Johannes Seefried's statement made at Heilbronn on 8th November 1978

 

    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, such as this one, were actually taken in Dortmund). This particular hearing was used to try and determine the involvement of Ernst Karweger, who had been an SS-Rottenführer (Corporal) at the time of the attack on Oradour-sur-Glane on 10th June 1944. It was used to determine if he was culpable of murder and if he should stand trial in either a German or a French court . The conclusion, reached at the end of the hearings and after evaluating all the statements, was that he did not have a case to answer and so he was not allowed to be extradited to France and nor was he tried in Germany. It is worth noting that Karweger had already been tried in his absence at the trial in Bordeaux in 1953 and had been condemned to death, along with 43 other persons not present. What is quite striking is that Johannes Seefried was not on the list of those condemned to death in absentia by the French Court (were they unaware of his presence at Oradour?)

   This statement is the most recent one that I have found from the German hearings concerning Oradour and is the only one not to mention the supposed involvement of Heinrich Lammerding, the Das Reich Divisional commander in June 1944. He had died in 1971 and I do not know by what process the German authorities started this investigation into Karweger. Had the French raised the matter? How had Karweger come to the notice of the Justice Department? Who set the process in motion? etc.

   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. They take the written form of answers to questions put by the Prosecutor. These questions are not stated, but are easy enough to guess.

   To read the statement, see below (notes made in italics).


Prosecutor - Dortmund

Place and date - 7100 Heilbronn, 8th November 1978

Present: Prosecutor ... Nitardy ... as prosecutor

Legal clerk Justice employee ... Kirchner

Investigation against ... Ernst Karweger and others (Ernst Karweger was one of the men condemned to death in absentia at Bordeaux in 1953)

Because of murder and aid to murder 

The named witness appeared on summons: Dr. Johannes Seefried: The witness was made aware of the subject of the investigation and the person of the accused (Ernst Karweger) and was admonished to tell the truth according to {section} 57 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Then the witnesses were heard one by one and in the absence of the witnesses to be heard later - as follows after he had also been referred to {section} 55 StPO. 

The person

My name is Johannes Seefried and I was born on 1st February 1911 in Konstantza Romania. 

I am an ophthalmologist and I live in Heilbronn. 

I grew up in Konstantza and studied medicine in Germany. Then I returned to Konstantza. From 1937 to 1938 I met my National Service obligation in the Romanian army. 

Then I went to Berlin, where I started my ophthalmological training. 

At the beginning of September 1939, I came to the Waffen SS through the Association for German Studies Abroad. I was examined and drafted into Berlin's SS-Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler (this was the first of the SS Divisions). After about 8 weeks of basic military training, I was transferred to a draft-board commission. At that time, Totenkopf Regiments (the name Totenkopf came from the common SS cap badge, which was in the form of a Death's Head) were drawn up, from which the Waffen-SS divisions were later recruited (Seefried was simplifying a bit here, as the SS underwent several changes of name, before settling on what most people regard as their final designations). 

Around March / April 1940 I came to Weimer as a member of a draft-board commission, then to Danzig and finally to Krakow. In Krakow I was already a member of the group, which was then deployed in Russia, practically in the first week of the Eastern campaign. 

On reserve (special volume VI): 

I believe that at that time I was a member of the 10th SS Totenkopf Regiment (there is some confusion here, as the Totenkopf Division was the 3rd SS-Division, not the 10th, which was in fact called, Frundsberg). As far as I know, I stayed with it until 1941. I no longer know which part of the troops I belonged to immediately afterwards. I only remember that I was briefly in The Hague, where the troops were trained. 

As far as I remember, I later came to a tank regiment in the Das Reich Division. We were among others before Stalingrad and were then moved south via Kharkov and then took Kharkov again. 

In the spring of 1944, our regimental aid post was withdrawn from the Eastern Front and relocated to the South of France for repositioning. There I first belonged to the medical company of the Das Reich Division. After a few weeks, I was called up - first of all - to the staff of the 1st battalion of the, Der Führer regiment because there was no doctor there. At the request of the battalion commander Diekmann, I stayed with the Battalion. That was a few weeks before the Allied invasion. I was an SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain) at the time (it seems quite common in many armies to give doctors the notional rank of Captain). 

When asked:

I no longer know where we were in the neighborhood. If place names are given to me, I believe that they were in the Montauban area. 

After the invasion we marched north to Normandy. The battalion was involved in heavy fighting there. As far as I know, it had been almost completely wiped out three times (it has been bled-dry three times; a high casualty rate). It was then withdrawn and refreshed. Diekmann fell right at the beginning of the fighting. 

I don't know who took over the Battalion afterwards. I would like to explain here that although I was ranked equal to the corresponding ranks in the troop, I was not involved in any decision-making process (he was explaining that he was a doctor not a military leader and thus not responsible for what happened, especially at Oradour). I was only informed of the decision myself, e.g. the unit is relocated and the battalion command post is set up in a specific location. This was the situation before the action in Oradour. 

Around the fall of 1944 my regimental aid post was withdrawn. I was transferred to the division's supply department and stayed there as a troop doctor until the end.

I then took part in the Ardennes offensive. But I think I was still with the fighting force at that point.

Later I was in Hungary, near the Lake Balaton, in Austria and finally in Czechoslovakia. At the time of surrender, my unit was at Tetschen-Bodenbach. From there I made my way to Germany.

 

The following information can be given about the events in Oradour:

We were on the march to Normandy. 

When asked:

I no longer remember where we spent the night before the action in that location. The name St. Junien says nothing to me. We should have been near Limoges.

It was said at the time that an officer in the regiment, whose name I have forgotten, had been abducted by partisans.

On call:

If I am given the name Kempfe (sic, it should be Kämpfe), it is this officer.

I was ordered to take part in a march one day. I cannot say who gave the order. The location and purpose of the march had not been communicated to me.

I remember the operation so badly that the area where the officer had disappeared should be combed through to find him and track down his kidnappers. I cannot say what my memory is based on; it is quite possible that the action was later explained on this basis. From the fact that I was taken away, I concluded that more serious disputes and losses of the troops were expected. However, no details were given to me.

It should be mentioned that partisan raids were often known at the time. I know that ambulances marked with the red cross were also shot at. 

When asked

Among others, Diekmann (spelled correctly throughout this statement) and the company boss Kahn went into action with his company. I myself drove in an armored personnel carrier. I do not know how many armored personnel carriers were carrying, nor how many were the battalion staff available. I don't know at the moment who else has ridden from the Battalion Staff.

As far as I can remember, the company sat down in front of the site and bypassed the place, which means surrounded it. I set up the troop unit in a single house. I no longer know whether I had been instructed to do so or whether I drove through the place independently and selected the house to set up the medical aid post's place. As seen from the church, the house was on a path turning to the right. I would like to say that it was completely remote from the site. It stood on a hill, as did the church. The intermediate part of the place was in a depression. The house should have been on the street that is referred to on document sheet 73377 as Route de Peyrilhac

When asked

The battalion command post may not have been in the same house. Because, as far as I know, I was there alone with my driver.

When asked:

I do not remember that at the same time, the encirclement of the place had parts of the troop penetrating into the place itself, or whether this happened later.

I heard machine gun fire in the house I was in and a strong detonation. How much time had passed since moving into the house, I can not give an approximation. I cannot say whether there was a time interval, and if so what, between the fires and the detonation. In any case, what I heard was the reason for me to go to the place to see what had happened there. I saw a barn with large numbers of dead male civilians. I cannot give any further information about the number of deaths. Soldiers stood in front of the barn (this sounds like the Laudy Barn, the largest of the killing sites for the men).

When asked:

I don't know if it was a group or an entire platoon. I didn't know any of them. I remember that a machine gun stood on the tripod in front of the barn; but there was no one behind. I don't remember any other machine guns. 

When asked:

The dead lay in disorder. I have otherwise seen no dead in the place.

I then went to the church, I think it was because the detonation had come from there. I saw that something was piled up inside the church. I think it was straw bales. 

I still remember that I was told that as an individual one could not go back to the neighborhood, but rather that I had to wait until everyone led away. I would have to have expressed a desire to leave the place. This is a conclusion from the rejection I mentioned, which I - and this alone - still remember exactly. Who I spoke to is unknown to me. It wasn't Diekmann; I didn't see him in Oradour after the medical aid post's site was set up.

My interlocutor must have been an officer. I remember that the ordinance officer was once sent away, whether with the armored personnel carrier or a sidecar and for what reason, I don't know. 

When asked:

I think the Ordinance Officer was called Stange. Lange was Adjutant. I don't remember seeing Lange in Oradour. However, I cannot say with certainty whether I experienced the sending myself, noticed the absence or heard about it.

I have no memory of what happened next. I only know that Kahn later appeared in the house in which the aid post unit was set up. 

I don't know how and when I got back to this house. I also have no memory of what I spoke to Kahn and why he got there at all. 

I also remember that I took medical care of a soldier. I think he had a knee injury (this was probably Albert Ochs, an Alsatian conscript). I don't know what the injury was and what grade the injured was, which to my knowledge I didn't know at the time (in other words, he did not know who he was treating, either then, or now).

Response to allegation:

I remember that it was said that the injury was caused by the explosion (Ochs was wounded by ricochets). I have no memory of a head injury (this was probably Knug, the only SS fatality that day). I do not know that Stange went to Limoges with the injured (Seefried seems to have confused Ochs with Knug. Some confusion of detail is only to be expected after 34 years).

Response to allegation (sheet 866):

When a witness describes that I had an argument with Kahn and Diekmann at the church, I cannot remember it. 

When I came to church, I heard the whimpering of women and children from within. 

I had not seen machine guns shooting into the church interior and hand grenades thrown into it. 

That I did not see this could be explained by the fact that what had happened so far had shocked me so much that I turned away. I don't have an exact memory of that. I cannot give any precise information about the number of soldiers in the vicinity of the church, nor about whether there were officers. I cannot name any names in this context. I only remembered what was piled up in the church and the whimpering of women and children (Seefried was quite naturally traumatized by what he had witnessed and seems to have blanked out his memory as much as he could)

When asked:

I can no longer match how we moved, when it was and where we were going.

On call:

I have no memory that the place and the church were on fire. I conclude from this that at least one part of the group to which I should have belonged, then left earlier, leaving behind a detachment. It strikes me now that there was talk of a rear-guard and that something was reported about the rear-guard in the evening in the location.

I do not know whether we were moving into old quarters or new ones. 

When asked:

I was completely surprised by what was happening in Oradour. There was also no discernible indication that a punitive expedition should be carried out. Nor would I have given myself up to taking part in such an action if it had been known beforehand what to do. I would also like to say that I come from a Pietism family (Pietism is a movement within Lutheranism that combines its emphasis on biblical doctrine with the Reformed emphasis on individual piety and living a vigorous Christian life). 

When asked:

No one is known to me from the staff at that time, apart from those already mentioned.

I don't remember the name of my medical officer. As far as I know, this was not in Oradour. I heard later that he had been shot dead for desertion. The medic of the company that worked in Oradour was called Bläschke. I don't remember seeing him in town; but I suspect that he was there (Bläschke was tried in person at Bordeaux in 1953 and sentenced to 12 years hard labour).

On call:

I don't know of officers named Conrad, Burghard, Beckmann, Scholz and Barth. An officer named Klaar must have been in the regiment. But I don't know in what unit. Fate is unknown to me. I don't know if Klaar was in Oradour. 

I am not aware of the other names of members of the battalion staff and the 3rd company read to me. 

When asked:

I did not see an actual act of killing myself in Oradour. I have noticed the dead, as described above.

 

Machine dictated, approved and signed 

Dr. Johannes Seefried 

closed: 

Prosecutor ........ Nitardy 

Justice Employee ...... Kirchner

 


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© Michael Williams: 25 July 2020 ... revised 08 August 2020.