The following is a list of all the main characters in the story of Oradour-sur-Glane as outlined on this website along with a short biographical note for each. See the Timeline for how these characters relate to the events in the story of Oradour.
British Commonwealth nationals
Len Cotton ... an RAF crewman briefly sheltered in Oradour in 1943 whilst being helped to escape after being shot down over France. Subsequently worked as a journalist in London's Fleet street and retired to Australia long after the war. He is believed to have died in the late 1990's.
French nationals (see Chapter 2, 10th June 1944 for more details)
Mathieu Borie ... One of the 5 survivors of the Laudy barn, he was a mason by trade and it was he who made the hole in the wall of the barn that enabled them all to escape.
Clément Broussaudier ... one of the 5 survivors of the Laudy barn.
Jean-Marcel Darthout ... one of the 5 survivors of the Laudy barn, he appeared in the 1988 film, 'Oradour un Film' by Michel Follin and Marc Wilmart. He has also appeared in, "Oradour, retour sur un massacre" in 2004 which was broadcast on France 3 on the 60th anniversary of the massacre and now made into a DVD. More recently he has also appeared in the DVD, "Une vie avec Oradour" (see Bibliography).
Hubert Desourteaux ... a son of the mayor and a garage owner in the village.
Jacques Desourteaux ... a son of the mayor, a doctor who was out on a call when the SS arrived, but who died with the rest when he returned to the village. His car which is one of the most photographed sights in Oradour, is now thought in fact to be that which had belonged to the wine merchant. His body has never been identified.
Jean Desourteaux ... the mayor of Oradour on 10th June 1944, he was one of only 52 persons who could be identified after the fires.
Georges Guingouin ... an FTP leader in the Limoges area during 1944, it was his men that kidnapped both Obersturmführer Karl Gerlach and Sturmbannführer Helmut Kämpfe of the Der Führer regiment on the 9th June thus precipitating the Oradour massacre. After the war he became the (Communist) mayor of Limoges, before becoming involved in various scandals concerning his wartime record organised by fellow communists. His reputation has now been restored but unfortunately he died, aged 92 on 28 October 2005, without having given a full and frank account of exactly what happened to Kämpfe.
Roger Godfrin ... the youngest survivor of the massacre, born on 4th August 1936, he was only 7¾ at the time and he owed his escape to, "fate". Roger attended the trial at Bordeaux in 1953 as a witness and died of natural causes on 11 February 2001, aged 65.
Robert Hébras ... born on 29th June 1925 (and by coincidence the same day that Adolf Diekmann was killed in 1944) one of the 5 survivors of the Laudy barn, after the war he became one of the best known chroniclers of the Oradour story, he was still alive in 2012 and living near to Oradour in St. Junien. He appeared in the France 3 program, "Oradour, retour sur un massacre" in 2004, now available as a DVD. More recently he has also appeared in the DVD, "Une vie avec Oradour" (see Bibliography).
Pinède children ... the children of a Jewish family, two girls, Jacqueline and Francine and their brother André a (handicapped) boy of 9, who hid under the stairs of the Hotel Avril in Oradour on the 10th June until forced out by the fires; they then encountered an SS-soldier who let them go. They all survived the war and Jacqueline, who rendered first aid to Robert Hébras on the night of 10th June, was still alive in 2004.
Marshal Pétain ... the leader of the French puppet government of 1940 - 44, located in what became known as Vichy France. A hero of the First world War, he was accused of treason post-WWII and exiled to the Ile d'Yeu, where he died in 1951.
Pierre-Henri Poutaraud ... The 6th man to escape from the Laudy barn, only to be shot dead by a soldier on the lane leading to the cemetery. He subsequently had a horse tethered to his outstretched arm for the rest of the day.
Yvon Roby ... One of the 5 survivors of the Laudy barn, born on 15th January 1926 at Basse-Forêt, he was thus 18 at the time.
Marguerite Rouffanche ... at the time of the massacre she was 47 and was the sole survivor of the church. After the new village was rebuilt, she moved there until her death in 1988, she is buried in Oradour cemetery.
German nationals (see Appendices for more details)
Heinz Barth ... an SS-Untersturmführer of the Der Führer regiment at the time of the massacre, he was the only officer to be found and prosecuted in person for his part in the affair. Barth was jailed after his trial in Berlin during 1983 and released in 1997 on the grounds of ill health due to diabetes and high blood pressure. He also expressed remorse at that time for what he had done saying, "I feel guilty about the terrible crimes in Oradour, but I have paid long enough" (statement to the Berlin newspaper BZ, when he was released). He died aged 86, on 6th August 2007, at Gransee, Germany (his birthplace).
Otto Dickmann ... A non-existent officer of the Der Führer Regiment. This name is often quoted as being that of the man who led the attack on Oradour-sur-Glane, yet in spite of my best efforts searching the various Dienstalterliste Der Waffen-SS covering the war years, I have not seen any officer, from any unit with this name: see Adolf Diekmann below.
Adolf Diekmann ... an SS-Sturmbannführer of the Der Führer regiment and the man who led the attack on Oradour. Diekmann was Otto Kahn's immediate superior, he was killed in Normandy on 29th June 1944. In the literature concerning Oradour-sur-Glane Diekmann is often misnamed as, "Otto Dickmann", but his SS records show his full name as being, Adolf Rudolf Reinhold Diekmann.
Karl Gerlach ... an SS-Obersturmführer of the Der Führer Regiment in June 1944. Gerlach and Helmut Kämpfe were the two officers from the regiment kidnapped during the 9th of June by members of the FTP. Gerlach survived the war and was never tried for any war crimes.
Adolf Hitler ... Der Führer himself and not to be confused with the SS regiment which was named after him. He was the leader (Führer means Leader, or Guide) of Germany from 1933 to his suicide on 30th April 1945. Without Adolf Hitler, the tragedy of Oradour would not have happened and the millions of people from all over the world who were killed in the war caused by him, would have met different fates.
Otto Kahn ... an SS-Hauptsturmführer of the Der Führer regiment. He was second-in command at Oradour and was known to have survived the war. At the trial in Bordeaux in 1953 he was condemned to death in absentia, the French authorities pleading with the world to find him and return him to face justice. He was never tried in person, or even located by the French whilst alive (at the time he was thought to have escaped to Sweden with his family). According to Otto Weidinger writing in 1988, "Kahn died some years ago" and as I discovered in May 2006, he actually lived in Germany under his own name until his death in 1977. According to Kahn he was detained by the Russians at the end of the war and it is odd that he managed to return home with seeming ease at the end of 1945. Normally any SS personnel in Soviet hands had a difficult time and were only released after 1953 following the death of Stalin and as a result of the Russians becoming keen to improve relations with Germany (see also Lammerding below).
Helmut Kämpfe ... an SS-Sturmbannführer of the Der Führer regiment. He and Karl Gerlach were separately kidnapped by members of the FTP during 9th June. It was this act which I believe led directly to the attack on Oradour. Kämpfe's headstone gives his date of death as 10th June 1944.
Heinrich Bernhard Lammerding ... the SS-Brigadeführer commanding Das Reich 2nd SS-Panzer Division, of which Der Führer Regiment was a part in June 1944. He was Sylvester Stadler's immediate superior at the time of Oradour. The French wanted to try Lammerding in person at Bordeaux in 1953, but could not persuade him to attend. Given that he had already been tried and sentenced to death in absentia for the hangings at Tulle on the 9th of June 1944, it is not too surprising that he stayed away. He was never tried in person and died of natural causes in Germany on 13 January 1971 at Bad Tölz and was buried in the Northern Cemetery at Düsseldorf on 19 January 1971. The grave remained intact until July 1991 when it was abandoned by the family and allowed to grass over. The Civil Engineering firm which he founded in August 1945 in Düsseldorf, is still in business in 2013, run by his grandson. Interestingly the notes on the firm's website giving brief details of its history, quote Lammerding's full name as being, "Heinrich Bernhard Lammerding" and not Heinz Bernd Lammerding, as do some of his original SS records; why there is this confusion, I do not know for certain. It is also noteworthy that his business was founded in August 1945. I would have thought that an SS General would have been in detention at that time and I wonder just how did he manage to avoid imprisonment? (see also Kahn above).
Hugo Sperrle ... in 1944 he was a Field Marshal in the Luftwaffe and Commander-in-Chief West of the German armed forces. It was he who issued what became known as the Sperrle orders detailing the harsh measures that were to be taken against members of the Resistance. He died just after the end of the Bordeaux trial, on 4 April 1953.
Sylvester Stadler ... the SS-Standartenführer commanding Der Führer regiment in June 1944, he was Adolf Diekmann's immediate superior. On 14th June he was promoted to lead the Hohenstaufen Division and he left Der Führer before the investigation into Diekmann's activities could be convened. Stadler was not tried for any war crimes and died of natural causes on 23rd August 1995.
Otto Weidinger ... on the 10th June 1944 he was an SS-Sturmbannführer attached to Der Führer regiment for familiarisation purposes, later that month on the 14th, he became its commanding officer when Stadler was promoted. After the war, Weidinger was tried by the French for war crimes and acquitted of all charges in 1951. He later became both Der Führer and Das Reich's official historian and wrote many books and articles on the activities of those units. I do not believe that he ever told an outright lie in any of his writings, but he did not always tell the whole truth either. He died of natural causes at Aalen (Germany) on the 10th January 1990.
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© Michael Williams 15 April 2005 & revised 21 June 2014.