Okrent's statement made at Köln-Marienburg in November 1952

 

    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 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 should be allowed to be extradited by the French to stand trial in Bordeaux. The conclusion, reached at the end of this hearing 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 statement is the earliest post-war German record about Oradour-sur-Glane that I have been able to locate up to now and is very interesting for that very reason. Okrent was being asked to recall events that took place only eight years previously and this investigation must have been in anticipation of the trial in Bordeaux of the surviving members of the Der Führer Regiment (which was due to start on Monday 12th January 1953). The other records in the 'Dortmund' series are dated from 1962 onwards and so the problems of memory loss and confusion are much more likely to be present in these later statements.

    Even though this statement was not taken in Dortmund and also pre-dates the 'Dortmund' hearings by nearly ten years, I am including it in this section as though it were a part of them. As can be seen the name of Diekmann is misspelled consistently throughout as, Dieckmann (sic). Yet again the name of the most important character in the story of Oradour is misspelled (and by a legally trained person at that). As time rolled on, the misspelling became almost constant, no one seemed to mind and obviously there was no feedback to succeeding interviewees. You would think that eventually the message would have got round and the correct spelling be widely known, especially by the interviewers.

    A final point on the subject of the correct spelling of names. In the original of this statement, Okrent spelled his name as, "Detlev" and signed the document as such, yet all his other records that I have seen have spelled his name as, "Detlef." If is true that in spoken German, "F" and "V" usually sound the same, but which is correct in this case I do not know with 100% confidence, both seem widely used. Since the man himself spelled his name with a "V", I am going to take this spelling as the correct version in this document. On the 23rd April 1963, when Okrent gave his statement at Dortmund, he spelled his own name with an "F", so make of that what you will, but it does seem common for names to change a bit. Lammerding spelled his first name at both "Heinz" and "Heinrich" in different documents ("Heinz" is both a short form of Heinrich and a complete name in its own right).

    This statement was taken by means of a face-to-face interview between the subject and a legal representative, who is in this instance is not named (unusual, as all the succeeding Dortmund statements quote the names and legal positions of the Attorney and Secretary).


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

    Detlev 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 a total staff of 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. As well as the military police, there was also their legal department, of which Okrent was the head from August 1943 to February 1945.

        Okrent said that he was certain that the order to commence his investigation into what had happened at Oradour 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 otherwise 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" and these mines had the appearance of a large dinner 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.

    It is the fact that no action was taken against Diekmann following the attack on Oradour on 10th June and before his death on 29th 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.


 Okrent's statement in full:

 Detlev Okrent Cologne-Marienburg, 27 November 1952

 Statutory declaration

 I, Detlev Okrent, born 26. 10 1909 in Rostock i / Meckl., Residing in Cologne - Marienburg,

 By occupation a Managing Director, make the following affidavit knowing the importance of an affidavit and the fact that this affidavit is to be used in a court of law: 

 In 1944 I was an SS-Sturmbannführer and the chief judge of the courts marshal court of the 2nd SS Panzer Division "Das Reich", which was from February 1944 initially in the Bordeaux area and later in the Toulouse-Montauban area. 

 When the division was on the march to Normandy after the invasion began, the divisional staff to which I belonged was in the Tulle-Limoges area around 10 June 1944. In the evening I was called to the division commander - the brigade leader Lammerding at the time - who, in his capacity as the division's chief, ordered me to initiate a courts marshal against SS-Sturmbannführer Dieckmann who was the commander of the 1st battalion of the "Der Führer" regiment. The Divisional Commander (Lammerding) explained to me that he had just received the message that the 3rd company of the 1st battalion of the Der Führer Regiment had encountered resistance from French resistance fighters in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane and that Dieckmann (sic) himself had been present. The resistance fighters were shot, although he Dieckmann (sic) was aware of the division's order to take hostages, so resistance fighters should only be captured and not shot. Dieckmann (sic) had therefore deliberately not followed a command known to him. 

 I can remember that the commander of the regiment, Der Führer - the then SS-Standartenführer Stadler - passed this message about Oradour to the Divisional Commander (Lammerding) and vigorously urged the initiation of a courts marshal against Dieckmann (sic). No further details on the incidents in Oradour-sur-Glane were known to the Divisional Staff that evening.

 I could not immediately start carrying out the investigation against Dieckmann because the Der Führer Regiment was immediately thrown to the Normandy front and the Divisional Staff had to stay behind, apart from the so-called small leadership squadron.

 So I came to the Normandy battle area some time later. Here I learned that Dieckmann (sic) had fallen in the very first days of using his Battalion. From the Divisional Commander I was informed that the army to which we were then subordinate had also requested the initiation of a courts marshal against Dieckmann (sic), since the Commander-in-Chief of the West had learned of the events in Oradour-sur-Glane through French authorities.

 Since Dieckmann had fallen, I first tried to interview the company commander of the 3rd company Der Führer - SS-Hauptsturmführer Kahn. I only succeeded after a few days because the 1st Battalion of Der Führer was thrown back and forth on the battle front.

 Kahn explained the following to me during the detailed protocol questioning:

 Dieckmann had told him that SS-Obersturmführer Gerlach and his driver had been taken to Oradour-sur Glane by resistance fighters after their capture. While Gerlach managed to escape, the driver had in Oradour had been publicly abused to death (according to Gerlach, he had been shot). In addition, at about the same time, an army ambulance was raided near Oradour-sur Glane with wounded, and the entire crew was killed. So this was proof that Oradour-sur-Glane was a centre of resistance fighters. The 3rd company encountered resistance when entering the village. Weapons and ammunition were found when the houses were searched. Thereupon Dieckmann (sic) then ordered to shoot the male population and set the houses on fire. All orders were given by Dieckmann (sic) himself and their implementation was monitored by him.

 My attempts to interrogate further members of the 3rd company were unsuccessful, since the company had meanwhile been almost completely rubbed out in the toughest operations and even the supplies had either fallen, been wounded or had been taken prisoner. At the time when I heard Kahn, no member of the 3rd company who had participated in the Oradour campaign was with the company anymore. A short time after the interrogation of Kahn, I learned that Kahn was very badly wounded and had left the troop. I have never heard from Kahn since.

 Shortly thereafter, when the Allied breakthrough at Avranches took place, the truck on which the Oradour investigation files and other court files were located was shot-up and on fire; all my documents were burned.

 I then gave the Divisional Commander my report on the result of the previous investigations and the loss of the files and received instructions from the latter to report this to the army. I did this too.

 Since Dieckmann (sic) had fallen and Kahn had left the Division severely wounded, the Division was unable to continue the preliminary investigation into Oradour, since other suspects were not considered after the results of the investigation at the time.

 In summary, I declare again, that immediately after the incidents in Oradour-sur-Glane became known, a wartime judicial investigation was initiated, which, however, could not be completed due to the circumstances described above.

 I also declare that during the division's stay in France in 1944, when I was the division judge, every time the force attacked the French. Persons who were reported by the unit leaders, other German agencies or by the French were immediately brought to trial in a court marshal and the suspects were severely punished. The court hearings on instruction and deterrence were often held in front of the assembled units.

 

   Signature: Detlev Okrent

 


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© Michael Williams: 19 August 2013 ... revised 28 May 2020.