Kahn's statement made at Münster in January 1964
This statement forms a part of what I am calling, The Dortmund Hearings, which commenced in 1962 and ran on for several years. This particular hearing was used to try and determine the involvement and guilt (if any) of Otto Erich Kahn, who had been the second-in-command during the attack on Oradour-sur-Glane. It was also the intention to discover the involvement of Lammerding, the Das Reich commander and to see if his actions warranted his prosecution in Germany, or extradition to France over the affair.
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 are in italics.
This statement made at Münster on 2nd January 1964, is just 5 pages, and is thus considerably shorter than Kahn's first at Dortmund in 1962, which ran to 19 pages. This new statement consists in the main, of Kahn re-iterating his previous evidence and denying evidence from other people, such as Stadler, Werner and Gerlach which contradicted him in certain aspects. Kahn was adamant that his earlier statement was correct and especially that he had not told Gerlach that they had been shot at near the boundary of Oradour, but that they had (probably) heard shots in the distance. He was unsure where these shots came from or who fired them. Kahn also denied that he had accompanied Diekmann to Limoges and in fact this was probably confusion on the part of the other witnesses with Erwin Dagenhardt, who seemingly acted as Diekmann's driver that day.
Surprisingly, Kahn mentioned that Diekmann had told him of two places to, "burn down" that day, but he could not now remember the name of the other place! Kahn said that he had spoken to the most senior platoon leader present (who was Heinz Barth) and told him not to take any such action (very, very strange, an SS officer telling his junior SS officer to ignore the orders of their joint commander). Kahn also said that he knew Barth had been wounded, but did not know if he had survived the war. In fact Barth was living under his own name in Gransee and was to stand trial in East Germany in 1983 some 6 years after Kahn died of natural causes.
Kahn mentioned the wounding of the officer by the explosion at the church and says he could not understand why Boos was stating things the way he was, especially concerning the destruction of Oradour. Kahn commented on men whom he knew to have fallen in action and said that he cannot remember the names of many others, or knew what has happened to them post-war. He also said that he could not remember saying anything to Okrent (the Das Reich judge who began the initial enquiry into the massacre) about finding ammunition or explosives in the village.
In conclusion, Kahn said again that he stood by his earlier statement. He said that he could no longer remember why he had not mentioned in it the order to annihilate two villages and not just Oradour.
Throughout this statement Kahn spells Diekmann as, "Dieckmann", or at least the secretary typing the notes does so. This misspelling of Diekmann's name is a feature of the post-war investigations into Oradour and it is a bit of a puzzle. The name can be spelled in several ways, Diekmann, Dieckmann, Dickmann and Dikmann have all appeared in statements (and are all common family names in Germany). When a name can be spelled in different ways, normally more care is taken to ensure that the right spelling is used. However either this care was absent, or people were unsure after the passage of time, just how it was spelled in this case.
45 Js 2/62: Dated at: Münster 2.1.64
Prosecuting attorney ... Siehlow as Director of the hearing
Court-employee ... Flaskamp as secretary
Summonsed (notice that Kahn was summonsed to attend) and appeared: the merchant employee Otto Kahn from Ottmarsbocholt and testified after receiving renewed instructions:
About the person: as band. II, Bl. 77 previous. (file reference about Kahn)
To the point: The interview of 13. 12. 1962, is still in good in memory for me. I portrayed everything at that time as I would say it again today. I forgo a further reading of the interview transcript.
It was told that after my earlier statement, further members of the regiment and the division were heard and their statements partially contradicted my representation. I was further informed today that I can not be prosecuted any further by a German prosecution-authority, by reference to my condemnation, that took place in my absence in France (Kahn is saying that he cannot be prosecuted in Germany because he was prosecuted and condemned in France).
It was put before me from the statements of Stadler, Werner and Gerlach that I returned after the action against Oradour together with Dieckmann (sic), to the regimental command post with the news that I am supposed to have explained in a personal conversation with Gerlach, that the action against Oradour, had first started, after the company was shot at, by the place boundary. To this I explain that my former representation is right. I have not to add anything to what I said about the convoy arriving at the place boundary. In the course of this interrogation I will get even closer to the truth.
I repeat again, that at the arrival of the column at the edge of the village we probably heard shots in the distance to the side of our march-way, that were not for the unit (not aimed at Diekmann's company). As I already said in band. II, Bl. 86 the older file (file reference), as I stood at the village-edge on guard, I suddenly heard in the village, machine gun fire, without being able to say however whether these came from our own arms or from the enemy. That resistance activity is supposed to have occurred on that occasion, is not known to me. As I already portrayed, at that time, a considerable unrest was to be noticed in the place at first, however that is not to be taken as being resistance. I can myself dimly remember a conversation I had with an Obersturmführer. I would like to think however that it did not give me the same impression that Gerlach had about resistance at the village boundary. Still, I must state firmly, that I didn't drive with Dieckmann (sic) to the regimental command post after the action. Anyway, I was not in Limoges again after the action. I cannot explain myself, as Stadler and also Werner claim that, a second officer appeared with Dieckmann (sic). Maybe it was the Ordnanzoffizier from the battalion staff, that took part in the action against Oradour together with Dieckmann (sic). I do not remember his name.
On response to allegation: However, this Ordinanzoffizier was not a company leader. Another SS-Officer in the service-position of a company-leader did not participate in the action.
Still I must amend my former statement in one important point:
When Dieckmann (sic) conveyed to me in St. Junien the command to destroy Oradour, he also spoke of two places to burn down. I do not remember the second place-name (this interview is the only time that another place has been mentioned as being marked out for destruction on the 10th June. No one else in any other statement mentions two potential targets).
As the convoy and the unit were respectively in action already in Oradour, and the people were driven aside together, I took my most senior platoon leader, the UnterstumFührer Barth, and told him not to make haste about a further bloody action against the neighbouring place, whose name I no longer remember, that lay in the vicinity of approximately 10 km away. I impressed again on Barth, that at the end of the action he was not to take part in a second action against another village (this is very strange, Kahn is saying in effect that Barth should not obey the orders of their senior officer). I only know that Barth was seriously wounded in the fighting in Normandy. Whether he survived the war, is not known to me.
The statement of Sergeant Boos, band II, is Bl 144 to 146 previous (file reference) been reproached. It may be that Boos drove the convoy at the end. I was supposed to have given him the command to take the sergeant to Limoges. To my memory, however, the sergeant, was seriously injured in the head by an explosion at the church. By no means, however, was it a wounding through fighting. I cannot understand why Boos doesn't want to recognise the incipient destruction of Oradour, because I certainly gave the command to evacuate after the explosion. I do not remember the name of the officer, who returned to the regimental command post with Boos. Possibly it was the ordinance-officer from the staff who took part in the action with Dieckmann (sic).
The names were discussed with me, those from the French side as convicted men, reference Band II, Bl. 169 to 170 (file reference). To this I remark:
Lange was Adjutant in the battalion and didn't take part in the action. Klar who was the ordinance-officer sent by me to the regimental command post, also was not present. Untersturmführer Bierling is not known to me.
From the sergeants: (Adjutants), Töpfer together with Klar later fell in action. About the other two, I cannot say anything.
From the sergeants or NCOs (Sergeants) the following probably fell in action:
Baier, Bauer, Lauber, Maurer and Steger
Neubauer was probably wounded.
Of the 5 NCOs (Corporals), I have no memory.
Also about the men, at the moment I have no one in my memory. A large part of these fell, also the NCOs' due to the severe fighting at the invasion front in the first few days, in fact the fighting was so severe that the company was practically smashed, except for 8 men. Altogether 56 men fell.
The statement of the then division-judge Okrent at, Band II, Bl. 200 to 205 previous (file reference) over my interrogation was discussed with me. I cannot remember saying something about finding ammunition and explosives in the village, which would have been the occasion for the burning-down of the place. Probably I have stated that ammunition caught fire during the fire and exploded.
On questioning: The first wounding, when I was shot in the buttocks, occurred on the 30. 6. 1944.
In conclusion, I can only state once again that I uphold my former representation with today's supplement, in all points. Why I didn't mention the command to annihilate two villages at the first interrogation; I can't say. I still don't want to complicate the matter.
Whether Barth survived the war, I don't know. He was severely wounded on the 30. 6. 1944.
The protocol was dictated aloud in my present into the recording machine and corresponds to my statements. I therefore forgo another reading.
Given by: Otto Erich Kahn
Closed by: Prosecuting attorney ... Siehlow as director of the hearing
Court-employee ... Flaskamp as secretary
© Michael Williams 10th March 2000 ... updated Thursday, 25 August 2022