German court throws out WWII Oradour-sur-Glane massacre case

A photo shows the ruins at Oradour-sur-Glane and the church where the village's women and children were killed.

Story highlights

  • A court has thrown out a case against a man accused of taking part in a massacre in France
  • SS troops killed 642 residents in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane in June 1944
  • Cologne Regional Court said there was no doubt the massacre occurred
  • But it said that it was unlikely the case against the pensioner, 89, would be provable
A German court has thrown out a case against a former SS member accused of participating in the massacre of 642 residents of a French village during World War II.
The 89-year-old had been accused of murdering 25 people and aiding the murder of several hundred others at Oradour-sur-Glane in central France on June 10, 1944.
According to the indictment, troops surrounded the village before rounding up all the residents in the town square and separating the men from the women and children. The men were shot in four barns, which were then burned down. The women and children were imprisoned in a church into which explosives and hand grenades were thrown. Troops then set that building alight, killing any survivors of the initial attack.
There was no doubt that members of the man's Panzer regiment had killed the Oradour-sur-Glane residents and burned down the village, the Cologne Regional Court said in a statement Tuesday.
But the court said it was unlikely the case against the pensioner, named by local media only as Werner C., would have been provable. Demonstrating he had been present in the village on the day of the massacre would not on its own have been enough to prove the charges against him, it said.
Oradour-sur-Glane Mayor Philippe Lacroix told CNN the decision would be appealed.
"We need to go through with the lawsuit for the families. Time does not excuse the crime," he said. "Germany has worked hard to ensure that the trial takes place, and we hope it will succeed."
Radio France International quoted prosecutor Andreas Brendel as saying he was "surprised" by the Cologne court's decision, despite evidence in such cases being "extremely thin."
The ruins of Oradour-sur-Glane have been preserved as a monument to those killed there.
The village's Centre de la Memoire, or Memory Center, says 300,000 people visit the "martyr village" annually.