Okrent's statement made at Dortmund on 23rd April 1963

 

    This statement forms a part of what I call, The Dortmund Hearings, which commenced in 1962 and ran on for several years (not all statements were taken in Dortmund). 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 was not allowed to be extradited to France.

    For comments on this statement, see below and notes made in italics throughout.

    Most of 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.


Comments on Okrent's statement below

    Detlef Okrent as the senior legal figure on the staff of Das Reich, was the man charged by Heinrich Lammerding, the Das Reich Divisional Commander, with the task of investigating the attack on Oradour and producing a report with a view to initiating legal proceedings against Adolf Diekmann. The initial request for this to happen seems to have come from Sylvester Stadler the Der Führer Regimental Commander and to have been with Lammerding when Okrent first called to see him on the 10th June at some time in the afternoon / evening.

    One thing is clear and that is as far as Okrent was concerned, Lammerding did not at any time, or to any degree order the attack on Oradour-sur-Glane: it took place without his prior knowledge.

    That Okrent could not get to see Diekmann before he was killed is understandable in the war-time context of having to move rapidly to Normandy in order to contain the Allied invasion. What is striking however, is that it yet again highlights the fact that Diekmann kept his command, he was not imprisoned, placed under House-Arrest, or suspended from duty. Lammerding is stated by Okrent to have been "very emotional" and Stadler is quoted by Otto Weidinger as being "shocked and shaken to the core", yet neither man took any immediate action against Diekmann. Why not?

    Okrent says that Diekmann had been ordered to take hostages, but that he broke his orders and did not do so, so why was he not placed under disciplinary proceedings straight away? There is no comment on this by Okrent, in fact in his statement, there is only shown the gathering of evidence, there are no conclusions mentioned at all. At no point did he say that he recommended any particular action against Diekmann; or anyone else for that matter.

    It is the fact that no action was taken against Diekmann following the 10th June, which leads me to think that, in spite of their post-war expressions of outrage & shock, his commanding officers were not all that upset at the time about what he had done.   

    Detlef Okrent was born on the 26th October 1909 in Rostock-Mecklenburg, northern Germany and was thus 35 years old at the time of the attack on Oradour-sur-Glane. Okrent was an unusual witness in that he had been an Olympic competitor for Germany in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where he had played as a Back in the men's Field Hockey team (which won the silver medal). At the time of Oradour, he was the Das Reich Division judge and so was the right man to lead any enquiry into suspected wrongdoing by any member of the Division. It must be appreciated that in an organization the size of Das Reich, with over 19,200 men, there was a real need for a whole range of ancillary staff, such as postmen, secretaries, telephonists and of course the military police, along with their legal department, of which Okrent was the head from August 1943 to February 1945.

    Okrent spells the name of Diekmann as Dieckmann throughout his statement. There is nothing particularly unusual in this misspelling as can be seen by examining all the written material on the subject of Oradour, both on this website and in the many books published on the subject. Whilst there is nothing unusual in this misspelling, it should be remembered that Okrent claimed to have known Diekmann personally and was a lawyer. It is a fact of life for lawyers that they have to get names right and spell words correctly in all circumstances. It is also worth noting that Okrent spelled his own first name as "Detlef" in this statement and "Detlev" in his earlier deposition on 27th November 1952.

    Okrent began his testimony by saying that he knew of the various events that had taken place during Das Reich's march to the Normandy beachheads. He commented especially on the continuous attacks made upon the Division, by members of the French Resistance and that they had suffered quite high losses as a result. Especially galling to the men of the Division was an attack on an unnamed Battalion Commander as he drove alone (this must have been Helmut Kämpfe, who was abducted by the French Resistance on the road just outside St. Léonard de Noblat).

    Okrent said that he was at Tulle after the attack by the Resistance on the German forces there and that he thought that he had spent the night of 9th June in Tulle. The next day he drove to Limoges in the afternoon, after the start of the operation at Oradour-sur-Glane and thus had no part in the issuing of orders for that action. He remembered being called to see the Division Commander Lammerding, who was in Okrent's words, "very emotional" about what had happened. It was from Lammerding that he found out what had happened at the village, namely that it had been burned down and French Partisans had been shot. This was against the orders that had been issued by the Regimental Commander Stadler, which were to comb the village for hostages and to bring them in on arrest. This was so that they could be used to secure the release of German prisoners of the Resistance, but this had not happened at all. Dieckmann (sic) had ignored these orders and Stadler had asked Lammerding to examine the facts of the case with a view to initiating a court-martial against him. Okrent was thus ordered by Lammerding to investigate what had happened from a legal point of view and to make recommendations as to what should be done.

    Okrent said that he was certain that the order to commence his investigation into what had happened was issued by the evening of the 10th June. However, he could not commence investigations straight away because of the urgency of the Division's advance to Normandy and also because of the difficulty in travelling to interview Diekmann who was not in Limoges (the orders at this time were for all travel to be in convoys because of the Resistance activities).

    When the Division got to the invasion-front, they went into action and before Okrent could locate Diekmann for questioning, he had fallen in battle on the 29th June. Nevertheless he continued with the investigation, even though he could have suspended it following the death of the accused. Okrent now went looking for Hauptsturmführer Otto Kahn and eventually located him lying down in bed, recovering from a bullet wound to the buttocks (contrast this with Kahn's memory of their meeting). Okrent took a statement from Kahn, which he signed as being a true record of events. Initially Kahn was reluctant to say what had happened and only talked freely when told that he would be sworn-in as a witness.

    Kahn then said that Dieckmann (sic) took over command in the village and as they had heard sporadic firing on their approach, he decided to arrest the entire population. On searching the houses, ammunition and explosives were found and so Dieckmann (sic) gave the order to burn them down. Then Dieckmann (sic) gave the order to shoot the men and here Kahn said the number was about 100. The women and children were sent to the church and Teller mines ("Teller" is German for a, "Plate") were used to mine the building. Kahn said that he was greatly affected by this action and that he had still not got over it. Okrent asked Kahn what the extent was of his involvement with the church and Kahn indicated that he had tried to keep away from it. After meeting Kahn, Okrent had an interview with Lammerding when he briefed the Commander as to his findings and said that following the death of Dieckmann (sic) he could not really find out anything more about the case. Lammerding said that he agreed with the findings, but no decision was taken as to what action was to be taken against the other participants.

    Okrent also said that shortly after the end of his investigations, the Army High Command made enquiries of the Das Reich Division about the case and accepted his report into the matter. However the papers of the report were lost when Okrent's vehicle was destroyed by enemy action. He later wrote another report from memory, but did not interview anyone else about the matter, largely because so many were killed in action that scarcely anyone was left.

    Okrent then said that he had read Kahn's 1962 statement and that he largely agreed with it, but that he now realised that his original questions were not as searching as they could have been. He also said that he remembered Kahn describing the sending back of the tram (which he had left out of his initial report to Lammerding).

    Tellingly, Okrent said that from what he had heard from Kahn, that Dieckmann's (sic) actions could not have been as a result of any attacks they had suffered during the march to Normandy.

    Okrent concluded by saying that Dieckmann's (sic) actions appeared incomprehensible to him, especially since he knew him personally. Dieckmann (sic) was well known as a well-liked, promising soldier with wide interests and one who had a bright career on the General Staff in front of him. Okrent also said that he thought that the orders of the Commander-in-Chief West (the so called "Sperrle Orders") had had a major bearing on the case and he also thought that the French authorities had used his (Okrent's) report as the basis of their investigation into Kahn and his responsibility for the attack.


Okrent's statement in full:

 45 Js 2/62
... Dortmund, on the 23.4.1963 (the file reference) 

 Present: 

 Prosecuting attorney Siehlow as interrogator 

 Justice-employee Borucka as secretary 

 Appearing is the Chief-Buyer Detlef Okrent from Leverkusen-Schlebusch and had explained to him the object of the interrogation and he was admonished to tell the truth as a witness:

 To the person: 

 I am called Detlef Okrent, born on the 26.10.1909 in Rostock-Mecklenburg, now resident in Leverkusen-Schlebusch, a Chief-Buyer, with the accused Lammerding neither blood related nor related by marriage.

 To the point: 

    I was from August 1943, to February 1945 the chief judge for the SS-Panzer Division, Das Reich. The incidents in France during the advance to the Normandy invasion Front are familiar to me. At that time, I kept myself with the staff under the Divisional Commander. The advance was continually hindered by attacks and raids of French resistance fighters. We had quite high losses. In conversation I also then found out that the commander of a battalion had been attacked by the resistance fighters as he drove alone (this would have been Helmut Kämpfe). There was great bitterness within the Divisional members. 

    During the advance, the hanging of the French in Tulle occurred first. I myself only arrived at the place after the attacks by the French on the German armed forces-unit had happened. I also recollect that on that day I stayed the whole time at the place. If is said to me, that the event happened on the 9. 6. 44 in Tulle, I hold that it is highly likely that I spent the following night in Tulle. I drove to Limoges on the following day and I suppose that I arrived there in the afternoon. It is no longer possible today for me to give an exact time. I didn't take part in issuing orders in the context of their use at Oradour. I remember only that I was called to the Division-Commander Lammerding, who was very emotional after receiving the news about the events in this village. I found out that the village had been burned down and French partisans had been shot, although as indicated by the orders of Regimental Commander Stadler, the village was to have been combed as a wise precaution, so as to bring in as many prisoners as possible on arrest. I found out either on this occasion or later, that the reason for this measure was to use these prisoners in exchange for captured comrades. The leader of the special unit of the SS, SS-Sturmbannführer Dieckmann (sic) had now ignored this command and unilaterally carried out the shootings. I further know that the Regimental Commander Stadler, directly urged Lammerding to examine the disobedience of Dieckmann (sic) and to possibly punish him with a court-martial. I received an order to firstly initiate investigations of the incidents. 

    I know with determination that the order for the court-martial investigation was already issued in the evening of the event. However, I could not immediately begin with the investigations, because the accelerated advance to the front had to be continued.  Dieckmann (sic) was not at this time in Limoges, but was with his battalion outside the city (he was quartered in St. Junien). Because of the general enemy situation, it was not possible to immediately drive to him, since we were allowed to move only in a closed convoy. 

    When arriving at the invasion-front, the individual units were immediately thrown into the fighting. Before I found out where Dieckmann (sic) was staying, he had already fallen. It still mattered to me to investigate other participants in the Oradour affair, even though I could normally have suspended the procedure because of the death of the accused. First I looked for the leader of the company (this was Kahn) that had moved away with Dieckmann (sic). I knew that it was a unit of the 3rd battalion, and it was quite possible, that from the start I knew the name Kahn. I then found him in a village one day, where the company was resting. I met him in a house where he lay in bed. After today's discussion is occurred to me that he had a bullet in the buttocks and therefore was lying down. I had him tell me of the events in Oradour and recorded them in a set of minutes, which was signed by Kahn. It still is in my memory that Kahn was very restrained at first and didn't want to tell exactly what had happened. Only when I pointed out to him forcefully, that he would be sworn-in as a witness, that he became comfortable with making his statement. My questioning confined itself mainly to gain information on the events in the village. 

    Kahn now described that Dieckmann (sic) at the village took over command himself. They had heard firing, probably isolated until they arrived; with what however I cannot say exactly, whether he was talking about fire on their own force I cannot say, anyway it was clear to them both, that it was not possible to talk to the resistance when moving forward to a settlement. In the village, it was begun at first with the entire population's arrest on Dieckmann's (sic) command. On the searching of the houses, ammunition and explosive were found, whereupon Dieckmann (sic) gave the command to burn them down. Then the shooting of the men had been ordered, I now have in mind, there had been something around 100 men. The women and children were driven into the church. Then, Dieckmann (sic) ordered to pick up Teller-Mines ("Plate" mines in German) and other explosives, in order to mine the building with the women whatever happened. Just over this last incident, Kahn was especially shaken and still not gotten over the affair (so Okrent says that Kahn was indeed shaken by what he had seen). I also tried to clarify the participation of Kahn on that occasion, however the impression won, was that he tried to keep back from this action. Anyway, I gained this impression at the interrogation. I then left Kahn and afterwards held the briefing with the Divisional Commander. I expressed on that occasion that I could induce nothing more after the man chiefly responsible, Dieckmann (sic) was dead and that this must therefore be mentioned in the investigation procedure. This handling found the approval of Lammerding as the chief. It was not discussed further on that occasion whether some action would still be taken against the participants.

    I remember that either shortly towards the end of the investigations, or after it, an inquiry about the Division was entered by the army, in which it was asked about the report of the case. This account was also reported with the result of my investigations being taken as the basis.

    This account that I produced for the investigation, was later lost due to enemy action. I recollect that the files were destroyed when a direct hit led to the burning of my vehicle.

    Later, towards the end of the year, I was asked again to report about the issue, whereupon I manufactured a report from memory.

    Except for Kahn, I questioned nobody further. I believe that I am able to remember, that I still talked about it with Kahn; meanwhile a large part of the participants fell or were wounded. From the old company-members, scarcely anyone remained. I refrained from further investigations as a result.

    The transcript of the interrogation on 13. 12. 1962 with Kahn became available for me today and I read excerpts (Volume II Page 77 - 95 d.A.). I realize that I didn't submit to Kahn the questions in such detail at that time, such as about the issue of the command and what Kahn did later. In the final result, however, I can say that the present-day portrayal agrees somewhat with his then statements. I thought again of individual episodes today when reading, they were described from Kahn at that time, for example, the sending back of the streetcar. I personally had gained the impression after the interrogation, that Dieckmann's (sic) measures could not have been caused by attacks on the unit during the advance. 

    The behavior of Dieckmann (sic) appeared completely incomprehensible to me, especially since I also knew him personally. He became well known to me as a dashing officer, who because of his particular knowledge and abilities was however intended for a career on the general staff. From conversation, I had gained the impression previously that he was not just a pure soldier but also had a versatile interest in all areas of life (so something dramatic had happened to make him act the way he did).

    When the narration of Kahn was held before me, I'd already had laid before me the orders that came from the Commander-in-Chief West and came to the conclusion after thinking about it that these must apply, these orders therefore must have been already available at the interrogation of Kahn. I even think that the portrayal of the case by me about Oradour was used by the French side as material at the hearing about Kahn.

 

    This record was dictated aloud in my presence and corresponds to my statements. I therefore forgo a further reading.

    Closed

    Signed: Detlef Okrent

 

    Siehlow: State Attorney 

    Borucka: Legal Secretary

 


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© Michael Williams: 19 August 2013 ... revised 29 January 2021.