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Oradour: 70 years later

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Werner Christukat, 89, has been indicted for participating in the 1944 massacre perpetrated by the SS in Oradour-sur-Glane. He says he wasn't directly involved. Seventy years after the fact, there are more questions than answers, and proof is elusive.

"There was this boy," says Werner Christukat. "He came walking over the hill. A small blond boy with a bicycle and he wanted to go past me and into the village. I can still picture it exactly. I stopped him and wanted to chase him away, but then the junior squad leader came up and started yelling at me…"

The events described by Christukat took place almost 70 years ago, but he has never forgotten them. Yet ever since Nazi hunters paid him a visit last year, he has been combing through his memory for additional images: during the day when he sits in his sunroom in his knitted vest surrounded by pictures of his grandchildren; at night when he wanders sleeplessly through his dark home.

Everything is coming back. "Not a night goes by in which I don't think of Oradour. In front of me, I can still see the church through the treetops. I hear a bang and then the screaming of women and children. ... I can't get it out of my mind. I felt so dreadfully sorry for them. But the worst is that I couldn't save the boy."

In the summer of 1944, Christukat was 19 years old, a machine-gunner with the Waffen-SS and trained to obey orders. He had only just arrived in France a short time before. "My honor is loyalty. A German soldier fights chivalrously," he says. "I believed that stuff from Adolf Hitler."


Germany is planning to prosecute the last remaining suspected war criminals before they die. Very interesting article by Spiegel.

It does raise an interesting question though, after 70 years, can Werner Christukat get a fair trial?

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I have to say that cases like this of very low ranked personnel that may or may not have been at the scenes of war crimes stink of Nazi prosecutors trying to hold onto their jobs as their target market dies of old age.

If guys like this had been gone after from the beginning there would have been literally hundreds of thousands of cases involving lower ranked SS and Wehrmacht. So why now?

I'm no apologist in case anyone thinks that - I believe more should have been done after the war to prosecute anyone of command rank for all atrocities on the Eastern and Western front and also those who persecuted civilians in Germany and the occupied countries. The Cold War probably stilled the Allies ardour for going after what might have been 'useful' men in both the military and organisational side of the Nazi regime.

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