Stadler's statement made at Dortmund on 18th December 1962


    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.

    It is noteworthy that it is quite common for the same Prosecuting Attorney and Justice Secretary to be used to take these statements, both when the person is making a further statement at a later date and when it is a different person making a statement. For example in this case involving Stadler, it was Prosecuting Attorney Siehlow and Justice Secretary Liebscher and these were the same two people that took Kahn's statement on 13th December 1962. The action of using the same investigators to take the statements of various witnesses is not unusual, but it does make the varied spellings of names a bit harder to understand. I would have thought that legal personnel would have taken great care over facts such as dates, time and names; yet in these statements there is often inaccuracy with names, particularly with that of Diekmann.

    This statement by Stadler is the first document, post-war, that I have seen in his own name. As such it is a valuable contribution to the sum of knowledge on the subject of Oradour, as he has often been quoted, but this is a first-hand account of his version of the story. Weidinger, in particular quotes Stadler's reaction to what Diekmann told him on his return from destroying Oradour and it is most interesting to hear from Stadler himself, some 18 years after the event.

    Stadler's statement opens with the usual resume of personal details, such as: Name, Sylvester Stadler, born on the 30. 12. 1910 in Fohnsdorf / Styria (located in present-day Austria), now resident in Trier, Germany, at 31 Herrenbrünnchen; by occupation a merchant and with the accused Lammerding neither related by blood or marriage. This declaration is consistent in all the statements that I have seen and it is quite understandable that the witnesses are showing that they have no family obligations towards Lammerding which might affect their testimony.

    He gave a summary of his career in the pre-war years and made it clear that he was an early joiner of the Waffen-SS. Joining it in fact in 1935 at the Berlin-Adlerhof barracks when the unit was known as the SS-VT (SS-Verfügungstruppe or Special Disposal Troops). It was only later that the SS acquired honour titles, such as Das Reich, for their divisions. It is also noteworthy that Stadler joined the Waffen-SS in Germany in 1935 as an Austrian citizen, some 3 years prior to the Anschluss. This shows us several things, one being that even in 1935, being Austrian was no bar to joining the German armed forces and another being that Stadler seemed to have been a real enthusiast in his regard for the Nazi ideals.

    He trained in the signals unit and served in what became the Der Führer Regiment until the spring of 1943 when he became the regimental commander (on the eastern front). Around Christmas 1943 he left Russia for France to oversee the 'freshening-up' of the Das Reich Division and acted as temporary divisional commander in France until the arrival of Lammerding from Russia in the spring of 1944. With effect from 1st June 1944 Stadler was in effect promoted to command the 9th SS-Panzer Division, Hohenstaufen, but due to the tense situation on the western front he stayed in place as the Der Führer commander. Otto Weidinger came to Der Führer in order to be familiarized by Stadler, pending his own promotion to take over command of the regiment on the 14th June. The result was that both Sylvester Stadler and Otto Weidinger were present in Limoges on Saturday 10th June 1944 and both were present when Adolf Diekmann made his reports about Oradour and the kidnapping of Helmut Kämpfe.

    Stadler stated that when the Normandy invasion began, he and the rest of Das Reich made ready for the march north and that he personally was unaware of any atrocities said to have been perpetrated by the German armed forces whilst on the march to Limoges. Naturally, with the passage of 18 years since the events of 1944, Stadler was not always able to supply exact dates, or names of either people or places. What he did say, seems to match what others have said, namely that Das Reich suffered attacks by the French Resistance and that the march route was not an easy one. Stadler and the rest of the regimental staff arrived in Limoges on 8th June and set up a temporary headquarters there.

    Stadler said that he had sent Helmut Kämpfe off north on the task of helping the Germans located at Guéret, but that Kämpfe had been kidnapped by the French Resistance on the way back. He further said that whilst he was in  American detention post war, he was told by a French officer that Kämpfe had been killed the same day (9th June). He said that the disappearance of Kämpfe was depressing to them, because he was a capable and popular office. In order to try and secure his release, Stadler had the approval of the divisional commander Lammerding, to use a captured resistance man as a go-between to barter for Kämpfe's release. The offered terms were, the release of 30 captured resistance personnel and the payment of 10 - 15,000 Francs (this was a truly extraordinary offer for an SS-Division to make). A deadline was set by which the resistance man was to report back after his release and he did call back to say that he had not yet found his chief and asked for an extension to the deadline; this was granted by Stadler but nothing more was heard.

    In the night of 9 / 10 June Kämpfe's personal papers were handed in, after being found in the street in Limoges. Stadler was no longer sure who found the papers, but they were taken at the time as an indication that Kämpfe was still alive. In the morning of the 10th June Karl Gerlach, dressed  only in underwear arrived in Limoges and told Stadler of his experiences at the hands of the resistance. It was at this point that the name of Oradour was first mentioned.

    Shortly after Gerlach arrived back to his headquarters in Limoges, Adolf Diekmann also arrived from St. Junien with the story of a captured German officer being held by the resistance. Stadler was no longer sure if the name of Oradour came from Gerlach alone, or if Diekmann also mentioned it. He did say that the name of Oradour-sur-Vayres was not mentioned by anyone at this time. Stadler now stated that in view of the urgency of the situation, Lammerding gave him complete authority to deal with the matter as he saw fit. Then Stadler in the presence of Weidinger, his Adjutant, Werner and possibly also Gerlach, gave Diekmann orders to go to Oradour with one company and free Kämpfe. He was to take a large number of hostages if Kämpfe was not found, so as to be in a strong bargaining position with the resistance to secure the release of Kämpfe. Diekmann left Limoges and travelled back to St. Junien to organise the mission to Oradour-sur-Glane.

    Diekmann reported back as it was getting dark and said that he had had to fight his way into Oradour, but had not found any trace of Kämpfe, so he shot all the men of Oradour who were surely members of the resistance and burned down the houses from which shots had been fired.

    In reply to questioning about Diekmann's character, Stadler said that he was a, "go-getter" and very dynamic (this remark had in fact been made by Stadler on Diekmann's performance review on 1st June 1944, just 9 days before the events at Oradour took place).

    Stadler said that he was very shocked and angry with Diekmann at his news, as he had specifically ordered the taking of hostages if Kämpfe were not to be found and that Diekmann could now expect to face a court-marshal over his conduct of the action and his failure to follow orders. Stadler also made the comment, that Diekmann did not mention the killing of the women and children at this time and that he only found out about it later. This is significant, because Weidinger in his writings about the event, said that Stadler was shocked at the news about the women and children and the strong impression was given that he had been told all the news at the same time. Stadler did say that Weidinger and the Adjutant Werner had been present throughout Diekmann's account and that Diekmann only mentioned burning down the houses from which the had been shot at and not the whole village. He also mentioned that ammunition and explosive ad been present in the houses used by the resistance and that these had exploded when the houses were burned. Diekmann was ordered to immediately prepare a written report of his actions for submission to the Divisional Court.

    What is significant about this account, is the mention of arms and ammunition being present and their exploding when the properties were set on fire; this is something not mentioned at all by Kahn in his statements (remember that Kahn was actually in Oradour and saw things first hand). Another strange thing is Stadler's saying that Diekmann reported 8-9 German casualties killed from the action, whereas Kahn only mentioned one man wounded when the troops set off explosives of their own in the church.

    Stadler again emphasised how upset he was with what Diekmann had told him and that he must expect court-marshal proceedings to follow.

    Stadler made the curious remark that he did not discuss the case with Kahn and this is strange given Kahn's very high regard for Stadler and I would have thought that Kahn would have sought out Stadler after the action in order to present his version of events. Reading Kahn's statement gives me the strong impression that the two would have had some exchange over the event before Stadler left the regiment.

    Stadler again stated that he was unaware of the deaths of the women and children and that he only found out about it later (he did not say when).

    Post-war Stadler was held in American captivity but he was not allowed to be extradited by the French to stand trial in France for any war-crimes associated with the Der Führer regiment.

    Stadler, like Kahn expressed scepticism about the statement by Rudolf Lusar and his meeting Diekmann in Bordeaux and I do personally have difficulty in seeing how it could be literally true. I feel that there is a good degree of confusion here and not a little obfuscation, but by whom and for what purpose, I am unsure.

    When reading Stadler's statement it must be remembered that he had led a most eventful life, especially during the war years and some degree of confusion / forgetfulness is only to be expected when being interviewed some 18 years after the event. Nevertheless it is obvious from even the most casual reading of his statement that Lammerding was not involved in sending troops to Oradour-sur-Glane and the only name mentioned in that context was Sylvester Stadler himself. Stadler does not attempt to evade, or mitigate the issue; it was he who ordered Diekmann to go to Oradour to rescue Kämpfe. Lammerding was only brought into the case after the event, with the request to set up a court-marshal for Diekmann's actions.


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© Michael Williams: 05 May 2016 ... revised 09 December 2018.