13th French SS man at Bad Reichenall massacre

Foreign volunteers, collaboration and Axis Allies 1939-1945.

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Paddy Keating

Post by Paddy Keating » Tue May 09, 2006 5:50 am

Oh Lordy...here we go! Well, that's your point-of-view, Laurent, and it is merely one of many viewpoints expressed about these matters in France. Since an understanding of the byzantine nature of French politics and society is germane to understanding the nuances of a thread about French soldiers in American uniforms murdering French soldiers in German unforms, let me respond to a couple of your points.
Jean Moulin had strictly no "fame and charisma" during the war, as all underground combattants. Jean Moulin managed to unify the Resistance and placedall the underground groups under the CNR (National Resistance Council), headed originally by Jean Moulin himself on behalf and written approval of General Charles de Gaulle.
I could introduce you to some FTP veterans who would disagree with your assertion that Moulin brought them together with the FFI and other Resistance groups but I do not expect that you would be very willing to listen to them. Few people have listened to FTP veterans since the Gaullists airbrushed them out of the Libération tableau.

Moulin went to France at de Gaulle's behest on a mission to unite the Resistance and achieved much success. While I do not think that de Gaulle wished Moulin dead - anymore than, say, Eamonn de Valera wished Michael Collins dead - many cynics in France say that Moulin's disappearance was advantageous to the postwar promotion of de Gaulle as Saviour of the Nation. Moulin had been the youngest Préfet in France before the war and it is widely accepted that had he survived, he would have become a strong political force and household figure in postwar France, thereby diluting de Gaulle's public image.
[Moulin] was probably betrayed, but, till date, nothing is clear about WHO betrayed him.
Moulin was certainly betrayed and there are various theories about who betrayed him. I did not say that the Gaullists were directly involved. I said that Gaullists were probably involved. That does not mean, however, that Charles de Gaulle was involved.

There was a hypothesis that he was sold out by Lucie Aubrac in return for the life of her husband in a deal organised by Klaus Barbie. The Aubracs obtained - and I use that term carefully - a court judgement against the author and publishers who promoted this theory and that might have been the end of it but for the embarrassing episode involving a group of prominent, respectable French historians invited to debate the allegations by a leading newspaper. The historians declined to dismiss the hypothesis.

Whatever the case, it is certain that Jean Moulin was betrayed by his own and France has difficulty reconciling herself to that harsh fact. In fact, France has difficulty with any version of her wartime history that differs from the rose-tinted ideal of les maquisards running rings around les boches, evil Germans gratuitously terrorising everyone in sight and the glory of La Libération. In the Les Invalides military museum, in the room dedicated to the Marshalls of France, Pétain's dates are given as 1856 - 1940. Pétain, the Hero of Verdun, died in 1951. When France changes those dates to read 1856 - 1951, it will be a sign of growing up and learning to assume responsibility for things.

I expect you're already furiously writing a PM to the management demanding that I be banned again for "flaming" or whatever you are going to accuse me of but you are just shooting the messenger and demonstrating an all-too typical inability, which I encounter everyday here in France, to accept viewpoints other than those you feel comfortable with.

PK

sid guttridge
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Post by sid guttridge » Tue May 09, 2006 6:25 am

Hi Paddy,

The fact that Moulin may have been betrayed from within the Gaullist movement is not evidence that Gaullism was out to get him. Individuals act or can be pressurised to act for their own or others benefit entirely unrelated to any wider conspiracy.

".....many cynics in France" may well "say that Moulin's disappearance was advantageous to the postwar promotion of de Gaulle as Saviour of the Nation". But is it really likely that a publicly little known individual in deep cover was killed in the middle of the war to promote a set of then purely hypothetical post-war circumstances?

I tend to agree that France has been slow to analyse honestly its mixed record during the war, but the myths and legends have gradually been stripped away since "The Sorrow and the Pity" was made some thirty years ago. I would suggest that you are pushing at an already gradually opening door. There is an enormous amount of analysis of Vichy, the Milice, the LVF-Charlemagne, the Malgre-Nous, etc. If anything, the resistance of the left has most to complain about.

Cheers,

Sid.

Laurent Daniel
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Post by Laurent Daniel » Tue May 09, 2006 7:34 am

Paddy Keating wrote:Oh Lordy...here we go! Well, that's your point-of-view, Laurent, and it is merely one of many viewpoints expressed about these matters in France.
Oh, yes. Where? Who?
Just to know.
Since an understanding of the byzantine nature of French politics and society is germane to understanding the nuances of a thread about French soldiers in American uniforms murdering French soldiers in German unforms, let me respond to a couple of your points.
Oh Lordy, here we go again.
The time old Neo-Nazi argument, used completely out of context but oriented towards XXIst century politics...
Once again, the modern Neo-Nazi trying to bring the memories of the veterans into despicable political discussions.
For your information, arguments like yours classify you, as far as the opinions of the "Cercle des Descendants des Veterans Francais du Front de l'Est" are concerned, among the mythomans. Cheers.
I could introduce you to some FTP veterans who would disagree with your assertion that Moulin brought them together with the FFI and other Resistance groups but I do not expect that you would be very willing to listen to them. Few people have listened to FTP veterans since the Gaullists airbrushed them out of the Libération tableau.
Please, introduce them to me. I am in daily contact with former FTPF (Don't forget the final F) members, old resistants from the French Britanny who had the kindness to allow me to publish their memories there:
http://www.histoquiz-contemporain.com/H ... ssiers.htm
And there:
http://perso.wanadoo.fr/stephane.delogu ... 06-06.html
(Bottom of the page, Commandant Petri editorial)
Names, sources are there. Would you mind to tell me a bit more about your mysterious sources?
For your information, and it seems that you badly need some, several former members of the FTPF, such as Leutnant-Colonel Georges Guingoin and others, were made "Compagnons de la Liberation" after the war by General Charles de Gaulle. Charles Tillon, the founder of the FTPF, was a Minister withoin General Charles de Gaulle governemnt after the war.
Brushed away? Who told you? The KGB? :D
Moulin went to France at de Gaulle's behest on a mission to unite the Resistance and achieved much success. While I do not think that de Gaulle wished Moulin dead - anymore than, say, Eamonn de Valera wished Michael Collins dead - many cynics in France say that Moulin's disappearance was advantageous to the postwar promotion of de Gaulle as Saviour of the Nation. Moulin had been the youngest Préfet in France before the war and it is widely accepted that had he survived, he would have become a strong political force and household figure in postwar France, thereby diluting de Gaulle's public image.
Do you have ANY sort of sources to support that? "Widely accepted" by who? Where? Monsieur Jean Moulin is widely accepted, within the serious French circuits, as a perfect potential Prime Minister of a French Government headed by the President Charles de Gaulle after the war. Monsieur Jean Moulin would never ever have betrayed Charles de Gaulle. Your assumptions are mere petty insults to his memory.
Moulin was certainly betrayed and there are various theories about who betrayed him. I did not say that the Gaullists were directly involved. I said that Gaullists were probably involved. That does not mean, however, that Charles de Gaulle was involved.
"Probably". From where you got that ?
I KNOW from where. Just to let you post it here..... if you dare....
There was a hypothesis that he was sold out by Lucie Aubrac in return for the life of her husband in a deal organised by Klaus Barbie. The Aubracs obtained - and I use that term carefully - a court judgement against the author and publishers who promoted this theory and that might have been the end of it but for the embarrassing episode involving a group of prominent, respectable French historians invited to debate the allegations by a leading newspaper. The historians declined to dismiss the hypothesis.
The Aubrac saga ALWAYS ended up in complete legal and historical denial of their involvment in the betrayal of Jean Moulin, update your archives.
The main suspect in that story was René Hardy. The simple fact that you even don't mention him shows that, oh, well , that you don't know what you are talking about.
Whatever the case, it is certain that Jean Moulin was betrayed by his own and France has difficulty reconciling herself to that harsh fact. In fact, France has difficulty with any version of her wartime history that differs from the rose-tinted ideal of les maquisards running rings around les boches, evil Germans gratuitously terrorising everyone in sight and the glory of La Libération. In the Les Invalides military museum, in the room dedicated to the Marshalls of France, Pétain's dates are given as 1856 - 1940. Pétain, the Hero of Verdun, died in 1951. When France changes those dates to read 1856 - 1951, it will be a sign of growing up and learning to assume responsibility for things.
France has been kind enough to recognise that Petain, before being a collaborationist traitor, who allowed the deporation of the French Jews, the French resistants, the Refugies in France like the German anti-Nazis and the Spanish Republicans, who shook hand with Hitler at Montoire, and so on, to name a few, was a hero. And that's what we want to remember. Petain 1856 - 1940.
You are kindly requested not to give France advices aboutr what we should "assume". We don't need your councelling.
I expect you're already furiously writing a PM to the management demanding that I be banned again for "flaming" or whatever you are going to accuse me of but you are just shooting the messenger and demonstrating an all-too typical inability, which I encounter everyday here in France, to accept viewpoints other than those you feel comfortable with.
No. The managment here don't need my "furious" :roll: writings, they know what they have to do on their own even if, IMHO, they usually show way too much patience to political rants like yours.
What are you "encountering everyday in France". Are you French? Or leaving in France?
Come on, stop hiding behind your screen.
I am a Frenhc citizen bormn in 1953, I post here with my real name, I live in Bangkok as published here, my real email is know to many members and can be published here any time at your convenience.
Guts to do the same, mysterious "Paddy living in France"?
Get out of the bush and gimme details about your "sources".

Paddy Keating

Post by Paddy Keating » Tue May 09, 2006 9:49 am

That's me out of here. I can get this kind of abuse from the winos on the corner across from my apartment in Paris, but in the original French of course. 8)

I 've said it before and I'll say it again: we should do another forum where veterans can come and participate without every thread in which Arminius, Haen and Co post being dragged into the gutter by the same people every time. Somehow, I don't think it's going to happen here!

LOL!

PK

Laurent Daniel
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Post by Laurent Daniel » Tue May 09, 2006 10:10 am

Paddy Keating wrote:I 've said it before and I'll say it again: we should do another forum where veterans can come and participate without every thread in which Arminius, Haen and Co post being dragged into the gutter by the same people every time. Somehow, I don't think it's going to happen here!
Try to quote here your sources re. General Charles de Gaulle and Monsieur Jean Moulin.

Can you?
Regards
Daniel Laurent

Paddy Keating

Post by Paddy Keating » Tue May 09, 2006 10:18 am

sid guttridge wrote:Hi Paddy,

The fact that Moulin may have been betrayed from within the Gaullist movement is not evidence that Gaullism was out to get him. Individuals act or can be pressurised to act for their own or others benefit entirely unrelated to any wider conspiracy.
I didn't say it was. I suggested that Moulin's betrayal might have been orchestrated by people in the Gaullist camp, in other words, Gaullists. It is not intended as a slur on Charles de Gaulle, who was arguably the greatest leader Europe has seen since WW2 and also one of the most honest in that he was poorer when he left office than he was when he started.
".....many cynics in France" may well "say that Moulin's disappearance was advantageous to the postwar promotion of de Gaulle as Saviour of the Nation". But is it really likely that a publicly little known individual in deep cover was killed in the middle of the war to promote a set of then purely hypothetical post-war circumstances?

I tend to agree that France has been slow to analyse honestly its mixed record during the war, but the myths and legends have gradually been stripped away since "The Sorrow and the Pity" was made some thirty years ago. I would suggest that you are pushing at an already gradually opening door. There is an enormous amount of analysis of Vichy, the Milice, the LVF-Charlemagne, the Malgre-Nous, etc. If anything, the resistance of the left has most to complain about.
I know all of this but there is still a considerable problem. Getting the French in general, with exceptions, to face up to their history both during and immediately after WW2 is like trying to tell the Austrians that they were not "victims" of Nazism and suggesting to the Japanese that they were not liberating China from Western Imperialists! But yes, the door is gradually opening and that is a good thing.

I acknowledged that the Resistance of the Left had gotten a raw deal when I referred to how the Gaullists had effectively airbrushed the FTP out of the picture after WW2. In fact, a friend of mine is looking into making a documentary about the FTP before the remaining veterans die or slip into senility. A lot of FTP men were killed after the liberation. Mind you, it went both ways. There was an undeclared civil war in France in the years immediately following the war.

Image

A field-made FTP standard obtained from a distant relative of mine. Just to add some colour to this thread. Now, let's get back to General Leclerc and the French Waffen-SS men.

PK

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Post by panzermahn » Tue May 09, 2006 4:55 pm

Paddy Keating wrote:
sid guttridge wrote:Hi Paddy,

We don't seem to be in significant disagreement.

However, I would point out that if the Vichy government's writ ran out in "September 1944 or thereabouts", the status of Frenchmen caught in German uniform in May 1945 may be rather less questionable than you suggest.

Cheers,

Sid.
Interesting point. There again, although the Pétain government left Vichy late in 1944, the Germans took Pétain and some others to Germany and I think, although I am relying on hazy memory, that the Vichy regime continued to exist until the very end of the war, albeit in exile and effective suspension. Frenchmen serving the New Europe in German uniform with the blessing of the legitimate French government were not traitors to the Gaullist camp and nor were they traitors to France. They fought for France in their way. While many of the Miliciens and Police allemandes who were shot doubtlessly deserved it, I don't think those young men murdered by Leclerc and his subordinates deserved such a fate.

You know, Colonel de Gaulle, who made himself a General in London, was sentenced to death in absentia for desertion in the face of the enemy after he did a runner to England. The Gaullists were probably also responsible for the betrayal of Jean Moulin, whose fame and charisma represented a threat to Charles de Gaulle as the annointed leader of a postwar France.

The Gaullists were out to remove any obstacle to their aspirations to political power as soon as they hit the beaches in Normandy and they were also out to erase the National Shame, as they saw it. So...short shrift for the FTP and for any Frenchman who had answered the call to fight the Stalinists from whom the FTP took their cues.

Mind you, I think General Leclerc just lost his temper when the young man pointed out that he was in American uniform and under American control. The French ruling élite and officer class have never been noted for their charm or decency and Leclerc behaved true to type. For the author to suggest that "Get rid of this dross!" - which is how the sense of what Leclerc said in French translates into English - did not amount to an order to kill them is really clutching at straws. It's the Thomas à Beckett defence! Leclerc intended that they die and die they did, without a trial or even a hearing.

Of course, the French murdered - and raped - a great many people, soldiers and civilians alike, when they were in Germany in 1945. One of my cousins was with the 2° DB and another with De Lattre's army and neither man can bring themselves to talk at any length about what they saw their comrades doing. I have also spoken with Maître Jacques Vergès, who was so appalled by the excesses of the Gaullist army, of which he was a member, in Italy, Germany and North Africa after the war that he devoted his life to fighting the French establishment, which he saw as having dishonoured the France he was raised to love.

By the way, Sid, I think you miss the point about old comrades' rallies and gatherings. Yes, of course one can remember one's mates anywhere, anytime, without attending a rally or memorial gathering, by standing or sitting still for a moment or two. However, it is comforting to gather with old comrades sometimes and remember together.

Of course, it requires compassion to understand that some old soldiers need their get-togethers and should be allowed to have them without harassment from morally bankrupt politicians grandstanding for their voters by dispatching policemen who would be better employed tackling criminals to intimidate a group of elderly men visiting a memorial to fallen comrades.

PK
Yes Paddy,

You're correct. The French unit especially with their Moroccan colonial troops constituted a bunch of unpunished war criminals due to their numerous war crimes against the Italians and Germans especially in Esperia and Stuggart 1945.

Don't forget the Colonel Christian de Castries (infamous for his number of mistresses and war crimes) was the commander of the French Moroccan troops that raped indiscriminately at Esperia, Italy (a movie was made from this war crime and they even raped a man. Not until the 60s that the French actually paid compensation to Italy. Don't forget when de Castries brought his Moroccan troops to Stuggart in 1945, they raped the German females there.) Thanks to the military rascal, de Juin who gave the Morroccans permission to rape and plunder for 50 hours that the war crimes at Esperia were committed.

Panzermahn

sid guttridge
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Post by sid guttridge » Wed May 10, 2006 3:23 am

Hi Paddy and Panzermahn,

To offer suggestions without offering supporting evidence is just to indulge in conspiracy theory. This goes both for Moulin and Peiper. Circumstantial evidence may make Gaullists and the Communists likely suspects in their killings. However, as things stand, that is all. To state, for example, with absolute certainty that Peiper was killed by a specific group is to go beyond the hard facts as they are currently known.

I don't think one can dismiss Daniel's points by running away from them. He is more belligerent than I would normally be, but the content of his argument has some weight and should be addressed directly.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Post by panzermahn » Wed May 10, 2006 3:37 am

sid guttridge wrote:Hi Paddy and Panzermahn,

To offer suggestions without offering supporting evidence is just to indulge in conspiracy theory. This goes both for Moulin and Peiper. Circumstantial evidence may make Gaullists and the Communists likely suspects in their killings. However, as things stand, that is all. To state, for example, with absolute certainty that Peiper was killed by a specific group is to go beyond the hard facts as they are currently known.

I don't think one can dismiss Daniel's points by running away from them. He is more belligerent than I would normally be, but the content of his argument has some weight and should be addressed directly.

Cheers,

Sid.
Regarding the rapes at Esperia by French Morroccan troops, it is a well-established fact! Ask any Italian forum members and they will you that. Just because there are extremely few sources in English to document French war crimes does not necessarily meant that it does not happen. there is a movie starring Sophia Loren that talked about this monstrous war crime committed by the French morrocan troops at Esperia.

I'm not talking Degaulle but I just reiterate Paddy point that the French committed war crimes just like the Bolsheviks, Nazis or Americans or British too. (But de Gaulle also had his fair share in the le epuration after the war)

Panzermahn

sid guttridge
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Post by sid guttridge » Wed May 10, 2006 3:47 am

Hi Panzermahn,

There was a reason why I did not mention Esperia in my post............

It is accurate but misleading to state that the "French committed war crimes just like the Bolsheviks, Nazis, or Americans or British too."

Why? Because that particular formulation of words obscures the fact that the Bolsheviks and Nazis also committed war crimes of a type and scale that the French, Americans and British did not.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Post by Laurent Daniel » Wed May 10, 2006 4:45 am

Hi everybody,
Few consideration regarding the way the French are looking at their History during and after WW2, I mean the one who took the pain to read a bit and try to understand.

During the War:

Further to the disaster of 1940, the huge majority of the French had simply and only ONE thing in mind: Survive and try to feed the kids. They were completely distressed by the Occupation, were suffering from the lack of food and other basic necessities, many were badly missing a POW family member, many were scared to death by the Allied bombardment as well as by the Gestapo and their Collaborationist accomplices. They were yelling "Vive Petain" when the Marechal was passing by and, back home, were listening to the BBC French programs to get some news.

Few of those "inactives" had some little kind of "action": Some were giving a hand to the Resistance (Example: The Railway employee passing them copies of the expected German convoys content and itinerary), some were giving a hand to the Gestapo and their Collaborationist accomplices (Example: My neighbour is a Jew/a Terrorrist/Whatever).

Only tiny monorities stood up to "do something". Some joined the Resistance or the Free French, some joined the Germans or the Collaborationist forces. All in all, whatever camp, less than one million.

The Civil War:
Concerning the Civil War in France after Overlord, it is a fact established and recognised since long. I will only quote here Henri Amouroux who started to publish on that topic in 1976, i.e. at a time where the majority of this forum members were not yet born or still wearing pampers.

I would classify 3 types of civil wars:
1 - The *real" one:
Tough fights between the collaborationist forces, mainly the Franc-Gardes of the Milice Francaise, and the underground resistance "Maquisards".
2 - The *criminal* one:
While Collaborationists and Resistants had been summarily executing each other all along the war, the number increased during the Liberation. Debating about who started first and who killed more is, IMHO, futile.
BUT many of the victims of the "Epuration sauvage" (Wild cleansing) had little real link with the Collaboration and many of the perpretators had little real links with the Resistance. Personnal revenge, mafia style elimination of a competitor for financial reasons, "25th hour resistants" getting rid of 4 years of frustration and fears in a criminal way, etc....
3 - Political tensions:
While being all under the same umbrella, i.e. the CNR (National Resistance Council), the Resistance groups were rather politically divided. To make it simple, let's say that we had the FTPF (Under Communist managment) and the "others". Some communist groups were dreaming of taking advantage of the Liberation to take power, some "others" were fearing it. To my knowledge, those political tensions never generated intra-resistance combat. Digging hard, one may find, maybe, one or 2 cases, but nothing of a sizeable scale. They were first very busy helping the Allies to quick the German out of France.

The Gaullist legends:
When General Charles de Gaulle started to manage the government end 44, his main challenge, after having kicked out the AMGOT attempts, was to re-establish the Authority of the Republic, cool down everybody and put them back at work to rebuild the ruined country.

From one end, he managed the disarmament of the resistance groups or their incorporation into the 1st French Army of De Lattre. He also managed the "exchange" of an amnisty on the communist deserter Maurice Thorez, languishing in Moscow, against a firm engagment of the PCF Stalinist bosses to help in disarming the FTPF and cooling down the Revolution enthusiasts. And it worked well.

From the other end, it was an urgent and absolute necessity to stop the "Epuration", heal the wounds and re-unify a fractured country. So, he cut short, by force the "Epuration sauvage" and expedited as quickly as possible the legal one. This explains why some managed to escape it and the quite recent trials we had in France (Papon, Bousquet, Touviers and the like). And, to counter the image of "40 millions of Petainists" France had in 1942, he generated the image of "40 millions of resistants".
And it also worked very well.

For sure, there are still in France people who believe in it, but they are generally quite not informed. My son learned what is mentioned above at the College for example.
And we don't need "external help" to learn that.
:roll:
Regards
Daniel Laurent

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Post by Laurent Daniel » Wed May 10, 2006 5:09 am

Hi Sid,
sid guttridge wrote:Because that particular formulation of words obscures the fact that the Bolsheviks and Nazis also committed war crimes of a type and scale that the French, Americans and British did not.
In fact war crimes are committed in each and any war by all armies whatever they are, even today as you all know.
You are right to mention the difference of scale between Bolsheviks and Nazis war crimes when compared to the others.
But, IMHO, the most important point is maybe not the scale but the fact that, unlike "the others", Bolsheviks and Nazis war crimes were State-inspired, State-sponsored and very often State-organized.
Regards
Daniel Laurent

Paddy Keating

Post by Paddy Keating » Wed May 10, 2006 5:18 am

sid guttridge wrote:
I don't think one can dismiss Daniel's points by running away from them. He is more belligerent than I would normally be, but the content of his argument has some weight and should be addressed directly.

Cheers,

Sid.
I'm not running away from them, Sid. It has been made clear to me that I cannot defend myself against this kind of thing here, that's all. My silence here does not mean that I am "running away" from Laurent Daniel and his "points". I am under a gagging order.

PK

Paddy Keating

Post by Paddy Keating » Wed May 10, 2006 6:53 am

Back to the topic. Here's a brief resumé of what this thread is actually about:



The twelve executed soldiers, aged seventeen to twenty-two, had laid down their arms rather than fight US forces. As any objective, dispassionate student of the subject knows, the majority of young men from occupied countries and territories who volunteered for the German armed forces did so with the intention of fighting Bolchevism, in other words, fighting on the Eastern Front. The fear of Bolchevism was drummed into many children in schools across Europe and Scandanavia in the 1930s.

Some of the twelve soldiers had just come out of hospitals, as evidenced by the labels that can be seen on their uniforms in some photographs. They had apparently surrendered to American advance elements and had been housed or interned in a barracks in Bad Reichenhall. On 6.5.1945, the French 2nd Armoured Division, under General Philippe Leclerc de Hautecloque, arrived in the town and occupied it.

The French Waffen-SS soldiers obviously decided to try to make a break for it because of the notoriety of the 2° DB when dealing even with ‘ordinary’ German POWs. I have a cousin and a number of friends who served with the 2° DB and they have confirmed that most surrendering Germans were killed out of hand. This is not “neo-Nazi” apologia but merely a fact of history. There is no such thing as “clean war”.

As the photographs show, the twelve were spotted as they passed through a small woodland and surrounded by two companies of 2° DB soldiers. They were placed under guard. For a long time, there were attempts to suggest that General Leclerc, who died in an air crash in November 1947 under rather suspicious circumstances , had not even met the prisoners but then the photos taken by a photographer attached to the unit showing him speaking personally with them surfaced. The photos were taken on 8.5.1945.

As we know from various witness testimony, Lelerc unbraided the Frenchmen for wearing German uniforms. The young officer, who was probably a working class or petit bourgois youth for whom the autocratic aristocrat Leclerc would have had supreme contempt to begin with, retorted famously that the General was wearing an American uniform.

One has to understand that Leclerc was moulded into officer material at Saint-Cyr at a time when the French Army thought nothing of shooting a sergeant for “mutiny” for refusing to wear bloodstained trousers taken from a rotting corpse and reissued by a quartermaster short of supplies.

Pétain, the sacred “Hero of Verdun”, had ordered the Roman-style decimation of men of regiments that rebelled against harsh military discipline by refusing to perform their duties. Kubrick’s Paths of Glory was based on this appalling episode. If we are horrified by summary justice in the British Army on the Western Front in WW1, the French system was by comparison barbaric.

Leclerc had served in the colonies where extreme brutality towards the natives was the order of the day. The lives of those he considered inferior or worthless were therefore of little consequence to such a man. So the young officer’s retort enraged him to the point where he ordered the twelve men shot for this “attitude insolente”.

Witnesses have reported that Leclerc ordered that no trace remain of the men or their execution. Whether that it true or not is a moot point. The men were taken to Karlstein and shot in the back, as an additional, vindictive attempt to humiliate them, an ‘extra touch’ obviously ordered by Leclerc. The lieutenant in charge of the execution is said to have remonstrated with Leclerc and to have considered refusing to obey the order, which he felt was not just illegal but immoral. This is a matter of record.

In the event, the order that the men disappear without trace was not stricted adhered to because American soldiers discovered the bodies a couple of days later and buried them. They were later exhumed and reburied. It is telling that no report appears to have been filed by Leclerc’s HQ because French authorities were still looking for some of these men years after WW2.

Such things happen in war and it is regrettable that this incident is sometimes misused by neo-Nazi apologists to suggest that Nazi crimes were not all that bad because the Allied side was guilty of summary executions too. That said, it is just as offensive to harass former German combattants who visit the grave and memorial to these victims just because some local politician wants to demonstrate their 'liberal' credentials in a bid to capture some of the large immigrant vote.

Sure, there is a lot of concern in Germany about the resurgence of Nazism or, at least, Nazi-style movements but this is a phenomenon we are seeing all over Western Europe and says more about popular dissatisfaction with the kind of politicians imposed on us than any real desire on people's parts to see the return of totalitarianism of any kind in Europe. People don't want totalitarianism. That much is clear from the ousting of Berlusconi and the imminent ousting of Blair. The "Nazi vote" is more of an expression of frustration than anything truly sinister.

History cannot be viewed in simple black and white terms anymore than current events. Some people here think it is smart to persecute the handful of veterans we are fortunate to have as participants here and they get away with it time and time again but I wish they would just shut up and let others benefit from this 'living history' facilitity because they have made their points and have nothing new to add.

Did Leclerc murder the twelve men? Were the executioners accessories? The answer must be affirmative because the Geneva Convention applied, whether one likes it or not. Are the German police and their political masters guilty of oppression? Yes. The correct thing to have done, in a democratic European country, would have been to remain in the background keeping an eye on proceedings, much as the police and army in, for instance, Northern Ireland used to do at terrorist funerals.

But the motives for the oppressive policing of the memorial ceremony have nothing to do with any genuine official concern about protecting Germany - and Europe - from a resurgence of Nazism. It is all about grand gestures for the gutter press and a cynical grab for the immigrant vote by the kind of people who see nothing wrong in jailing people without trial under new 'anti-terrorist' legislation. The Nazis had a word for that: they called it schutzhaft.

Polemic over. Now let's have comments about what Leclerc did and whether it is OK for the executed men to be commemorated but no more personal attacks.

PK

Paddy Keating

Post by Paddy Keating » Wed May 10, 2006 7:58 am

Correction: the lieutenant charged with executing the twelve men apparently disregarded the order to shoot them in the back.

Another account alleges that General de Gaulle sent his son-in-law, Boissieu, to ensure that Leclerc carried out the order. This allegation suggests that de Gaulle was consulted about the execution during the time that elapsed between Leclerc's order and the transport and killing of the condemned men. Who consulted FFL HQ? Was it one of the officers who disapproved of what was going to happen or was it Leclerc himself? There again, if the incident was discussed at FFL HQ, this raises a question about later efforts by the French authorities to locate and arrest some of the dead men. Maybe we shall never know but one thing seems clear: there were people on the FFL side who disapproved of the extra-judicial killing of the twelve men.

PK

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