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. 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.

    This particular statement has been paraphrased from the original document, which was obtained from the German National Archives on the understanding that it would not be directly copied or distributed. All such documents will be displayed here as paraphrased translations and will give all the necessary facts without having been directly copied from the originals. I appreciate that some people may find this unsatisfactory, but I was only allowed access to the documents by agreeing to this condition. I assure you that what follows below is an accurate rendition of the content of the statement. Should the situation change in the future then the full translated version will appear here in place of the paraphrased version. For comments on this statement, see the foot of this page and notes made in italics throughout.

    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.............

    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 mens 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 read 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.

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 would 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 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 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 report as the basis of their investigation into Kahn and his responsibility for the attack.

Comments on Okrent's statement above

    Detlef Okrent Was the man charged by Heinrich Lammerding, the Das Reich Division 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.


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© Michael Williams: 19 August 2013 ... revised 09 December 2018.