punishment for all who had been involved in the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre. Diekmann was killed in Normandy, possible suicide by deliberately getting himself killed in battle, on June 29 1944 before he could be brought to justice.
In 1953, SS-Brigadeführer Heinz Lammerding was tried for war crimes for the massacre of Tulle and Oradour-sur-Glane and sentenced to death in absentia by the court of Bordeaux, but he wasn't extradited by the Federal Republic of GermanyInstead, he resumed his career as a civil engineer in Düsseldorf until his death in 1971. Many experts talk about a deal between Germany and France: In exchange for not carrying out the sentance against Lammerding, Germany would remain silent concerning French complicity in many of the deaths. The fact that one-third of the perpetrators of the Oradour-sur-Glane massacre were former French nationals from the province Alsace caused a great uproar in France. In December 2011 German police raided houses of six former members of the 3.Kompanie. At the time of the massacre, the men would have been 18 or 19, and low-ranking Panzergrenadiers. The Dortmund prosecutor, Andreas Brendel, searched for wartime diaries, photographs and documents that could provide evidence against them. Credit: Florian Berger, The face of courage and When all our brothers are silent. Image: SS-Sturmbannführer Helmut Kämpfe. Commons: Bundesarchiv.

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