Nazi war criminal 'had no regrets'

14th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

LIMOGES, France, Aug 14, 2007 (AFP) - Nazi war criminal Heinz Barth, who died at age 86, showed no regret for his part in the wartime massacre of 642 men, women and children in the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane, survivors charged on Tuesday.

LIMOGES, France, Aug 14, 2007 (AFP) - Nazi war criminal Heinz Barth, who died at age 86, showed no regret for his part in the wartime massacre of 642 men, women and children in the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane, survivors charged on Tuesday.

Heinz Barth, a former SS platoon leader, was jailed for life by an East German court in 1983 for his part in a string of atrocities during World War II, including the slaughter at Oradour that in France came to symbolise the worst of Nazi barbarity.

He was released from prison in 1997 on health grounds, sparking an outcry at the time, and spent the last years of his life in Gransee near Berlin, where his death was announced late Monday.

"In 1983, during his trial in East Berlin, he voiced no regret," recalled Robert Hebras, 82, one of six people who survived the massacre at Oradour, near Limoges in central France.

"His sole regret was the fact there were survivors left to testify."

"He never spoke a word of regret. 'It was war,' that's all he said," agreed Jean-Marcel Darthout, 83, the only other survivor.

Oradour was destroyed on June 10, 1944, four days after the Normandy landings which marked the start of the liberation of France and Europe from Nazi occupation.

A detachment of SS troops heading north to reinforce German defences halted in the village and, for reasons that have never been made clear, ordered its 642 inhabitants, including some 200 children, to assemble in the town square.

Women and children were then herded into the town church which was pumped full of toxic gas and set on fire. The men were machine-gunned and burned alive. The entire village was then torched.

The village was never rebuilt, its charred ruins being left to stand as a monument to Nazi atrocities while a new town was built nearby.

Barth took part in the Oradour massacre as a platoon leader in the regiment Der Fuhrer, commanding several dozen men.

Earlier in the war, in 1942, Barth served as an officer in a Nazi armoured regiment responsible for the slaughter of 91 people in what was then Czechoslovakia.

Convicted in absentia by a French court after the war, Barth lived under a false identity in East Germany for years before being tracked down and made to stand trial again.

Both Hebras and Darthout said it was "immoral" that Barth, who died on August 6, should have been granted early release from jail.

"He can't have been that sick, since he went on to live another 10 years," said Hebras.

The mayor of Oradour, Raymond Frugier, said Monday the town "will never be able to forget" the atrocities which he committed.

"For such crimes one should not be pardoned. For Oradour, his death doesn't change anything for all the children, women and men that are dead," he said.

Barth was the last German soldier to stand trial over the Oradour massacre. Around 60 soldiers were brought to trial in France in the 1950s, and 20 of them convicted, but all were released within a few years.

General Heinz Lammerding of the SS Das Reich division, seen by historians as the chief architect of the massacre, died in 1971 after a successful entrepreneurial career, never having been indicted.

AFP

Subject: French news

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