During the process of my investigating the background to what happened at Oradour-sur-Glane on 10th June 1944, I have had to read many original SS documents dating from the early 1930's up to as late as March 1945. In the course of this investigation it became apparent that certain themes and expressions of writing were common in the SS and indeed there seems to have been a set methodology for all ranks to follow, especially in the case of résumés which did not use a pre-printed form.
Résumés (Lebenslauf in German, sometimes called, Curriculum Vitae or CV in English) .... Each officer and N.C.O. (I do not know if this also applied to enlisted men) had to write their résumé on a regular basis, usually when they were promoted. These were normally hand-written (occasionally typed) by the man himself and followed a set pattern, an example of which can be seen by examining Diekmann's 1942 résumé. (English translation), or, page 1 of the hand-written original.
As can be seen, the first part of the résumé was used to establish his Aryan background and impeccable Germanic origins. It was absolutely necessary for an SS-soldier (especially an officer) to be able to prove his pure Nordic descent, hence the mentioning of his mother's maiden name in the first sentence (no Jewish ancestry here).
The rest of the document is a very straightforward account of his life and service to date, simply a list of dates and appointments, virtually no personal glimpse into the man. Just a dry recounting of the salient points, no mention of hobbies or other skills, such as languages, musical abilities, likes and dislikes, nothing in fact except formal education, the barest family details and military matters. A simple list without any sentence structure would have served just as well in conveying the information. This dry, stilted style seems to have been the norm for the SS in the early 1940's and seems also to be exactly what was expected; a virtually soulless statement, almost devoid of any expressions of humanity.
As anyone who has worked for a large organisation will recognise, the above paragraph is just about par for the course. I personally have experienced the same format from my own career in industry, nothing much has changed over the years, countries, languages, political systems and organisations, between 1942 to 2004.
In Diekmann's case there is one flicker of frailty in his résumé, when writing about his wife, he wrote that her maiden name was Diekmann, realised his mistake and crossed it out, in order to write Meinde. A simple matter, but it shows that he was capable of normal human failings and emotions. It also showed that he felt confident enough that his superiors would accept a small mistake on an important official document; if not he would surely have torn up the page and re-written it.
It is of note that in Diekmann's case he does not mention his award of the Iron Cross I in 1940, although he does record that he won the lesser Iron Cross II in 1939. However I do not know if this was an oversight, or a part of normal policy when writing up these accounts.
Personnel Assessments ... Each officer periodically had an assessment carried out on him by his immediate superior and countersigned by the next higher rank (the superior's superior). The above mentioned last assessment on Diekmann was dated 1 June 1944 (i.e. just 9 days before Oradour) whilst he was a member of the Der Führer regiment and was completed by Sylvester Stadler its commanding officer. Stadler was promoted on the 14th June (i.e. 4 days after Oradour) to Brigadeführer and left the regiment to command the SS-Hohenstaufen Division. This assessment was agreed by and countersigned by, Heinz Lammerding, the Das Reich commanding officer (note that he signed it as Heinz and not Heinrich, his full name).
These assessments were done on standard forms, all the questions were ready printed out and the officer carrying out the process simply supplied answers to them. The answers on the forms were typed, presumably in order to aid legibility in future when being read by people who may not have direct knowledge of the personalities involved.
Reading Stadler's comments are illuminating about both himself and Diekmann. They also give an insight into the Nazi beliefs of the day and show what was important to the SS. For example under the heading, Character appraisal?, Stadler wrote, Open, honest and decent. Reliable at all times. This kind of question and answer would not be out of place in a current assessment made in one of the modern industries or armed forces that employ the annual assessment / appraisal / performance reporting procedure. The answer was the sort that any person would be pleased to receive. Remember that within 9 days Diekmann was to kill 642 men, women and children at Oradour, but he was, Open, honest and decent. Reliable at all times.
Other questions were, Mental and physical disposition, official knowledge and accomplishment? The answer was to the effect that he was a, Very gifted trainer and educator with much sensitivity. Next a question about his, Appearance and conduct?, which was answered that he had, Good manners, towards superiors and subordinates, perfect soldierly manner, very good comrade, respected and popular. Next came, Ideological alignment? and the answer, Perfect SS Man, that convinces through lecture and personality. Next a question on how he conducted himself under fire, Proving himself before the enemy? This was answered that he was, Personally very brave, a go-getter, very deliberate in the leadership of his Battalion.
Finally the assessment ended with the recommendation that after further service, Diekmann would be suitable for further promotion, Brigadeführer Lammerding countersigned the assessment with the terse comment, In agreement.
Comment ... It is possibly misleading and occasionally a distortion of the truth to quote selectively from an official report, but I am going to do just that in order to make a point. You can decide for yourself the value of my comments.
Stadler wrote about Diekmann that he was, Open, honest and decent. Reliable at all times. Very gifted .. with much sensitivity. Good manners ... very good comrade respected and popular. Perfect SS Man that convinces through lecture and personality. Very brave, very deliberate. Either Stadler got his judgement of Diekmann spectacularly wrong, or Diekmann truly was, in Stadler's eyes, Open, honest and decent. Reliable at all times, etc.
Which was it? Was Stadler, a man who had already won the Knights Cross and the Oak Leaves and who was within 4 days to be further promoted, a rotten judge of men, or was he right in his assessment of Diekmann? It is significant that no changes whatsoever were made to Diekmann's assessment after 10th June, when Oradour lay in ruins. Looking back one might think that both Stadler and Lammerding might have been tempted to re-write the assessment, so as to make it clear that Diekmann was a loose cannon acting beyond the scope of his orders. That they did not, speaks for their own attitudes and beliefs.
My conclusion is that the high command of Der Führer and Das Reich saw nothing really wrong with what Diekmann did that day and until after the war never even gave the matter much thought.
© Michael Williams: minor revision August 2004