Rainer Pohlen, the lawyer for the former SS soldier, poses
with an edition of Germany's Criminal Code in his office in
the western German city of Moenchengladbach.
German prosecutors have charged an 88-year-old former
member of Hitler's elite Waffen SS of taking part in a World
War 2 massacre of hundreds of French villagers, nearly 70 years
after one of the most infamous Nazi atrocities.
In the methodical June 1944 slaughter, SS soldiers took the
small village of Oradour-sur-Glane in central France by
surprise and killed nearly all its inhabitants within a few
hours. They killed 642 men, women and children.
The men were herded into barns and shot dead while the women
and children were burned alive in the village church.
"The prosecution charges an 88-year-old pensioner from
Cologne with (joining in) the destruction of
Oradour-sur-Glane in France," said Achim Hengstenberg, court
spokesman in the western German city.
"He and another shooter are said to have killed 25 men in a
barn with his machinegun. He is also said to have aided the
burning down of the village church."
Hengstenberg said the charge lay with the young offenders
chamber of the Cologne court because the suspect was only 19
years old at the time of the crime. He was not named in the
statement. The young offenders chamber will decide whether or
not to open proceedings against the aged accused.
The SS unit decided to wipe Oradour-sur-Glane off the map as
an example to French Resistance guerrillas after a vehicle
carrying an SS doctor was ambushed on a road leading to the
village and its occupants abducted.
Among those killed were 207 children, the youngest eight
weeks old. Only five men and a woman survived the massacre.
"It's important that we find someone even if it's 70 years
afterwards," Robert Hebras, one of the six survivors, told
French broadcaster BFM TV.
Oradour is an ambiguous symbol because it represents not just
the atrocities committed by the Nazis but also a post-war
failure to punish the perpetrators.
Heinz Lammerding, the Waffen SS general in command of the
unit that committed the massacre, was captured by Allied
forces but never extradited to France and was sentenced to
death in absentia by a Bordeaux military court in 1951. He
died in his bed in Bavaria in 1971.
Hengstenberg said the new charge resulted from a fresh look
at a previous investigation into the events.
In 1953, 12 Alsatian soldiers who took part in the massacre
while serving in the German army were sentenced to life in
prison and one to death, but France's parliament immediately
pardoned them in the name of "national reconciliation".
Their province of Alsace had been annexed by Germany in 1940
and Alsatians were deemed to have been forced to join the
Nazi army, even though some clearly enlisted voluntarily.
Earlier on Wednesday, a German court dismissed a case against
a 92-year-old man accused of killing a Dutch resistance
fighter in World War 2 when he was in the SS, citing a loss