Weidinger's letter to the Minister of Justice in 1968

 

    This letter forms part of what I am calling the Dortmund files. These files form the record of the investigation into the part paid by Heinrich Lammerding when he was the commander of the 2nd SS-Panzer Division, Das Reich, into the attacks on both Tulle and Oradour-sur-Glane. The purpose of these interrogations was to determine whether there was a case for Lammerding to answer in France. The French wanted him extradited, so that he could be tried by a French court. Given that Lammerding was already under a death sentence in France for his part in the Tulle hangings on 9th June 1944, he was quite naturally not willing to go voluntarily. In effect, these hearings were to determine, if in German eyes, Lammerding had a case to answer and if he had, then Germany would allow the French request. In the end, after many hundreds of pages of evidence spread over several years, the German judicial system decided that there was no case to answer and so Lammerding never stood trial for any war crimes at all, either in France or any other country.

    This letter is dated 26th October 1968 and so is over 24 years after the events at Tulle and Oradour-sur-Glane. It is not to be wondered that some degree of memory loss and / or confusion existed in Weidinger's mind when he was describing events of long ago (although he was better than some other witnesses). In fact Weidinger had become the Das Reich and Der Führer chronicler and eventually the author of numerous books and pamphlets detailing all the events they had been through: see the bibliography for details. In the light of Weidinger's research into the Der Führer regimental history, he can perhaps be relied on more than some other witnesses. What is notable in this statement is that Diekmann's name is spelled correctly throughout and that is quite unusual.

    What is quite striking and is consistent with all the other statements that form part of the Dortmund hearings, is the denial that Lammerding had personally ordered the killings at Tulle or the destruction of Oradour-sur-Glane.

    Comments about the text below are in italics throughout.


 

OTTO WEIDINGER ..... Aalen ..... 26-10-1968

To the Minister of Justice, Dr. Heinemann

Bonn am Rhine. Ministry of Justice PO Box 53

Concerning the Tulle and Oradour affairs on 9th and 10th June 1944 

Dear Minister! (the exclamation mark is quite normal in this sort of letter)

The mayor of Tulle (France), who is also a socialist member of the National Assembly, asked the government in a public question why the former divisional commander of the SS-Division "Das Reich", retired general Lammerding , who was sentenced to death in France 15 years ago, is still free and lives in Germany as a wealthy citizen. He called on the government to negotiate with the German government that retired General Lammerding should finally be brought before a German court. 

I am therefore contacting you today to orient you in such a case and to give you the opportunity to distinguish between propaganda and historical facts. 

From 14th June 1944 I was a regimental commander in the SS division "Das Reich" and was delivered to France in 1947. From October 1947 to June 1951 - that is three and a half years - I was in military custody at the Permanent Higher Military Court in Bordeaux. I was subjected to a judicial investigation in three different proceedings, with the result that in two proceedings I was "non lieu" (case dismissed), i.e. received a termination of the proceedings and was brought to trial in the last trial with the only charge of: "Voluntary membership of the Waffen SS". I was acquitted together with 50 comrades in my Division (Das Reich) in June 1951 and immediately returned to Germany with these comrades. I run a drugstore (pharmaceutical chemist's) in Aalen / Württemberg today. So much for my person. 

From my long years of imprisonment in France and from numerous interviews, I therefore know all the facts that are important for the two complexes of Tulle and Oradour. 

In both cases, a careful examination was carried out for over four years by specially appointed investigating judges, with the investigating authority having an advantage in every respect. 

In 1947, a number of lawsuits were conducted against members of the "Das Reich" division, including a trial for the "Tulle" affair. 

For eight weeks from January 13 to March 12, 1953, the great Oradour trial, in which the Alsatian members of the 3rd company "Der Führer", who had been released, had to appear before the eyes of the world press. 

45 members of this company were sentenced to death in absentia. In absentia because the majority of them had died by 8th May 1945 on the Normandy front and in the subsequent heavy fighting. An Alsatian and a German were sentenced to death in their presence (Georg Boos and Karl Lenz). The responsible officer, Sturmbannführer Diekmann, who had acted independently and without an order in Oradour, had already died in the first battles in Normandy, which meant that the war proceedings of the "Das Reich" division against him had to be concluded. 

The German company members - half of them not yet under the age of 18, (this is a mistake, it should read, "over the age of 18") were sentenced to 8-12 years of forced labor. The Alsatian company received between 4 and 8 years (the court records show between 5 and 8 years) of forced labor. The penalties of the Alsatians were suspended. It was therefore measured for two reasons - for political reasons. A German was acquitted (this was Erwin Dagenhardt, see The trial at Bordeaux, the verdicts). 

The two NCOs sentenced to death were later pardoned to life imprisonment and later to long prison terms. They were released in 1959. 

So the events of Oradour were atoned for on the German side. The resistance movement had already avenged the victims of Tulle and Oradour in 1944 and 1945. 

The exact documents relating to these processes are available from the Central Legal Protection Office in Bonn. 

The reason for Oradour was the kidnapping and murder of the commander of the 3rd company of the SS-Regiment "Der Führer ", Sturmbannführer Kämpfe. Without this kidnapping, the 3rd company of the "Der Führer" regiment would never have gone to Oradour, where, according to reports from a Frenchman, a high ranking German officer was imprisoned by the Maquisards and who was to be publicly executed on the evening of 10 June 1944. It could only be Kämpfe. We never defended Oradour because there is nothing to defend (by "defended", Weidinger means, attempted to justify). However, this act was not done on orders, but by human error by an officer. The recent French claim that General Lammerding has given the order for Oradour is completely out of thin air and does not correspond to historical facts. The claim that the executions in Tulle on 9-6-1944 occurred without cause is also untrue (here Weidinger means that the killing and mutilation of the German soldiers in front of the school, provided full justification for the reprisals. It must be noted that Weidinger does not comment at all on how the selection process of who was to be killed was carried out, or what standards of evidence and appeal were used). 

The reconnaissance division of the "Das Reich" division, who were law enforcement officers under international law, were horrified by the Maquisards' capture of Tulle, had 9 fatalities and approximately twice the number of wounded in the fight against these terrorists. When Tulle was in the hands of German troops, 52 German soldiers without weapons were found murdered in front of a school in violation of international law, desecrated and horribly mutilated. The skulls were broken and the eyes were stuck out. Some of the dead were mutilated in the face until beyond recognition. Some of the dead had their pants pulled down. The genitals had been cut off and put in the dead men's mouths. Several dead lay huddled and pushed together under a truck. A dead man was found to have both heels pierced and a rope pulled through the heel tendons. It was evident that the wounded or dead had been driven over by the truck and some had apparently been dragged to death. The dead counted up to six bullets through the soles of their feet. Broken wine bottles lay between the dead. A local resident, who had been hiding in a cellar near the scene of the crime, said that the Maquisards celebrated a joyous celebration with wine between the dead and played soccer in the middle of the corpses with a German steel helmet. (It is noteworthy that Weidinger does not claim to have personally seen any of these bodies, even though later on in this letter, he says that he visited Tulle on 9th June)

Because of these facts, retaliation measures had to be taken, which were covered by the Sperrle decree and by the very strict and tough framework orders of the OB-West and the Wehrmacht command staff. The division leadership would have made itself punishable if it had idly accepted this crime. General. Lammerding did not come to Tulle until the executions had started. (If this is true then obviously Lammerding could not have ordered the executions).

Due to the pressure of time because of the imminent march of the division, the division's police officer had already begun executing the suspects on the assumption that the division commander would of course agree and approve them. General Lammerding had therefore given no orders for the executions. (There is no mention of the numbers executed, or the method of killing).

He was sentenced to death in his absence at the Tulle trial in 1951. In Germany, an in-depth investigation was carried out against Mr. Lammerding a few years ago by the Central Office in Dortmund for the Prosecution of Nazi Crimes. 

The former 1a of the Division "Das Reich", Lieutenant Colonel A. Stückler, a general staff officer of the army, who was at that time with the Division, can give you any information about Tulle. 

His address is:

Lieutenant Colonel i.G. a.D. Albert Stückler

8050 Freising / Oberbayern

Laubenbräugasse (what is interesting here is the fact that Stückler, a SS-Sturmbannführer from the Das Reich Division, continued his army career post-war and had risen to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel by the time of this interview).

So it was not at all what French war and post-war propaganda claimed, that the division "Das Reich" was senselessly murdering, scorching and burning, like an apocalyptic monster raging through France, but that it had been ordered and under the command of the army - the LVIII Panzer Corps and the LXVI.AK - In the worst Maquis area in France, in the French Central Massif on its way to the Normandy Front, the Maquisards forced it to fight. 

The division never struck first, but only reacted to attacks and crimes committed by the Maquisards. I feel obliged to give you this orientation in the event that France actually requires the Federal Government to re-hear the Lammerding case before a German court. 

I have been working for years to seek reconciliation with France. In the summer of 1967, at the invitation of a Frenchman in Normandy, I met our enemies in the Falaise cauldron battle. 

In May of this year I had my first fundamental discussion in Paris with a former chief of resistance - hopeful signs that this serious wound is also starting to heal. I am also in regular contact with some Frenchmen who work for the same goal. 

Every reopening of processes that have long been completed, tears open old wounds again and is a blow to the slowly spreading reconciliation between France and Germany. 

It is deeply regrettable that the deployment of the "Das Reich" division at that time was brought up again and again after 23 years if it was considered politically necessary. 

I am at your disposal at any time for all the information that you need about the use of the former SS-Division "Das Reich". 

I would be grateful for confirmation of receipt of this letter.

 

Yours sincerely  .......................  Otto Weidinger

 

NB: Since I don't have an office secretary and write my letters myself, I ask you to be lenient about the various mistakes.

It seems that Weidinger's plea on behalf of his old SS boss worked, because Lammerding was never extradited to France, or even stood trial in Germany, for either Tulle or Oradour.

 


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© Michael Williams ... 18 July 2020 ... last updated on Friday, 24 July 2020