A GERMAN court has thrown out the case of a former SS man accused of involvement in the largest civilian massacre in Nazi-occupied France.
The Cologne state court said there is not enough evidence to bring Werner Christukat, 89, to trial for accessory to murder in connection with the 1944 slaughter in Oradour-sur-Glane in west-central France.
A total of 642 men, women and children were killed in the notorious massacre.
The court says Christukat does not deny being at the village but says he never fired a shot or participated in the massacre in any other way.
It says neither documentary evidence nor witness statements are able to prove he took part.
Although Christukat has previously admitted being at the site with his SS regiment on the day, he has denied killing anyone.
He says he has had nightmares ever since, particularly over one small boy he was unable to help.
He said he was aged 19 at the time and had been trained to take orders from the SS.
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“There was this boy,” he said. “He came walking over the hill. A small blonde boy with a bicycle and he wanted to go past me and into the village.
“I can still picture it exactly. I stopped him and wanted to chase him away, but then the junior squad leader came up and started yelling at me.
“Not a night goes by in which I don’t think of Oradour. In front of me, I can still see the church through the treetops.
“I hear a bang and then the screaming of women and children.
“I can’t get it out of my mind. I felt so dreadfully sorry for them. But the worst is that I couldn’t save the boy.”
The pensioner has told how he saved two women from being killed by letting them escape before they could be seen by other SS and killed. However, prosecutors say he should be charged because he was at the massacre and, as such, was part of a criminal enterprise.
Twenty soldiers were convicted in the 1950s for their part in the murders at Oradour-sur-Glane – more than a decade after the end of the Second World War – but all were later freed.
Oradour was destroyed on 10 June, 1944 as the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich moved northwards through France to try to stem the Allied breakout from the Normandy beachhead.
The site had been chosen by the Nazis as a place of retribution, after numerous resistance attacks on the Germans.
Christukat, a machine-gunner with the Waffen-SS was with his unit – the 3rd company of the 1st battalion of the SS mechanized infantry division Der Führer – when it marched into the central French village.
Soldiers herded all of the villagers together. They shot the men dead in barns and locked the women and children in the village church, where they set off explosives and threw hand grenades inside, before burning the church to the ground.
They incinerated the entire village, including all 642 people they found there; 181 men, 254 women and 207 children, according to the indictment.
Many of them were burned alive. Charred remains of mothers clutching babies were found, as were primary school pupils embracing in death.
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