German captives shot by French resistance found

6th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

DIGNE, France, Oct 6 (AFP) - The remains of five German soldiers captured and shot by the French resistance in June 1944 have been discovered by local people near a village in the mountains of southeast France, its mayor said Thursday.

DIGNE, France, Oct 6 (AFP) - The remains of five German soldiers captured and shot by the French resistance in June 1944 have been discovered by local people near a village in the mountains of southeast France, its mayor said Thursday.

Last month a hunter found bones protruding from the earth in a ravine about five kilometres (three miles) from Entrevennes, which lies in the Alps about 100km north of the Mediterranean coast.

He contacted police, who called in professional archaeologists to excavate the site.

"They found five bodies, with buttons, helmets and four identity tags. The bodies were riddled with bullets. We knew straight away who they were," mayor Catherine Weirich told AFP by telephone.

For more than 60 years, the people of Entrevennes have known that five soldiers from a nearby German Luftwaffe air force observation post were killed by the Communist resistance group FTP between June 16 and 18 1944, but the place has always been kept secret.

"In early June the resistance launched attacks across the whole of France to support the allied D-Day landings.

"We know that on June 10 the FTP (Irregulars and Partisans) captured five Luftwaffe men at Puimoisson -- but then things went wrong," said local historian Raymond Moulin.

"The Germans hit back with a series of reprisals. The resistance men must have acted out of fear. They had to get out fast so they shot them. It certainly wasn't a unique occurrence at the time," Moulin said.

According to Weirich, the prisoners were handed over by their original captors to a group of men from Entrevennes who moved with them from farm to farm over several days.

"Then they shot them after a German ambush near here, in which some resistance people were killed. It was part vengeance, part panic, part I don't know what. How can we know what went through their heads?" Weirich said.

The men who fired the shots that killed the Germans are believed to be all dead now, according to Moulin. But according to Weirich, there are still people alive who must have known where the bodies lay.

"In the years after the war everyone knew that the Germans had been shot, but no one spoke openly of it. I suppose there was something a bit embarrassing about the way they died," she said. "There are people who know more, but I can't give you their names."

"Maybe there was an element of shame -- and that was why they kept the place secret. It was not something to boast about after the war. But now the generations have moved on, and we can put the episode behind us," said Moulin.

The French office of the German war graves commission, which has taken charge of the remains, has sent the identity tags back to Berlin.

If family members can be found to reclaim the bodies, they will be repatriatad to Germany. Otherwise they will be interred at a German war cemetery near Lyon.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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