Hans Gerlach's statement made at Dortmund 31 May 1963

   

    This statement forms a part of what I am calling, The Dortmund Hearings, which commenced in 1962 and ran on for several years. This particular hearing was used to try and determine whether Heinrich Bernhard Lammerding, who had been the commander of the Das Reich Division at the time of the attack on Oradour-sur-Glane, was culpable of the crime and was to be allowed to be extradited by the French to stand trial in France for the attack. The conclusion, reached at the end of the hearings and after evaluating all the statements, was that Lammerding did not have a case to answer and so he never stood trial in France for the events at Oradour (or Tulle).

    All these statements were taken by means of a face-to-face interview between the subject and a Prosecuting Attorney, with a Justice Secretary present to take a transcript of the proceedings.

    Hans Gerlach began his statement by emphasising that he was Hans Gerlach and not the Karl Gerlach who had been to Oradour and who was a member of the Assault Gun Detachment. He went on to say that he knew virtually nothing at all about Karl Gerlach.

    Hans Gerlach said that he had been in the tank regiment of Das Reich Division (he did not quote the actual regiment's name) at the start of 1944 and that he moved to the Divisional Staff at the beginning of June.

    It is obvious from reading his statement that a fair amount of forgetting of detail has taken place from the events of 19 years earlier. Gerlach is somewhat vague as to points of detail concerning the march route to Normandy and this is not to be wondered at, because at the time it was just another march. It was only later that the sequence became important, at the time it was nothing special. Gerlach accompanied Sturmbannführer Stückler on the march northwards with the intention of forming an advance party in order to get the Division into action as quickly as possible.

    Gerlach and Stückler visited Tulle in the afternoon of 9 June and in the Hotel Modern, Gerlach saw the bodies of German soldiers who had been killed in the uprising there. Gerlach also mentions that Lammerding visited Tulle, but he was vague as to exactly how long Lammerding stayed, or exactly when he arrived. Gerlach also said that Weidinger must have visited the town, but that he did not personally know him at that time (there is no dispute about Weidinger visiting Tulle, as he has stated this in his own account of events there).

    From Tulle, Gerlach continued northwards along a poorly remembered route. He stated that he only got to hear about events at Oradour later, when they reached the invasion front and that this was by way of gossip. He thought that the matter was being kept secret and that as he personally did not have anything to do with the case, he did not enquire further.

    The rest of Gerlach's statement describes the events that he remembered after Normandy, such as the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes. He is vague as to details and could not even remember Lammerding's movements in any detail (he had been wounded and left the Division for some months).

    Hans Gerlach's statement is useful, because it is the memory of someone who was a part of the Das Reich Division, but someone who was not directly involved in the affairs of either Tulle, or Oradour. It is obvious from reading his statement, that neither event made a big impression on him at the time; they both were just incidents along the way and nothing remarkable.

    The names that are not mentioned at all in Hans Gerlach's statement are those of Stadler, Diekmann or Kahn. It is not obvious from the statement exactly why Hans Gerlach was being interviewed; the implication is that it was because of some confusion between his name and that of Karl Gerlach, but this is not explicitly stated.

    The main conclusions to be drawn are that Lammerding was not implicated by Hans Gerlach (mentioned almost in passing, but not implicated) and neither was Stadler, who is most conspicuous by his absence in the testimony.


 

45 Js 2/62 ..... Dortmund 31. 5. 1963

Present:

Prosecuting attorney Siehlow as questioner
Justice-employee Liebscher as secretary

    The industrial merchant Hans Gerlach from Frankfurt-am-Main appeared and had explained to him the purpose of the interrogation and after familiarising him with the case he was admonished to tell the truth as a witness.

Personal details:

    I am called Hans Gerlach, born on the 21. 5. 1911 in Berlin; now resident in Frankfurt-am-Main, 24 Anne- Frank-Strasse (there is some irony here, a former SS-Officer living in a street renamed after a celebrated Jewish child authoress and victim of the Nazi oppression of which he had been a part), by occupation an industrial merchant and with the accused Lammerding, neither related by blood nor marriage.

The case:

    After discussion of the subject of the hearing, may I point out first of all, in the context of this appearance, that I am not the Obersturmführer Gerlach, who entered Oradour. However, I know, that a Gerlach belonged to the Assault Gun Detachment as an officer at that time, however I cannot say anything about this person. I suspect that even then he was a Knight's Cross winner at that time.

    However I myself belonged also to the Division, in fact I was a Company Leader in the tank regiment at first; from June until approximately November 1944 I was IIb Officer in the division staff, occasionally also a commander in the Divisional Staff Headquarters. In November 1944, I returned again to the tank regiment and was a leader of the supply company detachment there.

    When I came to the Divisional Staff from the regiment in June 1944, the Division was in southwest France. I remember the city of Montauban was Staff Headquarters where I had to report at that time. On the other hand, I cannot remember the location of my tank company. I have just seen a map which covered the area of our former garrisons. So far, I cannot think of the name.
   
    As I said, I came to the Divisional Staff at the beginning of June 1944. When the alarm about the invasion reached the division and March readiness was ordered, the 1a, SS-Sturmbannführer Stückler called me and gave me the order to accompany him when we moved away. This group was very small and consisted of two cars and two motorcycles. I do not recall if another leader belonged to our group. As I found out later, our mission was to reach the invasion front as quickly as possible, in order to be able to lead the Division into the fight. Therefore I cannot say anything about the March route of other Divisional groups. Especially I do not know how the tank regiment marched. The leader at that time was SS-Obersturmbannführer Tychsen. The commander of one of the two detachments was certainly Kesten, who later fell in action in Vienna and who led the second detachment in France. Who led the first detachment is not clear to me at the moment. In any case, in May 1944 Sturmbannführer Tetsch led the first detachment. Weather Enseling, the later commander of the Regiment was with the unit at this time, I certainly do not know. Something suggests to me that he could even have led the Pioneer Battalion. I do not know which March route the Regiment used to reach the invasion front. It has even occurred to me that the Tank Regiment lay in the area around Caussade before moving off. After looking at the map, I think that probably the Tank Regiment went in a north-easterly direction after Aurillac and then swung westwards towards Tulle and Limoges.

    On the advance, I met with Stuckler one afternoon after Tulle. I had to obtain quarters, and then I came into a hotel, which was partially occupied by corpses of killed German soldiers (from Tulle) in the rooms. When the divisional orders from the 9- 6-44 are shown in front of me now, I can now say with determination that it was the hotel, "Modern".

 

    From memory; I was only about 24 hours in Tulle. After it was told to me during the course of today's discussions, that the leaders of the Reconnaissance detachment, with which Stückler should supposedly have been, reached the place on the 8-6-44 in the afternoon; as the Divisional order from 9-6- 44, came at 23.15 o'clock I am now doubting this, because, Stückler and I, departed earlier in the morning with an armoured-car from Tulle. This could have been 10-6-44. I have come to that conclusion because I remember that Lammerding had been with us for some time in Tulle. I cannot recall the Divisional Orders from 9-6-44. I also do not remember if Weidinger was with the Divisional Staff in Tulle for the evening or the night. To this I have to add, that I did not know Weidinger at this time and it was not until November 1944 that I subsequently met him. I knew him then, when I came to the Divisional Staff, as previously I had only known the leaders of my tank regiment. The other leaders of the Grenadier Regiment and other Detachments I met more often when I came to the Divisional staff. With this explanation I want to make it clear that Weidinger certainly visited us in Tulle, especially as a constant coming and going of unit commanders took place at that time.

    From Tulle, I cannot say exactly what the March Route was. Certainly I recall the city of Limoges were with a high probability we stayed overnight. About the events, that should have happened in Limoges after Oradour, I didn't perceive anything. After all, I only much later gained knowledge about the action in Oradour, in the form of hints, during the invasion in Normandy. I personally gained the impression at that time that the matter was largely kept secret. I did not deal with the matter, because as II b, I didn't have anything to do with the issue. If somebody should have dealt with the issue besides the Court-Officer, the adjutant, who was a Hauptsturmführer Wenzel at that time, could have, or the Ic Hauptsturmführer Kowatsch.


    There was a SS-Sturmbannführer Fick with the division. I remember him as we were still a Panzer Grenadier Division. The changeover to a Panzer Division must have been after I saw the staffing plan; after 31. 7. 43. My memory serves me to remember Fick's name from the time when was the Division was in (Bad) Fallingbostel to freshen up. At that time, he led the 1st Motorcycle Battalion. Which unit he led in the Division in 1944 and whether he at all still belonged to the division, I cannot say.
Whether Lammerding served at the Division to the end of 1944 or the beginning 1945, I cannot say. I can say no more whether he participated at all in the Ardennes Offensive in association with the division. I myself led the supply-company of the tank-regiment's II Detachment at that time. I remember a Belgian place, Burg Reuland for example ..... I can no longer say an exact distance from the German border, however, take into account, that we moved forward through Luxembourg to there. We marched in from Prüm.


    The places La Roche (La Roche en Ardennes, in Belgium?) and Wibrin are not familiar for me. I must remark on that occasion that the fighting troops advanced much further to Belgium, while the supply unit hung back a long way.


    The interrogation was dictated aloud in my presence into the machine and corresponds to my statements. I therefore waive a further reading.

    The interrogation Bd. II Bl. in 125-127, it is unknown to me. I was not interrogated in Hamburg by a lawyer called Meyer.

    Closed: Hans Gerlach

   Siehlow ..... Prosecuting Attorney


   Liebscher .... Legal Secretary

 


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© Michael Williams: 21 February 2015 ... revised 29 January 2021.