Former SS Soldier, 88, Charged in 1944 French Civilian Massacre

Thursday, 09 Jan 2014 09:50 AM

By Michael Mullins

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A former SS soldier, now 88-years-old, has been charged with 25 counts of murder, having allegedly taken part in the largest civilian massacre in Nazi-occupied France during World War II.

On Wednesday, German authorities announced the charges, which included hundreds of counts of accessory to murder in connection with the 1944 slaughter in Oradour-sur-Glane in southwestern France, the Associated Press reported.

The suspect was identified as Werner C., his last name being withheld in accordance with German privacy laws.

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In total 642 men, women and children were killed in the massacre in the French village.

According to the suspect's attorney, Rainer Pohlen, his client admits to having been in the village at the time of the massacre, but denies having shot anyone or played any role in any of the killings.

"My client contests any participation in this massacre, which he finds a truly terrible act," Pohlen told the AP, adding that he had fully cooperated in giving statements to investigators.

The accused has until March 31 to respond to the charges, at which time the courts will determine whether or not to pursue the case in trial. If the case does go to trial, it is possible it would be held in a juvenile court because the suspect was only 19 at the time the murders were committed, the AP noted.

The massacre occurred just four days before the D-Day landings in Normandy, and was reportedly an act of reprisal after a German soldier was kidnapped by the French Resistance.

At the time, Werner C. was a member of the 3rd Company, 1st Battalion's SS "Das Reich" division, which carried out the killings.

The French village reportedly never recovered from the mass-killings and still today remains a burnt out shell of what it once was.

German President Joachim Gauck and France's President Francois Hollande met in Oradour-sur-Glane to remember the massacre, prompting the German leader to reportedly acknowledge, "bitterness over the fact that the murderers have not been brought to justice."

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