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French ease guilt over revenge killing
German war victims exhumed
Amelia Gentleman in Paris
Wednesday November 5, 2003
The bodies of 17 German soldiers who were executed by the French Resistance
during the second world war in an act of revenge for the killings of
villagers, were exhumed yesterday from a mass grave in south-west France.
The men were shot in 1944 in a field on the outskirts of
Saint-Julien-de-Crempse, a village in the Dordogne, in an unsanctioned act
of retribution for the deaths of 17 residents at the hands of German
Villagers and German officials returned to the meadow yesterday to recover
the corpses from a burial site whose location had long been a secret. It
took just over six hours to remove their remains, in a sober ceremony which
evoked uncomfortable memories.
For decades no-one has been willing to speak about the affair and it was
only the uneasy conscience of one of the Resistance fighters who helped
capture the Germans that led to the revelation of the grave's existence.
Throughout his life, Emile Guet, 82, had been troubled by the action of his
comrades. This sense of guilt spurred his determination to find the grave
so the Germans could be given a formal burial.
The dead men were part of a battalion of 82 soldiers who had surrendered to
Mr Guet's Resistance unit during the liberation of Bergerac, on August 24
In exchange for their surrender, Mr Guet said the men were given a
guarantee by his superiors that they would be treated as prisoners of war.
But local rage at the German army's conduct meant this promise was broken.
During that month's violent fighting, several German soldiers had been
killed by the Resistance in a battle at Saint-Julien-de-Crempse. In return,
the Germans had rounded up all the men who remained in the village - 17,
aged between 18 and 80 - and killed them.
One month later, on September 9, a group of Resistance fighters, who were
acting without the knowledge of their superiors, decided to take their own
revenge and removed 17 German soldiers from their cells in the Bergerac
prison, transported them to a field near Saint-Julien-de-Crempse, and shot
"It was a very shocking affair. Unarmed men were gunned down," Mr Guet told
local media. "My commander had given his word. He had told them they would
be treated like prisoners of war."
He tracked down the only surviving witness - a choirboy who had accompanied
the priest to the soldiers' burial in a narrow, unmarked grave - and
together they identified the spot in a meadow outside the village. André
Parvieux, who was 11 at the time, said yesterday: "When they were
questioned, all the mayors, one after another, until 1997, denied any
knowledge of German soldiers buried on their territory... When this is
over, a burden will be lifted."
But not all shared their satisfaction at the decision to disinter the
bodies. One resident said: "The population has the impression that more
importance is being given to this massacre than to the one which affected
One by one the bodies were removed from the earth and laid on plastic
sheets. The village priest blessed the remains.
Some of the men still had identity bracelets which will help trace
relatives in Germany. The men will be reburied in a German military
cemetery on November 16.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/france/story/ ... 48,00.html
...the Germans had rounded up all the men who remained in the village - 17, aged between 18 and 80 - and killed them.
I wonder if there's a mass grave that can be confirmed for these....somehow I doubt it.
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