Paratroopers murdered in Herouvillette

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by roodymiller, Oct 10, 2009.

  1. roodymiller

    roodymiller Senior Member

    Just found this interesting piece. Does anyone know any more details, units, names etc?

    THE FOLLOWING IS PUBLISHED FOR THE INFORMATION OF ALL RANKS

    During the early period of the activities of the Airborne Division in Normandy five parachutists became detached and were captured. They were taken to a French Town in German hands and were shot in the public square.

    The resistance movement reported this to the Army authorities in the bridgehead who informed General Browning of the Airborne Forces.

    General Browning contacted the RAF and a punitive expedition was sent against the barracks from which the executioners had operated.

    The barrack area was destroyed and the raid was followed by a shower of leaflets. The leaflets told the facts and gave the warning that if this kind of thing happened again worse punishment would follow.

    In the village of HEROUVILLETTE lived two German soldiers, Carl and Willy. The former was a Corporal, the latter a batman. Neither man appeared to have definite jobs, but both were brutal and fanatically cruel. Their own soldiers feared them. The civilians were terrorised by them, and in particular the girls, who were blackmailed into sleeping with them.

    When the British parachutists arrived they showed their hands. Two wounded parachutists came up to Carl and Willy with their hands up. Willy took one of the men wounded in the arm and Carl bayoneted him several times until he died.

    The other man wounded in the leg was told by them to run away, and as he did he was used as a target by both men using pistols. He also died. The second display of brutality took place in a jeep. A wounded parachutist was lying in a jeep with a neck wound. Willy was shown the neck wound. He proceeded to seize the man's hair and beat in the soldier's skull with the butt end of his revolver.

    The last display of frightfulness took place when a number of wounded parachutists were leaned up against a wall. Carl and Willy took pot shots at these men in the music hall manner, i.e. shooting backwards and between the legs until all the men were killed. There is a sequel. All the evidence is at Airborne HQ, and the names of Carl and Willy are known. One is believed dead, the other a prisoner. He will be tried as a war criminal.

    [Signed]
    Maj
    BM 4 SS Bde
     
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  2. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Interesting account of events. Did you find it on the net or was it in a book etc?

    I'm sure the Airborne Community on here will have heard of this before :)
     
  3. airborne medic

    airborne medic Very Senior Member

    Wasn't this in a recent issue of After the Battle?
     
  4. roodymiller

    roodymiller Senior Member

    Interesting account of events. Did you find it on the net or was it in a book etc?

    I'm sure the Airborne Community on here will have heard of this before :)
    found it on pegasus archive today. googled it for a while and didn't come up with much, only a few documents in the archives and one in cumbria.

    just hope someone out there has some details....
     
  5. Heimbrent

    Heimbrent Well-Known Member

    A corporal and a batman?!
    That's not even officer's ranks, it would seem strange to me that they should have so much authority. Does anyone know what units were stationed in Herouvillette?
    (And no, I do not question the account, I'm just interested in the background.)

    *edit*
    Would that be the 21st Pz.Div.?
     
  6. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    I referred to the Herouvillette Incident in the thread "Woman Hanged WW2" Post 14 on 6 August 2009,from the point of German war criminals being in the dock charged with an illegal act, with a defence based on "I was only following orders and disciplinary measures would have been taken against me if I refused to carry out an order".

    The Allied Powers prosecuting teams never accepted this,quiet rightly,as a defence for carrying out an illegal act.

    AFTB No 145 has a comprehensive article by Carl Rymen covering the incident at Herrouvillette.
     
  7. Verrieres

    Verrieres no longer a member

    Perhaps these documents deal with the same incident?
    WO 309/101 Herouvilette, Normandy, France: shooting of allied POWs 1947 Sept-1948 June
    WO 309/102 Herouvilette, Normandy, France: shooting of allied POWs 1947 Sept-1948 June
    WO 311/64Herouvillette, France: killing of five allied POWs 1945 Jan - 1948 Apr
    WO 311/65Herouvillette, France: killing of five allied POWs 1945 Jan - 1948 Apr

    Verrieres
     
  8. Heimbrent

    Heimbrent Well-Known Member

    Does anyone have the article Harry mentions?

    Either way it is highly unlikely these Germans were following orders; it is generally doubtful that an officer would give such an order (even in the German army) and after all this was France, not "the East".
     
  9. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Perhaps these documents deal with the same incident?
    WO 309/101 Herouvilette, Normandy, France: shooting of allied POWs 1947 Sept-1948 June
    WO 309/102 Herouvilette, Normandy, France: shooting of allied POWs 1947 Sept-1948 June
    WO 311/64Herouvillette, France: killing of five allied POWs 1945 Jan - 1948 Apr
    WO 311/65Herouvillette, France: killing of five allied POWs 1945 Jan - 1948 Apr

    Verrieres


    Jim I have been reliably informed by another member (I hope he/she doesn't mind me posting them) that these are the files at Kew:

    TS 26/285 - WO 311/64 - WO 311/65.

    Cheers
    Andy
     
  10. Verrieres

    Verrieres no longer a member

    Jim I have been reliably informed by another member (I hope he/she doesn't mind me posting them) that these are the files at Kew:

    TS 26/285 - WO 311/64 - WO 311/65.

    Cheers
    Andy

    Hi Andy
    If the bottom two files refer to this incident I wonder what the top two
    WO 309/101 Herouvilette, Normandy, France: shooting of allied POWs 1947 Sept-1948 June
    WO 309/102 Herouvilette, Normandy, France: shooting of allied POWs 1947 Sept-1948 June
    Refer to?

    Verrieres
     
  11. Verrieres

    Verrieres no longer a member

    Just found this link
    http://www.archiveweb.cumbria.gov.uk/dserve/dserve.exe?dsqIni=Dserve.ini&dsqApp=Archive&dsqDb=Catalog&dsqSearch=RecordID=='19dd365f-a95a-4bfb-bff3-353476cb2fd2'&dsqCmd=Show.tcl

    Quote;-DescriptionPhotocopy transcript by Monsieur Carl Rymen of 4 pages ofWar crimes tribunal evidence against Unteroffizer Karl Finkenrathre murder of 5 British paratroopers on D-Day 6 June 1944, at Herouvillette. With covering note and letter from R. Walker including information re forthcoming D-Day 60th Anniversary celebrations, June 2004.

    and this account at
    Spring 2006
     
  12. Heimbrent

    Heimbrent Well-Known Member

    Some more information here.
     
  13. roodymiller

    roodymiller Senior Member

    These articles are the ones I came up with also on my bit of googling. Does anyone have or can get hold of the national archives mentioned earlier, I live too far away to get there soon. Also, any members near cumbria? If not I'll send for them they only cost a couple of quid.

    If anyone does have/get the files, would you post them up or email them to me?

    Thanks.
     
  14. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Does anyone have the article Harry mentions?

    Either way it is highly unlikely these Germans were following orders; it is generally doubtful that an officer would give such an order (even in the German army) and after all this was France, not "the East".

    Regarding orders,it has been proved that illegal orders were given by German officers throughout many military formations. I would say it was widespread according to the degree of indoctrination that the officer was was subject to,from the intense doctrination and acts initiated and carried out by those in the SS to those individuals in the Wehrmacht,who post war,the SS "veterans' organisation" accused of also having "dirty hands."

    That covers orders to carry out illegal acts given by superiors but in the end under Allied Military Tribunals,the responsibility of carring out the
    act(s), lay with the individual perpretator(s).The individual who had given the order was also prosecuted for inciting the illegal act as is illustrated by those involved in the lynching and murder of downed Allied aircrew as just one example.

    As regards those individuals themselves such as Karl Finkenrath,the "self starters" of murder of Allied POWs and civilians,there was no disciplinary brake to prevent it.These perpretators acted on their own initiative in what was really, a laissez faire code of discipline.A far worse situation prevailed in the East among the "untermenchen".

    For instance,there was a case recorded of a Polish Jew being murdered,early in the Polish campaign.The offender was charged because the unit's senior officer thought that it was an illegal act but the offender's charge was dismissed on the grounds that the offender did not like Jews.

    I also saw a report regarding activities on the Russian front where a Croatian serving in the Luftwaffe used his "leisure time" to take pot shots at innocent Russian civilians.No doubt if questioned,they would have been said to be "partisans"
     
  15. roodymiller

    roodymiller Senior Member

    Another national archive document...

    Item details WO 235/757

    Defendant: Karl Finkenrath DJAG No. 858
     
  16. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    It would be interesting to see what the contents of the files reveal.

    Regards
    Tom
     
  17. Heimbrent

    Heimbrent Well-Known Member

    First of all, I pointed out that this happened in France, not in the east. Which means I am well aware of the difference in warfare.

    You have to be very careful about "illegal orders" - I take you are referring to what is known as criminal orders, such as the Kommissarbefehl, the Sperrle-Erlass or the Kommandobefehl. There is no need to discuss their criminal nature at all. But these came directly from the OKW or Hitler himself. They were issued to every unit, and interpretation was up to the commander of the unit. What I was talking about are orders which didn't come from the top but from unit commanders - as that is where an order to shoot Ps/W would in this case come from. Can you show me one example where the execution of Ps/W - armed prisoners in uniform, on the battlefield - was ordered? Certainly, the fact that there was no order given doesn't mean the soldiers didn't do it anyway - it was just illegal (I'd prefer to use the term of extralegal crime rather than war crime).
    But if you can show me one order (say from Rgt. or Btl. downwards) that soldiers should shoot prisoners (under the conditions mentioned above), please do so. Because that would be quite remarkable.

    (Btw please note that I'm talking about the west!)

    The degree of indoctrination is very difficult to detect. Of course the SS and police formations received "weltanschauliche Schulung" and the Wehrmacht had NSFOs (NS-Führungsoffz.). But what was the influence? First of all, the nature of the lessons depended on the one who was teaching. Secondly, esp. in the field there often wasn't time for lessons, or military training was more important, or the commander didn't give a damn, or the soldiers didn't pay attention... It gets more complicated when you take other factors into consideration - influence by newspapers, magazines, films, books or the socialisation in the Third Reich for the younger generations.
    Yes, it did have an influence - but there are many other factors that play a role as well - so I think your point of view simplifies things too much.

    And you should keep one more thing in mind: Even in the war of annihilation, let alone in the west, the Germans had "rules" - most seem totally perverted nowadays, and rightly so, but there were still rules. E.g. crimes were generally be punished if they put the discipline of the unit at risk (again, with margins in interpretation).

    Btw, I didn't quite get what you mean with this:
    I would say it was widespread according to the degree of indoctrination that the officer was was subject to,from the intense doctrination and acts initiated and carried out by those in the SS to those individuals in the Wehrmacht,who post war,the SS "veterans' organisation" accused of also having "dirty hands."
     
  18. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    I knew that place well, I saw action there, Not nice fierce barrage.
    I do not know about this particular instance. But the 12SS murdered our men in cold blood.They paid for it in the long run.

    I do know that we being assault troops (not commandos) carried commando knives. We were warned. if you are in danger of capture get rid of your commando knives.
    Why... Because there was an "Hitler Edict" that stated: any commandos captured were to be shot summarily. We were not commandos, but carried the knives. That was good enough for the German. he killed anyone with the knife. You could find one in the bottom of a fox hole where men had been captured
    Sapper
     
  19. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    First of all, I pointed out that this happened in France, not in the east. Which means I am well aware of the difference in warfare.

    You have to be very careful about "illegal orders" - I take you are referring to what is known as criminal orders, such as the Kommissarbefehl, the Sperrle-Erlass or the Kommandobefehl. There is no need to discuss their criminal nature at all. But these came directly from the OKW or Hitler himself. They were issued to every unit, and interpretation was up to the commander of the unit. What I was talking about are orders which didn't come from the top but from unit commanders - as that is where an order to shoot Ps/W would in this case come from. Can you show me one example where the execution of Ps/W - armed prisoners in uniform, on the battlefield - was ordered? Certainly, the fact that there was no order given doesn't mean the soldiers didn't do it anyway - it was just illegal (I'd prefer to use the term of extralegal crime rather than war crime).
    But if you can show me one order (say from Rgt. or Btl. downwards) that soldiers should shoot prisoners (under the conditions mentioned above), please do so. Because that would be quite remarkable.

    (Btw please note that I'm talking about the west!)

    The degree of indoctrination is very difficult to detect. Of course the SS and police formations received "weltanschauliche Schulung" and the Wehrmacht had NSFOs (NS-Führungsoffz.). But what was the influence? First of all, the nature of the lessons depended on the one who was teaching. Secondly, esp. in the field there often wasn't time for lessons, or military training was more important, or the commander didn't give a damn, or the soldiers didn't pay attention... It gets more complicated when you take other factors into consideration - influence by newspapers, magazines, films, books or the socialisation in the Third Reich for the younger generations.
    Yes, it did have an influence - but there are many other factors that play a role as well - so I think your point of view simplifies things too much.

    And you should keep one more thing in mind: Even in the war of annihilation, let alone in the west, the Germans had "rules" - most seem totally perverted nowadays, and rightly so, but there were still rules. E.g. crimes were generally be punished if they put the discipline of the unit at risk (again, with margins in interpretation).

    Btw, I didn't quite get what you mean with this:


    Regarding the Fuehrer orders,it would appear that there was little scope for any local commander to use his discretion on the battlefield.It was expected that he would follow the instruction to the letter in accordance with the spirit of the Third Reich ideology.If there was descretion in terms of interpretation at local level,then it was backed up by the assurance that there would be no fear of disciplinary action taken against individuals for the height of excesses executed.If you look at the policy in action where POWs in the west were treated after being in legal combat and I am referring here to captured Allied special forces,you will find that the Luftwaffe,Heer and Kreigsmarine all meekly gave up their prisoners to the SD etc,without exception.No decretion here.

    A very good example is that of Eicke, the SSTK commander in Russia,an irrational personality having a track record of disbedience,a divisional commander who "stole", through his own procurement efforts,the best equipment for the SSTK,ignoring the best arrangements for distribution of equipment,overall, to the coordinated needs of German forces.A commander who had his own "ad hoc" disciplinary code for the management of his subordinates and eccentric behaviour towards his colleagues.In other words, a rebel and nonconformist.But when it came to folowing Hitler's or Himmler's directives,he never ever ventured from the ideological path but was bound up by the ideological purposes of the SS.

    As regards indoctrination,anyone who had passed through the SS Junkerschules to become any SS officer would have received the ultimate in Nazi ideology indoctrination and would not be likely to give any compassion to any POW which they regarded as the the "untermenchen" and for others, an inconsistency in the treatment of prisoners taken after being on the receiving end from the enemy's close combat performance and unexpected resistance.

    One thing that you have to remember is that the ideological indoctrination was not restricted to the SS,the Wehrmacht as a whole and the civilian population were heavily indoctrinated by the Nazi Party and its propagands machine and this did lead to excesses being taken by Wehrmacht as units or individuals.Their excesses can be seen in the records, such as photographs kept as trophies of their involvement in the excesses and also in letters home,glorifying their pround achievements.So it is right when Wehrmacht actions in the field are analysed that the conclusion is that the Wehrmacht also had "dirty hands".

    Regarding "Rules',generally the prosecution of offences against civilians by the Wehrmacht was not effective unless it was deemed neccesary for the maintenance of discipline within a unit.

    There were cases when this applied to the behaviour of the Wehrmacht in their treatment of POWs.A number of years ago while travelling through the Haute Marne,I came across a memorial to French coloured troops related to an incident at Graffigny- Chemin in June 1940 and was curious of what had happened here.A couple of years ago I saw that the memorial had been amended or replaced to record a massacre of French Colonial troops who were "put to the sword" by the Wehrmacht after they had given a good account of themselves and possibily gave unexpected resistance.It now appears that about 3000 French Colonial troops were murdered in cold blood after surrendering out of 10.000 taken prisoner and this occurred on 33 different sites between May 24 and June 24 1940.Some of the slain were refused burial but left to rot until the Germans allowed the local French to bury them.(Have a look at Raffael Scenk's publication, "Hitler's African Victims.The German Army Massacres of Black French Soldiers in 1940".I have not read it but it seems to cover the discussion)

    It is suspected that authorisation for the excesses came from approving Wehrmacht officers incited by racist Nazi Party propaganda and some of this propaganda had its roots in the use of French Colonial troops in the occupation of the Rhineland on the conclusion of the Great War.This brings me to "authorisation", it is highly unlikely that you will find a superior intructing a subordinate to conduct an illegal act or a crimal act in writing.This is just not done.What happens usually is that an oral intruction is given or the deed is executed by incitement and in many cases where conduct contrary to the Geneva Convention was carried out,this was the case.

    The oral instruction plea was used by many, to escape individual responsiblity, (the Finkenrath case being such a case) However, the Allied Miliary Tribunals were consistent in throwing out this defence, maintaining that an individual could not escape reponsibility for his own actions.

    I think I have explained the reasoning of my last paragraph of the widespread behaviour of those involved in the SS and the Wehrmacht on the battlefield.The unfolding of the Wehrmacht activities including those who held high rank post war was largely unresearched due to the cold war and the very important fact that senior Wehrmacht officers escaped scutiny and possible prosecution due to the fact that they had been recruited into the 1955 Bundeswehr although it is fair to say that some were excluded because of their previous military service record. At this time the Waffen SS veterans were attempting at their gatherings (which were illegal and not challenged) to have themselves portrayed as normal combat troops and not related to the General SS.Even Adenauer,for the sake of unity perhaps,expressed a view that "the men of the Waffen SS were soldiers just like the others" but to no avail.It was at a time when these SS veterans view was that the Wehrmacht also had "dirty hands" but were allowed to join the Bundeswehr.As regards the Wehrmacht,undoubtably,the organisation was Naziified from 1938 when the anti Hitler Wehrmacht leadership gave up its opposition to Hitler.
     
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  20. Heimbrent

    Heimbrent Well-Known Member

    Harry, I don't disagree per se on what you're saying, but I feel there's need to clear some things up.

    First of all, I am currently dealing with the W-SS in a thesis so I'm quite familiar with the question of ideological conditioning. I wrote above that you have to differentiate when it comes to its effects; things changed radically with the drastic expansion of the W-SS. Besides there are many other factors that have to be taken into consideration as well. As for the officers - I don't think it's the passing thru the Junkerschulen that was the key, it was the selection. As you know, you couldn't just become an SS-Junker, unlike the Fahnenjunker in the Wehrmacht. Depending on how you performed in action, you could go to a Junkerschule. Due to their various important functions (the term 'Führer' implies that they were more than just officers) the Führerkorps was very carefully selected. Naturally ideology did play a role.
    But you can't compare that to the low ranks: As I said, recruting policy changed drastically in 1943 and not all of them were fanatical nazi volunteers.

    Surely you can't bring up Eicke as example, he really was a special case. His influence can't only be seen in the KZ-system but also in "his" unit(s). No doubt he was fanatic, but he isn't so representative. Also, what you should keep in mind is how some of the high-ranking officers depended on Himmler, be it Eicke, Dirlewanger or von dem Bach. It's quite amazing how Himmler was able to benefit from human weaknesses to ensure their loyalty.

    Screw it, I'm tired and can't really manage to write a reasonable answer now -_- - no offense meant! It's just that I've been working on this subject for more than a year now and seriously got a W-SS overdose.

    So, concerning your other points I suggest you read the book on France by P. Lieb (military historian from Sandhurst) and Leleu, Soldats politiques.
    I've read both, they both deserve their praise and they will answer your questions :).
    Again, no offense meant at all, I'm just tired and will inevitably fail to explain my points in a comprehensive way.
     

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