Kahn's statement made at Düsseldorf in March 1967

 

    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 obtain background material from Kahn as to both his and other peoples war-time record of their employment within the armed forces and in Kahn's case to determine if he could receive his war pension.

    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 in italics.


    This statement was made at Düsseldorf on 27th March 1967 and is the last statement made by Otto Erich Kahn that I have found to date. This statement runs to 7 pages and is remarkable for the fact that it spells Diekmann's name three different ways in the original document and none of them are correct! It appears as: Dikmann (4 times), Dickmann (24 times) and Dickmanns (10 times). On page 1 the name is spelled as "Dikmann" four times and as "Dickmann" twice and for a German legal document this is quite a strange thing to happen, especially as Kahn signed it off as being his true statement. Other spellings throughout the document mostly seem correct (apart from once spelling Limoges as Lemoges). In addition, the use of umlauts and of the Eszett (ß) are as they should be whenever they have been used. Quite why Diekmann's name should consistently be spelled incorrectly in these documents is a bit of a mystery, but most of the Dortmund hearings transcripts get it wrong at some point.

    Kahn said in his statement that Diekmann (this is the correct spelling of his name, which was not used at all in the statement) was solely responsible for the attack on Oradour and that he, Kahn was against the idea, but was under binding orders and could do nothing to prevent it. Kahn recounted again how he had been questioned before, starting in 1944, regarding the events at Oradour and that by now he was becoming exasperated at being asked the same questions over and over again. In particular Kahn stated that he personally had tried to mitigate Diekmann's actions as best he could and that he was not responsible for 1) leading the action, or 2) searching the whole village, or 3) providing the explosives used in the church, or 4) giving the order to shoot the women and children, or 5) monitoring that all the executions had taken place.

    Kahn specifically stated that he had no reason to attack any French people, as neither he nor his men had been attacked by anyone that day.

    Kahn then gave specific objections to the above five points, which were:

    1) that Diekmann would not have left him in charge of the attack, but would have stayed to supervise it personally.

    2) that Kahn himself arrived in the village about half an hour after the action had started and that he had been confined to the east and north of the place and knew nothing of events in other parts of the village. He only found out the complete picture of what had happened later, at the end of the day.

    3) Kahn was told by Diekmann to stay away from the centre of the village and was astounded when Diekmann said he intended to blow up the church. Kahn did not supply the explosives used and said that the NCO who did provide them was seriously hurt in the blast when setting them off.

    4) That Diekmann was the one to personally order the shooting of women and children (Kahn did not mention the men in the barns) and that this had to be the case because he, Kahn had left the village immediately after the explosion in the church.

    5) Kahn said that he greatly resented Diekmann using his men for the destruction of Oradour and the killing of the inhabitants. That he, Kahn was a professional soldier and that he had found the whole event repulsive in the extreme. He also said that he could not confirm or deny that the order had originally come from the Regiment, but it seemed to him to be a retaliatory exercise. The previous days had seen the Division attacked by the resistance and much damage occasioned by their actions. Kahn also said that no search at all had been made for the missing Sturmbannführer Kämpfe. Kahn went on to again specifically deny all responsibility for ordering or controlling the attack. He mentioned again letting a young woman go free (see his statement of December 1962 made at Dortmund) who had wished to enter the village. He also stated that he had let two trams and their occupants go free back to, "Lemoges", saving about 80 people. At the end of the action Diekmann handed back full control of the men to Kahn, who said that he informed his men that all killings had to stop immediately.

    Kahn concluded his statement by asking for his pension to be reinstated to him as he was financially embarrassed and unable to pay either his compulsory insurance, or provide for his family.


Kahn, Otto Erich: Ottmarsbocholt, den 27. 3. 1967(Kahn is buried in Ottmarsbocholt parish cemetery)                            

At the Ministry of the Interior NW

Elizabethstrasse 5. Düsseldorf

Subject: Your letter v. 7. 3. 1967, service 9. 3. 67 - II B 3 25. 117/29 Ka. 2 / 67-

   It is true that SS Sturmbannführer Dikmann (sic) used my company to carry out the extermination operation in Oradour. Dikmann (sic) reinforced the company with 2 infantry fighting vehicles and a small leadership squadron. He was the sole commander and in command of the Combat Group. He reserved the entire command power over all members of the Fighting Group for himself. All orders that led to the destruction of Oradour had been personally given by Dikmann (sic). For that reason, I can not in any way agree with the allegations to my person. If today, after Dikmann (sic) has fallen, I am to be blamed for this extermination action, I must defend myself against it in the strongest terms. The French court-martial in Bordeaux put me in the first place of the accused after Dickmann's (sic) death, and it gave the impression that I had started the whole extermination campaign. Regrettably Dickmann (sic) could not testify anymore. As early as 1944, I was questioned by the court-martial of the SS Division Das Reich (see Detlef Okrent's statement of April 1963). Investigations were ordered by the Commander West, Field Marshal Kluge. Due to the investigation, no case was opened against my person. In 1963/64 I was interrogated by the public prosecutor in Dortmund (I cannot find any Dortmund statements from 1983/64, only this one from 1962) and had to give several statements on the extermination action in Oradour. In the investigation of the court-martial of the Division Das Reich, it was ascertained to my knowledge that in this action I had held back to the limit of what was possible and was about to refuse to obey orders ("about to refuse to obey orders", a most unusual action for an SS-Officer). Also, I determined to do no dirty-work for Dickmann (sic). 

   As a trained gendarmerie officer and as the former head of a Military Police Unit I knew how far to go (in taking reprisal actions). I particularly sharply point out subsequent points that are listed in your letter.

1) I would have taken the lead in the extermination action.
2) I would have searched the whole village Oradour with my men.
3) I had made available the explosives supply of the company and caused the demolition of the church.
4) I gave the order to shoot women and children.
5) The monitoring of the execution of all commands was done by myself.

Before commenting on the above points, I would like to explain that personally, I had no reason to take action against the French people. I had not been shot at or attacked on this day. The same goes for my company.

To 1. The SS Sturmbannführer Dickmann (sic) would never have taken the initiative out of hand. Dickmann (sic) was an active SS Sturmbannführer, was an instructor, an experienced SS leader in the war effort and Iron Cross 1 holder. I, on the other hand was a reservist, civilian gendarmerie, chief sergeant and field policeman. It would never have occurred to Dickmann (sic) to give even a small amount of his authority. In addition, Dickmann (sic) had his little fighting company with him. That was the unshakeable reason for keeping the command to himself.

To 2. Here I state: I came only 25-30 minutes later to the village of Oradour and know only of the eastward as well as a small piece of the northern part of Oradour. I never entered the other parts of the village. I entered the village only on Dickmann's (sic) express orders. For this reason, it came to pass that I arrived in the village about 25-30 minutes after the company had met, and when I arrived, the population was assembled on the village square. Dickmann (sic) had already given orders to the company platoon leader. The individual tasks became known to me later during the extermination campaign. One of my train drivers explained the tasks to me. It was the 4th platoon commander who had the order from Dickmann (sic): to secure the village perimeter.

Further, Dickmann's (sic) orders had sent the two infantry fighting vehicles into the village. The orders of these tanks I do not have today. Dickmann (sic) himself had settled down on the village square with his little group of fighters and led the entire extermination campaign from there. Since Dickmann (sic) left me, I went back to the edge of the village. Dickmann (sic) had the male population killed by commands he had subdivided by the platoon leaders. He chose the barns and garages in which the men were shot.

To 3. Then Dickmann (sic) let me get back to the village. He ordered me to always stay at the edge of the village. He then told me he wanted to blow up the church. As I was speechless at this moment and made an irritated face, he dropped the remark, "they are probably afraid." Demanded from me the explosives stock of the company and when I did not give it, he let himself get the device operator and assembled the stock. On his personal orders, the explosive was brought and an underling, who had volunteered to carry out the demolition. At that moment I objected to this blast and suggested that Dickmann (sic) spare the women and children and let them go. He refused and had the explosive charge attached to and in the church. It was here that an explosion of about 2 kilograms took place. Where and how the charge was installed in the church, I do not know because I did not enter the church. Dickmann (sic), let the charge ignite. The underling, who fired the charge at the church door, was seriously injured. I can not describe the consequences of the detonation and the effect, as I left the village immediately and stayed at the edge of the village until the end of the extermination campaign. The impressions that I received in this extermination campaign would not have allowed me to go back to the village of Oradour despite orders (Kahn is saying that he was emotionally overwhelmed by what he had seen).

To 4. Dickmann (sic) personally gave the order to shoot the women and children. I could not give the order because I left the village immediately after the detonation (of the explosives in the church).

To 5. I also have to disagree on this point. The SS-Sturmbannführer Dickmann (sic) left the supervision of the execution of his orders to an SS-leader of his management staff, who is said to have reported accordingly. 

   I had no connection with the small leadership squadron of the Sturmbannführer Dickmann (sic) and no seeking to either. The orders coming from there were so obnoxious that as a 12 years service soldier I had to turn my back. I greatly regret the victims of Oradour and have felt that the use of my company was an attack on my person. Due to the precedent relationship, I could not prevent the extermination action in Oradour. I approached Dickmann (sic) several times and asked him to have the regiment take back the extermination order. Dickmann (sic) basically refused. Here I would like to emphasize that today I still do not know who triggered the extermination action. At that time I assumed that the extermination action had been ordered by higher authority. The stubbornness and the precise command, made me believe that he had received orders. I am not aware of a search of the village of Oradour and the capture of men of the village, and Dickmann (sic) did not speak of it in any way. If the former Standartenfuhrer and regimental commander Stadler stated today that the regiment did not give the order for destruction, then I must state that I can neither agree nor disagree. The search for the disappeared Knight's Cross bearer and SS-Sturmbannführer Kämpfe did not take place on this day (This is interesting as it shows that Diekmann knew that wherever Kämpfe was, he was not in Oradour-sur-Glane, so there was no point in looking for him, alive or, dead). The Incidents on the advance of the 2-SS Division Das Reich had made me believe that it was a retaliatory offense. On the advance of the division into the invasion area, the division was attacked, especially near Tulle - Limoges by French resistance fighters. The division came to the area of Lemoges (sic) - St. Junien - under the most trying circumstances. Explosions, roadblocks, attacks on small companies, attacks on individual Military Police units and destruction of individual vehicles were the cause. The French resistance fighters had the order from London that the advance of the tanks and the Panzer Grenadier Division in particular should be prevented by all means and under all circumstances. The number of people and material failures was considerable, in line with the attacks by the French resistance fighters on the Division. For this reason, I accepted the reprisal at Oradour (Kahn is saying that he agreed with reprisals in principle, but not with the degree of violence used against Oradour).

   I can only answer your statement that the company has testified against my person, that the length of the investigation, the death of Dickmann (sic) and the expected punishment, were the cause. As the only SS leader, I was replaced by Dickmann (sic) and placed in the foreground during the Oradour trial. In press reports after the trial my name was not mentioned, but only the name of Dickmann (sic). After the trial, my name was not mentioned, but only Dickmann's (sic) name. I refuse all charges. This refusal also applies to the charge that I had the village burned. When I came to the village on Dickmann's (sic) orders, 25-30 minutes later, Dickmann (sic) had already set fire to the western part of the village. This order had never come from me.

I feel obliged to point out facts that were known to the entire company and can not be denied.

1. At the company's departure I described the extermination project of Dickmann (sic) before the entire company as objectionable. In doing so, I informed the company that I did not agree with the action and this employment of the company (this seems highly unlikely, an SS-Officer telling his men that their orders from above were wrong).

2. Contrary to the command of Dickmann (sic), to let everyone into the village but let no one out, I had an 18 year old girl who wanted to enter Oradour, sent back. Dickmann (sic) would have had this girl shot immediately.

3. Two full tram cars were also returned by me to Lemoges (sic). The inmates would never have left the village alive. It was about 70 - 80 people.

4. After completing the extermination action Dickmann (sic) handed over my company again. I immediately banned all attacks on the still-to-be-killed civilian population. I supported the order by pointing out that I personally would shoot anyone who attacked or killed a civilian.

5. The SS-Sturmbannführer Dickmann (sic) had left some 30 - 40 civilians seized while leaving the village of Oradour and sent me to shoot them. I did not execute this order, but personally took them to safety, away from Oradour.

   These undeniable facts have not been disclosed to you. But they confirm the fact that I did not agree with the destruction and resisted. From press reports I could see that an SS Untersturmführer Klaar was sentenced to death in the Oradour trial. The same applies to SS Obersturmführer Lange, Dickmanns (sic) Adjutant, both SS leaders were not in Oradour. For this reason, I do not consider the investigations and statements in this process to be accurate. If my opinion on the extermination campaign in Oradour should not be enough, I would like to ask you to inspect the interrogation minutes of the Dortmund public prosecutor's office.

   From my statement, you will see that there can be no violation of humanity and the rule of law. 

   On the basis of the facts stated, I ask you to refrain from the withdrawal of my pension.

   At the same time I ask you to bear in mind that I am a victim of the war. I have had my left arm amputated and damage to the right hand, I can not fully perform a profession. As a 59-year-old, I can no longer meet the pension obligations of compulsory insurance. Especially my family would be affected. I would have to take my 12-year-old son from high school and could not give him a decent education.

On this occasion, I ask you to decide in my favour. 

 

Otto Erich Kahn


Back to top

Back to Appendices

Back to Home Page

© Michael Williams 10th March 2000 ... updated Friday, 29 January 2021